Star-K Women To Hold First Ever Training Event For Women ‘Mashgichot’

(Monday, May 4th, 2009)

sk.jpgKosher Today reports: The Star-K Kashrus agency is planning its first ever training event for women as kosher supervisors (mashgichot). The major Baltimore, MD based agency currently runs a men’s seminar each year, although it is geared mostly to Rabbanim and the heads of kashrus agencies. The planned women’s conference in the Fall, is for women that serve as mashgichot in the food service industry, mostly at catering halls and restaurants. The program will teach proper procedures for checking vegetables, explain the dynamics of the kitchen, review policies and procedures, and draw attention to specific issues mashgichot should to be aware of. The seminar will also include trips to various facilities for a more “hands-on” approach.

“I am so excited [about the planned conference],” said Yael Kaner, the head mashgicha at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center. “For all these years I watched men go to these conferences. Now finally this is the answer.” Kaner is also a baker at Pearlstone, an all-kosher organic farm in Maryland, and incorporates her Sephardic heritage in making many ethnic dishes. Brimming with enthusiasm for her job, she views her position as an unrivaled opportunity to do what she loves and to teach about Judaism and kashrus. Kaner is particularly eager to meet other mashgichot at the training seminar. “I want to get to know other women who are as passionate about it [kashrus work] as I am,” she said. The seminar was prompted by requests from mashgichot working in Israel who requested better preparation. Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld, a Kashrus Administrator at the Star-K, explained that the conference is designed to help smaller, far-away communities, which may rely on women mashgichot more heavily than cities with larger kosher infrastructures where there is an ample supply of men mashgichim. Shifra Wollner, who works as a mashgicha at Pearlstone and at a nursing home, sees great potential in the seminar. “I always want to learn more and update my skills,” she said. “I’m also hoping that practical standards will be outlined so that everyone is on the same exact wavelength.”

The practice of using women for kashrus supervision, for which the Star-K relies on a ruling of the late sage Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, is growing. “Women are often more meticulous in their supervision,” said Rabbi Kurcfeld. “Even the slightest deviation will not be tolerated, which is a tremendous plus.” Rabbi Kurcfeld also explained that although one might expect women to have a harder time gaining respect in the kitchen, that is not the case. “You are only as good as who you are—you either have it or you don’t,” he said. “If you present yourself in a way that shows you are knowledgeable, sensible and have integrity, the workers will sense that.” “Besides,” he added, “who do you think takes care of the personal hashgacha in the home of Rav Heinemann (referring to Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, the Rabbinic Administrator of the Star-K)?” Many local kashrus committees expect the trend of hiring women as kosher supervisors to continue to increase.

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34 Comments

  1. squeak says:

    A fabulous idea. Mashgiacha for evening events could be a wonderful part time job for a woman who has a full time job at home but wants to earn some money too.

  2. telegrok says:

    “Women are often more meticulous in their supervision,” said Rabbi Kurcfeld.

    I think most men who have tried to clean a cholent pot to the satisfaction of a woman would agree.

    On a serious note, however, this is a good idea – to my impression after 25+ yrs in institutional kitchens, the women (in several cities) often seemed more focused on what they were doing. This may sound chauvenistic, but I think it is because the kitchen is not the man’s “home” environment – for the women, however, they understood clearly how a kitchen operates, i.e., the equipment, the raw food, the sequencing of preparation – not to c’v that the guys were not on top of things, but the women often seemed that little bit ahead and just seemed to understand the process better.

    And yes, in the homes of our gedolim isn’t it always the rebbetzin who keeps watch the kitchen?

  3. chasidicboyami says:

    What next “Women Rabbis”? I think this is a disgrace.

  4. Milhouse says:

    #3, where do you think we get the whole idea of a mashgiach? Where do we learn that eid echod ne’emon be’issurin? We learn it from the posuk “vesofroh loh”, in which the Torah trusts a WOMAN. Every mashgiach’s ne’emonus is based on this posuk; without it you would not be able to eat anything anywhere, including in your own home. So why should you be surprised that women have for decades been working as mashgichos?

  5. moshiach.now says:

    Hey, ‘chasidicboyami’, that’s not a very chassidic thing to say, is it? Reb Moshe Feinstein is not “big” enough for you? I am married to a mashgicha, and you can’t get anything past her in the kitchen, she sees everything. Go learn some Chassidus and keep your naarishkeit off of the internet.

  6. avivamommy says:

    Comment 3 “What next “Women Rabbis”? I think this is a disgrace”

    I think that your comment is a disgrace. Who cooks in your home? Do you stand over your wife with a stick?
    In our home, I catch 99% of the potential kashrus issues because I do the cooking. I ask a Rav when I am unsure about what to do. I would imagine that the mashgicha would ask a halachic authority if there is a problem. Oh, and never undermine a woman’s yiras shamayim. Do you remember who committed the meat scandal in Monsey?

  7. Lakewood Shelonu says:

    If we rely on women for our kids Shidduchim, we should be able to rely on them for Kashrus too.

  8. justsmile613 says:

    #3 — that is a foolish statement, Women Rabbis are OBVIOUSLY a totally different subject….Rav Heinemann and the Star-K are very respected and reliable regarding Kashrus….THINK before you speak!

  9. squeak says:

    Everyone should realize that #3 is joking.

  10. bklynmom says:

    A new parnasah for women.
    Do you need a MA in Institutional Food Preparation, can you clep the courses for graduation?

  11. squeak says:

    #10 – that’s exactly the point. The only training you need is exactly what every Yid should know! No wasting your time learning andere shtussim.

  12. yidlmitnfidl says:

    Great idea!
    They’ll be much more focused.
    They won’t wander off to a quiet corner and play with the computer!

  13. tzippi says:

    Squeak, industrial and food service kashrus is a bit more than that. Not that I have a problem with women in hashgacha though.

  14. shimen says:

    there are a lotof serious issues involved, not just hashagcha on the food, but for the kind of posters who jump right away on the bandwagon its a waste of time to discuss it

  15. The Queen of Persia says:

    kol kvudah bas melech pnima. She should be a mashgiacha in her own home. If she is in a position in which she must work outside the home then I would think that her first choice would be a job which would have the least amount of contact with men. Becoming a mashgicha seems to have a ring of “going out”edness to it. Will she be overlooking men… and how they do their jobs? The whole idea doesn’t sound right to me.

  16. akuperma says:

    Your headline is a bit off base. Star-K (the Baltimore Va’ad…) has often hired women as “Mashgichot”, there is no hiddush in the matter.
    Unless you are in an area with a large number of unemployed frum men, I can’t imagine why kashrus agencies wouldn’t hire women, especially for simchas, kitchens, etc (though obviously not to supervise slaughtering). Indeed, if the people being supervised as mainly female, a male might be at a disadvantage.

    The “seminars” are something on-going, and the “hiddush” is having one for women. I’m surprised this rates an article.

    I believe those critical (such as #3 above) misunderstood the article and thought the article was about hiring women to kill animals or supervise those who do the killing.

  17. smh1 says:

    as stated in the article, this is primarily for small towns, who may not be able to get steady, reliable male maschgichim. In the very large Frum areas, this is less of a problem.

  18. Milhouse says:

    #16, what could anyone possibly have seen in the article that could make them think it was about shechita?

    In any case, why shouldn’t a woman supervise shochtim? Of course she would have to learn shchita first herself, and since the minhag (for whatever reason) is not to have women shecht, that wouldn’t be a productive use of her time, but if you did have a woman who knew how why shouldn’t she be a supervisor? Even the minhag not to have women shecht is of very very dubious origin, and can be ignored whenever there’s a need.

    Pop quiz: What is the mokor of this minhag? Look into it and you’ll be surprised.

  19. daasbaalhabayis says:

    oy leaznayim shekach roiois – that a frum organization should allign itself with the womens movement

  20. Softwords says:

    One possible advantage in women mashgichot is that it appears to me that they would be less likely to keep there mouths quite when their job is on the line. Men, in my opinion, naturally feel a greater responsibility to support their family and therefore more likely fearful of loosing a job, so they might be tempted to look the other way while a woman wouldn’t stand for it. The standards of Kashrus might actually go up by using women mashgichot.

    #18 – It’s a mishna in Chulin. Look it up.

  21. shimen says:

    #18 see first tosfos mes. chulin. and, please, any mihag yisroel that the holy tzaddikim of all generations went along with , dont call ‘dubiuos’. thats how tzeddokim, maskilim, karaim etc, etc start

  22. R Gluck says:

    I am not sure what the whole ruckus is about. Why should a women not be permitted to do Hashgocho? They are permitted to bake Matzah in a matzah bakery amongst other men, why should this be any different? These people such as #3 that are so anti women, I wonder how careful they are when it comes to taxes and business ethics. Just a thought.

  23. shakanu says:

    What I find COMPLETELY revealing about this discussion is that if this new release was about YU or another Modern Orthdox organization it would turn into a YU bashfest. “YU has gone off the deep end” “YU is going to start giving semicha to women” etc…

    Where is the double Standar?

  24. squeak says:

    #23, by YU do you mean the OU? Because one is a kasruth organization, the other is not. The OU is run by many Rabbis from YU so I think that is what you meant. But the reaction would not have been as you expect.

  25. Milhouse says:

    #20, why don’t you read the mishneh again; it supports me.

    #21, why don’t you read the tosfos again; it supports me.

    How is it that two commenters in a row quote sources that say the exact opposite of what they claim?! Does nobody know how to learn a Jewish word any more?

    I repeat the pop quiz: what is the mokor of the minhag that women don’t shecht? Look it up, and you will be surprised at the answer.

  26. Softwords says:

    Hey Milhouse – Thanks for the advice. It’s been a LONG time since I learnt Chulin and I see I did not remember it correctly.

    For all those interested, basically Tosefos (and the Rosh) explain that although the Chilchos Eretz Yisrael (I think this means Talmud Yerushalmi) paskins that women shouldn’t shecht because of Daatan Kalos, none-the-less our Shas seems to hold that women can Shecht LICHATCHILA.

    It appears that the reason why women don’t shecht today is because we have become accustomed to having it that way.

    I will venture to say ,however, that being that women working in Batei Shichita will create an unnecessary צניות issue it would be better to keep it status quo.

  27. shimen says:

    #26 not only ‘oday’. thats hows been all generations. also ‘hilchos erez yiroel’ is not ‘talmud yrushalmi’

  28. Milhouse says:

    Softwords, thank you.

    “Hilchos Eretz Yisroel” is not Talmud Yerushalmi. If you follow it up, you’ll be surprised at the real origin of this “minhag”.

    What tznius issue prevents women from working in a shlachthoiz, apart from the language used by the goyim?

    Shimen, how about an acknowledgment that the Tosfos says the OPPOSITE of what you claimed?

    How do you know that it’s been that way “all generations”? How many generations? In any case, there are certainly records of women shechting in many communities when there weren’t any men who knew how.

    I suggest you too follow it up and find the original mokor for this “minhag”. You will be surprised.

  29. Milhouse says:

    PS: Here’s a hint. The title “Hilchos Eretz Yisroel” is a red herring. It is the invention of a bochur hazetzer. It is quite likely that the baalei hatosfos never heard of any sefer with that title.

  30. Milhouse says:

    PPS: Shimen, who claims that it was the minhag in “all generations”, what will you do with the Pri Chodosh and the Gur Aryeh, both of whom personally witnessed women shechting without any protest?

  31. Softwords says:

    shimen – I didn’t mean Davka our Dor, rather the minhag not to have women shecht exist Ad Hayom Hazeh.

    Milhouse – I was assuming that Sefer Hilchos Eretz Yisroel was refering to the Yerushalmi based on the Rosh’s statement ואין הש”ס שלנו סובר כן. I inferred from that that בספר הלכות ארץ ישראל might be refering to the Yerushalmi. I never heard of that Sefer. Do you know who the מחבר was?

    BTW – the answer to your question is found in דברי חמודות על הראש. The answer is מנהג מבטל הלכה. Thanks for getting me to learn a bit today.
    ;)

  32. Milhouse says:

    Softwords, you have indeed not heard of this “Hilchos Eretz Yisroel”, and quite likely nor has anybody else. As I said, it’s probably an invention of a bochur hazetzer. I do know who the author (or at least the alleged author) was, and you’d be surprised.

    Let’s just say for now that he is NOT a reliable source, and it’s not surprising that the Tosfos shlogs him op and doesn’t hold from him at all. Several other rishonim refer to him, and I’m not aware of a single one who doesn’t dismiss him out of hand. Just because someone wrote 1000 years ago doesn’t make him a talmid chochom, let alone a man de’omar. We have stupid people publishing books today, and they had stupid people publishing books 1000 years ago too.

  33. Softwords says:

    Milhouse – thanks for the tidbits of info. :)

  34. Milhouse says:

    OK, here’s the answer: the supposed author of the sefer quoted by the Rishonim as Hilchos Alef Yud is ELDAD HADANI. There’s nothing to indicate what Alef Yud is supposed to have stood for: “Eretz Yisroel” is merely the guess of some bochur hazetzer.

    Eldad himself, if there ever was such a person, was widely regarded as a charlatan, even at the time, when nobody could be absolutely certain that his story couldn’t be true. Now, of course, we KNOW that there is no River Sambatyon, and his story is a complete fiction. The only question is whether Eldad himself ever existed, or the entire report about him, including his stories and his alleged sefer on hilchos shechitah, is one big work of fiction. The Kara’im may have been involved in producing it, to fool the Rabbanim.

    And THAT is the ONLY source for the minhag that women don’t shecht. It’s why EVERY rishon who mentions it REJECTS it, and paskens that women can shecht. The Mechaber does not even mention it. But the Ramo does bring it, and so it’s an established minhag, at least among Ashkenazim. Its origins may be very dubious, but lepo’el it is the custom. We keep kitniyos without knowing why either; the Ramo says so, and that’s enough for us. But in an emergency it’s kedai to know that the minhag has no valid basis, and may therefore be dispensed with.

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