A lawyer attends law school; a doctor goes to medical school; plumbers, electricians and tradespeople of all types have professional training and licensing programs. But the standard in the kosher industry is that someone can become a mashgiach without such professional training. However, thanks to the Kashruth Council of Canada (COR), that is about to change. In conjunction with Liaison Culinary College, the largest private culinary college in Ontario, Canada, COR has launched a first of its kind college accredited mashgiach training program; and recently, COR commemorated the graduation of its first cohort of 13 mashgichim at a celebratory graduation dinner in Toronto.
The course itself is a rigorous combination of in class lectures, out of class text book readings, labs, video presentations and regular tests culminating in a comprehensive and demanding final examination. The technical kashrus component is taught by senior COR Rabbis and consists of topics including: ensuring compliance with bishul Yisrael, kosherizing equipment, checking fruits and vegetables for insect infestation, separating terumos and maasros, hafrashas challah, and the laws of Pesach, amongst many others. There is also an emphasis on broader skills that a mashgiach requires, such as a conflict resolution course taught by noted author and psychologist Dr. David Lieberman, and a series on auditing techniques — such as inventory control and invoice tracking — tools that are necessary to effectively manage an establishment’s kosher program. Finally, the Liaison College staff taught knife handling, menu skills, and food safety and handling, with each mashgiach graduate also receiving food safety and knife handling certificates.
At the graduation dinner, the Honourable Reza Moridi, the Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities addressed the graduating class, “The skills that you have gained will benefit you greatly and improve food safety and handling in kosher restaurants. Your dedication to helping your community will be valued,” she asserted.
Rabbi Tsvi Heber, COR’s Director of Community Kosher and the force behind the program also addressed his graduating class with warm words of congratulations. “I really mean it when I say I can’t believe I’m standing here today. Just like any other job has a professional training course, now so do you. You are all professional mashgichim! Mazal tov!”
Other representatives of the Jewish community also shared Rabbi Heber’s enthusiasm. “Kosher food is something that unites people across the entire Jewish community and having mashgichim who are formally trained at this level raises the calibre of the mashgichim as professionals and increases the collective confidence we have in the products and institutions that they supervise,” noted Shimon Koffler Fogel, Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “COR deserves a great deal of credit for trailblazing this very valuable initiative, which weds our sacred tradition with modern-day knowledge and food industry best practices.”
The mashgichim themselves were also struck by the precedent setting nature of the COR Mashgiach Training Program. “This course is a foundational change in the kashrus industry because of all the professional knowledge this course offers,” reflected Rabbi Mendel Gansburg, one of the graduates of the COR Mashgiach Training Program. “I may have known some of this information before, but now that I have been formally educated, I have internalized everything in a more lasting way.” Of particular value to Rabbi Gansburg were the lessons that weren’t limited to technical kashrus, like kitchen skills.
Interestingly, the proprietors – the COR certified establishments that use the services of the mashgichim – appeared to be the most enthusiastic about the program. “Recently, my dream came true,” said Mrs. Aliette Ponte, owner of COR certified LeChaim Catering. “I have been with COR since the beginning and they have been amazing. But my dream has always been to send the mashgichim to school and now finally my dream came true.”