On Wednesday, January 8, STAR-K Kosher Certification’s Baltimore offices hosted a seminar for Jewish Experience Week (J.E.W.). The seminar, led by STAR-K Kashrus Administrators Rabbi Zvi Goldberg and Rabbi Zvi Holland, enlightened college students from around the country about the function of a kosher certification agency and various practical Kashrus issues.
Rabbi Holland’s presentation, “The Wonderful World of Kosher Certification”, covered the history of kosher certification, the globalization of food production and Kosher certification, the difference between a local agency and an International agency, non-profit public agencies certifying kashrus as opposed to individuals, the need and value of retaining public trust in kosher agencies, how halachic decisions are made at STAR-K and how they are kept separate
from business, and STAR-K’s unique role as the only major non-profit Kosher agency dedicated only to Kosher. An informative Q & A session followed.
Rabbi Goldberg’s talk, “The Mystical and the Practical”, addressed the Torah basis and Kabbalistic reasons for Kosher, as well as practical points about Kosher, such as separation of meat and milk, self-control, and products that do not require kosher certification. Common questions that consumers ask were discussed, as well. These questions included: Doesn’t kosher mean the Rabbi blesses the food? Do I have to be an informed kosher consumer? Can I just read ingredients on the label to tell if an item is kosher? Can vegans and vegetarians eat pareve foods without any concern? Why is eel—that has small scales and elongated fins–not kosher? Do raw vegetables require kosher certification? Are all bagels kosher? If animals and birds need to be slaughtered, why don’t fish?
STAR-K was just one of the students’ many stops. The weeklong submersion in Jewish learning took place in Baltimore and also offered: daily in depth Gemarah learning with chavrusas from the Baltimore community at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel; learning from world class Torah personalities, Rosh HaYeshiva Rav Aron Feldman, shlit’a and Rabbi Yissacher Frand, shlit’a; visiting Mr. Howard Tzvi Friedman, past president and chairman of the board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); volunteering for Ahavas Yisroel, making Shabbos food packages for Baltimore’s needy; and, experiencing an inspiring Shabbos on Ner Yisroel’s Yeshiva Lane. The students also enjoyed trips to Washington D.C. and met with Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida and Jon Carney of Delaware; visited the congressional offices of Representatives Elliot Engel and Grace Meng (NY); met Rav Abba Cohen of Agudas Yisroel; and, toured the National Holocaust Museum.
Rabbi Zvi Schwartz, one of the organizers of J.E.W., explains, “Learning from the rabbonim at STAR-K not only raised their knowledge and consciousness about the mitzvah of Kashrus, it gave them the confidence to overcome the challenges of keeping kosher. I would like to thank STAR-K for actively promoting Kashrus through their many educational programs for consumers of all backgrounds.”
“The recent J.E.W. seminar at STAR-K is another example of how STAR-K is dedicated to not only certifying kosher foods worldwide but making time for our constituency; by educating the kosher consumer every opportunity we have,” says Rabbi Holland. “We welcome any and all consumer inquiries for kosher education and information.”
Rabbi Goldberg added: “Hosting the participants of J.E.W. was a great delight for STAR-K. They had excellent questions and we hope they walked away satisfied with the answers. STAR-K’s goal is to disseminate as much Kashrus information as possible, whether it is to frum yidden or those not yet committed, and everyone in between.”
One J.E.W. participant, H.E., perhaps best summed up the feel of this extraordinary learning experience: “The Star-K meeting was hilarious; something dry turned into an amazing and entertaining meeting.”