One of the first stops Rabbi Binyomin Friedman made in Baltimore, on Thursday, December 11, after flying up the night before from Atlanta, was STAR-K Kosher Certification. The dozen or so men, aged 30-60, who accompanied him were just some of his students at the Atlanta Scholars Kollel (ASK). The Kollel organized the trip for the purpose of providing the opportunity to learn in a Yeshiva—something that most of these men had never experienced in person.
“We spent Thursday through Sunday at Yeshivas Ner Yisroel,” says Rabbi Friedman, an alumnus of the yeshiva who is the Rav of Congregation Ariel in Dunwoody, Georgia, in addition to one of the founding rebbeim of ASK. “When we were not learning, we spent our time learning about the infrastructure of a frum community. The STAR-K was one of our first stops. Commercial Kashrus supervision is fundamental to the existence of the contemporary Jewish community. We also left ample opportunity to avail ourselves of the benefits of the STAR-K by stopping at as many Baltimore eating establishments as we could.”
STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, who addressed the ASK visitors while they were at STAR-K, said, “I very much enjoyed speaking to this group – they were highly motivated to hear how a major agency arranges Kashrus on the products they buy every day. This event was one of many educational events the STAR-K runs each year. Everyone on the STAR-K staff takes pleasure in teaching about Kashrus and we look for opportunities to do so.”
Some of the topics Rabbi Goldberg covered, using an array of STAR-K certified products as a backdrop for discussion, were: the spiritual aspect of keeping kosher; how things become kosher; the manufacturing process; how kosherization of plant equipment is necessary when it is also used for treif products; how products that involve more extensive supervision are more costly; and, products that you are allowed to buy without certification. An extensive Q & A session followed Rabbi Goldberg’s prsentation and the questions ran the gamut from Kosher basics to chumras, such as cholev Yisroel.
A chuckle was shared when Rabbi Goldberg concluded, “We are here to answer your questions, although we recommend that you ask your rabbi first,” to which Rabbi Friedman added, “You can ask me if you want to, but there’s no point in it, since I’m just going to call the STAR-K, anyway–you might as well go right to the source!”
ASK was founded in 1987 under the guidance of Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, z”l, then Rosh Hayeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. Rabbi Friedman was one of five rabbis who learned at the yeshiva who moved to Atlanta from Baltimore to start an outreach Kollel, the first of its kind in the world. Since its inception, the Kollel has grown to over 10 member families, founded an outreach synagogue, and continues to inspire over 1,000 students a month. The Kollel families open up their homes and hearts to all Jews—regardless of affiliation—creating both formal and informal learning opportunities throughout Atlanta.
The success of ASK’s STAR-K visit is reflected in two of the students’ remarks, shared after their return home. David Karsh, of Dunwoody, said, “Our visit to the STAR-K offices was one of the highlights of what was a very inspirational visit to Baltimore. Rabbi Zvi Goldberg was extremely generous with his time and offered exceptional insight into how the STAR-K oversees the Kashrus of an unbelievable array of foods produced in locations around the world. The entire STAR-K staff was friendly, hospitable, and ensured our visit was memorable.”
Elan Hertzberg, of Atlanta, corroborated, remarking, “Going behind the scenes at the STAR-K was very inspiring. So much effort and care is put into making sure customers can put their trust in this reliable hechsher. I left feeling that this was way more than just a business and that they were meticulous in bringing Kedusha to the world through the service of Kashrus.”
(Margie Pensak – YWN)