Star-K's seventh annual Kashrus Training Program was held in Baltimore from July 12 thru July 15, drawing a diverse crowd
Native South African Rabbi Jonathan Shippel founded and directed Ohr Somayach in Cape Town, where he built a Jewish learning center, a vibrant congregation, and a Jewish day school. Presently living in Manhattan's Upper West Side, he is a much sought after international speaker and a senior lecturer for Gateways.
Rabbi Shippel attended Star-K's Kashrus Training Program because he wanted an insider's view of how kashrus works on a national level. "My baalei batim ask me shailos every day," explains Rabbi Shippel, "and you want to know the source. I wanted to understand the standards for my own personal knowledge and to review certain topics. I also wanted to meet the personalities behind the symbol. Who are these people to whom we trust our spiritual lives?" Rabbi Dov Ber Kahn, a former European rosh yeshiva who now lives in Monsey, New York, attended Star-K's Kashrus Training Program while considering several job options. He felt that the hands-on practical application of the Shulchan Aruch that it offers would help prepare him for whichever route he would end up taking, be it in an adult education or kollel/yeshiva setting.
'The Star-K seminar was meaningful," says Rabbi Kahn. "It provided an understanding of how to structure a kashrus organization and the ins and outs of the challenges of kashrus, whether it is for a restaurant, hotel or factory. The rabbis were quite knowledgeable in their area of kashrus and it was a pleasure to be exposed to and hear from them."
Rabbi Avrohom Siegel made the trip from Poughkeepsie, New York, for two reasons: he wanted to familiarize himself with Yiddishkeit in the Baltimore area and extend his working knowledge of kashrus in the industry. Rabbi Siegel will be graduating the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) next month and has his eye on a possible move to the Baltimore area.
"'The program fulfilled both of my motivations, boruch Hashem," says Rabbi Siegel, who is only the third Orthodox Jew to graduate from the CIA. "I thought that the lectures were very in depth regarding nutrient supplementation plants and vegetable checking methods... I believe that the most beneficial aspect of the program was showing us how to apply concepts we have learned in Shulchan Aruch into concrete action within the kitchen."
Rabbis Kahn, Shippel and Siegel were just three of the 27 participants, which included rabbonim, kollel fellows, and others serving in klei kodesh who have studied Yoreh Deah. The intensive seminar featured lectures by Star-K's rabbinic staff members, including its rabbinic administrator, Rav Moshe Heinemann, and its president, Dr. Avrom Pollak.
Rav Heinemann addressed the intricacies of bishul akum, in addition to speaking about one of the hottest topics in kashrus today: worms in fish. Dr. Pollak discussed practical guidelines for setting up a local vaad hakashrus in his lecture, "A Certifying Agency's Administrative Issues." Rav Mordechai Frankel, director of Star-K's Institute of Halachah, discussed "Kosher Accountability: Who Does Teshuvah When a Product is Mislabeled?" This year, for the first time, Rabbi Dovid Stein, of Star-K Israel, joined the Star-K headquarters' kashrus administrators who spoke. His shiur was on the topic of "Orlah, Terumos and Maaseros - Keeping the Halachos in Chutz La'aretz."
In addition to explaining the various segments of the kashrus industry, sessions covered everything from consumer inquiries to Sabbath-mode appliances. Star-K kashrus administrator Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld conducted several of the sessions, discussing foodservice challenges and shechitah, leading the tours of the Hyatt Regency's kosher kitchen and a local bakery, and directing the hands-on vegetable checking practicum. A Star-K produced audio-visual presentation on insect recognition and additional field trips to a slaughterhouse and spice company rounded out the seminar experience.
Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, Star-K kashrus administrator and coordinator of the seminar, remarked, "Many participants expressed to us how much they gained over the week. The combination of lectures and visits to production facilities gave them a good overview of how kashrus works in the modern-day world." Rabbi Shippel's most favorable personal experience is simpatico with that of his fellow participants, as was evident from their feedback expressed at the program's end.
"I was blown away by the professionalism and the incredible camaraderie and achdus of the employees of Star-K, and their united commitment to the emes and to Klal Yisroel." said Rabbi Shippel. "Very often, you find people who are very concerned about the letter of the law and the minutiae of details concerning the particular law, yet the spirit of the law gets lost in the process. What has been refreshing about our week at the Star-K has been the opportunity to witness an organization which is so incredibly detail-oriented and simultaneously celebrates and actualizes the spirit of the law throughout the process."