December 1, 2014

Feature: Rabbi Makes Adjustment in Supply of Kosher in War-Torn Ukraine

Kiev…When Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski first arrived in Donetsk 22 years ago, kashrus was virtually non-existent in most of the Ukraine. Under communism, it was virtually impossible to produce kosher.  As an emissary of Chabad, the rabbi literally started at ground zero. Up until three months ago, the rabbi who also heads the Vaad Hakashrus of the Ukraine, supervised 20 plants in the war-torn city of Donetsk. Today, he and most of the Jewish community has evacuated  the city and all but two companies continue production. A rabbi with no family occasionally visits the plants. Although most of Ukraine’s 150,000 Jews do not observe kashrus, a growing number of  Jews do. “Domestic production is very important since most of the Jews who observe kashrus cannot afford imported kosher foods,” Rabbi Vishedski told Kosher Today. In fact, the rabbi who now runs his operation from Kiev, is working tirelessly to find new production facilities to fill the void left by the war in Donetsk. As a result, he says, the community is temporarily faced with shortages of kosher dairy products, cheese, meats, and pastries. The rabbi is also concerned for as many as 5,000 Jewish elderly who remain in Donetsk. 10,000 Jews, mostly younger people, have left Donetsk for other cities in the Ukraine, many joining the rabbi in Kiev. Rabbi Don Joel Levy of the OK Kosher Certification in Brooklyn who works closely with Rabbi Vishedski, had high praise for the rabbi. Despite the war, the rabbi has built a strong Jewish community that includes its own shechita and Matzoh factory that even exports to the US. Despite the war, the rabbi is proud of his accomplishments in the Ukraine where he has turned a spiritual wasteland into an oasis of observant Jews, including kashrus.