May 6, 2013

Growing Number of Kosher Kitchens in Hotels Presents Challenges for Some Rabbis

SANTA MONICA, CA — The Loews Hotel in Santa Monica features one of an estimated 40 designated kosher kitchens in the US. As many as 10 hotels have responded to a program by the Rabbinical Council of California to open designated kosher kitchens. In some cities, the designated kitchen is not an automatic for rabbis as the kitchen is only as kosher as the last caterer that worked there. 

According to Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld, Kashrus Administrator for Star-K Certification, based in Baltimore “this is not an issue for the Star-K being that our hotel kosher-certified kitchens are exclusively used only by Star-K Caterers.” Rabbi Kurcfeld explained that there is one facility, primarily used by Star-K Caterers, which on occasion has been used by other kosher-certified caterers. 

Regardless of which kosher certification is used, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann of the Star-K does not pass judgment on any caterer and requires his rabbis to kosher the kitchen after their use. This is not a problem for organizations like the RCC which is used almost exclusively by caterers it certifies. Rabbi Sholem Fishbane of the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc) also does not have a problem since “almost every caterer is cRc so we know what the last caterer did, plus many caterers have exclusives with the hotels.” 

Rabbi Don Joel Levy of the OK Kosher Certification states plainly: “If we do not know who the last caterer was then the designated kitchen does not help.” The policy of koshering kitchens that have multiple caterers appears to be the universal standard for all kosher certification agencies, including the Orthodox Union.