September 19, 2011

Kashrus Agencies Target Women in Special Educational Seminars

New York…Women are increasingly applying to serve as “mashgichot” (kosher supervisors) as the kashrus community has learned just what a valuable resource they can be. The first mashgichot to have worked for a major kashrus agency were at the Star-K agency, based in Baltimore, which has since trained many mashgichot. The agencies have also devoted a great deal of effort into educating women about the nuances of kashrus. In its second year, the OU Harry H. Beren Advanced Kashrus Seminar for Women, attracted women from Brooklyn to Quebec, Amherst, MA to Baltimore. The seminar, part of the ASK OU program sponsored by the Harry H. Beren Foundation of Lakewood, NJ featured lectures on a wide variety of aspects of kashrus, supplemented with industrial plant and hotel kitchen tours.  OU Kosher Chief Executive Officer Rabbi Menachem Genack stated, " The Advanced Kashrus Seminar for Women satisfied a very real need and attracted a wide variety of participants.” While most of these women will not become mashgichot, some will apply the knowledge to their homes and a few in their businesses (i.e. catering and restaurants). Sheera Eisen, Co-Director of the OU’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus program (JLIC) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, felt it was important to attend the seminar to expand her knowledge of kashrus in order to better serve the students on campus – even if it meant attending the week before the semester began, and leaving early enough on Friday to host 80-100 students at the kick-off Shabbat that night.  Laurie Tansman, a Registered Dietitian at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, coordinated the opening of the hospital’s kosher kitchen in 1990, in addition to lecturing about kashrus at advance level educational institutions.  She noted, “Every hospital dietitian should go to a program like this in order to understand the complexities of kashrus to better understand their patients’ requests.  Aside from kashrus, in which I have a strong background, this program added to my knowledge of the food service industry in ways that were not included in my training as a dietitian – it should be required as part of the field experience.”