April 8, 2013

New Book ÒKosherÓ Plots Growth of Kosher and Dramatic Changes in Kosher Certification

ALBANY, NY — A new book, “Kosher” by Professor Timothy D. Lytton (Harvard University Press, 2013), a Professor of Law at the Albany Law School, tells the remarkable story of kosher in America. The book traces the emergence of kosher certification in America. He even suggests that “the success of kosher food certification holds many important lessons that can be applied to food regulation more generally – highlighting sources of regulatory failure and pointing the way toward reform.” 

In his review of some of the scandals that beset the kosher meat industry in the early 1900’s he opens with a story eerily similar to the Passover-eve revelation that a Los Angeles owner of a kosher meat market smuggled in non-kosher meat while the mashgiach was out praying. In 1933, Jacob Branfman, the owner of the largest kosher deli distributor, was found to have smuggled in 13 barrels of non-kosher meat, allegedly with the complicity of the “supervising rabbis” and was ultimately convicted of fraud. Lytton uses these incidents to show just how much has changed, giving high marks to kosher certification agencies for having risen to the challenges of a growing industry.

Rabbi Menachem Genack, the CEO of the OU’s Kashrus Division called the book “an extremely valuable contribution to understanding the history, dynamics, and remarkable growth of kashrus supervisory agencies in America.” Prof. Lytton previously served as associate professor of law at New York Law School; research fellow and clinical instructor at Yale University; fellow at Hartman Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, and Harvard University Program in Ethics and the Professions; and assistant professor of law at Capital University Law School.