February 5, 2018

The Passing of Rabbi Zushe Yosef Blech at 64: The Rabbi’s Rabbi in Kashrus

Monsey, NY…The kashrus world recently mourned the untimely passing of Rabbi Zushe Yosef Blech, a leading expert in the application of modern technology to kosher food production. He served for fourteen years as a regional director for the Kashrus division of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (the “OU”), and has since served as a technical and Halachic consultant to virtually all of the major Kashrus certifying agencies worldwide. Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the OU’s kashrus division, told the weekly Hamodia newspaper that his contribution filled a unique place in their shared profession. “His passing leaves a huge void in the world of kashrus.” He added: “He was very dedicated and was constantly traveling the world, going from factory to factory, and he wouldn’t leave until he felt he totally understood the intricacies of what was going on there.”

Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, who heads the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO) told Kosher Today: “He was someone that focused on the truth. He deplored politics and kept going back to the basics of kashrus. We could be in a room full of experts with all types of opinions that suited their particular needs best but he was the voice of reason in saying why something should or should not be good – and he was usually right!” Rabbi Fishbane said that he also “helped newcomers into the kashrus field become familiar with the industry.” He added: “While others would shy away from certifying certain food establishments because they might tarnish their image he was willing to step in order to give people access to kosher who might otherwise not have chosen an establishment with good (or any) standards.”

Most kashrus officials stressed the importance of Rabbi Blech’s expertise in today’s rapidly changing world of technology. His magnum opus, “Kosher Food Production,” is a high-level but accessible handbook of kashrus and the complex issues involved in maintaining high standards of supervision amid the challenges of modern production methods. In recent years, Rabbi Blech served as the Kashrus Administrator for EarthKosher, a kosher certification agency, a member of AKO.