April 8, 2013

Protocols Already in Place to Prevent Los Angeles Kosher Scandals, Kashrus Officials Say

NEW YORK — Kashrus officials do not believe that the system of supervising kosher establishments is flawed. “The protocols at the OU are very clear on the role of the mashgiach at a kosher establishment,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the Orthodox Union’s Kashrus Division. Rabbi Elefant said that the system in place also includes oversight by rabbinic administrators. 

A similar sentiment was echoed by Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, Rabbinic Administrator of the Chicago Rabbinical Council and Executive Director of the Association of Kashrus Organizations. The officials were reacting to the latest kashrus scandal, discovered right before the Passover holiday at the Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat in Los Angeles where video by a private investigator shows owner Mike Engelman unloading “questionable” meats during the supervising rabbi’s break to attend morning prayers. 

The Doheny story was reminiscent of the scandal that rocked the Monsey community in 2006 when Moshe Finkel of the Shevach butcher shop was found to have included non-kosher poultry in his store just two weeks before Rosh Hashanah. The Monsey event as well as other incidents in the Five Towns and Flatbush resulted in the tightening of standards by kashrus agencies. Referring to the alleged failings of the mashgiach and oversight by the supervising agency, one kashrus official compared the Los Angeles scandal to “a plane crash blamed on human error.” 

While at least one rabbi pointed a finger at a “consumer base that simply does not care,” others said that it would be impossible for ordinary customers to delve into the intricacies of back room operations at places like Doheny or Shevach. They said that most kosher customers expect the strictest standards to be observed as advertised. In the interim, Doheny was purchased by a well-known Orthodox philanthropist who obviously will reopen with scrupulous kashrus standards.