August 22, 2011

Rabbi Yosef Ralbag, a Kosher Pioneer, Preceded Kosher Revolution

New Kosher Today Staff Reporters...Rabbi Yosef Ralbag, the founder of the Triangle K Kosher Certification agency, passed away recently but his legacy was that of a pioneer who sought to bring kashrus to the masses. According to kashrus sources, Rabbi Ralbag’s vision of introducing mainstream food manufacturers to kosher consumers preceded the kosher revolution of the last few decades. One rabbi told Kosher Today that Rabbi Ralbag was a firm believer in “assuring that every Jew had access to kosher,” but he never really made the transition to the new world of kosher which opted for higher standards and where glatt kosher became the operative term for strictly kosher. Rabbi Ralbag’s Triangle K had indeed succeeded in penetrating some of the largest food manufacturers, but slowly saw his agency’s dominance slip as competing agencies touted the higher standards to respond to a growing Orthodox community. “In one sense,” said the rabbi (who asked for anonymity), “Rabbi Ralbag was old school in that he took a simple approach to making kosher available to the masses but in another way it was unfortunate that he did not quickly join the kosher revolution.” In recent years, the Triangle K was headed by his son, Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag. Like his father, the younger Rabbi Ralbag is a brilliant scholar who also serves as Rabbi of the Young Israel of Avenue K and as Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam. While he has brought much change to the agency, including upgrading standards, some in the Orthodox community still have a great deal of mistrust for the symbol. Wikipedia notes: “Triangle K has long been a source of controversy within the Orthodox community, especially with regard to their supervision of Hebrew National products, with many rabbis advising against relying on the organization's supervision.” But rabbinic sources say that although not glatt kosher, Rabbi Ralbag has significantly upgraded the kosher standards at Hebrew National as well as to many other brands the agency certifies. In addition to Hebrew National, the Triangle K certifies such major brands as Del Monte, Minute Maid, Ocean Spray, Sunsweet, Sunny Delight, and Wonder Bread.” Many kashrus sources agreed that despite the controversy surrounding the late Rabbi Yosef Ralbag, he was most certainly an important player in the history of kosher in the US.