August 24, 2015

The Role of the Local Rabbi in Kosher

The kosher consumer of 2015 has come to rely on labels and symbols as an easy convenient way to identify kosher products. The sheer number of symbols on the market today can confuse any kosher consumer but at least there are a dozen or so that most kosher customers recognize and, of course, the leading five or six that almost everyone who eats kosher has ingrained in their brain. But since time and immemorial people would routinely ask their local rabbi’s opinion on a kashrus matter. This is perhaps a good time to reintroduce the local rabbi who is usually up on kashrus matters and if he is not knows exactly whom to contact for the information he needs to render a ruling.

Questions about the kashrus status of an establishment can surface almost instantly after a report of a “kashrus violation.” In Israel, Johnnie Walker, the leading Scotch whisky label, was rendered questionable after one distributor may have failed to follow the kosher standards of the Chief Rabbinate. Some immediately cry “politics” and dismiss these kashrus “questions.” Others take them very seriously and immediately refrain from using the establishment. This creates an enormous debate in the community with the facts often being distorted, which is exactly why the local rabbi can in most cases help sort it out. Most rabbis recognize the awesome burden that is placed on them when a question about kashrus surfaces. It can destroy a business and the livelihood of the entrepreneur. That’s why you need the local rabbi!