November 3, 2014

Watch Out for “Reliable” Kosher Hotels

“Reliable,” it seems is a key word when it comes to ascertaining whether something is really kosher. It has a “reliable” hechsher is a commonly use phrase to describe a good kosher certification. Some use “reliable” for a restaurant or even for a hotel, again as a way confirming the integrity of the kosher certification. Apparently, a non-religious family dining on a Friday night no less at the “reliable” Leornado Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem asked the Arab waiter for butter during the meat meal. The waiter complied. The mashgiach on duty immediately removed the butter and even pulled and discarded all the dishes and flatware from that table. The majority of the people in the dining room that evening were Orthodox Jews who were there because of the “reliable” hechsher. Both the hotel and the Jerusalem Rabbinate explained that the waiter was relatively new and therefore did not know the prohibition of mixing meat and dairy.

But for the Orthodox guests who were at the hotel that evening, the explanation was less than satisfactory. They opined that such an infraction should be cause for dismissal. If it somehow fell through the cracks during the training, then that too was problematic. While sources say that the hotel has an impeccable record of kashrus integrity, there was a lesson to be learned from accepting “reliable” as an automatic verification that the kashrus is perfect and that vigilance is unnecessary. A friend of mine, to whom I had recounted the story, recalled that he had once caught a waiter filling a small jug usually reserved for non-dairy creamer with milk, only to be told that there was a mix-up. What was troubling is that the hotel had a “reliable” hechsher. Leading kashrus officials say that “reliable” is usually reliable but that customer vigilance also needs to be more “reliable.”