From the COLlive journalist
More than 100 OU Kosher Rabbinical Coordinators (RCs) and Rabbinical Field Representatives (RFRs) from around the world recently gathered at the Hilton Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey for the two-day annual Kashrus Conference of OU Koshers.
RFRs inspect food production at various plants and RCs supervise RFRs and work with client companies to maximize the benefits of their Kosher OU certification.
OU (Orthodox Union) Kosher is the world’s largest and most widely recognized international kosher certification agency, certifying over 1,000,000 products produced in more than 13,000 factories located in 105 countries worldwide. The agency certifies two-thirds of all foods certified kosher in the United States.
For more than 25 years, OU Kosher has hosted mashgichim and rabbis at the two-day conference. The event offers them the opportunity to meet peers and learn from religious authorities and industry experts about kosher laws, procedures, technologies and trends.
The conference puts OU Kosher’s work and mission into a larger context and helps RFR and RC understand how everything is coordinated, said Rabbi, chief executive officer of OU Kosher. Menachem Genak. We discuss policies that will make their jobs easier, more efficient, and more effective.
This year’s event attracted approximately 55 rabbinical coordinators working at OU Koshers headquarters in Manhattan, and approximately 75 rabbinical field representatives from throughout North America, Europe, Israel, Brazil and Mexico. A notable number of them are Chabad Shluchim. Rabbi Genack said the diversity of participants strengthens OU Kosher and facilitates the cultivation of relationships outside the organization.
According to Rabbi, Chief Operating Officer of OU Kosher Moshe the elephant, who oversees the operations of OU Koshers 850 RFR, 100 work full time and make thousands of plant visits in 104 countries, inspecting more than a million ingredients. Many of those working in the field spend a lot of time away from their families.
Bringing our RCs and RFRs together benefits our Kashrus programs, Rabbi Elefant said. The conference is an opportunity for them to connect with each other and learn new and important skills and facts about the work we do. Many participants communicate continuously, but do not necessarily have the opportunity to see each other. That personal interaction is very valuable.
After a welcome from Rabbi Genack and the chairman of the OU Kosher Commission, Dr. Joshua Penn, participants attended discussion sessions on topics such as Conflict and Communication in Professional Contexts, Time Management, Easily Overlooked Issues in Kashering, and Innovations in Biotechnology and Ingredient Development. Other sessions included topics like learning Chavrusa, Daf Yomi shiurirm and Yarchei Kallah.
Attendees enjoyed a dialogue between Rabbi Genack and Rabbi Elefant as they reflected on their unique visions, collaboration and each other’s achievements at OU Kosher.
Other highlights included a shiur on kosherizing utensils delivered by Merkaz HaRav Kook Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yaakov Shapiraspecially arrived from Israel for the conference, and a speech by Rabbi Elya Brudnya maggid shiur at Brooklyn’s Mir Yeshiva and a member of Agudath Israel of America’s Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah.
Expressing the same feelings as the Novominsky Rebbe in a previous Kashrus lecture years earlier, Rabbi Brudny noted, Chazal told us that the consumption of non-kosher food dulls the heart and mind. Rabbi Brudny thanked OU for being the leading kosher agency in North America and credited OU with growing Torah across the continent.
The annual Kashrus Conference also serves as a forum for OU Kosher to publicly acknowledge RFRs and RCs who have worked at the institute for 25 years. Among those honored this year for his decades of hard work and service was Rabbi Yaakov Luban, one of the OU’s senior rabbis, who will retire in January 2024 after nearly 40 years. Rabbi Genack, who has been close to Rabbi Luban since childhood, shared his gratitude to Rabbi Luban on behalf of OU Kosher.
Each year, an OU certified company is also recognized at the conference. This year Kedem was praised for his 69-year affiliation with OU and for making kosher staple products, including wine and Passover products, available to Jews around the world.
Guest Speaker (center): Rabbi Elya Brudny, maggid shiur at Brooklyn’s Mir Yeshiva and member of Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel of America
Merkaz HaRav Kook Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yaakov Shapira at OU Kosher Kashrus Conference
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