Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Eidah, The Dollar rules again.

14 Elul 5770-August 24, 2010

I contemplated if I should publicize this incident, and decided that I should, not towards giving a ‘black eye’ to a reputable kashrus organization, but rather intending to send a clear message to readers, that we must always remain vigilant and to expect the unexpected.
I am deleting many details from the story to prevent identifying most involved, but I did receive permission from those mentioned by name, to include them, towards validating the details in the eye of the reader.

The incident occurred earlier this month when a client approached Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Altman in his capacity as rabbi and chief mashgiach of the Jerusalem Leonardo Plaza (know by many as ‘The Plaza’).

A client inquired as to the hechsher of yeast cakes served in the hotel, explaining he wanted to host a modest kiddush event and wished to make sure that only Eida Chareidit cakes would be served. The rav assured him this is not a problem and phoned a prominent bakery under the exclusive supervision of the Eida Chareidit and placed the order.

(The hotel usually uses a yeast cakes that have a hechsher from two agencies, the Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin and Badatz Machzikei Hadas / Belz).

The order was placed and the goods arrived on schedule on that erev shabbos, and this is where the story gets interesting.

The rabbi inspected the shipping manifest (teudat mishloach) as his job demands, and sure enough, the cakes arrived from the bakery as ordered, as was verifiable by the paperwork -- attesting to the fact the yeast cakes in the boxes were from the bakery which has a hechsher
from the Eida ONLY.

The rabbi also checked the actual cakes, and to his absolute surprise, saw that they were from another bakery, with a different hechsher, and ot Eida Chareidit. He checked the shipping paper again, and yes, the akes were from the Eida bakery. Lacking any plausible explanation, he urmised the bakery for some reason gave the order to another bakery WITH A DIFFERENT HECHSHER] and then delivered to the hotel as if othing out of the ordinary took place.

Rabbi Altman phoned the chief mashgiach from the bakery, who confirmed hat is exactly what occurred, adding this was not uncommon, xplaining when the bakery for one reason or another had difficulty eeting an order, it would subcontract the job and make the delivery
without informing the end-user that a switch occurred. He did not offer an explanation or apology for the fact that the ‘other bakery’ had a different hechsher.

This disturbed the rabbi, compelling him to telephone a senior rav who is one of the authorities overseeing the Eida Chareidit kashrus operation. He felt the situation was indeed serious enough to warrant such a call on an erev shabbos.

The rav listened to the story and basically, without going into the details, concurred with the chief mashgiach, explaining this is a routine event. He too saw no reason for an explanation or an apology, despite the fact the bakery is synonymous with the Eida Chareidit, and permits itself to use its stationary and delivery documentation to send another hechsher without prior notification or even bothering to see if substituting a hechsher is acceptable.

Making things worse, as the rabbi tried to argue the merit of his case, the prominent Eida rav hung up the phone on him.

I feel compelled to comment here on a number of issues.

1. Once again we see the need for competent mashgichim, who are not only well-versed in Yoreh Deah, but have what it takes to get the job done, a G-d fearing individual who realizes he carries the responsibility of the public’s kashrut on his shoulders. As veteran readers are aware, I have been singing the praises regarding R’ Altman for many years. He is the reason the Plaza has the reputation it does regarding the level of kashrus.

2. It is most alarming at best that a premier kashrus organization openly violates the trust of the public and does not even make the slightest effort to explain the actions of a bakery under its supervision. Adding to the unacceptable situation, the senior rabbi does not see any need to offer a plausible explanation.

My take on the event is simple, that the Eida feels in cases where items are substituted with a different hechsher the delivery is not heading to a place in Eida territory, but to a place where it will be not be served to ‘Eida constituents’ and as such, ‘who cares’.

In this case, it is ‘only a Jerusalem Mehadrin hotel’, a venue that is not patronized by Eida loyalists and therefore, the premiere kashrus organization brazenly permits itself to unilaterally switch goods and the hechsher supplied to the end user without bothering to consult with the hotel or its rav.

This in my opinion is a major violation of public trust, and the Eida must realize it cannot live on its reputation alone, but it must earn it daily, by maintaining the standard it proudly boasts to the public.

I add that the Eida and other kashrus organizations are not doing anyone a favor since they earn a handsome shekel for their efforts, which they are entitled to if they do their job correctly.

This is not such a case.

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