What do I, a kosher mommy blogger, a Rebbetzin from Boro Park, and a Mashgicha-a female Mashgiach- from Albany, NY, have in common? I was hungry for information on kosher food certification processes and the laws that make them kosher. These women, some of them from generations of kosher kitchens and some of them that just wanted to increase their own personal kosher curiosity. Last week, I spent the entire week with 24 of these incredible women at the OU Advanced Kashrut Seminar For Women and had an in depth look at “what’s cooking” and “what’s not cooking” in kosher cuisine today. Rabbi Grossman, Director of OU Kosher Education, organized this opportunity for women after he had received requests from over 80 women for such a seminar last year. The week long seminar addressed the areas of kosher food management such as checking lettuce for insects (we did find one on our lettuce); baking bread (challah); blood spots in eggs; meat and dairy control; identifying and purchasing kosher fish and chicken; and becoming an educated kosher consumer.
The seminar also included a couple of field trips to OU certified factories, hotel kitchens and food service establishments. It is incredible the amount of detailed processes, check lists, and quality control required for working in a large kosher kitchen or an OU certified factory. I was so impressed by the OU kosher rabbinic staff – both those who are based in the OU office (rabbinic coordinators) and those who work outside (rabbinic field representatives) – and their extensive knowledge of animals, natural history, chemicals, medicine, and Halacha (Jewish Law) in their areas of concentration.
I have been kosher for less than a decade, but after this course I can’t understand why anybody would not choose to keep kosher. You don’t have to be a Jew or even an Orthodox Jew to benefit from kosher certification. In fact, Phyllis Koegel, OU New Business Development/Marketing Associate, shared some information on kosher consumers that I found most interesting. According to Mintel Market Research, “Kosher Foods Market – US Report,” January, 2009, The U.S. Kosher Marketplace is growing steadily. According to the report, nearly 80% of All Kosher Food Sales are Outside of the “Traditional” Jewish Market. These markets include Muslim, Seventh Day Adventists, Vegetarians, and Vegans. Mintel also discovered that general consumers believe kosher food is safer, healthier, and better. Then there is the consumer with Dietary Restrictions such as Lactose, Shellfish, and Gluten Intolerant. This research confirms my personal opinion that consumers don’t have to be Jewish to love kosher food. However, if they are health concious consumers with food nutrition as a major priotity, Jewish or not, this is something we can all agree on. Still not convinced?
You can bring a world expert on kashrut — one of the Rabbanim and Mashgichim of the Orthodox Union — to your institution to share his expertise. Arrangements may be made for small adult groups to visit OU headquarters for an in-house session, seminar or shiur with an OU rabbinic expert. For more information, contact Rabbi Eliyahu Safran at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212.613.8115.