So you’ve attended a sit-down Bar Mitzvah or wedding for 600 at a luxurious hotel, with the meal strictly kosher, and your major concern is how much to eat at the smorgasbord, so as not to spoil your appetite for dinner.
That is because you know that the hotel’s kashrut is under the supervision of the Orthodox Union, and as a result, there is no concern for the skills of the mashgiach or mashgichim who are stationed in the hotel’s kitchen to keep a very keen eye on the food preparation and service in all of its aspects. Now, with the publication of the OU Manual for the Food Service Industry, the complexity of supervising hotels, catering halls, synagogue kitchens and other locales where meals are prepared for large gatherings, is set down for the benefit not only of OU Kosher staff, but for other kashrut organizations, local Vaadim, and kashrut professionals who are seeking guidance in this complicated field of kosher food service.
This is the fifth in a series of OU manuals, following its predecessors on baked goods; fish; oil; and the most recent, the third edition of “Checking Fruits and Vegetables,” which rolled off the presses just before Passover this year. “Kosher food service supervision has evolved into a complex industry which requires both strong management skills and a broad knowledge of halacha,” declared Rabbi Yaakov Luban, OU Kosher Executive Rabbinic Coordinator and Editor of the Manual.
“The OU is fortunate to have on staff an exceptional group of rabbonim who oversee this important area. Over the years, these individuals have introduced numerous systems of control for food service establishments, and in so doing, have raised the levels of supervision in OU establishments and beyond. In an effort to standardize a formal structure, many policies and requirements for Kosher Food Service have been committed to writing in a series of articles, protocols, check-lists and manuals.”
Rabbi Luban continued, “My challenge, which was substantial, was to merge the material together and fill in the missing gaps, to produce one seamless manual that covers the entire gamut of food service supervision. In this process, much effort was expended to establish a consensus for one standard of OU policy.” Harvey Blitz, Chair of the OU Kashrut Commission, explained: “The goal of OU Kosher is not only providing the highest standards of kosher certification to the widest audience possible, but also to provide kosher education on all levels not only through our publications, but through our extensive and growing programs in which OU Kosher rabbis share their expertise with groups ranging from yeshiva children to senior rabbis. The OU Manual for the Food Service Industry, therefore, is yet another step in our expanded goal of educating the kosher consuming public.
He added, “I would like to express my appreciation to Rabbi Luban for serving as Editor of this extraordinary publication. His profound knowledge of halacha and its implementation in the food services industry vastly influenced this manual.” Rabbi Luban, in turn, gave credit to OU Kosher’s Food Service specialists for their knowledge and experience — Rabbi Issur Fuchs, Rabbi Eli Gersten, Rabbi Yermia Indich, Rabbi Avi Juravel, Rabbi Dov Schreier and Rabbi Leonard Steinberg — declaring that “every one of these rabbonim excels in his area of expertise, and collectively, they produced a magnificent wealth of written material which formed the foundation for this Food Service Manual.”
The manuals project was originated by Dr. Simcha Katz, now OU President, who was Chairman of the OU Kashrut Commission when the first guide appeared. Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher, and Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of OU Kosher, had ultimate supervisory responsibility for the manual. According to Rabbi Luban, the Editor, “Rabbi Moshe Zywica, Executive Rabbinic Coordinator, skillfully managed various aspects of this project and his talented efforts brought the Manual to fruition. In addition, he reviewed the entire document a number of times and made many valuable suggestions.” The beautifully illustrated 70-page booklet covers a wealth of topics. They include: the food service mashgiach — an overview; opening and closing procedures; incoming and outgoing deliveries; off-site events; logs, checklists and reports; designation of dairy/meat/pareve equipment; new equipment; meat and fish segregation; establishments with both meat and dairy; wine, liquor and liqueur; milk products; matzah and matzah products; outside food; Bishul Yisrael; Bedikas Tolaim; inspection of eggs; water filtration; Tevilas Keilim.
The manual also explores special standards, that is, Pas Yisrael, Cholov Yisrael and Yoshon; waiting six hours after (consuming) aged cheese; brachos; Sukkos; nine-days policy; liver; knife sharpening; hafroshas challah; tznius and ambiance; entertainment; written protocols; overnight catered events; Pesach food service; synagogue catering; levels of supervision; and fruit and vegetable inspection guidelines. There are also checklists for hotel and catering establishments and for Shabbos catering; and a restaurant review (not the kind written by a food critic, but rather a review of procedures).
The manual features a large selection of halachic source material as well from OU Kosher Halachic Consultants Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Yisroel Belsky. Want to be a food service mashgiach? The manual states that one must establish one’s presence; engage in diplomacy with staff (no yelling); demonstrate professionalism; practice confidentiality; be punctual; show astuteness; be willing to lend a hand; limit personal activities which would detract from supervision; stay in touch with the OU Rabbinic Coordinator; and properly represent the Orthodox Union. In other words, as with Harry Truman, the buck stops with you!
Copies of the manual may be obtained at from Rabbi Luban at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-613-8214.