Kosher Meat Scandal Rocks Los Angeles Jewish Community - The Jewish Voice
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Kosher Meat Scandal Rocks Los Angeles Jewish Community

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The widely patronized Doheny Glatt Kosher Meats in Los Angeles has come under serious scrutiny for highly questionable practices concerning its meat distribution.
The widely patronized Doheny Glatt Kosher Meats in Los Angeles has come under serious scrutiny for highly questionable practices concerning its meat distribution.
A scandal involving the potential substitution of non-kosher meat for strictly kosher by a major Los Angeles meat supplier has sent shockwaves throughout the local Jewish community and led to the removal of the store’s kosher certification.

The evidence for the deception came from an undercover video shot on March 12, which showed Doheny Glatt Kosher Meats proprietor Mike Engelman ordering his employees to unload boxes of meat from his car without the presence of the store’s kosher supervisor. The shocking video caused the Rabbinical Council of California to revoke Doheny’s kosher certification on March 24 – just one day before Pesach – leaving kosher consumers to scramble for holiday provisions at the last minute. The council released a statement that mentioned the possibility of taking “legal action” in secular court, a move rarely taken among Orthodox Jewish organizations.

In addition to the rabbinical council’s immediate action, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service disclosed that it is investigating the Doheny meat market.

Engelman finally confessed to acting improperly after he had originally denied the accusations during a meeting with the supervisory agency, the Rabbinical Council of California. “He did claim that it was kosher — I think that the way he put it was that he ‘never brought non-kosher meat into the store,’ and that he ‘never sold something not kosher,’” said a source who was in attendance at the meeting. “But he did acknowledge bringing in boxes — he claimed it was poultry — into the store.”

Engelman has managed Doheny Glatt Kosher Meats, situated on Pico Boulevard in the heart of Los Angeles’ Orthodox community, for 28 years. He declined to comment for the record on the recommendation of his attorney.

The incriminating video was filmed by Eric Agaki, a private investigator who was acting on his own initiative.

On Thursday, the first Intermediate Day of Pesach, Doheny reopened under new rabbinical supervision. Rabbi Menachem Weiss, whose father, Rabbi Meshulom Dov Weiss, is listed as the store’s new mashgiach, stated that two kashrut supervisors would be present in the store on a full-time basis. He further noted that the new supervising agency had installed seven cameras on the premises to enable remote monitoring of the entire immediate area.

Agaki noted that he had met with USDA investigators on March 25 and provided them with materials he had collected during his private investigation. Agaki said the investigators explained to him that USDA boxes are not supposed to be repacked by retail personnel.

The latest charges created a huge stir within the observant Los Angeles community, with a number of loyal customers contending that Engelman had been set up by competing kosher meat distributors who were jealous of his success.

“How can anybody set them up?” Agaki countered in regard to Engelman and his associates. “They did what they did. Nobody made them do it.”

“Nobody hired me, nobody paid me,” the private investigator went on. “If anybody wants to pay me and send me donations, I’m glad to accept them.”

Agaki revealed that he began investigating Doheny Glatt Kosher Meats approximately seven months ago at the behest of a local rabbi, who told him that some members of the community had become frustrated because Doheny was selling meat “way too cheap” and “putting a lot of people out of business.” Agaki was also informed by sources that employees of Doheny were going around picking up empty glatt kosher boxes from restaurants, an act that definitely aroused suspicion about the store’s practices.

Agaki also commented on a video that he had taken on March 7, which appears to show an associate of Engelman filling up his car with repacked glatt kosher boxes at an unsupervised warehouse in Reseda. The associate is subsequently seen giving over the boxes to Engelman at a McDonald’s, following which Engelman can be seen unloading the boxes at Doheny when the kosher food supervisor is absent.

In a related development, the retired former chair of the Rabbinical Council of California has revealed that he personally caught Engelman acting in a similarly deceptive manner 30 years ago.

Rabbi Pinchas Gruman said that, acting on information he had been given, he caught Engelman handling non-kosher meat while working at a different kosher meats distributor in 1983. “I’m telling you, he was caught with treif!” Gruman exclaimed in reference to the incident which occurred at Los Alamitos Kosher Meats and Poultry three decades ago.

Gruman further recounted how, as the director of the RCC in 1985 when the Engelman-owned Doheny originally applied for kahsrut certification, the RCC granted the certification, but only with the guarantee of strict supervision of a mashgiach temidi.

Rabbi Meyer H. May, who has been the president of the RCC for the past 13 years, has urged that there be  no “third” chance given whatsoever for Engelman and Doheny after he heard about the Los Alamitos incident—-a legacy he now describes as “nauseating.”

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