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A Honey of a Hobby

Barbara Bensoussan

It’s 2 a.m. when the telephone rings and within minutes the rescue worker is on his way to respond to the emergency call. But it’s not the frightened caller who needs rescuing. Instead, it’s a swarm of bees, who’ve taken shelter in a place where they’re not wanted. Who would get up in the middle of the night to rescue a bunch of bees? Meet Rabbi Daniel Senter, who by day is the rabbinic administrator of Kof-K Kosher Supervision, but after-hours has a unique hobby that keeps him very “buzzy.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

honey makerIf anybody deserves the title jack of all trades, it’s Rabbi Daniel Senter, rabbinic Administrator of Kof-K Kosher Supervision. In addition to the titles rabbi, mohel, and shochet, he hands out a card that includes the following: carded ASA umpire and baseball coach, EMT and CPR instructor, classic auto collector, master beer brewer, fishing guide, story teller, magician, balloonist, clock maker, swim instructor, and outdoorsman.

“I was always fascinated by how things work,” he says from behind his desk at the teal-colored offices of the Kof-K inTeaneck,New Jersey. Picking up a stapler, he says, “If I see a stapler, I want to understand how it works, why it’s designed this way, what materials were used to construct it. It serves me well in kashrus; if I go to a cheese factory, I want to know how the cheese-making equipment works, what it’s made of, does it use electricity or steam, and so on.”

The time he went to see a magician, he decided he had to learn how to do magic tricks; when he acquired a car he needed to understand what made it go. He even makes his own beer every Purim, which he’s dubbed “Shushan Habeerah.” But in case all the above qualifications aren’t enough rolled into a single person, most recently Rabbi Senter has added yet another feather to his cap: beekeeper and “rescuer.”

We usually imagine that it’s people who need rescuing from swarms of bees, not vice versa. But honey bees sometimes choose sheltered areas like the eaves of homes to build hives, and if the owners prefer not to share their space with bees, someone needs to carefully take them out (since so many bee colonies have been mysteriously failing, federal law prohibits the extermination of honey bees). Bees may also need a helping hand when they leave a hive in a swarm to seek a new hive, especially if they choose to settle in such inconvenient locales as the front doors of posh residences and restaurants, as was the case in June 2010 when a swarm occupied the front entrance of Cipriani on Wall Street, causing many passersby to fly away in panic.

Rabbi Senter’s apiarian hobby inadvertently “came to bee” through his qualifications as a shochet. “I had a friend who used to have a farm,” he recounts. “They’re an Orthodox family that used to keep chickens on the farm, and they asked me to shecht some for them. I came and did the job, and as we were salting the meat, I noticed some boxes with fencing around them. When I asked him what they were, he replied, ‘Those are my bees!’ and proceeded to show me the hives from the outside. It was late summer, and there was a lot of activity going on.”

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