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Eytan Kobre

What’s really going on in the kashrus industry of 2013? Five of North America’s top kashrus experts continue chewing over the complexities of an industry we all need but little understand. In Part Two, our panelists examine issues relevant to kosher stores and eateries; the lessons learned from recent scandals; the necessity of an on-site mashgiach; how to make sure the system doesn’t break down; and the role every consumer plays in making sure the food on your table is really up to standard.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

sitting around a tableCan You Trust Your Mashgiach?


“This is the bane of all the kashrus agencies, because the fact is that a mashgiach’s position can only offer a certain amount of room for advancement, and therefore it’s difficult to get and retain quality mashgichim


— Rabbi Avrohom Union


Some people claim that mashgichim employed in restaurants, stores, and small production facilities, such as bakeries, might not be knowledgeable and perhaps not particularly trustworthy. Is there truth to this? Can the level be upgraded?

Rabbi Elefant: I don’t think anyone around this table would ever hire someone who’s irresponsible. We don’t just deposit a mashgiach in a store or eatery and say, “Okay, now it’s your achrayus.” They have to call in from a phone number we recognize so we know when they arrive. We have other rabbanim who make the rounds unannounced and check up on the mashgiach to make sure he’s there and that he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing, whether it’s checking vegetables or checking in deliveries, and if we find he’s not doing what he’s supposed to, we dismiss him. And if you, the consumer, know something about a mashgiach that we don’t know, then you have a responsibility to tell us; if you walk into a store and see something disturbing about the mashgiach, then call us and tell us.

But I also want to say this: If someone would ask me to define what it is that makes for a good hashgachah, I would have to say that to my mind, it’s the ability to say “no.” That even if it receives an application for certification, it can decline to certify. And if an agency can’t provide qualified mashgichim, then it has to say “no.”

Rabbi Levy: I would like add to what Rabbi Elefant said about a good agency being one that can say “no,” and include that an agency that never issues a notification that it made a mistake is suspect.

Rabbi Union: Every legitimate agency does a background check on its mashgichim. They speak to his rav to make sure he’s legal, because that can be an issue, too, and you want to be able to pay him on the books and provide workmen’s compensation, etc. But it does sometimes happen that you wind up with a mashgiach who disappoints.

We do need to be spending more time in strengthening — and we all know this — the aspect of our mashgichim. There are basic questions of who we are taking on as mashgichim and what the wage levels are. This is the bane of all the kashrus agencies, because the fact is that a mashgiach’s position can only offer a certain amount of room for advancement, and therefore it’s difficult to get and retain quality mashgichim. But we have to begin looking at that, because in the Doheny situation we saw that having all the systems in place isn’t enough.

Another thing we realized about mashgichim is that that we may need to rotate them from time to time so they maintain a fresh attitude of kabdeihu v’chashdeihu toward the proprietors. Once they’ve been in a certain position for a while and they become comfortable and think the owner is trustworthy, the mashgichim may take certain liberties they should not take.


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