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Following Stan & Pete saga, Beth Din tightens up kosher services

  • rabbi dovi goldstein WEB
It is more than a year since the Stan & Pete treif-chicken scandal rocked the community, setting off a multi-pronged investigation and calls for a sweeping revamp of kashrut. Has anything changed?
by NICOLA MILTZ | Apr 11, 2019

Apparently there are now procedures in place to handle “tip offs” from the community, according to the head of the Beth Din’s Kosher Department, Rabbi Dovi Goldstein. Now, calls are recorded, and information is filed and investigated, he told the SA Jewish Report this week.

In a report the department released this week, Goldstein said 80% of kosher establishments now have CCTV systems in place, and the department is integrating the camera systems into the kosher supervision system.

“By July, we will have 100% CCTV coverage of our food services,” he says.

These are part of what Goldstein refers to as “significant improvements” cited in the report.

Following the reaction to the Stan & Pete scandal, Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein and the Union of Orthodox Synagogues initiated an investigation into Stan & Pete by leading law firm Bowmans. They also invited the Association of Kashrus Organisations (AKO) to review the kashrut-supervision system of the Beth Din, and to make recommendations for improvements. Rabbi Dovi Goldstein was appointed the new managing director of the Kosher Department.

After that, says Goldstein, “We built a new strategy” for the Kosher Department, based on four areas:

•     Training new inspectors and introducing training programmes for mashgichim;

•     Upskilling staff at the department;

•     Improving customer services; and

•     Improving efficiencies in the shechita (slaughter) system.

Factories, food services, and shechita are the three primary focus areas of the kosher organisation, says Goldstein.

A new compliance manager, Rabbi Anton Klein, was appointed to oversee inspections at factories, process overdue product applications, and issue kashrut certificates. He has developed criteria for the qualification and training of five new rabbinic field representatives, three of whom are “on the ground inspecting our factories”. The other two are still undergoing training. The three representatives have had extensive training in industrial kashrut.

Rabbi Dovi Rabin was appointed as a rabbinic co-ordinator (RC) for factories to improve customer services which were “below expectation”, according to the report. The RC appointment was one of AKO’s recommendations. Rabin has since engaged with more than 200 companies.

The department has hired data systems analyst Renata Botma to manage thousands of ingredients, and schedule numerous inspections every year.

It has hired more administrative staff and, according to Goldstein, has improved the skills of existing staff to “maintain the database and ensure all certification processes run smoothly”.

Rabbi Motti Groner was appointed as the new RC in food services. Inspectors have streamlined inspections using a new digital inspection process as opposed to the outdated, time consuming process of filling out paper forms, according to the report.

Goldstein says the department will soon introduce a new Mehadrin standard at functions “for people who want it”, requiring a “thorough investigation of the menu, and an additional mashgiach present at production and at the function”.

Following the Stan & Pete incident, the spotlight was focused on mashgichim as the gateway to kashrut. Many concerns were raised by mashgichim themselves and members of the community about levels of training, general working conditions, and expectations.

According to the report, two meetings were held eight months ago with the mashgichim to hear their concerns. Three main points emerged from the feedback, including renumeration, support, and training.

According to Goldstein, the department increased the recommended minimum renumeration rate, and has “engaged extensively” with individuals and groups of mashgichim.

The date for the first mashgiach conference is set for next month.

“This conference will address training in new methods, checking for criminality, and identifying kosher fish and chicken.”

The department is also developing new training modules for mashgichim, which will be presented to them at the conference.

The training will focus on skills in kashrut, professionalism, and health and safety. Mashgichim will be required to refresh their training and take examinations biennially.

The Beth Din shechita process has also been improved.

There is an upgraded venue for the shechita of lamb. The majority of lamb shechita is taking place on a separate day to beef shechita, which according to Goldstein, “ensures that the shochtim are less pressurised in order to comply with the AKO recommendations”.

There is a dedicated bodek sakinin (the person that checks the knife after every shechita) for both beef and lamb shechita, and a dedicated mashgiach as an extra precautionary measure to monitor all labelling.

“The kosher team has put its head down, and there has been a super-human effort,” Goldstein says. “It isn’t humanly possible to put everything into effect in such a short space of time. While there are no quick fixes, I’m confident in saying that we have managed to bring in a new era of kosher for the community. We remain fully committed to implementing all the recommendations by AKO and Bowmans.”

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