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April 30, 2013

STAR-K Kosher Certification Administrators Address YU/RIETS Yarchei Kallah Rabbinic Alumni
by Margie Pensak

Rabbinic alumni from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) visited STAR-K Kosher Certification’s offices, during their Yarchei Kallah, held in Baltimore, Maryland, April 22-24. Participants traveled from as far away as Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and Oakland, California, for this annual event for American and Canadian Rabbonim, coordinated by Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought and Senior Scholar at Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future.

“One of the highlights of our trip to Baltimore was the opportunity to meet with the leadership of the STAR-K who graciously hosted our group at their offices,” said Rabbi Schacter. “We came away very impressed by the work the STAR-K does in the field of kashrus supervision and research.”

Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, Mara D'Asra of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation ("The BAYT"), sent STAR-K the following letter of appreciation for hosting the Yarchei Kallah: “Thanks so much to STAR-K for having our chaburah as your guests. It was truly a wonderful experience. Definitely worth the trip of flying all the way from Toronto... It is truly inspiring to see a Rav who speaks his mind and expresses his shittos openly, even if his position may not be agreed upon by other kashrus agencies. This was very refreshing for all of us. We all felt very welcome by the STAR-K to call upon your resources in the future for shailos and consultations. Thank you again for the wonderful experience.”

Rabbi Judah Dardik, senior rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland, California, also felt that the long trip was very much worth it. “As a community Rav, my life revolves around teaching Torah to varied segments of community in a variety of different ways. For me, coming to a Yarchei Kallah is a breath of fresh air; a chance to be a Talmid (student) again for a few days. It is worth every minute to come across the country to sit and learn from Rav Schacter, Rav Heinemann and Rav Frand. I go back to my community refreshed and full of new ideas in learning to share and build upon with the Oakland Bay Area community.”

As Rabbi Shmuel Silber, Rav of Suburban Orthodox, Congregation Toras Chaim, and host of the Yarchei Kallah, summed up the event: “Yeshiva University is committed to its musmachim and their continued success in serving Klal Yisroel. We had very meaningful experience learning from Rabbi Dr. Schacter, spending time at Ner Israel with Rabbi Frand and Rabbi Weisbord and a wonderful afternoon at the STAR-K with Rabbi Heinemann, Rabbi Holland and Rabbi Frankel. We emerged from the Yarchei Kallah recharged, rejuvenated and more thankful for the incredible zechus to serve the Jewish people.”


January 3, 2013

STAR-K Kosher Certification's Diverse Kashrus Administrative Staff Takes Kashrus on the Road
by Margie Pensak

The field of Kashrus is diverse and multi-faceted. These attributes are mirrored in the multi-talented, eclectic STAR-K Kosher Certification’s Kashrus Administrators, who recently took Kashrus on the road to audiences in Baltimore, Lakewood, North Miami Beach, and Oak Park, Michigan. Their topics spanned everything from Astronomy to Kosher Organic Certification.

STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Dovid Heber, a much sought after lecturer who has spoken in over 20 states throughout the US, presented the Agudath Israel of America’s National Yom Iyun on Hilchos Brachos during Aseres Yemei Teshuva. More recently, he delivered shiurim on the Molad, International Dateline and the Kashrus of medicines at Kollel Bnei Torah, in Lakewood , and spoke to the tenth graders of Lakewood’s Oros Bais Yaakov about astronomy. He is the author of Sefer Shaarei Zmanim, the authoritative work on the Halachic Calendar, Zmanei Tefila, and Kiddush Hachodesh.

Rabbi Heber, who also serves as Rav of Kahal Ahavas Yisroel-Tzemach Tzedek, in Baltimore, presents a bi-weekly webinar series on Hilchos Brochos, which runs from Monday, December 17-February 11, at 12 noon EST. Topics include: Fruits, Vegetables and Processed Grains, Ikker v’Tafel, Cereals, Kadima, and What Hamotzi and Hagofen Cover.

In early December, veteran STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld was invited to participate in a panel discussion, “The State of Kashrut Today: A Symposium”, presented by the Young Israel of Greater Miami and Congregration Shaaray Tefilah, in conjunction with Kosher Miami (KM) and the Orthodox Rabbinic Board (ORB) of Broward-South Palm Beach. In addition to Rabbi Kurcfeld, whose topic was: “The Complexities in Providing Local Kosher Supervision”, the symposium hosted representatives of other major kashrus organizations.

Rabbi Kurcfeld, a specialist in the area of kosher catering and food preparation, as well as onsite kosher food services at colleges, hospitals and nursing homes, is often consulted by architects and planners regarding the planning and design-flow in kosher commercial kitchens. In November, Rabbi Kurcfeld oversaw the annual 2012 Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly (GA), held in Baltimore, Maryland, which hosted over 3000 attendees from across the US and Canada . This was a gargantuan undertaking, considering that it took place in two separate STAR-K supervised facilities–the 1,225,000 square foot, four-floor, two-block long Baltimore Convention Center and the adjacent Hyatt Regency, boasting 40,000 square feet of meeting venues.

On November 22, Rabbi Sholom Tendler, together with fellow Kashrus Administrators Rabbi Avraham Mushell (STAR-K’s India, China and Kosher Appliances specialist), and Rabbi Moshe Schuchman (STAR-K’s Kosher Organic specialist), addressed community members of STAR-K’s hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. A lively Q & A session followed. During “Behind the Kosher Kurtain”, held in Congregation Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion, Rabbi Schuchman spoke about the nuts and bolts of the structure of a Kashrus organization starting from the posek at the top to the mashgichim in the field. Rabbi Mushell explained the complexities of industrial kashrus, the challenges of verifying kosher status halfway across the world, and issues of transporting kosher goods from place to place. Rabbi Tendler spoke about verification and enforcement and regaled the attendees with fascinating stories about issues that develop in the world of Kashrus supervision. He also discussed food service policies at length.

On December 30, STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Sholom Tendler took part in a Kashrus Symposium, at the Young Israel of Oak Park, in Oak Park, Michigan. His presentation, “Bugs, Pests and Insects”, covered the latest insights into vegetable infestation issues. He also conducted a hands-on workshop and bug checking demonstration. Rabbi Tendler joined Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst, Dayan, Agudas Yisroel of Illinois, and Rabbi Doniel Neustadt, Yoshev Rosh, Vaad Harabbonim of Detroit, who also made presentations.

Mostly recently, on December 31, Rabbi Heber spoke to the tenth grade class of Reenas Bais Yaakov, which visited STAR-K’s Baltimore office from Edison, New Jersey. The topic was “The Kosher Certification Process”, and an interesting Q & A session followed. These are just some of the comments heard from the girls after the talk:

“Tons and tons of work go into a kosher symbol!”

“You get more of an appreciation of Kosher.”

“A kosher symboI helps people who are not even kosher observant, but need to rely on it.”

One of the students, Yehudit Shakarchi, mentioned, “I like the fact that all the kashrus organizations work together!”

December 26, 2012

STAR-K Kosher Certification Assists Filipino Exporters in Exploring Lucrative Kosher Market Niche
by Margie Pensak

It should have come as no surprise when the Philippine Department of Agriculture sponsored the first official Philippine Pavilion at last month's Kosherfest 2012, which included manufacturers of Kosher-certified products derived from coconuts, bananas and processed mangoes. Consul General Mario L. de Leon Jr., of the Philippine Consulate General New York, cut the ribbon at the pavilion and spoke at the Interest Session provided by Kosherfest organizers. The way was paved for Filipino exporters of processed food to explore the lucrative niche market of Kosher-certified food products.

The strong emotional bond between the Jewish nation and the Philippines can be traced back to the Spanish Inquisition, when Marranos settled in Manila, in the 1590s. The first permanent settlement of Jews in the Philippines resulted when three brothers, the Levys, escaped the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. The last major immigration of Jews to the Philippines occurred between 1935 and 1941, when the community of Manila took heroic steps to save over 1300 fellow Jews, offering them a safe haven during the Holocaust. Moreover, on November 29, 1947, the Philippines provided the tie-breaking United Nations Partition Plan vote, when it was the only Asian country counted among the 33 countries that voted "yes" to recognize Israel as an independent state.

Rabbi Joel Weinberger, who has headed STAR-K Certification's California office since 1991, and covers kosher inspections in the Philippines, Pakistan, Singapore, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Central America, in addition to the western United States, is the Kosher resource person of the group. Rabbi Weinberg is no stranger to the Filipino population; he has spoken in the Philippines for the Department of Trade and Industry, PHILEXPORT, and USAID-GEM for almost a decade.

The companies in the Philippine Pavilion included: Suchero (Organic Natural Sweetener), Spythe Global Enterprises (coco sugar), Andy Albao Enterprises (Coco Wonder brand), Tropicana Food Products, Inc. (Coconut King brand and others), KF Nutri Food International (banana chips), Nature's Blessings (virgin Coconut oil) and eASIA Outsourcing and Marketing Services (Coconut Republic). The Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA), through the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) under Engr. Leandro Gazmin and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), represented the producers of dried mangoes, such as Kian Sun International Corporation and Profood International Corporation, as well as Lao Integrated Farms, Inc., Franklin Baker, Primex Coco products and Sorsogon Food Enterprises for coconut-based products, such as coco sap sugar, desiccated and organic coco vinegar.

After the close of Kosherfest, Consul General de Leon hosted a reception in his New York address for the Department of Agriculture led Philippine contingent and prominent Kosher and Asian food buyers, at which STAR-K Kosher Certification's President Avrom Pollak was in attendance. Rabbi Weinberger led these participants on a merchandise tour and scanning of selected Kosher distribution outlets and supermarkets in Manhattan, to heighten their knowledge of the kosher culture in the USA.

Josyline C. Javelosa, Ph.D., Agriculture Attache for the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines remarked: "I was impressed to see how Rabbi Joel Weinberger warmly shepherded the Philippine participating companies at the Kosherfest in New Jersey and how he tirelessly helped promote their products so these could gain some ground in this growing niche market in the United States. It is always uplifting to see how someone like Joel, who is from a culture very different from ours, can find and share the great promise in integrating our products such as our Philippine coconut sugar, oil, flour and cream, into his own, such as in making healthy and delicious fruit shakes and other recipes. The Kosher industry will have much more to pleasantly discover from these Philippine kosher food products and I wish Rabbi Joel, STAR-K Kosher Certification and our food manufacturers all the best as they continue to work together in promoting these products in this multi-billion industry."

"The STAR-K has invested years in education and capacity building in the Philippines and this impressive showing at Kosherfest validates the effort that has helped the country allow its small and medium producers use kosher certification to export its fine products to the world,"' explains Rabbi Weinberger."

Zaldy B. Patron, Consul of the Philippine Consulate General, commented: "I would like to congratulate the Philippine delegation, led by Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Administrator Euclides Forbes, for their participation at Kosherfest 2012. By being present at the event, they were able to break new ground for kosher-certified products from the Philippines. I also wish to thank Rabbi Joel Weinberger and the STAR-K Kosher Certification for helping our Philippine companies gain markets for their kosher-certified products here in the US. The Philippine Consulate General in New York will be prepared to help promote these products in Northeast USA."

Sunil Gersappe, Director of Business Development for Franklin Baker, Inc., a leading Filipino manufacturer, distributor and exporter of desiccated coconut and specialty coconut products in the U.S. and international markets (it manufactures the retail coconut brand Baker's Coconut), believes: "Rabbi Weinberger has made a tremendous effort to get the Philippine delegation and Philippine products exposed to the Kosher customer base in the United States and with his efforts we are sure that more and more Philippine products will find a presence on retail shelves and within the food processing industry."


November 16, 2012

STAR-K @ the GA- -1,000,000 Square Feet; 1,000,000% Kosher: Unparalleled Kashrus at Jewish Federations of North America's Annual Summit
by Margie Pensak

A Supreme Effort for Kashrus

I doubt if any of the 3000 plus attendees at the 2012 Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly (GA) had as great an appreciation as I, of the efforts made to ensure the food they ate met the fod service industry's highest kosher standards. The premier North American gathering of the Jewish communal world, held in Baltimore, Maryland, November 11-13, took place in two separate STAR-K supervised facilities-the 1,225,000 square foot, four-floor, two-block long Baltimore Convention Center and the adjacent Hyatt Regency, boasting 40,000 square feet of meeting venues. Had I not had the pleasure of touring the STAR-K supervised operation with STAR-K's Kashrus Administrator, Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld, I, too, would not be privy to this gargantuan Kashrus undertaking.

Almost a Year of Planning

The planning of this all-kosher event started back in April, with an initial meeting between STAR-K, GA officials and Baltimore Convention Center staff members. Although The Hyatt Regency contains a dedicated STAR-K certified kosher kitchen, exclusively used for Kosher events year-round it would be Baltimore Convention Center's first self-catered kosher event.

"They have kept all their commitments that were agreed upon," said Rabbi Kurcfeld, about the convention center staff. "We minimized the surprises by doing a lot of the homework up front. They were very cooperative and respectful. I explained to them that although we are of different religions, that it is not about religion, but what the client wants. We have all been trained to be service-oriented. Therefore, it is no different than if a client had required vegan, and should be treated similarly. I asked that they have a heightened seriousness because it is religion-based, and they respect our religion for just a few days. They understood that Kosher is a special diet, but also that it is elevated to a religious purpose."

Meeting STAR-K Standards of Supervision

After seven months of planning, STAR-K's prep work began on Wednesday, November 7, five days before the GA began with a crew of thirteen. This was likely the largest Kashrus crew to be utilized in North American kosher catering operations, this year. Normally, STAR-K standards require at least two mashgichim at any hotel event, no matter how small, and as the event grows mashgichim are added to scale to ensure Kashrus integrity every step of the way. For example, if the kitchens are on one floor and the banquet hall is on another, three mashgichim would often be required by STAR-K food service protocols; one for the kitchens, one for the banquet halls and at least one mashigach to monitor food transport. The GA was so big that STAR-K's Rabbi Kurcfeld required the entire facility to go Kosher over the entire event period. This meant that even the non-Jewish events during the GA week in other parts of the Convention Center were required to be catered kosher! Once the kashering was complete, the event venues were so large and sprawling that thirteen mashgichim were required at all times, to meet the exacting STAR-K food service standards.

Cleaning and Kashering

First, the Convention Center's kitchen floor had to be cleared of all the treif keilim (non-kosher utensils) and stored in a separate taped up room, marked "non-kosher". As Rabbi Kurcfeld put it, you have to take out all the "guts", removing what you don't want to use. Next came the formidable task of cleaning and koshering the kitchen equipment that would be used-everything from a pair of tongs to industrial-sized steam kettles and convection ovens. The utensils were first cleaned in a separate dedicated room and then inspected and koshered in the kosher kitchen. On the day of the event, one steam kettle of boiling water was available all day, for last-minute kashering. Color coding each individual serving vessel and speed racks followed: yellow for pareve, red for meat, green for dairy.

Maintaining Kosher Integrity--a 24/7 Job

When I toured the kitchens of both convention facilities, I was amazed at the calm, order, and well-organized cooperative effort between the culinary staffs and the STAR-K mashgichim who faced the daunting task of feeding thousands of attendees. They were cleaning up from the tail end of lunch, waiting for all the speed racks and sheet pans to return to the kitchen, while preparations for dinner were underway.

Walkie-talkie and Bluetooth communication made the massive effort easier, in coordinating the supervision in the combined three-block long convention facilities. So did the 24-hour spread sheet, explaining each and every one of the multiple, and sometimes simultaneous, food events that Rabbi Kurcfeld held in hand since his 5 a.m. arrival at the Convention Center! Whether it was simply cookies and beverages or a full lunch or dinner on the schedule, it was all documented on that spread sheet-down to a single platter that needed to be checked out before being placed down in a particular meeting room.

A STAR-K Mashgiach's Job is NEVER Done!

Keeping the convention center kosher is not a given even after kashering and removing all non-kosher items. Only a well thought-out system informed by decades of experience set-up and a systemized professional program of Kosher supervision can deal with the myriad challenges that are part and parcel of food service Kosher supervision. When I arrived in the Convention Center's spacious kitchen, huge steam kettles were cooking the hot dogs that would be served for dinner, at 5:30. It looked easy but that was just an illusion. Only thanks to the carefully designed STAR-K Supervision system overseen and developed by the indefatigable Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld, and the vigilance of STAR-K mashgichim sticking to that system which provides layers of accountability, can Kosher be assured in such a large venue. For example, the hot dogs delivered that were unacceptable were stopped at the door by the mashgiach dedicated to checking every single package on the way into the catering facility and never made it anywhere near the newly koshered kitchens. They were quickly replaced with ones that were STAR-K approved. A special mashgiach was appointed to make sure that no pareve utensils or food was transferred from the pareve to fleishig stations in this kitchen, and vice versa. Six large hotboxes would ensure that along with the potato knishes, the hot dogs would remain warm until they were served in the exhibition halls. The eagle-eyed ingredient mashgiach also stopped non-mevushal wine that arrived for the event a full two days before it was scheduled to be used. This wine, brought in for a private wine and cheese reception, had to be replaced by mevushal wine, prior to the start of that separate event. This was done personally by Rabbi Kurcfeld with the unapproved wine immediately removed from the hall area.

Layers and Layers of Supervision

Rabbi Kurcfeld showed me the dry storage room located within this kitchen, filled with both kosher and non-kosher ingredients, such as canned goods, sugar, and an array of spices. It was under STAR-K lock and key, with a sign on the door stating: "Do Not Enter-Off Limits without Rabbi Permission!! See Chef". We next entered the big color-coded pareve and meat refrigerated rooms that were also cleaned out for the kosher event. The treif refrigerators were blocked off, to ensure that the staff would not accidentally use the ingredients stored in them.

Next on the tour, was the third floor of the Convention Center. It was staffed by yet another designated mashgiach who didn't miss a trick! As we came out of the elevator, as per the STAR-K food service supervision system, he was right there with his radio in hand waiting for a forthcoming shipment of food about to enter his "territory". Fortunately, his job was made possible by the fact that any food traveling down to the exhibit hall could only go down one way--via the single elevator on that floor. Had there been another, STAR-K would have had to require another mashgiach.

We subsequently entered the Pantry, a room exclusively dedicated for coffee and tea brewing and cold beverage-related prep. Again, we were met promptly by the STAR-K mashgiach that was "on guard", ensuring that what comes in and goes out is kosher.

A look at the Market Fresh Cafe kiosk area, located on the Convention Center's third floor lobby, followed. This zone was appointed to yet another STAR-K mashgiach. It, too, required supervision since all food served in the Convention Center during the two-day event was required to be kosher. This open cafe kiosk of the Market Fresh area had "Grab and Go" items for sale, such as wraps. We checked out the Market Fresh kiosks and their separate dairy, meat, and pareve stations.


Non-Stop Shaylos--The Sign of a Great STAR-K Staff!

A sure sign of trouble with food service supervision is when the rabbi in charge is not getting questions from his mashgichim. Rabbi Kurcfeld did not have this problem--his STAR-K team was constantly in touch with questions, queries, and requests. Interruptions along my private tour were par for the course, to ensure that the multi-faceted STAR-K certified operation was seamless. Rabbi Kurcfeld stopped, while at the cafe, to answer one of the several timely questions posed to him by his mashgichim. This time, it concerned the cleaning method used for the cafe's five large Fetco Luxus coffee makers. After making inquiries of the cafe's staff, it was ascertained that no questionable soap was used to clean them.

Other questions posed to Rabbi Kurcfeld by the event's STAR-K mashgichim regarded everything from the ideal placement of the mashgichim and ideas for a more efficient supervision plan to determining the kosher status of particular liquors. These questions were intertwined with those posed by Convention Center staff members regarding: the whereabouts of a green speed rack, the need for a food thermometer, the lighting of an oven, and the kosher status of a particular brand of pineapple juice that was to be served. He was also contacted by GA leadership for confirmation that things were moving according to plan. Rabbi Kurcfeld enlisted the help of his Smartphone to research the liquor question on STAR-K website's up-to-date approved liquor list at

The next stop on the tour was the exhibition halls, where numerous booths were set up. Full service and "Grab and Go" food items were sold here, earlier in the day; the gratis hot dog dinner would be served here at 5:30.

STAR-K--The Gold Standard in Kashrus

How can thirteen mashgichim, working on various schedules over a two-day event, sufficiently ensure a gold standard of Kashrus in a setting as large as this, when meat and dairy meals are being served at simultaneous events?

"Clustering is the key," explains Rabbi Kurcfeld. "The more events we can cluster territorially in one zone, the more efficient the supervision job. This way one mashgiach can properly observe the movement of food of multiple events. In addition, it saves our client more money. But, ultimately, our hashgacha (supervision) is dependent on the management and staff to cooperate in their commitment to kosher. In the end, everyone worked together in an atmosphere of mutual professional courtesy, respect, and cooperation. As a result, it made for a successful 'kosher convention'".

The well-deserved kudos received from Jon Greenseid, president of JG Kosher Consulting Group, of Coral Springs, Florida, after working together with Rabbi Kurcfeld and his STAR-K team, is perhaps the best testimonial of STAR-K's gold standard:

"I would like to thank you for everything you did to make the GA as successful as it was. You and your staff were always available to handle any challenges and were very respectful and understanding when it came to explaining kosher procedures to the staff who had never worked in a kosher environment. Hopefully our paths will cross again."

The letter written by John Dooley, the Baltimore Convention Center's Centerplate's General Manager, moreover, revealed the Kiddush Hashem that was made by Rabbi Kurcfeld and his STAR-K staff:

"It was a real pleasure to work with yourself and the STAR-K supervision to host the Jewish Federation of North America General Assembly this year…..I have a lot of Kosher catering experience but almost no one else on my staff does. You and all your staff were very strict with the Kosher aspect but were very flexible in helping us with when and how we could clean and make ready for Kosher our kitchen and equipment needed, as well as giving great advice whenever it was needed. The confidence STAR-K showed in what they were doing and the easy friendly way they answered any and all questions helped our staff to overcome their worries in hosting a Kosher event for the first time. STAR-K took the attitude that no such thing as a "stupid question" exists and were patient as all of our staff learned how to follow the Rabbi's instructions correctly. Your entire team of Rabbis was just great and especially Rabbi Isaac Attar was fantastic to work with. Our staff really enjoyed hosting this event and working with STAR-K and we will attempt to host other Kosher events here at the Baltimore Convention Center. When we host future Kosher events STAR-K will be the only Certification we will call for supervision and guidance. Professional, confident and courteous is a great combination to have in partners in any event and STAR-K was all of that."


October 13, 2012

Fair is Fowl and Fowl is Fair: STAR-K Kosher Certification's Halacha Webinar Teaches How Not to Judge a Chicken by Its Cover
by Margie Pensak

It's a busy Friday afternoon, with just a couple of hours left until Shabbos. Not the best time, perhaps, for your husband to be unsure about the kashrus status of the chicken you are about to cook! You try contacting your Rav, but to your great dismay, he is unavailable.

Good news! No longer will you have to wing it, thanks to STAR-K Kosher Certification's upcoming Halacha Webinar, on Wednesday, November 14, 2012, at 8 pm, ET. During this interactive presentation, which utilizes pictures, audio, chat and videos, STAR-K's Rabbinic Administrator, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlit"a, will take the guesswork out by showing you how to recognize a shayla.

The purpose of this Webinar is solely to educate the consumer; it is not meant to give an instant crash course on hilchos treifos of chickens. It will help you understand how to recognize the difference between a perfectly normal imperfection, that is a result of processing, and an imperfection that presents a true shayla that needs to be addressed by your Rav.

Even with the best of intentions and the most intensive kosher supervision, problems regarding chickens can arise on occasion and shaylos need to be addressed to a Rav, on a case by case basis. How is this possible?

Tens of thousands of chickens processed each day are inspected by mashgichim to ensure that all their required organs are present and that chicken pox is not present on the intestines. Even prior to evisceration, the internal organs are checked and the mashgiach ensures that the chickens have been shechted, soaled, salted, and washed properly. In addition, at different checkpoints, while the chicken's organs are being eviscerated, the mashgichim inspect for broken bones, holes, punctures and bruises that would render the chicken treif. Any chickens deemed questionable are taken off the line and placed on hooks, over to the side. The on-site Rav paskens (rules) as to whether these chickens are kosher or treif. Nonetheless, due to human error, it is possible that a chicken that is not kosher gets through the process.

Although it may not be evident, there is a marked difference between a whole chicken and a whole cut-up chicken processed in the plant, with regard to kashrus shaylos. If there is a problem with a wing of a whole chicken, for example, the complete chicken is treif. Regarding cut up chickens, when processing thousands of chickens, there is a very remote chance that any suspect parts come from the same chicken. Therefore, you do not have to assume the entire tray of chicken parts will be invalidated, and only the suspect pieces should be thrown away. With regard to chicken purchased from a local butcher shop, one should inquire as to whether the cut-up is all part of the same chicken or from various pieces that make up the tray.

It is also important to know if a break in one of the chicken's bones happened before or after the chicken was shechted; breaks that occur post-shechting are not a problem. During the webinar, HaRav Heinemann will help the kosher consumer discern when this break happened, in determining whether asking a question to a Rav is, indeed, warranted.

The STAR-K webinar is open to one and all, and will be accessible via smartphones, as well. Login details will be posted at , or you can register by emailing . For more information, contact Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, 410-484-4110 ext. 219.

January 19, 2012

STAR-K Kosher Certification Conducts First-Ever
Non-GMO Organic Kosher Audit

by Margie Pensak

STAR-K Kosher Certification, Inc. made history, last month, when its Director of Development Steve Sichel, conducted the first non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) organic kosher inspection - allowing for triple certification for the ordinarily individually conducted, time-consuming inspections within a normal working day. The comprehensive audit was performed for the Hain-Celestial Group's WestSoy product line, in Boulder, Colorado.

STAR-K Certification's joint kosher and organic auditing program with Quality Assurance International (QAI) became effective January 1, 2009. QAI, in partnership with STAR-K, provides a joint kosher and organic auditing program. Through rabbinical supervision (and by cross-trained Organic inspectors), products can be certified to both kosher certification requirements and to the USDA National Organic Program standards for organic certification.

The joint program offers several advantages to the growing numbers of companies worldwide that opt for both organic and kosher certification, including streamlining the auditing process and reducing overall certification costs. To accomplish these goals, a number of STAR-K kosher inspectors are trained organic inspectors, allowing the internationally recognized agency to complete both audits concurrently. Although many dual Kosher -organic inspections have taken place since 2009, the Hain-Celestial Group's recent inspection provided the first non-GMO-organic-kosher certification.

The rapidly, rising global demand for products bearing a trusted, recognizable kosher logo has been similar to the growth in demand for products labeled certified organic. These two intersecting trends have given rise to a flourishing new specialty food category - kosher organic. These products meet both the strict requirements of Jewish dietary laws and the USDA National Organic Program specifications.

Similar to the kosher and organic seals for verified products, the Non-GMO Project logo allows consumers the opportunity to make an informed decision when it comes to GMOs, which are presently estimated to be in more than 80 percent of packaged products in the average U.S. or Canadian grocery store. Many health-conscious shoppers feel that consuming GMO foods that have been modified through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE), have not been proven safe.

Statistics provided by Mintel International, a leading market research organization, indicate that Kosher is the fastest growing ethnic cuisine over the past five years. Growth in kosher product sales were up 41 percent from 2003 to 2010, and they are projected to grow an additional 23 percent by 2013. The dollar value of Kosher ingredients sold in the U.S., alone, is $370,000,000,000.

Natural and organic food sales continue to grow, as well . The market is increasing as consumers seek out more foods that are healthier or perceived to have health benefits. According to Nielsen's Healthy Eating Report (2010), people prefer organics for a host of reasons, including: the belief that they are healthier, pesticide-free, more nutritious, environmentally-friendly, taste better, not genetically-modified (GMO), supportive of small farmers and rural communities, the right thing to do ethically, and a vote against modern farming methods.

According to the Nielsen Report, in the U.S., annual dollar sales for products with label claims such as organic, natural, presence of fat, vitamins, fiber, caffeine, gluten, etc. range from a high of $46.6 billion for products with fat claims to a low of $56.6 million for foods with plant sterol claims.

"The triple audit went extremely well. It was certainly an efficient use of resources to have the audits done at the same time," commented the Hain-Celestial Group's WestSoy Tofu Quality Assurance Manager, Anthony Hodgson. "The Non-GMO and Organic audit had some commonalities, as the auditor would ask a specific question it was already addressed by another audit and vice versa. Therefore it was an efficient use of everyone's time. Going forward I would definitely recommend doing the audits together."

"The new alliance between STAR-K, QAI, and The Non-GMO Project highlights our shared commitment to help companies provide high-quality, kosher certified, non-GMO organic products in a more efficient and cost-effective manner," said STAR-K President Dr. Avrom Pollak. "Clients want stacked audits as a way to create efficiency and eliminate multiple audit fatigue - it is the clients, themselves, who are operating multiple certification/verification programs that find it helpful to work with an agency that can perform stacked audits. Like STAR-K, QAI and the Non-GMO Project are dedicated to helping consumers know that they are getting real value from certified products. Having realized that many companies have all three certifications, we feel that the bundling of our certification efforts will add further efficiency and value on behalf of consumers throughout the world."

STAR-K Kosher Certification, a not-for-profit agency, is one of the most trusted kosher certification organizations in the world. With offices throughout the U.S., China, Australia, and Israel, STAR-K certifies food products and establishments, as well as industrial food chemicals, in well over 1,500 locations worldwide. The agency is internationally renowned for its extensive research on the complexities of food science and modern technology, as they apply to the laws of kosher, putting it on the cutting edge of the ever-growing multi-billion dollar kosher food industry. It is one of the foremost experts in the field of kosher pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, and medications. For more information about STAR-K, call (410) 484-4110, or visit

Founded in 1989, QAI (Quality Assurance International) is the leading provider of organic certification services verifying organic integrity throughout the supply chain ( Additional certification services include gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO, natural personal care, social responsibility and food safety through its parent company NSF International. QAI remains dedicated to the environment, while providing educational outreach to the organic community, customers and consumers. Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., the company has grown to include operations in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Japan and the European Union.

The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization founded in 2008, offers North America's only third party assessment, verification and labeling for non-GMO food and products. It is committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices. With the help of technical consultants FoodChain Global Advisors, and fueled by the passion of a dynamic array of industry leaders, the Non-GMO Project has successfully created a collaborative non-GMO verification program. Working at every level of the supply chain, all the way back to the seeds, the Project's role is to inspire and ensure viable non-GMO alternatives long into the future. For more information, visit .

For more information on Star-K Kosher Certification and QAI Organic Certification, or to learn more about a comprehensive non-GMO organic kosher audit, please contact Steve Sichel at or 410-484-4110, ext. 224.

January 19, 2012

Reflections on Kosher Cruises
by Margie Pensak

STAR-K Certification's heartfelt condolences extend to those who have lost loved ones in the recent horrific tragedy of the capsized cruise ship, Costa Concordia. Rescue operations continue to search for those who remain unaccounted for among the 4200 passengers onboard the liner when it hit the rocks off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy.

"A tragedy like this brings home the issue that travel at sea has its dangers," says STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Zvi Goldberg. "The Rabbis instituted the brocho of "hagomel" after disembarking from a voyage. Although, statistically, travel by ocean liner may be safer than travel by car, one still must recite that blessing of thanksgiving nowadays.

"There are many halachos one must consider before deciding to embark on a cruise," adds Rabbi Goldberg. "Kashrus, tznius, Shabbos, and davening bring their own unique challenges onboard. Making sure that one is keeping those mitzvos properly would surely be a zechus (merit) to ensure one's safety."

Although, presently, STAR-K does not kosher certify any cruises, it would like to present just some of the several questions that Torah observant cruise passengers must face:

KASHRUS: What arrangements have been made to accommodate kosher food preparation? Is a kitchen dedicated to kosher food preparation, or has only a portion of a non-kosher kitchen been designated for kosher cooking? Will there only be a small percentage of the passengers who are kosher, making an especially problematic shared kosher and non-kosher situation more likely? Are you confident that everything will be cooked before Shabbos, and that the mashgichim will ensure that the staff follows the intricacies of the Shabbos laws of food preparation?

TZNIUS: Is it likely that your fellow passengers will show a lack of modesty, particularly if you are sailing to a sunny destination?

SHABBOS: Does the cruise leave within three days of Shabbos or Yom Tov, which Chazal have decreed is forbidden if the ship does not dock before Shabbos and remains in port during that Shabbos?

KABOLAS SHABBOS: How will you know when to accept Shabbos since, for security reasons, cruise lines are reluctant to release data to passengers and it is difficult to know exactly where the ship will be at any given moment?

ELECTRONICS: Will electronic cabin door locks, electric eye automatic door opening mechanisms, and sinks and toilets controlled by an electric eye, that have become commonplace on cruise ships, create a challenge on Shabbos?

SECURITY: If you return to the ship after a Shabbos stroll, can you be guaranteed that you will not set off alarms or lights at the metal detector? How will you get around showing your ticket (which may be muktza and forbidden to carry) and/or passport upon returning to the ship, so as not to cause Shabbos violations?

Answers to these questions and more can be found in Kashrus Kurrents ("Don't Miss the Boat: Halachic Guidelines of Kosher Cruises"), or by visiting STAR-K Online,, [].

September 20, 2011

High Tech and Halacha Meet at STAR-K's
First-Ever Interactive Eruv-inar

by Margie Pensak

eruv picture

On Wednesday, September 7, at 8 p.m. EST, STAR-K made history by hosting the world's first Eruv-inar. The inaugural long distance interactive presentation allowed participants from around the globe to experience a live workshop highlighting eruv shaylos through the use of pictures of eruvim, which were submitted. STAR-K's Rabbinic Administrator, Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlit"a, has always been on the cutting edge of the juxtaposition of advanced technology and halacha; the Eruv-inar featured Rav Heinemann discussing hilchos eruv.

The Eruv-inar enabled seventy-five eruv checkers and rabbonim hamachshirim from Providence, Rhode Island to Mercer Island, Washington, and from Alpharetta, Georgia to Ottawa, Canada, to review Hilchos eruv and pose their eruv shaylos, gratis, with no strings attached!

Rabbi Yitzchok Feldman, the Rav of Congregation Emek Beracha, in Palo Alto, California, planned his community's eruv, led the political battle which got it approved, and oversaw its installation. Rabbi Feldman also helps check it and often fixes it when it is broken. Rav Heinemann helped with the planning of the Palo Alto eruv, but its ultimate Rav HaMachshir is R' Elchonan Tauber of Los Angeles.

"STAR-K's Eruv-inar was a good use of the medium to convey pertinent Halachic information," feels Rabbi Feldman, who participated in the Eruv-inar. "The pictures made it very hands-on. One of the special things about Rav Heinemann is that he is so deft at applying the constructs of Halacha to real life situations. This gave so many the chance to see this in real time.

" Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz is the Rav Hamachshir of the San Fernando Valley Eruv, servicing over 100,000 Yidden. A few months ago, his community flew in Rav Heinemann to go over a few issues and in general to look again at it. "I had all of our eruv checkers and myself watch the Eruv-inar," says Rabbi Eidlitz. "It was very detailed and clear. It also provided a great source for discussion of many of the Halachos that we encounter here with fences, Tzuras Hapesach and sound walls along the many freeways that we use. Everyone who participated is eagerly waiting for more. Yaasher Koach!"

Just one of Rabbi Eidlitz's San Fernando Valley Eruv checkers, who participated in the Eruv-inar, is Yitzchak Feiglin, an avreich learning in Kollel in Yerushalayim. Although he is not actively involved in any Eruv work at the moment on a regular basis, he was heavily involved with the Valley Eruv, responsible for checking, repairing, overseeing repairs and 'upgrades' recommended by Rav Heinemann after he inspected it. When the Feiglins return to Los Angeles for a visit, Mr. Feiglin still helps out with the Eruv when he can.

"I found the Eruv-inar very informative, and gained much practical knowledge from the shailos that Rav Heinemann, shlit"a discussed," says Mr. Feiglin. "It made me aware of concepts and issues that I had not previously seen- - in fact, the Valley Eruv I had been involved in seemed incredibly simple compared to some of the intricate shailos that were answered during the session. The only drawback for me was that I had to get up at 3 a.m. Israel time to participate in the Shiur! Regardless of that, I would be eager to participate in future sessions on Eruvin and other topics in which the Rav, shlit"a, would be willing to hold shiurim."

The Eruv-inar was just one in a series of Webinars that STAR-K has been presenting monthly since 2006, on a wide-range of topics such as: Buying Kosher Foods at Non-Kosher Stores, Schach Mats, Kosher travel, Pesach, Women in the Kosher kitchen, Raisins, Vegetable Checking, Liquor, Shechita, Fish Worms, Laws of Kiddush, Laws of Shaimos, Candy, Coffee, Shmittah, Pruzbal, Sabbath Mode appliances, as well as a wide range of discussions of the latest Kosher issues. Currently, our library has 50 webinars; replays and signup info are available at

"Star-K has always invested a tremendous amount of its energy and resources into education, both in Kashrus and other Torah areas," says STAR-K Kashrus Administrator and educational program director, Rabbi Zvi Goldberg. "This series of eruv-inars is yet another area where we can benefit the Torah community, using modern technology to our advantage. We were able to show the wires and fences up close and delineate exactly where the problem was, almost as if the participants were on a tour of actual eruvin with Rav Heinemann. We plan to continue this series and expand to other areas, such as questions that arise during mikvah construction and maintenance. On a personal level, it is a great zechus and pleasure for me to work directly with Rav Heinemann, whose breadth of halachic knowledge on these and other topics is well-known."

To be alerted to STAR-K webinars, see a replay of the eruvi-nar when it is posted, or receive other STAR-K information, sign up for STAR-K alerts at

August 23, 2011

STAR-K Experts Speak to Latin Americans and Baltimoreans in Summer Educational Programs
by Margie Pensak

Twenty-five years ago, Rabbi Moshe Fuller, z"l, a young Mexican student at Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, filled a tremendous void in the world of Jewish outreach when he founded Or HaNer. Recruiting teenagers primarily from Central and South America, Rabbi Fuller provided them with the opportunity to come to the States and experience Torah-true Judaism during their summer and winter school breaks. Although the young husband and father passed away a few years ago, his dream lives on through the thousands of students he influenced, many of whom subsequently attended yeshivas. Today, there are yeshivas and learning programs throughout Latin America, and a kollel (institute of advanced Jewish studies) in Panama, thanks to Rabbi Fuller's impact.

This was the third summer that STAR-K Kashrus Administrator, Rabbi Boruch Beyer, was asked to be a guest speaker at Camp Or HaNer boys' campus on the grounds of Ner Israel Rabbinical College. The twenty or so high school aged campers hailed from Mexico, Costa Rica and Chile. Rabbi Beyer, an expert in industrial kashrus and an experienced high school instructor, gave an interactive hour and a half session on kosher basics and the challenges of keeping kosher, using a Spanish power point presentation prepared by STAR-K to augment his presentation.

"For many of the children this is the first time they can understand and appreciate all the work that goes into ensuring there is kosher food for them to eat," says Rabbi Moshe Matz, director of Camp Or HaNer. "They really enjoy and grow from the Star-K presentation."

Earlier this month, STAR-K Certification Kashrus Administrator, Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, was asked to give a shiur at Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore, Maryland, to the Blatt-a-Week learning program. About to complete the second perek of Avoda Zara, the shiur had been dealing with the sections of stam yainam, pas akum, chalav akum, bishul akum and simanim in dagim. Elly Lasson, a member of the program, approached Rabbi Goldberg about having a shiur to discuss some of the contemporary issues that emerge from the gemara. To benefit the most people possible, the shiur was opened to the entire Shomrei Emunah congregation. Rabbi Goldberg shared some guidelines of STAR-K's policies of practical contemporary halachos of fish and bishul akum. Among issues discussed was STAR-K's policy of insistence that the Mashgiach positively identify each and every fish by viewing its scales, as per the ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein, z"l. The challenges of shopping in a store that uses the same knives to cut kosher and non-kosher were discussed, as well. The shiur was well-received and Rabbi Binyamin Marwick, rav of Congregation Shomrei Emunah, wrote a note of appreciation to Rabbi Goldberg, saying: "I heard very good feedback from those that attended. Everyone enjoyed and learned a lot. Thank you for taking the time to come-and I hope we can do this again sometime!"

May 2011

STAR-K To Host Eruv-inar This September
by Margie Pensak

If you are an eruv checker or rav hamachshir in one of the dozens of cities across the United States, Israel, Europe and Australia that has an eruv, you can now review hilchos eruv and pose your eruv shaylos, gratis, with no strings attached!

On Wednesday, September 7, at 8 pm EST, STAR-K will host the world's first Eruv-inar, featuring Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita, who will discuss hilchos eruv. This inaugural long distance interactive presentation will allow participants to experience a live workshop highlighting eruv shaylos through the use of pictures of eruvim that have been submitted to STAR-K.

Pre-registration is required to participate in this program. Please forward your name, the capacity in which you serve your eruv, and the location of the eruv to If you have a shayla regarding your eruv, please forward pictures of it (along with a note detailing the question) to the same address. There is a 10 megabyte limit for attachments, so you may have to break up the pictures into several emails.

For further details about the Eruv-inar, please contact Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, 410-484-4110, ext. 219.

December 2010

STAR-K on Campus: For Some, a First Taste of Judaism
by Margie Pensak

For those of you who think that all colleges are "treif", STAR-K Certification knows that is not the case. STAR-K certifies eight kosher restaurants, take-outs, and concession stands on seven college campuses on the northeast coast.

The increasing number of kosher amenities on American college campuses seems to be a trend, with liberal arts colleges seeking opportunities to attract Jewish students. Kosher kitchens, and other investments of Jewish life on campus, act as magnets to attract the estimated 90% of Jewish students who attend college. For some of them, STAR-K Certification's presence on campus may be offering a very first taste of Judaism, literally and figuratively.

Rabbi Ephraim (Efy) Flamm, the director of the Jewish Collegiate Network, an affiliate of The Etz Chaim Center, an adult outreach organization in Baltimore, says that there is no question that Kosher has grown on the Maryland college campuses over the years. "I work with unaffiliated and very marginally involved students, meeting them on their turf," says Rabbi Flamm, who co-founded the organization over 20 years ago with his wife, Penina, and the backing of Mrs. Hannah Storch. "The Kosher program has grown and has helped build Jewish life on campus. It is not unusual for non-observant friends of those who are kosher observant to mingle in the dining area. I have had students who became kosher and observant because of this. The Kosher program builds a certain nucleus of students that grows, and it expands rapidly."

Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld, the kashrus administrator who has both engineered and overseen STAR-K's certified kosher operations on campus, since the first kosher kitchen opened on the Goucher College campus in 1999, clarifies the concept of Kosher on campus today.

"Initially, these Hillel-run Kosher programs were a separate entity," explains Rabbi Kurcfeld. "The college's kosher kitchen was located in a separate facility that was frequented by Jews, alone. The reality of the situation today is that kids are traditionally kosher, but they want to eat with their non-kosher friends, as well. At all of the newer college kosher facilities, you can sit with anybody and the kosher food is available to Jew and non-Jew alike. The model has changed to make kosher accessible to everyone, and it now has a food court type of look, similar to the one you see at shopping malls. You go into one common area to sit; food is served on disposables with disposable paper placemats. We have a mashgiach temidi (supervising Rabbi who is on the premises at all times of production and operation) in the prepping and serving areas, and it is STAR-K's policy to prepare only glatt kosher and cholov Yisroel foods. Individual pre-packaged foods can be non-cholov Yisroel, under reliable national certifications, eaten at the discretion of the student."

Avigail Summers is a Torah observant freshman who attends Goucher College in Towson, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. Sending her daughter 1500 miles away from their Denver home was made a bit easier for Avigail's mother, Devorah, knowing that the college of her choice had a reliable kosher food plan.

"When looking at colleges, it was a top priority to find a school that offered a meal plan with a reliable hashgacha (kosher certification)," says Mrs. Summers. "Finding any school that will offer a kosher meal plan can be daunting. Often, a school will have a Hillel affiliation, but not necessarily a kosher kitchen or access to a meal plan. Knowing that Goucher is under the Star-K is very comforting.

"Avigail has made many new friends and has come to learn that although they are not affiliated, they are Jewish," Mrs. Summers continues. "Even though these kids have not signed up for the kosher meal plan, they too are allowed to eat at Hillel from the kosher kitchen once a week. Many of these students, even though they are not religious or observant, come to Hillel for Friday night Shabbat dinner. They comment on how good the food is, how comfortable the environment is, and that Hillel provides more of a dining room like they have at home instead of a cafeteria style room. They really appreciate the home style touches. In some respects, Goucher and Hillel, whether intending to or not, have provided a type of kiruv (outreach) by allowing all of the Goucher students to partake in the kosher meal plan. By no means does Hillel promote any agenda, they just welcome everyone. I feel this is beneficial to all and creates a greater sense of community."

How difficult is it to provide these students with the opportunity to keep kosher on campus? Rabbi Kurcfeld says that the challenge of setting up the new generation of kosher facilities on campus, such as those on the Franklin & Marshall, Dickinson and Muhlenberg campuses, simply entailed the mechanical details. "I made a presentation reviewing the basic rules and technical aspects of Kashrus to representatives of both the college food services and the food service industry," notes Rabbi Kurcfeld. "My challenge was to custom-tailor kosher facilities, from scratch, which worked easily within the framework of the respective schools. I mapped out exactly how the kitchens would be set up logistically for milk and meat, approving the blueprints before the construction began."

The STAR-K certified KOVE (an acronym for KOsher, VEgan) station in the Dickinson College dining hall in Carlisle, Pennsylvania serves its 10% Jewish student population and others such non-standard kosher fare as citrus London broil, coffee-rubbed brisket and falafel chicken. It is open for lunch and dinner, Sunday through Friday afternoon.

Keith Martin, the director of dining services at Dickinson's KOVE, says, "The KOVE has been very well received by Jewish and non-Jewish students alike. It is not uncommon to see long lines at The KOVE, and we expect interest to grow."

He chose to pursue kosher certification at Dickinson because, "Given Dickinson's strong Judaic-studies program, Hebrew language and study abroad offerings in Israel and extraordinarily active Hillel chapter, we thought a certified-kosher dining option would further enrich Jewish life at the college," explains Mr. Martin. "Our hope is that students will see this new addition as a sign of Dickinson's commitment to making the college an exciting place to explore Jewish heritage. The KOVE will give both Jewish students who keep kosher and all Dickinson students a delicious dining alternative.

"Dickinson has an excellent reputation for serving high-quality, delicious food in its student Dining Hall," he continues. "When the college made the commitment to offer a certified kosher dining option, it was important that the food and the service reflect that same quality. After researching the available options, we chose Star-K."

Interestingly enough, Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, despite its Lutheran affilitation, boasts a 34% Jewish student population.. Responding to the needs of the kosher consumer and others with dietary restrictions, it recently opened The NOSHERY, featuring two separate kitchens: NOSHERY North and NOSHERY South. NOSHERY South offers meat meals and NOSHERY North offers pareve/dairy dishes to its student body. It plans to be open to the public at some point in the future.

John Pasquarello, the general manager of Muhlenberg College Dining Services, says that he pursued Kosher certification because, "We wanted to make sure our customers had food products and ingredients that meet all Kosher requirements. We chose STAR-K because of their commitment, expertise and resources to supervise Kashrus laws. Our relationship has been a true partnership. We couldn't be more happy with STAR-K."

A few years ago, Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, opted to offer its more than 20% Jewish population healthier kosher options, at KIVO (an acronym for Kosher, International, Vegan/Vegetarian, Organic). Open seven days a week, it serves only dairy dishes for breakfast and a choice of dairy or meat dishes for lunch and dinner. The only kosher food operation in Lancaster is open to the public, as well, while college is in session for all-you-can-eat prices.

Rabbi Hayim Schwartz, the executive vice president of the Rabbinical Seminary of America (Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim), had the opportunity to eat at KIVO with his family during a recent visit to Lancaster. He was so impressed with the kosher dining hall, he wrote the following to John Burness, the president of Franklin & Marshall College:

"You are to be commended for offering an option such as KIVO for your Jewish and other students. Many colleges do not have kosher dining facilities, with full-time mashgiach supervision from such a reputable institute such as the STAR-K of Baltimore. While I am sure the KIVO operation must cost Franklin & Marshall College a pretty penny, this letter is confirmation that your people are doing a great job operating KIVO and represent your college in the best possible way. Kudos to you and to your entire Board of Trustees for having the foresight, wisdom and understanding to undertake an operation such as KIVO and to make it available to your students, and to the greater Jewish community."

Ronnie Berman and Mark Powers are KIVO's two mashgichim (kosher supervisors). "The response has been tremendous from students across the board," says Mr. Berman. "The athletes come in for our burgers and hot dogs because they are so good. We also cater to any students with special needs diets. On both sides, we maintain a gluten-free area, for those students with Celiac disease. We carry gluten-free wraps and "bread" and always try to have a gluten-free entrée."

"I think that we are doing a tremendous Kiddush Hashem by having kosher food available to non-observant students," continues Mr. Berman. "Also, Mark and I are available to answer questions from all the students. There is a large lack of knowledge of Kashrus amongst the non-Jewish world. Many people think that we have blessed the food to make it kosher. Unfortunately, we've found many Jews who think the same. When I can educate people about the beauty of keeping kosher, I especially find my work very rewarding and fulfilling."

Likewise, for STAR-K, the logistics of setting up a kosher kitchen on campus and overseeing its operation goes beyond the actual certification of the food, itself. As Rabbi Kurcfeld put it, "Not only do I get a tremendous amount of nachas when I see the students enjoying deliciously prepared kosher food, it gives me great satisfaction to know that these colleges have offered the students the opportunity to eat kosher - an opportunity they never had before."

STAR-K Certified College Programs
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD: Kosher Korner-Terrace Court Cafe Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD: The Smokler Center for Jewish Life (Hillel), Baltimore, MD
Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA: KIVO-Ben Franklin Dining Hall Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA: The Noshery North, The Noshery South
Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA: The KOVE University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC), Catonsville, MD: Kosher Korner-Resident Dining Hall
Goucher College, Towson, MD: Hillel Student Center in Stimpson Hall Towson University, Towson, MD: Kosher Korner-Newell Building

July 2009

STAR-K Brings Kashrus to a Location Near (and Far From) You!
by Margie Pensak

When Rabbi Chaim Glazer, an eleventh grade rebbi at Yeshiva Toras Chaim, in North Miami Beach, Florida, was teaching his class about Kelai Elanos (the issur of grafting two trees of different species together), his lesson plan research led him to a STAR-K Kashrus Kurrents article on hydroponics--the cultivation of plants in a nutrient solution rather than in soil. Always seeking to give his students "beyond book learning experiences", Rabbi Glazer contacted the author of the article, STAR-K Kashrus Administrator, Rabbi Zvi Goldberg. Rabbi Goldberg suggested that he and the bochurim learn about the halachic implications of hydroponics, face-to-face--despite the fact that they were about 950 miles apart--using a video camera.

Rabbi Glazer's talmidim were able to watch Rabbi Goldberg speak about: the ramifications which hydroponics has on the brocho rishona of fruits and vegetables, the prohibitions regarding harvesting them on Shabbos and Yom Tov, the implications hydroponics has for trumos, maaseros and shmitta, and the use of hydroponic romaine lettuce as marror at the Pesach seder. The bochurim asked some excellent questions: What do you do if you go to the store and cannot figure out if the fruit or vegetable is hydroponic? Do hydroponic strawberries have insects? Is the Israeli exported greenhouse grown romaine lettuce, Alei Katif, grown hydroponically?

Rabbi Glazer used Rabbi Goldber's shiur, in conjunction with a high-tech hydroponic greenhouse tour, to reinforce his teaching lesson. "Today's bochurim sometimes find it hard to relate to concepts they've never experienced," notes Rabbi Glazer. "Rabbi Goldberg and the Star-K educational program enabled my students to experience real-life applications of what they are learning about in the classroom."

STAR-K's utilization of technology in educating others about kashrus is nothing new. STAR-K's InterAgency TeleKosher Conference series uses the telephone to enable local vaadim, rabbis and mashgichim, the world over, to speak directly to kashrus experts from various agencies, in a non-political forum, posing their most pressing kashrus questions that are distinctive to their communities.

Students living closer to STAR-K's Baltimore, Maryland offices, have the opportunity to learn about kashrus, in person, without the use of technology. STAR-K Kashrus Administrator, Rabbi Dovid Heber, recently spoke to a group of Lakewood Teachers Seminary students about the various production methods of breakfast cereals and their impact on Hilchos Brochos. Similarly, tenth graders from Reenas Bais Yaakov, in Highland Park, New Jersey, benefitted from a recent shiur which Rabbi Heber delivered exclusively for them--a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the STAR-K kosher symbol, from a halachic, technical, and tracking perspective.

Why did Reenas Bais Yaakov teacher, Mrs. Chaya Eidelman, decide to visit STAR-K, with her tenth grade students? "I wanted to show the girls something that would encapsulate Jewish Baltimore. Of course, STAR-K is known far and wide for kashrus, and things beyond kashrus, also."

STAR-K's educational efforts also include the hosting of an intensive week-long annual Kashrus Training Seminar, each summer, for rabbonim, kollel fellows, and others serving as klei kodesh. It features lectures by STAR-K's rabbinic staff members, audio-visual presentations, a hands-on practicum, and several field trips.

STAR-K took a mini-version of its Kashrus Training Seminar on the road, to the yungerleit of Rabbi Avrohom Lefkowitz's Kollel Bnei Torah, Lakewood, New Jersey, in late December. Rabbinic Administrator, HaRav Moshe Heinemann, and STAR-K Kashrus Administrators addressed various topics, including: Kashering --Restaurants/Caterers/Factories, Guide to Hashgocho of Restaurants and Caterers (includes checking for tolaim), Cholov Yisroel, and The Kashrus of Bakeries.

These educational programs are just some of the many ways that STAR-K CERTIFICATION is committed, as a non-profit agency, to representing the kosher consumer in promoting kashrus through education, research and supervision. For further information regarding STAR-K programs, contact 410-484-4110. To join STAR-K's ongoing TeleKosher Conference Series, scheduled for the last Wednesday of each month at 12 noon EST, call: 605-475-8590 and enter conference 528-5502.

June 2009

STAR-K Leads Kosher Novice Tour for Johns Hopkins University Students

Jenna Fogel's grandparents keep kosher and she has eaten kosher foods, but she admits she never really understood the meaning behind them. "I always thought a rabbi said a prayer and put a kosher stamp on the box and then it was considered kosher," says Jenna, a Chemical Engineering major. Such kashrus misconceptions were clarified for Jenna and nineteen of her fellow Johns Hopkins University students when STAR-K Kashrus Administrator, Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, led them on a recent tour of Baltimore's Seven Mile Market.

"A major focal point of the tour was to show how many of the items they normally buy are kosher already, and that they can keep kosher nowadays with minimal effort," said Rabbi Goldberg. "I also explained what goes into certifying more complicated items, such as sauces or poultry, and showed them what the common symbols look like."

The more than 20,000 kosher products dotting the aisles of Seven Mile Market–one of the largest kosher supermarkets in the U.S.--motivated the Hopkins undergrads to ask hashkafic questions like: Why would an imitation bacon bits product be needed if it is just for taste purposes, and one should not have ever tasted bacon? Doesn't this defeat the whole purpose of kashrut?

The trip to Seven Mile Market was just one stop along the tour route of the Baltimore observant community for the members of the Sinai Scholar Society, a program offered through the Chabad House at Johns Hopkins--an affiliate program run on forty Chabad Houses on Campus throughout the United States, for students with a minimal yiddishkeit background. Rabbi Zev Gopin, director of Chabad of Johns Hopkins and Central Baltimore, offered the Sinai Scholars program this past semester for the first time and feels that already it has been a great success. The complimentary program, limited to twenty students per semester, is offered two hours per week and requires writing a three to five page paper upon completion. Participation is completely voluntary and students do not receive credits for it.

"At the end of the Sinai course, a majority of the students said that they felt a major void when it came to their yiddishkeit," said Rabbi Gopin. "They might have prepared for their bar or bas mitzvah, yet, did not feel part of the Jewish community. Even those that admitted being agnostic, at the beginning of the program, felt otherwise by the program's end.

"I think the Seven Mile Market experience was a major eye opener for students who did not have any exposure to kosher," continues Rabbi Gopin."We got them as close as possible to what it is like to keep kosher. They learned how to be mindful of what is out there and how easy it is to observe. Thanks to the help from STAR-K, and the guidance of Rabbi Goldberg, the students were given an out-of-book experience they would not have had otherwise."

(By: Margie Pensak / YWN Desk)

June 2009

STAR-K Invited to Talk (Kosher) Turkey in Izmir
by Margie Pensak

Tky photo

STAR-K Certification has long enjoyed a successful and harmonious relationship with Turkey for over 25 years, providing Kosher certification for scores of Turkish companies. The STAR-K symbol appears on everything from Turkish-produced beans to candy, condiments, fruits, vegetables, juices, jams, honey, oils, nuts, pasta, pickled products, rice, sauces, teas, and vinegars.

STAR-K Kashrus Administrator, Rabbi Tzvi Rosen, was invited to Izmir in mid-May, by the Turkish Prime Ministry's Undersecretariat for Treasury and Foreign Trade, to address members of the Aegean Exporters' Association. Together, with STAR-K's Middle East/Europe Kashrus Coordinator, Rabbi Dovid Stein, he delivered a seminar, "Kosher Certification: Your Worldwide Partner for Successful Marketing". In attendance was Izmir's newest rabbi, Rabbi Mordechai Katan, and approximately thirty Turkish manufacturing companies.

Utilizing a colorful STAR-K powerpoint presentation entitled, "Understanding the World of Kosher...Naturally", the rabbis explained Kosher basics, Kosher marketplace opportunities, issues regarding the certification of various Kosher specialty products, the parallel growth of organic and Kosher, requirements and considerations when producing kosher/natural organic products, the Kosher Certification process, and the advantages of the STAR-K/QAI twin Kosher/organic certification program.

"Turkish companies have a keen interest to expand their markets and they feel that a necessary tool to assist them in that is Kosher certification," says Rabbi Rosen. "I feel that our seminar has built a bridge and a healthy rapport between the exporters union and STAR-K." Cagdas Gunes, a rapporteur at the Aegean Exporters' Association, only confirmed Rabbi Rosen's feelings when he added, "Our doors are always open for you."

January 2009


STAR-K Certification Announces New Joint Kosher and Organic Auditing Program with QAI

kosher Organic Logo

New Program Expedites Kosher/Organic Certification

BALTIMORE, Md. and SAN DIEGO, Calif. ---STAR-K Certification, Inc., today announced a new joint kosher and organic auditing program with Quality Assurance International (QAI), effective January 1, 2009.

The joint auditing program offers several advantages to the growing numbers of companies worldwide that opt for both organic and kosher certification. These include: streamlining the auditing process and reducing overall certification costs. To accomplish these goals, a number of STAR-K kosher inspectors are now trained organic inspectors, allowing us to complete both audits concurrently.

"The new alliance between STAR-K and QAI highlights our shared commitment to help companies provide high-quality kosher certified organic products, in a more efficient and cost-effective manner," said STAR-K President Dr. Avrom Pollak. "Like STAR-K, QAI is dedicated to helping consumers know that they are getting real value from certified products. Having realized that many companies have both certifications, we feel that the bundling of our certification efforts will add further efficiency and value on behalf of consumers throughout the world."

The rapidly, rising global demand for products bearing a trusted, recognizable kosher logo has been similar to the growth in demand for products labeled certified organic. These two intersecting trends have given rise to a flourishing new specialty food category--kosher organic. These products meet both the strict requirements of Jewish dietary laws and the USDA National Organic Program specifications.

Kosher organic product sales have been growing annually; increasing numbers of kosher consumers are requesting organic foods, and more kosher manufacturers are producing organic foods. There has been a major impact on sales of these doubly certified products, and Mintel research organization's data indicates that, in 2008, both "kosher" and "organic" were amongst the top ten claims for new products. [Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), Mintel International, 2008.]

"We are thrilled to announce this new alliance with STAR-K," said Kristen Holt, QAI President. "By combining our respective expertise, together QAI and STAR-K will offer two certifications with one audit, providing clients both cost and time savings, while continuing to provide the highest levels of service our clients have come to expect."

For more information on Star-K Kosher Certification and QAI Organic Certification, or to learn more about a combined organic and kosher audit, please contact Steve Sichel at or 410-484-4110, ext. 224.

STAR-K Kosher Certification, a not-for-profit agency, is one of the most trusted kosher certification organizations in the world. With offices throughout the U.S., China, Australia, and Israel, STAR-K certifies food products and establishments, as well as industrial food chemicals, in well over 1,500 locations worldwide. The agency is internationally renowned for its extensive research on the complexities of food science and modern technology, as they apply to the laws of kosher, putting it on the cutting edge of the ever-growing multi-billion dollar kosher food industry. It is one of the foremost experts in the field of kosher pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, and medications. For more information about STAR-K, call (410) 484-4110, or visit

Quality Assurance International (QAI, Inc.), founded in 1989, is the organic industry leader in certification services with operations in the U.S., Canada, Japan and the European Union. Clients include agricultural producers, food processing facilities, integrated manufacturing operations, contract packing operations, traders, distributors, and retailers. QAI’s programs verify organic compliance at every link of the product handling chain, thus assuring consumers that product integrity is preserved in the marketplace. QAI is a pioneer in the organic industry and remains dedicated to fostering sustainable agriculture and promoting a healthy planet. For more information,visit

July 2008

foremost logo
Make each meal a catered affair with it's newest line of "All Natural Kosher" prepared foods.
forenost meal1 foremost meal2

Foremost Fresh offers a wide variety of individual Kosher dinners, salads and side dishes for everyday enjoyment. All items are fresh ... not frozen ... with all natural and/or organic ingredients. These products are now available in 6 Whole foods Stores throughout the NY-NJ metropolitan area, with more distribution outlets to follow in the near future. Don't wait for your next event to enjoy the Foremost quality and culinary excellence you've come to know.

Foremost Fresh!
Available at the following locations:
Columbus Circle – 10 Columbus Circle Ste SC101, NYC
Bowery- 95 East Houston St, NYC
Tribeca- 270 Greenwich St, NYC
Ridgewood- 44 Godwin Ave, Ridgewood NJ
West Orange- 235 Prospect Ave, West Orange NJ
White Plains- 110 Bloomingdale Rd, White Plains NY

July 2008

STAR-K Teaches Kosher Basics to Spanish Speaking Teens
by Margie Pensak

Twenty-two years ago, a young Mexican bachur who was learning at Yeshivas Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, filled a tremendous void in the world of kiruv when he founded Or HaNer. Recruiting teenagers primarily from Central and South America, Rabbi Moshe Fuller, z”l, provided them with the opportunity to come to the States and experience Torah-true yiddishkeit, during their summer and winter school breaks. Although the young husband and father was recently niftar, his dream lives on through the thousands of students he was mekarev, many of whom subsequently attended yeshivos. Today, there are yeshivos and learning programs throughout Latin America, and a kollel in Panama, thanks to Rabbi Fuller’s impact.

This past week, STAR-K Kashrus Administrator, Rabbi Boruch Beyer, was a guest speaker at Camp Or HaNer boys’ campus on the grounds of Yeshivas Ner Yisrael. The sixty campers hailed from Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Panama, Columbia, and as far away as Israel. Rabbi Beyer, an expert in industrial kashrus and an experienced high school instructor, gave an interactive hour and a half session on basic kashrus and the challenges of keeping kosher.

Using a PowerPoint presentation, Rabbi Beyer piqued the teens’ interest. One of the most popular slides in the show portrayed a collage of expensive sports cars. "I knew that would really grab the attention of teenage boys,” explained Rabbi Beyer. “I used the sports cars in a mashal, a parable about why we keep kosher. Just like a sports car owner needs to follow the manufacturer's manual to utilize the proper fuel in order to obtain the maximum horsepower from the car, Jews need to follow their manufacturer’s manual, the Torah, to only eat the proper foods that will fuel and get the most out of their Jewish soul and body."  

“Rabbi Beyer was an amazing addition to our program,” said Mordechai Friedman, a co-director of Camp Or HaNer. “He provided the campers with a deeper understanding of kashrus, on their own level, reinforcing principles that we have been teaching them in camp.”

"I was really impressed by their enthusiasm and interest in kashrus" noted Rabbi Beyer. "We are talking about South American teens that for the most part are coming from weak Torah backgrounds at best, and no background in most cases, but their questions were insightful and sincere. It was really encouraging."

Auust 2007

Rabbi Heinemann on Sabbath Mode Ovens

Teshuva (Responsa) regarding Sabbath Mode ovens by HaGoan HaRav Moshe Heinemann Shlita, Rabbinic Administrator of the Star-K

Click here to view.

August 2007


An article that appeared in Euroscope Magazine - for BASF employees in Europe [No. 2/2007]. The essay discusses the STAR-K Kosher certifcation program at numerous BASF facillities worldwide.

Click here to view full article.

March 2006


February 2006


Those who are clueless but curious about kosher, have the opportunity to access the
only formal, online, interactive introductory classes about kosher on the web. Star-K’s
Virtual Kosher University will allow the kosher novice to learn the basics from Star-K’s
expert Kashrus Administrators—whether they live in Calabasas, California, or Caracas,
Venezuela! Regardless of one’s schedule, the world of kosher is now open as never before,
at one’s own pace, in the comfort of one’s own home.

Click here to view full article.

January 2006


This guide is intended to assist shuls in implementing Kashrus guidelines for their shul Kitchens. It is based on the psak of Rabbi Moshe Heinemann Shlit"a, Star-K Kashrus administrator.

For original text, contact or call Janine Chapman at 410.484.4110 ext. 200.

November 2005


Rabbi Apisdorf, well-known author of the successful award-winning Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit, has collaborated with STAR-K on the just released Kosher for the Clueless but Curious.

Click here to view full article.

Autumn 2005


Star-K is proud to certify the new kosher consumer-friendly Connect Io™ Refrigerated, Internet-Controlled Electric Double Wall Oven, which includes separate Sabbath and Holiday modes, programmable prior to Shabbos and Yom Tov. Each of the two ovens may be programmed separately.

Click here to view full article.

Autumn 2005


“All of us grew up believing that if we ate a reasonable diet, that would take care of our vitamin needs,” says Harvard University’s Dr. Robert Fletcher. That may be good enough to ward off such vitamin-deficiency disorders as scurvy, beriberi and pellagra, but the latest evidence, he notes, is that supplementing our diets with multi-vitamins may be able to prevent the usual diseases we deal with every day - heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and birth defects.

However, vitamins often contain non-kosher ingredients, such as gelatin, that may not be listed on the label. As a result, the kosher consumer’s rabbinic advisor would need to question if vitamins were prescribed by a health care professional for vitamin deficiencies, or if they were self-prescribed for supplemental or preventative purposes.

Star-K’s newest kosher certified multi-vitamin, Shaklee’s Vita-Lea, is one additional solution to this problematic situation. Until recently, it contained a trace amount of gelatin and was unable to be certified. Star-K worked together with Shaklee to remove the gelatin from its formulation, so it could become kosher certified.

Click here to view full article.

August 2005


In the land of the lofty Himalayas, the majestic Taj Mahal, and the fabled Shangri La, stands the newest Star-K office in Mumbai, India. Kashrus is no stranger to this exotic country, located just west of China, the home of Star-K’s Far East office.

Click here to view full article.

Summer 2005


Only two shuls stand in Lviv, Ukraine today. The home to approximately 6,000 Jews once bustled with 98,000, before the Second World War. Miraculously, the observance of kashrus and other mitzvos have undergone a recent revival; the collapse of the Soviet Union no longer forces Torah observance underground. Considering that just ten years ago, there were virtually no kosher products being produced in the Ukraine, Star-K’s annual Kashrus Seminar had an even greater zechus of hosting Rabbi Mordechai Bald of Lviv.

Although Rabbi Bald traveled the farthest to Baltimore’s Star-K offices to attend the intensive seminar, held July 25 through July 29, several other attendees came from afar to join local Marylanders, as well. They came from California, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, New York, Ohio, Georgia, and Ontario, to participate in a very unique interactive, hands-on seminar.

Click here to view full article.

August, 2005


Long before the news of the first official “Star-K engagement” circulated, Baltimore’s Star-K headquarters tasted success. The actual distribution of the $2,500 cash “gift” incentive, on top of the customary shadchanus for the successful matches made for Baltimore’s Orthodox women, was not the sole measure of accomplishment.

Star-K’s novel attempt at remedying the universal singles problem locally was made with the twin hope of inspiring the launching of similar programs by organizations and individuals in other “out-of-town” communities. As soon as the news hit the press, Star-K was flooded with telephone calls, letters and e-mails from around the world.

Click here to view full article.

July 2003

Lecture Series
The Star-K has initiated a new lecture series designed to clarify issues and dispel kashrus misconceptions. These seminars feature a comprehensive analysis of pertinent kashrus and halachic issues.

Click here for a detailed schedule of upcoming seminars, as well as information on how to obtain cassette copies of past lectures.

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