The Importance of Accurate Kashrus Information
Avrom Pollak, Star-K President
As Bnai Torah we tend to consider ourselves sophisticated and knowledgeable regarding matters that we deem important. We are not easily swayed by glitzy advertising, nor are we apt to blindly follow recommendations from others unless we are convinced that the proffered advice is sound and based on actual knowledge. When making a major purchase such as an automobile, or deciding which yeshiva or seminary is the right choice for our son or daughter, we make a decision after deliberate and careful investigation of the facts. Of course, we do accept the opinion of others, but only after we are convinced that the one dispensing advice has factual knowledge of the issue at hand.
Unfortunately, when it comes to matters of kashrus, we often abandon our normal caution. Important decisions regarding the kashrus certification standards our families observe may very well be decided by the ill-informed opinions coming from a neighbor's friend's cousin. Talk about the blind leading the blind!
There are many reasons why kashrus misinformation is so prevalent. First of all, obtaining and verifying accurate kashrus information is a formidable task. To know what is really going on in a kosher slaughter house, caterer's commissary, or food processing plant, is difficult enough. And, like all areas where outward appearances can be deceiving, a cursory inspection by even the most well intentioned outside visitor can lead to erroneous conclusions. The problem is even more exacerbated when certain individuals-- masquerading as kashrus experts and pretending that everything they do is "L'Shem Shomayim" (for the sake of Heaven)-- deliberately distort facts and spread more false information to an already confused public that really has no way of knowing what to believe.
One bright spot in educating kosher consumers has been Kashrus Kurrents. Kashrus Kurrents is not a forum for the Star-K to instruct its readers about the merits of any one certification over another. Rather, it is a means of providing useful and factual information to help individuals understand the issues, so they can make their own intelligent decisions regarding the kashrus of a product. Each article appearing in Kashrus Kurrents contains sufficient background material about the food group subject being discussed so that the reader can fully understand the halachic considerations affecting the kashrus status of a particular item. It is important to us that the author of each article have first hand practical knowledge of the subject matter. In addition, we generally have an expert from the industry review the articles for technical accuracy.
Incidentally, our readers' comments regarding the new Kashrus Kurrents format were overwhelmingly favorable. We continue to appreciate any and all suggestions to help make this publication an even more efficient vehicle for understanding the complex world of kashrus. In addition to our new look, we have greatly increased our circulation by inserting Kashrus Kurrents into some of the popular Torah oriented newspapers. Many first time readers have called the Star-K requesting the purchase of past issues. Although we do have a very limited number of these on hand, all past Kashrus Kurrents articles are available on our web site.
In concert with the "new" Kashrus Kurrents, the Star-K has also launched a lecture program. This past summer's inaugural series of lectures, in which we disseminated straightforward and unbiased up-to-date kashrus information, were well received by the public. Its popularity has resulted in Rabbonim and community leaders contacting us to arrange lectures in their communities. We shall do our best to accommodate all requests. A list of available speakers and suggested topics is available from our office.
In the last issue of Kashrus Kurrents, I presented a brief history of the last 25 years of this publication and the Star-K. Although it is more than twenty-five years since the passing of M. Leo Storch, of blessed memory, the vital role he played as a founder of the Orthodox Jewish Council and several Baltimore Mosdos certainly needs to be acknowledged. We are also grateful to his wife, Hannah, who continues to support this publication in memory of her late husband.
In the name of the entire Star-K family I wish to extend our condolences to Yankel and Pesi Herskovitz on the loss of their dear son, Moshe, z"l. It is our sincere wish that in the future they experience much joy and nachas from their children and grandchildren.
Our best wishes for a K'siva V'chasima Tova to all our readers.