An article that appeared in the June 2, 2011 edition of South Florida Jewish Home.
Mashgiach Appreciation Shabbaton in South Florida.
Orthodox Rabbinical Board and Kosher Miami Share Spotlight.
By Rabbi Moshe Berger, Operations Manager for ORB.
“I have goose bumps.” “Mamash gevaldik,” marveled Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro, Rav of Congregation Shaarey Tefila, as he addressed almost fifty mashgichim representing two kashrus agencies during Shabbos Parshas Behar at a Shabbaton of appreciation for their ameilus baTorah. “I cannot express deeply enough my hakaras hatov to each of you individually and to all of you as a group” for providing South Florida with strong kosher supervision,” said Rabbi Shapiro.
“Minhag Miami,” the perception that anything goes, has clearly gone the way of the horse and buggy, noted Rabbi Avrohom Stone. A seasoned and nationally-respected kashrus expert, Rabbi Stone, who shared davening, Shabbos meals, and a Melave Malka with the mashgichim and their families, noted that the ORB and KM have “changed the perception of what kashrus is like in South Florida” in a manner that is “absolutely astonishing.” “The entire world of kashrus sees and notices,” he quipped. Rabbi Stone commented that he interfaces with over 500 factories worldwide on a daily basis, sits on a North Jersey Vaad HaRabbonim, and is a Rabbinic Coordinator for the OU. “Nothing [that I do] compares to the difficulty in effecting local kashrus,” but the ORB and KM have made it look easy.
“Being nice to mashgichim? Treating them like human beings? This is almost unheard of! Nobody ever makes a Shabbaton just to express their appreciation for their mashgichim,” insisted Rabbi Stone. But Kosher Miami and the ORB have done just that. “The world takes inspiration from how seriously you have brought up the standards,” noting that the ORB and KM have for several years jointly sponsored a two-week mashgiach training course, collaborated on a joint vegetable inspection policy, have a single mashgiach standards and pay rate guide, and are currently writing a unified kashering guide. “If you can do it here [in Miami], we can do it anywhere else,” insisted Rabbi Stone, implying that raising kashrus standards in almost any community is within our grasp.
Rabbi Hershel Becker, a local Rov on the Kosher Miami board, reminded the assemblage that “we are all working together in HaShem’s service. Mashgichim need to know they have support from the rabbis.” When the people cry out “mah nuchal,” “what will we eat,” it is the mashgichim and the local kashrus agencies who must do the right thing and make the right calls to insure that what goes into our mouths is just as kosher as what comes out.
The weekend’s sumptuous intellectual buffet included an intense shiur by Rabbi Stone Friday night regarding chometz she’avar alav haPesach, Shabbos table divrei Torah by several mashgichim, and Rabbi Stone’s Motzoei Shabbos divrei chizuk. But perhaps the highlight of the weekend was breaking into several groups of mashgichim Shabbos afternoon, each group discussing a particular topic relevant to their work. After presenting their conclusions, Rabbi Stone addressed various points made by the mashgichim, challenged their assumptions and conclusions, and offered insights into resolutions of the problems.
The weekend of chizuk provided an unexpected result. One wife expressed a newly-found level of appreciation for when her husband calls her erev Shabbos to tell her he won’t be home as soon as he originally thought. “I always get so upset,” she said. “Here it is, almost Shabbos, and there is so much to do: finish the cooking, bathe the children, clean the house. And now my husband calls to say he’ll be late. But now I see what goes on and better understand the dynamics at work and the challenges he faces.”
Another result of the Shabbaton was the request by some of the younger wives and wives of less-experienced mashgichim to establish a communications network with the more senior wives as mentors and confidants. With over twenty-five years’ experience each by at least two of the kashrus administrators, their wives too have decades of experiences living with husbands who work both early and late hours, who have to listen to and argue with disrespectful store owners, have meetings in their homes morning and night, are often away, and who deal with unpleasant kashrus situations right up until licht-bensching – and sometimes even during Shabbos!
Rabbi Stone commented that, at the end of the day, everyone wants good kashrus: the mashgichim, the rabbonim, even the baalei batim. The latter two often meet for seemingly endless hours to work through issues, but it is the mashgichim who, despite whatever challenges they face, whatever wars they wage, will return the next day to “the scene of the crime” to continue their avodas Hashem in helping to keep the world a more kosher place.