Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A couple of mysteries

Mystery hechsher
My sister and I have a new favorite meeting spot--once or twice a month, we get together at Fairway and enjoy shopping together. Yesterday, we spotted what we assume is a hechsher (symbol indicating that a product is kosher), though we've never seen it before: Klbd. Neither of us could figure out what the "lbd" part meant. Then my sister took a guess: London Board of . . . um, what? "London Bet Din!," I exclaimed, meaning London Rabbinical Court. Does anyone have any information concerning this hechsher?

Mystery boy
Since there were a few heavy items on sale and my husband the college instructor has not yet been summoned back into the classroom, I kindly "volunteered" him to join my sister and me at Fairway in his famed role as "schlepper" (hauler--literally, dragger). On the way home, a young boy of early-elementary-school age waved at me in the subway. To be friendly, I waved back. Then he winked at my husband. We were both quite puzzled by his behavior. When we got off the train, the boy and the man accompanying him approached us on the platform. The man told us that the boy knew us from synagogue, and proceeded to introduce him as our now-former-rebbitzen's son! Our ex-rabbi's wife had been "broyges" (angry) with the entire congregation for some odd reason, even before we voted not to renew her husband's contract, and had not attended our synagogue since last fall. We didn't recognize her son because he'd grown so much in the 10 or so months since we'd last seen him. I'm glad we had this opportunity, since it's likely that we'll never see him again.


Blogger Efraim said...

A good place to look up hechshers is KosherQuest. They only list the ones that Rav Eidlitz knows and "recommends." It's not 100% complete, but it's a good starting reference from a reliable source.

There are other lists which will at least tell you who's behind a particular unfamiliar hechsher.

K-LBD is the London Beit Din, and it's a well-respected hechsher.

Thu Aug 26, 12:18:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

[Smacks forehead with hand.] Why didn't I think of that? Larry and Malka Esther Lennhoff were kind enough to send me that link ages ago, and I've even linked to it in at last one previous post or comments. Thanks for reminding me, Efraim.

Too bad there's no listing on that site for Italian hechshers. I'd love to know who certifies Middle Earth Organics imported-from-Italy tomato and basil pasta sauce. It has a letter "mem" with a K inside and a crown on top, and a P off to the right side. No pepper (for which I have a very low tolerance) and no sugar (which is totally unnecessary in a pasta sauce)--perfect! Hmm, I should probably e-mail them and ask.

Thu Aug 26, 09:00:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Too Old to Jewschool Steve said...

Why get hung up on who is behind a hecksher. If a product has one, and you're at all concerned, check the ingredients as well.

I don't see why you can't rely on a hecksher, regardless of what someone else might think. Otherwise, heckshers are meaningless.

Thu Aug 26, 09:07:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't see why you can't rely on a hecksher"

Reason 1: Anybody can put a symbol on a box. It doesn't automatically mean anything.

Reason 2: There are different halachic opinions regarding gevinas akum, bishul akum, etc.
Just because one rabbi holds a leniency that allows something doesn't mean everyone does. There can be difference of opinion as to what causes treif ingredients to be batul, how to kasher equipment, what happens b'dieved if trace amounts of treif end up in the product, etc. This is particularly true in modern factories in which treif items can be made very close to kosher or on the same equipment at different times "What might be right for you may not be right for some."

Thu Aug 26, 09:56:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

TOTJ Steve, I generally accept any hechsher, though I try to avoid foods or drink with a plain K unless it's the only thing available.

"Reason 1: Anybody can put a symbol on a box. It doesn't automatically mean anything."

Anon., that's why I try to avoid using items marked with a plain K--the other hechshers are, at least, trademarked, which, if nothing else, means that the certifying rabbi was willing to pay money to "reserve" the symbol.

"Reason 2: There are different halachic opinions . . ."

I tend to error on the meikil (lenient) side, as a general rule. As for bishul akum, I have my own opinion, which, I assume, would not be widely accepted in the Orthodox community.

Thu Aug 26, 10:45:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should be aware that even most of the Conservative community, inlcuding a majority of the conservative rabbis that I have asked, do not rely on the Tablet-K hechsher.
So not all rejection of a hechsher is based on O stringencies or politics, rather the rejection is based on standards

Thu Aug 26, 11:16:00 AM 2010  
Blogger rivkayael said...

I also used to eat in any restaurant with a hechsher, until I noticed that one of the restaurants was selling treif wine and in another, employees were heating up their (treif) pepperoni pizza in the same ovens as those that were being used to prepare ostensibly kosher pizza. Now I rely on the usual kof-k, OU, Star K etc in addition to the local vaads.

Thu Aug 26, 11:34:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

RivkaYael, thanks for the tip. Unfortunately, my current favorite kosher dairy restaurant doesn't have one of those well-known kashrut agencies supervising it. I'll have to think about how serious I want to be in my kashrut observance. It's already pretty limiting that I'm trying not to eat in non-kosher restaurants where kosher ones are available. If I start picking and choosing which restaurants are "kosher enough," I'll probably have to knock a few off my list. :(

Anon 11:16, I'm going to let Miami Al answer you. Here's what he said, in a comment to this post:

". . .

It is also a shame that the non-rennet based hard cheeses were not available and commonplace in his [Rabbi Moses Feinstein's] era, because we might have also had Gevinat Stam (plain cheese)... cheeses still have two status, Gevinat Yisrael and Gevinat Akum, hence the controversy with Tablet K/Cabot.

That one, in a nut shell, is that Cabot switched to non-animal rennet. Tablet K supervises the facility, but allows the non-animal rennet to be added via a mechanical process. The OU standards hold that the rennet, even non animal based, must be added by a Shomer Shabbat Jew, or the cheese has a status of Gevinat Akum... so even though the cheese is "kosher" because it is made in a completely kosher way, if you accept that reading, than the cheese is still forbidden as Gevinat Akum.

What makes this extremely silly is that in a modern automated factory, NOBODY adds the rennet. My understanding is that the implementation is that the line has a button to add the Rennet, and the Rabbi supervising the facility pushes the button... I'd imagine a light/buzzer goes off to tell him to press the button.

Cabot does OU runs from time to time, primarily for wholesale usages (companies that use the cheese and are under OU), and did an OU Retail run for Pesach. The company assures everyone that the process is the same, so presumably the difference is the OU has someone on site, instead of spot checks (since it's a limited run).

However, the way one achieves prominence today is to be stringent, NOT to look for ways to be lenient and encourage observance.

I have no insights into how this would have been handled, just my gut feel that the direction Kashrut has taken is mostly unnecessary and adds costs to our lives for negligible benefit.
FRI JUL 23, 03:57:00 PM 2010

Thu Aug 26, 11:52:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Miami Al said...


I'm not sure that one should consult the ramblings of a anonymous "Miami Al" for Halacha, but something to consider.

Under strict Halacha, if a Jew observes a Mitzvah (in this case keeps Kosher), is knowledgable in the laws of the Mitzvah (in this case, knows Kashrut), and TELLS you it is Kosher, you may rely upon him.

There is plenty of issues with standards, policies, leniences, etc., between organizations.

HOWEVER, from a strict point of Halacha, the fact that an Orthodox Rabbi is saying that it is Kosher probably makes your participation in it not a problem, and if it isn't Kosher, the sin isn't on you.

Given that you eat things with a Plain K (when others aren't available), and will eat cooked dairy in a non-Kosher restaurant, I wouldn't worry about the details of the supervision of Dairy/Paerve items. There is a leniency in the Halacha there, and it is probably better to eat something under mediocre supervision than a place that is outright trief. Rejection heckshers will just lead you to more forbidden stuff, so I wouldn't bother.

Fri Aug 27, 01:16:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a different anonymous than the one who commented above about Tablet K. I've been told that Conservative rabbis are hesistant to accept Tablet K because it's a one-man operation with a huge geographic span, so it's impractical for the one mashgiach to properly supervise each of the factories making the food that's supposedly under his supervision. Also, you might be interested in this horror story about Tablet K "supervision":

Personally, I'd eat Cabot cheeses when they're not OU, but I'm so wary of the Tablet K operation as a whole that I can't bring myself to do it (and my girlfriend's mom, who's a member of the RA, takes the same position, though we both decided this independently of one another). This may play out differently for you, but that's my take.

Fri Aug 27, 04:00:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I sent the following e-mail to yesterday:

I would appreciate it if you would let me know which rabbi or rabbinic organization certifies your tomato and basil sauce (and any other products of yours that have a "hechsher" [kosher symbol]) as kosher. Thank you.

I received the following reply today:

Hello Leah:
Many thanks for your inquiry.
Attached please find our kosher certification from the Rabbinical Court of Central and Northern Italy. If you have any other questions, please let me know.
Best regards,

The address on the t'udah (certificate?)--which I can't figure out how to copy for posting here--shows that the Tribunale Rabbinico Del Centro-Nord Italia has a Milano address. That would probably account for the "mem" in the hechsher.

Since the t'udah expires on Sep. 15, 2010 (7 Tishre), I replied as follows:

Thank you for your prompt response. I sincerely hope that these products will continue to be under rabbinical supervsion.

Fri Aug 27, 10:53:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

So Middle Earth Organics tomato and basil sauce will continue to be one of my favorites, as long as I still see a hechsher on it.

Fri Aug 27, 10:55:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

You've all said a mouthful and given me much food for thought. Is it better to trust a mediocre or unreliable hechsher than to eat something, or to eat in a restaurant, with no hechsher at all? Thanks for presenting both sides of the argument.

Fri Aug 27, 11:18:00 AM 2010  

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>