Letters to the Editor 5-1-09


Issue of May 1, 2009 / 7 Iyar 5769

Defending the Vaad

To the Editor:

I must say I disagree with your editorial re: the Vaad (Change needed at Vaad HaKashrus; April 24, 2009). Rabbi Yosef Eisen has done a tremendous and difficult job of upgrading the level of kashruth in many Five Towns establishments and many more members of the community are confident shopping and eating in a number of places.

Although the Streit’s episode may have been ill-advised, I do not feel that his name should be dragged through the mud and this is certainly not a reason to demand his resignation or firing. I know that this is a hot topic, but I think a little restraint is in order. We don’t need more machlokes and animosity in the community.

Vivian Ostrov

Not far enough

To the Editor:

As pointed out by your editorial (Change Needed at Vaad HaKashrus; April 24, 2009), the very best that can be said about the actions taken by the Vaad HaKashrus of the Five Towns & Far Rockaway in the Streit's matzo fiasco is that they were done in a most unprofessional manner. The editorial sorely underestimates the stakes, for the risk extends well beyond the observant Jewish community losing faith in kosher food supervision and becoming less kashrut-conscious as a result.

The Jewish community –– observant and otherwise –– has seen an organization which supposedly embodies the best of Jewish values threaten (and perhaps actually deprive) the livelihoods of Jewish individuals and businesses for the sake of what most strongly appear to be personal political considerations. The unspoken fear of all Jewish businesspeople in the community is that they, too, might be subject to the fickle political vicissitudes of the rabbis who are looked to by the community to maintain Jewish values and Jewish integrity.

Accordingly, it is not merely a risk limited to children hearing their parents say things such as "don't worry about the kosher supervision, it's all politics," but rather, a risk that children will hear their parents derisively dismiss the rabbis, the Jewish institutions themselves, and Jewish observances generally as nothing more than money and politics.

And so, while certain personnel changes may well be in order at the Vaad HaKashrus of the Five Towns & Far Rockaway (and the Vaad HaRabbonim of Queens, for that matter), the rabbis of the Vaads need to publicly admit their failings in the matter, so that they might regain the confidence of the Jewish communities whose best interests they purport to advance.

Kenneth H. Ryesky

East Northport

Mea Culpa

To the Editor:

Last week your editorial (Change Needed at Vaad HaKashrus; April 24, 2009) called for the dismissal of Rabbi Yosef Eisen, the rabbinic coordinator of the Vaad Hakashrus of the Five Towns. Your editorial also featured a quote from me which accurately portrayed my criticism of the Vaad's decision to not allow Streit's Matzo products to be carried in Vaad stores before Passover. Despite your clarifying comment that my remarks did not direct blame at anyone, a significant number of people inferred that I had called for Rabbi Eisen to step down. That is absolutely not true.

In fact, in my synagogue speech, I directed the blame to myself, as a community rabbi who is a part of the Vaad, and to whomever of my rabbinic colleagues who are also part of the Vaad and share my point of view. Furthermore, I indicated that it was the community rabbis who must fix the flawed system which they tolerated and which allowed the Streit's decision to be implemented so close to Pesach.

I continue to believe that Streit's of 2009 is no different from Streit's of 1979. Five Towns and Far Rockaway consumers are intelligent and concerned about Kashrus. Each has their rabbi to direct their choice of products for Passover. If Streit's was on the shelf, you were not forced to buy it. But those who wished to purchase it should have been given the opportunity to do so in a Vaad store.

Furthermore, our Vaad did a disservice to the Streit's company by banning the matzos so close to Pesach without making any effort earlier in the year to try to correct the problem which precipitated the ban.

In fact, the process of self scrutiny of the Vaad has already begun. Some meaningful steps are being implemented to enable the community rabbis to be more vigilant, aware and involved in making quality of life Kashrus decisions. Hopefully, errors like these will be prevented in the future and will enable an imperfect Vaad in an imperfect world to continue to provide the generally excellent and responsible Kashrus supervision that it renders to our community.

Rabbi Hershel Billet

Young Israel of Woodmere

Wants apology to Vaad HaKashrus

To the Editor:

I applaud Rabbi Eisen and the Vaad Hakashrus for taking a stand and promoting the highest level of kashruth for the community (Change Needed at Vaad HaKashrus; April 24, 2009). Imagine the outrage if it was reversed and they did not make a decision to protect us from potential chametz; after all, the punishment is korais (early death).

Not all pertinent and delicate details that are known should be told to the press, there are many halachic and legal ramifications. We put our trust in the Vaad to make halachic decisions on our behalf.  Do the right thing: make a public apology instead of a chilul Hashem.

Menachem Kramer

Far Rockaway

Editor's note: Neither The Vaad HaKashrus of the Five Towns and Far Rockawawy or the Vaad Harabonim of Queens said that Streit's Matzo was chametz; on the contrary, consumers who had already made purchases were told it was acceptable for use and need not be returned. Therefore, in no way did this episode represent “taking a stand and promoting the highest level of kashrus.” To suggest otherwise is to misrepresent the facts.

Thanks for caring

To the Editor:

Thank you for making the Streit's Matzo issue important to The Jewish Star (Change Needed at Vaad HaKashrus; April 24, 2009). It is refreshing to have a Jewish newspaper discuss newsworthy items and issues important to the community. Keep it up.

Jack Rubin


Playing chicken with kashruth

To the Editor:

For your on target editorial (Change Needed at Vaad HaKashrus; April 24, 2009) you deserve a pullet, sir. Hopefully, it will come with a hechsher you can trust.

Bennett Wernick