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January 01, 1988 - Image 22

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-01-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

CLOSE-UP

Kosher [Cops

Mordechai Wolmark likes what
he sees in Detroit. But there
is always some room for
improvement.

SUSAN WELCH

Special to The Jewish News

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Pictured is the Certificate of
Kashrut issued to Zeman's
Bakery.

22 FRIDAY, JANUARY 1, 1988

IR abbi Mordechai Wal-
mark takes a hands-on
approach to his job as di-
rector of kashrut with
the Council of Orthodox
Rabbis in Detroit. In the four months
since he moved here from Brooklyn,
New York, he has actively involved
himself in all branches of local
kashrut supervision, taking a good,
hard look at the system's effec-
tiveness. He likes what he sees.
"The level of kashrut in Detroit is
very high. The Vaad (Council of Or-
thodox Rabbis) has set an excellent
standard, one which is nationally
recognized," says Wolmark, whose ap-
pointment is described by Vaad
secretary Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg
as "a very important step" towards
enhanced kosher security in the
Detroit area.
Several disputes over kashrut
related matters, including allegations
of kosher fraud, have occurred local-
ly in recent years. While the Council
is taking steps to prevent such
episodes in the future, Wolmark
reports that he "sees no need for
drastic change." His analysis has con-
firmed, he says, "a very solid system"
which he credits to Rabbi Leizer
Levin and Rabbi Chasket Grubner.
Grubner remains overall head of
kashrut administration. Rabbi Beryl
Broyde serves as head supervisor.
"No decision is made by one
single person. We have several
kashrut committees and never take
any decision without full discussion,"
says Wolmark, who believes that "a
strong and united Vaad" has been the
cornerstone of the system's success,
giving Detroit an advantage. In other
areas, "if a supplier is refused cer-
tification by one supervisor, he can
turn around and get it from another.
In Detroit, people know they have to
stay in line."
His present job is Wolmark's first
experience of full-time kashrut ad-
ministration. Educated in Baltimore
and at Min- Yeshiva in Israel, he
received Smicha (rabbinical ordina-
tion) at Yeshiva Beth Joseph in New
York, where he also trained with the
Rabbinical Council of America. For
three years before leaving for Detroit
he served as an associate on the rab-

binical court of Beth Joseph Yeshiva,
dealing predominantly with Jewish
divorce.
Personally as well as professional-
ly, he finds life in Detroit very satis-
fying. With his wife and four children
he is enjoying his home in Oak Park.
Born and raised in Memphis, Ten-
nessee, he can "appreciate the quieter
pace of life" in what is nevertheless,
he notes, a lively, thriving religious
community — one, he ads, which is
proving attractive to an increasing
number of young, Orthodox families,
like his own, from elsewhere in the
country. He is happy to see the local
success of the baal teshuvah (return
to Judaism) movement, the Orthodox
schools, and an active, vigorous
Merkaz (the laymen's association of
the Vaad), most of whose members are
under 40. The presence of "so many
young people very active in religion
and wanting to improve things," he
says, "is a great help to the Vaad" and
augurs well for the maintenance of
high standards of kashrut.
Though he makes no claim to be
a new broom sweeping clean,
Wolmark does give the impression of
quiet energy and a positive, if
unassuming, determination to en-
courage kashrut observance through
cooperation rather than confronta-
tion. He plans to be accessible to both
maschgichim (kashrut supervisors)
and suppliers needing information or
advice on kosher matters. "We want
them to know we're here to help them.
We want them to know we are ap-
proachable:' he says.
His attitude and active involve-
ment have already been noted by local
suppliers, some of whom have com-
plained in the past that communica-
tion with the Vaad has not always
been easy. Some acrimonious ex-
changes have occurred between the
Vaad and local kosher butchers, for
example, following the withdrawal of
certification from several
establishments, either for failure to
comply with revised kosher • pro-
cedures (such as the mandated
kashering of all meat before sale) or
for allegedly having non-kosher meat
on the premises. Some butchers have
disputed the Vaad's actions and made
counter charges of inconsistency and

inadequate supervision. The rabbis
emphatically deny these assertions.
The Vaad is not, however, ignoring
those areas where problems have
arisen in the past, Wolmark says. To
discoruage future infringements it is
"renewing efforts to put some bite in-
to the law."
The State of Michigan's kosher
food law allows the Council of Or-
thodox Rabbis to grant and to remove
kosher certification. But it does not
mandate state enforcement or
penalties for offenders. Following the
example of states such as New York,
the Vaad is pressing for similar en-
forcement and punitive fines in
Michigan.
"In particular we are asking the
legislature to appoint one specific in-
dividual, an official agent to be in
charge of enforcing the law and repor-
ting back to the government;' says
Wolmark, adding that the Vaad is
prepared to foot part of the bill such
enforcement will entail and is hoping
to see some definite action by the
legislature within the next six
months.
The Vaad has also modified its
system of supervision, particularly
that of retail meat supply. New
maschgichim have been added and
existing supervisors rotated or
reassigned. Time spent in supervision
has been reorganized and increased.
Wolmark, who undertook training in
trabering (removing veins in the
meat) before coming to Detroit, visits
"at least once a week — often more,"
the six butcher shops now supervis-
ed by five maschgichim. Each
maschgiach is required to fill out a
detailed worksheet and is encourag-
ed to discuss any queries or problems
at regular round-table meetings. Ef-
forts to recruit additional supervisors
are being intensified and qualifica-
tion requirements for new
maschgichim are being made more
stringent.
The costs of enhanced supervision
are being subsidized by the Vaad
under a new, standardized payment
policy. Individual merchants will con-
tinue to pay for supervision, but
whereas previously payments could
be made either directly to the
maschgiach or indirectly through the

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