STAR-K Certification Hosts Diverse Klei Kodesh at 20th Annual Kashrus Training Program 

Margie Pensak 

Rabbi Michoel Lichtenstein, a longtime Kollel yungerman who has learned the halachos of Kashrus, shechita, and treifos over the last few years, traveled 5862 miles from Beitar Illit to attend STAR-K’s 20th Annual Kashrus Training Program in the agency’s Baltimore offices, July 17-20. “I like a very practical approach to what I learn,” shares Rabbi Lichtenstein. “It was professional and on a very high level; very intense, but definitely worthwhile. I’d like to thank Rabbi Goldberg and the rest of the STAR-K staff for this tremendous special learning experience.” 

Rabbi Meir Benguigui signed up for the program because he plans to implement what he learned in his future position as a Rabbinic Coordinator of the Vaad HaKashrus of Miami-Dade (Kosher Miami -KM). “I got to see, hands-on, a lot of things I never saw before,” explains Rabbi Benguigui, whose favorite part was going into the factories and seeing the shailos that come up. “I was amazed at how the STAR-K has experts in every area from bug checking to Shabbos electronics, shechita, soft drinks, hard drinks, etc.”

As the founding director of Jewish Family Experience (JFX), an innovative kiruv community in Cleveland, Ohio, Rabbi Sruly Koval, attended the training program to expand his horizons. “I learned a lot; it was very informative, beneficial, educational, and enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the bedikas toloyim sessions, learning things I previously had no knowledge of…I highly recommend this program for anyone who wants to get a hands-on opportunity to see Yorah Daia and Hilchos Shabbos come to life, and interact with some of the leading experts in these areas.”  

Attendee Rabbi Sholom Reindorp, Executive Director of Jewish Incarcerated Family Services of Maryland, notes, “As I delve deeper into engagements with various correctional and medical institutions and expand my involvement in their Kashrus, I am committed to enhancing my knowledge of the intricacies involved in commercial-scale Kashrus. In addition, the course has also provided me with invaluable skills to adeptly navigate challenging situations while approaching them tactfully, fostering positive relationships, and building trust. This expertise not only proves indispensable in matters of Kashrus for Jewish incarcerates but extends its impact to encompass broader human rights concerns within correctional facilities. By cultivating stronger relationships with the Department of Corrections staff, we can proactively ensure the rights of Jewish incarcerated individuals to practice their religion and advocate for and uphold the fundamental human rights of all those in their custody.”

Another attendee, Rabbi Dr. Yoni Esterman, inspects dozens of facilities – some, as often as three times weekly – for his local vaad, Oregon Kosher; it encourages annual training for its mashgichim. “What I’ve learned has been very helpful; the question is, how can I most effectively implement it in an out-of-town location.”

Beit Shemesh, Israel; Richmond, Virginia; Merion Station, Pennsylvania; San Antonio, Texas; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Phoenix, Arizona; Lakewood, New Jersey; and, Woodmere, New York, are just some of the other out-of-town locations from which the attendees hail. 

STAR-K’s popular annual Kashrus Training Program was held a week after its annual Food Service Kashrus Training Seminar. Participants of both seminars were addressed by STAR-K Kashrus administrative staff members about such topics as foodservice challenges and major Kashrus differences between Ashkenazim and Sefardim. They also benefited from a hands-on vegetable checking practicum and behind-the-scenes tours of local kosher food establishments, a kosher supermarket, and the kosher kitchen of the Marriott Owings Mills Metro Centre. Another highlight of these programs was the concluding “Ask the Rav” session, where the participants Kashrus queries were answered by HaRav Moshe Heinemann, shlit”a. Certificates were awarded upon completion. 

Rabbi Sholom Tendler, coordinator of the Food Service Kashrus Training Seminar, concludes, “It is always a pleasure to interact with our seminar participants. While they certainly gain much knowledge about the intricacies of the Kashrus world, we also gain tremendously by all the discussions and questions, and it is much appreciated by all the rabbis. We wish them much hatzlacha in their future endeavors.” 

Adds Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, coordinator of the Kashrus Training Program, “We have been zoche to complete our 20th year of seminars. There is really as much interest on the part of both the participants in attending and the STAR-K staff in presenting as there was at the beginning — perhaps even more. Boruch Hashem, Kashrus is thriving throughout the world, and STAR-K and Rav Heinemann, shlita’s, name continue to be respected worldwide.  We can now start, iyH, on our next 20 years of seminars!”

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