Monday, August 24, 2009

Where did OBAMA's funding come from?

New York Times Editorial By MAUREEN DOWD Published: June 29, 2008

OBAMA'S TROUBLING INTERNET FUND RAISING Certainly the most interesting and potentially devastating phone call I have received during this election cycle came this week from one of the Obama's campaign internet geeks.. These are the staffers who devised Obama's internet fund raising campaign which raised in the neighborhood of $200 million so far. That is more then twice the total funds raised by any candidate in history – and this was all from the internet campaign.What I learned from this insider was shocking but I guess we shouldn't be surprised that when it comes to fund raising there simply are no rules that can't be broken and no ethics that prevail.Obama's internet campaign started out innocently enough with basic e-mail networking , lists saved from previous party campaigns and from supporters who visited any of the Obama campaign web sites. Small contributions cam e in from these sources and the internet campaign staff were more than pleased by the results.Then, about two months into the campaign the daily contribution intake multiplied. Where was it coming from? One of the web site security monitors began to notice the bulk of the contributions were clearly coming in from overseas internet service providers and at the rate and frequency of transmission it was clear these donations were "programmed" by a very sophisticated user.While the security people were not able to track most of the sources due to firewalls and other blocking devices put on these contributions they were able to collate the number of contributions that were coming in seemingly from individuals but the funds were from only a few credit card accounts and bank electronic funds transfers. The internet service providers (ISP) they were able to trace were from Saudi Arabia , Iran , and other Middle Eastern countries. One of the banks used for fund transfers was also located in Saudi Arabia . Another concentrated group of donations was traced to a Chinese ISP with a similar pattern of limited credit card charges.It became clear that these donations were very likely coming from sources other than American voters. This was discussed at length within the campaign and the decision was made that none of these donations violated campaign financing laws. It was also decided that it was not the responsibility of the campaign to audit these millions of contributions as to the actual source (specific credit card number or bank transfer account numbers) to insure that none of these internet contributors exceeded the legal maximum donation on a cumulative basis of many small donations. They also found the record keeping was not complete enough to do it anyway.This is a shocking revelation.We have been concerned about the legality of "bundling" contributio ns after the recent exposure of illegal bundlers but now it appears we may have an even greater problem.I guess we should have been somewhat suspicious when the numbers started to come out. We were told (no proof offered) that the Obama internet contributions were from $10.00 to $25.00 or so.If the $200,000,000 is right, and the average contribution was $15.00, that would mean over 13 million individuals made contributions? That would also be 13 million contributions would need to be processed. How did all that happen?I believe the Obama campaign's internet fund raising needs a serious, in depth investigation and audit. It also appears the whole question of internet fund raising needs investigation by the legislature and perhaps new laws to insure it complies not only with the letter of these laws but the spirit as well.IS IT RIGHT FOR FOREIGN COUNTRIES TO HAVE AN INVESTMENT IN WHO BECOMES OUR NEXT PRESIDENT??? IF YOU ARE IN AGREEMENT WITH THIS, PLEASE PASS IT ON. The fact that the NY Times allowed this to be printed is amazing in itself.

Friday, August 21, 2009


click on link


ביקשו ממך לנכות צ'קים? אולי ה-F.B.I. מתעניין בך האם האף. בי. אי. גייס לשירותיו עוד משתפי-פעולה מקרב הציבור החרדי? אם הדברים תלויים בעדותו של אחד מבעלי מפעלי הבשר הכשר הגדולים בארצות-הברית - התשובה היא חיוביתיוסי כץ, כתב בחדרי חרדיםתאריך: 21/08/2009 13:40:00
'פרשיית דיל' ירדה מסדר היום הציבורי. לא בשל חוסר עניין ציבורי, אלא בגלל עומס הפרשות שהיה בעוכרינו: נעדרים, רציחות, אלימות גואה, מעילות, התאבדויות ועוד כיד הדמיון הלא טובה עליכם, הותירו את פרשת 'דיל' אי שם בנבכי הזיכרון הציבורי, הרחק מאור השמש. ענן החשדות עדיין מרחף, ובעיירה דיל עדיין מלקקים את הפצעים העמוקים.אולם, ממידע שהגיע לאתר 'בחדרי חרדים' עולה, כי בעוד התקשורת עברה לעסוק בנושאים אחרים ומאתגרים יותר, האף. בי. אי ממשיך לעסוק בנושאים הקשורים לציבור החרדי - ואינו מרפה מהחקירות האינטנסיביות. האם האף. בי. אי. גייס לשירותיו עוד משתפי פעולה מהציבור החרדי? אם הדברים תלויים בעדותו של אחד מבעלי מפעלי הבשר הכשר הגדולים בארצות-הברית - דומה שהתשובה המזעזעת היא חיובית.על פי עדותו, שהגיעה לידי כתב אתר 'בחדרי חרדים', עולה כי אחד מעצורי הפרשייה החרדים (לא מבני הקהילה בעיירה דיל), התקשר לבעל המפעל וביקש ממנו לנכות עבורו צ'קים תמורת עמלה. בעל המפעל, שמכיר את העצור לשעבר באופן רופף, לא הבין מה לו ולבקשה זו, אך השיב כי אם הוא זקוק לכך בדחיפות, הוא ימלא את הבקשה.לאחר מםפר רגעים סיפר לו אחד העובדים כי האיש שפנה הוא "מעצורי פרשת דיל", ואולי כדאי לחשוב שוב לפני שמבצעים עבורו בקשה שעלולה להתנגש עם החוק. בעל המפעל המזועזע הבין כי חידוש הקשר מצד האברך אינו מקרי. לדבריו, האברך ככל הנראה משתף פעולה עם חוקרי האף. בי. אי. על מנת להפיל עוד חרדים בארצות-הברית. למרות שאין הוכחות חד-משמעיות כי האברך אכן פועל מטעם הבולשת הפדארלית, די בסיפור זה בכדי ללמד על אווירת הנרדפות והחשש העצום המקנן בקרב אזרחים חרדיים בארצות-הברית.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

OU-Israel, Reliable?

1. A New Kashrus Agency in Eretz Yisrael2. 3rd Shuk Tour3. A Look at the Hechsher – OU IsraelThe article is available with accompanying photos on the website. One may also add a comment for posting on the website.
1. A New Kashrus Agency in Eretz Yisrael It was by all accounts a historic event, the launching of a newkashrus agency in Israel, one that enjoys widespread support. The event was hosted in Bnei Brak’s Vishnitz Hotel on Tuesday, August 11,2009.All chassidic bodies have joined force, explaining they have created ahechsher that will integrate the hidurim of all the respective groupsincorporated in the effort.The new agency is being called Badatz Kehillot HaChareidim in EretzYisrael, the product of a year’s work. The official date of the launchof the new agency is 21 Av 5769. Organizers believe that from itsinception, the new agency will be directing products at 30,000families.

The directors of the agency will be Admorim, the Rebbe’s of therespective chassidic courts, who have handpicked the rabbonim who willrepresent them on the board. The list of rabbonim on the new Badatzinclude Rav Zoldon (Haifa), Rav Pessach Horowitz (Ashdod), Rav ChaimSchwartz (Netanya), Rav Shraga Feivel Weinberger (Bnei Brak), RavEliezer Koenig (Tzfat), Rav Nachman Berlind, Rav Yeshayahu Brizal(Jerusalem), Rav Rozovsky (Rosh Yeshiva Slonim), Rav MordechaiEichler, Rav Binyomin Adler, Rav Yoroslovsky (Chabad), Rav Meir Weiss(grandson of Erlau Rebbe Shlita), Rav Simcha Rabinowitz (RamatShlomo), and Rav Shamai Gross (Jerusalem).A number of other rabbonim, currently out of the country, are expectedto join in the future, Chareidim reports.The rabbonim running the organization are reported to be veterans tothe kashrut industry and represent an array of expertise. Rav Schwartzfor example, has been responsible for kashrus in the Laniado Hospitalin Netanya as well as the Ganei Sanz Hotel. The organization plans tobegin by addressing schita.

****2. 3rd Shuk TourBaruch Hashem, on Tuesday evening the third JKN shuk kashrut walkingtour pounded the pavement, and participants expressed satisfaction,with a feeling the time was well spent, learning the ins-and-outs ofthe kashrut maze in Israel, particularly the ‘shuk’.Next Tuesday, August 18th, two additional walking tours are planned.They are booked to capacity. There are many who are wait-listed.Please continue to monitor the list and website for information ofupcoming walking tours. I do not plan any others in August, but whoknows.Yeshivot and seminaries who might benefit from my PowerPointdemonstration for students who spend their year in Israel, dates arefilling rapidly so if you are interested, send an email sooner ratherthan later.By the way, the photo accompanying this article only shows a smallgroup. It appears the participants of this group were quite camerashy.

****3. A Look at the Hechsher – OU IsraelFor me, one who grew up in the East Coast of the United States, OU wassynonymous with ‘kosher’, but not just kosher, a level of kashrut thatcould be trusted, synonymous with transparency, legitimacy, and agenuine concern for the kosher consumer.When the news began unfolding a number of years ago that the OUexisted in the Holy Land, it brought a smile to the faces of many aformer N. American, realizing this premier kashrus organization wouldwithout a doubt remove the complexities of the Israeli kashrus scene,permitting us to sit back and relax, entering an OU restaurant orhotel and enjoy Israel’s finest cuisine with the knowledge the kosherstandard was among the highest available.That is how I began this report about months ago, optimistic, andadmittedly somewhat excited, armed with my pen, pad and digitalcamera, I set out to show the world what the OU is bringing to EretzYisrael.To my dismay, what I found was not exactly what I expected. There isno kashrus transparency, no written or published standard, and nofriendly voice on the other end of the phone to explain thecomplexities of the kashrus situation. I cannot really say what thestandard is, but what I can do is to relay facts, the findings of manymany hours in the street, photographing, speaking with mashgichim inthe industry, checking eateries and hotels, and of course, speakingand meeting with the head of the OU in Israel, Rabbi Yosef Minsky, andhis assistant, Rachel Stewart. I will add that the OU-Israel koshercertificates displayed in hotels do not even all contain the name of amashgiach or mefakaiach to call, as is evident from the photosaccompanying this article.

****I BEGIN WITH SOME TERMINOLOGY & HARD FACTSFirstly, one must understand some of the basic ins-and-outs of kashrusin Israel, in this case, pertaining to the Jerusalem RabbinicalCouncil. There are two levels of kashrus, ‘regular’ and ‘mehadrin’,with the later ensuring a higher standard, one that should becommensurate with many many stringencies that permit the food forpeople adhering to a high standard.This includes proficient inspection of fish, greens and legumes forinsects and bugs, prohibiting the use of many items including but notlimited to strawberries, other berries, certain cuts of meat, and thecertainty that the milk, vegetables, foods and other items are not theresult of chilul shabbos. It also means there is a mashgiach timidi (arabbinical kashrut inspector) present while the kitchen operates. Yes,this is all an over simplification, but I am trying to give a generaloverview and not get bogged down in defining the difference betweenregular and mehadrin).In a regular kashrut environment, a mashgiach pops in from time to time (yotzei v’nichnas), not necessarily daily, and the level ofkashrut adherence in the kitchen is inferior to the mehadrin.The Jerusalem Rabbinate employs mashgichim, as well as a mefakaiach(supervisor) who is not assigned to a special store, but goes to anumber of places supervising his subordinates, the mashgichim.

****OU-ISRAELSometime ago, prior to embarking on this article, I spoke with RabbiYosef Minsky to get an idea of what OU-Israel brings the kosherconsumer. He explained that being that we are in the Holy Land, thelevel is higher than in the United States, guaranteeing chalavyisrael, bishul yisrael, and regarding shmitah, only l’chumra. He toldme in many a conversation that the level of OU-Israel adheres to thestrictest standards, cutting no corners, making certain Americans andIsraelis alike can enjoy, well-assured the level of kosher is amongthe highest in the industry. It is pertinent to the article to insertat this point that on numerous occasions, Rav Minsky added that heviews the OU among the premier agencies, like Eida Chareidit, makingsure to insert he is operating on a higher level than JerusalemRabbinate Mehadrin. This was repeated and stressed on numerousoccasions.I emphasize that I am not making any judgments as to the level ofkashrus, but I will use this forum to present facts, and perhaps toexpress a level of frustration I have not known in dealing with anyother kashrus agencies in Israel.As you, readers are aware, I do not generally write about kashrusagencies as an independent unit in a feature article, but events sortof compel that I attempt to document many isolated incidents into acohesive report. One of the reasons is the fact that JKN is an Englishforum, thereby attracting many former and current Americans, resultingin many a query regarding OU-Israel.I strongly suggest that email recipients take the time to view thearticle online, where photos accompany the documentation.

****MORIAH CLASSIC HOTELThe Moriah Classic Hotel, formally the Novetell, is one of theJerusalem Hotels under the supervision of OU-Israel. It also enjoysthe supervision of the Jerusalem Rabbinate, regular, not mehadrin.I will spare you hours of phone calls and investigatory efforts andcut to the chase. The hotel rav and mashgiach, Rabbi Elyashiv Nafcha,will attest to the fact that there is no OU mashgiach in reality, eventhough the certificate, which is not posted conspicuously as per RabbiNafcha’s decision, since the last one expired, stated the mashgiach isRabbi Eliezer Mendelson. Rabbi Nafcha runs quite the legitimate show,which I will detail in an upcoming report on the hotel. Bottom line,the OU relies on a non-mehadrin Rabbanut hechsher for its OU mehadrinhechsher. In reality, the hotel ingredients are mehadrin but that isnot the point. If one phones the hotel and asks for the rav ormashgiach, Rav Nafcha will tell you the hotel is under J. Rabbinateregular, while the ingredients purchased are mehadrin, but this is notthe same as a mehadrin hotel .JKN phoned the OU-Israel office and we were assured the hotel is underits supervision and mehadrin, “not like the Eida Chareidit, but likethe Belz and other regular mehadrin hechshers”.In short, you the kosher consumer are visiting a non-mehadrin hoteland eating, believing an OU mehadrin mashgiach is there. Sorry folks,but this is simply not the case.

****JERUSALEM PLAZA HOTELThe Jerusalem Plaza Hotel is under the supervision the JerusalemRabbinate Mehadrin, and OU-Israel. Once again, the hotel mashgiach,Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Altman is the rav and chief mashgiach. Asveteran readers know, I am a fan, impressed with the kashrut standardmaintained by this senior veteran mashgiach. In this case too, heexplains, the OU mashgiach, guess who -- Rabbi Eliezer Mendelson, isnot really in control of kashrus. Here again, it appears the OU relieson the Rabbanut mashgiach to cover itself.I will point out that Rabbi Mendelson is a member of Rabbi Altman’sstaff, one of his mashgichim. When I asked the Jerusalem Rabbinate ifthey are bothered by this conflict of interests, I was told thatofficially, Mendelson is a “representative” of the Rabbinate and an“employee” of the Plaza, so no problem.Anyway, here too the OU-Israel enjoys the zealous efforts of the hotelrav and comfortably adds its kashrut sign, but in reality, RabbiMendelson does not make the decisions regarding what foods arepurchased, used, and so-forth. Rabbi Altman runs the kashrut show hereand there have not been any changes in the kashrut operation since theOU added it name.

****MOSHIKO SHWARMAOnce again, Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin and OU-Israel. As you mayremember from a previous report, the Rabbinate mashgiach is presentfor about 8 hours daily, and the Rabbinate supervisor (mefakaiach)visits several times a week. The OU Mefakaiach, Rabbi Avraham Turetzkytold JKN that he relies on the Rabbanut mashgichim and visits from“time-to-time”.Here I must point out that while the J. Rabbinate Mehadrin seems to bedoing its job, the OU office has told me repeatedly its standard ishigher than the Rabbanut Mehadrin and it does not rely on the mehadrinhechsher. It appears Rabbi Turetzky is unaware of this policy decisionsince he does indeed rely on the J. Rabbinate mashgiach timidi.

****JERUSALEM GATE HOTELYou guessed it, Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin and Rabbi Turetzky assupervisor. In truth, all my investigations show the hotel runs justfine, but again, due to the credit of the Jerusalem Rabbinate with theOU taking a free ride. By the way, R’ Turetzky’s name, or anyone elsefor that matter, does not appear on the certificate.I will use this opportunity to add that all my phone calls revealRabbi Turetzky is a serious G-d fearing Rav, one who take kashrusseriously. In addition to his demanding kashrus positions, he alsoserves as an employee of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, where heworks in their Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, office during the afternoonhours. The point, once again, the hotel relies on the JerusalemRabbinate, which the OU office degrades, but in essence, it maintainsthe level of kashrus.Here again, as in the case of R’ Mendelson, R’ Turetzky is the hotelrav/mashgiach for the J. Rabbinate, and the OU.I think it is also noteworthy to add that one who relies on OU foreating out and possibly less comfortable with the Jerusalem RabbinateMehadrin, in the overwhelming majority of cases, you are eating theRabbanut schita, not OU meat or chickens.
****TAIKULocated on Emek Refaim Street in the German Colony, this fine eateryis becoming increasingly popular, it recently decided to leave theAgudat Yisrael supervision and move to the OU [see previous reports].Since that time, I have contacted the mashgiach twice by phone andmade three unannounced visits. Sorry, but he was never on site. Thisdoes not say there are kashrus problems, but this is not exactly whatis meant by “mashgiach timidi”.I use this opportunity to add that in violation of state law, the OUhas granted a certificate of kashrut to this restaurant despite thefact that it does not have a Jerusalem Rabbinate hechsher. The samewas true under Agudat Yisrael as per the Jerusalem Religious CouncilKashrut Department.

****PAPAGAIOThis is without a doubt the new excitement on the N. AmericanJerusalem eating scene. Since moving from Jerusalem Rabbinate regularto OU after Tisha B’Av, it has been standing room only. This branch,the only mehadrin branch of Papagaio is located at 3 Yad CharutzimStreet in the Talpiot area of Jerusalem.This story is a bit longer, even the abridged version --I saw the full page color ad in the weekend J. Post, and decided Iwill call to make an appointment and visit, to write up therestaurant. As is my custom, I phoned to request permission tointerview the mashgiach and tour the kitchen. The restaurant was morethan pleased to comply, as is always the case – realizing thepotential for free media exposure. I arrived at 10:45am, 15 minutesearly, using the time to take photos.

Arriving early permits me some time to check out a place before aformal interview begins; something that helps me assess the situation.In this case too, I did just that and I saw an impressive place, aBrazilian steakhouse busy with the daily getting-the-day-started mode,setting tables, preparing the salads, meats and other foods for the 12noon opening. The prices displayed on the menu were extremelyreasonable considering the ambiance and general feel of the place.

I introduced myself to the branch manager, Yaniv, who actually fit thecentral casting for the part, shaven head and quite suave inappearance, the type of chap one would expect operating such a fineeatery. I learned from him there are seven stores in Israel, 5 withregular rabbinate supervision in other cities, one not kosher and openshabbos, and this branch, under the OU for only a number of days. Idid not know they just moved from Jerusalem Rabbinate regular to theOU, but that is not relevant either. (The J. Rabbinate certificate wasnot on display so I could not know. I did check with the office of theJ. Rabbinate a number of days later).By any definition of the word, the restaurant is an impressivesteakhouse, and it is not difficult to understand why the reservationphone is ringing off the hook since it announced its OU-Israelhechsher.

Anyway, everyone was there except for Shaul Ben-Shachar, themashgiach. I was given his cellular number and we spoke, and itappears no one informed him of the meeting. Anyway, he was apologeticand we agreed I would wait an hour for him to arrive. To speed up thestory, after waiting about 40 minutes, Yaniv informed me that he spokewith Rabbi Y. Minsky (head of the OU-Israel) and he informed Yanivthat I may not enter the kitchen without him being present. I wasasked to leave – a request that I accommodated, somewhat frustratedand angry, but I do not get into arguments over entering a kitchen. Bylaw, no one has to grant me access since I have no state-givenauthority, only a press card.For those who remember the recent updated photo report on Emek Refaimarea restaurants, that report was prompted by this chain of events. Ihad already wasted too much time, and was perturbed. Rather than busit back to the center of town I walked, passing through the GermanColony, using the time to photograph the stores for the updatedreport.After cooling down a bit I decided to phone Rabbi Minsky to confirmthat he actually gave the order barring me from the Papagaio kitchen.He confirmed the facts. After about 15 minutes on the phone I realizedthe conversation was not heading anywhere and tried to end it. Therabbi pointed out I am not a rabbi, or kashrut expert, to which Iagreed, but I pointed out I am quite proficient in documenting factsand have enough learning under my belt and on-site experience to dojust that. I also explained I was not seeking kashrut inadequacies,but just to relay the facts to readers as I have been doing for thepast 2.5 years.When Rabbi Minsky realized I was fed up with his shenanigans, tellinghim I planned to boycott the OU-Israel in future reports to avoidrepeated confrontations, he changed his tone and explained that he didnot realize I was the correspondent at Papagaio, but feared it wassomeone else who might just be seeking to give the OU a bad name. Weagreed that I would telephone and come in to meet with him to talk,which I have not yet done. Quite honestly, I do not see any benefit insuch meeting and blei neder, I have no intention of re-visitingPapagaio today or any other day in the future.I spoke with the Jerusalem Rabbinate to see if Papagaio has acertificate, since only the OU-Israel certificate is displayed. Ilearned it has a Jerusalem Rabbinate regular hechsher and themashgiach is R’ Avi Levy, who is on duty 3 hours daily, usually duringthe afternoon.R’ Levy told me that R’ Ben-Shachar [the OU-Israel mashgiach] is onduty from 8:30am “every day” and makes certain the kitchen neveroperates without a mashgiach present. He assured me that the kitchenNEVER operates without one of the three mashgichim present, not evenduring the early-morning setting up hours.I can only say on the one occasion I popped in, this was not the case.Meats and poultry were being marinated, the grill was lit before myeyes, salads cut and much more was taking place, without a mashgiachpresent. There is also a third mashgiach beginning at 5:00pm untilmidnight R’ Levy told me, also under OU-Israel auspices. (I wasunable to get his name).R’ Levy told me the meat was OU and the chicken Fleish (OU-Israelalso). R’ Ben-Shachar said meat was Agudah and poultry Fleish).Before moving on, I pose a question here for both the J. Rabbinate andOU-Israel -- Those viewing the photos accompanying this article cansee the well-stocked Papagaio bar. Well, I sent the photos to aRabbanut expert on hard drinks and he told me that two items are“problematic” and one is definitely dairy.My question is what is a dairy liquor doing in a meat restaurant and Iask the OU, what is a “problematic” drink doing in a mehadrinrestaurant? Especially since OU America is a leader in raisingawareness to the possible kashrut problems related to hard drinks.

****AGAS VETAPUACHAgas VeTapuach is a high-end operation, dairy/parve, located at KikarSafra, Jerusalem City Hall.In short, I spoke with Yonatan, the owner/manager and the JerusalemRabbinate. The place is under the supervision of Jerusalem Rabbinateregular and OU-Israel mehadrin. The supervisor is R’ Turetzky, and theJ. Rabbinate mashgiach comes and goes, as is fine in compliance withthe dictates of a regular J. Rabbinate supervision. There is not OU-Israel mashgiach, only a supervisor who makes occasional visits. Inshort, this OU-Mehadrin place does not have any mashgiach timidi.Yonatan assures me all his products are “badatz mehadrin and chalavyisrael”.

****SUMMATION1. There are numerous other OU-Israel supervised hotels, eateries andcaterers in the Greater Jerusalem area. I do not plan to visit orreview them. This is not because of kashrut concerns, but due to thelack of cooperation from OU-Israel office staff and the smokescreenthat results in some of my questions.2. This report does not intend to hint at the level of kashrut in anyof the places mentioned, for good or G-d forbid otherwise, regardingthe OU. I have reported on some of the places, such as the JerusalemPlaza and Moshiko, and they indeed are true to their J. Rabbinatehechsher. The OU-Israel adds absolutely nothing other than a red andwhite sign.3. If one is stringent on eating OU schita (beef and poultry) whenentering an OU establishment, think again in Israel. Not all placesuse Fleish chickens and to date, the OU has not succeeded in havingits own cattle schita despite efforts to do so. Therefore, if amashgiach in Jerusalem tells you the meat is “OU”, it may be OU-Israelapproved, which is fine, but it cannot be OU-Israel schita since todate, there has not been any.4. If you expect a mashgiach timidi in your OU mehadrin restaurant,then you are out of luck in some cases.5. Based on what I saw at Papagaio, the kitchen operating without amashgiach, it is difficult to say if OU-Israel satisfies ‘bishulyisrael’ for sephardim, which hold by the stringent rulings of theBeit Yosef. Rav Minsky assures me all OU-Israel establishments arebishul yisrael for both ashkenazim and sephardim.6. There are many many emails that have come in regarding OU chickens,sold under the Fleish name. I mention this so readers do not think Ihave ignored this. I just prefer not to address the matter at thistime.7. Without exception! Any and every hotel mashgiach and rav I spokewith, referring to hotels that the OU-Israel has claimed to be underits supervision, at least three, maintain the OU-Israel has not addeda thing towards mehadrin level kashrus and it appears the organizationis taking a free ride off the services of the J. Rabbinate hechsher,both regular and mehadrin, as well as the reputations of the finerabbonim and mashgichim in those very same hotels.

****For questions please send me an email at . Iwill do my best to respond.To comment, please see the article on the website and insert yourcomment at the end of the article.Yechiel SpiraPlease pass this around and encourage others to join this freeinformative service to help get the word out on kashrut in EretzYisrael. To join the JKN mailing list, visit the website. ****Baruch Hashem, a growing number of kosher alert organizations aroundthe world are using this material.Anyone is free to distribute it, but not for commercial use. If youopt to use material, it must be accompanied with the footer “JerusalemKosher News – -”.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rabanut shechita in Chutz Lu'aretz

Monday, August 10, 200920 Av 5769
Chief Rabbinate Schita in Argentina

The following is a translation of an article appearing in the shabbosYediot Achronot “Musaf Shabbat” magazine, written by Techiya Barak.Mashgiach kashrus Shimon Tzuberi realized he may be better offremaining silent, but he could not, compelled to report what he saw.The incident occurred when he was part of a Chief Rabbinate of Israelteam, a team of shochtim sent to prepare meat for import to EretzYisrael.Tzuberi saw a piece of meat which he felt was not treibered (de-veined) in accordance to halacha, compelling to file a report.“Turmoil resulted and even before completing our assignment, I wasordered to return home” he explained.

“Upon my return, I informed anumber of rabbonim of the situation, calling for a halachicinvestigation into the matter”.Taking part in the investigation were Rav Yaakov Saban, who heads theNational Kashrut Division, Rav Ezra Refael Hariri, who heads the unitoverseeing schita abroad and the importation of meat. “They asked meto explain exactly what I saw, and I did just that. After this, I wasno longer sent abroad for schita”.Tzuberi approached a number of rabbonim, seeking their assistance andfollowing their intervention, he was sent abroad. He reports that insubsequent trips abroad, he documented kashrus inadequacies. Heexplains that he began hearing there were problems with his conduct,explaining in one case, he was accused of arguing with a passenger ona flight. “I was shocked” he explains, deciding to send letters to anumber of rabbis to intervene on his behalf. After a year, he was informed that a hearing would be held.

He arrived well-prepared, armedwith a letter from El Al that there was no such occurrence, nodisturbance involving Tzuberi and another passenger.During the hearing, Tzuberi explains the accusations leveled againsthim made him quite emotional, becoming agitated. Allegations includedan accusation that his hand trembled, which would render him unsuitedto continue as a shochet (ritual slaughterer). He became so agitatedthat he was offered a glass of water. While holding the glass it waspointed out “see, you are trembling” to which he explained this wasthe result of his temporary agitated state. He understood that he hadbeen set up.Following the hearing he received a letter that informed him that dueto his condition, he is no longer qualified to be part of any teamtraveling abroad for schita. Interestingly, the letter did not mentionhis qualifications to continue schita in Israel.

Tzuberi remained determined to reverse the ruling, calling RabbiHariri repeatedly while seeing physicians and obtaining medicaldocumentation that he does not have a tremor in his hands.Tzuberi began contacting rabbis of stature; people he hoped would bewilling to assist him, a battle that has been ongoing for almost adecade. One can count on one hand the number of times Tzuberi wasincluded in a team heading abroad for schita during recent years.“It was not Sabag or I who disqualified him but the rabbis who gavehim [the glass of] water to test him, determining he has a tremor,states Rabbi Hariri. “We also suspended the team leader for failing tonotify us of the tremor. He is however successful as a treiborer (onewho removes forbidden veins and fats as part of koshering process).

Inaddition, he is not a pleasant person to work with. On more than oneoccasion, importers refused to work with him”.The Chief Rabbinate’s Diaspora Schita Unit might be the last place onewould expect to find such conduct and arguments, but this is not thecase. Some of the stories are a juicy as the steaks that receive akashrut stamp, legitimately so or otherwise.An investigation conducted by Musaf Yediot reveals numerous storiesover the years in which mashgichim report problems with the kashrus ofmeat slaughtered abroad. Some of those involved were ‘grounded’ whileothers found themselves in different departments. Others, likeTzuberi, were compelled to defend themselves against allegations.Allegations against employees who filed complaints include oneofficial disqualifying meat intentionally while another employee isalleged to be conducting a romance with a non-Jewish female. A thirdemployee is accused of running around naked. A protest and hungerstrike held in recent months failed to result in any significantchange.

The personal situation of the Chief Rabbinate employees’ aside, thetales have widespread ramifications, with a survey showing 65% of theJewish Israeli population eats kosher and 40% demand a rabbinicalhechsher. 55% of the meat in Israel is slaughtered in factoriesabroad, 60,000 tons of meat imported from various locations abroad.Some of the shochtim report they have begun slaughtering cattle fortheir families, and they have stopped eating meat, even with the bestof hechsherim. They explain some of the meat imported into Israel isindeed questionable regarding its kashrus, not to mention actualtreif.An importer wishing to bring meat into Israel contact Rabbi Sabag andRabbi Hariri, the former’s subordinate. Most of the slaughterhousesare located in South America, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.There are however slaughterhouses in Australia, the United States,Ireland and China as well.Teams dispatched by the Chief Rabbinate are made up of a team leaderand an assistant, who are responsible for the operation.

They mustultimately determine if meat is kosher and in adherence to thestandard permitting it to carry the stamp “Kosher by the ChiefRabbinate of Israel”. Other members of the team include shochtim,inspectors [of the various body organs following slaughter] andmashgichim.The teams are generally sent for months at a time, depending on thenumber of cattle to be slaughtered. The teams are selected bydepartment heads. Their salaries travel and other expenses must bepaid by the importer, hence part of the problem. Importers may requestto remove or include any team member, but the ultimate decision ismade by the Rabbanut.This is a recipe for conflict at times since the shochtim are beingpulled in opposite directions at times, by the Rabbinate and the meatimporters.

A shochet that disqualifies to many cattle may find himselfcausing too great a loss to the importer who pays his salary. This mayresult in an importer requesting that a particular shochet notaccompany a team in the future.Problems date back somewhat, even to a case in 1995 in which ashochet, who is no longer alive heard rumors that questionable meatwas imported, meat that was purchased by a Bnei Brak yeshiva. Theshochet got hold of some of the meat to inspect it, only to find thatsome of the prohibited fats were not removed.He summoned Rabbi Shlomo Machpud Shlita, who today heads the YorehDeah kashrus agency, and he was seen on hidden camera [on film whichis on file with Yediot] checking the meat, confirming the prohibitedfats were indeed present. At the time, Rabbi Machpud was a posek forthe Chief Rabbinate, one who is responsible for halachic rulings.“18 tons of this meat arrived in Israel. Bnei Brak yeshiva studentsate it” the shochet explained. He read the printing on the cartonwhich attested to the high standard, even paying more for the meat,under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Why dupeyeshiva students?

The meat should not have been imported to Israel”.Rabbi Machpud agreed.The shochet brought the video to the Chief Rabbinate. His friend,Michael Ben-Shimol claims he was threatened and instructed toimmediately destroy the video. The shochet feared being blacklistedand ousted, complying with instructions, destroying the video. Twoyears ago, prior to his death, he asked his good friend that followinghis death to please make sure the video gets to the correct people.It appears not much has changed. One inspector, Leon (not his realname), in his 60s, who is responsible for inspecting animals followingschita in South America recently detected many problems. Sincedocumenting problems with kashrut, there have been complaints againsthim, including allegations that he was accompanied by a female whenseen drinking. He is now at home, unemployed.Leon explains that he was employed for 20 years, never encountering aproblem with complaints leveled against him. In one of his visits toS. America, he witnessed non-kosher animal parts being moved to a baglabeled kosher. During that very same visit, a non-Jew was taken andappointed as the mashgiach. Leon explains that needless to say therewere problems.

Once he began reporting, his headaches began.“In the last place I worked in S. America, I saw meats with prohibitedfats that were not removed. I was also shocked that out of thousandsof cattle, not a single one exhibiting marks from the schita thatdisqualified it, something that simply does not happen. After all,angels were not slaughtering the animals”.Worst of hall Leon explains “is the fact that there were threeshochtim as required by the Chief Rabbinate, but only one worked, forconsecutive hours. The others were elsewhere. The schita could nothave been in adherence to strict standards and of this, halacha warnsus. Simply too many cattle for one shochet alone. I informed asupervisor who promised to take corrective action, which he did. Heplaced a watchman at the door of the slaughter chamber so wheneversomeone spotted me, they were alerted.

On one particular day, when theimporter was present, I told him everything. He warned me that if Imake trouble, then will oust him and me as well”.When Leon returned home he spoke with Rabbi Hariri. He explained thata complaint was lodged against him for allegedly being in a nightclubwith a female.“A few months ago, I went to see a friend. On my route I passed anightclub and it was open. I saw some of the members of our teaminside playing pool. There were four women in their general area,skimpily dressed I might add. Later one, when I passed the area again,this time with my friend, they noticed me and realized I saw them.They threw the pools sticks and ran”.“This behavior is most unacceptable. People responsible for kashrutare compelled to be G-d fearing, without a character stain. The storyI told they turned around and used against me.

I told Rabbi Hariri andasked that he investigate the facts. At some point he came back andtold me that he is droping his allegations against me, but months havepassed and I have yet to be reassigned. Others, like me, have citedkashrut problems but I am not aware what actions have been takenagainst them. I will state with absolute certainty that they aredeceiving the public regarding the kashrut of meat that is importedfrom abroad”.A similar unpleasant experience is recorded by Rachamim (fictitiousname), a shochet and post-schita inspector with over 20 yearsexperience in the field of schita of cattle for the Chief Rabbinate.He documented inadequacies in the kashrus while operating in Brazil,reporting to his direct supervisor, but unaware what correctiveactions were taken, if any.The real action began upon his return however, when Rachamim beganhearing stories of how he was intoxicated while in Brazil, removed hisclothing and paraded around nude in the presence of a female maid.Later on it was learned the team leader reported on this in a lettersent to Rabbi Hariri.Rachamim filed a libel suit against the team leader.

Judge NoamSolberg seemed to have a difficult time determining who was tellingthe truth. He rejected the suit, explaining the team leader did speakagainst his subordinate, but then justified his actions since he wasresponsible to report on the performance of all members of the team tothe Rabbinate. During the legal proceeding, one of the shochtimclaimed that Rav Hariri called him to his room and rebuked him for hisreport favoring Rachamim during the legal process.Rachamim recorded his conversation with the shochet and then turned tothe civil service commissioner. According to one member of the staff,attorney Gilat Shoham, in her report, the content of the recordingraises fears of an attempt to interfere with an investigation.Rachamim was questioned on suspicion of intentionally seeking tointerfere with investigators.

The prosecutor decided to close the casedue to lack of evidence. In the very same conversation with theshochet, Rav Hariri instructed him “to tell the entire truth in thematter” and certainly, he did not seek to dismiss him from hisposition.One of the problems is that Rabbi Hariri not only concerns himselfwith kashrus issues, but with advancing the interests of importerstoo. Two years ago, Rabbi Hariri invited a number of importers asguests to his daughter’s wedding. They sat at a table together, peoplewho he maintains a professional relationship with him, but theynonetheless received pampering and special attention despite anobvious conflict of interest. This behavior is contrary to theguidelines governing government employees.In his response, Rabbi Hariri explains he only invited the importersafter consulting with and receiving the approval of the ChiefRabbinate’s legal advisor. The rabbi insists they were no treated anydifferently than other guests, adding at the wedding of his seconddaughter, they were not invited.Other problems include requests filed with the Prime Minister’s Officeto approve travel abroad by Sabag and Hariri. Over recent years, theyrequest approval for travel to meat factories abroad, adding theflights would be covered by the importers. The two traveled around theworld dozens of times, including Australia, Paraguay, France, Brazil,Argentina and more. Each flight was thousands of dollars, in additionto lodging and other expenses, all picked up by the importers.

One iscompelled to address the obvious conflict of interests, just how canthe rabbis disqualify meat from these importers who are funding theirtravel around the world.One team leader explains how Rav Hariri appeared in a factory inParaguay to inspect the schita on location. “In essence, he was notthere for a long time and just asked a number of questions and I wasshocked by them. I prepared him a number of sandwiches and he left [ona trip]”.According to Hariri, trips abroad are divided into two categories, toinspect new factories, at the expense of the importer, and to inspectthe kashrus of an operation that is already approved, at the expenseof the Rabbinate. He explains that it is entirely possible that onthis particular trip, when they traveled to inspect a new factory,that the made a stopover to visit and existing operation. This wouldbe likely since each trip abroad requires applications and approval,adding the ‘trip’ mentioned earlier was a onetime event during travelsto visit factories. He mentioned one trip to Argentina which wasaccompanied by a vacation trip, which he paid for out of pocket. “Attimes, members of the team prepare me sandwiches at their owninitiative” he explains, adding “who knows if kosher food is availableon the flight”.The Movement for Quality Government involved itself in the matter oftravel abroad. Avitar Amira turned to the Chief Rabbinate legalcounsel in 2007, attorney Shimon Ulman, pointing out that trips fundedby importers for kashrut inspectors results in a serious conflict ofinterests. He questioned what action would be taken to address theproblem.

Ulman responded in April 2008, explaining he has beenauthorized to introduce a ruling that would permit the Rabbinate toincur expenses. “I hope to complete this process by the end of 2008”he concluded. Over a year has passed and the situation has not changedwith Ulman admitting efforts to date have failed, adding all attemptsto establish a new entity between the Chief Rabbinate and importersresults in a significant increase in the cost factor.In 2004, ousted shochtim band together and signaled they were movingto the courts, prompting Hariri to take to the waves on chareidiradio, announcing anyone going to the secular courts instead of torabbis does not belong among us. Their actions he explainedstrengthened the feeling they were unsuited to work in the ChiefRabbinate as shochtim. His words were met with sharp criticism by thestate’s civil service commissioner.

Hariri explained that while he is a civil servant, he is a frumchareidi Jew and compliance with halacha must remain his firstpriority. Shochtim explain that Hariri makes the decisions as to whoworks and who does not and who travels and who is ousted, left behind.That is the case with Reuven Said, who awaits a hearing with Sabag andHariri since 2005. Previously, he was a treiborer (de-veiner) inParaguay but after complaining of substandard kashrut, he has beengrounded. He was flown home in the middle of an assignment andeventually, left his position as a result.“There were many shortcomings in the factory” Said explains, I saw non-Jews removing part of the animal without a mashgiach present, and Iinformed the team leader, but nothing was done. I saw non-Jewscarrying non-kosher organs which were then mixed among their koshercounterparts. Nothing was done. This made everything not kosher. Oneday I saw the team leader sign off on a non-kosher animal as kosher. Ipointed this out to him to make certain he knew. He gave me a look andthen insisted the inspector of the internal organs erred, as if nowthe animal was indeed kosher. I saw non-kosher parts placed in bagsmarked kosher. Once again I pointed this out, but this time, heshouted, ‘it’s not your business. Do your work.’”“From then on, the attitude changed and I was the subject of ridicule.After a number of incidents, the team leader informed me that I wasbeing returned home to Israel”. Said quickly phoned Hariri to informhim, demanding an explanation for sending him home.Raful told him that he was nothing and that he was not performingsatisfactorily and therefore, was being ousted from the team. Haririinformed him that the team leader wants him out.

In the heat of theargument, the following was stated.After ten years as a shochet for the Rabbinate abroad, Menachem(fictitious name) had enough, unwilling to continue. The substandardlevel of kashrus in two factories was totally unacceptable and he wasunwilling to tolerate any longer. He decided he no longer wanted anypart of this operation, and on his last assignment, he even paid forhis own return trip and left the team early, heading back to EretzYisrael.“During all the years in which I worked as a mashgiach and knifeinspector in various factories abroad, I encountered kashrut problems.Nevertheless, it was possible to find solutions and somehow continue”,explained Menachem. “This time, the flippant attitude of the team leftme with the feeling there was nowhere to go. I felt that no one cares.It got to the point I would not eat from the meat we slaughtered”.What were some of the kashrut deficiencies?Two uncertified shochtim were permitted to slaughter cattle. This ismost serious. When the team leader was informed, he responded “I do asI please”. In addition, the local non-Jewish workers used electricprods on the cattle prior to schita, using such strong shocks that thecattle were downed onto the ground. The force used was at the veryleast three times that permitted in accordance to halacha. This placedthe entire schita in doubt explains Menachem, but once again, the teamleader would not address the issues.“Another thing, according to halacha, a shochet may not inspect hisown knife.

We usually line up one behind the other and each checks theother’s knife. The knife must be perfect to avoid any unnecessarysuffering to the animal. The pace was so intense that each shochetinspected a knife for a quarter of a second. The halacha says one mustconcentrate on the act, not perform under duress or when one is tired.They did whatever they pleased.“I sent an SMS text message to Hariri in which I stated ‘there areproblems which compromise the integrity of the kashrut. I await yourimmediate reply’. Hariri phoned me and asked ‘do you want theimporters not to select you?’ to which I responded, ‘what’s my job, toworry about importers or kashrut?’ once again, when word got out thatI was a trouble maker, I was left out with colleagues not including mein the group, sitting away from me during meals and so forth.“A number of days later I returned home and I asked Sabag and Haririfor a halachic inquiry in the presence of the rabbonim poskim(halachic authority) of the Chief Rabbinate.

When we entered the roomI realized it was only the three of us. Even those against whom Icomplained were not present. They already left for work abroad onceagain”.Since then, Menachem does not work and has lost touch with colleaguesin the department. Menachem however is content, explaining he is notabout to rubber stamp meat as kosher when he knows the meat isproblematic.He concludes in a letter to Hariri and Sabag about two months ago,writing “simply one who wishes to survive on the team must hearnothing, say nothing and see nothing”. One veteran shochet added “ifthey slaughter donkeys (not kosher) and use forbidden animals don’tsay anything for if you do, you are in trouble”.Who is the Boss?In 2001 shochet Michael Ben-Shimol and two colleagues turned to theHigh Court of Justice, demanding to see their personal files as wellas the criteria of the Rabbinate’s unit which performs schita abroad.They simply wished to understand what criteria are used to assignsomeone to a specific position and what guidelines exist to send ateam member home prematurely. The shochtim were alleging favoritismand discriminatory practices in reaching such decisions.A number of years earlier, Ben-Shimol was working in schita inIreland, reporting that immediately following schita, the animal wasshot, as per the chief veterinarian on location, who was concernedwith needless suffering. I explained that halacha dictates if onewishes to shoot the animal, one must wait a few minutes but they didnot listen and the team leader was not strong enough to oppose thechief veterinarian.

I stood my ground, insisting the animals were nolonger kosher.“Upon my return, I requested a reassignment and that was followed byallocations hat I was intentionally causing animals to become treif(not kosher). It is simple. One who complains and reports kashrutproblems must then face an array of charges. One goes with women andthe other drinks. A third has problems because of hand tremors while Iintentionally render animals unfit. For four years I sent letters toeveryone and did everything possible, but no response. Finally, Iturned to the Supreme Court”.During the court hearing an agreement was reached that was given thestatus of a court ruling. Ben-Shimol received is personal file, thecriteria for the unit’s operations, and that he would be reassigned toteams abroad, three times, on probation.“Hariri: “An importer writes that he intentionally renders animals un-kosher and then continues to work. True he was not travelingregularly, but he did go abroad but importers do not want him.

Thehearing panel decided his qualifications must be retested in light ofthe allegations against him”.About 5 years ago, 14 employees, including Ben-Shimol, turned to theTel Aviv Labor Court. They filed a lawsuit against the Rabbinate. Theyclaimed discriminatory practices were standard and that those whocited problem were subject to retaliation.The court absolved the Rabbinate of responsibility, stating theemployer was not the Rabbinate but the importer. The court made thecase a precedent-setting affair, ruling on who the employer is. In aJuly 2008 ruling, Justice Chagit Saguy agreed with the shochtim,giving support to claims of discrimination and retaliatory practices,but ultimately agreed that the employer is the importer, not theRabbinate. A group of shochtim appealed to the National Labor Court,stating if the importer is the employee, there is a definite conflictof interests. The court’s ruling is pending.About a month ago, a group of shochtim held a protest and hungerstrike in Yerushalayim. Hariri followed the events and photographedsome of the shochtim sleeping on the street, at 1:00am, after a numberof days of a vigil at the scene outside the Rabbinate. They weresummoned to a meeting with Sabag and Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar Shlita.The meeting was cordial and a full investigation into allegations waspromised. The protestor closed shop, folded the protest tent andreturned home.A number of days later, in the mail, the minutes of the meetingarrived and they noticed much of what they said was not recorded inthe transcript. Issues pertaining to substandard kashrut were omitted.They realized they are alone and have no one to rely on.Rabbi Ezra Refael Hariri in his response states all allegations ofkashrut deficiencies were investigated thoroughly. In the last year heexplains, guidelines have been published stating exactly whatqualifications are required for a mashgiach. He adds that they arealways working to ensure the quality of personnel, their professionalexpertise as well as making certain they are God-fearing individuals.

He assures us that all allegations of kashrut problems are probed andwhen necessary, rabbonim poskim are involved. He adds that probes asconducted as thoroughly as possible, adding there are no hiddencameras and they do not possess the ability to monitor every teammember constantly.“I do not recall ever saying regarding any probe ‘why is this yourbusiness?’ If a person seeks to make a personal issue a halachicmatter, and presents it as such, we may not halt production.When there are allegations that animals are shocked or shot Iimmediately phone the team leader. Such allegations would never beignored”.The following response was released by attorney Shimon Ulman, theChief Rabbinate legal advisor.“We are talking about a group of 10 people here of some 700 employeesinvolved in schita abroad. For reasons that are not dependent on us,importers refuse to use them. This due to professional issues thathave been documented including an inability to work as part of a team,as well as a lack of tznius (modesty). They are not included in teamsworking abroad as per the decision of the head of the schita unit.There were a number of attempts to give them additional chances, butit simply did not work out.

We should not take the word of this small number of disgruntledemployees, who by the nature of the situation are distorting thefacts. It is understood that and issues of kashrut are probed asrequired, and have been unfounded in reality. The most mehadrin andpristine kashrut agencies are connected with the teams against whomthey are trying to taint, without justification and contrary to thefacts on the ground. Their allegations of kashrut inadequacies againstthe state kashrut mechanism are simply baseless and unfounded andsimply intentional slander, and therefore, difficult to address thisconcoction of allegations.It is very east to place a doubt on the state-run kashrut mechanism,upon which most citizens rely, and this is done without bringingfactual evidence and documents. Any allegation of kashrut inadequaciesis probed in-depth to make certain the public does not receivesubstandard products, to safeguard them from such a possibility. Thecomplaints of this band of shochtim have been reviewed numerous times,in-depth, by investigators of the State Civil Service Commission aswell, and were deemed as unfounded.

NOTE: I pondered publishing this but decided that it appeared in thenation’s leading newspaper, backed by evidence amassed by Yediot,thereby rendering it newsworthy and perhaps incumbent upon me to bringit to the attention of the English-speaking public.