Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Probing kashrut pitfalls in Jerusalem

Probing Kashrut Pitfalls In Jerusalem: An Interview with Investigative Journalist Yechiel Spira
By: Steve K. Walz, Jewish Press Israel Correspondent

Date: Tuesday, May 18 2010

Yechiel Spira is part of a new breed of Internet-based Orthodox investigative journalist. The native New Yorker, who made aliyah in 1984, is on the front lines of Jerusalem's "almost anything goes" kosher-food industry via his Jerusalem Kosher News website (www.jerusalemkoshernews.com).

In an interview with The Jewish Press, Spira spoke about why he started Jerusalem Kosher News and the effect his reporting has had on Israel's kashrut industry.

The Jewish Press: Had you ever dabbled in journalism or kashrut before starting Jerusalem Kosher News?

Spira: I have a background in catering, the kosher meat industry and other food-related fields. I would like to stress that I am not a rabbi but a kashrut investigator/journalist. My goal is to bring readers accurate information, to permit people to make their own decision or provide them with sufficient information to probe a kashrut matter with a rav.

When and why did you start Jerusalem Kosher News?

I launched it about 30 months ago, with the hope of educating the public on the standards prevalent in the Israeli marketplace, as well as with the belief that an informed kosher consumer should make his or her own decisions based on knowledge, not false presumptions. I came to the realization that people, including my own family, haven't a clue as to the kashrut pitfalls in Jerusalem.

Even residents of the religious neighborhoods like Har Nof are sometimes unaware of the problems. I decided to begin educating my children and my close friends and somehow that snowballed into creating JKN.

How many people in Israel and abroad read and/or subscribe?

Thousands subscribe - it's free of charge, by the way - and the website continues to climb. We're passing 170,000 monthly viewers, and JKN also features a newly-launched Facebook page.

I have also developed a working relationship with many kosher agencies abroad that regularly send me e-mails and call me with requests to probe matters of kashrut for them. I do my best to cooperate, time permitting. Remember, this is a volunteer effort. I must also make a parnassah in addition to my kosher reporting.

Does the Chief Rabbinate cooperate with you? What about other kashrut agencies?

The staff of the Chief Rabbinate are generally very cooperative, especially Rabbi Rafi Yochai, who heads the Kashrut Enforcement Division. Some of the private agencies, the so-called badatzim, are hesitant. Perhaps they fear my probing will tarnish their names.

The attitude in Israel is different from what it is in North America. While there should be transparency, I have difficulty getting rabbonim to give me their names on the phone. They'll ask, "Why do you want to know?" They are seemingly unaccustomed to giving relevant information to a curious consumer.

I am working to get local residents into the habit of phoning kashrut agencies more frequently to demand explanations. At the end of the day, the many legitimate kashrut agencies are making a handsome living and, with very few exceptions, are not operating out of the goodness of their hearts.

Do the kashrut agencies respond to some aspects of your reporting?

Only when the attack is negative, and then they usually come out swinging. Once they see that my reports are supported by the facts, they calm down. But there have been some extremely uncomfortable moments, threats and shouts. But here I am, still doing my thing.

What are the biggest scandals or problems associated with kashrut you've found in Jerusalem?

The most common, and perhaps the most serious, involve stores advertising themselves as "kosher" or "kosher-mehadrin" while lacking legitimate kosher certification. Even more disturbing is the fact that some members of the religious community continue to patronize these establishments. Some people are unaware and some are unable to navigate the kashrut scene in Hebrew - and that includes tourists and new immigrants alike.

Is the Machane Yehuda market becoming a big kashrut problem?

It is not beginning to become a problem - it has always been a problem. It is a microcosm of the entire city. The difference is that the market is concentrated and home to hundreds of thousands of shoppers on a weekly basis. Thus, the problems are more painful since so many people fall prey to their own false kashrut assumptions.

The "shuk" is a difficult business community, one that the state kashrut enforcement people prefer to avoid.

What should American tourists look for when patronizing a falafel/pizza store or even a meat restaurant?

I don't rate agencies, but my pocket kashrut guide and website list the acceptable hechsherim, as well as the growing list of unauthorized hechsherim as defined by the Chief Rabbinate.

One must discard the notion that everything in Israel - even Jerusalem - is kosher. It's a noble dream - but simply not true. As is true in your home community, if you do not recognize a hechsher, turn around and walk out. Don't make the assumption that it is OK even if you see frum-looking people eating there. They too may have been duped.

Copyright 2008 www.JewishPress.com

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beth Jacob V. Bais Chinuch Li'Bonus


Beth Jacob Teachers V. Bais Chinuch Le'Bunos

The court ruling speaks for itself. Conflict of interest just does not matter to these "religious Jews".


Furthermore Rabbi Hillel David is alleged to have disassociated himself with this Bais Din in disgust but the Bais Din falsely advertises his name which is despicable.

The Bais Din charges litigants on a per hour basis so effectively it has an incentive to prolong proceedings. if it did not, it would not be able to cover its dayonim's fat salaries. So its claims that its dayonim are not paid on an hourly basis, while probably true are highly misleading.

Furthermore I ask the following questions about this esteemed Bais Din

1) Why does it only use English dates and not Jewish dates on its Hazmonos?

2) Why does it send hazmonos out to people when the other Baal Din is in Arko'oys, and it should establish this fact first before sending hazmonos out?

3) Why does it refuse to provide explanations on its rulings?

4) Why does it allow corrupt toanim in its Bais Din?

5) Why are the fees charged in excess of the schar betaila of the judges?

Matter of Beth Jacob Teachers Seminary Inc. v Beis Chinuch Le’Bunos
2009 NY Slip Op 50504(U)

Decided on March 24, 2009

Supreme Court, Kings County

Schneier, J.

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.

Decided on March 24, 2009

Supreme Court, Kings County

In the Matter of the Application of Beth Jacob Teachers Seminary Inc., Petitioner, for an Order Pursuant to Article 75 of the CPLR Confirming the Arbitration Award dated April 11, 2008,


Beis Chinuch Le’Bunos – Bas Melech, a/k/a Bas Melech School for Girls, Respondent.

















Martin Schneier, J.

Petitioner, Beth Jacob Teachers Seminary Inc. (Beth Jacob) petitions this court to confirm the written arbitration award pursuant to CPLR 7510. Respondent Beis Chinuch Le’Burnos-Bas Melech (Bas Melech) cross-moves to vacate the arbitration award pursuant to CPLR 7511.


Petitioner Beth Jacob, is a domestic religious corporation. Beth Jacob owns real property located at 4421 15th Avenue in Brooklyn, NY, which on July 30, 2006, it leased to respondent, Bas Melech, also a religious corporation. When a dispute pertaining to the lease arose, the parties agreed to submit the dispute to binding arbitration before a Rabbinical Court. The parties then chose and agreed on January 24, 2008, to have their dispute heard by the Rabbinical Court of Tzedek Umishpot (the “Beth Din”).

Rabbi Yerachmiel Barash is employed as the Beth Din’s secretary and clerk; and is married to an employee of Beth Jacob. This marital relationship was not disclosed to Bas Melech when Bas Melech had agreed to binding arbitration by this Beth Din.

During the second arbitration hearing on March 17, 2008 at the Beth Din Bas Melech claimed that the backyard of an adjacent apartment in a building not owned by Beth Jacob but by Mr. Joseph was part of the premises it had rented from Beth Jacob. Beth Jacob argued that it was not and could not have included the backyard area as part of the rental to Bas [*2]Melech because, Beth Jacob first rented the adjacent apartment after it had entered into the rental agreement with Bas Melech.

At the second Beth Din hearing, Mrs. Barash was telephoned at Beth Jacob by her husband, Rabbi Barash, who was present during this entire Beth Din hearing, for verification of the rental date of the apartment and backyard from Mr. Joseph. Rabbi Barash then reported to the Beth Din that Beth Jacob’s version of the timing of the rental agreements was the correct one.

It was at this second Beth Din hearing that Bas Melech learned for the first time of the marital relationship between Rabbi Barash and an employee of Beth Jacob.

Rabbi Yitzchok Kaplan, who appeared at the Beth Din on behalf of Beth Jacob, in his affirmation averred in pertinent part that:

“4. Prior to the Beth Din proceedings, I neither knew or ever had

any connection with Yerachmiel Barash, the Beth Din’s clerk, and did not know that he was employed by the Beth Din.”

In support of the petition, Beth Jacob also submitted the affidavit of Rabbi Daniel Geldzahler who served on the rabbinical panel that heard the dispute. Rabbi Geldzahler averred in pertinent part:

“10. On March 17, 2008, during the early part of the second hearing session, Bas Melech claimed that included in their lease with Beth Jacob was a backyard area of an adjacent building, 4407 15th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, owned by Mr. Joseph. Beth Jacob disputed that the area was not and could not have been included in the lease because at the time of Bas Melech’s lease with Beth Jacob that area had not yet been rented by Beth Jacob from Mr. Joseph.

11. At that time, Rabbi Kaplan of Beth Jacob mentioned the employment of Rabbi Barash’s wife and suggested that she be called to verify the rental date of said backyard area. This suggestion was made in front of the Dayanim and Rabbi Welz of Bas Melech. The Dayanim had no prior knowledge of the employment of Mrs. Barash, they first learned of it then, at the same time Rabbi Welz did.

12. Rabbi Barash verified the rental date information by calling Mrs. Barash. This telephone call was also made in the presence of the Dayanim and both parties. Rabbi Welz did not make any objection at that time. Additionally, he has never questioned the veracity of the information confirmed by Mrs. Barash, nor provided any evidence refuting the [*3]information confirmed by Mrs. Barash.”

Rabbi Berish Weltz, who appeared at the Beth Din on behalf of Bas Melech averred in his affidavit in pertinant part:

“16. Thereafter, Rabbi Geldzhaler himself volunteered the information that (i) Mrs. Barash worked for petitioner Beth Jacob and (ii) was involved in managing the relevant property, which is used in part as Beth Jacob’s dormitory…

17. Rabbi Geldzhaler directed that Rabbi Barash call his wife at Beth Jacob to verify when Beth Jacob leased the Joseph Property. Rabbi Barash did so on a private line, and the entire conversation between husband and wife was heard by no one else notwithstanding that Mrs. Barash’s employer was then sitting as a party before the Beth Din.”

By letter dated March 19, 2008, two days after the second hearing, Bas Melech notified the Beth Din that it was “cancelling the arbitration agreement because of the relationship between the Beth Din and Beth Jacob, and “agrees to sign a new arbitration agreement before another Rabbinical Court”. On April 11, 2008, the Beth Din issued its decision which Beth Jacob now seeks to confirm.

Neither of the parties submitted to the Court the written lease which would contain all of the terms and conditions of their rental agreement. Beth Jacob submits only a one-half page “Negotiation notes on leasing the Beth Jacob building to the Bnos Bas Melech organization” signed by the parties.


CPLR Section 7511 in pertinent part states:

“Vacating or modifying award. “(b) Grounds for vacating.1. The award shall be vacated on the application of a party who either participated in the arbitration or was served with a notice of intention to arbitrate if the court finds that the rights of that party were prejudiced by:…(ii) partiality of an arbitrator appointed as a neutral, except where the award was by confession.”

“[T]he failure of an arbitrator to disclose facts which reasonably may support an inference of bias is grounds to vacate the award under CPLR 7511″ (J.P.Stevens & Co. v. Rytex Corp., 34 NY2d 123, 125 [1974]; Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York v. Solow Building Co., LLC 279 AD2d 431 (1st Dept 2001)).

“Although courts generally will not interfere with the judgment of arbitrators, arbitration awards are not to be confirmed without question where there is evidence of misconduct prejudicing the rights of the parties” (Goldfinger v. Lisker, 68 NY2d 225, 231 [1986]). The J.P Stevens decision makes clear that, although the presumption is in favor of full disclosure, not every relationship is grounds for the disqualification of an arbitrator (J.P Stevens, supra).

The material facts are not in dispute. Rabbi Barash, an employee of the Beth Din, is married to an employee of Beth Jacob. Regardless of how the relationship was disclosed, it is undisputed that Bas Melech did not learn of the marital relationship between Rabbi Barash and Beth Jacob’s employee until the second hearing at the Beth Din. This relationship was significant enough that it should have been disclosed by either the Beth Din or Beth Jacob prior to the agreement by Bas Melech to binding arbitration by this Beth Din.

The fact that the Beth Din’s clerk, who was present during the entire arbitration hearing, was married to an employee of Beth Jacob in conjunction with the fact that the clerk informed the Beth Din of the results of a private telephone conversation he had with his wife during the hearing with respect to one of the issues in dispute which resolved this issue in Beth Jacob’s favor creates more than the requisite inference of partiality and bias. Thus, this case is one where the Courts “general reluctance to disturb arbitration awards must yield…to the clear necessity of safeguarding the integrity of the arbitration process” (Goldfinger, supra at 232 -233)


Based on the foregoing, the respondent’s cross-motion to vacate the arbitration award pursuant to CPLR 7511 is granted and the arbitration award is vacated. The petitioner’s petition to confirm the arbitration award is denied and the petition is dismissed.

This constitutes the Decision and Order of the Court.

_____________________ [*4]



Saturday, May 1, 2010

Robert Frank V. The Orthodox Union






Vs. File No.:

ECF 10-3378 LMM


Defendants, ===================================X


COMES NOW, the Plaintiffs, ROBERT FRANK and BARBARA FRANK by and through their attorney, Sanford

Kutner, and for a Complaint against the Defendant, state and allege as follows:


1. This action is for declaratory and injunctive relief and for damages to redress the deprivation of rights secured to the plaintiff by 21 U.S.C. §343(a) et seq, misbranded and/or mislabeled food.

2. The jurisdiction of this Court is invoked pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343 (4), conferring original jurisdiction upon this court of any civil action to recover damages or to secure equitable relief under any Act of Congress under the Declaratory Judgment Statute, 28 U.S.C. §2201 et seq. 2


3. The plaintiff, ROBERT FRANK, a male citizen of The Bronx, State of New York, was employed initially by the ORTHODOX JEWISH CONGREGATIONS OF AMERICA ( "the OU") to be a mashgiach at Montefiore Medical Center ("Montefiore").

4. The plaintiff, BARBARA FRANK, a female citizen of The Bronx, State of New York, was employed by the OU as a mashgiach for certain kosher events which were distinct and separate from Montefiore Medical Center.

5. The defendant, UNION OF ORTHODOX JEWISH CONGREGATIONS OF AMERICA ("OU") is responsible for kosher supervision, nationwide, which includes inspection and certification of Montefiore Medical Center to insure strict kosher guidelines are maintained, utilizing the symbol of the letter "U" encircled by the letter "O" which can be found on the label and signage of those food items that OU has certified as being Kosher to insure strict kosher guidelines are maintained.


6. Robert Frank was employed as a mashgiach (kosher food supervisor) at Montefiore.

7. His duties were to inspect food deliveries to prevent non kosher food from entering Montefiore’s kitchen and cafeteria, then being cooked and served to hospital patients and cafeteria patrons.

8. His duties also included making periodic inspections through the food preparation areas to insure that all the kosher laws were being followed by the kitchen and cafeteria staff, since they received very little kosher food preparation training by Montefiore and/or the OU.

9. Robert Frank is exceptionally observant in the Jewish religion. , in orthodox rituals, observances, and food.

10. The plaintiff strictly observes the Sabbath, lays tefilin every morning; prays three times a day, follows all orthodox rituals; observances, including fasting several days a year; maintains a strictly kosher home; eats only food that is strictly kosher when not at home; and lives the daily life of being an Orthodox Jew..

11. For several months there was one dishwashing machine to wash kosher products at Montefiore. Jewish law requires separation of dairy ("milchik") and meat ("fleishik") food and utensils; therefore one dishwasher is required to wash milchik and another is required to wash fleishik food utensils.

12. Even though notification was made by the plaintiff concerning the dishwasher situation to Frank’s supervisor, Rabbi Barry Kwiatkovsky, head mashgiach, who was approved and appointed by OU to Montefior, and Rabbi Dov Schreier, the OU rabbinic coordinator many times over a several month period resolution was not finalized for eleven months.

13. During this eleven month period, Jewish patients and family who kept Kosher as well as doctors and staff from Yeshiva Medical School were unknowingly subjected to consuming food that was not prepared in accordance with orthodox kosher dietary standards.

14. Frank was under orders by both the OU and Montefiore to violate his religious convictions (9th COMMANDMENT Exodus 20:16,"Thou salt not bear false witness against thy neighbor") and lie to anyone who inquires of any kosher violations that Frank had witnessed, and then tell them that everything was 100% kosher even if he had personal knowledge that there were kosher violations.

15. On March 6, 2008 , Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive vice president of the OU and Eleizer Eldelman executive director of OU were formally notified of numerous kosher violations that existed at Montefiore, about which Frank had previously found fault and requested assistance of the OU to intervene with Montefiore and rectify the situation.

16. Frank had made numerous other attempts to report the kosher violations at Montefiore, first to Montefiore and then to OU, but to no avail.

17. The Montefiore hospital kitchen was not maintained at a 100% kosher level, because the OU was negligent in their kosher supervision of Montefiore hospital and allowed the kosher infractions to continue for a long period of time.

18. In the "Medical Staff House Staff Orientation Manual 2005" under FOOD AND NUTRITION SERVICES which listed Chris Trivlis as the Director of Food and Nutrition Services. The Manual went on to state, "At the Einstein division all meals are prepared in a kitchen under Rabbinical supervision in accordance with Kosher Jewish dietary laws." OU was the certifying agency.

19. Only after Frank went to the media, including the New York Post, and exposed the kosher problems did OU conduct any sort of investigation into the kosher violations that Mr. Frank had witnessed and documented by both audio and video tape.

20. After Frank went to the media, OU claimed that they had an "independent investigator" to research the kosher conditions at Montefiore.

21. The alleged independent investigator was apparently on the OU staff at the time of the inspection.

22. Even though OU became aware of many kashruth (kosher) violations, a set of Jewish dietary laws in accordance with Jewish halakha.

23. The violations, included allowing Montefiore Medical Center kitchen employees to bring non kosher foods directly into the kitchen for their personal use, which created an environment in which the plaintiff was prevented from doing his job, i.e., which was to keep non kosher food out of the Montefiore Medical. kitchen,

24. No action was initiated by OU to rectify the bringing in of non kosher foods.

25. After Frank went to the OU with video documentation of kosher violations, OU required all mashgiachs at Montefiore to sign a letter of confidentiality which would have prohibited knowledge of kosher violations at Montefiore to be publicized and/or disseminated outside of Montefiore.

26. Frank did not sign the letter of confidentiality knowing from experience that OU would not fulfill their obligation and Frank would be silenced

27. On December 17, 2009, the plaintiff’s employment was terminated by Montefiore after advising two internet blogs, which, in turn, informed the public of the poor kosher conditions that existed at Montefiore.

28. OU silenced Frank, the advocate for insuring that Jewish people who observe the rules of keeping Kosher.

29. OU allegedly has used "strong arm tactics" to force mashgiachs and/or Rabbis to certify products that are not Kosher for fear of losing their livelihood as what happened to Frank.

30. Frank felt that by going public that there would be a public outcry and that OU and Montefiore would have to take action to repair the poor kosher conditions at Montefiore hospital.

31. Frank put his religious convictions as an observant Jew well ahead of his own personal welfare, knowing that his medical benefits would be terminated for him and his wife. He would rather suffer financially than go against his religious beliefs.

32. Frank was formally reprimanded for not lying to an individual, two days prior to his suspension regarding the kosher condition of the cafeteria. Frank could not and would not violate the Ninth Commandment.

33. Because Frank refused to sign the aforementioned OU’s letter of confidentiality, OU, in retaliation, would not support plaintiff’s efforts to perform his duties as a mashgiach, which was punishment for refusing to sign the letter of confidentiality.

34. Even though OU was aware and possibly conspired, the OU refused to interfere with the harsh and hostile working conditions that were imposed upon Mr. Frank by his supervisor Rabbi Kwiatkovsky

35. OU has a large financial interest in not giving up their kosher certification of Montefiore hospital due to the loss of revenue for the kosher certification fees.

36. It appears that OU places financial remuneration ahead of religious doctrine.

37. OU did not want to be exposed regarding internal kosher violations at Montefiore since other establishments could have the same situation.

38. OU attempted to cover up the kosher violations that existed at Montefiore hospital by requiring all mashgiachs to sign confidentiality agreements to insure their continued silence in exchange for being allowed to work as a mashgiach within OU’s system.

39. Preventing the kosher violations from becoming public knowledge would naturally cause the OU a great deal of bad publicity, especially if there were a cover-up concealing the violations of certified establishments actually not being strictly kosher.

40. Robert Frank attended a meeting with the OU on or about November 3, 2008.

41. At the meeting OU was represented by Rabbi Dov Schreier, the rabbinic coordinator in charge of kosher supervision at Montefiore; Rabbi Yaakov Luban, supervisor of Rabbi Schreier; and Rabbi Kwiatkovsky.

42. Rabbi Kwiatkovsky admitted to the OU representatives at that meeting that he allows Montefiore Medical Center employees to bring non kosher food into the kitchen for personal use.
43. After the meeting OU did not take any corrective actions to correct the aforementioned revelation.

44. OU did, in fact, continue to thwart Robert Frank’s efforts to do his job as a mashgiach.


45. Robert Frank's wife Barbara was employed by the OU on a casual basis for the past four years, working two or three days each month as a mashgiach.

46. BARBARA FRANK last worked for OU November 15, 2009 and as of March 5, 2010, has not been called to work.

47. On January 11, 2010, Barbara Frank called her supervisor at the OU, Rabbi Steinberg, to find out why she had not been called to work since her last day of employment with OU was November 15, 2009.

48. Steinberg answered, "You know why."

49. Barbara Frank asked Steinberg why the situation with her husband should stop her from getting work."You're married to him," Steinberg replied.

50. Rabbi Steinberg confirmed the conversation in paragraphs 47, 48, and 49 that took place with Barbara Frank in an interview given to "Failed Messiah" blog on January 11, 2010, in which Steinberg confirmed the above exchange took place, and confirmed that Barbara Frank is being denied work because of who she is married to."

51. As of April 16, 2010, Barbara Frank has not been offered any position with OU, including, but not limited to mashgiach.

52. The actions of the OU make working conditions purposefully intolerable causing extreme emotional and financial distress upon the plaintiffs.

53. Knowing that exposing OU could be financially devastating, the plaintiffs would not take the risk of losing their jobs and benefits and, therefore, seeking assistance like food stamps unless their religious convictions were more significant than fabricating the continuing kosher certification.

54. Plaintiffs are now placed in a position where the defendants have insured that they cannot receive employment as mashgiachs even though they have diligently sought similar positions at kosher operations.

55. WHEREFORE, plaintiff requests that this Honorable Court enters a judgment in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendants and such other relief that the Court seems just and appropriate as follows:.

a. Defendant’s actions were so egregious as to justify punitive damages.

b. By reason of the facts and circumstances stated in this verified complaint, plaintiff has been damaged by defendant and is demanding adequate reparation for such mental, physical, and financial damage.

c. WHEREFORE, plaintiff demands judgment against defendant in the amount of $2,000,000.00 plus costs and disbursements together with any other relief the Court finds just and proper.

d. Insure that OU performs its duties as prescribed, regarding their obligation to insure people who keep kosher are actually receiving kosher foods; for example, during the eleven month period where there was only one dishwasher was operational which made all food certified as being kosher, was, indeed, a ploy to deceive.

e. Insure that their proper motivation of OU is their religious duties and obligations as opposed to OU’s financial and political enrichment as well as those that they certify, such as Montefiore Medical Center.

Respectfully submitted,

April 16, 2010

s/Sanford Kutner
Sanford A. Kutner
Attorney for the Plaintiff

Mailing address:
6 Tara Place
Metairie, LA 70002
Phone: 718-246-0433
FAX; 866-613-6209
E-Mail: civilrightslaw@aol.com