In August, OU Kosher, the world’s largest kosher certifying agency, ran two hands-on, in-person learning experiences through its ASK (Advanced Seminars in Kashrus) OU Summer Kashrus Training Program: an intensive, three-week internship program and a second, week-long educational program for those interested in gaining an in-depth, expert-level understanding of kashrus. The goal of the full-time programs is to bring concepts of kashrus to life in an applied, real-life setting.
Both programs offered participants a behind-the-scenes look at what makes food kosher and helped demystify the laws of kashrus. The programs took place at the Orthodox Union, as well as during field visits to restaurants, factories, an industrial kitchen equipment showroom, slaughterhouses, and a winery, with the opportunity to meet with field specialists. As part of the comprehensive study of kashrus, the internship program included an overnight stay near a site participants visited.
Highlights included visits to places such as Kedem Winery in Marlboro, NY and the Culinary Depot, a commercial restaurant equipment and supplies distributor based near Monsey.
The internship program attracted 20 participants and the week-long program included 60 trainees.
“The cohort included an incredible group of talmidei chachomim, coming from some of the finest institutions,” said OU Kosher CEO Rabbi Menachem Genack. “Combine the expertise of our talented rabbinic coordinators with access to a wide array of field visits, and there’s no question why the programs were such a success.”
Rabbi Eli Eleff is managing director of community relations for OU Kosher and oversees the programs. He said, “The program is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to immerse yourself in the intricacies of halacha and kashrus. Participants have the opportunity to see the concepts in Yoreh Deah come to life.”
The programs were led by OU experts in kashrus and covered a broad range of topics, with presentations such as “How to be an Excellent Mashgiach,” “The Mesorah of Birds,” “The Meat Industry,” “Red Flag Ingredients,” and “Oils and Emulsifiers.” Other in-depth seminars included subjects such as bishul akum, bedikas tolaim, the halacha ramifications of synthetic meat, and the kashrus of enzymes.
Sponsored by Lakewood’s Harry H. Beren Foundation, the ASK OU Summer Kashrus Training Program has been offered to men and women in alternate years since its inception in the 1990s. The program has more than 1,000 alumni.