Newsletter #2 Thursday December 9 2010
Yom Holedet Sameach! Boy how time flies … we simply can’t believe it is our 20th birthday! Yes, it has been two decades since the Kashrut Authority pitched its proverbial tent here in Sydney …a day Rabbi Gutnick describes as "a defining moment in Sydney kashrut". We have so much to reflect upon and chat about - so let’s get schmoozing!
L’ chaim! Over the years, tremendous leaps and bounds have been made in the quality of Australian kosher wines, such as the Teal Lake range. We happen to think there is something very special about the incredible upwards trajectory of our Australian kosher wine industry, and its worldwide reputation. It definitely filled the KA Team’s metaphorical cup with pride to see that last month, at the colossal sit-down dinner of 4000 (ending the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Shluchim), each table showcased our very own Teal Lake wine with our diamond-KA logo stamped on each cork.
We can all attest to the mind-blowing leaps that technology has made over the last 20 years. Back then, our office didn’t have email, rather we wrote and faxed letters and sent them via snail mail. From beepers to car phones, and then mobile phones … today, technology is a critical part of our everyday. One example is an incredible resource we use called Digital Kosher.
This is an amazing tool that assists us with ensuring that the kosher certification process of ingredients is paperless, efficient and secure - and all in real time. So if a company requests a kosher certification, they simply enter the ingredient names and formulae into their unique site which is part of a worldwide data base. If all is certified kosher, a digital kosher certification letter is issued and this, in turn, can be sent to customers or certification agencies in an instant. Every part of their certification is instantly accessible by the KA and the company on-line.
This week, we also wanted to share with you some insights about our membership of the respected Association of Kashrut Organizations (AKO). Let us explain: being a member of AKO is a big deal in the world of kashrut. AKO serves Jewish communities and aims to unite different agencies with a clear goal to raise and maintain the highest level of kashrut possible.
So effectively, the leaders of kashrut organisations worldwide (note: only those who unanimously satisfy the rigorous requirements of its executive) have this fantastic forum whereby they can come together and discuss many different and often complex situations that arise. From those needing immediate action, to simply establishing minimum mutually acceptable standards; to pooling and sharing information and devising ways to better educate different communities, it all happens under the AKO umbrella.
AKO has been described as the ‘nucleus of international kashrut administration’. As it’s still Chanukah, let’s use a kosher analogy here –imagine if you will, that kashrut is a Chanukah jam-filled doughnut…with AKO at the centre. We know that the core is obviously the most important component … The KA is proud to be right there in the middle, networking with many other respected kashrut
organisations. Recently Rabbi Gutnick was invited to speak at the AKO conference. That truly was an honour …. and a sweet one at that!
By being involved in AKO, we as kosher consumers in Australia have an added level of protection. It is important that the KA understand issues overseas that one day may arise here in our own backyard. Knowledge is power, and only by understanding can we put processes in place to pre-empt kashrut crises.
Rabbi Gutnick recalls a serious discussion that revolved around a breakdown in the overseeing of meat production in the United States. In one case, non-kosher meat was deliberately mislabeled ‘kosher’, and knowingly sold as such. This was known as the "Monsey" scandal. He informed the forum that even though on the world stage the KA is considered a small kashrut agency, we have always enforced the following: whenever or wherever kosher meat is handled; we have a mashgiach observing every step of the process…whether from the rural countryside to the inside of a commercial kosher kitchen.
So what was discussed this year? Cows were a feature. Very simply, if cows aren’t given the appropriate feed, they can have serious stomach issues and get very sick (with a disease called Displaced Abomasum). Now the thing is that for an animal (that fulfills the requirements of kashrut) to be considered kosher, it needs to be healthy, so important questions were raised surrounding this.
The good news for us situated happily below the equator is that our bovine buddies are merrily munching on good quality Aussie grass, so this is virtually a non-issue. Yet members of AKO recognise that this needs to be watched closely in the USA. And by us understanding this challenge overseas, it helps us to be ready and prepared. We are able to be proactive, rather than reactive to global changes.
This year, Rabbi Gutnick spoke at AKO of the shechita ban in New Zealand, specifically the legal challenge and measures being taken to overcome the problem. This year, for the first time ever, New Zealand authorities had forbidden shechting or kosher ritual slaughter, stating that not stunning livestock before shechting was inhumane. In the few weeks since the AKO conference, the ban has been partially lifted and limited shechting of poultry has resumed.
Rabbi Gutnick observed that "what was truly incredible was the overwhelming support garnered from all members of AKO. For example, the head of the Orthodox Union in New York took this on board and met the ambassador of New Zealand. Think about that: Jewish people from all over the world came together to assist their Jewish brothers and sisters who want to buy and consume kosher meat in New Zealand. AKO members truly worked together, in this case, to provide the small New Zealand Jewish community with access to kosher meat for their Shabbat table and beyond." Members of AKO appreciated the insights from Down Under.
Here in New South Wales, we feel empowered by our connection to AKO. If we need it, help, advice, guidance and solidarity are at hand. Looking ahead, we truly aim for the highest kashrut standards possible, we strive daily to increase the number of kosher symbols on packaging, and we focus on maximising the number of kosher products available. Speaking of new products, stay tuned for our next edition of Kosher KApers - fun facts on new tasty treats will be coming your way.
Deep breath … just blowing out our 20 candles!
The KA Team