Updated to show VAAD Letter (below)
A local story a couple of hundred miles away in suburban NY has caught my attention. It is story of one Kosher Supermarket vs. the local Vaad. Maybe because it has a David vs. Goliath feel but this tale has intrigued me ever since I first saw it on Orthomom’s blog about a week ago.
Apparently, what set the whole thing off, was a mislabeled chicken in the Gourmet Glat Store in Cedarhurst NY (the proprietor has flippantly called it chickengate). The Vaad claims a chicken was mistakenly tagged as a more expensive brand, the proprietor claims that the chicken wasn’t purchased at the store. The Vaad decided that the proprietor should sell his store by February or loose his Hecsher. The storeowner responded by bringing in a second Hechser, and upping the number of masgiachs in the store from 3 to 5.
In the last two weeks there has been tons of comments on websites and stories in the local press such as the Jewish Week. It seems that the story has begun to split the community. Because the Vaad has not explained its decision, many local residents have questioned the decision to close the store, just as many supported it. And it has gotten nasty. I have even seen posts from local Rabbis telling readers that they have no right to question the Vaad. (Sorry but if Abraham could question G-d, certainly the Vaad can be questioned). If you go to Orthomom’s blog or Krumsabagels blog you will see Loshen Hora on both sides of the issue, that brings out the worst in the Jewish community.
The most recent blow occurred this past Friday. In an attempt to silence the community, one hour before Shabbat, NY time, the Five towns Vaad removed their certification. In was a brilliant move the way they did it. It was a Machiavellian move, reminiscent of the when Irsay moved the Colts out of Baltimore secretly in the middle of the night. By making the announcement just before Shabbos, it gave free reign to the local Rabbis to announce the decision on Shabbos morning, without any interference from of the locals who might have questioned the decision. Local blogs such as the ones above and Kosher Nexus ,Still Wonderin’, and Minor Fast Days have all questioned how the Vaad had gone about making ther decision.
Judging from the way it was announced, the removal had nothing to do with Kasrut they told residents they could use the food already purchased and didn’t have to re-kasher their plates.
We are left with this—-a store that will probably speed down the road to chapter 11, and a Vaad whose decision may be entirely legitimate, but whose methods have called into question their authority. Let me say this before I go on, Yes I keep kosher, I believe that the Vaad system we have is the only way I can comfortably go about my food shopping. I also believe that there is less than a one in a million chance of having a disreputable Vaad. But in some cases the appearance of wrongdoing is just as bad as wrongdoing. The way the Vaad has acted during this affair has called into question whether they are being honest. While I believe they truly feel that they are doing the right thing confidence in them must be restored, Isn’t it time for an outside, totally neutral rabbinical court to be brought in, to restore calm and rebuild faith in the Vaad?
The Vaad Response: Still Saying Nothing first saying it was halachic and contractual violations and then talks about Kashrut. The contractual violation was the second Hecksher..they work hard in the letter to say a lot and nothing at the same time.
The Text of the VAAD Letter
The Vaad Hakashrus hereby notifies the community that we have terminated our kashruth supervision of Gourmet Glatt. This action was effective as of 4:00 pm on Friday, October 27th, 2006. A unanimous decision was made after the review and confirmation of serious halachic and contractual violations over time. The Vaad had attempted, on numerous occasions, to persuade Gourmet Glatt to rectify these situations but violations continued to occur. The Vaad bears the responsibility of maintaining the highest standard of kashruth. Our Vaad has achieved a reputable standing for its kashruth standards, integrity and reliability. To allow any lowering of these standards would be an abrogation of rabbinic duties and responsibilities.
It should be self evident that such a decision was not taken lightly. We recognize the effect upon the livelihoods of many people but as a Vaad Hakashruth we are primarily charged with the stewardship and maintenance of the highest standards of communal kashruth. After exploring many alternative avenues and solutions over an extended period of time, the Vaad has reluctantly taken the final step of removing its supervision and imprimatur.
Gourmet Glatt’s acquisition of a second Hashgacha, in addition to being a violation of its contract and policies with the Vaad, is an affront to the unity of our community. When there is one universally recognized and accepted Hashgacha in a community, the kashruth standards are clear to all. When one local store takes on multiple hashgachot on their premises, then there is a threat to the uniform standards we have all worked so hard to achieve.
We hope and pray to Hashem that we will all come together as one for the sake of Heaven and for the sake of our wonderful community.