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After a long Dry Spell there is a new development in the Five Town’s Vaad War against Gourmet Glatt. An anonymous letter supposedly written by a citizen’s committee with some questions sent to Rabbis of Darth Vaader I received this from a friend in NY earlier in the week but it was stuck in my in-box. Too busy writing about global issues to read this week. The letter below asks fair questions. Many of the questions are the same ones posed on this site. There is an e-mail address on the letter, feel free to write to that address to suggest more questions.

An Open Letter to the Vaad Harabanim of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway

The following letter is the result of the combined efforts of concerned citizens of our community. The atmosphere surrounding the Gourmet Glatt controversy has been volatile; because of this, we have chosen to leave this letter unsigned. However, the letter represents the view of a diverse group of individuals. Respectful comments and criticisms can be emailed to: [email protected]

To the Esteemed Rabbanim of the Vaad:
After much contemplation, we have come together as a group of concerned citizens, representing different outlooks but united in a desire for fairness. We have no personal or monetary motivations in the matter of Gourmet Glatt Emporium, and we seek to avoid rather than generate strife.

The recent controversy concerning Gourmet Glatt has disturbed our community greatly. On the one hand, if a store is guilty of deception, consumers have the right to know. On the other hand, if a store is guilty only of an inability to get along with a particular hechsher, the store has the right to acquire alternate supervision.
Rumors have swirled through a neighborhood whose constituents strive mightily to avoid any tinge of lashon hara. And yet when livelihoods and reputations are at stake, one must pursue justice.

In the spirit of the above, we respectfully ask the Vaad the following questions concerning Gourmet Glatt:

The Vaad asserts that there were kashrus violations over an extended period of time. What were these violations? How do they differ from the occasional errors that occur at all certified establishments? (A label being switched on a chicken package from Vineland to Empire, if this did indeed occur, is not cause for removal of a hechsher. This sort of error occurs all the time.)

When a hechsher is removed, the previous certifier no longer vouches for the kashrus of the establishment. Yet when making the announcement of the hechsher rescission in their shuls, some rabbanim also stated that the Vaad recommends (or insists) that people not buy at Gourmet Glatt. How can the Vaad take a stand on the kashrus at Gourmet Glatt when it no longer gives the hechsher? Moreover, most items in the store have their own certification; some items, such as fruit, do not require a hechsher. Why is it that certain rabbanim announced that nothing at all should be bought at Gourmet Glatt? How does the Vaad have the right to declare an economic boycott of a store? At minimum, the Vaad is an interested party (noge’a badavar). Isn’t it self-evident that an independent decision of a beis din is necessary in order to impose an economic sanction of this nature?

The Vaad is disturbed that another hechsher was invited in by Gourmet Glatt. However, the Vaad gave Gourmet Glatt’s owners four months to sell the store or else the hechsher would be pulled. Are the owners required to wait the four months before seeking another hechsher? If they wish to remain in business, don’t they have the right to secure supervision that will be ongoing?

The Vaad’s hechsher was removed only after the second hechsher was added. If serious kashrus violations were involved, why did the Vaad act only after Rabbi Yehuda Kravitz added his certification? Did the food suddenly turn not kosher because of the presence of extra supervision?
The Vaad claims that Gourmet Glatt violated its contract by taking on another hechsher. When one feels that a wrong has occurred, Jewish law has a procedure for adjudicating the matter. Did the Vaad invite the Gourmet Glatt owners to a din Torah?

The Vaad wants a show of support from the community, and of course we want a strong, reliable Vaad. However, the Vaad’s role is not to be the ultimate arbiter of halachic issues or of community conduct. The Vaad has specific tasks to fulfill. It keeps the eiruvin and the mikva’os, and it gives hechsherim on most, but not all, of the stores. Nowhere does it say that a store must use the Vaad for a hechsher, and if the Vaad refuses to give a hechsher to an establishment, nowhere does it say that said establishment must close shop. Although we recognize that the Vaad’s rabbanim have an individual responsibility to provide spiritual guidance to their congregants, by what stretch of the imagination can that guidance extend to a concerted effort to close a store?

How many of the Vaad rabbanim personally visited Gourmet Glatt to evaluate Rabbi Kravitz’s supervision of the store? A detailed walk-through of the store by one of us indicates that the current hechsher is very strong. And the Kashrus Information Service, a Flatbush-based watchdog agency, has given the store a warm seal of approval. Gourmet Glatt continues to use the same meat sources that are accepted in mehadrin establishments, and the new hechsher has even added some stringencies. For example, not-Jewish employees no longer are permitted to bring not-kosher food into the store for lunch.

To those who have patronized Gourmet Glatt in the past but now have ceased to shop there, we ask the following: After Gourmet Glatt has been available to serve you for so many years, is it proper to suddenly boycott the store? We ask you to look into your hearts for the proper answer.

We have written this letter not to undermine the good work that the Vaad does, but rather in an effort to attain clarity in regards to a matter that we pray will merit a speedy, positive resolution. We pray for the peace of our community.

Nu Rabbis? These seem like very fair questions. Are you going to anser them in public or continue to sent out rumors through your “house newspapers”? If Gourment Glatt is really guilty of something say something open and in public. Anything less would be just Loshen Hora.

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