Now it seems this is about to change. Some argue that competition is always good for the community, but is it really good in this case?
At the outset, so that there is no misunderstanding, nothing that is about to be said is intended to reflect badly on any of the principal kashrut organizations in Melbourne. The KA holds each of them in high regard and works closely with them. We have always maintained that it is the duty of every local consumer to fully follow the halachic rulings and take guidance from their own local Rabbinate – and we will support that local rabbinate in full. However, at the same time, it is our duty to expose the truth in relation to what is taking place in our community, for the benefit of our community.
Why does this organisation say it wants a new kashrut agency here in Sydney? Not because it favours competition. Not because there is a problem with KA prices. Instead it has stated clearly that our standards are not up to par, and in particular Sydney chickens are not kosher enough for them. They don’t consider our food to be kosher. To be clear; this is not about using Melbourne caterers and providing a competitive service to the community. The very same caterer that is being used by them now has catered previously in Sydney, with chickens produced under the supervision of the KA.
This time there was more to it. This time there was the insistence that the caterer must use Melbourne chickens (under Melbourne Adass.) They contend that some of the guests simply would refuse to eat the Sydney chickens. Given that the KA cannot supervise a function unless the meat or poultry is under its supervision, as is the normative rabbinic practice; this new group has jumped in to “fill” the “desperate” need that it has itself manufactured.
Let us examine the contention that our chickens are not kosher or not kosher enough.
This year a very respected Rabbi from the United States, Rabbi Rotenberg , who works with the Nibator Rav - the supervisor of shechita for the Hisachdus HoRabbonim of Rabbonim of America (Satmar Shechita)- was brought from the US to inspect the shechita in Melbourne. His findings are not a secret and indeed are quite well known. He reported among other things:
Shechita and especially the checking of the knives (chalef) are difficult tasks, and the shochet must be at ease and not pressured. As such, guidelines have developed overseas as to maximum rates of shechita. The OU shechts at a maximum of 750 birds an hour per shochet, some require as low as 600 birds an hour. In Melbourne the Rabbi found the amount being shechted was 1000 per hour!
Furthermore in general, no pressure should be placed on the shochet to work faster than he feels he can. Rabbi Rotenberg had heard that this pressure unfortunately sometimes takes place in Melbourne.
In contrast, in Sydney, the rate of Shechita is at most 450 birds an hour. Furthermore, in order to reduce the chance of mishap and pressure on the Shochtim, links have been removed from the chain, so that chickens cannot be hung, to ensure forced regular breaks for the shochet.
Rabbi Rotenberg found that chickens in Melbourne are soaked before kashering at a temperature of 4C. Rabbi Rotenberg said that this is not the standard (lechatchila) and chickens processed this way were only acceptable after the fact (b’dieved). He said they must develop a system “similar to the system in Sydney”(!!).
In Sydney, from 1999, when the introduction of chilled water was first canvassed, our Rabbinic Administrator, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, negotiated with the authorities and they agreed that as mandated in Shulchan Aruch the initial pre-soak would not be chilled. This has remained the standard in Sydney with full co-operation between the chicken manufacturer, The Kashrut Authority and the government. (Soaking in chilled water prior to salting prevents the free flow of blood from the meat during the salting).
Unfortunately in Melbourne this was missed and chilled water was introduced and this is still to be corrected.
Yet we are told by this new group that they cannot eat the Sydney chickens because the standards in Melbourne are so much higher. So let us look further.
Could it be the salting?
Rabbi Feigelstock , a highly regarded and leading posek from South America, who assists us with our Eruv, who is a shochet himself, and has been involved with shechita around the world, inspected our shechita. As well as praising our Shochtim, he said that our salting is of the highest standard and is as good as anywhere in the world.
Is it perhaps the Shochtim? Everyone knows that Halacha says a shochet must be even more G-d fearing than a rabbi. Perhaps our shochtim are not good enough for these people?
The entire community knows rabbis Perlow and Niasoff. They are both G-d fearing men, loved and respected by their communities. Equally so, our stand-in shochet for fowl, Rabbi Groner. On numerous occasions their “chalafim” have been shown to visiting Rabbis who have praised their talents. At no stage have the local detractors asked to see the chalaf of these shochtim or to view the shechita or even the salting – yet our shechita has been condemned. How insulting that visiting rabbis have recently come from overseas and have told us that they were warned by local individuals that they should not eat our meat because our shochet is not good enough!
So are Melbourne chickens from a kashrut perspective better than Sydney chickens?
Clearly not. Independent review declares Melbourne chickens to be only “b’dieved” - not the way things should be. Consequently, to import Melbourne chickens to Sydney is to import a demonstrably lower standard. How then does one have the audacity to foment disunity in this city based on the falsehood that our standard is inferior?
The answer is that communities become driven by pseudo-elitism. They claim to be holy, and convince themselves and others of the justice of their cause. Factions and new players strive to make a mark by adding credence to their own religiosity through disparaging others. As the Torah teaches us, they are not doing the will of the Creator. By Divine Providence clear lessons can be drawn from the parshiot of the coming weeks , Bha’alotcha , Shlach and Korach. Our sages show that all the tragedy, disunity and rebellion throughout these parshiot comes from one single primary source – the motsi shem ra and lashon hara of just a few individuals The “evil tongue” so despised in Jewish law – defamation and tale bearing which is forbidden even if the words are true, how much more so when they are not true. This talk of inferior standards is simply lashon hara and motsi shem ra masquerading as piety.
Elitism thrives on disunity, because unity implies mutual respect and tolerance – disunity is fertile ground for one to say I am superior to another. It appeals to the ego and to the religious sensibility of those who are invariably misled into following it. These followers are sincerely in search of what they believe is true Torah, and sadly, they are indeed misled into believing, that theirs is the way to come closer to the Creator. Their teachers have forgotten what our sages have taught, that we are in exile not because of the laws of kosher or the laws between man and G-d, but because of our failures in the laws between man and man!
The False Claim of Personal Higher Standards
The Shulchan Aruch (OC Siman 468 and elsewhere) rules that in interpersonal relations, one must even forego a personal stringency or custom rather than create division, or embarrass one’s fellow. The hypocrisy of these people pretending elevated piety is that they overlook or violate fundamental tenets of the very code they claim to uphold.
Competition may be good when it is based on truth and Torah principles, but not when based on lies and manufactured, unsubstantiated accusations of inferiority. If anyone wants to start a kashrut organization to make themselves some money, or they are under the illusion that it will make kashrut cheaper for us all, then let them do it and say so. If they want to open because it makes them feel empowered or worthwhile – gezunterheit , but say so. Please do not propagate the abhorrent falsehood that it is about standards of kashrut or superior levels of religiosity.
We recognize that no kashrut organization is perfect, and no human being is perfect, and where problems are identified we seek to correct them in a professional and transparent manner. We have been asked and we will assist the Melbourne authorities to overcome the cold water regulations issue. However what meets their local reality, including the necessary respected ruling of their Rabbinate, is for their community and cannot be marketed here as superior when it is demonstrably not.
In the meantime, the vast majority of our local Rabbinate, and the vast majority of our local kosher consumers, supports the ideal of communal unity that has developed under our model of one agreed high standard of kashrut, under the joint regulation of those with real experience and expertise in the field. They do not want to go back to the days of disunity and confusion over differing kashrut organizations. We can only hope that those others involved in this new organization, will quickly see the light before irreparable damage is done to kashrut in our city.
The Kashrut Authority
Mr Baron Revelman – President
Rabbi Moshe D Gutnick – Rabbinic Administrator
Rabbi P Feldman - Committee
Rabbi J Lawrence_- Committee
Rabbi D Rogut- Committee
Rabbi Y Ulman- Committee
Rabbi A Perlow – Shochet
Rabbi Y Niasoff – Shochet
Rabbi A Groner – Assistant Rabbinic Administrator
Rev A Amzalek – Senior Supervisor
Rev S Samra – Senior Supervisor
AJN Watch is no authority in Shechita and obviously cannot comment on procedural or halachic concerns. But this lengthy screed seems to indicate that the NSW KA is quite anxious about the likelihood of another Kashrut power in their region.
Issuing this statement is also a dicey move for KA as no doubt the 3 Melbourne Shechita authorities will respond vigorously.
Instead of, or in addition to, ORA lobbying the government on labeling matters, maybe they ought to emphasize to their membership on the hazards of bagging each other.
This notice by KA, by the way, proves the concern by many on granting powers of certifying Kashrut authorities to an organization like ORA where many members would have conflict of interest.
And talking of ORA lobbying, how on earth did they overlook the looming ban on Shechita in New Zealand? The question is especially pertinent to Rabbi Moshe Gutnick who states that he has been sending shochtim there for years. Let's hope ORA direct some of their energy towards ensuring that this disgraceful ban is overturned.
New Zealand bans shechita
By Dan Goldberg · May 28, 2010
SYDNEY (JTA) – New Zealand has banned shechita, the kosher slaughter of animals.
The country’s new animal welfare code, which took effect Friday, mandates that all animals for commercial consumption be stunned prior to slaughter to ensure they are treated “humanely and in accordance with good practice and scientific knowledge.”
The regulation has shocked the Jewish community.
“This decision by the New Zealand government, one which has a Jewish prime minister, is outrageous,” said Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, acting president of the Organization of Rabbis of Australasia. “We will be doing everything possible to get this decision reversed.”
Gutnick, who travels frequently to New Zealand to oversee shechita, added, “One of the last countries I would have expected to bring in this blatantly discriminatory action would have been New Zealand.”
David Zwartz, the chairman of the Wellington Jewish Council, agreed. “I am sure there will objections made that this action is an infringement of the right of Jews to observe their religion,” he said.
Agriculture Minister David Carter rejected a recommendation that shechita be exempt from the new code.
The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee did recommend a dispensation for kosher slaughter in 2001, but the new code does not allow any exemptions.