Friday, October 28, 2011

Seudah Shlishit - following Maariv...

Seudah Shlishit (presumably that is what was meant by "Sevdah" ) after - a very early - Maariv?

Funny mob those Elwoodians...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Asher Yatzar" or "Mazal Tov"?

"...the music department wished 'a very big and hearty mazal tov' to all those involved..."

AJNWatch suggests that at the conclusion of "Urinetown", the bracha of "Asher Yatzar" may have been more appropriate...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blake Street's inappropriate idea

"Melbourne Rabbi" writes:

I am extremely disappointed to learn that Blake Street Shul, which labels itself as Orthodox, is co-sponsoring a book festival where the majority of featured speakers are married out. Whilst I am not condemning those persons for their assimilated lifestyle - no doubt influenced by their upbringing which lacked authentic Jewish values and traditions - there is absolutely no justification for an orthodox Shul to feature such speakers.

Why didn't the rabbi and lay leaders of Blake Street consider the influence such well-known - but totally detached from Judaism - personalities may have on young and impressionable members of their community? Aren't they being totally irresponsible and reckless in supporting this project?

There is still time to withdraw and remove their Shul's name from this blunder. For the sake of your kids, Blake Street, do it!

Monday, October 17, 2011

More on Kosher tuna - the OK standard

An AJNWATCH reader writes:
While I understand the need for the KCA and Kosher Aust to publicise easily available brands of acceptable tunas, for those who seek a higher standard in Kashrut, it may be advantageous if you published the attached article from the OK Kashrut magazine "Kosher Spirit", which gives some background to the tuna Kashrut debate amongst supervising organisations. The article makes it quite obvious that the OK has more stringent requirements in approving tuna than does the OU or Kosher Australia. (I have no idea what standards are held by the NSW KA.)

Thank you for being מזכה את הרבים.
Once, tuna fishing thrived on the Pacific coast of the United States. Pioneered by adventurers straight out of the novels of Herman Melville and "Papa" Hemingway, it blossomed into a major industry, employing thousands and filling countless American lunchboxes.

Then came the dolphins.

Tuna and dolphins, it seems, travel together-the dolphins on the water's surface and the tuna below. Inevitably, the nets used for tuna caught dolphins, as well. Could we allow Flipper such a painful demise? Soon, most tuna production had shifted to the Asian Pacific, and the American tuna industry was no more. Whatever the environmental and quality standards, the world's tuna production was now in the hands of fishing industrialists in Thailand and the Philippines.

Enter the Rabbis.

In Vayikra (Leviticus) 11:9, the Torah says: "This may you eat of all that is in the waters: everything that has fins and scales." The Talmud (Chulin 66b) states that, in fact, every fish with scales has fins, making scales the sole determining sign. But what exactly are kosher fish scales? After all, some reptiles also have scales.

Biologists identify four types of scales, two of which, cycloid and ctenoid, are found on kosher fish, such as tuna.

In the pre-industrial world, fish fresh from the monger were not skinned, and their species could be identified. Even absent the actual signs, as with an immature fish of a type that grows scales late in life, the fish's kosher status would depend on its species. Only fish with the skin removed, and arriving with no clear sign of their species, demanded special measures such as constant supervision or an untouched seal with two separate Hebrew signs, indicating that it had been sent by a person trustworthy in Jewish law.

The Debate:

In 1962, prominent authority Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin wrote that without supervision from the beginning of production, consumers could not trust a can's assertion that it contained tuna. However, many tuna brands were already certified kosher without such supervision.

In place of constant supervision, the best-known supervising agency arranged intermittent visits to factories abroad to check that production was according to kosher standards. As is the case with other areas of kosher supervision, it was assumed that fear of the supervisor's appearance at any moment would motivate management and workers to prevent non-kosher fish from entering the production line. Despite these less-than-ideal conditions, widespread distribution of the tuna continued.

In the years following, Torah authorities from around the world, both Sefardi and Ashkenazi, in Israel and the Diaspora, joined in demanding constant supervision. In 1977 and 1984, the highly respected Rabbi Moshe Feinstein entered the discussion, outlining the reasons for this exceptional vigilance.

Finding it unfeasible to identify a fish as kosher without overt signs, Rabbi Feinstein insisted that a reliable kosher supervisor examine every fish before skinning. The large volume of industrial fishing, he said, makes it certain that non-kosher fish will be present in the nets. Intermittent visits, even if sufficiently frequent and surprising, would not serve their traditional purpose. At the speeds of a mechanized cannery, workers could expect any non-kosher fish to be gone before anyone would notice.

The function of supervision, Rabbi Feinstein wrote, is not to make life difficult for the producer in order to reduce the percentage of non-kosher fish to an acceptably insignificant level. Supervision, he explained, is testimony; it indicates that a reliable witness has seen production and can testify that the contents are kosher.

While certain agencies (including OK Kosher Certification) followed Rabbi Feinstein's guidelines, in most tuna supervision, upgrades were slow in coming.

In 1988, the controversy bubbled over in rabbinic journals. Arguments for and against constant supervision were passionately presented. Most leading rabbinic authorities favored constant supervision. However, invoking the classic talmudic principle that a tradesman will not jeopardize his reputation, Rabbi Tzvi Schacter asserted that since it is in the fisherman's business interest to deliver albacore tuna, for example, to the factory, he would surely allow only albacore to remain among his catch. And in the name of "quality control," the factory would check again before skinning the fish.

Have we reached a stalemate? Perhaps. Yet, by his own admission, Rabbi Schacter's position rests on the assumption that virtually no non-kosher fish slip through quality control. Kosher supervisors tell another story, and undeniable gaffes in the intervening years, such as octopus and clams in tuna cans, cast doubt on his premise. Much more problematic (as the Talmud cautions and ichthyologists corroborate), appearance and taste do not always reveal the identity of a fish fillet. Without our eyes wide open, we cannot know what we have received.

The market may take care of itself, but does it take care of kashrut? How deep is a producer's commitment to quality control? I once heard the following anecdote: A supervisor arrived late to a Philippine factory for a kosher production run. Discarding the fish processed prior to the supervisor's arrival, the plant manager remarked: "Really, rabbi...would it be so terrible if someone ate a bit of catfish?"

Kosher Australia 'delivers' the Kosher tuna list

Another message from Sydney reader JW:

Well, well, well. My previous post here has achieved a quick result. The KCA has now forwarded the entire list of approved tunas which was previously banned from further publication by Melbourne's Kosher Australia. Actually it seems from the time and date that their reaction was almost immediate! Good work.

Looks like a bit of public kvetching still works.

Thank you AJN Watch for you assistance by publishing my earlier complaint.

From: On Behalf Of Yankel Wajsbort
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 9:43 AM
Subject: [KCA Sydney] Full List of Recently Certified Tunas
The following varieties of Coles brand canned tuna, marked ‘Made in/Product of Thailand’ are kosher certified pareve by the Orthodox Union and are acceptable even without the OU symbol:
1.     Smart Buy Tuna Chunks in Brine 425g
2.     Smart Buy Tuna Vegetable Oil 425g
3.     Smart Buy Tuna in Vegetable Oil 185g
4.     Smart Buy Tuna Chunk in Brine 185g
5.     Coles Tuna Sandwich Olive Oil Blend 95g
6.     Coles Tuna Sandwich in Brine 95g
7.     Coles Tuna Chunks in Springwater 185g
8.     Coles Tuna Sandwich in Brine 185g
9.     Coles Tuna Chunks in Brine 185g
10.   Coles Tuna Chunks in Olive Oil Blend 95g
11.   Coles Tuna Sandwich in Olive Oil 185g
12.   Coles Tuna Chunks Olive Oil Blend 185g
13.   Coles Tuna Chunks in Brine 95g
14.   Coles Tuna Chunks in Oil 95g
15.   Coles Tuna in Springwater 95g
16.   Coles Tuna Chunks in Brine 425g
17.   Coles Tuna Chunks in Olive Oil Blend 425g
18.   Coles Tuna Chunks in Springwater 425g
19.   Coles Tuna Pole & Line Chunks in Olive Oil 185g
20.   Coles Tuna Pole & Line Chunk in Brine 185g
21.   Coles Tuna Pole & Line in Springwater 185g

The following varieties of canned John West tuna are Kosher certified pareve when marked ‘product of Thailand’ (Kosher Australia supervision)
1.    John West No Drain Tuna in Brine 130g
2.   John West No Drain Tuna in Olive Oil 130g
3.   John West No Drain Tuna in Springwater 130g
4.  John West Tuna 185g in Olive Oil Blend (Chunk Style Tuna)
5.   John West Tuna Chunks in Brine 425g
6.   John West Tuna Chunks in Olive Oil 425g
7.   John West Tuna Chunks in Springwater 425g
8.   John West Tuna in Springwater 185g (Chunk Style Tuna)
9.   John West Tuna Slices in Olive Oil 125g
10. John West Tuna Slices in Springwater 125g
11.  John West Tuna Tempter Multipack Olive Oil Blend Flavour 4 x 95g
12.  John West Tuna Tempter Multipack Springwater 4 x 95g
13.  John West Tuna Tempter Olive Oil (Chunk Style Tuna) 95g
14.  John West Tuna Tempter Springwater (Chunk Style Tuna) 95g
15.  John West Tuna Tempter Springwater Light Sandwich Style (Flake Style Tuna) 95g 
Yankel Wajsbort
General Manager, Kosher Australia Pty Ltd

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kosher Australia small-mindedness?

Received from Sydney reader JW:

I am a longstanding subscriber of the Sydney Kashrut group KCA who really do an excellent job in advising and assisting Kosher consumers here.

Today I received the following email from them:

From: On Behalf Of KCA_Committee
Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 11:39 PM
Subject: [KCA Sydney] Coles brand canned tunas

Twenty-one varieties of Coles brand canned tuna marked "Made in/Product of Thailand" are kosher certified pareve by the Orthodox Union.  They are acceptable even without the OU symbol.

The list includes four Smart Buy Tunas (in brine and in vegetable oil) and seventeen Coles Tuna cans (in olive oil, brine, springwater, sandwich style, and pole & line chunks).

Kosher Australia (Melbourne) issued the full list to its subscribers prior to Rosh Hashanah.  It is important to note that only those varieties actually listed both by name and can size are acceptable.

Kosher Australia also recently issued a list of fifteen John West Tunas which are kosher certified pareve when marked "Product of Thailand".

For information on these products contact Kosher Australia Pty Ltd, email; tel 03-8317 2500.

Note that the list of products certified by Kosher Australia may not be reproduced without permission. (Highlighted by JW)

KCA Committee

That last line really bothers me.

If the aim of Kosher Australia is to promote and grow Kashrut in Australia, shouldn't they rather be encouraging the reproduction of their advices - new approved items and warnings regarding non-Kosher products?

Could this be an attempt by Kosher Australia to force people to subscribe to their Kashrut Directory? Very possible. But why should those of us who live in NSW and receive to the NSWKA directory cough up another $50? (And did Kosher Australia pay OU for giving them the information?)

I also wonder, if there is  another Kashrut organisation anywhere that bans publication of its information? As I see it, the most respected ones, eg, OU, OK London BD, CRC, all publicise their findings on the net - for all to see and benefit. And so too does our own Kashrut Authority. In my humble opinion, if Kosher Aust wish to be taken seriously they must work on their image to show that they are not 'moneyhungry'. 

I was attracted to Kashrut many years ago when some Chabadniks approached me and explained that they were following the demand by their Rebbe to educate Jews about Kashrut. No doubt many other "non-Kosher" Jews were also influenced by this campaign. Thus I am doubly upset when learning that all the main players in the Melbourne Kosher scene are Chabadniks. Maybe someone should pass on their Rebbe's message to them too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jewish News calendar - only 3 years out!

(Unsurprisingly,) last week's AJN messed up big time in both editions.

The people who brought you "Tzetz Chaim" inform us - via their "Jewish Festivals" calendar insert - that the new Hebrew year was תשס''ט - only 3 years out.

As any child attending a Jewish school could've told them, the correct year is actually תשע''ב.

"Jewish" News indeed!