Friday, October 30, 2009

Vox Pop suggestion for the AJN

We are again mightily impressed with the Jewish News' concerns for Kashrut. And that is why we make the suggestion that for a future Vox Pop they ask members of the community about their views regarding the nation's "Jewish" newspaper advertising and publicising Treif establishments and products.

How about it?

Rabbis "respectfully" request Kosher functions

Looks like the letters of Mr David Ainsworth and Rabbi Chaim Ingram (published here on AJN Watch) have Baruch Hashem awakened Australia's rabbinical establishment from their slumber. And not a moment too early. Better late than never…

But we are not convinced that “appealing respectfully” to local Jewish organizations to make their affairs “kosher-only” will do the job. Rabbis, rabbinical organizations, orthodox shuls and of course our Kashrut organizations must become far more outspoken and forceful by taking a hard line against any group that hosts treif functions. This is the only way that they will achieve the aim.

There is absolutely no reason for any organization not to use the services of one of the many excellent and reputable Kosher caterers that we have. They offer high-class food and prices that are close enough to what is charged by treif food vendors. (Not that price should in any way be the deciding factor.)

Another very important sector whose voice should be raised in protests are the wealthy frum Jews of our communities. There are dozens of such families in Melbourne and Sydney and they have a duty to use their influence (and money) for this holy endeavor. They are regularly invited to attend communal functions where, if they are lucky, the organizers are “kind enough” to supply them with “special Kosher meals” - as if they were airline passengers.

These financially fortunate people should clearly assert themselves and take a firm hard line by notifying all organizations that they will refuse to attend any event where treif food is served.

So over to you our “ashirim”. Hashem has been good to you. Now it’s pay-back time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

More on the treife Gala Luncheon arranged by the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange

AJN Watch has been forwarded a letter sent by Rabbi Chaim Ingram, the Honorary Secretary of the Rabbinical Council of NSW to all members of that organization.
Rabbi Ingram is again to be applauded for his uncompromising approach and dedication to Torah values. Halevai, we had more such outspoken and fearless rabbanim.

Dear Chaverim,

Many of you may have received an invitation for an Gala Luncheon under the auspices of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange Ltd which is taking place at The Westin in Martin Place, Sydney on Thurs 3rd Dec.

Having already been tipped off that treife food was to be served at this event, I rang the RSVP number and spoke to someone by the name of Sarah (not Jewish). Feigning ignorance, I inquired whether the event was kosher. Her response was "no but we can see what we can do about arranging kosher food for you". I said that will not be necessary as I could not in all conscience attend a function such as this where non-kosher food was being served and consumed. Her response, interestingly, was to say "we have had a couple of similar responses along those lines (good!) and, having now received yours, I will ask Melinda (the RSVP addressee) to contact the organisers to register these comments.

May I respectfully urge all chaverim who have received an invitation to this event to respond, preferably by phoning the RSVP number 9389-8988, on similar lines. Even if you have not received an invitation, you may be moved to ring that number and object that a (nominally at least) Jewish organisation is holding a public treife function. Maybe the organisers will start to get the message.

BeVirkat Kol Tuv

Kol Tuv
Rabbi Chaim Ingram
Honorary Secretary

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thank you to letter-writers

Orthodox communal identity Mr David Ainsworth is well known in Sydney for his unbending dedication and fealty to Torah and Mitzvot. He is also known as a person who does not to meekly bend to or tolerate violations of Halacha. He shows this by fearlessly protesting and objecting to communal infringements of Halacha. AJN Watch has been sent a reply he recent addressed to Albert Dadon's invitation to a gala luncheon for the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum where treif food is on the menu.
If more members of the community, especially rabbis and lay-leaders, would emulate Mr Ainsworth’s uncompromising attitude, the standards of Yiddishkeit in this country would increase dramatically.

And here is a letter to the AJN editor, which reiterates our long-standing criticism of the AJN’s resident page-2 smut-peddler Adrian Kamien.

Maybe its time for more Rebbetzen’s should join the campaign to cleanse that newspaper of its filth.)

And another published letter reflecting our recent comments re AJN’s hypocritical Kashrut concerns.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Talking about Kashrut in Sydney...

Sydney kosher kitchen goes halal
October 15, 2009

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A Lubavitch-run kosher community kitchen gained halal certification.
Our Big Kitchen in Sydney, run by the Yeshiva Center, received halal certification Wednesday night in the presence of New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees, who learned to make challah during his visit.
The kitchen has been used to help feed those in need, as well as for emergency service.
“It is fantastic to see people of all faiths working together to further the important charitable work of Our Big Kitchen,” said Rabbi Eli Feldman of Sydney's Young Chabad. “With both kosher and halal certification, Our Big Kitchen can service all segments of the Australian community."
Halal is the Muslim designation for food that is permissible to eat. Sophie Abuta, a Palestinian Australian whose husband donated all the tiles for the kitchen, said she hoped the kitchen would help Jews and Palestinians “cook our way to peace.”Ikebal Patel, the chairman of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, was also in attendance along with Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, the spiritual leader of Chabad in New South Wales, and the heads of the kashrut and halal certification boards.
The kitchen was founded by Brooklyn-born Rabbi Dovid Slavin in 2007 and has been visited by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Governor-General Quentin Bryce and numerous other dignitaries.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Guest Post by Kosherman: A Concise History of Kashrut in Post-War Australia

The following post was submitted by "Kosherman" as a l-o-n-g comment to our post Australian Kosher News or Australian Treif News?

"Kosherman" seems to have more than average knowledge about the workings and recent history of Kashrut in Melbourne and Sydney. He has taken the time to give us so many interesting and unknown facts on this important topic that we feel it deserves a post of its own. Therefore we asked and received his permission to publish it as a Guest Post. (With the approval of the author, we have edited and made a few changes to parts of this post for clarity etc.)

We shall be more than happy to receive further information and comments from readers who have familiarity with the subject matter.

To introduce myself, I am a lifelong Kosher consumer who has resided in both Melbourne and Sydney and have for personal, communal and business reasons ‘stuck my nose’ into Kashrut matters.

My aim, one of these days, is to establish a blog specialising in all aspects of Kashrut in Australia. There is much to be recorded, believe me.

Often discussed is the cost of Kosher products, including meat and poultry, and why these are so much higher in Sydney than in Melbourne. It is no secret that caterers in Sydney pay more for supervision charges than those in Melbourne. While I can accept that certain Sydney Simcha Kashrut standards may be somewhat more stringent than Melbourne, the difference in charges seems extreme.

The KA website states:
Function Charges

Functions up to $19.99 catering charge per guest - KA charge $1.20 per guest
Functions from $20.00 to $69.99 catering charge per guest - KA charge $4.27 per guest
Functions $70.00 and over catering charge per guest - KA charge $6.60 per guest
Kiddush - KA charge $180.20 flat fee

(I understand that there is also be an additional fee to pay for the Mashgiach/Shomer.) The above indicates that having catered Simcha in Sydney could cost an extra 10% for supervision.

In Melbourne as far as I can ascertain the fees are substantially lower. However for some reason Melbourne’s Kashrut authorities are not as open as the NSW KA and do not publicly state there charges. (If anyone knows, I would like to hear what these charges are.)

The reason why Melbourne’s fees are lower is obvious. Melbourne has more than the one single Kashrut authority. Competition is GREAT for us consumers. Does anyone doubt that if Kosher Australia or Adass didn’t have concerns about each other (and to some extent, Rabbi Meir Rabi’s “Kosher veYosher”), they too would consider higher charges?

The same goes for meat. Because Melbourne has 3 Kosher meat suppliers/hashgachot, the consumer benefits - by each one keeping the others honest. Interestingly,I hear that dozens of Sydney families purchase their meat from Unfanger in Melbourne. Why? Obviously his quality is excellent, but how much better than the Sydney butchers? The reason obviously has to do with price. For a large family, a few dollars per kilo adds up quite quickly and can make a huge difference in the budget.

Thus, the answer to the AJN’s recent Vox Pop question on whether we should have a single Kashrut authority in Australia must be a thunderous NO!. In fact consumers would be better off if there was even more Kashrut “competition” in all cities.

But to give credit where it is due, the NSW KA publishes a Directory which I recall is very reasonably priced ($10 or $20). But even better, their entire directory is available on-line – free of charge. That is definitely a great boost for Kosher consumers on tight budgets. It also comes handy when people travel on holidays and forget to bring along the directory. Just hop on-line and get all the info you need. A valuable resource which we should all save in our Bookmarks.,com_kosherdb/Itemid,60

Melbourne’s Kosher Australia, who charge $55 for their directory (the most expensive such booklet on the planet?) could learn from their Sydney colleagues.
(See: Renewal Blank 2009 Form.doc )

Here’s a potted (post-WW2) Kashrut history for the younger people reading this blog. Most of us oldies will have heard a lot of this.

Sydney originally had a Beth-Din-operated Shechita. (The BD also approved a few other products. Anyone remember McWilliam Wines?) A few additional items were produced under their label for Pesach use. This changed with the arrival of the “frum” Hungarians, ie, Sydney’s Adass community whose first rabbi, Rav Bernath, had been a Shochet in Budapest. They established an independent Shechita which I have been told even “exported” meat to discerning customers in Melbourne. (This was prior to the Melbourne Adass shechita being established.) Following the Adass/Yeshiva split, the Yeshiva too established a shechita, which went on for a number of years until, as I recall, both realised the stupidity of the double expenditure, and they joined forces, but still ‘competing’ with the Beth Din. Eventually it all became one and the Kashrut Authority came into being. These days, as we know, they are the only game in town.

Here's a differing POV - from the NSW KA website:

Why is there only one certification body in NSW?

Prior to the establishment of the KA (in 1990) there were numerous certification bodies in NSW. This was the cause of much angst and divisiveness within the community. People accepted only particular hechsherim, and so were unable to eat at each other’s tables and functions. The community together with the Rabbonim decided it was preferable to have a united body with a universally acceptable standard

In Melbourne, meanwhile, they had competing Batei Din/Shechita during and post-war years when Rav Gurevitz of Carlton established what was considered to be a higher Kashrut standard. However that didn’t last too long and the Melbourne Beth Din won the day. In the late 40s Melbourne’s Adass was established and they immediately brought out a shochet, the well-known Rev M S Rosenbaum. For a while they also had the services of Rav Betzalel Wilschansky. Old-timers tell me that most of the community’s “frum” newcomers and even a number of pre-war Carltoners - would only buy meat and poultry from one of the 4 (!!!) Adass supervised butchers and/or 2 poultry suppliers. Interestingly, for many years all were located on High Street (now St Kilda Road) St Kilda!

That was the situation until the 70s, when Chabad established a shop in Carlisle Street. That was followed by Solomons (who had previously sold poultry - under a different name - in Acland Street -supervised by the Melb BD) opening large modern premises in Glen Eira Road under the Mizrachi Kashrut. This shop eventually incorporated the Chabad butcher shop.

Some time later, Continental Butchers in Glenferrie Road which had been under the Melb BD (not a very popular Kashrut seal to most religious families) transfered to Mizrachi supervision. Allegedly this upset the owners of Solomons who promptly dropped the Mizrachi and asked the late Rabbi Groner z’’l to become their supervisor. By this time, Melbourne which used to have many Kosher butchers, was reduced to 3 – each under a different hashgacha. Pretty amazing in itself.

Meanwhile Mizrachi were growing in the Kashrut field and began producing their popular directory while at the same time promoting themselves as the Australia’s foremost authority (which they possibly are, though doubtful if the NSW KA agrees). To be more acceptable to the 'religious' community, as well as overseas Kashrut authorities with whom they liaise, they dropped the “Mizrachi” tag, as in many places this is seen as less than Mehadrin. They became “Melbourne Kosher” and at a later stage “Kosher Australia”. (I have heard speculation that when the name “Kosher Australia” was created, some were hoping to swallow Sydney as well… Of course that never eventuated. But I often wonder who was the Chelmer chacham who slipped up and so unoriginally replicated the NSW authority’s long-established “KA” label. 2 KA’s in our small Kosher consuming society! Definitely a bit strange. I was thinking, how it would be if the Adass Kashrut decided to call themselves “Kosher Adass” and also take on the “KA” initials… And then why not a “Kosher Adelaide” as well?)

Besides the Adass, Mizrachi had no real competitor. That is, until the arrival of Rabbi Mottel Gutnick from Sydney, who had for some time been in charge of that city’s Kashrut Authority gaining experience in the field. In addition to his position as rabbi in Doncaster, Rabbi Gutnick quickly established his own independent, or rather, private, label and was ‘in competition’ with Mizrachi. By that the time the Kashrut division of the Melbourne Beth Din (ie Rabbi M’s uncle, Rabbi Shulem Gutnick) was slowly expiring.

Some time later, Mizrachi, still hoping to become the undisputed authority in Melbourne, made Rabbi Mottel ‘an offer he couldn’t refuse’. (This was despite bad feelings by some – not least of all their rabbi at the time, Rabbi Baruch Zaichyk , who found it difficult to forgive Rabbi Gutnick for his hurried approval of Glick’s bakery after it was thrust aside by Mizrachi. However the Mizrachi leadership calculated that the long term benefit of being in charge of Melbourne’s Kashrut made it worthwhile to forget that affair. Thus Rabbi Gutnick was placed at the helm of Mizrachi’s operation and into the deal delivered his collection of establishments. There was also the matter of Rabbi Yanki Barber of South Caulfield who also had a couple of shops under him. Mizrachi took care of him similarly - offering him a position and thus removing another competitor. It was said at the time that to attract more “Haredim”, Mizrachi hired Kollel Beth Hatalmud’s Rabbi Nachman Sofer - adding his name to their growing and impressive rabbinical inventory.

Meanwhile Rabbi Chaim Gutnick, continued to supervise Ungar catering on behalf of Elwood Shul (which after his passing transferred to Kosher Australia). The late Rabbi Rudzki also approved a number of caterers. (Those seem to have been taken over by Rabbi Meir Rabi.)

Adass Kashrut has also been around for yonks. In the early years it was only butchers and poultry shops, chalav yisrael, oil and a limited number of products. This has over the past couple of decades expanded to caterers, food producers and shops, as well as the checking out of major companies eg Kellogs, Fosters etc on behalf of local consumers and overseas authorities. It is generally accepted by most, that the Adass standard is the highest in Australia and the important overseas Haredi Kashrut groups such as the Edah Haredit in Jerusalem and Kedassia in London work hand-in-hand with their rabbis.

In the past months we have seen Adass drop a number of establishments - for whatever reasons. These were immediately snapped up by Kosher Australia. Thus, unless one insists on Adass kashrut, those establishments are still there for us consumers. Another advantage of multiple Kashrut authorities.

This is all I have time for right now, but I hope to return and offer further facts and thoughts on the continuing evolution of Kashrut in Australia. Please note that the chronology may not be 100% accurate. I welcome comments and especially corrections.

Friday, October 9, 2009

J-Wire or Gay-Wire ?

Is Henry Benjamin following the AJN - becoming obsessed with "gayness". Please Henry, most people don't give a Donald Duck about what this or any other person does in private. (Well, we sure hope that he only does it in private.)

J-Wire: Obama selects Jewish Gay Ambassador to NZOctober 9, 2009 by Henry Benjamin

A Jewish lawyer currently based in Shanghai has been selected by President Obama as the new U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.David Huebner is openly gay and is reported as being the general counsel for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Discrimination. If Huebner’s selection is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will become the third gay ambassador in U.S. history and will mark another notch in Obama’s election promise belt.
AJNWatch comment: Tells us a lot about Obama's priorities. G-d help America.

Head of the New Zealand Jewish Council Stephen Goodman told J-Wire: “If his election is approved we welcome him to New Zealand. Auckland has an openly gay reform rabbi who is American and has a New Zealander as a partner.”
AJNWatch comment: Goodman seems mighty proud of his "openly gay reform rabbi".Looks like he has nothing much else to show off about.
But really, big deal. Australia can top that. Our Reform claim to fame is a halachically-non-Jewish "rabbi" - or more correctly - "rabbiette"/"rabbi-ess".

Some may recall an interview with her some years ago in The Australian, where she proudly proclaimed that her non-Jewish mother never bothered to go through the motions of conversion - not even the super-lite Reform version.
"...I am dealing with being one of the first women rabbis in Sydney,” explains Jacqueline Ninio, 39, associate rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Sydney, Australia; her father is Turkish-Egyptian, her mother is an Australian Jew-by-choice..."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Australian Kosher News or Australian Treif News?

The Australian Jewish News is again sermonising on Kashrut matters. The shameless promoter of Treif establishments and products to the Jewish community depicts itself as a friend and supporter of Kosher consumers. How righteous and frum of them!

Last week issue treated us to no less than a full poster front page, a news report and an editorial. Yes, the very same front page where for a few dollars any non-Kosher food purveyor may ply its wares! (Obviously the AJN couldn’t find a treif establishment prepared to pay last week.)

We doubt that most Jewish News readers ever read the editorials, but those who did were treated to some astonishing hypocrisy and two-facedness.
“The AJN isn’t afraid to discuss the fraught topic of Kashrut!”

Of course not. Rather it is the fraught topic of Jews marketing treif products to fellow Jews that they’re afraid to discuss. Like how they aid and abet in the destruction of the fabric of Judaism for the sake of a few dollars. Come on. Let’s see some fearless dialogue on this matter.

What a nerve. A newspaper that has no qualms with a advertising chazir-treif restaurants, Chametz on Pesach and Chilul Shabbat events, giving us opinions on Kashrut!
Their chutzpah was best described by a prominent Melbourne rabbi when he observed in his Yom Tov sermon: “The Jewish News offering advice on Kashrut matters is akin to the Islamic Weekly counselling our community about the merging of the UIA and the JNF appeals”.

And the claim about the paper’s support for Kosher catering through their Kosher Living, Wedding and Bar Mitzvah supplements!
Really? And all along we mug readers were under the impression that it was simply another money-making enterprise for the AJN – like its car and property supplements or the pages about Glenhuntly and Glenferrie Roads. Silly us. Of course the AJN is out there to support Kosher caterers.

(Still, what’s the betting that given half a chance to make a few bucks, the AJN would just as quickly publish a “Treif supplement”?)

We have plenty more to say about this, but enough for now.