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Mrs. Margie Pensak

Only two shuls stand in Lviv, Ukraine today. The home to approximately 6,000 Jews once bustled with 98,000, before the Second World War. Miraculously, the observance of kashrus and other mitzvos have undergone a recent revival; the collapse of the Soviet Union no longer forces Torah observance underground. Considering that just ten years ago, there were virtually no kosher products being produced in the Ukraine, Star-K’s annual Kashrus Seminar had an even greater zechus of hosting Rabbi Mordechai Bald of Lviv.

Although Rabbi Bald traveled the farthest to Baltimore’s Star-K offices to attend the intensive seminar, held July 25 through July 29, several other attendees came from afar to join local Marylanders, as well. They came from California, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia, New York, Ohio, Georgia, and Ontario, to participate in a very unique interactive, hands-on seminar.

They were rabbonim who wanted to become more proficient in kashrus so they could answer their congregants’ shailos; kashrus administrators who wanted to expand their knowledge of the kosher industry and its implementation; and, aspiring smicha students who are considering careers in rabbonus, kiruv, and kashrus. Their vested interests in attending this program varied: to better qualify them to provide hashgacha to restaurants in their small hometowns; to spearhead a local vaad in their evolving frum communities; and, l’shma - to see the practical application of the halachos they had learned to give them a firmer grasp of the concepts.

The concepts were actualized when the eclectic participants had the opportunity to go behind the scenes of a first class luxury hotel’s kosher kitchen, in downtown Baltimore; in taking tours of a local slaughterhouse, flavor factory, confectionary, bakery, and butcher shop; and, in checking for less obvious thrips and aphids hiding in vegetables.

Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, Star-K Kashrus Administrator, and co-ordinator of the seminar, attributes the success of his program to a mutual zerizos. “The eagerness of the attendees to learn about kashrus was matched by the willingness of the Rabbis to give of their time and expertise. This is why the program is so successful.”

Rabbi Bald, a veteran kashrus seminar attendee, couldn’t agree more. As he so aptly summed up his first Star-K seminar experience, “I have been to many kashrus seminars in the last twelve years, in Yerushalayim, London, Paris, Madrid, Moscow, Rome, etc.,” noted the Lviv resident. “This seminar was far better, informative, hands on, and practical than all of the other theoretical seminars I have attended. Thank you Star-K, Rabbi Heinemann, and Rabbi Goldberg, for your precious expertise, time, and effort that you so devotingly gave us---a whole new world to take home 10,000 km away. You have an incredible impact on me with your warmth and devotion.”

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