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New for Pesach 2013: STAR-K Certified Quinoa That Needs No Further Checking
by Margie Pensak

After much investigation and research, STAR-K Kosher Certification announces that it will certify quinoa which needs no further checking, for the very first time, for Pesach 5773/2013. The grain-like crop will be available for both wholesale and retail sale, bearing the STAR-K-P logo.

Although quinoa is Kosher L'Pesach (since it is not related to the five types of chometz grains, millet or rice), because there is a possibility that it grows in proximity of chometz grains and processed in facilities that compromise its Kosher for Passover status, it should only be accepted with a reliable Kosher for Passover supervision.

"We have found that quinoa can be grown near barley, plus sometimes the bags used to transport the quinoa have been used previously for other grains," says Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Zvi Goldberg. "Last season, STAR-K went to a set of fields in Bolivia, that do not have barley growing near them, and checked them. We also insisted that they do not rotate their crop and that they use new bags, in addition to employing a mashgiach temidi (constant supervision) at the production to ensure that STAR-K standards were kept."

STAR-K 's Rabbinic Administrator, HaRav Moshe Heinemann, holds that quinoa is not kitniyos, based on  Igros Moshe OC 3:63. STAR-K Kashrus Administrator and Kashrus Kurrents editor, Rabbi Tzvi Rosen, further adds, "Quinoa was determined to be Kosher L'Pesach. Quinoa is a member of the "goose foot" family, which includes sugar beets and beet root. The Star-K tested quinoa to see if it would rise. The result was as Chazal termed, sirchon; the quinoa decayed -- it did not rise."

Quinoa was first brought to the United States from Chile nineteen years ago, and has been cultivated in the Andes Mountains for thousands of years. It grows three to six feet tall despite high altitudes, intense heat, freezing temperatures, and as little as four inches of annual rainfall. Peru and Bolivia maintain seed banks with 1,800 types of quinoa.

For specific information on sources for STAR-K-P quinoa, click here.

Star-K Certified Passover Quinoa 2013 click here.



How to Keep This Shabbos in Samoa? STAR-K Tells Us How (Samoa & Tokelau To Cross International Date Line)
by Margie Pensak

If you were thinking of spending this Shabbos in Samoa, you might want to think twice. Tonight, at the stroke of midnight, the tiny South Pacific nation, and its neighbor Tokelau, will skip over Friday and leap to Saturday, December 31, as it crosses westward over the International Dateline.

The International Dateline is drawn by mapmakers and not mandated by any international body. It is a country’s prerogative to choose where it lies. Samoa has been on the eastern side of the International Dateline for 119 years, the same side as Hawaii and currently five hours behind New York. By re-drawing the line, and changing to the western side, it will make it easier for the nation to do business with their increasingly important trading neighbors, New Zealand and Australia, for it will be on the same side as these countries, and put it 19 hours ahead of New York. To facilitate this change, Samoa and Tokelau are skipping Friday, December 30th. Two minutes after 11:59 pm Thursday, December 29, 2011 will be Saturday, December 31st, 12:01 a.m. [This all happens at 5:00am EST Friday morning].

How would a Jew keep Shabbos in such a location, which all of a sudden goes from Thursday night to Saturday morning? STAR-K Kashrus Administrator, Rabbi Dovid Heber, received this shaala twice today:

“You may have heard that the island of Samoa is changing from the east of the Dateline to the west, in order to be in sync with Australia and New Zealand. They will go from Thursday to Saturday. When will Erev Shabbos be? When will Shabbos be? Will Shabbos now be observed on a different day of the week?”

According to Rabbi Heber, “According to almost all opinions, the Halachic Dateline is not determined by what the locals call “Saturday” and therefore, the fact that Samoa changes the Dateline does not change when we keep Shabbos.

“How to keep Shabbos in Samoa is a question every Shabbos, as there are differing opinions as to Halachically where the International Dateline is,” continues Rabbi Heber. “According to the Chazon Ish, the International Dateline runs along the East Coast of much of Asia and Australia and longitude of about 125°E when at sea. This makes Samoa east of the International Dateline. Until now, when the locals say it is Friday, the Chazon Ish would also say it is Friday, and Saturday is Shabbos. Rav Yechial Michal Tuchatzinsky disagrees and says the Dateline is on the opposite side of the globe from Yerushalayim (the longitude is about 145°W). This makes Samoa west of this Dateline. So, until now when the locals say it is Friday, it is really Shabbos. There are other opinions, as well – for a full explanation see here. L’halacha, in Samoa it is safek Shabbos (questionable) every week and one certainly should not do melocho (work) on either day. Shabbos would begin every Thursday night at sunset and end when it gets dark on Saturday night- or 49 hours of Shabbos.”

Rabbi Heber further explains, “As of next Shabbos (January 7, 2012) after the switch, one would begin Shabbos from sunset Friday until it gets dark on Sunday. That is because with the new Dateline, according to Rav Yechial Michal Tuchatzinsky, the locals are now keeping the correct Shabbos as the International Dateline is now east of Samoa. So, Friday is Friday and Saturday is Shabbos. However, according to the Chazon Ish, when locals say it is Sunday, it is really Shabbos since he holds the Halachic Dateline is still west of Samoa.”

So, what is the bottom line when it comes to keeping this Shabbos in Samoa?

Rabbi Heber advises, “This Shabbos, with the Dateline change, one would not perform melocho in Samoa for the 49 hours beginning at sunset on Thursday, December 29 and ending when it gets dark on Sunday, January 1st!”

In general, says Rabbi Heber, given these doubts, the areas where there is “safek Shabbos” should be avoided. One should consult with a halachic authority before traveling to Japan, New Zealand, Hawaii, and other areas in the Pacific for a weekend.

“The problem is further compounded with the question of whether one wears Tefilin and when one davens Tefillos Shabbos and makes Kiddush,” notes Rabbi Heber. “This would depend on whether one went with the opinion of the Chazon Ish or Rav Yechial Michal Tuchatzinsky. There is much to add beyond the scope of this discussion; the main point is that according to almost all opinions, the Halachic Dateline is not determined by what the locals refer to as “Saturday”, and therefore, the fact Samoa changes the Dateline does not change when Jews keep Shabbos.”

Rabbi Heber concluded by saying that the minority opinion of Rabbi Menachem Kasher was that one follows the local population. Although we do not hold like this opinion it is interesting to ponder what Rav Kasher would advise a Jew who is spending this Shabbos in Samoa, where this Friday night does not exist.

STAR-K Rabbi Commends the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board’s Position on Shechita by Margie Pensak

The American Torah community had a taste of what the European Torah community has been experiencing regarding shechita (ritual slaughter) when organic shechita was jeopardized in September, 2010, a few months prior to the bi-annual meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The Livestock Committee's proposal had challenged the thousands of years old Torah-mandated practice, here in the States.

STAR-K Kosher Certification took it upon itself to be proactive. On November 29, STAR-K Kashrus Administrator, Rabbi Moshe Schuchman, made a presentation which enlightened the attendees of the NOSB meeting, in Savannah, Georgia, about the Torah's humane, painless form of slaughter. The 15-member NOSB is the advisory board of the National Organic Program (NOP) that works under the auspices of the US Department of Agriculture.

"I thanked the board and encouraged them to allow shechita to be considered a humane form of slaughter acceptable for organic standards,” explains Rabbi Schuchman, who says that STAR-K was alerted to the impending problem of the threat to shechita, by prominent Washington attorney, Richard Siegel. "Mr. Siegel guided me for the past 14 months on how to deal with the issue. He used his expertise in this area solely as a service to Klal Yisroel."
In his statement before the board, Rabbi Schuchman quoted Dr. Temple Grandin, the world famous expert on humane slaughter practices, who has long championed the practice of shechita. Interestingly, since the Livestock Committee's proposal was made, Dr. Wendy Fulwider has taken over as chair of the Livestock Committee. Dr. Fulwider studied under, and has great admiration for, Dr. Temple Grandin. She was evidently in a position to bring her professional knowledge to bear on the ritual slaughter issue; because of her background she was able to see beyond rhetoric, which is often emotion based, and recognize the scientific facts.

Rabbi Schuchman also made the board aware of the fact that in addition to certifying food as compliant with kosher standards, STAR-K has been partnering with Quality Assurance International (QAI), for the past 3-1/2 years, to provide organic certification, as well. He explained that although kosher-organic certified meat and poultry suppliers only number a handful, today, the market has potential for dramatic growth, for there is a growing consumer base interested in kosher grass-fed, antibiotic-free meat. In addition, he informed the board that STAR-K supervised slaughterhouses in Baltimore comply with the Committee's recommendation that, during ritual slaughter, animals should be held in a comfortable upright position - which is not a requirement for kosher slaughter. STAR-K encourages this practice wherever kosher slaughter takes place.

"In addition to Mr. Richard Siegel, I would like to thank the Association of Kashrus Organization’s (AKO’s) Executive Director Rabbi Sholem Fishbane and Professor Joe Regenstein, of Cornell University, for the parts they played in keeping STAR-K abreast of ongoing developments affecting the legality of shechita around the world," notes Rabbi Schuchman.

"Rabbi Schuchman did an excellent job before the NOSB, having come well prepared," said Mr. Siegel."One of the NOSB members, Calvin Walker, praised the "good news" that the ritual slaughter community was satisfied with the Livestock Committee’s conclusion that ritual slaughter was compatible with organic standards."

"It was a pleasure to participate in the NOSB meeting and make a contribution to the so-far successful resolution of this issue," concludes Rabbi Schuchman.

STAR-K Meets with Government Officials to Advocate Sabbath Compliant Water Meters by Margie Pensak

As long ago as 2008, STAR-K engineering consultant, Jonah Ottensoser, started following the articles in the news dealing with the installation of radio transmitters on water meters in various cities throughout the U.S. The device, they said, would transmit users’ exact water usage to an automated billing system, several times a day. It would do away with estimated bills, allowing users to pay for only the water they actually use, and provide an early warning notice of potentially expensive leaks before they become a problem. A few weeks ago, when Mr. Ottensoser read an article in the Baltimore Sun describing problems regarding the reading of local water meters and large bills due to estimated reading, he thought to himself: the time is coming soon.

Although the installation of these high-tech water meters was meant to solve problems, for Orthodox Jews living in cities like Baltimore, Lakewood, and New York, they would only create new ones-- whenever the sink would be turned on or the toilet would be flushed, on Shabbos and Yom Tov.

“Water meters may not feature any electronic display that changes as a result of water usage,” notes Mr. Ottensoser. “This requirement applies whether the display is covered or uncovered. However, displays that are blank until activated with a switch are acceptable. Full time Readable displays are limited to dials or numbers on a wheel that are mechanically powered by a water turbine. Information may be stored internally by the device in electronic format provided that water usage does not activate any visible electrically powered indicators."

In an effort to avert these potential problems for the Baltimore Orthodox community, STAR-K requested a meeting with the Baltimore City Department of Public Works, as advised by Mr. Ottensoser. Within hours of contacting 5th District Councilwoman Rikki Spector, a July 28th meeting was arranged at which Mr. Ottensoser and STAR-K president, Dr. Avrom Pollak, could meet with and explain the new water meter problem to Baltimore City Department of Public Works’ director, Alfred H. Foxx.

Councilwoman Spector, herself, attended the hour-long meeting, along with: Rudolph S. Chow, bureau head of Baltimore’s Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Water and Wastewater, Marcia Collins, Baltimore City Department of Public Works’ legislative liaison-office of the director, Gary S. Poretsky, community liaison-office of Councilwoman Rikki Spector, and Betsy Gardner, the Northwest liaison-Mayor’s Office of Neighborhoods.

These are the requirements for usage monitoring in water meters that were explained at this meeting:

  • Meters may not feature an electronic display that is always visible and changes as a result of water usage. Concealing such a display with an obstructing material does not satisfy this requirement.
  • Electronic displays that remain blank until activated with a switch are compliant.
  • Full time readable displays are limited to dials or numbers on a wheel that are mechanically powered by a water turbine.
  • Information may be stored internally in electronic format provided that water usage does not activate any electrically powered indicators.

“I walked out of the meeting with a good feeling,” says Mr. Ottensoser. “Councilwoman Spector helped present our concerns, strongly and clearly supporting them. Everyone understood the problem and showed sincere interest; they committed themselves to working with us to incorporate our requirements. I am optimistic that we can achieve success.

“The next step is to write our requirements to be included in the city RFP when they go out for bids,” continues Mr. Ottensoser. “We have already submitted a draft specification. Commercial meters will probably start to be replaced in the next 1-2 years and in residential settings, in the next 2 – 4 years. We have the advantage of getting on board early, so it should not cost any more to install the meters we need. Retrofit would be expensive.”

Mr. Ottensoser has been in contact with Lakewood Municipal Utilities, to discuss this issue. “Lakewood is in the midst of a 100 unit trial,” says Mr. Ottensoser. “I believe in the next five years every water meter in the country will have this issue. All meters will be changed to remote reading access, which can easily lead to digital displays.

“While I would be naïve to believe that politics does not play a role, I noted no sense of disrespect to our requirements,” notes Mr. Ottensoser. “To the outsider, our concern for digital writing could seem rather strange. No such comments were made or implied.”

In fact, the day after the meeting, Mr. Ottensoser received this email:

Mr. Ottensoser,

It was a pleasure meeting with you to discuss the concerns of the Jewish community. As stated in the meeting, I think we have a little time to work as partners to address these issues systematically.

And thanks for the contact person in New Jersey.

Al Foxx

A few days later, STAR-K received this email:

Please accept my sincere appreciation for the time and effort you put into making the meeting a success. Your willingness to be open and accessible to constituent concerns makes me proud to have you as partners in moving the City forward.

If I can be of further help on this or any other issue, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Rikki Spector

Fish worms teleconference.

This webconference was delivered April 28th 2009. Rabbi Zvi Goldberg and Rabbi Mordechai Frankel discuss the background to the worldwide discussion of the anisakis worm found in the flesh of fish. This video does not discuss the final policy decision reached by the Star-K.

The Webinar as an audio-only MP3 is available here

Click here for details about our monthly webinar.

Look for future video webinars on

STAR-K Experts Address NCYI Rabbinic
Training Program Attendees
by Margie Pensak

Rabbi Eli Eleff received Smicha just last year and is a member of the Kollel of Yeshivas Ohr Hachaim in Kew Gardens Hills, New York. He is planning to pursue one of the various fields of Rabbanus, specializing in Kashrus. For this reason, Rabbi Eleff was amongst the 43 advanced rabbinical students and novice practicing pulpit rabbis who attended the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) Rabbinic Training Program.

Recently, STAR-K experts were invited to share their rabbinical knowledge with the Rabbinic Training Program attendees. Rav Moshe Heinemann, shilt"a, Rabbinic Administrator of STAR-K, discussed, “The Rav and His Shul Kitchen”; Rabbi Mordechai Frankel, director of STAR-K’s Institute of Halacha, dealt with “Shailos of Kashrus: How to Pasken if You’re Not a Posek”; and, STAR-K Kashrus Administrator, Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, lectured on, “The Out of Town Rav and the World of Kashrus—A Focus on the Local Vaad”.

“The NCYI Rabbinic Training program affords us the opportunity to explore, gain knowledge of, and experience the specific elements, both halachic and pragmatic, of a twenty-first century Rav,” explains Rabbi Eleff. “Although one may leave the four walls of the bais hamedrash with a vast knowledge of Torah, there are many real life aspects that are never encountered in yeshiva, and the program attempts to address and educate young Rabbonim about these issues. The bulk of the halachic material that is studied for smicha directly correlates to the laws of kashrus, and thus, participating in a seminar with representatives of a national kashrus agency is really an opportunity to see halacha as applied to real world situations.”

Just some of the issues discussed were: The importance of a small town Rav mentoring with rabbis in major kashrus agencies, the responsibility of teaching kashrus to his community and workers in facilities, and the basic components of a reliable vaad.

Practical shul kitchen kashrus guidelines and specific guidelines for keeping simchas at a moderate cost were reviewed, as well. In addition, practical pointers for paskening shailos and the answers to common kitchen kashrus questions were covered.

Presenters highlighted actual case-in-point scenarios and offered their solutions in dealing with them. The question and answer sessions which followed clarified issues such as: “How do you decide which standard of kashrus to use in your community?” “Is there room to be more lenient in a small town vaad situation?” “How do you certify an establishment that is open on Shabbos?” “How do you choose which hechshers to allow in your facility?” and “How do you know what to charge for providing certification?” “The representatives of the Star-K were most gracious in giving of their precious time, to travel from Baltimore to New York in order to be marbitz Torah, and I am extremely appreciative of this fact,” says Rabbi Eleff. “Their presentation was extremely informative, and presented with great clarity. It is apparent that these Rabbonim, especially Rav Heinemann, shlit”a, are dedicated to their profession and work on behalf of klal Yisrael. The matter which impressed me the most was that the Star-K employs a very distinguished talmid chacham, Rabbi Frankel, whose job is to answer halachic shailos that come to the office, even those which are completely unrelated to kashrus matters.

“It is crucial for a pulpit Rabbi, and those involved in local vaadim to have contact with a national agency in order to keep abreast of the latest developments in this complicated world of kashrus,” continues Rabbi Eleff. “The Star-K afforded many at the program the opportunity to make that contact with an agency, which not only supervises on the industrial and national level, but is extremely involved back home in Baltimore as it is the local kashrus supervising body, as well.”

As Rabbi Binyamin Hammer, NCYI’s Director of Rabbinic Services, summed it up: “It is always amazing when the Star-K comes to our Rabbinic Training Program. They have participated with us over the last ten years to enlighten and educate our Rabbonim. Although the topic is kashrus, each presenter gives a tremendous amount of depth to the understanding of a rav’s responsibility to his shul kitchen, his community, and the greater kehilah. Each presenter is so well prepared that the young rabbinic trainees develop a sense of great respect for the knowledge and effort put in by the Star-K presenters.”


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