The Kosher Conversation: A STAR-K Media Production

Visit the Kosher Conversation at anchor.fm

Welcome to the Kosher Conversation!

A podcast with in-depth conversations about all things kashrus-related. Featuring interviews with kashrus professionals discussing their successes, challenges, and what you need to know to be an educated kosher consumer. Send your questions and comments to [email protected].

WHERE TO LISTEN:



All About Sabbath Mode Appliances and Warming Drawers: STAR-K Answers Your Questions

This article first appeared in the January 2024 issue of the Where What When magazine.

This article briefly discusses modern kitchen appliances and how STAR-K has developed innovative halachic solutions to meet the needs of the Orthodox Jewish consumer.

Marketing Terms That Can Be Misleading

It is important to define two terms frequently used by appliance companies to market their products which can be confusing and even mislead kosher consumers:

Sabbath Mode – a feature that enables the consumer to operate their oven so that it can be opened one time on Shabbos and to cook on Yom Tov. Sabbath Mode allows the kosher consumer to open the oven door without enabling lights, icons, or sounds. But in terms of cooking, a better term for this feature might be Yom Tov Mode.

Warming Drawer – a small thermostat-controlled appliance that is either part of a range or installed as a stand-alone unit. Its description as […]

Navigating the Ins and Outs of Renting an Airbnb

Winter 2024

Who would have imagined, just a few years ago, that you could go on vacation and rent a stranger’s private home? But that is exactly what people now do every day, with the rise of Airbnb and similar short-term rental platforms that list millions of units in over 100,000 cities.[1]

A Torah-observant individual who enters into such an arrangement will encounter numerous halachic challenges when signing up as an Airbnb “guest.” This includes properties listed as “kosher” – even ones in Israel – since an owner usually cannot vouch for every renter who has used the kitchen, nor for each renter’s kashrus standards, which can vary widely. Likewise, one who owns and is the “host” of an Airbnb property will have to address his own set of halachic concerns. Let’s analyze some of the more common ones.

Kashrus Concerns During the Year (Excluding Pesach)

The primary area of concern for […]

Yoshon: To Keep or Not to Keep

Winter 2024

The Gemara seems to conclude that the prohibition on the consumption of chodosh applies worldwide.[1] However, many shomrei mitzvos outside Eretz Yisrael do not restrict themselves to eating only yoshon grain.  Various reasons have been proposed:

► The Rema says that people rely on the fact that for any particular product that are two uncertainties. It is possible that there the food was made from a previous year’s wheat crop and is yoshon. It is also possible that this year’s crop took root before 16 Nissan and is yoshon. As there are two areas of doubt – a sfek sfeika – one can be lenient.[2] Others disagree and maintain that there is only one uncertainty here, whether the grain is chodosh or yoshon, and one should be stringent.[3]

► The Bach says that the prohibition does not apply to grain produced in a field owned […]

What’s “New” in Chodosh

Winter 2024

The Torah states[1] that chodosh (new) crops of the five grains may not be eaten until after the second day of Pesach (outside of Israel, not until the third day).[2] Thus, grain harvested in the summer of 2023 would not be allowed until Pesach 2024. On the other hand, yoshon (old) crops, which were harvested in the summer of 2022, became permitted after Pesach 2023. Grain planted at least two weeks or more before Pesach are permitted upon harvest, since they took root before Pesach.[3]

Outside of Israel, there are various customs based on numerous sources as to whether or not one needs to be stringent about using only yoshon products (see Rabbi Mordechai Frankel’s article in this issue). Each person should consult their rav for guidance. In Israel, however, these leniencies do not apply. Therefore, any product from Israel bearing a reliable kosher […]

Controlling Your Temper

Winter 2024

The baalei mussar, our guides in ethical character development, have instructed us that in order to develop and refine one’s behavior, one has to control one’s temper.

Controlling temper in manufacturing is a means to refine and improve the quality of the product in question. When steel is tempered, the resiliency of the steel is improved through the process of heating and cooling. When chocolate is tempered, through a similar process of heating and cooling (albeit at a much lower temperature), the chocolate acquires a lustrous, luxurious sheen, impervious to changes in color.

Likewise, tempering grain for milling improves the grain so that the final product – wheat flour – is rendered white and fluffy. The source of this final product is the humble wheat kernel.

A wheat kernel or berry is the seed of the wheat plant and is comprised of three edible parts: the nutritious bran wrapped protectively around the […]

IMPORTANT GUIDANCE FOR CONSUMERS WHO PURCHASED A SUB-ZERO LEGACY DESIGNER SERIES (IT, IC, ID, IW) APPLIANCE BETWEEN 2017 – PRESENT

September 26, 2023

Please be advised that Designer Series products (models IT, IC, ID, IW) that have the Smart Grid Option enabled for connection to either the Sub-Zero Group Owner’s App or third-party home system do not return to Sabbath Mode after a power outage.

Please refer consumers to the manufacturer’s recommendations at the Sub-Zero website which notes:

To prevent this, the Smart Grid Option must be disabled.

Disabling the Smart Grid Option prevents the unit from being connected to the Sub-Zero Group Owner’s App or third-party home system.

A Wi-Fi icon or home and power cord icon appears when the unit has the Smart Grid Option enabled.

The unit does not have to be paired to the Sub-Zero Group Owner’s App or a third-party home system for this issue to occur. The Smart Grid Option must be disabled regardless of connected status.

This issue has been resolved in newer models but affects consumers of […]

Mashgiach Managerial Positions in DC Area

Excellent management opportunity for STAR-K mashgichim in Washington, DC.

Two full-time positions available immediately

Candidates who are willing to work part-time will be considered as well

Candidates who opt for full-time positions may qualify for a generous benefit package

To apply, complete our online application and mark it to the attention of either Rabbi Zvi Holland or Rabbi Dovid Stern

Please share this post with any qualified mashgiach who may be interested.

Thank you.

Toveling Utensils in a Lake or River

Summer 2013

Q: I am traveling, and there is no keilim mikvah in this area. May I tovel new utensils in a lake or river?

A: Metal, glass and glazed ceramic utensils which are purchased from a non-Jew and are used in the preparation and consumption of food require tevila before use.[1] A person may tovel utensils in “spring water” – water that flows naturally from under the ground. If a river has such water as its source, he can tovel his utensils in the river.[2] The river must contain at least forty se’ah of water, which calculates as 175 gallons of water.[3] An ocean or sea is halachically considered to be “spring water.”[4] Therefore, a person may tovel utensils in an ocean, sea, or river which has such water as its source. However, regarding a river which has “spring water” as its source, […]

The Kashrus of Tea—With No Strings Attached!

Summer 2013

Americans generally do not drink as much tea as the rest of the world. This may have something to do with a certain party they had in Boston a while back. That being the case, you might be surprised to learn that tea is second only to water in worldwide beverage consumption. In fact, some estimates place tea consumption in the billions of cups daily. That’s a lot of tea. However, with recent health benefits being ascribed to tea, its popularity in this country is definitely on the rise. In this article we will explore the world of tea vis-a-vis kashrus and halacha. First, a little background is in order.

BACKGROUND

Tea is a processed leaf. It is grown on a tea tree which, if allowed to grow wild, would reach 30 or more feet in height. On tea plantations, the main trunk of the seedlings is cut to produce a […]

The Knead to Know: The Rise of Sourdough

Fall 2023

We are all familiar with the Torah’s directive to rid our homes of chometz in order to prepare for Pesach. The Torah uses two terms when instructing us in the cleaning process: chometz and se’or.

Ask any talmid or talmida: “What is chometz,” and you will get a very erudite response. Ask the next question: “What is se’or,” and seven out of ten will shrug and say, “I dunno,” while the other three might venture, “Sourdough?” When you follow up and ask them to define sourdough, most – if not all – will say, “I dunno!”

Today, more and more homes are seeing sourdough boules find their way into their bread baskets. With its “rise” in popularity, it is only natural that we look into this new trend and ask, “Ma nishtana sourdough bread from its conventional counterpart? Are there halachic and practical differences?”

Wheat and Bread Making Fundamentals

Let’s begin by reviewing […]

Shemita After Shemita: It’s Not Over Yet!

Fall 2023

There are those who think that whatever comes from Israel is kosher and who are not aware of the many issues associated with goods that are produced in Israel, be they concerns of orla, terumos, maasros – or Shemita. And they believe that once the Shemita year ends, Shemita issues are a thing of the past.

The Shemita year ended more than a year ago. To many of us, it already seems like a distant memory, a topic that we will next revisit in roughly five years, when we prepare for Shemita of 5789. But the truth is that Shemita of 5782 is still very relevant. It is important to remember this because our brethren in Chutz La’aretz are less aware of mitzvos hatluyos ba’aretz.[1] Since produce in the Diaspora are not subject to these laws, there is less awareness of Shemita repercussions.

We are currently in a period […]

When It’s “Not Kosher” to Eat Kosher: The Halachos of the Fast Days

Fall 2023

With the impending arrival of Tzom Gedalya and Yom Kippur, now is a good time for a halachic review of the six ta’aneisim that are incorporated into the Jewish calendar.[1] In addition to the aforementioned, we fast on Asara B’Teves, Ta’anis Esther, Shiva Asar B’Tamuz and Tisha B’Av. The halachos apply to males from the age of thirteen and females from the age of twelve.[2]

Timing Is Everything: When the Fasts Begin and End

Yom Kippur[3] and Tisha B’Av[4] begin at sunset. If one wants to eat after the seudas hamafsekes, one should state before the end of the seudah that he wants to do so. Having this in mind before Birchas Hamazon is also enough.

The other fasts begin at alos hashachar (dawn).[5] On those days, if one wants to arise[6] before dawn and eat, he should go to […]

ISO Full-Time Mashgiach in Hackensack, NJ

STAR-K is urgently seeking a full-time mashgiach for the Fresko commissary in Hackensack, NJ.

Available immediately

$35 to $40 per hour plus benefits

Near Teaneck, NJ; Passaic, NJ; and Monsey, NY

To apply, complete our online application and mark it to the attention of Rabbi Shmuel Heinemann

Please share this post with any qualified mashgiach who may be interested.

Thank you.

JOB OPPORTUNITY at CALIFORNIA COLLEGE CAMPUS

Excellent opportunity for a STAR-K mashgiach in Southern California.

Position is for the duration of the school “year,” which is only a 9-month term

No summers, no Shabbosos, no Yamim Tovim

Position begins late August 2023

Annual salary is $70K-$75K + benefits, commensurate with experience

To apply, complete our online application and mark it to the attention of Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld

Please forward this email to anyone you think may be interested.

Thank you.

Starbucks, Dunkin’ & Other Coffee Shops: Getting Your Caffeine Boost In-Town and On-the-Road

Summer 2023

The STAR-K Hotline receives no end of calls from coffee heads who dote on their daily cup of joe, whether from a local Starbucks or a Dunkin’ on the road. Recent changes in Starbucks’ company policy vis-à-vis kosher have further elevated the confusion for the kosher coffee connoisseur. Let’s dive in to clear out some of the haze.

Unflavored roasted coffee beans, whole and ground, are considered kosher without a hechsher. Bearing this in mind, buying a cup of unflavored regular or decaf coffee should not present any kashrus issues. Some coffee vendors, however, sell kosher and non-kosher items, like bacon and ham-filled sandwiches. The keilim used for coffee and the treif items are at times washed together, causing blios (absorbed tastes) from the treif utensil to enter the coffee equipment.

For example, at Starbucks, it’s been established that the brew basket that holds the coffee grounds while the coffee is […]

Cool Drinks for a Hot Summer Day: A Review

Summer 2023

Each summer the STAR-K Hotline fields hundreds of questions from concerned kosher consumers, thirsty to know: Is my Slurpee kosher? Do smart waters need a hechsher? What are the concerns with shaved ice and sno-cone stands? We stand ready to quench your thirst for information!

Carbonated Beverages

Carbonated beverages involve two major processes: compounding the flavor bases to create the flavor, and bottling the finished product when the sweetening agents, carbonation and water are added.

Soft drinks are compounded into soda flavor bases at one of three locations: the bottling facility, a separate technical center dedicated to blending soda emulsions, or an outside flavor house. In the latter case, the flavor house will create custom emulsions with specifications laid out by the soft drink company.

Regardless of the location, the most intensive part of kosher soft drink certification entails compounding, since this is when the kashrus of the flavors, colors, oils and blending […]

Insights From the Institute: The Mesorah on Duck Eggs

Summer 2023

Q:        My local farmer’s market sells duck eggs. Can I assume that they are kosher?

A:        Although the Torah lists twenty-four non-kosher species of birds, we no longer know precisely to which species the Torah is referring.[1] The Gemara provides alternative ways to ascertain whether a bird is kosher, but notes an instance in which a mistake in identification transpired.[2] For this reason, Rashi states that we do not rely on the Gemara’s criteria, and we eat only the few species of birds for which we have a mesorah (oral tradition) that attests to their kosher status.[3]

The Baal Ha’maor, one of the Rishonim, maintains that he has a tradition that all birds with wide feet and a wide beak – those more or less resembling a goose – are deemed kosher if they meet the Gemara’s criteria.[4] The Shulchan Aruch […]

Why the “D” in Non-Dairy?

Summer 2023

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers the following definitions for the noun dairy: the department of farming or of a farm that is concerned with the production of milk, butter, and cheese; milk from a cow or other domestic animal (such as a goat); and food (such as ice cream, cheese, or yogurt) made primarily of or from milk.

Today, a dairy is far more than a producer of milk products. If we were to explore a modern-day dairy, a far more accurate definition would be: an establishment that processes milk; milk products, such as ice cream, buttermilk and yogurt shakes; non-dairy alternative frozen desserts; non-dairy novelties, such as ices and popsicles; and non-dairy beverages, such as juices, fruit punch and tea.

Unquestionably, liquid milk production is the bread and butter of a successful dairy plant. Juices and teas are suitable side dishes and, of course, the pièce de resistance is ice cream […]

[Webinar] Halachic Issues of Travel

Rabbi Zvi Goldberg and Rabbi Baruch Beyer reviewed various halachic issues involving travel with special guest, Rabbi Dovid Heber (June 2023).

TIMESTAMPS:
6:05 – Airplane travel on 17 Tammuz
9:08 – Flying on Friday in the U.S.
13:30 – Landing on Friday in Israel
16:30 – HOTLOGIC personal food warmer on Shabbos
18:05 – Washing hands on a plane
21:01 – Kosher meal on a plane
32:37 – Planning ahead
37:38 – Davening in shul out of town
43:48 – Pre-packaged kosher meal on a cruise
48:23 – Common Tefilas Haderech questions

Kosher Supervisors in Baltimore, Maryland, Area

Responsibilities include:

Ensuring that workers engaged in storing, preparing and cooking meats, poultry and other foods in food prep, serving, packing and selling establishments are following Jewish dietary laws and customs pertaining to the preparation and packing of foods. 

Monitoring kitchen staff to ensure that methods of cooking are in compliance with kosher dietary laws, including lighting fires.  

Ensuring that meat and fowl are washed and salted in accordance with Hebrew ritual.  

Complete our online application form to apply and mark it to the attention of Pat Herskovitz. Be sure to include your resume.

For more details, contact Pat at [email protected].

JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR STAR-K MASHGICHIM AT COLLEGE CAMPUSES

STAR-K has open mashgiach positions at our certified colleges and universities. Applicants must be detail-oriented, self-motivated team players, with a positive attitude and excellent communication and critical thinking skills, who can assist and guide staff in the proper implementation of STAR-K policies and procedures.

Available positions are either for 9 months (i.e., the duration of the school year) or year-round.

Depending on experience, responsibilities and required hours, the starting salary is either $60K, $65K, or up to $80K, plus benefits.

Positions start approximately August 1, 2023.

Excellent opportunity for a married couple to share responsibilities.

Complete our online application form to apply and mark it to the attention of Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld.

For more details, contact Rabbi Kurcfeld at [email protected].

Putting the New in Shehecheyanu

Kashrus Kurrents, Spring 2023

Shehecheyanu is a bracha
that is said on special occasions, which the Gemara defines as something that
only “happens from time to time.”[1] We
say Shehecheyanu not only on religious occasions, such as the Yamim
Tovim, but also to express our appreciation for new experiences and pleasures.
Unlike the obligatory Shehecheyanus said on the zmanim and their mitzvos,[2] these
brachos are voluntary; perhaps that is why people are not always careful to say
them in every situation that would warrant it.[3]

New Fruit

The Shulchan Aruch writes, “One who sees a fruit which grows anew every year says Shehecheyanu, even if he sees it in his friend’s hand, or while still on the tree.”[4] In other words, the primary motivator for the bracha should be the sight of the new fruit. This is indeed how the halacha was originally codified by the Rambam.[5] However, the Mechaber concludes, “The custom is to […]

Mashke Goes Mainstream

Kashrus Kurrents, Spring 2023

In the last year, STAR-K certified a host of iconic brands in the
alcoholic beverages category from almost all the way around the globe: from the
green pastures of Kentucky, to the shores of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor; crossing
the Atlantic Ocean to the Emerald Isle, Ireland; and completing the journey in Italy.
These newly kosher-certified brands include selected products from Baltimore’s
own Sagamore spirits; Wild Turkey and Skyy Vodka; Bailey’s Irish Cream Original
(STAR-D Dairy, non-cholov Yisroel); and Frangelico, all of whom have joined
the STAR-K Family just this year.

Kosher certification for spirits addresses a number of serious issues that have cropped up, as the industry has globalized and consolidated operations. Growing use of additives and processing aids that need certification – such as flavor chemicals, glycerin and the use of shared transportation bottling lines with dairy and non-kosher products – makes kosher certification more and more relevant, even in product categories that […]

Who Has Whom…Over the Barrel?

Kashrus Kurrents, Spring 2023

The immortal words of Koheles, “l’kol zman va’eis” – there
is a time and a place for everything – rings true in all of life’s twists and turns
and is certainly relevant in the world of kashrus and kashrus standards. Kosher
food certification has grown exponentially, and standards have improved with
age. Who would have dreamed that pas Yisroel, bishul Yisroel, and
cholov Yisroel would be available to the wider kosher marketplace?

Forty years ago, a can of tuna with bishul Yisroel and hashgacha
temidis was a rare commodity. Many a yeshiva would resort to stam cholov
when cholov Yisroel wasn’t available, something that would be
unheard of half a century later. Yoshon was an anomaly, except for the
meticulous few; today, yoshon is a kosher household term and it
continues to proliferate.

These amazing developments across a variety of industries are a
testament to the tireless diligence of kashrusagencies who strive to
provide the kosher consumer with the finest […]

STAR-K Goes to College: An Interview with Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld

Kashrus Kurrents, Spring 2023

Some of the top colleges in the U.S. boast a 10-25 percent Jewish
student population. In 2022, Jewish students were well-represented at all eight
Ivy League schools, with Columbia leading the way at 24%, followed by Brown
(19%), Cornell and UPenn (tied at17%), and Yale (13%).[1] The
continually increasing number of kosher and other Jewish amenities on the American
college campus mirror these statistics – and act as magnets to attract Jewish
students. For some, STAR-K’s presence on campus offers a first – and sometimes
only – taste of Yiddishkeit.

Rabbi Mayer
Kurcfeld, a STAR-K kashrus administrator, has been engineering and overseeing the
agency’s many certified on-campus facilities since 1999, custom-designing those
that were not pre-existing. I asked him to describe the kashruschallenges
of certifying the ever-evolving college campus dining platform.

KK: Which
U.S. colleges and universities are certified by STAR-K?

RMK: We currently certify kosher dining at American University, Cornell
University, Franklin & Marshall College, Ithaca College, Johns Hopkins
University, Muhlenberg College, […]

[Webinar] STAR-K Annual Passover Products Webinar 2023

Rabbi Zvi Goldberg and Rabbi Baruch Beyer present timely information about a variety of Pesach-related topics, including a quick review of what’s new, how to manage your food-buying budget, baby food, almond flour, kitniyos, matzah, and much much more (March 2023).

Listen here.

Wolf Cooktop Alert

January 27, 2023

It has come to STAR-K’s attention that there is a potential halachic issue with some Wolf cooktops that have the auto-ignite feature.

When a burner is on, opening or closing a drawer or cabinet door near the cooktop might extinguish the burner flame, which will automatically reignite.

The manufacturer has informed us that this poses no safety concern, as the flame comes back right away. However, this does present a halachic concern for Shabbos and Yom Tov.

STAR-K advises consumers to conduct the following test on a weekday:

Observe the cooktop under normal cooking conditions while opening and closing drawers and cabinet doors in the vicinity of the cooktop.

Verify that the burner remains on without interruption.

If testing indicates that opening or shutting a particular door or drawer does cause the burner to extinguish and reignite, that drawer should not be opened or closed on Shabbos and Yom Tov when the […]

[Webinar] Children’s Medicine Shortage

Rabbi Zvi Goldberg and Rabbi Dovid Heber discuss kashrus issues that have arisen as a result of the recent shortage of popular OTC and prescription medications, and what kosher consumers need to consider in dealing with the shortage. (Dec 28, 2022)

Listen here.

Direct Download available upon request.

Wanting the Best for Our Children: Meeting Kashrus Challenges in Yeshiva, Camp, and Day School Kitchens

Kashrus Kurrents, Winter 2023

Kashrus has come a long way over the
past fifty years. Agencies ensure the highest standards of kashrus in factories
and food establishments worldwide, with experts in halacha, food technology, equipment,
and ingredients. Consumers have been trained to know which products are acceptable
and how to maintain a kosher kitchen l’mehadrin.

However, one area of kashrus that
has received far less attention – even throughout the past several decades of unprecedented
kashrus growth – is kashrus in our schools. This is due to several inaccurate reasons,
including the following:

Myth #1: “Religious teachers are in
the building all day and they oversee kashrus and everyone is careful.”
Realistically, this is not the case.
Unless a teacher is told to “be on top” of the situation, only minimal oversight
will typically occur. Unfortunately, not everyone is familiar with the intricacies
of kashrus, and without guidelines a lot can go wrong.

Myth #2: “Unlike a for-profit eating
establishment, which obviously needs oversight […]