First Ever Pan-Asia Training Seminar Held in Shanghai

They come from Perth; Yerushalayim; Mumbai; Manila; Boston; Scottsdale; and Los Angeles, but truly the mashgichim attending the inaugural STAR-K Pan-Asia Kosher Training Seminar in Shanghai, January 9-14, live out of their suitcases. Dedicated to the mission of ensuring and spreading kashrus, even at a moment’s notice, implies where they are from is wherever their luggage happens to be.

Representing the premier kosher certifier in Asia, these STAR-K mashgichim are the “eyes and ears” in the field who help certify thousands of products –from canned goods and nori sheets in China and South Korea, to spices and coconut products in India and Sri Lanka, and banana chips and coco sugar in the Philippines–mostly exported as “bulk” ingredients to be processed globally into consumer products.

STAR-K operates regional support centers in Shanghai, China and Cochin, India and representative offices in Manila, Philippines; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Karachi, Pakistan; and Jakarta, Indonesia.
Joining Baltimore-based STAR-K […]

Bedikas Chometz: Search for Dough Like a Pro

Before Pesach, a person is obligated to perform bedikas chometz; a search of his house and possessions to ensure that he does not own any chometz. The bedikah should be conducted at the beginning of the night of the 14th of Nissan, immediately after tzeis hakochavim.1 If he did not do so, the bedikah can be done all night. Bedieved, if he did not perform the bedikah that night he should do it on the day of the 14th of Nissan.2

If he will not be home on the night of the 14th of Nissan, he should appoint another adult to perform the bedikah on his behalf.3 If he leaves his house within thirty days of Pesach, and is not planning to return and conduct a bedikah or have someone else perform a bedikah for him, then he should do bedikas chometz without reciting a brocha at night before he leaves.4

If […]

When You Can Drink and Drive: The Halachic Implications of Drinking Coffee on the Road

Happy Fact: Unflavored roasted coffee beans, whole and ground, are considered kosher without a hechsher (kosher certification). Bearing this in mind, buying a cup of unflavored regular, decaf, or High-Octane coffee (my usual choice) should not present any kashrus issues, right?

Not so fast fellow caffeine heads; life is never so simple.

The Problem: Some coffee vendors sell kosher and treif (non-kosher) items, like the Bacon & Gouda Breakfast Sandwich and the Pepperoni & Tomato Savory Foldover.1 The keilim (utensils) used for coffee and treif can at times be washed together, causing blios, absorbed tastes, from the treif kli to enter the coffee equipment. In Starbucks, for example, it’s been established that the brew basket that holds the coffee grounds while the coffee is being made is sometimes washed with keilim that may have come into contact with treif. If we have a “perfect storm” situation in which the wash water is […]

Nisht Oif Shabbos Geredt? The Guide to Proper Speech on Shabbos

Shabbos is the most beautiful day of the week, and our Neviim and Chazal have enhanced its sanctity by establishing various mitzvos d’rabanan. These mitzvos include activities that maintain kedushas Shabbos and render it more enjoyable, and prohibitions to ensure we do not perform a melachah d’oraisa. One example of an issur d’rabanan is what Yeshayahu Hanavi1 refers to as “daber davar”, a restriction on business and melachah-based discussions on Shabbos.

According to the Talmud Yerushalmi,2 when we are careful with speech on Shabbos, we emulate the Ribono Shel Olam, Who rested from speech3 on Shabbos Beraishis following the completion of the creation of the world.

The following halachos are based upon the psak of Harav Moshe Heinemann, shlit”a, Rabbinic Administrator of STAR-K Kosher Certification.4

I. Discussions of Melachah

In general, on Shabbos one is not allowed to say that he will perform a melachah after Shabbos. For example, it is forbidden to say, […]

Danger-Sakana: Keeping Our Food Safe & Healthy

In an ongoing effort to keep food processing on a high level of quality, a new position known as Director of Food Safety has been created in the Quality Assurance departments of food processors. In fact, there is a relatively new certification program that companies undergo known as SQF certification. SQF stands for Safe Quality Food, and there are different levels of SQF certification: 1, 2 or 3.

SQF standards are very rigorous, some may say bordering on excessive. However, the repercussions can be devastating if a company’s production environment is compromised or unsanitary. A common nemesis to food producers that Quality Assurance valiantly tries to battle is the presence of E-coli, bacteria comprised of many different strains that are commonly found in one’s intestines. Most are harmless, yet there are some E-coli that can cause severe food poisoning.

When the bagged salad industry was in its fledgling stage, E-coli food poisoning […]

Notes from the STAR-K Bais Medrash Govoha Halacha Chaburah

The following article is based on an actual in depth and detailed ‘limud‘ that the STAR-K  Kollel Chabura conducted during the past zman.

Scenario #1: It’s the afternoon of the second day of Pesach; your house is a hurricane – dishes are piled up to the ceiling, stains are all over the tablecloths, the floors are sticky and you need some serious help. You have a live-in maid. The trouble is, you’re very uncertain as to what you can ask her to do and what is and isn’t halachically permissible. Can she be asked to run the dishwasher, wash the floor or take out the garbage?

Scenario #2: It’s the afternoon of the second day of Pesach; your house is a hurricane – dishes are piled up to the ceiling, stains are all over the tablecloths, the floors are sticky and you need some […]

Insights from the Institute

Q: Does a walk-in closet in my house need a mezuzah?

A: Many of the doorways of the various rooms in a person’s house are required to have a mezuzah on the doorposts; however, not every doorway is halachically obligated to bear one. Whether or not a particular room needs to have a mezuzah will depend upon the location of the doorway, the intended use of the room, and other factors. A complete exposition of all relevant halachos is beyond the scope of this article. We will limit ourselves to one specific question: What are the specific measurements that a walk-in closet would need to meet in order to halachically be considered a “room”? In other words, when is a walk-in closet large enough to require a mezuzah and when is it small enough that it does not?

A large walk-in closet is halachically considered to be a room if it is […]

GramaChip Technologies

There are cholim (ailing or frail individuals) who would greatly benefit from being able to use electric devices on Shabbos. GramaChip Technologies is a company that provides halachically compliant solutions for these cholim; its products are STAR-K certified.

As its name suggests, the products rely on the halachic principle of grama. The Mishna discusses grama in the context of putting out a fire on Shabbos. One is permitted to arrange a ring of water around a fire, even though the fire will certainly be extinguished when it reaches the water.1 This is halachically allowed due to the time delay between the action of arranging the water and the subsequent melacha of extinguishing the fire on Shabbos. Similarly, any activity that includes a time delay between a person’s action and the ensuing melacha would be categorized as a grama.2 Grama of a melacha de’oraissa is permitted only in situations of financial loss.3 However, […]

K’Tapuach B’Atzei HaYa’ar Like an Apple in the Orchard

The Talmud1 records a very interesting exchange between two Amoraim, Rava and Rav Pappa. Rava raised a legal query which Rav Pappa heartily answered. To that response, Rava exclaimed, “Sadnai!” Rashi gives two explanations to the approbation, Sadnai. One explanation is that Rava’s exclamation attests to Rav Pappa’s keen scholarship. When Rava extolled Rav Pappa’s scholarship, he implied that his insight was so great that Rav Pappa was able to uncover the underlying “secrets” (“sode”) of Torah. Another explanation of the term “sadnai” is a testimonial to Rav Pappa’s expertise as an expert brewer. He knew the mystery of creating a successful brew of beer.

Which variety of beer was Rav Pappa brewing? The Gemara in Pesachim,2 where this exchange between Rava and Rav Pappa was also recorded, tells us that he was brewing date beer. Brewing beer was popular in Talmudic and pre-Talmudic times. As far back as Noach, wine […]

Kosher Provides a Taste of Yiddishkeit for Assisted Living and Nursing Home Residents

For many assisted living and nursing home residents, some of whom have kept kosher their entire lives, a facility with a trustworthy kosher certification is non-negotiable; for others, it is a welcomed taste of tradition – literally! From a marketing standpoint, the importance of a facility’s choice of a universally well-respected kashrus agency cannot be overstated.

Even prior to accepting the position of Executive Director of Tudor Heights Assisted Living Community – the forerunner of today’s Tudor Heights, A Solvere Living Community – Dovid Lapin strongly urged the facility’s management to partner with STAR-K.

“Clearly, the local supervision that had been in place for a number of years was not working, as the census was at 34 and there were 30 vacant rooms,” recalls Mr. Lapin. “I asked for permission to begin a national marketing campaign, promoting Tudor Heights and STAR-K as partners in this beautiful state-of-the-art community. We truly branded ourselves […]

Don’t Miss the Boat: Halachic Guidelines of Kosher Cruises

The task of food preparation aboard a modern cruise ship is enormous. Activity begins even before the first passenger comes aboard. Needless to say, food is central to a cruise. “Kosher Cruise” may simply imply that the food is kosher; other halachic issues may not have been addressed by the kosher certification agency. In this article, we will examine kashrus, as well as other topics including Shabbos, davening and tznius.

Kashrus

Providing kosher supervision on a cruise ship is not an easy task. “Mega-ships” can carry over 4,000 guests.1 Food preparation occurs around-the-clock in multiple locations. Most often, a ‘kosher cruise’ means that an entrepreneur has booked a number of cabins aboard a large ship. In such an arrangement, kosher and non-kosher food will be prepared and served simultaneously.

The traveler must have confidence in the kashrus agency that is certifying the cruise. In order to instill confidence, a reliable kashrus organization must address many issues.

What arrangements have been made to accommodate […]

Meshane Makom/Meshane Brocha: When do I need a new Brocha?

Almost every time I enter a supermarket, I marvel at the wide variety of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as a plentiful assortment of epicurean delights. If someone were to call their market “Gan Eden” – in the secular sense – they would be right.

Before consuming our supermarket delicacies, we must give proper consideration to an important shaila: What is the correct brocha for this food? Many times, this is not an easy question. After all, there are so many aspects of birchos hanehenin1 to keep in mind. How does it grow? Is it processed? Is one of the chameishes minei dagan (five special grains) present in a halachically meaningful way? What part of the food is the ikar (primary) to me? Do I need to recite a brocha if I already said the same brocha on a different food? What if I decided I was finished […]

A 25 Year Retrospective on Kashrus Kurrents

Approximately twenty-five years ago shortly before “Pesach” 5738 Mr. A. J. Levin, a vice president of the Orthodox Jewish Council, began publishing Kashrus Kurrents. In that first issue, printed on the familiar yellow paper with the blue Kashrus Kurrents logo, it was deemed necessary to advise the Baltimore community that they cannot rely on labels or advertisements that merely states ‘Kosher for Passover’. From that same issue we learned that the fledgling Star-K organization had just inaugurated its kosher hot-line whereby one could get accurate kashrus information Monday through Thursday between the hours of 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

A most welcome and popular feature was a list of items that did not require special Passover certification. Included were specific brands of sugar and cocoa as well as a number of commonly used over the counter medications. Compiling the list required substantial research by volunteers […]

Star-K Requirements For Vegetable Checking

Common Leafy Vegetables that Require Inspection

Bibb Lettuce
Bok Choy
Boston Lettuce
Cabbage
Collards
Endive
Escarole
Iceberg Lettuce
Kale
Mustard Leaves
Red Leaf Lettuce
Romaine Lettuce
Spinach Greens
One of two methods may be used:A. Leaf by Leaf Inspection:
1. Separate leaves.
2. Soak in water.
3. Make a complete, leaf by leaf inspection.
4. Wash off any insects prior to using.

B. Chazaka Check for Large Volumes of Leafy Vegetables:
1. Throw out outer leaves.
2. Separate leaves of three heads of the vegetable.
3. Do NOT wash leaves.
4. Check the three heads leaf by leaf.
5. If one bug is found in the test heads, all the produce in the consignment must be checked leaf by leaf.
6. If no bugs are found, the rest of the shipment does not require checking and may be used after […]

Hot Off the Hotline

(All answers are based on the psak of Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita, Star-K Rabbinic Administrator.)

Q: What type of aged cheese requires one to wait six hours before eating meat?

A: Generally speaking, aging of cheese is an ongoing process, which occurs when the bacteria found in cheese breaks down the lactose (the milk sugar), creating lactic acid, thereby changing the physical property of the cheese, giving it a sharper flavor.

A good example of this aging process would be if someone were to leave a wedge of Muenster cheese in a nice warm environment until the cheese becomes “tangy.” The housewife would call it spoiled; a cheese maven would call it flavorful. Historically, flavorful cheese took about six months to age. The longer the cheese aged the harder it became. In Italy today, one can find some […]

Hot Off the Hotline

In the last issue of Kashrus Kurrents the following appeared in “Hot Off the Hotline:”

Q: On Shabbos does an observant Jew have to close a website that is selling products online?

A: Yes. As in the case of a regular business transaction, no electronic business transactions may be made on Shabbos or Yom Tov on a website belonging to a shomer Shabbos businessman. The web site may remain open for informational purposes, if the shopping cart on the website is shut down. The time Shabbos or Yom Tov begins is determined by the entrepreneur’s geographic location.

[...] Read More

Hot Off the Hotline: Commerce on the Web Revisited

This article is a further clarification to the Hot off the Hotline question…

Q: On Shabbos does an observant Jew have to close a website that is selling products online?

Based on information that the Star-K received from two credit card companies, Rav Heinemann had answered that since purchases are accomplished by entering a credit card number, whereby the bank immediately transfers funds from the purchaser’s account to that of the vendor, web commerce would be prohibited on Shabbos.

However, many of our Kashrus Kurrents readers informed us that this information is erroneous regarding weekend transactions. After much research to further clarify this issue, Hot off the Hotline is presenting the corrected version of how credit card business is transacted generally, and specifically how it is […]

Hot Off the Hotline

Amongst the number of recent eye opening events that have impacted the Jewish community, a discovery was made last May regarding the halachic status of New York tap water. The New York kosher consumer was shaken by the fact that New York tap water, which had the reputation of being one of the most pure, clean, and natural water available, contains unwelcome visitors called copepods that are visible to the human eye. In spite of that fact that this was a New York discovery, the Star-K hotline in Baltimore was abuzz with inquiries of “Can we drink the water?!” This is the Star-K response regarding copepods in drinking water based on discussions with Rav Moshe Heinemann Shlit”a, Star-K Rabbinical Administrator.

Q: What are copepods?

A: Copepods, also known as “insects of the sea,” are crustaceans that are found wherever water is found. […]

Star-K’s New Kashrus Training Program A Huge Success

How can you learn to deal with the challenges of supervising a first-class hotel’s kosher kitchen which is next to its non-kosher kitchen? Where does one find the opportunity to tour a flavor plant to better understand the kosher manufacturing process? Who will train you to find the less obvious thrips and aphids when checking a restaurant’s vegetables? What will give you the preparation to administer – or perhaps, pioneer – a communal kosher certification agency?

Star-K Kosher Certification recently provided the platform for these unique learning opportunities and more. In its new complimentary certificate program, Star-K’s Kashrus Training Program allowed Kollel yungerleit of Yeshivas Ner Yisrael to experience the field of kosher supervision first hand. Held July 12-16, at Star-K’s offices in Baltimore, Maryland, the five day intensive seminar was limited to 25 students who have studied Yorah Deah.

Ner Yisrael Kollel fellow Moshe Schuchman’s sentiments regarding […]

Kashrus Konnections For the Kashrus Professional

Periodically, Star-K distributes “Kashrus Konnections”, a compilation of policies meant for the kashrus professional. Some items may be of interest to consumers as well. Below are some of the topics addressed in past issues. To sign up to receive the publication via e-mail, send a blank e-mail to konnections-subscribe@star-k.org.

I am going to a Star-K restaurant over Chol Hamoed Sukkos. Will I have to take the food out or will there be a sukkah on the premises?

Star-K policy is that eateries must have a sukkah available for customers on Sukkos. (It is important to note that due to the kedusha of a sukkah, a garbage can may not be put inside.)


If an electric coil on a range-top does not get red-hot, may it still be kashered?

Yes, it may be kashered as long as it gets to libun kal (550°F). Any residue […]

Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal: Making Your Simcha a Star Performance

The joy, the planning, the anticipation, the expense — there is a lot that goes into a Yiddishe simcha. Be it a chasuna, Bar Mitzvah, or bris – every significant life cycle event is extra special, and the baalei simcha want to ensure that their guests have a good time.  Central to that goal is a delicious seudas mitzvah.  Endless hours of planning are spent making sure everything is perfect, from the decor to the menu. Is the same effort expended regarding the kashrus level of the event? If the simcha is being catered, does the caterer have reliable kosher certification?  As catering costs have risen, consumers have opted to cater their own simchas.  This article will attempt to address some key issues that one should consider when self- catering an event.

The Kiddush

Pre-planning your Kiddush is the best strategy to guarantee that the simcha will encounter a minimum amount of […]

Kosher Wine Comes of Age

Throughout the ages, alcohol has always played a vital role in historical and religious observance. Dovid Hamelech’s declaration ויין ישמח לבב אנוש,1 “Wine will gladden the hearts of humanity,” certainly has borne itself out in modern history. Wine accompanies happy occasions in almost every society known to man. Chazal declare אין שמחה אלא ביין.2
When I was growing up, there weren’t many choices when it came to kosher wine. When my parents bought our childhood home, my father was thrilled to find that it came with a wine cellar. He was then faced with the formidable challenge of finding kosher wine good enough to bother storing. I remember a time when there were only two wines from Eretz Yisroel available, both from Carmel Chateau Rishon: Vin Rouge and Vin Blanc; basically, the whole range was sweet red and white! Domestic wines were even more limited; while there were a few […]

A Halachic Guide to Sheva Brachos

Chazal tell us that Moshe Rabeinu established the “shivas y’mai hamishteh”, the seven days during which the choson and kallah rejoice together following their wedding.1 During this time, family and friends come together and prepare beautiful seudos, followed by the recitation of the “Sheva Brochos” at the conclusion of Birchas Hamazon. Such seudos are quite common, and it is important to review the various applicable halachos.2

What is Necessary For Sheva Brochos

If a choson and kallah are at a meal held in their honor during the first seven days of their marriage, and there is a minyan present, including a panim chadashos, Sheva Brochos are recited. The following is an explanation of what is required:

1. Minyan – At least seven adult males over the age of Bar Mitzvah eat enough bread that requires Birchas Hamazon,3 and at least three others eat enough food (e.g., cake, fruit, etc.) or drink a beverage […]

STAR-K Kosher Certification Director of Supervision Rabbi Eliyahu Shuman Retires After 42 Years

With his inimitable sense of humor, STAR-K Director of Supervision Rabbi Eliyahu Shuman opened his speech joking that it was hashgacha that his seudas preida was being held on Parshas Beshalach. After the laughter diminished, he explained why the decision to retire was so difficult for him.

“For 42 years, I was zoche to work with Rav Heinemann, be in the daled amos of the Rav, and be able to be misabek b’afar raglov; that’s not something you want to retire from.” explained Rabbi Shuman. “It’s also hard because we’re not an organization—we’re family. In these 42 years, we’ve become a unit and we work so beautifully together. It is like a wheel with the Rav in the center, and all of us are the spokes trying to be mekayam the requirements and the divrei haRav. When you’re family, it’s hard to leave.”

In closing, Rabbi Shuman shared, “I want to devote […]

Insights from the Institute

Q: May one pet an animal on Shabbos?

A: Chazal enacted a takanah designating certain types of objects as muktzah, thereby limiting a person’s freedom to move those items on Shabbos. There are various categories of muktzah with differing degrees of limitation of movement. For example, a utensil which is generally used for an activity prohibited on Shabbos is muktzah. A naturally occurring object such a stone is also muktzah unless it has been designated before Shabbos for a specific purpose. Similarly, the Talmud states that an animal is muktzah.

In former times, it was common for children to play with young birds and listen to them sing. Tosefos suggests that a bird should not be considered to be muktzah as it can be used as a distraction for a crying child. However, Tosefos rejects this and concludes that birds are muktzah. Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch paskens that animals are muktzah and […]

Just a Spoonful of Glycerin Makes the Medicine Go Down

In the world of food ingredients, there is no ingredient as versatile as glycerin. In the world of kosher ingredient sensitivity, there is no kosher-sensitive ingredient that compares to glycerin. Glycerin’s ingredient versatility is not limited to food grade applications. Glycerin is used extensively as a major component in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, as well.

Glycerin is known as a humectant. That means that glycerin helps retain moisture. Therefore, glycerin is a perfect ingredient for the baking industry to keep bakery goods moist and give products a longer shelf-life. Glycerin is sweet and can be used as a substitute for liquid sugar. Glycerin is an excellent solvent and is used as a mainstay for food colors. These properties make glycerin an essential ingredient in a myriad of food applications.

Furthermore, glycerin’s natural properties make it an essential element in pharmaceutical products, as well as health and beauty aids. What is that […]

Fresh from the Field: Staying Up To Date On Insect Checking/Bedikas Tolayim Part 1

Halachic issues of infestation in many of the fruits and vegetables that we consume are well known. Much has been written and said about these issues, albeit to various degrees of halachic stringency. This article will focus on the methods used to monitor this evolving industry. Doing so requires both monitoring of the various produce items, as well as keeping track of their sources on an ongoing basis. This is easier said than done! We will explore the challenges inherent in accomplishing these objectives and discuss some of the more recent items that have surfaced on the infestation radar screens.

The world of entomology is ever evolving. Chaza”l1 stress the importance of knowing the facts in each locale, as the variables that affect insects and infestation change constantly. It used to be that due to their short shelf-life, produce was mainly sourced locally. Knowing the infestation issues inherent in each location […]

Insights from the Institute

Q: Under which circumstances is a person obligated to erect a fence around the roof of his house?

A: The Torah in parshas Ki-Setze states, “When you build a new house make a railing for your roof, and you shall not bring blood on your house if someone falls from there”.1 The Torah requires one to build a maakeh – a fence – around a flat roof that people walk on, so as to protect them from falling. The mitzvah applies not only to someone who builds a house but also to someone who buys, inherits or is gifted a house.2 A person who rents a house is also required to build a maakeh if the owner has not already done so.3

A maakeh has to be strong enough that a person could lean against it without falling, and it has to be ten tefachim high.4 This measurement is 40 inches according […]

Sabbath Mode FAQs

KitchenAid 1996:
Dear Rabbi Rosen,
The STAR-K KitchenAid Sabbath Mode project had been evolving for 2 ½ years. This novel venture was initiated by KitchenAid to address the needs of the Sabbath observant Jewish community that would not be able to use the new age KitchenAid ranges and wall units due to the new electronic technology and advanced features.
Jewish Sabbbath observance does not permit the kindling or extinguishing of a fire or the cooking of food on Sabbath. Jewish Holiday observance does not permit the creation of a new flame, but cooking and adjusting fire as needed for cooking is permitted.
The issues that KitchenAid engineers had to address in order to create a user-friendly oven for the Sabbath observer were the following:
1. Could the 12-hour automatic shutoff be bypassed?
2. Could the oven be opened without lighting an icon on the control […]

Bal Tashchis: Waste Management in Everyday Life

Shockingly, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that about 40% of all food in the United States goes uneaten; it is either left to rot or tossed in the garbage. In fact, 7% of all food doesn’t even make it out of the farm, and a significant amount doesn’t even get picked because it doesn’t meet standards for color and shape! One industry estimate claims that an average of $2,300 of food products are discarded each day by individual grocery stores due to impending expiration dates. American families throw out between 14-25% of the food and the beverages that they purchase, and restaurant diners leave about 17% of their food uneaten.1

Of course, we know the Torah teaches us that we need to be careful and not wasteful. We also know that we are not just talking about wasting food. We are charged to appreciate every chair, book and bobby pin […]