STAR-K’s Robust Educational Mission Thrives…Even During COVID

STAR-K Kosher Certification’s educational mission is as robust as ever during COVID, as evidenced by the nonprofit agency’s eclectic spring and summer seminars and programs. Target audiences ranged from food processors/exporters and mashgichim to consumers including adults with special needs.

STAR-K’s Rav Hamachshir, HaRav Moshe Heinemann, delivered a shiur on COVID shaylos in his capacity as the Morah D’Asra of Agudath Israel of Baltimore. The Rav also gave a virtual shiur watched around the world on Erev Tisha B’Av, “Being B’Shalom with Everyone”. It was part of Yeshivat Hakotel’s worldwide achdus Torah learning program featuring nine of the world’s chief rabbis and over 100 senior roshei yeshiva, poskim and leading mechanchim and mechanchos from around the globe

Approximately 60 companies in the Dominican Republic participated in STAR-K’s first virtual Zoom seminar. The successful two-hour-plus seminar was conducted entirely in Spanish, introducing the world of Kosher and the advantage of reliable Kosher certification to food processors and exporters from numerous industries. A Q & A session followed; even after the seminar, participants emailed additional questions.

Although kosher consumers have limited their air travel during COVID, many are driving to closer vacation destinations. STAR-K’s popular annual “Kosher Travel” webinar, hosted by Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, discussed everything there is to know about hotel, cabin, and bungalow stays. Featuring STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Baruch Beyer, topics included: Continental Breakfasts; Shabbos; the use of appliances in hotel rooms/vacation homes; barbecue grills; and the latest Slurpee information. Participants were invited to submit their travel questions.

For those consumers who are not venturing out – on vacation or even to a local food store — Rabbi Goldberg hosted a “COVID-19 Kashrus” webinar featuring STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Sholom Tendler. Discussion topics included food shopping from home and which products require kosher certification and which don’t. Rabbi Tendler’s onsite video tour with a mashgiach at a STAR-K restaurant demonstrated how social distancing and other COVID-related protocols are being implemented in STAR-K food establishments.

Hashgacha work is more challenging than ever during COVID. Rabbi Tendler presented a webinar/video tour of how to visit a plant during the pandemic geared for the agency’s mashgichim. And, for those who find themselves eating more homemade meals, Rabbi Tendler presented a virtual practicum so consumers can check their own fruits and vegetables for toloyim (insects).

Last, but not least, STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Dovid Heber, held a Zoom seminar with the high-functioning special-needs young adults of Harmony Services/Kinor Dovid, a day-habilitation program located in Brooklyn, New York. After introducing the topic of breakfast cereals, Rabbi Heber held a Q & A session on the appropriate bracha to make on a variety of cereals.

I was invited to return on Zoom the following week, as a follow-up to Rabbi Heber’s shiur, to speak to this audience about STAR-K.

One of Harmony’s rebbeim/mentors, Rabbi Moshe Boylan, who arranged the program, expressed his thanks in a letter:

Dear Mrs. Pensak,

Thank you so much for interviewing our chevra in Harmony Services/Kinor Dovid. The olam enjoyed learning about STAR-K and the Baltimore community, and you showed them respect and appreciation for their accomplishments. We also thank Rav Dovid Heber, shlit”a, who answered our questions in Hilchos Berachos (which we are learning currently). We were impressed how he gave us his time willingly, as if he had all the time in the world. He was also very well-prepared for our questions, answering them right away without any preparation…Our virtual meetings with the staff of STAR-K were educational, geared to their level, and helped our agency make the individuals feel part of the overall community.

Thank you very much and tizku l’mitzvos.

Rabbi Moshe Boylan