Monday, May 11, 2009

Ode to a local Vaad haKashrut (kosher supervision agency) and a local Kosher Bakery

Our Jewish Federation generously supports our local vaad hakashrut (kosher supervision agency), the Lehigh Valley Kashrut Commission, or LVKC. Tonight I presented our annual funding request before the Federation's Allocations Committee, and preparing that request reminded me of why local kashrut certifiers and local kosher bakeries are important.

A local vaad supervises the little supermarket bakery. Therefore:
• Kids from non-observant families can have a birthday party with a kosher cake, and everyone can eat;
• Visitors to town can find fresh kosher bread and not buy the packaged, chemical-treated stuff;
• Kosher-observant Jews visiting relatives can find food.

Without that bakery, all of the above becomes harder. Further, the community cannot grow, because outsiders perceive it to be a backwater.

The local bakery keeps the Jewish community going. And so does the Vaad - in the bakery, and beyond:
• A local vaad provides assistance to a college Hillel seeking to make kosher food available, or to offer housing with a kosher kitchen;
• A local vaad answers people’s questions and does research on commercial kashrus, using the database of knowledge and connections it has developed in the commercial realm;
• A local vaad provides supervision for community-wide events, so that they can truly be community-wide;
• A local vaad holds kashrut awareness programs for people who would never go to oukosher.org or star-k.org.

There’s more, too, but that’s what came to mind tonight as I prepared our report for the Federation.

The challenge is that as the major kashrut certifiers – OU, Star-K, Chof-K etc – expand, the local kashrut certifier faces the loss of key businesses. National organizations take over major facilities, the ones which can provide the greatest income for the least actual supervision.

Whether these businesses pay so much as a gesture of corporate responsibility to the community, or whether it’s just because they’re used to large numbers, those businesses often supply income which helps subsidize supervision for smaller, cash-poorer businesses. We can certify a small operation at zero margin, and we can subsidize supervision of community non-profits, because of a large bottling company that gives us more dollars than we need to pay our supervisor.

So when a local business goes with a national supervision, that damages the local vaad – and the result can be catastrophic for a community. (I also discussed this somewhat here.)

The national and international organizations are important. The local orgs even depend on them, because all of the ingredients coming into our local facilities are produced under those broader certifications. But let’s not forget the work done by the locals, and the way that they, and their supermarket bakeries, keep small Jewish communities going.

11 comments:

  1. Has anyone ever tried to federate many disparate local Vaads under a national organization?

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  2. Interesting post. Isn't it difficult to know the standards of individual small organizations? Not that I'm against them, just asking. Granted, that I trust you, so if I go to your community I can trust the local hechshar, but what about some other small community?

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  3. former allentownerMay 12, 2009 at 11:33 AM

    1. i take it that the bakery near the target is no longer kosher. i understand it had good baking, etc, but there was a "quirky" problem there.

    2. some vaadim (esp in the ny area) have very unusual procedures. their standards vary among various stores, and they intrude on business decisions. besides various cooks (local rabbis) spoiling the broth. (the lvkc, i must say, never had such issues).

    3. isaac's idea, while a good idea , is not practical. i guarantee you within five months, a national org (we know which one) will "take over" the organization, creating its own set of problems.

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  4. Isaac-
    Nothing current, but I recall occasional attempts in the past. Hard to do, with the variety of standards.

    Muse-
    Yes, it is very difficult - see my post on the topic here.

    FA-
    NO! That bakery is fine, and wonderful.

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  5. Is the bakery near the Target mentioned by former allentowner the one in Weis's or Bob's Bakery a"h. I seem to recall that Bob's had a quirky issue, but I don't recall exactly what it was.

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  6. It is of course impotant to note that the reasons for having a bakery in a community does not trump that of kashrus. Meaning, that if a bakery is not keeping up with the standards of the Vaad - the community reasons do not outweigh the kosher standards (or do they?) And like communities that do not have Kosher bakeries - life goes on...people make thier own cakes, bake thier own challahs.

    It is also impotant to note that if a small business wants to grow beyond the familiarity of a local vaad, it is in the best interest of the business to seek out a national certification in order to broaden it's familiarity. Amd local vaad should support that decision of a local business owner in order for the business to profit.

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  7. Anonymous 5:30 PM-
    Ah. Bob's hasn't been around since before my time. That one is, indeed, defunct.

    Anonymous 7:35 PM-
    True on both points.
    1. Convenience cannot trump kashrus.
    2. We have advised certain potential clients to pursue national supervision, because we lack the name recognition they needed.

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  8. Great post. It should be sent out to all Vaadim in "small communities".

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  9. former allentownerMay 14, 2009 at 6:05 PM

    735pm -- yes, but some vaadim (not lvkc, they should have such pblms) prohibit other (duplicate) supervisions (even though they use those those hechsherim)

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  10. I saw a product today with a hechsher that was a W with a K above/inside it. The product was produced in Allentown. Is that LVKC? If not, do you know who it is?

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  11. Michael-
    That's not our insignia; please email me the name of the product, and I'll let you know what I can.

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