Interview with Rabbi Osher Gutnick
KS: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to yeshiva?
ROG: I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where I attended Yeshivah College and Yeshivah Gedolah. I continued my rabbinic studies at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, NJ, followed by a year of shlichus in Tel Aviv, where I studied and mentored students at a Chabad yeshiva that catered to baalei teshuvah. I received my semicha from Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi z”l, after studying at Yeshiva Beis Menachem in New Jersey and the Central Lubavitch Yeshiva in Crown Heights.
KS: What did you do after yeshiva?
ROG: After concluding my yeshiva studies, I married my wife Esther and continued rabbinic studies in kollel. I also worked part time as a writer and editor for non-profit Jewish organizations, as well as doing occasional hashgacha work.
KS: What is your current position at the OK?
ROG: I’m a Rabbinic Assistant and Europe coordinator at OK headquarters. I work closely with Rabbi Shimon Lasker, the head Rabbinic Coordinator of the OK Europe office in Brussels, to ensure that the OK’s kashrus activities in Europe are aligned with headquarters.
KS: What prepared you the most for your current position at the OK?
ROG: I grew up in a kashrus oriented home; my father is a Rav HaMachshir and I accompanied him on many of his kosher audits growing up. I worked periodically as a mashgiach for my father in Melbourne and later in the United States for other hechsherim. While studying in kollel, I was introduced to Rabbi Yitzchak Hanoka, the OK Rabbinic Coordinator for the Tri-State Area, who graciously introduced me to the OK family, and I accompanied him on his annual kosher audits. He gave me invaluable guidance on many practical aspects of kosher certification, and I began working as an OK mashgiach. Soon after that, Rabbi Levi Marmulszteyn, Rabbinic Manager at OK headquarters, informed me that a job opportunity had come up in the headquarters office and I transitioned to my current position.
KS: What is the best thing about working at the OK?
ROG: The office is a robust working environment, staffed by a very diverse range of experts. I’m learning something new every day. To work in kashrus is a great privilege and responsibility. It involves close personal collaboration – not just with our own offices and field reps, but also with the companies we certify and other kosher agencies. Ultimately, we’re working for a higher cause. We work for kosher because companies demand kosher, because their distributors demand kosher, because consumers demand kosher, because the Eibishter demands kosher. It’s a bit like Chad Gadya.
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
ROG: I would describe it as the vanguard of the kashrus world. Food technology is constantly evolving, and companies are finding new ways to save production costs, often posing significant kashrus challenges. The OK is fortunate to have a large and knowledgeable pool of Rabbinic Coordinators and field representatives throughout the world to ensure that the OK remains abreast of the latest production developments. Not long ago our office was approached by a French company that sells recycled water recovered from slaughterhouses. They collect water used to wash down live animal trucks and abattoir floors, and after an intensive filtration and chemical process they sell it as pure, potable water, indistinguishable from fresh water. We could not approve it as kosher due to the origin, but it goes to show the lengths to which some companies will go nowadays to utilize every possible resource.
KS: Can you share an interesting experience that you had while working at the OK?
ROG: Last month I had the opportunity to conduct a kosher inspection in Mexico, were I learned the importance of being accompanied by somebody with local knowledge. A representative from the company was driving me and we stopped at a dimly lit gas station, where some locals were offering to wash our car for a nominal fee. My companion politely declined their offer but it seemed they had other things in mind. After a tense exchange of words, he gave them a few pesos and we sped off. When I asked him what happened, he said, “They told me that if they couldn’t give me a car wash they would be more than happy to “take care” of my car some other way!” Thank G-d no vehicles were harmed, the inspection itself was successful, and the company is now OK certified.
What Other People Say
“Reb Osher’s background of kashrus experience in Australia made him a natural for the OK.” His thoroughness, perseverance and amicable nature make him a pleasure to work with.”
Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, Kashrus Administrator
“Rabbi Gutnick possesses the unique combination of being talmid chacham while also being an organized facilitator and clear communicator. I remember him, while still in yeshiva, accompanying his father, a kosher administrator for a local kashrus agency in Australia, on kosher conferences. He is especially liked for his refined and courteous personality, another quality which makes him a perfect fit to assist Rabbi Lasker in coordinating the European Department of OK Kosher.”
Rabbi Eli Lando, OK Chief Operations Executive
“Rabbi Gutnick’s easy personality and ability to simplify complex issues are the reasons that customers and mashgichim alike enjoy working with him. His attention to detail and especially to the customer’s overall needs while ensuring the integrity of the kosher system setup is constantly apparent. Rabbi Lasker and the entire OK depend on him with confidence.”
Rabbi Levi Marmulszteyn, Rabbinic Manager
“Rabbi Gutnick possesses two very important qualities – understanding and practicality. Every task that is assigned to him is done well, and done in a way that is sensitive to the needs of the customer and consumer. He has a talent for clear, concise communication with both rabbonim and customers. Rabbi Gutnick is a pleasure to work with and I am blessed to have real peace of mind knowing he is handling things along with me.”
Rabbi Shimon Lasker, OK Europe Rabbinic Coordinator