KS: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to yeshiva?
RSK: I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and went to local yeshivos for my elementary years. I later went to Rabbinical College of Canada in Montreal for my advanced studies.
KS: What did you do after yeshiva?
RSK: After yeshiva, I married my wife Leah (nee Labkowsky) in 2008. I served as a Maggid Shiur in Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad – Los Angeles and I was the principal of the Junior High School at Cheder Menachem of
KS: What is your current position at the OK?
RSK: I am currently the West Coast Food Service Administrator at OK Kosher, based in our Los Angeles office.
KS: What prepared you the most for your current position at the OK?
RSK: My years of diligent learning in yeshiva prepared me for the rabbinic aspects of my job at the OK, but the years I spent as a school principal prepared me for the leadership and administrative part of the job.
KS: What is best thing about working at the OK?
RSK: The best part of working at the OK is the team of rabbis and kashrus experts I get to work with and collaborate with on a daily basis. In addition, the way in which we are making a difference is very satisfying. We have done a lot of things to greatly improve the standard of kashrus throughout the world (or for the kosher consumer).
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
RSK: There are a number of factors which determine the quality of a kashrus agency.
1. The written policies. These are the standards which the kashrus agency claims to stand for.
2. The competence of the rabbonim at the top who create the policies and determine the Halacha in any given situation, from simple to complex.
3. The ground game. This includes the mashgichim that are employed, the schedule of inspections by our rabbonim and the constant monitoring of our certified establishments to ensure that the written policies are being fully implemented. The OK really is the gold standard in the foodservice department when it comes to these 3 areas.
Our written policies require the highest level of kosher compliance. Our rabbonim are the leading experts in kashrus in the world today. And, our ground game is where the OK really distinguishes itself. We focus tremendously on the quality of our mashgichim and we have a rigorous inspection schedule and system. Potential problems are usually quickly identified and solved thoroughly and professionally.
KS: Tell us something interesting about you that we don’t know.
RSK: This is the hardest question for me to answer because I don’t like talking about myself. But if I have to give you something – I guess I have to confess that I believe in UFO’s. That was a joke. I am blessed with a wonderful family, KA”H. I have an amazing wife and 4 beautiful children (1 son and 3 daughters). I am truly grateful to Hashem for all the blessings in my life.
KS: Can you share an interesting experience that you had while working at the OK?
RSK: I was overseeing the kashering of a large catering kitchen for Pesach. Needless to say this took a few days and we were very stringent with the employees about getting all the equipment and utensils properly cleaned. When we were finally done and I was getting ready to leave, a non-Jewish employee approached me and told me that he wished to convert to Judaism. I asked him why and his answer was: after seeing how seriously we took the kashering procedure and the attention we paid to every detail and how nothing was just shoved under the carpet, so to speak, he realized that ours must be the true religion. Nothing else could
explain our behavior.
It taught me a powerful lesson: when we don’t take short cuts and we insist on maintaining the strictest standards, it only brings us more respect and admiration.
What Other People Say
“Rabbi Kesselman is a talented individual who is well versed in Halacha and its practical implications. Managing the foodservice department in Los Angeles is no easy task and Reb Sholom is magnificently upholding (and improving) the highest level of kashrus. A Talmid Chochom and a mentch, we are lucky to have a man of his stature on the OK team.” – Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, Kashrus Administrator
“Rabbi Kesselman’s dedication to both customers and consumers alike make him appreciated by all. His attention to detail in Halacha and practice are truly an asset to the Food Service department.” – Rabbi Yakov Teichman, Food Service Rabbinic Coordinator
“Rabbi Kesselman is a true Halacha Yid. Even before his tenure at the OK, he was well-known for his Halacha shiurim. His vast knowledge of Halacha helps him implement OK kashrus standards on a practical level in the California Food Service department. Rabbi Kesselman is also very good at dealing with people and challenging situations, which, along with his knowledge of Halacha and siyata d’Shmaya, enables him to be so successful in creating a superior Food Service department in California.” – Rabbi Kalman Weinfeld, Food Service Rabbinic Coordinator