The OK Kosher Story
The history behind kosher and our organization is the foundation of our ongoing story.
For centuries, kosher consumers ate home-cooked meals, prepared with fresh food from the trusted butcher, baker, fishmonger and farmer. However, in the 20th century, grocery chains sprang up across the United States. With the rapid industrialization of America’s food supply, products made in factories hundreds of miles from home appeared on store shelves. Kosher-keeping families began to rely on ingredient labels as a way to determine a product’s kosher status. But this method proved problematic, at best. Not all ingredients on the label were accurate, and many weren’t even disclosed. Consumers wanting to keep Torah law and tradition alive needed a solution. Enter kosher certification – a concept born from the need for assurance and the drive to provide it.
Below is a historical timeline of how kosher practice evolved into kosher regulation with the advent of food manufacturing.
1935: A New York food chemist pioneers kosher certification.
Mr. Abraham Goldstein originally recognized the need for kosher food regulation. He founded Organized Kashrus Laboratories (OK Labs) to fill this need. With a strict adherence to Jewish law and a solid grounding in food chemistry, Mr. Goldstein’s kosher certification introduced a new standard of trust between food makers and consumers.
1968: Rabbi Berel Levy takes kosher on the road.
Over the next three decades, the food industry expanded in every direction. Additives, preservatives and flavorings began arriving from the Far East, Europe and around the world. Suddenly, products made across the street included ingredients from across the globe. In order to partake, Jewish families needed a way to verify the foods being sold and what was in them.
In 1968, Rabbi Bernard “Berel” Levy, a graduate of New York’s finest rabbinical school and a visionary businessman, assumed the leadership of OK Labs. Building on a proud tradition of innovation, Rabbi Levy set out to bridge the information gap on the journey from global manufacturing plants to each family’s table.
Rabbi Levy began to follow ingredients all the way up the chain, landing in Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Indonesia and beyond. He consolidated nearly a dozen regional kosher certification systems and continued to forge a reputation for integrity, service and trust. For the first time, consumers and manufacturers could know the kosher status of even trace ingredients such as ascorbic acid and MSG.
1987: The OK Kosher Torch Gets Passed. The legacy of OK Kosher history is ignited.
Rabbi Berel Levy passed away in 1987. His son Rabbi Don Yoel Levy succeeded him at the helm of OK Kosher, leading a team of highly skilled and trained on-site supervisors who ensure the highest standards of compliance tailored to each manufacturer’s plant operation.
Under Rabbi Don Yoel’s leadership, OK Kosher continued to lead the kosher food industry with knowledge, efficiency and dependability. In addition to administering Kosher Certification, the OK actively promotes education and observance of kosher laws and attitudes throughout the global community.
Rabbi Levy and his team continued to innovate in areas other organizations hadn’t yet ventured. They tackled the problem of contamination during shipment by inventing a tracking and sealing system still in use today. They invested heavily in a comprehensive database for internal and client use that’s recognized as the most advanced of its kind.
And Rabbi Levy made it his duty to train the next generation of kosher certification authorities from within his own pool of Rabbinic Coordinators at OK Kosher.
2020: The Future is Now.
Upon Rabbi Don Yoel Levy’s passing in 2020, the Executive Rabbinical Council, or Vaad HaKashrus, collectively assumed responsibility for the OK’s kashrus standards. Senior Management, alongside the Executive Rabbinical Council, govern the policies upon which our programs for certified companies are based. Their decisions unwaveringly follow in the spirit and teachings Rabbi Don Yoel Levy trained them in.
OK Kosher’s infrastructure of professional expertise extends from our New York headquarters to international affiliate offices and representatives around the globe.
We know that consumers depend on us to know the real story behind the kosher food they eat and the people who make it. We work every day to do exactly that, and continually earn their trust.