In the early 1950s there was a dairy farm across the road from Congregation Sons of Israel in Lakewood. This was back when, as my mother says, “Lakewood was a horse and buggy place”, a resort town filled with hotels primarily occupied from late November until after Pesach.
My father, Rabbi Berel Levy, OB”M, wasn’t officially involved in kashrus yet; in fact he was the principal at the Betzalel Hebrew Day School, where I studied as a young boy. Even then, twenty years before entering the world of kashrus certification, my father would investigate everything we ate to make sure it was 100% kosher.
I remember my father visiting the dairy farm before Pesach to investigate the entire milking process to make sure it was fully kosher.
Today this sounds obvious; however, when I was a young boy the accepted method of ascertaining the kashrus status of an item was to read its ingredients. If all the ingredients sounded kosher, the item was considered kosher. Certain ingredients may have seemed innocent enough, leading most Yidden to assume the item was kosher.
One such ingredient was vegetable shortening, used to make cookies, cakes and candies. My father discovered that often the equipment used to make items containing vegetable shortening was also used to process foods containing lard, a fat derived from pigs.
In the 1960s, my father began working in the field of kashrus. At that time, the accepted methodology in the kashrus industry relied heavily on assumption. This was never enough for my father. His love of truth and thirst for knowledge led him to become an expert in chemistry and food science—all to ensure he fully understood the food industry and how to make sure every food he certified was completely kosher. I remember Tom Kallen, the owner of Bakeline in Chicago, mentioning to me how he wished he could get into Rabbi Berel Levy’s head, so impressed was he with his vast knowledge of the world of food processing.
Rabbi Berel Levy passed away on 5 Nissan, 27 years ago. Today, because of the foundation he laid, OK Kosher Certification remains attuned to the very latest in food technology and requires of its companies the strictest of kosher standards.
For example, our insistence on a Mashgiach Temidi having the only set of keys to the kitchen in all meat restaurants and catering facilities, even when the owner is a Torah observant Jew, is something that my father insisted on thirty years ago. Recent events in Flatbush, Monsey and Boro Park have confirmed his wisdom.
His example of seeing the big picture and always thinking ahead, inspired us to acquire the rights to a new domain on the internet called .kosher. .Kosher offers OK Kosher Certification an important new platform to educate and promote the mitzvah of kashrus without compromise globally.
It is an exciting time for the worlds of kashrus and food technology and OK Kosher Certification is proud to stand at the forefront, leading the way, inspired, as always, by Rabbi Berel Levy, OB”M.
Rabbi Don Yoel Levy