KS: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to yeshiva?
RLYS: I grew up in Miami Beach, Florida and attended elementary school at Landow Yeshiva/Lubavitch Educational Center. For high school and Beis Medrash I studied in Oholei Torah in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Afterwards, I spent two years in Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim of France where I received semicha from Rabbi Hillel Pevzner z”l.
KS: What did you do after yeshiva?
RLYS: After yeshiva I taught classes at the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, NJ and I married my wife, Sara. After spending a year in kollel in Crown Heights, I moved to New Jersey where I serve as a rabbi at Chabad of Western Monmouth County. I also directed Yeshivas Beis Menachem (a Semicha Institute) for 15 years (1998-2014).
KS: What is your current position at the OK ?
RLYS: I am one of the Rabbinic Coordinators at OK Kosher, overseeing the kashrus of different types of food production companies. I travel regularly, worldwide, to see firsthand that the kosher systems are being implemented properly. I am also a member of our “Tolayim Committee” that researches the status of infestation in all sort of vegetation.
KS: What prepared you the most for your current position at the OK ?
RLYS: I cannot point to any specific experience that prepared me most. However, I can say that growing up in a home imbued with Torah, Halacha and Yiras Shomayim gave me the fortitude to help Klal Yisrael wherever I can. My inquisitive nature has proven a useful tool to ensure that the facilities that I visit are producing 100% kosher food products.
KS: What is best thing about working at the OK ?
RLYS: It’s a great honor to have the opportunity to interact with many rabbonim and talmidei chachamim regarding issues that affect the global world of kashrus. The rabbinic team at the OK, headed by Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, is truly amazing; they are knowledgeable and helpful and to be able to play a role in such holy work is truly gratifying.
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
RLYS: Under the guidance of Rabbi Levy and the management skills of Rabbi Levi Marmulszteyn and Rabbi Eli Lando, OK Kosher has become a global leader in setting the gold standard for kashrus today. No company is too big or too small to benefit from the OK’s attention to detail, expertise and global reach.
KS: Can you share an interesting experience that you had while working at the OK ?
RLYS: Traveling to areas that are not commonly traveled by members of our community gives me the opportunity to meet people in some unusual circumstances. Putting on tefillin with a traveler in a small airport in Western Wisconsin or in a production facility in Eastern Iowa is heartwarming.
There are also some harrowing experiences that I’ve had, where I can say that I developed a new appreciation for Tefilas Haderech. I was once scheduled to fly from Cotonou, Benin to Accra, Ghana in West Africa. When I arrived at the airport, I found out that my flight was cancelled. The next available flight was in 24 hours; however, this was not an option because I was scheduled to visit a factory the next morning at 10am and had another flight right afterwards. Having no choice, I took a taxi at 4 am across 2 borders into another time zone for a total of 8 hours through uncomfortable terrain and in an unfamiliar environment.
Another time, approximately 15 minutes into a 2-hour drive to the airport in northern Mindanao in The Philippines, my driver got a call that the road ahead was closed due to a rebel attack on a local police station. Because there is only one road to the airport I would not be able to get to the airport. We went back to the factory and booked another flight from a different airport, in the other direction, close to 4 hours away.
What Other People Say
“Reb Levi joined us at the OK several years ago and we quickly began to see his valuable contribution to the OK and the kosher consumer. Rabbi Schapiro is a talmid chachom who has taught and guided many young yeshivah students through their semichah studies. He is thorough, very learned, and a pleasure to work with.”
Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, Kashrus Administrator
“The first impression one gets of Rabbi Levi Schapiro is that he is a talmid chochom, yiras shomayim, and mechubad al habriyos, and that impression is constantly reinforced for me while working with him. Not one to be satisfied with any status quo, he has constantly strived to increase his own industrial kosher certification knowledge since joining OK Kosher a few years ago, and has made significant contributions in his eidel way to the entire OK for the betterment of kashrus for Klal Yisroel. No matter the challenge, he always just gets it done. It is an honor for me to work with Rabbi Schapiro and there is no doubt in my mind that he will continue to succeed in everything he does.”
Rabbi Levi Marmulszteyn, Rabbinic Manager
“Rabbi Levi Schapiro joined OK Kosher after spending a number of years teaching semicha to yeshiva students. His hands-on knowledge of halacha and educational experience is of tremendous benefit to the OK, its customers, and kosher consumers. Reading Rabbi Schapiro’s detailed reports makes one feel as if they were in the manufacturing facility with him on his visit. He always goes the extra mile to investigate every detail and ensure that his assigned facilities are operating with the most efficiently run kosher programs possible. This is all in addition to the beautiful articles he has written for Kosher Spirit in the past few issues. We are blessed to have Rabbi Schapiro on our rabbinical team.”
Rabbi Eli Lando, Executive Manager