KS: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to yeshiva?
RSK: I was born and raised in Boro Park, Brooklyn. I learned in the Skverer Cheder, Yeshiva Shaarei Yosher, and then continued learning in the Gateshead Yeshiva. When I returned home I learned in the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn.
KS: What did you do after yeshiva?
RSK: I married my wife Ruchie (nee Low), a Los Angeles native, in the summer of 1994. In 1997, I joined the Los Angeles Chassidishe Kollel where I received semicha of Yora and Yodin. I also taught Halacha and Gemara at the Los Angeles Mesivta. In 2006, I was appointed as the Rov of Congregation Or Hachaim. Soon thereafter I was asked by Rabbi Avrohom Teichman to join him as a member of the rabbinical board of Kehilla Kosher (which has since merged with the OK) and as a Dayan in Bais Din Agudas Yisroel.
KS: What is your current position at the OK?
RSK: I am the West Coast Rabbinic Coordinator. My responsibilities include setting up and overseeing OK Kosher certified establishments in the area. My responsibilities also include being actively involved in OK Kosher’s Los Angeles Food Service Department (local bakeries, restaurants and catering), headed by Rabbi Kalman Weinfeld and his dedicated professional team in New York and Los Angeles.
KS: What prepared you the most for your current position at the OK?
RSK: The knowledge and application of halacha is obviously very important in kashrus. However, there is more than that needed. Much skill, insight, and essentially a broad understanding of mysterious ingredients and complex equipment is vital to guarantee the public trust in the OK symbol. I had the privilege to learn from the most experienced and brilliant minds in the kashrus industry today, namely Rabbis Avrohom Teichman, Levi Marmulszteyn and Sholom Ber Hendel.
KS: What is best thing about working at the OK?
RSK: Being a kashrus coordinator is an awesome responsibility; it’s frankly quite frightening. You realize that your decisions can make a difference in the lives thousands of people. At the OK, in addition to an excellent staff of field representatives and a highly advanced cutting-edge database software, we have the advantage of a warm family-like environment where colleagues and management look out for you and are eager to lend a helping hand. It is especially comforting that Rabbi Levy himself reviews, advises and guides on every kashrus decision.
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
RSK: For the Kosher consumer, the OK symbol on a product means that you can enjoy the food with confidence that it meets very high standards of kashrus without compromise. For companies, the OK means that kashrus standards are not negotiable and kashrus compliance will be paramount. At the same time, the companies enjoy superb professionalism and outstanding customer relationship with a globally recognized and accepted symbol.
KS: Tell us something interesting about you that we don’t know.
RSK: There is one question that I’m asked all the time: Which type of chossid am I? The answer is not a simple one, since my father is a nephew of the Belzer Rav ZT”L and my wife is a niece of the Satmar Rav ZT”L. There is a famous Gemara (made famous by Mordechai Ben David) that says when Moshiach will come all tzaddikim will be dancing around in a circle with Hashem in the center and all the tzaddikim will point their finger to Hashem and say, “Hinei Elokeinu Zeh”. When the person on the west side of the circle points eastward and the person opposite him points westward it appears as they disagree. However, when Moshiach will come, we will all see that the tzaddikim are all pointing in the same direction, towards Hashem. To answer the question: I guess you could say that I’m going around in circles.
KS: Can you share an interesting experience that you had while working at the OK?
RSK: While I was teaching halacha some eighteen years ago, we learned in a popular sefer that the brocha for chocolate is ha’eitz, because the cocoa bean grows on a tree. I did extensive research to study the production process of chocolate and my conclusion was that for several reasons (8 to be exact), the brocha is shehakol. I wrote a letter to the author and in the ensuing correspondence I was somewhat surprised when he asked me to explain some parts of the production process.
While working for the OK, I visited several chocolate plants, large and small, and I learned some new significant details about the process that I did not know from my previous research. This experience validated to me Rabbi Levy’s insistence that OK facilities must be visited annually and reviewed anew by a Rabbinic Coordinator, in addition to the local mashgichim visiting and supervising. The best research is no comparison to actually seeing, even if that means visiting a coconut oil plant deep in the jungle of the Sumatra Island of Indonesia where the only way to get there is by taking a 12-hour round trip voyage on a small 8 passenger boat.
What Other People Say
“Reb Shlomo Klein has been a great addition to the OK Rabbinical staff. His knowledge and clarity in halacha, combined with his understanding of the technical aspects of the kashrus world, and a friendly, down-to-earth disposition makes him a pleasure to work with. It’s an honor to have him as a member of our rabbinic staff.”
Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, Kashrus Administrator
“Rabbi Klein is a quick learner; warm and easygoing. He has built connections and solid relationships with the companies assigned to him, always leaving a positive and favorable impression. Rabbi Klein’s determination to help colleagues and companies has created a wonderful working environment in which problems and questions are duly resolved, while his sense of humor has enabled him to inform various companies of difficult decisions or changes with total acceptance and cooperation on their part. Rabbi Klein is a great friend and colleague and a pleasure to work with.”
Rabbi Sholom Ber Hendel, Rabbinic Coordinator
“In order to be successful in the kashrus field you need the following 3 things: Yiras Shomayim, Havanah (understanding in laws of kashrus and the world of machinery and how they connect) and a sense of organization and work ethic. Rabbi Klein was blessed with all three.”
Rabbi Kalman Weinfeld, Rabbinic Coordinator