KS: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to yeshiva?
RYO: I was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and as a child I learned in the Tzelemer Cheder there. Later, my family moved to New Square and I learned in the Skver Yeshiva. As a bochur, I traveled to Eretz Yisroel to learn in the Stoliner Yeshiva and later came back to New York to Bais Medrash Elyon in Monsey.
KS: What did you do after yeshiva?
RYO: In 1967, I married my wife Gittel and moved to Boro Park, where I worked as a rebbe in the Stoliner Yeshiva in the morning and learned in the afternoon. Later, I worked as an electrician for a few years.
KS: What is your current position at the OK?
RYO: I am currently a Field Representative for the OK, visiting companies in the Midwest. I started working for the OK in 1977, under the leadership of Rabbi Berel Levy, ob”m. My specialty is the area of dairy kashrus, especially cheese production.
KS: What prepared you the most for your current position at the OK?
RYO: Of course, my many years in yeshiva learning the halachos of kashrus was my main preparation for working in kashrus. My years of working as an electrician also help me immensely in my work, because I know the mechanics of the machinery used in food production. The dairy industry has changed tremendously over the last 30 years that I have been involved in kashrus, so I have learned many things on the job as I go along. Finally, as my wife says, common sense is one of the most important faculties when working in kashrus!
KS: What is best thing about working at the OK?
RYO: The best thing about working at the OK is the cooperation from the main office, good contacts throughout the kashrus world. The OK is overall a good company to work for.
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
RYO: As a field mashgiach I receive a lot of support from the office hierarchy to get things done – if I need assistance from a Rabbinic Coordinator or Rabbi Levy, I know I can rely on them. Most importantly, the OK does not compromise in order to earn an extra dollar. Of course, we help our companies and try to make the certification process as smooth as possible, but we don’t compromise our kashrus standards to avoid a financial loss like the loss of an account.
KS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
RYO: Back when I first started working for the OK, Rabbi Berel Levy, ob”m, sent me to inspect a company in Chicago’s south side. I came in and performed my inspection, but I had the feeling that something was not right. I was very young and somewhat unsure, so Rabbi Levy told me to get all of the pertinent information and evaluate it. I told the owner that I would be back the following week for another visit.
When I returned, I had the same bad feeling. I told the owner I was back to get more information for my report and I needed to take another look around. Soon after, I left and told the owner I would let him know when I would come back again. I drove a mile or two down the street, turned around and came back to the plant through the back door. In those days, there was very little security and nobody questioned why I was back and entering through the back door.
While entering through the back, I found a false wall hiding a large storage area of treif ingredients! I told the owner that I would be reporting back to Rabbi Levy immediately and within ten minutes all of the reputable kashrus agencies would know about the fiasco. Nobody would give him a new certification.
This experience confirmed what I already knew. You need Siyata D’Shmaya (G-d’s help) to have success in kosher supervision. You have to ask Hashem to open your eyes, to help you find the answer when something feels or looks suspect.
What Other People Say About Rabbi Ort
It is with special reverence that I write about Reb Yitzchok. As the senior rabbi at the OK, I must say that I have learned much from him. He is one of the experts (if not THE expert) in the kosher dairy industry. We have used his invaluable expertise countless times to help us provide the top-notch kashrus that the OK is famous for. Rabbi Ort also has vast knowledge of spray dryers and other areas, along with a special approach that makes him one of the most popular rabbis around. All of this and more has earned him the respect of the top kashrus organizations worldwide, another pioneering effort of my father, ob”m, who had the foresight to train him.
Rabbi Don Yoel Levy,
Kashrus Administrator, OK Kosher Certification
Rabbi Ort is, by far, the most knowledgeable and experienced mashgiach in the entire dairy industry. He is held in the highest esteem by all rabbonim and hechsherim around the world.
Rabbi Hershel Krinsky,
Rabbinic Coordinator, OK Europe
I have known Rabbi Ort for many years. His personality, character, middos and good sense of humor are second to none. In addition to his vast knowledge and experience in kashrus, there is no one who can match Rabbi Ort’s reliability. He is a pleasure to work with.
Rabbi Binyomin Gruber,
CRC – Rav Hamachshir of Haolam Cheese