KS: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to yeshiva?
RSL: I grew up in B’nei Brak. I went to Or Yisrael Yeshiva for three years and then for Me’or HaTalmud Yeshiva for six more years.
KS: What did you do after yeshiva?
RSL: After I got married, I learned in Kollel Tiferet Mordechai for 6 years. I loved learning, and I especially loved learning halacha, which prepared me well for working in the kashrus field.
After kollel, I started working in the food industry and I met Rabbi Haskel who was then the head of the kashrus department in the Holon Rabbinate. Rabbi Haskel decided I would be a very good mashgiach and started putting pressure on me to quit my job and enter the kashrus field. I finally agreed and became the mashgiach of a small bakery. In the beginning, the work there was very simple – and quite boring too. My wife Yael convinced me not to give up and to use the opportunity to gain experience. She was right – the small bakery became a big factory and I soon found myself working with many ingredients, supervising different lines and interacting with rabbis and kosher agencies around the world.
Once day, Rabbi Haskel told me he got an offer to be the official representative of the OK in Israel. I encouraged him to accept the responsibility and he rented a small apartment in Elad to serve as our office – we didn’t even have a secretary back then (everything was done through the OK headquarters in New York)– and that was the beginning of the OK Israel office. Needless to say, we’ve come a long way since then…
KS: What is your current position at the OK?
RSL: I am currently a Senior Rabbinical Coordinator, mainly in charge of the Middle and Far East.
KS: What prepared you the most for your current position at the OK?
RSL: My work in the large bakery was the best preparation. As I have said, the company grew and started exporting its products, which necessitated cooperation with kosher agencies abroad. I had to receive many rabbis for visits and make sure they were satisfied with the kosher policy I implemented.
KS: What is best thing about working at the OK?
RSL: The best thing as a mashgiach is the assurance that every report of a new plant is reviewed by Rabbi Don Yoel Levy at OK Headquarters in New York. The knowledge that somebody as G-d-Fearing and knowledgeable as Rabbi D.Y. Levy is fully involved in every detail is invaluable. I am really happy to receive his comments and corrections since I know he is purely interested in achieving the best possible kashrus certification.
In OK Israel, the most special thing is Rabbi Haskel’s approach to kosher work. I am not talking about his expertise – that’s selfevident – but rather the graciousness and kindness which he shows everybody from a high-level rabbi of another organization to a disgruntled factory owner making unreasonable demands. Rabbi Haskel’s Ahavas Yisroel is well-known and he makes sure everybody leaves feeling good about themselves. That is why we have come so far and the OK is one of the premier kashrus agencies in Israel and worldwide.
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
RSL: I believe the OK is the most advanced and successful international kosher organization. The K-Cert technologies we use have caused a true revolution in kosher work. We can find every formula, report or note we need in a minute, and suggesting alternative suppliers to clients have never been easier. It makes a huge difference in our work.
KS: Can you share an interesting experience that you had while working at the OK?
RSL: I have had many interesting experiences, but my favorite story happened a few years ago and is a stunning example of Divine Providence.
I flew to Bogota, Colombia and on my return I had to take a connecting flight to Cali (another city in Colombia). The flight time changed at the last minute and the airline staff neglected to transfer my suitcase to the right plane. I usually take my tefillin with me when I board a plane, but because of the time pressure my tefillin stayed in the suitcase and when I got off the plane I found out that the suitcase was still in Bogota and would arrive only the following day.
I was almost frantic with anxiety. I called everybody I could think of, but apparently nobody knew of any frum Jews in Cali. Then my phone battery ran out. Since the charger was also in the suitcase, I went down to the hotel reception desk, resolving to continue calling till I found a solution, whatever the price.
Suddenly, an English-speaking man entered the hotel and went to check in. His cellphone rang – and he answered in Hebrew! I ran to him and asked if he happened to have tefillin. He did and lent them to me willingly.
The following day my tefillin arrived. I made a decision then and there that I would never be separated from my tefillin again – I would take them everywhere. So, when I had to go and visit a flavor plant later that day, I took my tefillin with me. The owner of the plant was an old woman. After giving me a tour of the facility she asked to introduce me to her husband. He was much older than her and wheelchair-bound. We talked for a while and then I found out he was Jewish! I asked him if he had ever put on tefillin. “Never” he said. I offered to put my tefillin on him, which were with me now, according to my new decision never to leave them behind. He put on tefillin and I said Shema with him. It was the only time in his life he had the zechus to put on tefillin. Two months later I got an email from the facility owner; her Jewish husband had just died. My unusual experience in Colombia saved him from dying without ever wearing tefillin.
What Other People Say About Rabbi Yeshaya Prizant
Reb Shmuel is one if our charter members of OK israel. his thoroughness and perseverance has earned him the role of Senior Rabbinic coordinator overseeing other Rabbinic coordinators. All reports from OK israel mashgichim first pass through Rabbi Shmuel Levy’s competent hands before going on to OK headquarters in New York. His dedication and prowess is not only evident in kashrus work, but in learning as well; Rabbi Shmuel Levy also has the distinction of making a Siyum HaShas.”
Rabbi Don Yoel Levy,
Kashrus Administrator, OK Kosher Certification
Rabbi Shmuel Levy is a very special person. first of all, he is amazingly dedicated to all kashrus matters. His work method is ‘Naaseh Venishmah’, he undertakes a task without stopping to consider first how much of an effort he will have to make. i always feel i can ask him to take care of the most challenging cases and he will do so willingly and competently. he is also exceptionally hard working; his work day begins at 5 Am. As everybody who knows him knows, he is available almost 24/6. Rabbi Shmuel Levy is also one of our most beloved mashgichim. His people skills and emotional intelligence are second to none. Clients, colleagues, rabbis from other organizations, you just can’t find somebody with whom Rabbi Levy doesn’t get along well. He can even correct people without making them feel resentful!”
Rabbi Ahron Haskel,
Executive Rabbinic Coordinator, OK Israel