Interview with Rabbi Shmuel Eidelman
KS: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to yeshiva?
RSE: I grew up in B’nei B’rak, Israel. I studied in the Karlin Yeshiva Ketana, and then in the Hevron Yeshiva in the Geula neighborhood of Jerusalem for six wonderful years.
KS: What did you do after yeshiva?
RSE: After I got married to my wife Channa in 5759 I learned in Kollel ‘Torat Eretz Yisrael’ in Petach Tikva.
KS: What is your current position at the OK?
RSE:I work in the wine and alcohol department at OK Israel and I am in charge of kosher productions in Moldova.
KS: What prepared you the most for your current position at the OK?
RSE:I have always been attracted to kosher work and learned the kosher laws in depth in yeshiva. When I first got into the kosher field I helped found the kosher department in the Mate Yehuda Municipality and had the zechus to turn many non-kosher businesses into kosher ones, especially wineries. I also founded the kosher department in the Backtochem Labs, which is used by all kosher agencies. My neighbor and dear friend, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, introduced me to Rabbi Haskel once the OK office in Israel was opened, and I’ve worked for the OK ever since.
KS: What is best thing about working at the OK?
RSE:It’s really hard to mention only one thing when there are so many elements that make the OK exceptional. Perhaps the most outstanding thing is the professionalism and vast experience of the rabbis, each in his own field. Also, the amazing way Rabbi Levy treats every facility as the most important one and personally checks every initial visit report.
The OK also has amazing customer service, which makes me proud – the office in Israel is open from 8 AM to 8 PM every day, and the Rabbinic Coordinators are easily reachable even after office hours.
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
RSE: The OK is an organization that believes that every effort should be made so that Jews everywhere will have access to kosher l’mehadrin food. The unique computer programs we have contain a huge database that makes it possible to instantly check whether an ingredient used in a facility in the other side of the world is kosher. Our motto is: “If there is any doubt, then there is no doubt [that something must be done].” Kashrus isn’t the place for compromise.
The OK has also been a trailblazer in the kosher wine industry. In the last decade we’ve found solutions for many necessary ingredients that winemakers couldn’t obtain for their kosher wines. It is no wonder that most of the prestigious wineries in Israel have applied to be certified by the OK.
KS: Can you share an interesting experience that you had while working at the OK?
RSE:Over the years I have had many interesting experiences in many different countries, but I think that the following story represents our way of work perfectly. Last year I flew to Moldova to supervise the pasteurizing of wine in a juice factory. The weather was terrible, with heavy snow and extremely low temperatures. It took real mesiras nefesh to kosherize the tanker which was used to carry the wine from the winery to the factory.
When we reached the factory we found out it was impossible to kosherize the tanks properly in the regular way. The owners insisted it wasn’t a problem since they only worked with fruit juice, never with grape juice or milk. I consulted Rabbi Haskel and he said that since a government official signed the factory records that claimed not to use grape juice or milk it would be acceptable not to kosherize, but that I should “listen to my gut”. Well, my gut told me to be careful. I decided to do the kosherizing the hard and long way by pasteurizing a lot of water and then passing the water through the tanks while it was still boiling. The managers, needless to say, were very annoyed with me.
The kosherizing took two days. On the third day I arrived at the facility early in the morning, and by mistake drove through the entry designed for trucks. When I got out of the car I saw a huge red stain on the snow. I bent down to smell it – and it was wine! I asked for the factory owner who came, pale and awkward, and explained that he was only doing a favor to a friend who needed to pasteurize wine, and he is actually not allowed to do this…it was true Siyata Dishmaya that we insisted on proper kosherizing!
“As one of our experts in the wine industry, Rabbi Eidelman has been instrumental in the growth of OK mehudar wines worldwide. From the Mountains of Yehuda to Moldavia, his understanding of wines and expertise in other areas has greatly enhanced the OK. Rabbi Eidelman’s genial personality enables him to obtain the highest standards of kashrus with a smile.” – Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, Kashrus Administrator, OK Kosher Certification
“Rabbi Eidelman is a man that never stops learning. When he was put in charge of kosher matters in Moldova he actually went and learned the local language, in order to create better relationships with the people. He studied the world of wine so thoroughly, including taking enology course, that he is as knowledgeable as any winemaker. Whenever I accompany him on visits in wineries I always notice how impressed the professional staff is with Rabbi Eidelman’s mastery of any wine-related subject. This both helps the wineries trust him and gives additional prestige to the OK as a highly professional kosher organization.
Kosher wine work is intense: during harvest the rabbi has to be present all day and all night and the supervision work requires a lot of Yiras Shomayim and strong character, since sometimes the rabbi has to make hard decisions. Rabbi Eidleman definitely has what it takes to tackle all the challenges of making kosher wine and, since he is such an expert, his decisions and instructions are accepted with respect.” – Rabbi Ahron Haskel, Executive Rabbinic Coordinator, OK Israel
“We have been working with the OK and Rabbi Eidelman for many years. We believe that Rabbi Eidleman is an excellent example of a rabbi who never compromises on kosher standards but knows how to adapt himself to the human and professional environment of the wine industry. He is one of the leaders of the kosher wine revolution in Israel. In the past, boutique wineries were afraid of kosher certification, afraid it would harm the quality of the wine, but people like Rabbi Eidleman proved those fears baseless.As a non-observant person I greatly appreciate Rabbi Eidelman’s work and his ability to turn kosher certification of wine from something intimidating to something we do with great pleasure.” Udi Kaplan CEO of Haela Winery