KS: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to yeshiva?
RYR: I was born in Israel, but as a child, my parents moved to New York since my father wanted to learn in the Mechon Hora’a Kollel in Monsey. I initially went to a local mesivta, but my maternal grandfather, the gabbai of the Belzer Rebbe, did not let me stay there very long. When he arrived in New York for the bar mitzvah of one of my brothers, he declared that a bochur should learn far away from home and he took me back to Eretz Yisrael where I enrolled in the Belzer yeshiva. I learned there until my marriage and really felt those years were immensely important for my progress.
KS: What did you do after yeshiva?
RYR: After four years in the Belzer yeshiva I got engaged to my wife, Sara. After my wedding I learned in kollel for three years where I got to know Rabbi Perlov, with whom I now have the pleasure of working with at the OK.
KS: What is your current position at the OK?
RYR: I currently supervise the mashgichim for all Israeli facilities and wineries and I am the team leader of Cholov Yisroel productions abroad.
KS: What prepared you the most for your current position at the OK?
RYR: I started my kosher work literally from the bottom and that’s how I learned my work so thoroughly. My first job was in the wine industry and so I learned a lot about the process and the different stages of wine making. I found my work very interesting, so I made sure to internalize everything I saw and heard. Today, wine professionals who want to keep their reputation intact and are too embarrassed to raise questions to their colleagues come to me in confidence to ask for advice. They feel comfortable consulting with me.
For example, I had a desperate winemaker come to me with a serious problem: due to some negligence, his wine started smelling like vinegar. I helped him obtain copper powder that solved the problem without everybody knowing for whom this powder was purchased. In another case a winery was getting its red wine bottles recalled because of crystals forming within the bottles. I went to the winery and checked their equipment, and found out that they had a problem with one of the devices. They fixed the issue and the problem went away.
In addition to the practical knowledge I have B"H accumulated, I also took private lessons with many professionals in the field as well as with leading scholars. That is how I came to thoroughly understand the chemical processes involved in wine making.
KS: What is best thing about working at the OK?
RYR: The OK really excels in organization. The rules are clear-cut with no gray areas. Everything is done in an orderly way – from work assignments to payment. Efficiency is paramount: you don’t have to spend a half hour finding out if an ingredient is kosher or not, the OK’s proprietary computer program enables you to perform the search in a moment or two.
When you arrive to inspect a facility, you have a tidy file with all the paperwork you need to help you do your job. When you leave, you have exactly the necessary materials to leave with the client to help him understand what kosher means and how the OK works.
I think Rabbi Don Yoel Levy deserves a lot of credit for building such an empire that functions seamlessly and precisely despite its large size. In Israel, much credit goes to Rabbi Haskel, who ensures we work in a thoroughly professional way even when we are dealing with clients who are used to the typical Israeli balagan.
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
RYR: As I said, I think the OK became a byword for good organization and professionalism. I meet mashgichim from other agencies all the time, and they all say they wish every kosher organization was like the OK – concerned solely with kosher matters and totally apolitical.
KS: Can you share an interesting experience that you had while working at the OK?
RYR: Last winter I spent some time supervising a chocolate production in Serbia. On my way back to Israel I took a Turkish Airlines flight with a stop in Istanbul.
When the plane landed in Istanbul I was in the middle of davening Shacharis so I was wearing my long coat, my hat and my gartel, as is the custom of chassidim. Then, we heard an announcement asking the passengers not to leave their seats just yet since the clergymen on the flight should be the first to leave the plane. Of course I obeyed and didn’t stir.
A few minutes later, a man wearing Turkish Airlines uniform approached me and asked me to come with him. I was worried, not knowing what he wanted, but of course I went with him. We got off, and he led me to a VIP car. I was given the royal treatment in the airport, simply because the Turkish made a mistake and thought I was the important clergyman on the flight! (Perhaps they could see my G-dly soul…) On an El Al flight that definitely wouldn’t have happened!
What Other People Say About Rabbi Yitzchok Rosenfeld
“Working with Rabbi Rosenfeld is a true pleasure, since he is a real Ben Torah, both in his scholarship and halachic knowledge and in his behavior and manners. When Rabbi Rosenfeld undertakes a task you know it will be done in the best possible way and he will not rest until the necessary results are achieved. His vast experience in supervising the production process in a variety of facilities shows in everything he does." – Rabbi Binyamin Neufeld , Rabbinic Coordinator, OK Israel
"There are three words that define Rabbi Rosenfeld: professionalism, service and dedication. It’s customary to hear from companies abroad that they are amazed at his expertise and knowledge. Once, a food engineer of a Hungarian company told me that Rabbi Rosenfeld knows their dairy better than they do. When it comes to Israeli wineries, everybody knows he is the go-to man for every professional question, and winemakers constantly consult him whenever they are in doubt!" – Rabbi Yaacov Perlov , Rabbinic Coordinator, OK Israel