KS: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to yeshiva?
RSBH: I grew up in Migdal HaEmek, in the northern part of Eretz Yisroel. I learned in Lubavitch yeshivos in K’far Chabad, Israel, Brooklyn, NY, and Miami, FL. I studied for my smicha at The Shul of Bal Harbour in Florida.
KS:What did you do after yeshiva?
RSBH: After yeshiva I spent the summer doing outreach in Greece. I traveled from island to island going to small, isolated Jewish communities. I supplied them with religious articles and kosher food to help remind them of their Yiddishkeit. I got married soon after and spent the next three years in kollel, primarily focusing on halacha.
KS:What is your current position at the OK?
RSBH: I am a Rabbinic Coordinator. I oversee the rabbinical aspects of some of the Key Accounts certified by the OK, such as Snapple, Sabra, and Kellogg’s. OK Kosher was founded with a mission to maintain the highest kosher standards, without compromise. In order to ensure that our standards are maintained, I make initial visits to set up new facilities for a kosher program and then visit each facility annually. In addition, I follow up on the regular visits of the local mashgiach and work to facilitate a seamless kosher program. I spend a lot of my time visiting my facilities and, in addition to evaluating the kosher program, these visits are a great opportunity to ensure proper relations with our customers.
KS:What prepared you the most for your current position at the OK?
RSBH: I have been exposed to kosher certification and high standards of kashrus since childhood. My father is the rabbi of the Chabad community in Migdal Haemek, Israel and his father was Rabbi Yitzchak HaCohen Hendel, OBM, the former head of the Montreal Beth Din. I also took a course in food science at Rutgers University to learn the ins and outs of food manufacturing. Above all, hands-on experiences are a critical part of skill building. I was blessed to have mentors like Rabbi Levy, Rabbi Steigman and other esteemed colleagues who prepared me for my current position.
KS: What is the best thing about working at the OK?
RSBH: Every day is a new learning experience. The same product can be processed in a few different ways, and there are always new developments. I always need to keep up with the halachic implications of the changing food industry. The most satisfying aspect of my job is assisting companies in becoming kosher certified for the first time. Many times there are challenges, but overcoming them and delivering a wider variety of kosher products to the consumer is very fulfilling.
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
RSBH: The OK is a leading global kashrus organization that assists companies in having a streamlined and efficient kosher program with high standards. We bring kosher products to the kosher consumers without making any compromises on kashrus.
KS: Can you share an interesting experience that you had while working at the OK?
RSBH: I spend a lot of my time reviewing facilities all over the world. Last year, while I was traveling internationally, I visited a tanker company that requested a kosher certification. In order for bulk liquids to be transferred from the manufacturer to the consumer, they are transported in large tankers that usually have holding capacities ranging between 5,000 and 12,000 gallons. These tankers must be certified kosher to ensure that they have not been affected by carrying any non-kosher liquids.
One company claimed that they only carry kosher products for a specific customer. When I checked all the schedules and computerized records this seemed to hold true. I had a weird suspicion and decided to request to review all the hard papers for the last six months of shipments just to double check. While I was going through the documents, I noticed paperwork for a different product from a different company. This led me to question their previous statement. The response I was given was that their trucks occasionally pick up other liquids on the way back and these are not recorded. Needless to say, that company did not receive OK certification.
A large part of kosher certification is trusting your instincts and going with your gut feeling. Sometimes, everything looks to be in order at first glance, but Hashem directs us to dig a bit deeper and by hashgacha protis we often find there is more to a particular facility than meets the eye.
What Other People Say About About Rabbi Sholom Ber Hendel
“One word that best describes Rabbi Hendel is “avreich” – av bechochma verach beshonim. Despite his youth, Sholom Ber has shown expertise not often found even in senior rabbis. Recently, he visited a complicated animal and vegetable plant that was certified by a rabbi from another agency with many years of experience and he found that the kashrus protocols needed improvement. We know that if we have a complicated facility we can send Sholom Ber and he will ensure that the plant is set up exactly according to ~ standards. Rabbi Hendel is one of the rising stars in kashrus, but as a chossid his humility is apparent.”
— Rabbi Don Yoel Levy , Kashrus Administrator
“Rabbi Hendel has come a very long way in a very short time. His dedication and enthusiasm towards his work at the ~ is very admirable and he comes with a tremendous amount of knowledge in halacha, which is constantly applied to his work. I can definitely see him following in the footsteps of his grandfather Rabbi Hendel, a”h, the Rav of Montreal for many years.”
— Rabbi Dovid Steigman, Senior Rabbinic Coordinator
ith energy and dedication Rabbi Sholom Ber Hendel takes the lead on many of ~ Kosher’s kashrus matters. Most of his time is spent on the road setting the foundation of kashrus to be maintained at facilities bearing ~ certification. Everything he does is done thoroughly without wasting unnecessary words.
Rabbi Hendel fits the term “Mishichmo Ulmaaloh” (head and shoulders above), both literally and figuratively. Besides being a Talmid Chacham and expert on food production who often amazes engineers with the depth of his knowledge, his middos and eidel way of dealing with people makes him one of the bright stars in the field of kosher supervision.
— Rabbi Eli Lando, Chief Customer Relations Officer