Interview with Rabbi Chaim Cohn
KS:Where did you grow up?
RCC: I grew up in Denver, Colorado and learned in Yeshivas Toras Chaim in Denver, Beis Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, and Stichting Chacham Tzvi in Amsterdam.
KS:What did you do after yeshiva?
RCC: After yeshiva, I married my wife Chana Devorah in 1982. We moved to Chicago where I worked as a rebbe and dorm rebbe in Skokie Yeshiva.
KS:When did you get involved in hashgacha work?
RCC: I first started working in hashgacha in 1993.
KS:When did you start working for the OK?
RCC: I started working for the OK in February 2000 and my responsibilities included ingredient and formula evaluation, as well as overseeing facilities that produced flavors and chemicals.
KS:What is your current position at the OK?
RCC: I am the Rabbinical Coordinator for European, African and Asian Accounts. I oversee most of the OK certified companies in these areas, except companies in Israel and China, and schedule and oversee their annual visits.
KS:What prepared you the most for working at the OK?
RCC: Before working at the OK, I spent seven years assigned to specific flavor production facilities. There I learned the operational process and got hands-on experience with the specialized production equipment. Those seven years of experience enabled me to have a high-level of knowledge of the technical aspects of flavor production, which greatly enhanced my knowledge of the halachic aspects.
KS:What is best thing about working at the OK?
RCC: The best thing about working at the OK is the people that I work with. We have a staff that has expertise in many different areas and they are always willing to share their expertise and work together to provide the best service to its clients.
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
RCC: The OK works with its customers to make sure that their kosher program works for them, while upholding the highest standards of kashrus. The OK expends great effort making sure that there can be no possible questions about the validity of its supervision and takes great care to protect its customers and the public from kashrus errors.
KS: Can you share a unique experience that you had while working at the OK?
RCC: I once had an argument with a plant engineer concerning whether or not stainless steel can absorb or not. He maintained and brought extensive documentation to prove that stainless steel can’t absorb anything and therefore should not need kosherization. I told him, your proofs are impressive but the Rabbis decreed 2000 years ago that metal needs kosherization and I do not have the authority to go against them. We agreed to differ.
Approximately a year later, I was in the process of supervising the kosherization of a 1000 gallon reactor and after the workers had meticulously cleaned it we brought it to a boil. There was about a quarter of an inch of scum on the top of the pot. The engineer was passing by and I called him over to look at it. I said, “This was a completely clean pot.” I turned to the workers and asked, “Right?” The workers nodded their heads vigorously up and down. The engineer looked at it and said, “ I can’t argue with empirical evidence,” and walked away.
Six months later I got a call from the engineer. He said, “Rabbi Cohn, I now understand.” “Great,” I thought, and asked, “You now understand what?” He answered, “I understand why a stainless steel vessel will absorb.” I asked, “Why?” He answered, “You have to understand, when it leaves the factory it can’t absorb anything, however, when it is heated it expands and contracts and it will produce micro fissures. Your Rabbis were right, you can’t measure this and therefore have to assume the worst-case scenario that the entire volume has absorptions in it.”
Rabbi Chaim Cohn has a great range and depth of experience in complicated facilities such as flavor houses, contributes much to the kashrus industry, and fits in nicely with our experts. He has also been heavily involved in helping set up our receiving system in certified facilities to ensure the highest levels of compliance with our kosher standards.
Rabbi Don Yoel Levy,
Kashrus Administrator, OK Kosher Certification
Naturex has been working closely with Rabbi Cohn for several years on our kosher certification. Rabbi Cohn now coordinates the certification program for our 4 facilities (and one ongoing). He sets all kosher procedures, ensuring that the kosher processes from raw materials to final products are run properly. We appreciate working with Rabbi Cohn as he always takes the time to understand our production system and guides us in order to meet kosher requirements. On a daily basis, Rabbi Cohn always make himself available and helpful, which is very important for us in our fast-paced business.
Product Development Manager, Naturex
As Rabbi Cohn’s colleague and carpool-mate for many years, I can attest to the fact that his dedication to the OK does not end when he leaves the office. His background in chinuch is clearly displayed as he guides mashgichim worldwide through the intricacies of hashgacha from his mobile phone. In addition to his constant devotion to kashrus, he continues to deliver many shiurim, as well as leading a boy’s mishnayos group, which has finished “Shisha Sidrei Mishna” numerous times. It is an honor and a privilege to work alongside a man with such an unyielding commitment and vast knowledge who contri-butes to the OK’s goal of maintaining the highest kosher standards.
Rabbinic Coordinator, OK Kosher Certification