KS: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to yeshiva?
RAH: I was born in Petach Tikva, Israel and grew up in Bnei Brak, Israel. I went to Knesset Beit Yisrael Yeshiva, first in Haifa and later in Yerushalayim. After my marriage I studied for rabbinic ordination in Beit Midrash Gavoah Beit David in Holon, where I received my semicha at age 28.
KS: What did you do after yeshiva?
RAH: I married my wife Miriam in 1988. After my years of learning in yeshiva, kollel and the Beit Midrash, I got involved in the kosher industry when I was appointed to manage the Passover department at the Holon local rabbinate, and was later promoted to manage the entire kosher department.
KS: What is your current position at the OK?
RAH: I head the Israeli branch of OK Kosher Certification. The Israeli office gives kosher certification both to Israeli companies and to international companies seeking to import their products to Israel. We also work with Middle Eastern and Eastern European companies. Additionally, we are responsible for the China and India branches.
KS: What prepared you the most for your current position at the OK?
RAH: As I mentioned previously, I used to work for the Holon Rabbinate kosher department, which was headed by Rabbi N. Landman. Holon has the largest industry zone in Israel and by working there I got acquainted with many different kinds of food plants, learning a lot about ingredients used in the food industry as well as about production processes. For years I studied with different experts in food technologies in various areas (dairy, poultry, etc.) in order to broaden my knowledge of the food industry. Later I served as a kosher consultant for different kosher agencies. Then, 11 years ago, I joined the OK when Rabbi Levy, wishing to establish an OK’outpost’ in Israel, asked me to help him create the new office. With his constant support and involvement, OK Israel has become a kosher agency recognized and respected by all kosher authorities and organizations in Israel.
KS: What is best thing about working at the OK?
RAH: The best thing is the OK internationality — the way we have representatives all over the world really illustrates the meaning of the expression ‘global village’. It is a huge plus for our customers, since it means that anywhere, anytime, they have access to information and kosher services. Also, our office works from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM to suit all time zones. The global village phenomenon gives us unprecedented control over kosher matters all over the world.
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
RAH: I think that, today, food companies interested in kosher certification have mostly realized that there is a difference between a kosher certificate you can acquire anywhere and the umbrella of services provided by the OK, which owns a huge ingredients database, suggests alternatives for non-approved raw materials, finds technological solutions to make kosher productions possible…these are just not services you can obtain everywhere, and that’s why food giants — in Israel and all over the world — apply to the OK in order to be koshercertified. Because kosher certification is typically viewed as a burden, it has been an enormous success for us to turn it into such a positive and enlightening experience for our customers. What we succeeded in doing is showing our customers that our high and strict standards do not apply only to kosher matters — this is the way we work, and our standards are high in every aspect of the cooperation between us and our companies.
KS: Can you share an interesting experience that you had while working at the OK?
RAH: There were certainly quite a few. One of my favorite stories actually happened when OK Israel was just starting out. I was in the Far East to supervise a kosher mushroom production for one of the biggest food chains in Israel. The plant was supposed to produce 21 containers, but the work seemed to be proceeding extremely slowly, which raised my suspicions. One night, I suggested to my fellow mashgiach that we would pay a surprise visit to the facility. When we arrived we couldn’t help noticing a very unpleasant smell. Following our noses, we found ourselves at the facility yard, where 800 workers were busy emptying out old, expired cans of mushrooms into a large vat, where some chemicals were added to the mushrooms to disguise their source. They were packed into cans, which were marked as a part of the kosher batch we had just finished producing…needless to say, the kosher production was cancelled then and there and we left immediately for the nearest airport. The Israeli company sent me a bouquet of flowers when I returned to Israel, thanking me for saving them from a public scandal which was sure to follow if the mushrooms – verified in a lab test to be inedible by humans and therefore dangerous to health – were sold in their stores. To this day I still hear from people who met the owner of the chain who persists in telling people that I saved his business…
What Other People Say About Rabbi Aharon Haskel
Yosef was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh. He was given the title “Avreich” which means Av bechochmo verach beshonim (a father in wisdom and youthful in years). Reb aharon brings youthful vigor and experience beyond his years to the OK. almost a dozen years ago, he took the helm of OK israel and built it up to one of the largest and most respected kashrus agencies in the Holy land. Rabbi Haskel’s accomplishments are not only quantitative but also qualitative. He transformed OK israel’s certification procedures to an extremely efficient and updated OK system. Reb aharon’s certification system is held in high esteem by all of the israeli kosher certifications. in addition, he runs an extremely tight ship and yet the enthusiasm in his office is second to none.
Rabbi Don Yoel Levy,
Kashrus Administrator, OK Kosher Certification
Working with Rabbi aharon Haskel for the past several years has given me the opportunity to work with a person who is very personable and extremely knowledgeable in the field of kashrus. His personal involvement with every detail and his enthusiastic personality have made him invaluable to the world of kashrus. May he continue to have much success in the wonderful work he does.
Rabbi Shimon Lasker,
Rabbinic Coordinator, OK Europe
Aallow me to convey my thoughts about my trustworthy, esteemed friend, Rabbi aharon Haskel…There are really no words to describe his dedication to kashrus and to all halachos and minhagim to the highest level, mehadrin min hamehadrin. His kindness, disposition and helpfulness are admired by all. May he go from strength to strength and continue expanding the borders of holiness and purity.
HaRav M. Weissmandl, shlit”a
Rav of Nitra, Monsey
Rabbi Haskel has gained the respect of major kashrus organizations worldwide through hard work and devotion…
Rabbi Dovid Steigman,
Rabbinic Coordinator, OK Kosher Certification