For the past 18 years I had the privilege and honor to serve as Rabbi Levy’s executive assistant. In the beginning, my understanding of what was involved in kosher certification was limited. I was told by some that Rabbi Levy could be intimidating to work for. And yet… I did not regret a single day working for this man whose greatness I would learn to admire in so many ways.
Rabbi Levy’s passion for and dedication to kashrus were the driving forces in his life. It was his shlichus and his responsibility to Klal Yisroel—
both to bring as many types of kosher food as possible to the community, and to ensure that the standards of kashrus were the highest possible. Nothing ever diverted him for those goals.
A few weeks after I started at the OK, Rabbi Levy called me into his office to tell me that his wife had been diagnosed with a serious illness. She became his first priority. He did not leave her side when she was hospitalized, so his time in the office was drastically reduced. And yet… Rabbi Levy made sure to stay on top of everything that was happening at the OK. He did not advertise his situation, or use it to garner sympathy or shirk responsibilities.
Rabbi Levy was a baal tzedokah on a scale that most people cannot know or fathom. He supported people and institutions across the globe, not to mention his camp scholarship fund that helped hundreds of children attend summer camp each year. But he always felt that the most important support the OK was able to offer to the Crown Heights community and to shluchim around the world was jobs. In the time I have been here, the headquarters office has grown from perhaps 20 employees to over 70. The number of Mashgichim on six continents is in the hundreds.
And yet… Rabbi Levy did not run after accolades and renown—even though he received both. There were so many times when he reached out to someone just because he saw the need and stepped in to help.
Rabbi Levy was a vibrant and energetic presence in our office. He was relentless in the pursuit of his ideals. Over the years he built an organization that has led the kashrus world forward in the development, growth, and technological advances necessary to meet today’s huge demand for kosher food. And yet… as a boss Rabbi Levy maintained the utmost respect for and trust in his employees. He sought and chose the best, then made them part of his team. Over the years, my position at the OK was expanded, but I continued as Rabbi Levy’s assistant throughout. He taught me about kashrus, about commitment to one’s ideals, and about dedication to family and community. His absence will leave a gaping hole in our office, and in my heart.
Chasha Brownstein was the long time Executive Assistant to Rabbi Don Yoel Levy zt”l and is an Account Manager at OK Kosher Certification