Since 2008, the OK has supervised regular Cholov Yisroel productions in Hungary for Meitav, a high-quality dairy factory which produces milk protein concentrate, premium cheeses, concentrated milk, and more. These Cholov Yisroel production runs are purchased by Israeli food giants such as Tnuva and Tara. “People don’t know this, but the milk from Hungary rates among the highest quality milk in Europe,” says Mr. Shmuel Haimson, owner and manager of Meitav. Mr. Haimson went on to explain that the quality of the milk depends on the percentages of protein, fat, and lactose the milk contains. “The genetics of the Hungarian cows, the food they eat, the weather conditions – everything joins together to make the Hungarian milk truly spectacular.”

To make the Cholov Yisroel productions possible, between 15 and 20 mashgichim have to fly from Israel to Hungary for each production. The team leader is either Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi Yaakov Perlov or Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi     Yitzchak Rosenfeld, both mashgichim with vast experience in the dairy industry. “The team leader has to fly over a week before the actual production begins,” they explain. “He needs to visit all of the farms and see whether anything has changed. He needs to check the herds for any cows that have undergone an operation, which renders the milk unfit for the kosher production. We even compensate the owner monetarily for any cows that  fall under this category so that he will not have a motive to hide any information.” Mr. Haimson adds that he, along with the OK mashgichim, have always found the Hungarians very willing to go out of their way to satisfy kosher demands. “It’s a new market for them and a very good business, and they will do everything to keep us happy.”

Once the milking sites are inspected, the team leader has to make arrangements for the entire team of mashgichim. Each mashgiach requires proper lodging and arrangements for the first Shabbos in Hungary. The entire team arrives on Friday morning and they spend Shabbos in Budapest. They all stay in the same hotel and the food comes from Carmel, a restaurant under the supervision of the local Chabad rabbi.

After Shabbos, the team leader gathers all the mashgichim for a briefing. Each mashgiach receives a bag with OK bands, a GPS, a SIM card for a mobile phone, cash to buy gas and food, and, of course, a full list of kosher instructions. Each dairy barn has its own car and they come to pick up the rabbis very early Sunday morning. Some mashgichim start koshering at 4:30 AM! The mashgichim are there to watch over every step of the milking, mark the milk tanks that are kosher supervised, and send the milk off to the production facility.

The production facility then becomes the ad-hoc team headquarters. The team leader goes to the facility on Thursdsay, the day before the mashgichim arrive to seal the entire production line. He makes the water pogum (spoiled) and informs the factory that they must remain closed on Saturday so that kashering can be done eino ben yoma (with a full 24 hour downtime). “The factory personnel know us very well by now and cooperate fully,” relate both Rabbi Perlov and Rabbi Rosenfeld. “If they have changed anything since the last production, they let us know in advance. When they changed the steam system they even invited us for a consultation.”

The kosherization process is difficult, even risky. The mashgichim use libun (fire) and boiling water to kasher the facility. The spray drier is kosherized by filling it with boiling water from the top to the bottom. “It’s mehadrin min hamehadrin,” notes Rabbi Rosenfeld. “We have shown our work in the facility to many rabbis from various kosher organizations and they all came away extremely impressed.” In addition to the team leader who performs the kosherization, another mashgiach has the job of driving from dairy barn to dairy barn, to make sure the kosher work is carried out perfectly and the mashgichim have everything they need. “I love those kosher teams,” says Mr. Haimson. “The mashgichim are very hardworking, dedicated and careful, and I am always impressed by how organized the OK is and how all the logistics are taken care of perfectly.” On his end, Rabbi Rosenfeld bestowed heartfelt praise on Mr. Haimson, whom he describes as someone who “tries to help the kosher team as much as possible and attempts to arrange the best accommodations for them, so the job will be as easy and convenient as can be.”

The kosher team stays in Hungary for two to four weeks. The works is strenuous and sometimes dangerous. “Unfortunately, we have experienced five different road accidents where the cars overturned due to bad conditions on the roads during the winter,” says Rabbi Rosenfeld. “It even happened to me once.” And the winter isn’t the only problematic season: once, the production took place in Tammuz. On 17 Tammuz the mashgichim were given instructions (after a she’ila of course) that they should not fast – it would be too dangerous considering their work and the weather. One mashgiach, though, tried to fast anyway and he felt so ill he had to be flown back to Israel the same day and a replacement had to be found immediately.

The most memorable experience, however, happened a year ago, in Adar. It was a very snowy winter and though the team was used to coming to Budapest for Shabbos it became clear that it would not be feasible this time. The order was given: everybody was to stay where he was and fend for himself as far as preparations for Shabbos was concerned. However, a few of the mashgichim had already set out for Budapest and all attempts to contact them were unsuccessful. “We were really worried, so we contacted ZAKA,” says Rabbi Rosenfeld. “They sent their Vienna team to look for the missing rabbis and they found them stuck in the middle of the road to Budapest, with no food, and cell phone batteries that had run out.”

But all is well that ends well and as the Cholov Yisorel productions in Hungary become more frequent every year, it is clear that the chronicles of our experience there is far from a completed work.