Friday, November 13, 2015

But Who is Watching my Cheese?: An Expose’ into the Current Dairy Crisis within the OU

Push the Button!

Rabbi S. remembers the exact day when he realized that there was a problem. He was on a day off from his job as Assistant Supervisory Advisor to the Undersecretary of Field Mashgichim (Dairy Division) at the OU, when he noticed something odd on his computer screen.

At 9:30, his longtime coworker from the daily division, Avrohom Gordimer, posted a blogpost to Crosscurrents.

At 9:32, Gordimer  responded to a comment on the blog.

And again, at 9:34, and :9:35, and again every few minutes, until noon, when he posted yet another blog entry. Each of the entries exceeded 5000 words. Rabbi S. recalls feeling concerned, for Gordimer had been dispatched that day for a very important job:  to activate the rennet feeder for over 3 vats at a cheese factory. If Gordimer was online all day, who was pushing the “on” button on the rennet vat? If he did not do it, the cheese may fall into the category of “gevinas akum” (according to some rishonim).    

Around 300 pm Rabbi S. was relieved to see that an entire hour went by without Gordimer posting. But as he soon discovered, Gordimer was in fact not turning on rennet feeders, rather he was getting his makeup touched up for a photo shoot for a glossy Hareidi magazine. Rabbi S. later determined that the button on the feeder was indeed never touched by Gordimer’s unassailably Jewish hand.  


That there had been issues with the cheese supervision within the OU for some time now is something of an open secret around the mashgiach community, but nobody has spoken to the press about it until now. After days of reporting and a prime number of interviews, a complete picture of unboiled parmesian cheese lines, calf stomach linings, and unpressed buttons appears.


The Cheesehead

Avrohom Gordimer was known for years as one the top 20 cheese mashgichim in the Greater New York area, earning him such nicknames as “The Cheesehead,” “Gevinas Da’as,” “The Munster Rebbe,” “The Big Cheese,” and “Avrohom Farve.”  

“He could do hagala on a cheese line like nobody’s business” Rabbi W., a mashgiach, told me. But even years ago, according to Rabbi W., Gordimer displayed some questionable behavior. Gordimer had a lot to say about non cheese related issues, and was desperate to get his message out. Numerous Kosher cheese consumers lodged complaints with the OU when they found, included with their cheese, hand written screeds against the Nishmat Yoetzet Program, Philosophy professors in Yeshiva University, and Carlebach minyanim.  The OU looked the other way. After all, how many notes could one guy write? But that was before the fateful day that Avrohom Gordimer discovered the internet.



According to many reports, Gordimer was hesitant to blog at all, as none of his rebbes did so (and certainly not the tzaddikim from previous generations). But after much pressure from the Crosscurrents blog, he wrote his first post, “Women Belong in the Kitchen, Unless it’s a Big Industrial Cheese Kitchen, In which Case they are not Allowed and Doing so would Violate the Mesorah.” It was not long before an angry comment by a famous radical open orthodprax feminist was posted on the site. Gordimer replied. The feminist replied. And his cheese supervising skills were never the same.

“I remember the day when his name rose to the second most popular option on the google search autofill for ‘Avrohom.’” Rabbi F., another mashgiach told me. “He threw such a party. Empty cheese spray containers were everywhere. But tell me, whose signature appeared on the packaging? Who wrote the letter on the cover of each individual batch? Who applied the special coded insignias unique to the mashgaich and kashrus to the cheese?”

One oft told story, though yet to be confirmed by hard evidence, tells of a pile of young goat stomach linings in one of the factories for which Gordimer was responsible. Another has the OU being placed on Kraft’s “Bacon Flavored Cheese with Real Bacon Flavor”, whose source was a factory that Gordimer was responsible for “negative supervision”, in which mashgichim are sent to visit the cheese plant when it is making its regular, non-kosher products, to assure that kosher labels are not applied at such times. (Negative supervision is needed for all non-kosher facilities which schedule special kosher productions, but it is more critical in the case of retail cheese manufacturers.)

“I personally have stayed fleishig for over two years straight,” Rabbi W. told me, “Just so I could avoid eating cheese without anyone realizing the real reason- that I cannot trust its hashgocha.”


Closed Orthodoxy but Open Cheese- odoxy?

No one can possibly find fault with Gordimer’s persistent attacks on the open orthodox kofrim with their mishkav zachar and semichas nekeiva. But at what cost? Who is watching my cheese? I am more than happy to expunge evil from the community, but not at the cost of affecting my diet in the slightest way.

As Gordimer puts so clearly in his voluminous writings, Hakadosh Baruch Hu has a specific tafkid for everyone, and it is not for us to step out of our roles. You, Avrohom Gordimer, have clearly been put on this Earth to watch cheese. Please do us all a favor and resume your proper role.       

Saturday, October 4, 2014

New App to Allow for Halachically Permissible Creation of Halachically Problematic Apps

Two orthodox Jewish programmers saw a need. “There are a lot of frum Jews who want to create halachically problematic apps, but feel maligned by the community when they do so,” says “Ch,” (who wishes to remain anonymous).

“There are plenty of programmers who are helping facilitate for people do all types of issurim, but who is helping the programmers themselves?” adds his partner “Sh” (who also wishes to remain anonymous).

For this very purpose, Ch. and Sh. have created the “Moreh Heter App Creator” app, which, they claim, allows programmers to create their own problematic apps in a halachically preferable matter.

“The גרמא function, which enables a 5 second pause between uploading their app to the itunes or android store and its actual appearance there is only one of the features,” Sh. told us. “We also have the עיברי דנהרא  חד feature, which makes their app available in multiple versions so that they will not be עובר  on לפני עור.”

While Sh. and Ch. hope for some financial success from their app, they are primarily doing it to help those in need.
“All because someone wants to break halacha, “Ch. said, “is no reason to make them feel like they are breaking Halacha”.          

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Want to garner lots of LIKES and SHARES?
Want friends to day things like “EXACTLY what I was thinking” and “Good for you for saying what NEEDS to be said”?
Just fill in the…

Instructions: Fill in each blank with one of the three suggested terms found in the parenthesis.
Start being COURAGEOUS today!   

The importance of the recent news about the ________ (financial scandal/sex scandal/new chumrah) in the hareidi world is not because of its impact on ___________(investors/victims/Jewish practice), but because it shows the deeper flaws within hareidi society.
There is no other way to say it other than by clearly stating that Judaism, as it is preached in those circles, does not represent the true values of the Torah. In Hareidi circles, all of the power is concentrated into the hands of ___________ (isolated rabbis/ambitious politicians/zealous masses) as opposed to where it should be, concentrated into the hands of ________________________ (scholarly rabbis/practical leaders/the larger community).

Hareidim claim to represent the mesorah, but Judaism as it was practiced in Europe is _______ (irrelevant/much more similar) to modern orthodoxy today. This is clear from the undisputable fact that Jews in Europe would have had __________________ (no problem/a huge problem)  with ________ (mixed seating/eating kitniyot/texting on Shabbos). Is it clear that the only way to face our current challenges is to follow Judaism _____________ (as it really was practiced/in a new way).
 Halacha is __________ (meant/not meant) to change radically. The dangers of ______________  (adding new rules/applying outdated rules)  at the whims of ______isolated rabbis/the general public) is self-evident.

In truth, most __________ (major hareidi rabbis/common hareidim) agree with this sentiment, but they feel threatened by the _____________  (major haredi rabbis/ common hareidim).
This became clear to me when I heard an inspirational speech by Rabbi ____________________  (Nathan Lopes Cardozo/Dov Lipman/Rick Rubin). Here was a man with __________________  (ordination from a hareidi yeshiva/a beard/no agenda) who was not afraid to speak of the flaws of his community. It took true bravery to say those things with which the entire audience agreed.

It does us no service when we view our Judaism, and our selves, as _________________________ (second class/third rate/fourth place).  As much as it pains me to say it, it is time the Hareidi world owns up to its problems.

Enjoyed this? Try the…

Self- Righteous Accusing the Blogger of Sinat Chinam Talkback Generator            

Saturday, February 22, 2014

תפילה לפורים בית שמש

תוספת לתפילת העמידה ולברכת המזון, הנאמרת ב"פורים בית שמש", כוללת איזכור של הנסים שנעשו ביום הודאה זה

אשר הניא עצת זייפנים, ויפר מחשבות ש"סניקים,
בקום עלינו בן אדם כמו כולם, לשלוט עלינו מעל הקניון,
גזר להחשכיך אורינו, ונתן כספי ארנונינו לגבאים,      
דימה לנפשו לשלוט לעוד חמש שנים, וסיבב בעיר למצוא את ריעיו,
הוא אמץ כח ומצא חן, וגם לקח את האגודה בידיו, 
וגם ידידי מאיר עקבו אחריו, כי הזמינו אותם למסיבת "האח הגדול",
זממו כולם להוסיף קולות, וגילו פנים שלא כהלכה,
חיברו חוברות לתמוך באבוטבול, ומחבר ספרSucker Punch”" גילה את דעתו,
טמן בליבםּ שאין בהם כח לפני ההמון, אז הוסיפו חטאים על חטאיהם ואומרו,
יחזיקו שמות של שֶׁבַע אנָשִׁים בּדירה אֶחָת, לא צריכים לגור שם רק יקרא שמנו ברשימה,
בכח לא היה קול ה', כשהם הדפיסו תעודות זהות בשקר ברחוב שפת אמת,  
לקחו מהקנאים תעודות, והסתירו את פניהם במסכות ובזקנים שירדו ליעד ברכיים,
מסרו את התעודות להמשקיפים, ואמרו שאביהם ואמהם לא ראו ואת בנהם לא ידעו,      
נץ פרח ממטה אהרון, כהן צדק לשרת בקדש,   
שָֹמחנו באומרים לנו בית משפט נלך, ואלי כהן לא וויתר,
ערער לפני דיינים מומחים, ופסקו דין לצדק וּלְשָֹרִים לְמִשְׁפָּט יָשֹרוּ,  
פיהם פתחו כל יושבי הארץ, כי בחירות חוזרות יתקיימו בעירנו,
צדיקים נחלץ מיד פושעים, ואבוטבול צעק שבגץ מחוקים את הדמוקרטיה,
קבעו הבחירות בחודש אדר, זמן ששון ושמחה בכל שנה ושנה,
ראיתה את תפילת ציבורינו, והמזייפים בבית סוהר שמתה,

בית שמש צהלה ושמחה ועדכנו יחד סטטוס חדש,
תשועתם הייתה מבגץ, ותיקותם עד הבחירות הבאה,
להודיע שכל קויך לא יבושו, ולא יכלמו לנצח כל החוסים בך,
ארור העסקנים אשר ביקשו לגנוב בחירותי, ברוך רצ'רד פרס ודוב האמריקאי,
ארור חדש עיתון מפסידי, ברוך שופינג מקומי,
וגם אברהם לוינתול זכור לטוֹב:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Draft Exemptions: A Modest Proposal

“According to plans promoted by Lapid, only 400 of the top scholars in yeshivas would receive exemptions from military service. Everyone else would have to serve in the army, or at least national service. Lapid has repeatedly said that he does not intend to compromise on this position”. 

There are obviously numerous problems with this, besides the fact that it is a plan concocted by a contemptible man who hates yeshivas together with the Jewish home for goyim and that such a plan would result in an increase in ba’alei teshuva. Most notably, who is to decide who are these top 400 yeshiva bochurim who get the exemption? What is to stop the politicians from handing out he exemptions to their friends are relatives and not the top learners? Furthermore, what constitutes a top learner? Bikius or iyun? Halacha l’meisah or lomdus?

This is where we are fortunate to have a TV personality in such an important role in our government, as someone with his background should have the vision to carry out the following plan. It is clear that the only fair, transparent way to determine who is worthy of not defending the country is to create... 


Imagine this: 3 yeshiva bochrim get up in front of an audience to answer questions in learning. Think “Jeopardy!” but instead of only money being on the line, it’s your chance to get out of the army! 

Shall we call it “Who doesn’t want to be a Milluimnik?” “Are you smarter than a hesder student?”  For now, let’s call it … “You Bet Your Life!

This would be the best show ever. The drama would be great- the stakes couldn’t be higher. It would show the country the brilliance of the top masmidim and expose Israelis to gemara more than Ruth Kaleron did.

To account for different individual strengths, YBYL will have a variety of categories, such as:

Lomdus: 2 Rambams are chosen at random, Contestant must prove that the rambams contradict each other, then solve the non-existent contradiction.

Asheknazi vort: Contestant given random medrash, must show how it teaches the primacy of Torah learning.

Sefardi dvar torah: Given random topic, contestant must tell as many stories as he can.    

Needless to say, no Tanach is to be included under any circumstances.

At the end of the show, the winner is congratulated as soldiers from the lishkat hagiyus sign up the 2 losers on the spot.

 Tell me you wouldn’t want to watch that.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Petition for Increased Achdus at the Siyum Hashas

As the siyum hashas approaches, I would like to make an appeal for achdus and for the righting of a wrong that has occurred at the previous siyumim.
The main siyum hashas celebration that is set to take place at Metlife Stadium will be a celebration of learning that will be attended by all sorts of Torah Jews. Yet one great Jewish leader, who has done much to spread Torah among Jewry, will be excluded from the celebrations.  Hence I am starting a petition that the siyum hashas allow Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shneerson on the dais.
To be clear, I am not a chabad chassid. But I often daven in the chabad shul near my house and I have heard many inspiring stories about this great leader. Just the week before Pesach I attended a birthday celebration for the Rebbe (as he is called by chabad Chassidim) at Yad Eliyahu Stadium in South Tel Aviv. In the live feed video from 770 the Rebbe spoke clearly and passionately about the importance and Troah learning. (Minor mistakes, such as calling the current Prime Minister of Israel Yizchak Shamir could be forgiven for a man celebrating his 110th birthday).
I have asked a number of chabad chassidim  why the Rebbe is not invited to the siyum (not even on the secondary dais for second rate rabbis) and have received a number of answers . Some claim that the Rebbe’s teaching that one should do a perek of Rambam a day causes friction with the Bavli loyalists in the Daf Yomi circles. Others point to the publication of the Chitas, whose daily learning cycle contains chumash, tehillim, and Tanya, yet no gemara. Whatever the reason, I find it inexcusable. One of the greatest contemporary Jewish leaders should not be excluded from such an event.   
Having the Rebbe speak a Metlife stadium  would be a  “home run” and not a “strike out”  and it is not much of a “sacrifice” so don’t hit a “foul” and “steal” mitzvos from the suttun and don’t “balk” at the opportunity.            
So sign the petition today.       

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What a Dog Won't Eat: An Exclusive Interview with the Head Mashgiach of the Eidah Chareidis

I pleased to report that Rav Ozer Zorgenman Shlita, the head mashgiach of the Badatz Eidah Chariedis, agreed to sit down with me for a few questions. I have transcribed the interview below- Yonoson Swift.

YS: Gut moed. I would like to thank the Rav for taking time out his busy schedule to talk to me.
ROZ: You’re welcome.
YS: Let us begin with issues related to Pesach. A lot of people have voiced complaints that the badatz has given hashgacha to products to that do not really need one.
ROZ:  I have heard this claim before. What these people do not understand is that we represent a certain tzibbur and we do our best to serve their needs. There may be certain products that the general public does not need a hashgacha on because they use it in a certain way, but our tzibbur uses it differently and hence needs a hashgacha.
YS: I don’t understand. Take bleach. Nobody ingests bleach. Why does it need a hashgacha for pesach?
ROZ: That is a perfect example. If one only uses bleach for cleaning bathrooms or washing clothes, I can see why one would say it does not need hashgacha. In our tzibbur, however, bleach is primarily used to throw on women who dressed not tznius. Now let’s say the thrower’s aim is a little off and the bleach hits the woman in the mouth. If there is chometz in the bleach the thrower could be in violation the issur of lifnei iver by causing this prutza to eat chometz. Our tzibbur throws bleach to minimize issurim, not to increase them, chas v’shalom.
YS: I see. What about shoe polish?
ROZ: Same thing.
YS: Contact lens solution?
ROZ: What is that?
YS: I understand that some brands of toilet paper include starch. But who eats toilet paper?
ROZ: Obviously you’ve never craved a midnight snack on Nittel Nacht.
YS: Another pesach question. There are other areas where many people feel the badatz is overly machmir, such as not giving hashgacha to canola oil. It is an oil that is derived from a flower. Why is this assur?
ROZ: Do you know what else canola oil is called? Rapeseed! We cannot have such words on our Pesach table. The last thing we want is children to start asking questions about these things.
 YS: Let us move away from kashrus. Many have expressed anger that the eidah does not condemn acts of violence against non-chareidim, such as the attacks on the girls of the Orot Banot school in Beit Shemesh.
ROZ: We cannot condemn everything in the world. A panel of rabbonim have met and delineated very clear criteria on which acts we are to condemn and which ones we do not.
YS: What is that criteria?
ROZ: We only condemn acts that we disagree with.
YS: Any parting words?
ROZ: We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to making the phrase badatz eidah chareidus synonymous with kashrus in Eretz Yisrael. Anyone who buys kosher products in this land supports not only our mashgichim, but our educational and youth programming as well.  
YS: Thank you.