KS: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to yeshiva?
RSL: I was born in East Flatbush, Brooklyn and moved with my family
to Israel. As a yeshiva bochur, I studied in Lubavitcher yeshivos in Israel, Brunoy, France and at the Chabad Headquarters at 770
Eastern Parkway. I studied for semicha in Eretz Yisroel at Tomchei Temimim K’far Chabad and received semicha from HaRav Avraham Hirsch Cohen zt”l (the Rosh Kollel), HaRav Nachum Trebnik zt”l (Rav of K’far Chabad), and HaRav Yisroel Grossman zt”l (Rosh Yeshiva of Tomchei Temimim K’far Chabad).
KS: What did you do after yeshiva? When did you get married?
RSL: After yeshiva, in 1981, I got married in Eretz Yisroel and I learned in kollel. During my second year of kollel, I started teaching in a yeshiva in Rishon L’tziyon in the mornings. After kollel, my wife and I went on shlichus to Brussels, Belgium.
KS: What is your current position at the OK?
RSL:A few years ago, I started representing the OK in more of an
executive position, conducting annual inspections. Now, I am the
Executive Rabbinic Coordinator of OK Europe and I oversee many mashgichim throughout Europe. I have found that the most important part of my
job is to have a good relationship with the people working in the
plant. More than 50% of kosher certification is having a good
relationship with the people of companies you certify and helping
them understand what you are doing. At OK Europe, we organize
kosher conferences to introduce the latest in kosher to the staff
of the companies we certify. When you form close relationships with
people they are more likely to come back to you with difficulties
and be honest with you. All staff members, even down to maintenance
workers (changing pipes, pumps, buying second-hand equipment), need
to know about kosher issues.
KS: What prepared you the most for your current position at the OK?
RSL: Part of my shlichus in Belgium was working for the local kashrus agency. After I stopped working for the local kashrus agency, Rabbi Levy (Kashrus Administrator of the OK) came to Belgium (I knew him from my
childhood in Kiryat Malachi, Israel) and called me. He mentioned
that the OK certified a chocolate company called Callebaut and
asked if I would like to be the onsite rabbi at this company on
behalf of the OK. After spending some time at Callebaut with Rabbi
Levy (who taught me most of my kashrus knowledge), I started working there as the mashgiach for the OK. After some years, Callebaut merged with Cocoa Barry,
and they became one giant, worldwide chocolate group called
Barry-Callebaut, and they chose the OK to be their kosher
certifying agency. Thanks to them, many companies became interested
KS: What is best thing about working at the OK?
RSL: The most positive thing is that the OK is very serious about kashrus. Any issue is always taken care of, with no cover-ups and total
transparency. If there is a place for improvement we are the first
to want to improve. When another agency wants to come visit one of
our certified factories, we let them in and show them everything.
If they have a way to do something better, we will improve and take
KS: How would you describe the OK today?
RSL: The OK today is a very tech-savvy kashrus agency. I regularly have companies tell me how efficient we are,
especially in the area of data and the itemization of every formula
and every ingredient. Companies particularly appreciate the
automatic updates notices, paperless submissions, and other
features of Digital Kosher.
KS: Can you share an interesting experience that you had while
working at the OK?
RSLSome companies are very big and are split into many departments.
Once, a division of a global company was looking to locate a
particular raw material (flavor). They weren’t sure which plant or
warehouses had the ingredient. One of the staff members called me
to see if I had an idea of where the raw material (a five gallon
bucket) was located.
I entered the information into the OK database and immediately
located the plant and warehouse that contained the raw material.
One of the great strengths of the OK is its focus on the global
picture and immediate access to all ingredients and products under
I had another interesting experience when I was sent to a company
on behalf of an OK certified company to see if an ingredient was
acceptable for eventual use. I asked the OK certified company to
send an email asking what products the new company spray dries. The
company sent back an email with 12 ingredients and all w