Stephen Richer is a co-founder and director of Gather the Jews. The opinions expressed in this post belong solely to Stephen.
On Wednesday, I asked why there aren’t more kosher restaurants in DC. My answer — based on personal experience — was that the gatekeeper organization for the area (TheVaad) has absurd expectations and an unfriendly attitude toward aspiring kosher restraunteers.
The post got a bit of traffic, and many of you were kind enough to email me your personal stories, frustrations, or thoughts about the Vaad and kosher food in DC.
From these messages, I’ve learned a bit, and I figured I’d share it with you.
1) On Sixth & Rye
I asked how Sixth & Rye managed to get kosher certified given that Spike Mendelsohn owns a non-kosher restaurant (which is a no no according to the Vaad — absurd?).
It seems that Sixth & Rye did its due diligence and went to the Vaad first. But it was rejected (maybe for the above reason?). They then went to Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom and Rabbi Y. Zvi Weiss of Baltimore, and, as shown in this letter, Herzfeld and Weiss certified Sixth & Rye as kosher.
2) On the Vaad rejecting Sixth & Rye
As noted above, I don’t know the reasons behind this, however, Rabbi Freundel (of Kesher) posted this to the Kesher board:
Posted by: “Barry Freundel” firstname.lastname@example.org
Thu May 19, 2011 5:21 am (PDT)Despite extensive negotiations between the Vaad and 6th and I the structure
necessary for us to grant supervision was unfortunately unattainable
as such the truck is sadly not recommended
I will make this the first question at Carlebach Q&A Friday night and if
requested at Seudah Shlishit
You can’t do fairer than that… offering to answer any question on it. I imagine somebody will take up this task?
3) On Maoz
So in the comment section of the last post, we discussed Maoz — the vegetarian restaurant on M Street. Supposedly it has some sort of kosher certification. But I don’t know who gave it to them. I don’t think it has a mashgiach on site, and it’s open on the Sabbath — a major no no in the kosher world. So I don’t know about its level of kosherness. I was told recently by one Jewish insider that, “Nobody who seriously eats kosher goes there.” Is this true?
At the end of the day, this all goes to show that there is way too much confusion in the kosher world. It needs clear guidelines that are public allow certifying agencies to easily enter and allow restauranteerss to know what the standards are. This would enable a much more dynamic market that would better serve DC’s kosher needs.