New kosher oversight board established

A group of local Orthodox rabbis has begun regularly inspecting the businesses in Los Angeles certified as kosher by the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC). The new volunteer board, the Kashrut Vaad of LA (KVLA), consists of five local Orthodox rabbis not affiliated with the RCC who have been inspecting since late last year the dozens of restaurants and retailers under the RCC’s supervision.

The existence of KVLA was announced earlier this month in two public letters, one from the RCC and another from Rabbi Yaakov Luban, the executive rabbinic coordinator of the Orthodox Union. They come less than one year after revelations about a breach in the RCC’s supervision of Doheny Kosher Meat Market, then the RCC’s largest distributor of kosher meat, . The revelations of Doheny’s misconduct last March, which forced a sale of the Pico Boulevard shop, led some consumers, one RCC-certified business and even a few local Orthodox rabbis, to express doubt about whether the RCC’s supervision was reliable.

In the wake of the scandal, the RCC created an ad hoc group of local independent rabbis to inspect facilities under its supervision, and it is that group that has now been replaced by the more permanent new oversight board, KVLA. The RCC, a nonprofit association of local Orthodox rabbis, also recruited Luban and other rabbis from the OU’s kashrut division to perform an audit of RCC-certified shops.

In his letter, dated Jan. 2, Luban announced the conclusion of the OU’s audit. Over the preceding eight months, Luban wrote that he had visited Los Angeles on “five separate occasions,” visiting RCC-certified facilities, recommending certain changes to the rabbinic leadership, and making return inspections to ensure that his suggestions had been implemented. The RCC, Luban wrote, has instituted stronger kashrut standards, increased the level of supervision by the overseers placed in its certified businesses, and increased the number of inspections performed by the RCC’s core professional staff. This last recommendation required the RCC to hire additional employees.

The result, Luban wrote, “has greatly enhanced the level of supervision of the RCC. 

“I’m happy to embrace as much transparency as possible,” RCC President Rabbi Meyer May said. May said implementing Luban’s suggestions has had a positive effect on the local kosher agency, and described a “healthy partnership” between the RCC and OU. That relationship will continue, since OU employees based in Los Angeles will continue to conduct inspections of RCC establishments and file reports back to the New York offices of the OU.

“They did not ask for remuneration,” May said of the OU, taking pains to emphasize that Luban’s work had been done on a volunteer basis. “All they are concerned about is enhancing kashrus in America. And when they stepped in, they enhanced kashrus in America.”