(New York Jewish Week) – Kosher Chinese restaurants in New York have quickly moved away from a restaurant in New Jersey that lost approval from one of the largest kosher certification companies in the United States.
This week, Brooklyn restaurants Glatt Kosher Family in Flatbush and Glatt Coney in Coney Island posted signs in their windows saying they are not associated with the restaurant in Manalapan, New Jersey.
“We have never owned or operated a restaurant in Manalipan [sic] NJ,” a sign said.
Earlier this week, Kosher Chinese Express in Manalapan had its kosher certification withdrawn by Brooklyn-based OK Kosher certification agency and subsequently closed. The New Jersey restaurant owner was filmed loading crates of what appeared to be non-kosher chicken and meat into his vehicle.
While it’s unclear what ties, if any, exist between the New York and New Jersey restaurants, the scandal was enough to generate a frenzy of comments on blogs and Facebook groups aimed at those who keep it kosher.
Some commentators passed on rumors that restaurants in Brooklyn, which are also certified under the OK Kosher brand, were somehow tied to the New Jersey store.
Indeed, Rabbi Yudel Shein, a resident of Lakewood, New Jersey who heads an organization called Kosher consumer, alleged that the owner of the Manalapan store is related to a man named Tony who, according to Shein, owns the two restaurants in Brooklyn. Shein, who obtained the photographs involving the Manalapan restaurant, told New York Jewish Week that he was the restaurant’s supervising rabbi in New Jersey 18 years ago.
When New York Jewish Week called Glatt Kosher Family, a man identifying himself as Tony answered, but said he was just the manager. He wouldn’t name the owner. He confirmed that 20 years ago he owned the Manalapan restaurant in Jersey.
“The guy who owns the restaurant now is a different guy,” Tony said. “You can’t just say, ‘He’s Chinese, you have to relate to him.’ I’m not related to him. I sold him the store.
Tony added that there was nothing to worry about in Brooklyn stores because the owner didn’t have a key, adding that “the mashgiach is there all the time.” (In many kosher restaurants, a mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, is assigned full-time to oversee kashrut status. Many kosher agencies require that only the kosher supervisor be given the key to a restaurant to ensure kosher rules are followed.)
“They’re tough here,” Tony said. “The mashgiach in Manalapan must have slept.”
Asked for a comment, someone answering the phone to OK Kosher hung up on New York Jewish Week. The company released a statement on Monday saying it had conducted a “thorough and thorough investigation” of Chinese restaurant Manalapan.
When this journalist tried to call the Manalapan restaurant, the telephone lines were cut. Other community members confirmed that the store was closed.
In a statement on Thursday, OK Kosher revealed the results of its investigations indicating that Kosher Chinese Express “intentionally violated its obligation to the kosher consumer.”
The statement said empty boxes of non-kosher chicken and meat were discovered by OK Kosher rabbis in a communal dumpster where the restaurant is located.
“The owner was questioned by OK Kosher Rabbis about the boxes in the dumpster,” the statement said. “We later got the owner’s verbal admission that he had brought in non-kosher chicken and meat in small amounts over a long period of time.”
The statement said the owner permanently closed the store “essentially acknowledging wrongdoing.”
Photos and video of the non-kosher meat were shared widely on September 5 via a facebook group called Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies, runs Elan Kornblum, who also publishes a popular blog under the same name. The post now has hundreds of comments and has led to dozens of Orthodox media and blog posts on the subject, sending the community into a frenzy to warn people about the possibility of eating non-kosher meat.
Shein, meanwhile, has posted warnings that the Manalapan restaurant is not kosher on his blog since he quit working there. He feared, he said, that the owner had the key to the establishment.
In the most recent statement from OK Kosher, they said that the mashgichim, the kosher supervisors, “were the only people who had the keys to the [New Jersey] restaurant, refrigerators and freezers.
A mashgiach who has intimate knowledge of Brooklyn restaurants and the certification process and who asked not to be named told New York Jewish Week he had heard that Manalapan’s mashgiach “didn’t have the key”.
“In Brooklyn, the mashgiach has the key to the restaurant,” he said. OK Kosher “are very strict about it.”
The same mashgiach also added that he had been in touch with OK Kosher regarding what happened in Manalapan.
“They said ‘we need to raise our standards and keep an eye on what’s going on and just be vigilant about it,'” he said.
Shein said the person who sent him the photos and video of the violations in Manalapan worked in the food industry and bought from Restaurant Depot, a store where restaurant owners can purchase food in bulk. This person also ate at the Manalapan store and knows the owner, Shein said.
“He recognized the owner of the restaurant who was buying the meat and the chickens,” Shein said. “He sent me a video about it because he knew if there was anything he could do about it, it was me.”
Shein has a habit of catching restaurants that violate kashrut laws. Two years ago there another restaurant in New Jersey came out of business after warning of their kosher violations.
Rabbi David Rosenthal, who runs an educational organization called Manalapan Jewish Connections, told New York Jewish Week he ate at Kosher Chinese Express and was ‘shocked’ to learn what happened .
“I felt awful that we had been eating potentially non-kosher for so long,” Rosenthal said.
He added that he was in touch with OK Kosher, who told him to “assume there was non-kosher meat in the store.”
“People don’t realize that even if you did something by accident, it requires repentance“, said Rosenthal.
Rosenthal also confirmed that the man in the initial video shared on Facebook is the owner of the Manalapan restaurant. “I saw him often,” he said.
Rosenthal hosted an area event on Thursday on repentance and how to proceed to discuss how to proceed as a community.
In the OK Kosher statement, they recommend that “Chinese Express customers who have purchased any of their products within the last six months and used any of their personal utensils be advised to Kosher those utensils.”
“Please contact your personal Rav for further guidance and instructions,” the statement read. “We are deeply saddened by this revelation and are grateful and grateful to the attentive observer who brought this to our attention.”
Following the scandal, Brooklyn’s kosher Chinese restaurants moved away from the NJ establishment and appeared first on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
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