Jewish Journal Preparing Blockbuster CA Kashrut Expose

This well-researched story should hit the stands in a month.

I’ve done some independent research and the following story is about Schwarma Express in the San Fernando Valley. It is a kosher restaurant under the supervision of Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan (L.A.’s greatest Torah scholar). A few weeks ago, it changed its supervision to Rabbi Avraham Teichman’s Kehilla Kashrut. I suspect the owner, Asher, believed this would get him more business from the Ashkenazim.

I doubt the Ashkenazim eat much schwarma.

The same sort of scam was pulled on Noah’s Bagels and the Coffee Bean more than a decade ago to convince these stores to pull their kashrut from the supervision of Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan, for other, supposedly more rigorous supervision.

Schwarma Express is on Reseda and Burbank Blvds. After the disaster outlined below, Schwarma Express decided to stay with Rabbi Bukspan’s supervision.

The drip pans in the following story? Kehilla Kashrut insisted that Schwarma Express purchase the pans from them for $600 each! This was necessary before Kehilla Kashrut would certify the restaurant.

I found this Aug. 1, 2010 blog entry by a rabbi:

…None of these, however, even begins to compare with the sadness and shock of an event that I witnessed this past week, when a Jewish company took such advantage of another Jew, that the ugliness of their practices bodes us to not only pay attention, but to take action, before it is too late.

This “Community” company, (whom I may not name directly, under threat of reprisal from them), labels itself as amongst the most Observant of the most Observant; a company that in fact places itself at the highest level of Holiness by judging who is Kosher and who is not; and providing Hashgacha, on site inspectors who supervise a restaurant’s activities.

Rather than opine at the moment, please permit me to simply tell you what happened this past week, and how it transpired before my very eyes and ears:

I went into a known Kosher restaurant in the Los Angeles area around 2:30pm one day this past week. I approached the counter, looked at the menu on the wall and ordered the “Lunch Special” which consisted of a hamburger, fries and a fountain drink. I was told by the counter girl that she could not prepare that for me as the “Rabbi was blessing the place”. She looked over to three men sitting at a table and I approached, introduced myself and made it known that I have eaten there before; that I know it to be Kosher; and that I was accepting of the fact that a “Re-Hechshering” was in progress, but that I trusted the owner to not sell me non Kosher food, and asked that they please prepare the hamburger for me.

When I exited the restroom, I was again told that they could not prepare this order, but that I could have some Shawarma from earlier in the day, before the procedure had begun. Not wishing to find a different restaurant, I ordered the Shawarma and sat down to eat.

While seated, I heard the three men talking. The restaurant owner was pleading with the other two men, one American and one Israeli, to allow him to open and sell food. The two men say there and listened, but offered no solution. Two or three minutes later, the American said “I understand that you are upset. Let’s do this, if you agree to buy the pans now, you could be open in no time. In fact, you could be open right now if you would just buy the pans.”

My friends, I thought that Tony Soprano was sitting at that table. I felt as if I was in a scene from a Coppola movie, or that Ray Liotta was going to jump out of the back with a sawed-off and save the day. Did I hear right? Was the owner of this small Falafel stand being extorted?? And, if so, could this possibly be done in the name of Torah??? NO WAY, I told myself, and then, I felt compelled to ask these guys, and ask I did.

“Why are you keeping this man’s restaurant closed?” “Because he is not yet Kosher”, I was told. “Why is he not yet Kosher?”, I asked, “He has been Glatt Kosher for YEARS”, I continued. Their answer blew me away. According to this man, Larry Somebody, the restaurant was not Kosher enough, and the pans in question (drip pans used UNDER the Shawarma Rotisseries, NOT for food that would be eaten) might have come in contact with something bad, I was told, and therefore, the restaurant was not Kosher until he said that it was Kosher.

Welcome to Extortion 101.

I returned the following day and the owner thanked me for trying to help him. The Israeli man was back and sitting at the same table, while playing with his iPhone and getting up occasionally to make a plate of food (which, no he did not pay for). This “on site inspector”, by the way, earns $15 per hour, paid by the restaurant, which is in addition to the $675 per quarter that the restaurant pays the “Community” for their super supervision.

I asked the owner what had transpired. Why did he feel compelled to change Kashrut companies and was told by him that he had been approached and advised that were he to not change to this “Community”, “The Ashkenazim would not patronize his store”, thus, causing him financial loss.

Those are the facts. That is what I saw and what I heard. I called this “Larry” person on Wednesday morning, and informed him that I was going to write about this incident in my Column, and was warned that should I publish this piece, I could be hurting my new friend the restaurant owner. Now that this has published, let’s see what happens.

LINDA COMMENTS: I have patronized a small kosher restaurant in my community, where the owner & chief cook (a woman) was told that her approval would be removed if she insisted on continuing to wear pants instead of a skirt whilst cooking…her safety was secondary – she must think of being dressed “appropriately and modestly whilst in the kitchen cooking over flames and vats of grease…

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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