The RCC Vs. Rabbi Bukspan

In February 1997, attorney Baruch Cohen drafted a letter on behalf of Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan asking for a suspension of the RCC‘s campaign to destroy the rabbi.

One of the signatories sent me this petition.

I asked Baruch Cohen for comment and he declined to comment.

What’s the background to this dispute?

In the 1980s, Rabbis Gershon Bess and Avrohom Union of the RCC decided that California must have one supreme rabbinic authority. One supreme right-wing rabbinic authority. A rabbinic group that was rigorous in its application of Torah.

Many of the rabbis of the RCC, such as Avrohom Union, are baalei teshuva (penitents who returned to Judaism) and if they had encountered such rigor when they were first exploring Judaism, they probably would not have continued with their Jewish journeys.

Rabbi Union served in South Africa and saw how one Beit Din could run the show and he wanted the RCC to be that one Beit Din in California for the glory of G-d and Torah.

If there was one Jewish law court running the show, there would be one Torah standard and less internecine warfare.

So rabbis Union and Bess joined forces with all the Orthodox pulpit rabbis in Los Angeles and mounted a very successful campaign to become the one dominant kosher-certifying rabbinic authority in town. Though they didn’t end Rabbi Bukspan’s career nor did they shut down Rabbi Avraham Teichman’s Kehilla Kashrut, they otherwise got what they wanted.

Today it is widely believed in Southern California that you can not fight with the RCC and win.

There’s only pulpit Orthodox rabbi in Los Angeles who ever questions the RCC and that is Rav Yosef Kanefsky of Bnai David. Rav Kanefsky has been able to pull this off while maintaining a working relationship with the RCC. He’s the sponsoring rabbi for conversions through the RCC (even though the RCC would rather potential converts in Pico-Robertson go to Aish HaTorah or Anshe Emes).

What was the direct cause of this 1997 petition on behalf of Rabbi Bukspan?

In 1996, various RCC Orthodox rabbis went into Noah’s Bagels and spooked them, just like the Mafia go into establishments and spook them. You better do business with me, buddy, or you’ll regret. Here’s an offer you can’t confuse.

The rabbis said that Noah’s Bagels would do much better business with the Jewish community if they went under the RCC‘s hashgacha (kashrut supervision).

So in October of 1996, Noah’s Bagels dropped Rabbi Bukspan’s supervision and brought on the RCC.

Rabbi Nachum Sauer went around saying that the RCC can give the hechsher on the bagels and Rabbi Bukspan can give the hechsher on the hole.

In protest of the shakedown, Baruch Cohen wrote a couple of letters to the RCC protesting the tactics the RCC used to achieve this victory.

These letters got handed around in shuls. Various people who hated the RCC jumped on this bandwagon.

In February 1997, Baruch Cohen composed the petition below and got many of Orthodox Judaism’s biggest names to sign it.

The FTC made inquiries into the case. Baruch Cohen refused to assist them. He refused all media interviews on the case. Baruch Cohen claimed that the purpose of the petition was to restore peace to the community so the various rabbis could serve G-d in their own ways.

Following the petition, there was a settlement meeting between the RCC and Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan. RCC president Mayer May was the driving force behind this and he oversaw the meeting.

So what happened at the meeting? Nothing significant. Just some empty words.

In October of 1997, Noah’s Bagels abandoned all kosher supervision.

One of the arguments that the RCC used against Rabbi Bukspan was that he certified as kosher businesses operating on the Sabbath. This is perfectly legal by Jewish law, and the RCC today supervises businesses open on the Sabbath and all Jewish holidays such as the Magnolia Bakery.

Here’s the 1997 petition:

The Orthodox Jewish Community of Los Angeles is outraged by the reputed community-wide Loshon Hora, Rechilus, & MotsiShem Ra concerning Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan, Shlitah, and his Hashgochos that have apparently been motivated by variousRabbonim and have apparently been tolerated by the Rabbinical Council of California.
We commissioned attorney Baruch Cohen to express our concerns, and his two letters to the RCC regarding its treatment ofRabbi Yehuda Bukspan have accurately expressed our grievances. The RCC must respond accordingly.

Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan is known by the community at large to be a Lamdon & Talmid Chochom, well versed in Shas & Poskimand a Yorei Shomayim.

Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan has lived in Los Angeles since 1960, and has provided our community with Kosher food supervision since then, and we trust him and his Hashgochos – 100%. We have used Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan as our Rav HaMachshir and Mashgiach for years, at all of our (Glatt) banquets and functions including: Aish HaTorah of Los Angeles, Aish HaTorah ofJerusalem, Bais Yaakov School for Girls, Beth Jacob Congregation, Congregation Shaarei Tefila, Emek Hebrew Academy, EtzJacob Congregation, Hillel Hebrew Academy, Kollel of Los Angeles, Shaarei Tzedek Congregation, Valley Torah High School,Yavneh Hebrew Academy, Yeshiva Gedoleh of Los Angeles, Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn Toras Emes Academy, & Yeshiva University of Los Angeles.

Many times Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan provided Kashrus supervision at no charge at all to various institutions and restaurants, Leshaim Shomayim.

By speaking badly of a Talmid Chochom of Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan’s caliber and his Hashgochos (for any reason), the Rabbonim of the Rabbinical Council of California are in essence disparaging their own Kovod Hatorah and that of the LosAngeles Torah community.
Such actions are unworthy of any individual, and most certainly of a Kashrus agency such as the Rabbinical Council ofCalifornia, and most certainly of the individual Rabbonim of the Rabbinical Council of California.

We can no longer, in good conscience, remain silent and tolerate such actions.

To maintain our support, and confidence, the following measures must be taken:

The Rabbinical Council of California should issue a public written apology to Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan recognizing anyimpropriety of its past actions.

The Rabbinical Council of California, and its individual Rabbonim, should refrain from speaking Loshon Hora,Rechilus, & Motsi Shem Ra of Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan and/or his Hashgochos.

The Rabbinical Council of California, and its individual Rabbonim, should no longer exclude products supervised byRabbi Yehuda Bukspan, from being sold and used at any establishments supervised by the RCC.

The Rabbinical Council of California, and its individual Rabbonim, should no longer inform their constituents thatRabbi Yehuda Bukspan’s Glatt supervision of hotels and caterers are not reliable and not Glatt Kosher.

The Rabbinical Council of California should discontinue its policy of informing the public – that the community mustonly eat from a community Hashgocho or only from the Rabbinical Council of California’s Hashgocho.

The Rabbinical Council of California should decline future Kashrus accounts that are held by Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan.

The Rabbinical Council of California should meet with representatives of Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan to discuss their grievances and any appropriate compensation that may be due to Rabbi Yehuda Bukspan.

Petitioners For Kovod HaTorah

Rabbi & Mrs. Eliezer Adler
Mr. & Mrs. Hymie Barber
Mr. & Mrs. Isaac Begin
Rabbi & Mrs. Zvi Block
Rabbi & Mrs. Joseph Bronner
Mr. & Mrs. Jamie Deutsch
Mr. & Mrs. Sanford Deutsch
Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Diller
Rabbi & Mrs. Morris Dolgin
Mr. & Mrs. Peter Faber
Mr. & Mrs. Walter Feinbloom
Mr. & Mrs. Avrohom Feingold
Mr. & Mrs. Shimon Feingold
Mr. & Mrs. Gene Fogel
Mr. & Mrs. Ira Frankel
Rabbi & Mrs. Aharon D. Friedman
Rabbi & Mrs. David Friedman
Mr. & Mrs. Isaac Friedman
Rabbi & Mrs. Jacob Friedman
Rabbi & Mrs. Mendel Friedman
Mr. & Mrs. Andrew Gardner
Mr. & Mrs. Alan Genauer
Mr. & Mrs. Bernard Giel
Mr. & Mrs. Alan Goldstein
Mr. & Mrs. David Goldstein

Mr. & Mrs. Chaim Gove
Mr. & Mrs. Fred Hendeles
Mr. & Mrs. Lazar Hendeles
Mr. & Mrs. Moise Hendeles
Mr. & Mrs. Velvel Hershkowitz
Mr. & Mrs. Israel Hirsh
Rabbi & Mrs. Rubin Huttler
Mr. & Mrs. Moshe A. Kagan
Mr. & Mrs. Yankel Kahan
Mr. & Mrs. Mordechai Kamornick
Rabbi & Mrs. Jacob Kasirer
Rabbi & Mrs. Michael Katz
Mr. & Mrs. Sol Kest
Rabbi & Mrs. Eliyahu Kin
Mr. & Mrs. William Last
Mr. & Mrs. Kenny Lehman
Mr. & Mrs. Eddie Levy
Rabbi & Dr. George Lintz
Mr. & Mrs. Ben Zion Mandelbaum
Rabbi & Mrs. Uri Mandelbaum
Rabbi & Mrs. Zalman Manela
Mr. & Mrs. Bernard Meller
Mr. & Mrs. Sam Menlo
Mr. & Mrs. Frank Moritz
Mr. & Mrs. David Nagel

Mr. & Mrs. Jack Nagel
Mr. & Mrs. Tzvi Niman
Rabbi & Mrs. Aaron Parry
Mr. & Mrs. George Phillips
Mr. & Mrs. Tzvi Ryzman
Rabbi & Mrs. Rafael Rose
Mr. & Mrs. Meir L. Rossman
Rabbi & Mrs. Yossi Rubanowitz
Mr. & Mrs. David Rubin
Rabbi & Mrs. Akiva Schlussel
Mr. & Mrs. Itzhak Shapiro
Mr. & Mrs. Norman Silverman
Mr. Ira Smedra
Mr. & Mrs. Paul Solomon
Dr. & Mrs. David Stoll
Dr. & Mrs. Seymour Stoll
Mr. & Mrs. Warren Stoll
Mr. & Mrs. David Striks
Mr. & Mrs. David Thumim
Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Vago
Mr. & Mrs. Paul Weber
Rabbi & Mrs. Philip Weinberg
Mr. & Mrs. Abe Winter
Mr. & Mrs. Gary Wintner

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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