The Streits Matza Controversy

David Deutsch writes for Heeb Magazine’s blog Jewdar:

Let’s first of all get some conflict of interest issues out of the way: Yes, Streit’s has been a longtime advertiser in Heeb. And yes, Heeb‘s own associate director of business David Kelsey was involved in the expose. And yes, every year, Jewdar takes the little Jewdars to our neighborhood matzo factory to stock up before Pesach. 

But all that said, the current contretemps over the apparent efforts by people associated with the OU to muscle Streit’s into taking them on as their kosher supervisors is a chilul hashem (desecration of the Name, Heeb readers) any way you slice it.  They slander a rabbi who has done nothing to merit their opprobrium. They slander  and rob a company that’s been producing kosher food for nearly a century. And most revoltingly, they turn kashrus (that’s more or less "the keeping of kosher"—come on, don’t you guys know anything?) into a venal parody. The OU takes in a lot of money selling itself as a defender of kashrus, but if we didn’t keep kosher, and wanted to know what it was about, a story like this would send us off to the nearest double-cheeseburger.

Serious Questions writes: I recently read the widely circulated article concerning the Streits matzo controversy.

Although I am completely an unbiased reader (I have never met any of the individuals the article gravitates around), I am nevertheless bothered by the glaring fact that there are many deafening, yet completely unanswered questions. After skimming through the comment pages on the numerous websites that discuss the article, I noticed that the masses are bothered by the same simple yet troubling questions.

How can a Rabbinic organization take such severe action (the article extensively describes the harm it caused to R’ Soloveichik) against a respected individual, without even being able to verbalize a complaint against him? The article quotes Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld as saying "He [R’ Moshe Soloveichik] just doesn’t swim in the kashrus world … we’re not saying he’s bad; not at all. We just don’t know." What does that mean? Shoot and ask questions later? To put it simply: the whole story just does not add up- there must be politics at play that does not meet the innocent eye.
I decided to search around the web, to see if I would be able to find any articles that R’ Moshe Soloveitchik may have written that would cause him to find disfavor in the eyes of those who attacked his hechsher. It didn’t take too long to find a document that began to crystallize a seemingly sinister and petty plot.

I came across this letter that was published on a blog called "Daat Torah." One of the Rabbinic signatories on this letter, written in opposition to Rabbi Bomzer’s Geirus protocol, is the Rav Hamachshir of Streits Matzo, Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik. When I "Googled" Rabbi Bomzer’s name I discovered that he has been a long term leading member of the Rabbinical Council of America, the Young Israel Council, and is the President of the Vaad Harabonim of Flatbush. I also discovered that his son R’ Moshe Bomzer, is a prominent member of the Orthodox Union, and serves on the "Rabbinical Council of America’s Executive Committee".

To my laymen eyes, it looks like a simple story of underhanded revenge. Quite saddening if true, but all would agree that the real tragedy would be the utter miscarriage of justice if this story were not properly investigated and reported.

Y. Aharon writes: Rabbis who make unsupported assertions that anger people who use Streits products and who adversely affect the reputation and income of a respected rav and talmid chacham, should expect such reactions. Consider the statements cited from these Vaad rabbis that the rav in question "doesn’t swim in kashrut circles", and that there may be a problem with "nefucha and kefula matzot that are then crushed into matzoh meal". If the Vaad rabbis were really interested in facts, they could have easily ascertained that Rav Moshe Soloveitchik had been the mashgiach at Streits for decades and is well regarded by CRC people. They just meant that he doesn’t belong to the NY "old boys" network. Raising the issue of nephucha and kefula with machine matzot, where it is an unlikely problem, and disregarding such a question with regard to crushed hand matzot that they do allow is extremely puzzling and doesn’t bode well for their expertise or judgment. Why didn’t these Vaad rabbis make an inspection tour of the Streits plant prior to issuing their decertification a month before Pesach? One of the Streits owners has claimed that his plant has been available for inspection.

In sum, I’m most unimpressed by "Rebbetzin’s Husband" attitude, especially since he agrees that Streits matzot were acceptable.

About Luke Ford

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