Monday, April 20, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Vaad Regulation

My posting on the vaadim of Queens and The Five Towns versus Streits got me thinking in a different direction. In American jurisprudence there is the idea of conflict of interest. A judge or attorney is expected to recuse themselves from a case when there is a relationship between them and any member of either side of the case. It might be possible that the judge or attorney could be completely partial despite the relationship; it is also possible that the relationship would influence or color the thinking of the judge or attorney.

Comments were made elsewhere about a possible financial connection between a member(s) of the vaad and a national kashrut certifying agency. I have absolutely no proven facts that this is or isn't the case. However, even the possibility of this being the case is troublesome, whether applied to this particular case or to any other case. I would expect that members of a vaad, like a judge or attorney in a civil case, would be neutral, basing a decision on only the facts of a case without any undue outside influence. Perhaps what is necessary is any/all of the following as rules for a vaad to work under.

1) No member of a vaad may have any financial arrangement with any kashrut certifying agency.

2) Any member of a vaad who has a financial arrangement with a kashrut certifying agency must make that information publicly available and readily accessible.

3)Any member of a vaad who has a financial arrangement with a kashrut certifying agency must recuse himself from voting on any issue in which the agency with which he has a financial arrangement is in competition with a different agency or individual involved in the case before the vaad.

4) Votes taken by any vaad must be available to the public in itemized form. Which rabbis voted for something and which rabbis voted against it? Which rabbis had to abstain because of financial relationships with a certifying agency?

5)All vaadim should be required to publish not only their decision regarding a kashrut matter but the specific reasons the decision is based on.

6)Vaadim should be required to have in written form and readily available to be read by the public the specific rules and regulations that have been established by them for deciding on the kashrut of an item/place.

I am aware that the members of a vaad are volunteers and put in many hours in maintaining kashrut standards for their communities. But the word "communities" is key here. These rabbanim are, in a very real sense, employees of the communities they serve. They are not, and certainly should not consider themselves to be, an elite group with no responsibilities for clear and complete reporting to those of the community. A community needs to be able to trust its vaad, and such trust is built not through secrecy but through openness.


Lion of Zion said...

basically what you are asking for here is some transparency, which simply doesn't exist in most orthodox organizations, e.g., kashruth orgs, schools, etc.

Tuvi said...

I can maybe give you one reason why the vaads don't make their workings public. Every member of the vaad is also the rabbi of a shul in the community. As a shul rabbi he may be expected to hold certain views that are in keeping with what the shul expects from him. As a member of a community vaad he may need to take the whole community into consideration and mesh his opinions with those of the other rabbis for the good of the whole community. Members of his shul may not agree with what he is doing on the vaad. I can see a situation where a shul rabbi could tell his congregation that they should or should not do something but hold the opposite opinion or a different opinion when it applies to a whole community with lots of different practices.

SuMMy said...


I dont understand- were 2 torahs given at har sinai? why would there be a difference in different places

(I dont mean to sound harsh- I just want to understand how halacha can have 2 meanings to the same person.)

Rivi said...

SuMMy, I'm not sure if it's exactly what Tuvi meant but I think that he is talking about something like this. A shul has as its policy that only items that are cholov yisroel can be used in the shul kitchen. The rabbi of the shul also tells his congregants that cholov yisroel is preferable for their use. The vaad hakashrus for the community as a whole may give its okay to stores that sell cholov stam products that are under hashgochah. This could be because there are shuls in the community where the rabbis say that cholov stam is okay to use. It's not exactly that cholov stam is treif because it's not. But different shuls have different policies. So the rabbi who says cholov yisroel for his shul but okays cholov stam as part of the vaad isn't working from two different Torahs--there is only one. He's recognizing that those who hold differently from him are also part of the community and he can't force everyone to hold his way.

Mike S. said...

1) Conflict of interest is also forbidden in Jewish jurisprudence as well. Does the gemara not describe Rav (IIRC) recusing himself from a case involving a neighbor because the latter greeted him in the morning in a manner beyond his custom.

2) A beis din is not supposed to reveal which judge voted which way. I do not know if that would apply to va'ad, but it is a consideration.

Anonymous said...

The method currently used for Kosher supervision is ripe for abuse (and rife with abuse). The way KAJ (Breur's) used to do it (and maybe still does), with the mashgichim all being solely employees (or volunteers) of the shul, and NOT working for the store, restaurant, or company providing the item, was much better. Unfortunately, with so many kosher items today, that is probably impractical.

But today, especially with some of the smaller hasgachot, there are clear signs, and even clear evidence in many cases, of dirty dealings, very dirty dealings. It's a sad state of affairs.


sness said...

All this stuff is abundantly discussed in the gemara. It's really quite amusing that people who are supposedly so frum are apparently so out of touch with, you know, JUDAISM, but only amusing from a distance.

This kind of nonsense is why I for one am going back to keeping kosher by ingredients. I don't want food that's been certified by some bunch of immoral corrupt black-hats who choose to ignore huge swathes of Talmud in favor of protecting their own interests and call it halakha.

SuMMy said...


What i'm suggesting is he can certify the restaurant as cholov stam. that's all. if his shul wants to be extra strict and do cholov yisroel only they will not buy it.

Some schools/shuls dont allow peanut products does that mean he cant certify it as kosher?