The Vaad Hoeir of St. Louis introduced the new executive of the Vaad, Rabbi Zvi Zuravin, and his wife, Esti Zuravin, to the community on July 11 at Nusach Hari B’nai Zion.
Zuravin comes from London, where he served as rabbinical coordinator of the London Beth Din Kosher Division.
Rabbi Menachem Greenblatt said the St. Louis community was very fortunate to have had a long history of Chief Rabbis, and noted that “to the extent that the Mora D’Asra (Chief Rabbi) was the final and deciding word on halachic matters, the congregational rabbis got themselves actually more devoted to their shuls than to the larger Vaad Hoeir matters. But now, with the retirement of Rabbi Sholom Rivkin, the rabbis have taken a more active role of looking into the needs of the community and the Vaad Hoeir.”
The St. Louis Rabbinical Council appointed a committee of rabbis to oversee the Vaad’s kashrut operation, and it was decided that a top professional in the field of kashrut should be sought to run that operation. Greenblatt described the search for that professional as “not so simple.”
“Once we began to speak with professionals out of town and were in contact with other organizations and people in the field of kashrut, it became apparent to all of us that finding the kind of professional we need to run the Vaad Hoeir — they’re not out there,” he said.
Greenblatt said the search was particularly difficult because of the need to have a professional who has experience and knowledge in the field of industrial kashrut.
“The Vaad Hoeir has some 100 industrial plants that require expertise in setting up the hashgacha and monitoring and maintaining it,” he said, in addition to the local butcher shops, bakeries and hotels.
Greenblatt said there are many professionals with experience in either the industrial realm or the local realm, but few with experience in both.
“After interviewing Rabbi Zuravin it became immediately clear to all the rabbanim and the executives at the Vaad Hoeir just how fortunate we were to find someone who had such deep experiences in every possible facet of kashrut,” Greenblatt said.
Zuravin said he feels there is great potential in St. Louis, which he was told “is one of the best well-kept secrets in the world.”
Zuravin said Rabbi Avi Bloch, who was previously the executive director, will remain very involved with the Vaad.
“Rabbi Bloch will help me and help the Vaad expand and try to find more kosher licenses in St. Louis and also in the industrial division of the Vaad.”
Zuravin said, however, before the Vaad works on expansion, they are going to work to perfect what currently exists. He said he hopes to be done with that stage in 60 to 90 days.
“After that, we are going to explore the possibilities of expanding,” Zuravin said, “and possibly finding people who might be interested in opening kosher restaurants, trying to talk Schnucks into getting more kosher products displayed, and stuff like that.”
In terms of the industrial market, Zuravin said the market in America is “a little bit crowded as far as kashrut goes,” and that most major factories have already established their kosher certification and it is therefore difficult to partake in that aspect, but that the Vaad is looking into helping with certifications for Chinese manufacturers who are starting to export their products into American companies. Zuravin said this will not have a direct impact in making more kosher products available locally, but will help raise revenue that will directly benefit the Vaad and the local Jewish community.
Zuravin is a graduate of the Talmudic Academy of Philadelphia and Yeshivat Mir, and has 18 years of experience in the kashrut industry.
Keren Douek is an assistant editor and can be reached at [email protected]