Apr 12, 2018
Star-K Negates OK's Transaction

The OK certification arranged for a major beer distributor, owned by a Jew, to sell its chametz for Pesach, but Star-K won't recognize it.

By COLlive reporter

Before Pesach, Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, head of OK Kosher, told congregants at his shul in Crown Heights that all the kashrus organizations are planning to issue a joint statement about a serious kashrus issue.

He was referring to Manhattan Beer Distributors (MBD) in New York, the largest single market beer distributor in the US which is owned by its founder and CEO Simon Bergson.

Being that among the brand names they distribute are Miller, Coors, Heineken and Amstel, these drinks would be considered Chametz She'Avar Alav HaPesach - chometz that was in the possession of a Jew on Pesach, and therefore forbidden for consumption.

Many kashrus agencies approached Bergson over the years and offered to sell his chametz for him; however, he always staunchly opposed the idea, Gershon Hellman reports in Ami Magazine.

Bergson was averse to "selling" his company in any way, and was not comfortable with the entire concept of giving over ownership of the business he had built up, even after it was explained to him that there was no risk of him losing anything, it was reported.

With no solution in sight, Rabbi Levy told his shul, kashrus organizations agreed to compose a letter warning the public to avoid purchasing brands distributed by Bergson's company for a period after Pesach.

Hearing the speech together in the shul were R' Nosson Sternberg, a Lubavitcher businessman from Crown Heights, and Rabbi Kalman Weinfeld, the OK's Rabbinic Coordinator for Food Services.

"I know somebody who used to work for Manhattan Beer years ago," Sternberg commented. "Maybe I could talk to him."

Weinfeld replied: "I would do anything and everything to try to convince him to make a mechirah.

Sternberg called his friend the next morning but was told that the effort would be in vain as many rabbis approached Bergson over the years and no one had ever persuaded him to sell his chametz.

But he insisted and the meeting was arranged, at the end of which Bergson not only sold his company for the duration of Pesach but he also agreed to put on Tefillin and recite Shma Yisroel.

That would have meant that all of the beverages that Bergson distributes would be permissible for purchase after Pesach.

But instead, the Star-K organization based in Baltimore, Maryland, issued a "New York Post-Pesach Beer Alert" that no beverages should be purchased until late May - early June 2018.

In response, the OK issued a letter: "The Mechiras Chometz done for the main beer distributor in the Tri-State Area was done under the direction of respected Rabbonim/Dayanim Shlita."

"The OK is surprised to see alerts posted to the contrary by those who have not contacted us and must not be aware of the details.

"The Mechira was based on well-known prominent poskin, including R' Moshe Feinstein zatzal, R' Yaakov Breish zatzal, and R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zatzal. The Mechira was done in a way that does not contradict what is mentioned the Maharam Shuk, Sdei Chemed and Divrei Yoel."

In a statement to COLlive.com, Rabbi Sholom Tendler, Kashrus Administrator of Star-K, wrote:

"One of the largest beer distributors in New York is known to be Jewish owned. Longstanding Star-K policy has always been not to rely on a mechira in these circumstances.

"Therefore, while OK Kosher Certification was successful at arranging a mechira, and they are to be commended for doing so, Star-K certified establishments and caterers should only use items that are free from any concern. Individuals should consult their own Rov.

"The alert being publicized in Star-K's name, which states all the affected beers as being Chometz She'avar Alav haPesach and makes no mention of any mechira, was a memo issued before Pesach to our certified vendors and establishments only, to give them adequate time to prepare, and before any mechira was thought possible or took place.

"Nonetheless, in keeping with our longstanding policy not to rely on a mechira in these situations, our position remains as stated for our certified establishments."

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
Ok letter
It's not signed
Although I will buy because I trust the ok. Its is heartwarming to see that the star I will not bend its rules. I guess they have good standards.
(4/12/2018 9:32:11 PM)
Don't see the issue here. Star K has a policy and they choose to stick to it. People who wish to follow the OK are more than welcome to.
(4/12/2018 9:45:07 PM)
A beer drinker
Yasher koach gevaldig!
(4/12/2018 10:30:44 PM)
After all these years of trying, the OK managed to achieve this success. And simply because of jealousy/greed/politics/competition the Stark K negates it?

WELL DONE! Now you realize Mr. Bergson will likely never do another mitzvah of any kind? Who can blame him? And despite the Star K's sources for their Psak, they are disputing the integrity of the OK, which in & of itself is wrong.

Personally, I haven't eaten Star K products, especially tuna, for over 30 years, since I believe their interests lie in $$ & not Kashrus.

Mr. Bergson - if you read this, please know that what you did was a wonderful thing. May your business & personal success go from strength to strength.
(4/12/2018 11:01:10 PM)
Way to politicize
I generally don't like hechshers but in this case it does seem to be a genuine halachic disagreement. I have friends who drink thier good booze before pesach because they will otherwise throw it out.
(4/12/2018 11:21:20 PM)
I don't understand
Has this beer alert list gone out every year from the star k?
When did the star k adopt this policy as I don't remember ever seeing this beer alert in the past.....
(4/12/2018 11:38:13 PM)
big deal
ok sometimes also would not agree with STAR k
this is why there are 2 different companies
(4/12/2018 11:43:45 PM)
Misleading Title
The Star-K didn't "negate" anything. They had nothing to do with the sale and have no power to negate anything. The mechira didn't meet their standards, and they advised those who rely on their judgement accordingly.

Not to get preachy, but it's sfira. We really don't need to create more machlokes but sensationalizing non-stories.
(4/12/2018 11:53:52 PM)
It appears from the article that Star Ks policy is to not recognize Mechira of chometz. So do kosher stores (specifically in Baltimore where Star K is located) buy all new stock immediately after Pesach? It would be impossible for the shelves to be stocked for weeks after Pesach because the kosher food manufacturers and distributors sell their chometz etc. I don't understand what their policy is.
(4/13/2018 12:01:25 AM)
To Number 4
I couldn't agree with you more. Star-k does not want to "lower" itself by relying on OK's mechirah. Would it kill these people to work together?
(4/13/2018 12:38:02 AM)
Everyone has their own views
Some people don't eat gebrukts on Pesach, some don't eat anything thar isn't yoshon. Aseh lcha rav
(4/13/2018 1:27:50 AM)
Amazing post,
Schoyach OK!!
(4/13/2018 1:37:13 AM)
Mechiras chometz
If he sold the chometz, he fully understood what he was doing, and no one was forcing him to do it it's a valid mechira. Buy have to be careful on "pushing" mechiras since it can affect the all big mechira of the Rov.
(4/13/2018 4:53:56 AM)
To number 4
You clearly know little to nothing about kashrus and let your Sinas chinam shine through. Speak to Rabbonim and you will see that a Mechira like this is far from simple.

Additionally, The STAR-K put the alert out BEFORE the OK got Bergson to make a mechira.
(4/13/2018 5:58:38 AM)
Negate or agree?
Reading the star-k statement, they are not negating anything the ok did, just the opposite in fact. they commend it and are not telling people not to buy the beer, just thier own places to follow thier long standing policy.
(4/13/2018 6:08:11 AM)
We never bought Star K at home.
They aren't from the highest standards. Rabbi Weissmandel- who is known to be a higher standard does approve.

Another Kashrus disagreement, and everyone follow your own Rov.
(4/13/2018 7:23:23 AM)
I think this is an old fight
This thing between the Star K and OK goes back to when Hagaon Reb Berel Levy was alive.

Thats life. One company does not have to accept the other companies Heterim.

(4/13/2018 7:30:35 AM)
To #9 (and others)
From what I understand , The issue here is that star K doesn't recognize a Mechira (sale) by someone who is not Frum. That is the Crux of the issue here. It is not a dispute with the ok in general Etc.

In fact it could be tied to the broader difference of how Chabad looks at Jews versus how other groups view non frum Jewish.

I'm sure there will be a quick work around. Someone will find an out-of-town distributor (perhaps from Baltimore?) and distribute in New York until shavuos). Who knows.

(4/13/2018 7:59:20 AM)
To those suggesting that star k is the stringent kosher agency I personally once conveyed an important kashrus alert to the head of the star k since they brought Shabbos in early in the summer and we're not aware. To my shock the leading Rabbinic administrator laughed it off because it came from a lubavitcher. I was shocked at his callous attitude towards a possible breach in kashrus. But now I'm no longer shocked :-(
(4/13/2018 8:51:40 AM)
lets explain ;
everyone agrees that mechiras chometz in principal is legit, now there is a commercial question. and that is if a owner of a corporation signs a mechiras chometz contract BUT CONTINUES TO SELL CHOMETZ DURING PESACH , does that invalidate the mechira or is mr. bergson just selling ( or stealing) the goys chometz? thats the crux of the issue, finally chometz sheavar is a derabonon and since you dont know if these cans are from before or after the ok views that bedieved + safek + mechira = OK
as far as private people that dont sell "real chometz" ( so what are you selling?) the hesitation is tha inprevious generations before yiddin were in the whisky & kretchme line the chometz being sold was actually transferred to the goys house it was only after that became impossible that the earlier poskim agreed that giving the goy the keys is equivalent ( in bp thats stll how its done for the frum grocers & wholesalers.
(4/13/2018 9:17:41 AM)
Come On
They have a genuine disagreement. There's nothing wrong with that, and they praised the OK for doing the mechira on top of it.

Also its not just the Star K, Hisachdus also said they don't hold of the mechira, as did the head of the OU (although he said the OU won't be making a statement.

Baruch Hashem the OK was able to arrange the mechira, and Baruch Hashem there are other hashgachos with their own standards too.
(4/13/2018 9:28:18 AM)
what does the premier kashrus organization the ou have to say about it? I would rely on them.
(4/13/2018 11:09:45 AM)
star k
star k is only a little better than triangle k these days. There was a time when Rabbi Heineman]s hechsher was reliable but unfortunately things have changed. Even litvishe mehadeim don't touch his stuff today
(4/13/2018 11:13:39 AM)
reading this post is akin to a blind man guiding a deaf man.....

i am in the business and can say that both are good hashgachas, and you should just confer with your local neighborhood rabbis...as to where you hold and what your personal standard should be
like usual this is very much ado about nothing
(4/13/2018 11:51:56 AM)
Picture worth 1000 words
It's great that they took pictures. I'm happy to see a picture of Reb Kalman, a well know mashgiach with the company in discussion. The fact that the OK pulled this off is commendable and everyone should be congratulating them. If you don't trust this mechira then I question which mechira you do trust...
(4/13/2018 12:22:47 PM)
who does Heineman & co. think they are?
unbelievable the ego. star k a weaker organization based in Baltimore thinks he can Tell a NY Rav & especially Don Yoel Levy what to do! & how he should hold
(4/13/2018 6:00:08 PM)
To #20
This is incorrect
They sold the entire business to the goy not only the ..
every yid who owns old age homes does it in this manner
Not a
(4/14/2018 8:34:21 PM)
To 21
I'm surprised. I have heard from many big lubavitcher rabbonim that we don't rely on the Star K for anything really.

[Once, a bochur had hot cocoa in yeshiva and it was sitting on the counter (cholov yisroel, star k). When the RY came by and saw it, he looked, asked whose it was and threw it out without listening for the answer. He said avaday for milchigs, but even pareve].

They are meikil on almost everything, except this mechira when the OK does it. And Hisachdus and OU are no better.

They don't not hold of the mechira, they don't hold of the OK and they took an opportunity to be shoilel them. I don't personally think it's all that big of a deal to get worked up or upset over, and I don't drink beer, but I'm surprised to hear that there are chassidim who hold of the Star K, OU or Hisachdus. They are not reliable hechsheirim at all. I have many stories aval ein kan hamokom. Maybe some people just aren't aware. Speak to a knowledgeable rov. A gut choidesh.
(4/14/2018 10:31:50 PM)
So sad. The only reason lubavitchers don't hold of other kashrus is because they are not lubavitch. While all other Yidden get along with each other, Litvish and chassidish together, you always choose to fight everyone no matter what.
(4/15/2018 1:14:08 AM)
Why is the star k singled out when crc also made it clear they don't accept the ok stance on this. Is it easier to blame the litvishers than pick a fight with satmar?
(4/15/2018 1:25:35 AM)
stop making a machlokes out of this
everyone in the industry thinks OK and Rabbi Weinfeld did a great thing to arrange this mechira. It removed the issue of chometz she'avar hapesach from thousands of yidden across the tri-state area.
R' Moshe zt"l has two tshuvos approving of it, even though the company is open during Pesach, and he holds it's a valid mechira. R' JB Solveitchik wrote against it, saying it's not reliable that the owner truly intended to sell, since he's open anyways. Most of the leaders of the OU are students of R' JB z"l from YU, and they follow his psak.
So it's not political, backstabbing, hatred, etc. it's a machlokes in great poskim, and while everyone thanked the OK for getting it done, some feel they should be machmir and not use the products until it cycles out, which is approximately Shavuos time.
(4/15/2018 1:38:08 AM)
Post mechira
Please post the mechiras chometz statement online with dates and signatures for everyone to see, not an unsigned letter from the Ok. That would give me more peace of mind
(4/15/2018 3:31:07 AM)
differences of opinion caveat:
as long as star k openly agrees that the mechira removes the products from the category of chometz sheh'ovar ....they can keep to whatever standards they're following. the main thing is not to send a nuanced signal that their standards are holy and the o.k.'s are not. the o.k. is not picking a fight; it has every right and obligation to publicize the situation in order for the jewish public to be aware that these products were indeed sold for pesach according to o.k's. and others' standards and may indeed be purchased immediately after pesach.
(4/15/2018 12:54:13 PM)
at number 20
what those people are selling when they don't sell "real" chomitz is taaroves chometz which is still asur to own on pesach so thats why they sell it.
(4/15/2018 1:55:19 PM)
To 29
I posted 28 and you replied.

You're frankly quite wrong. We rely on good hechsherim, most of which are not lubavitcher hechsherim (Skver, Veismandel, Volova). It just so happens that Star K is not one of them, and obviously we don't rely on Satmar (CRC). Many things we don't rely on the OU for (ie bishul yisroel etc, which each has to ask a rov moreh horaa about) and I personally don't rely on the OK for certain things as well.

A person should have a rov and should call any hechsher they want and ask any questions they want and decide accordingly. Nothing to do with lubavitch or not and nothing to do with fighting.
(4/15/2018 3:35:00 PM)
Are they consistent?
"Longstanding Star-K policy has always been not to rely on a mechira in these circumstances.

Does the Star-K require all their restaurant to eliminate all Chometz gamur? All the frozen breads, dried pasta, pretzels?
I'd like to know!
(4/15/2018 7:40:43 PM)
To 29
You're statement is categorically false. Lubavitcher chassidim trust other hechsherim on a daily basis. Star k has a reputation of being kenient where it pays for them and being stringent when it comes to other kosher supervision companies. Classic echad beleh bechad belaiv. This said, I would trust them more than I would trust triangle k.
(4/15/2018 9:52:26 PM)
#18 made it clear
"In fact it could be tied to the broader difference of how Chabad looks at Jews versus how other groups view non frum Jewish."

Whether anyone relies totally on the star k or not, a classic lubavitcher "move" has to make it about "the difference between us and them" a favorite line amongst lubavitchers. Its always about chabad vs the rest of the Yiddishe velt. And then you are surprised why Moshiach isnt here, it is truly interesting how EVERYONE gets along whether between litvish and chassidish, but chabad feels the need to fight everyone and prove how much they count much more than anyone else. Put down the arrogance and join the rest of the Yidden, everyone has their strengths, no need for constant competition. It doesnt end with outlook towards "non-frum" Jews, the way you view other "frum" Jews is equally important.
(4/15/2018 11:44:24 PM)
to 38
V'nahafoch Hu!!!!!!
Since the misnagdim lost the war and battle they instigated against toras habaal shem in general and against the alter rebbe in particular they have a inferior complex. They then took out their magnifying glass and wherever they were able to spot a minhag that was inherent to chassidim and didn't jive with their klein keppeldikiet they made a vayitzaku. it is a known fact that whenever litvishe meet chassidim before they even greet them they pose shailos. and not to find out the answer but rak al menas lekanter. They don't fell threatened by satmar bobov vishnitz etc. they feel threatened by lubavitchers because we come from the same area dress alike and have other similarities. they feel threatened by lubavitcher because historically lubavitcher rebbes and gedolei hachassidim put them in their back pocket when it came to nigleh and nister man dechar shmei.
(4/16/2018 12:24:38 PM)
As a Lubavitcher who lives in Baltimore and knows some of the rabbonim at the star k personally I can say with complete certainty that they are incredible yorei shomayim and humble people who are not at all doing anything just for the money. They are kind sweet personable people who also happen to be big talmidei chachomim. Anyone who would meet them and spend just a little bit of time with them would never be able to say any of the things that people here have commented about the star k. Again, I know these rabbonim personally and anyone who has anything negative to say about them has obviously never met or had to deal with them. And like any good rov sometimes they are makil and sometimes they are machmir so it is ludicrous to say that the star k is always makil or that they are like triangle k. As a side point for those chitzonim who need to know, rabbi Heinemen had a chavrusah with rabbi Mendel Feldman olov hasholom in Tanya for 18 years and rabbi Heber (another one of the top rabbonim in the star k) has a lot of Lubavitcher family, his father used to host the hookups of the Rebbes farbrengens in their city, and he goes to the Ohel a few times a year. I could go on but hopefully you get the point.
(4/16/2018 8:48:10 PM)
Isnt it just easier to blame the "misnagdim" for everything and claim that they are jealous? I mean its the easiest way to make ourselves feel better about ourself.
(4/16/2018 9:10:41 PM)
agree with #40
Also live in Baltimore & totally agree with the comment that #40 made!! Thank you!
(4/16/2018 9:48:50 PM)
It is heartwarming to see how you describe the characters of the rabbonim at the star k. Yet you still find it necessary to further prove your point by showing their connection to chabad as if without such a connection their status as erlicher yidden would remain in doubt.
(4/16/2018 9:50:40 PM)
Im #40
Furthermore I strongly urge anyone who has any questions regarding the star ks standards to give them a call at 4104844110. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that there are a lot more things that you can eat.
(4/16/2018 10:45:03 PM)
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