Streit’s Matzo to sport Kof-K in 2010
Mayer Fertig • Exclusive to The Jewish Star
The Kof-K logo will make an encore appearance on the Streit’s Matzo box for Passover 2010, alongside the Soloveichik kashrus seal that has been on Streit’s products since the 1950s. The change is a result of the ban on Streit’s matzo products enacted by the Vaad HaRabonim of Queens and the Vaad HaKashrus of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway just before last Pesach.
Although Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik had been the sole hashgacha on Streit’s matzo since 2007, the two community organizations claimed their sudden action in 2009 was necessary due to Streit’s lack of a nationally known hashgacha.
Rabbi Yosef Eisen, rabbinic coordinator of the Vaad of the Five Towns, pronounced the news about the Kof-K and Streit’s to be “wonderful.” Would he expect any problems next Pesach about allowing stores in the Five Towns and Far Rockaway to stock Streit’s matzo? “Absolutely not,” he said.
Rabbi Yoel Schoenfeld, who heads the Queens Vaad and led the way on the initial Streit’s ban, was more cautious.
“Obviously, we’re very delighted that they’re taking a national hashgacha,” he said, but “we’ll have to see how they proceed. That’s something that’s going to have to be left to our kashruth committee.” Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik began supervising Streit’s matzo production in 2001 following the death of his father, Rabbi Aharon Soloveichik, zt”l. The elder Rabbi Soloveichik, a brother to Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, had overseen Streit’s since the 1950s and was considered beyond reproach. The son was publicly embarrassed earlier this year to learn that he, apparently, was not.
“I received apologies,” he said. “One rabbi called an hour and a half before Pesach [after] all the stores were closed down. I received an apology from another rabbi for not having called me to find out the details.”
As for working with the Kof-K again, Rabbi Soloveichik said, “I’ve worked with them before and we worked well together … I guess [Streit’s] feel it’s a form of protection to have a national hashgacha from people who would say all kinds of things without having a real basis for it.”
The Kof-K now has a business relationship with Streit’s that makes him unable to comment, said Rabbi Daniel Senter.
For Streit’s the addition of the Kof-K is purely a business decision, as it was to remove it after the 2006 baking season.
“I have spoken to [the two vaads] and I’m still not sure why they did what they did,” said Alan Adler, one of the cousins who operate the company founded by his great-grandfather, Aron Streit. “I asked, ‘Is there any way to get Streit’s into the stores without a national hashgacha,’ and they only responded, ‘If you have a national hashgacha the problem will go away.’”
Adler said the added expense would not cause the price of matzo to go up. The company estimates the ban last Pesach, which Adler called “an ambush,” had cost Streit’s about $200,000 in lost orders.
Prominent local rabbonim were critical of the Vaad of the Five Town’s sudden move against Streit’s and promised to do a better job of policing its activities.
Consumers were supportive when the ban became public, said Adler.
“Almost everybody we heard from was outraged by what the vaads did and came out to support us.”
“I got e-mails from people who never bought Streit’s before and after this incident they went out and bought Streit’s for the first time. That’s the kind of support we had,” he revealed.
Conspiracy theorists — and there are many — predicted Streit’s would be “forced” to engage the services of the Orthodox Union, which is both the largest kashrus organization in the United States, and Rabbi Schoenfeld’s employer, but the matzo maker chose to renew its relationship with the Teaneck, NJ-based Kof-K.
“We already had a history and an established relationship with the Kof-K,” Adler explained. “Had we been writing on a clean slate we might have made a different decision.” No slight to the OU was intended or should be inferred, he stressed. He also disputed the notion of a conspiracy to maneuver Streit’s into buying additional kashruth supervision.
“I do not believe that the major agencies were behind [the ban]. I don’t think they are morally inclined to engage in this kind of activity to drum up business. We have good working relationships with the national agencies. They are our friends, not our adversaries,” Adler said. He added that since Streit’s has never paid for supervision from local organizations such as the Vaad HaKashrus of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway, or the Vaad of Queens, there is no cause to suspect that financial motives were behind the ban.
“I think it shows a loss for the people who have to rely on the Vaad’s and have lost confidence in them,” said Adler. “For Streit’s it’s a victory because our customers gave us overwhelming support and told us that our product was acceptable to them just the way it was.”