Bloomberg News reports:
A battle to control the word “kosher” in Internet addresses is pitting Jewish groups against each other to determine whether a food prepared under ancient strictures should have a new marketplace online.
The Internet’s organizing body, called Icann, is meeting this week in the South African port city of Durban to begin a major expansion of domain names. That may include a decision on who can operate and license “dot-kosher” as a suffix for Web addresses, the same way “dot-com” and “dot-net” are used.
Five organizations have banded together to oppose the sole applicant for dot-kosher, Kosher Marketing Assets, saying it seeks to profit from a sacred tradition that shouldn’t be over-commercialized. The two sides, which both are in the business of certifying food as kosher, are at odds over how Internet users will find such products in the future.
“We think that if the term ‘kosher,’ which has important meaning in the Jewish religion, is commercialized, it will do a disservice to how religion in general should be treated and will harm the kosher public specifically,” said Harvey Blitz, the Kashruth Commission chairman of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, one of the five groups. The New York-based organization oversees OU Kosher, the world’s largest certification agency.
Kosher Marketing Assets is a unit of OK Kosher Certification, a Brooklyn, New York-based competitor to OU Kosher. Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, OK Kosher’s CEO, said he never intended to control the potential domain name unilaterally and said he was open to working with the five groups -- the Orthodox Union, STAR-K Kosher Certification Inc., Chicago Rabbinical Council Inc., the Kashruth Council of Canada, and Kosher Supervision Service Inc., better known as the KOF-K.…
In November, Kosher Marketing Assets, the OK Kosher unit, filed an application for dot-kosher, with a mission to “promote kosher food certification in general, and OK Certification and its clients in particular.”…
Blitz of the Orthodox Union, which provides kosher certification to items like Duncan Hines cake mixes and StarKist Tuna, said his group had no advance notice of OK Kosher’s bid and moved to block it as soon as it learned of the application. While it’s true his organization charges a fee for certification, “we got into this to make kosher food available,” not as a commercial pursuit, Blitz said.
“We were concerned by the language in the application,” which stated that a single agency would have the right to grant use of the kosher domain name, Avrom Pollak, the president of Star-K and also a rabbi, said in an interview.
A meeting between the two sides produced no agreement. OK’s Levy says he invited the groups to join his organization in overseeing the dot-kosher domain name.
“They weren’t interested,” Levy said. “They don’t have to become our partners, but they can’t now complain we’re trying to brazenly control dot-kosher.”…
The five groups have filed a formal objection with Icann and have also appealed to the new U.S. secretary of commerce, Penny Pritzker. Both sides have hired Washington lawyers to press their cases.…
My earlier post on this was partially incorrect, because the front organization for Levy's OK Kosher – itself a front organization for Chabad – was not known, and because its role was represented as a Lubicom-like advertising-marketing business just trying to promote kosher food.
But, as Bloomberg ably found out (and as I didn't), the advertising-marketing business is really a division of OK Kosher – which is itself a Chabad front group.
What Bloomberg does not know is that Levy is hated in the kosher food business. He's known for misleading the public and his customers about other supervision agencies, for being dishonest, and for being a really awful person. That reputation is not just current among people who hate or dislike Chabad-Lubavitch – it's how Levy has been viewed for decades almost across the board in the business, and every drop of that hatred is, from what I've heard of more than two decades, more than justified.