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Montreal - Airlines Serving Kosher Food Originating From Canada Gets New Mehadrin Hechsher

Published on: May 20, 2009 09:16 AM
By:  CJ News
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Montreal - The Jewish Community Council/Vaad Ha’ir in Montreal is now the sole certifier of kosher food on Air Canada and many other airline flights originating in Canada, replacing COR of Toronto, after Canada’s largest airline switched its kosher catering contract to a new joint Israeli-Canadian venture under the

The agreement between the Vaad, Air Canada and kosher meal providers that came into effect May 1 is historic, Vaad officials said, because it puts into place the “highest” standard of kashrut under an MK Mehadrin hechsher that they say is acceptable even to haredim.

The new deal represents a coup for the Vaad, which now oversees the kashrut for all airline meals – including Air Canada’s and specific El Al meals – prepared at Cara Airline Solutions’ kosher kitchen in Toronto. Some 29 airlines – including KLM, Air France and British Airways – will now have their kosher meals supplied by Cara with an MK (Montreal Kosher) hechsher, instead of a COR certification.

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But it also signified a loss for Montreal kosher caterers and restaurants, which had prepared kosher food for flights out of Montreal under the MK hechsher, as well as for the Toronto-based Kashruth Council of Canada, whose COR hechsher had been on all kosher meals made in the Ontario capital. The Air Canada meals had been supplied by another company, LSG Sky Chefs, in partnership with Zuchter Berk Creative Caterers of Toronto.

Now all kosher airline meals prepared at the Toronto Cara facility will bear the MK Mehadrin stamp, while the COR stamp will appear only on airline meals prepared by LSG Sky Chefs, said Rabbi Saul Emanuel, the Vaad’s executive director.

Rabbi Emanuel said the new “partnership” between the Vaad, Cara, and Hamasbia Airline Food Industries in Israel – which supplies “special kosher” meals for haredi passengers on flights from Israel – will bring an unprecedented level of quality, consistency and service to the kosher traveller.

“This is a very, very big deal,” he said.

HamasbiaCanada, a new company formed out of the Cara and Hamasbia Israel partnership, is the entity that will run the kosher airline meal operation.

Rabbi Emanuel said kosher meals on Air Canada and other airlines’ flights from Canada are to be produced out of the huge Cara kosher kitchen facility on the outskirts of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. The kitchen was revamped over the last few weeks to meet MK Mehadrin-level standards and is manned by Cara employees, who prepare the meals.

A HamasbiaCanada sign has already replaced a “Cara Airline Solutions” sign on the exterior of the kosher kitchen, and the facility’s kashrut is being overseen solely by Montreal Vaad mashgichim.

The new arrangement came about as a result of concerns expressed by Air Canada over the inconsistent quality of kosher meals served to passengers on its flights from Canada, Rabbi Emanuel said.

According to Rabbi Emanuel, when Air Canada saw the higher quality of Hamasbia Israel “special kosher” meals – meaning meals acceptable to haredi Jews – on its flights from Israel (the company also supplies “special” meals on El Al flights from Israel), the airline began consulting with Hamasbia Israel’s president, Azriel Tauber, on ways to improve kosher meals coming from Canada.

Within a few months, Rabbi Emanuel said, Air Canada notified its kosher supplier in Toronto that it would be switching from LSG Sky Chefs to Cara’s kosher kitchen, which also prepares meals for El Al flights from Canada.

He said Cara at the same time was in the process of consulting with Hamasbia Israel’s Tauber, a longtime acquaintance of Rabbi Yonasan Weiss, chief rabbi of the Montreal Vaad’s Beth Din, and Tauber recommended to Cara that the Vaad’s MK Mehadrin certification be used for meals prepared at the Cara kitchen.

“On that basis [HamasbiaCanada] was started,” Rabbi Emanuel said. “By Air Canada switching to Cara, that’s what allowed this project to happen.”

Calls to Air Canada and COR officials weren’t returned by the CJN’s deadline, but in an April 30 posting on its website, the Kashruth Council said it “wishes to advise the community that Cara Airline Solutions, a provider of kosher airline meals, is no longer under COR supervision.”

Isaac Drookman, owner of Zuchter Berk, called the new deal “a disaster” because “it makes both kashrut agencies [MK and COR] weaker,” since there’s now a “second option” and each might seek to encroach on the other’s turf.

“COR and the MK are at war,” he said.

Under the agreement, all kosher meals prepared by HamsbiaCanada at Cara will be sealed and shrink-wrapped and bear the HamasbiaCanada and MK Mehadrin labels and insignias. A green label will indicate a pareve meal. Red will signify meat; blue, dairy; and mustard colour, fish.

Meals for El Al flights out of Canada will also be prepared at the newly configured kitchen, but only the airline’s “special kosher” meals will be sealed. Non-“special” kosher meals will continue to be certified by El Al’s own chief rabbi.

Rabbi Emanuel said the deal was finalized in mid-April, leaving less than two weeks to meet the May 1 start deadline.

The process, he said, included many trips to Toronto by Vaad officials, consultations with suppliers, marketers, and food production experts, adjusting meal ingredients to the MK Mehadrin-level “gold standard,” and Cara using its own team of engineers and designers to accommodate and put into place “technical changes” needed to revamp the kitchen.

In an interview from Israel, Tauber said he was “extremely happy to have a partner who is trustworthy and who is making every effort to make this story a success.”

“With both parties open-minded and committed to doing the right thing, it made things easier,” he said.

Rabbi Emanuel thinks the new kosher kitchen will be the largest in North America, estimating that it will prepare more than 100,000 meals annually.

He declined to disclose how much the Vaad will earn from the new arrangement, but he was adamant that it’s not about the money. “Our real concern was not the money for the contract,” he said. “Our concern was to have a product with the highest possible standard of kosher quality available to the consumer. That was really the main aim.”

Rabbi Emanuel said the deal may eventually allow kosher travellers to enjoy nutritious and high-quality foods in airport terminals as they wait for flights.

He said Danielle Medina, whose 18-month-old, Montreal-based company, Food with a Conscience, works with Canadian airlines to make their meals both nutritious and high quality, has been a vital part of the process to ensure that the new mehadrin-level airline meals meet a new standard.

To that end, Medina, who is Jewish, recently launched Kosher Food with a Conscience and has been in consultation with the Vaad and HamasbiaCanada.

Medina said she wants to raise the quality level of MK Mehadrin food on Air Canada flights to rival what exists on flights from Europe. “If you take a flight from London to Montreal, the quality is unbelievable,” she said.

There are also plans to have high-quality mehadrin-level kosher food available at airports as well as in the frozen food sections of grocery stores, Medina said.

“We’re very excited about it,” Cara president Rob Ramage told The CJN. “I think with Hamasbia we have a great opportunity to grow the business beyond airline customers. We want to take it to the next level of availability. If my customers are happy, I’m happy.”


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1

 May 20, 2009 at 09:11 AM avi Says:

"COR and the MK are at war,” he said. "
Typical Toronto and Canadian machlokes at its best!!

2

 May 20, 2009 at 09:30 AM montrealer Says:

"Rabbi Emanuel declined to disclose how much the Vaad will earn from the new arrangement, but he was adamant that it’s not about the money. “Our real concern was not the money for the contract,” he said. “Our concern was to have a product with the highest possible standard of kosher quality available to the consumer. That was really the main aim.”

“COR and the MK are at war,”
of course its about the money, it's always been about the money. MK under Rabbi Emanuel has launched a war against anybody who stands in the way of VAAD's money making machine.

3

 May 20, 2009 at 09:36 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
avi Says:

"COR and the MK are at war,” he said. "
Typical Toronto and Canadian machlokes at its best!!

like everyone outside of canada is at peace.

4

 May 20, 2009 at 09:38 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
montrealer Says:

"Rabbi Emanuel declined to disclose how much the Vaad will earn from the new arrangement, but he was adamant that it’s not about the money. “Our real concern was not the money for the contract,” he said. “Our concern was to have a product with the highest possible standard of kosher quality available to the consumer. That was really the main aim.”

“COR and the MK are at war,”
of course its about the money, it's always been about the money. MK under Rabbi Emanuel has launched a war against anybody who stands in the way of VAAD's money making machine.

is the rabbi crazy when he said its not about money.

5

 May 20, 2009 at 09:57 AM big traveler Says:

Thank you!!! I ate the meal last week and it was fresh and yummy keep up your good work!!! I never never enjoy air plane foood but this was good

6

 May 20, 2009 at 09:57 AM Canadian Says:

its just too unfortunate that the deal did not include cor. the cor is the primary hechsher in Canada with firm connections, money and high standard of kashrus. from this article some may get the impression that one organization is superior to another but the fact remain clear. kudos to Rabbi's Levine, Haber, Lowenger and all the other who raised and kept this institution at its amazing kashrus level.

7

 May 20, 2009 at 10:50 AM Canadian too Says:

reply to #6

typical Toronto reply--they think they are the centre of the Canadian universe. The Rabbis in Toronto have been playing "catch-up" to Montreal for the past many years.

He's forgetting the days when Toronto had 4 hashgochos and no once ate from the other's.

If you read the article you would have realized there was a personal relationship with the owners of Masbia and Rav Weiss of Montreal. [Hamasbia Israel’s Tauber, a longtime acquaintance of Rabbi Yonasan Weiss, chief rabbi of the Montreal Vaad’s Beth Din, and Tauber recommended to Cara that the Vaad’s MK Mehadrin certification be used for meals prepared at the Cara kitchen]

The person in the article who complained that there is a "war" is the person who supplied lousy meals (and they were really bad) so the airlines themselves saw the problem. There is a steady improvement in kosher products (both in quality and variety) and finally the airline consumer is getting something better. The guy who supplied "good enough" (i.e., low quality) all those years gets left out. The consumer wants better and the airlines want to satisfied customers. I feel bad for him but the airlines ultimately made the decision.

For those who remember, when ElAl flew out of Mirabel, there was a dedicated CPAir kosher kitchen in Montreal.

8

 May 20, 2009 at 11:23 AM ronem Says:

as someone that know Montreal, no one in the real frum community is still very frum when it comes to eat meat from the MK Hechsher, Satmar is realy at war with them Lubavitsh has there owm meat and don't rely on them belz-skver has there own meat and the uptown ppl are not accepting rabbi Weiss and his bais din at all and the COR is good for them so its only about MONEY and POWER not for the Montréal community

9

 May 20, 2009 at 01:05 PM Vancouver Says:

This article incorrectly states that “MK is now the sole certifier of kosher food on Air Canada and many other airline flights originating in Canada” This is only for flights originating from EASTERN Canada. Flights out of Vancouver continue to be certified by BCK www.bckosher.org . Furthermore, The picture accompanying this article is clearly from Omnitsky Kosher BC and bears a BCK on the label Oops!

10

 May 20, 2009 at 01:33 PM Dawie the gawie Says:

R' Meshulem Chazak V'ematz!!!
regards from the bok's

11

 May 20, 2009 at 01:49 PM Clearview Says:

While I am happy that the quality of food will be better, you have to be a fool to think that this is not about one upping the COR. The MK and COR have been at "war" since Rabbi Emanuel took over the MK. Look at how the MK got "coca cola" in retaliation the cor got Pepsi etc. Kashrus is a big money game and the people at the helm of these Kashrus organizations are extremely well paid! They must generate revenue like any other private company. Is the MK's regular Kashrus suspect? Why do we need Mehadrin?

12

 May 20, 2009 at 01:59 PM Canadian Too Says:

Reply to #8  
ronem Says:

as someone that know Montreal, no one in the real frum community is still very frum when it comes to eat meat from the MK Hechsher, Satmar is realy at war with them Lubavitsh has there owm meat and don't rely on them belz-skver has there own meat and the uptown ppl are not accepting rabbi Weiss and his bais din at all and the COR is good for them so its only about MONEY and POWER not for the Montréal community

The problem with what you are saying is--all schochtim etc. are all paid by the Vaad and all meat is Vaad schechita and the chassidishe hashgochos only cover the butcher stores that want to pay them extra. (Remember that in Montreal, there is no commercial schechitas chutz for meat aside from chickens)
People (especially frum people) have a problem accepting a central authority.
You obviously never met Rabbi Weiss or you would not have dared to say what you did. (he is both a Talmid Chochom in all spheres and a mentch!)
and I don't know your source of information about "uptown"!

13

 May 20, 2009 at 06:18 PM montrealer too Says:

the money gamee the vaad is playing is big the vaad also has a "bais din" and since rav hirshprung passed money is everything today the so called "bais din dosn't do much

14

 May 26, 2009 at 09:29 AM menachem Says:

Reply to #9  
Vancouver Says:

This article incorrectly states that “MK is now the sole certifier of kosher food on Air Canada and many other airline flights originating in Canada” This is only for flights originating from EASTERN Canada. Flights out of Vancouver continue to be certified by BCK www.bckosher.org . Furthermore, The picture accompanying this article is clearly from Omnitsky Kosher BC and bears a BCK on the label Oops!

Zuchter Berk of Toronto (under COR) still cater to about 25 airline companies and air Canada already in dialogue with Zuchter Berk to leave the new MK arrangement and to receive the supply from local provider.

15

 Dec 10, 2009 at 03:50 PM eli says Says:

i don't remember eating such old food

16

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