QOTD: Belsky Must Go

QOTD=Quote of the Day

The editor of the Jewish Week, Gary Rosenblatt drew attention to Rabbi Heshie Billet’s article about child sex abuse. Heshie Billet is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Woodmere and was President of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest orthodox association of rabbis in the world with approximately one thousand members.  According to  Rosenblatt:

f93b3-unknownRabbi Heshie Billet… wrote,…  “Not Enough Progress By Rabbis, Leaders On Dealing With Sexual Abuse,” [which] described the role Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, a major kashrut expert and halachic consultant to the OU [Orthodox Union], played in publicly defending a confessed sexual abuser, Rabbi Yosef Kolko, who taught youngsters at a Lakewood, N.J., yeshiva.

Further, Rabbi Belsky accused the parents of the victim of going to the police, and wrote that one who does so is guilty of being a moser, the rabbinic term for a Jew who informs on another Jew, and, wrote Rabbi Belsky, “has no share in the world to come.”

Under communal pressure, the boy’s parents moved away from the Lakewood community.

“The OU has refused to publicly rebuke or take any action against Rabbi Belsky,” Rabbi Billet wrote, calling on the major Orthodox group to “publicly condemn his defiance of the rules of the RCA and the OU,” which say child abuse must be reported to the secular authorities.

“Principles must trump kashrut revenues in a major Orthodox organization’s order of priorities,” Rabbi Billet wrote.

I applaud Rabbi Billet for drawing attention to the OU’s unconscionable retetntion of Yisroel Belsky. I would add on that Belsky even had the chutzpah to accuse the father of Kolko’s victim of himself being the one who molested the boy, a fact that the previous president of the OU, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, denied in an exchange of messages with Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn.

Rosenblatt, a professional journalist, dutifully reports the OU’s side of the story:

Mayer Fertig, chief communications officer of the OU, told The Jewish Week that while the organization has “high regard” for Rabbi Belsky in terms of his kashrut expertise, it “profoundly disagrees with his conclusion and whatever actions he may have taken” regarding the Kolko case, and has told him so in private conversations. “In no way does Rabbi Belsky speak for the OU,” Fertig said.

I don’t envy Mayer Fertig, the OU spokesman who is a professional journalist and did a good job as editor of the the five towns Jewish Star. I believe he knows better but has the lousy job of defending the indefensible.

Belsky is worse than a spokesman for the OU; he is the guy who distorts the messages of others in the OU. When the RCA and the OU tried to issue a statement about the Kolko conviction (by guilty plea) they were trying to reconcile Belsky’s views with their own position and ended up with an absurd mishmash which claimed the RCA, the OU and Belsky agreed in principle but just differed in the case of Yosef Kolko. Their statement only makes sense if you understand they were bending over backwards not to offend Belsky. I couldn’t resist parodying their response with my post, PARODY- Vito Gambino Agrees with the RCA. (Don’t read my parody without first reading the RCA-OU-Belsky document first; otherwise it will seem silly and pointless).

Based on my read of the community, the OU is overestimating its ability to harbor a major protector of molesters as their posek. There are deep rumblings of anger in the community. If the OU does not dump Belsky (ceremoniously or otherwise) I anticipate demonstrations with media coverage and even selective boycotts.

The OU has spent almost a century building up its kosher certification brand reputation. Secular corporations don’t understand the intricacies of kosher. Many of them still think the “rabbi” is there to bless the food. But you don’t need to be ordained —  or even need to be Jewish — to find the rape and molesting of children offensive and incompatible with a clean corporate image. The OU may be interested in extending its acceptability to ultra orthodox customers. But their bills are paid by secular corporations. If the OU continues to retain Belsky they are about to discover that their corporate customers care about Jewish children even if Belsky doesn’t.

I encourage all of you to contact Rabbi Billet and compliment him on the position he has taken. I would say contact the OU but I have concluded that is a waste of time. Instead I urge you to contact their customers who pay their bills and encourage them to switch to another kosher hashgachah.



14 thoughts on “QOTD: Belsky Must Go

  1. Just out of curiosity, when you say “encourage them to switch to another kosher hashgachah”, is there someone else out there with a consistent, positive, track-record in these matters?

    • Hard to say. However, I know of none of the other major hashgachahs which someone as noxious as Yisroel Belsky, a vile thuggish creature, albeit learned, who would accuse a father of a victim of being a molester just to protect someone he actually knows is guilty. Belsky is in a class of his own, even by the standards of cover-ups.

      Moreover, The OU claims the RCA is its rabbinic arm and the RCA has a clear policy opposing the intimidation of victims of abuse who go to the police. Let Belsky sell his expertise to Satmar which does not decry witness intimidation but instead revels in it.

      The OU, for the sake of consistency has to either change its policy or change its posek.

  2. Except for those who are very knowledgable from the kashrus industry or who have followed the story on the only two blogs that covered it, Unorthodox Jew and Yudelstake, OK Kosher covered up for a notorious alleged child molester in such horrific ways that it would make your hair stand on end. Is Yerachmiel familiar with the details?

    As far as kashrus itself, there are several areas where the OK is on a lower level than OU standards.

    Chof K’s owners are honest people but their most recent posek has taken them down many levels in kashrus that it may be a fair question to ask if they are on par or worse than Ralbag’s Triangle K. The Chof K posek is also harboring Yehuda Kolko in his shul.

    There are unfortunately very few hashgochos today that are very upstanding & do not cut corners. One of the only ones in this category that has somewhat of a national reach is Monsey’s Rabbi Dovid Miller (there is more than one hashgocho named for a Rabbi Dovid Miller, the other is Brooklyn-based). He certifies Teva Meats from the West Coast (sold in national supermarket chains) and a dairy operation in Upstate NY.

  3. The most recent issue of Jewish Action contains an article about Rabbi Alexander Rosenberg z”al – who is credited with bringing kashrut supervision to a respectable level in the United States through his tenure as the head of the OU kashrut division. I once heard from Rabbi Beryl Wein that Rabbi Rosenberg frequently stared down a person of questionable integrity by looking him straight in the eye, and asking the following question: Vos Zogt Gut ?(What does G-d think ?).
    This was one example of Rabbi Rosenberg’s unimpeachable honesty.

    So presently, the official publication of the OU carries an article about the man who elevated their very own kashrut department to a level of national respectability, while the current OU kashrut division is run by a man whose lack of personal integrity ruined the lives of a respected family in Lakewood, embarrassed the very organization the employs him, and by association, jeopardizes the integrity of the hashgacha the OU currently offers. Rabbi Belsky- could you even contemplate an answer to the same question that your predecessor posed to those whose personal integrity was in question?

  4. Chof K’s posek by the way is Rabbi Gissinger. Yehuda Kolko davens in his shul south of the lake in Lakewood.

    Star K is also an enterprise that is heavily engaged in protecting molesters. They tamper with cases in the Baltimore beis din and intimidate victims.

    This is a letter that Rabbi Heinemann put on the wall in the Agudah of Baltimore attacking victim Phil Jacobs for exposing the Shapiro family of molesters, only one of whom are deceased. He calls the victim “a dog who eats vomit”

    The heads of these hashgochos put Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg in a phony cherem to punish him for exposing molesters:


    Satmar hashgochos including the Vaad of Kiryas Yoel
    Belzer hashgochos
    Skverer hashgochos
    Viener Monsey hashgocho
    Kossover hashgocho Boro Park
    Rabbi Hillel Weinberger – Seredehel dayan in Nitra’s Mount Kisco
    Rabbi Yechezkel Gold – Monsey
    Rabbi Meshulem Berel Polatsek – Maged Yehuda Williamsburg

    The halacha in Shulchan Aruch is those who issue phony cherem are put in cherem themselves

    And don’t forget the London UK’s Kedassia hashgocho of which Rabbi “Towelgate” Halpern is very high ranking

    • You know, I don’t even care if we cannot get a better hashgochah for Green Mountain coffee. Unflavored coffee does not require a hashgachah and all the hashgachos use the same OU generated list of approved flavoring ingredients. Even if the scandal causes OU to lose the account to someone else, the kashrus of the product will not be affected but the OU will finally get a message they will care about; supporting victim harasser Belksky will cost them.

      • Technically speaking, unflavored coffee processed in jurisdictions like NYC, that exercise loopholes in Federal water filtering guidelines, needs supervision to filter out copepods & silverfish. The OU claims they do this while some other agencies do not.

        It should be noted that a watchdog group called the Vaad Hakashrus L’inyanei Mayim surveyed several locations under various hashgochos that claim to require filtering – it is not clear if they inspected any sites under OU – and found that almost all the hashgochos they investigated are making phony claims of filtering. This was mostly due to initially installing filters and never doing any follow maintainence when the filters become clogged & overflow.

  5. The head of the coffee roasters guild Donald Schoenholt wrote an article about kosher water filtering in a trade magazine. There is more coffee processed in NYC than people realize.

    The filtering loopholes are not exclusive to NYC. There are over 10,000 locales in the US with this issue. Some of the biggest are Boston, Seattle & Portland, OR.

    Isn’t Seattle considered a capital of sorts for coffee?


    The NYC watershed supplies the Counties of Westchester, Putnam & Dutchess besides the City proper.

    • I ask because I know very little about coffee processing business. Seattle is certainly the coffee house capital of the US and has many specialty roasters. I do not know whether to what extent water is used in coffee processing roasting or other other aspects of producing coffee. Green Mountain happens to be Vermont based but they are a mega conglomerate with many other acquisitions and subsidiaries by now and dominate the K Cup business, most certified by OU.

      Regardless of all the issues raised here, I am interested in your thoughts about the problems of Belsky, and the desirability of getting corporate customers to care about whether they are supporting an organization whose most prominent religious authority is someone who defends molesters and harasses victims.

  6. What is incredible is that Belsky has been condemned & ostracized by virtually the entire lineup of Gedolim in the past decade yet he continues to command respect among the ignorant masses. Even the Agudah banished him for a few years. They brought him back recently for fundraising purposes. Belsky tried to sneak through an illegitimate bittul kiddushin for which he was paid a quarter million dollars but was beaten back hard enough that he had to abandon the idea. And then there are his manufactured heterim, primarily but not limited to kashrus which Rav Elyashev said are bogus and not to be relied on. Even when Belsky claims to have heard something from Rav Moshe Feinstein’s mouth, Rav Dovid Feinstein has issued a letter denying it.

    Belsky is the Michael Broyde of the yeshiva world except that he has a nasty temper & choice of friends on top of it.

    There are several difficulties in effecting change at the OU.

    The OU historically only responds to pressure in the form of long running noise that does not die down. They are trying to ride out the Belsky tempest, praying for the Kolko scandal to fade from memory. But it has happened a few times that public outrage did not die down and they were forced to act. Genack by the way is a silver tongued salesman who could sell ice to an Eskimo in the Arctic. He managed for many years to stop some non-Orthodox organizational figures from publicizing against OU shechita scandals. He will do whatever it takes, which in this case included getting down on his knees & begging, pleading, convincing them that the chilul Hashem overrides their concerns. Yes, he managed to convince even non-Orthodox to keep their mouths shut. Genack’s argument which is shared with the Agudah is a fallacy. The last rov of Hamburg, Germany, wrote a letter to the Agudah in the 1980s criticizing cover ups which only lead to greater chilul Hashem when the original scandal + the cover up together are exposed.

    The food conglomerates are indeed disgusted with Belsky. Many more than you know are aware of him. They are also pragmatists however. The OU is not only a “name” but they control most of the building block ingredients that are used by all the other certifying agencies. It would be a monumental undertaking to replace them.

    Still, there is much damage that can be done to the OU to show them everyone is fed up with Belsky & his merry band of molesters & child rapists.

    Don’t let up!

    • I agree the OU is powerful and Genack is good at selling OU as a brand. He has a weak point. For decades he has been moving the OU out of the lower profit small customers into the big corporate ones. The OU is gradually disengaging from restaurant and catering hashgachos. Instead, their fantasy is to have most of their income come from the major commercial food brands. Less work and higher profits. But that also means they are dependent on a smaller number of big customers, almost all secular. Molesting is easier to deny or dismiss or rationalize with pilpulim in the Haredi world. Gentiles, bless their souls, have emunah pshutah. They don’t know from chochmahs to rationalize raping children. Secular brands are very conscious of their image. There is no easy way to justify a Belsky to their customers.

      They really don’t mind paying a premium for an OU symbol on their packages (for very little work on the part of OU). But they cannot afford the collateral damage of being tainted with sex abuse scandals. If we can find a way of bringing this to the public outside the frum world, secular companies will rush for cover and Genack will unceremoniously screw Belsky quicker than you can say shehakol after a fast.

      PS. The infamous letter to the Agudah was written by Rav Shlomo Carlebach, Shlitah (cousin of the singer). He is the SON of the last rav of Hamburg, Joseph Carlebach, hy”d who sent his younger children away but bravely stayed with his congregants and was murdered during the shoah.

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