Belsky’s OU Quinoa Ruling Ain’t Worth a Hill of Beans

Hill of BeansWith Passover approaching I thought I would re-post this 12/31/13 item about Quinoa on Passover or how the OU overrode Belsky but tried to obscure his declining status within the OU.

Torah may be timeless, but the Orthodox Union’s (OU) kosher politics are not. The OU reversed gears and is back to saying quinoa is acceptable for Passover, even for those who observe the Ashkenazi custom of not eating kitniyot (a broad category of beans, rice and corn). This is great news for Ashkenazi orthodox Jews who love this high protein seed, especially for vegans who have no other protein-dense options on Passover.

Rabbi Menachem Genack presides over OU Kosher as its CEO. Beneath him, are two people with the title of Senior Posek (Jewish law authority): Rabbi Yisroel (Israel) Belsky and Rabbi Hershel Schachter.  When the two disagree, the final decision is made by Menachem Genack. They did disagree about quinoa. According to a March, 2013 article in VosIzNeias, Rabbi Elefant of the OU said:

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

Rabbi Yisroel Belsky

R’ Schachter says that there is no reason to expand the minhag (custom) of kitniyos beyond what was included in the original minhag… But R’ Belsky disagrees, saying that our minhag of kitniyos includes anything that can be easily prepared into breads, crackers and porridges and are similar to grains that are mamash chometz [actually leavened grains like bread].  Quinoa can be turned into these products and, therefore, just like corn, soy and legumes, should not be used on Pesach, according to R’ Belsky.

A year ago, OU certified caterers were not allowed to use quinoa, even if it came from an approved sister certifying agency like Star-K. Suddenly, this year, things changed, and the OU proudly announced:

Due to conflicting reports regarding growing conditions and final usage of this new world, gluten-free pseudo-cereal plant, OU Kosher was hesitant to conclusively declare it Kosher for Passover and non-kitniyot

Following extensive research and on-site investigation of cross-contamination issues by OU Kosher personnel at all quinoa growing areas including: Puno, Cuzco, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Junin and Chiclayo in Peru; and Alto la Paz and Chayapata in Bolivia; as well as the collection, washing and milling stations of quinoa, OU Kosher is pleased to announce that, for the first time, it is recommending quinoa for Passover, when processed with special OU Passover supervision and bearing the OU-P symbol.

Gone is any reference to Rabbi Belsky’s opinion that quinoa is forbidden on Passover even if all of the above conditions are met. The OU posted it recently but stuck it on a page labeled Passover 2013 but in fact (as noted above), as of Passover 2013, they were not approving quinoa under any conditions.

In a nutshell, they have decided to reverse gears and overrule Belsky. Ordinarily they favor Belsky when he disagrees with Rabbi Schachter because Belsky has cred in the ultra-orthodox community while R. Schachter, a great rabbinical scholar, is burdened by his association with YU with its support of university education and Zionism. The OU has consciously sought to enlarge it’s acceptability in the ultra orthodox world by using Belsky as its beard.

So why are they now reversing gears? This is especially puzzling because less than a year ago in March 2013, in the OU publication, Jewish Action, OU Kosher Rabbis Yaakov Luban (Executive Rabbinic Coordinator) and Eli Gersten (Recorder of OU Pesak and Policy) declared, “Since OU posekim are divided on this issue, the OU does not recommend using quinoa on Pesach.”

It is hard to be sure of their motives since they have not been transparent in their statements. I suspect it reflects Belsky’s diminished status because of his role in protecting the Kolko molesters, intimidating witnesses against an abuser, and the potential for his being exposed for his connection to the torture and kidnapping of recalcitrant husbands in divorce cases.

Of course this could just be an expedient to satisfy their caterers and customers. Alternatively, perhaps they realized that even the haredi world is not impressed by the arguments for banning Quinoa or is losing its respect for Belsky.

In any event, I am willing to bet, that Belsky will stick to his psak and will suffer some loss of status in the Haredi world because the OU overruled him. The one thing that is certain, is the word will circulate that as far as the OU is concerned, Belsky’s OU quinoa psak ain’t worth a hill of beans.

UPDATE 4/24/14: See the Quinoa-Kitniyos Conundrum by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz on the Ohr Somayach website for an excellent summary of the halachic debate. See footnotes 21-24 regarding the OU’s position.

See also:

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13 thoughts on “Belsky’s OU Quinoa Ruling Ain’t Worth a Hill of Beans

  1. The entire minhag of Kitniyois needs to be ……destroyed. It will impoverish rabbis who are economically crippling the Torah observant community. That is only a secondary reason for the immediate removal of the kitniyois ban. The primary reason is: sin’at chinam. Just as kashrut separates us from the goyim, kitniyois separates us (unless we can get those sfardim to convert) from the….goyim.
    Don’t be surprised as to vicious rhetoric leveled at us by the eidot hamizrach; we deserve it. The “gdoilim” have to much skin ($$$$) in the game to face up to the disaster of kitniyois.
    I am well aware of its historical significance and I’m not necessarily averse to minhagim that border on stupidity- so spare me those arguments.
    I will venture that 97% (I thank the brave Machon Shiloh) of the heilige “gdoilim”have NEVER said the following words at a Seder table: “Sure! I’ll pass the rice!”

  2. Right because you are better than the amoraim? The concept is in the gemorah!

    The level of tipshis here baffles me!

  3. Oh, there is no question that the Amoraim ate kitniyois? They must have been vooz-voozim like you and only a minority ate kitniyois, certainly, none of them , chas v’chalila would allow their daughters to intermarry with them (unless they were OTD).
    Speaking of “tipshis”, perhaps you need enlightenment: The concept revolved around kitniyois that are mixed with ….the 5 species. Not the kitniyois themselves. As Ashkenaz uber frumkeit wasn’t invented yet, they all…ate kitniyois, unless they were found mixed with grains. This led to another “chumra” (see how you can influence those sfardim?) that eidot hamizrach today will sift through their rice as if it might have grain in it. I said that I understood minhagim that are lacking in common sense.
    Oops….you going to argue that Ashkenaz is nearly halacha L’Moshe M’Sinai…..

    • Now I understand the first half of your screen name.

      Allow me to enlighten you soooo please do pay attention no matter how difficult.

      The gemora DOES talk about amoraim that refrained from eating kitniyos types of items. That’s a fact that you can’t argue with.

      What’s your beef anyway? Why the chip on your shoulder? Why does it bother you that we have the chumra of kitniyos? You want to eat rice AFTER CHECKING EACH KERNEL THREE TIMES, go ahead and do so!

      • Those Amoraim (Psachim 35b) were…..the norm? Really, kitniyois became an issue in the 13th century (Hello Ashkenaz…)
        Beef is ok; the “chip”…that would depend if you are Ashkenazi or a ‘converted’ sfardi who no longer eats kitniyois.
        That ‘chip’ has to do with this blog: Anti abusive behavior. I certainly hope that you are one of those who has said “Sure! I’ll pass the rice!”.
        BTDT…..I have neighbors that I know are more ‘kosher’ than I am; I didn’t step into their homes..perhaps because I was a pro at kashrus. I am sure that does not apply to an ohaiv Yisroel like your self.
        There are over 100 rabbanim (and now you know why we ignore [read:hate and despise but will never admit to it] the Rabbanut in Israel) who have…paskened….(how did they get smicha????Must be some Kook or other…) that Ashkenazim should eat kitniyois.
        If you are a “kashrus pro” that may mean that you derive fiscal benefit from kashrus. Allowing kitniyois (and that’s why we hate that Sefardic rabbi in Lakewood) would put a severe dent in your business.
        Please do not admit that the minhag actual makes common sense. That would be real tipshus.

  4. Just pointing out: “Tipshus” “Self-hating Jew” “No-one is home”….not my comments. I have said “Sure! I’ll pass the rice”. I hope you have done so as well. I’m sure that you are aware that Sefardim do not have a “minhag” to eat kitniyot. (they just eat them because it is not any different than eating carrots or any other non leavened food on Pesach)
    On the subject of “self-hating”- I would possibly read that as a three time a day introspection that I am not fulfilling my life as a Jew committed to rabbinic Judaism, with one of its highest principles being ‘V’ahavta l’ray’acha….’. I guess, as an avaryan, I can see someone like you self defining my attitude towards myself as “self-hating”.
    You, on the other hand, are a kashrus pro.
    Hashem spoke to me yesterday and said “Tachasvashti- you are a piece of $%^&!! How do you dare challenge a Toireh observant Yid- my “bni bechori” who has my mesoira that I taught to Moishe Rabbeinu!”
    I said “HKBH you are always right- but did you have to use such language??”
    Hashem said “You do not have a beard, you wear no Borsolino, and your peyois [Hashem does NOT say ‘peyot’] only extend to your tragus! And you are asking why I call you a piece of %^&$!!!?”
    I try, albeit not always successfully, to realize that I have become so insular that I ignore my own bigotry. The KKK-like aphorisms come to mind …”Some of best friends are Sefardim!” or…”Yes! We [Vee] even have a girls school!”
    To further your impression, I plan to be in Boro Park on Chol Ha’Mo’ed and will be on a rooftop with a woman named Chana who has 7 sons (That shouldn’t be too hard to find, I have access to Medicaid enrollment) and have arranged for maximal TV coverage to multiply the kiddush Hashem- I will tell her to eat peanuts at gunpoint, at which point she will throw herself off the building …..and a new Art-Scroll book will be written about the incident.
    Perhaps you are entirely correct: No one is home.

  5. Those who ate making a tzimis out of this have no clue in the world how psak in the OU really works. Sometimes the fi al psak goes like Rav Belsky Shlita and sometimes it goes like Harav Shachter Shlita. There are numerous times where Rav Shachter paskened and. The follow Rav Belsky. Believe me, at the end of the day there are no bad feelings, no animosity, whatsoever.

    Of course you YENTAS make a big deal about it because you have a krumma agenda, one which if we had the bais hamikdosh , you would be covered with tzora’as!!

    • I gave a simple account and you are giving me insults. They once said no to quinoa quoting Belsky (though R. Schachter ruled the other way). Now they are saying yes to kitniyos claiming they have found a good supply. However, according to Belsky, quinoa is kitniyos even if you can be sure it is not contaminated by anything else. So, bottom line, at the end of the day the OU changed from accepting Belsky’s ruling to disregarding it.

      You are also confusing the midrash about Miriam’s tzoraas and sinas chinam as the cause the destruction of the bais hamikdosh (e.g., Kamtza and bar kamtza).

      Most importantly, You are confusing Belsky with Moshe Rabbeinu. That is kefirah.

      • Again, you are showing you have no idea how the organization handles psak halocha. All you care about is that Rav Belsky allegedly said one thing and the pask, after much deliberation AND investigation AND implementation seems to go the other way. You have it in for the rosh yeshiva because you are highly involved in loshon hora and r’chilus. There are MANY times where there is further investigation. There are MANY times where this could have gone “against” Rav Shachter. But you don’t care because it fits your krum agenda of spreading loshon hora and r’chilus. You cant deny it because its splattered all over this e-rag you run.

        • Sorry, you seem to have trouble focusing on my reasoning. You are determined to defend Belsky by playing “Mr-I-know-how-OU-works-and-you-don’t.” Then you throw in, that Lopin has a krum agenda and uses loshon hora, etc.”

          Please help yourself and my readers by explaining where my reasoning is wrong. If you cant, at least do us all the favor of not just repeating yourself.

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