Jewish life in England goes back almost 1000 years. It is
believed that the first Jews were brought over from Normandy
by William the Conqueror in 1066; there is reference to
Jews in Oxford as early as 1075, and the Domesday book of
1086 records the Jew Mennasseh owning land in Oxfordshire.
Baalei Tosfos lived in England including R.Yaakov MiOrleans
(martyred in London at the coronation of Richard the Lionheart
in 1189), R. YomTov MiYoigny author of Omnam Kein recited
on Yom Kippur Maariv (martyred in the York massacre of 1190)
and the R'i MiLondri mentioned in the Remo in Hilchos Pesach
(Siman 473 Sif 76 ) as recommending the recitation of the
Hagadah in the vernacular.
1290 however Jewish life in England came to abrupt end when
the Edict of Expulsion was proclaimed by King Edward I,
resulting in the banishment of the entire Jewish Population
from Britain. The Edict was issued on 18th July, which that
year was the Fast of Tisha B'Av.
- The Resettlement:
England remained "Yudenrein" until 1656 when R.
Menashe Ben Israel successfully petitioned Oliver Cromwell
to allow the readmission of Jews. It is said that Menashe
Ben Israel pressed Oliver Cromwell on the grounds that England
-Angleterre- was one of the four "angles" of the
earth referred to in the prophecies of the ingathering of
the exiles, and thus resettlement would hasten the coming
of the Messiah!
only 50 years the offices of Chief Rabbi and Beth Din came
into being to provide central religious authority for Jewish
communities in London and throughout the United Kingdom-a
role reflected in the London Beth Din's official title "D'Kehila
Kedosha London Bet Din Vehamedina" - The Beth Din of
London and the Country. This national role has become increasingly
important in recent years with the decline of Jewish communities
and local Botei Din in the provinces.
the early Chief Rabbis who helped establish the central
orthodox authority for which the UK is renowned was R. Dovid
Tevele Schiff (Chief Rabbi 1765-1791) whose pirush on the
Mishnah, Lashon Hazahav, is printed in the Yachin Uboaz
Mishnayos, and R. Nosson Adler (Chief Rabbi 1845-1890) author
of the famous commentary on the Targum Nesina LaGer.
1934 the prestige of the London Beth Din as a world ranking
halachic authority was greatly enhanced with the appointment
of the Gaon HaRav Yechezkel Abramsky (the (Chazon Yecheskel)
as Rosh Beth Din. Although other renowned Talmidei Chachomim
served both during and since his time - such as Dayan Arieh
Leib Grosnass (Lev Aryeh) and Dayan Rapaport (Be'er Avroham),
it was Dayan Abramsky above all who established the policies
and Hanhagos that are followed by the London Beth Din to
Rosh Beth Din:
For the past 16 years the Rosh Beth Din has been HaRav HaGaon
Rav Chanoch HaCohen Ehrentreu Shlita formerly Rosh Beth
Din and Communal Rabbi of Manchester, and previously Rosh
Kollel Sunderland. Serving together with him is Dayan Menachem
Gelley Shlita (son of R. Zacharia Gelley of Washington Heights),
Dayan Binstock, and Dayan Yitzhak Berger (Consultant). The
title of Av Beth Din is formally held by the Chief Rabbi
Dr Jonathan Sacks whose high profile as an international
religious leader, and author and lecturer of renown has
done much to enhance the stature of orthodoxy amongst irreligious
Jews and non-Jews alike. By dint of his workload as well
as convention of his office, the Chief Rabbi is not involved
in Beth Din work.
activities of the London Beth Din encompass all aspects
of Beth Din work including Dinei Torah, Gittin, Gerus, Shechita,
Kashrut, Personal status, and all the shailos and problems
of major kehila life. The central authority of the London
Beth Din is such that by convention neither the Kedassia,
Manchester, nor Sephardi Botei Din carry out Gerus in the
UK and virtually all authority in this critical area is
delegated to the London Beth Din.
The Beth Din is affiliated to the United Synagogue, the
main orthodox synagogue grouping in the U.K., which was
established by Act of Parliament in 1870. The U.S. has 66
Shuls throughout London and maintains the full spectrum
of orthodox Kehilla facilities including schools, chadorim,
Mikvaos, Chevra Kadisha, Botei Olom and Youth programmes.
Any profits from Kashrut Division activities goes to support
the Beth Din and the United Synagogues communal work.
The largest single department of the London Beth Din is
the Kashrut Division, encompassing licensing of over 70
restaurants, hotels, bakeries and similar establishments,
supervision of some 3000 catered events per year, and certification
of almost 700 factories worldwide.
Mehadrin policies of London Beth Din Hashgacha have established
standards, which many other authorities would do well to
emulate. Among London Beth Din supervision policies for
catering, for example, are the following:
must be Shomrei Shabbat and actively involved in the business.
Licences are not granted to hotels to do their own catering.
must own all their own equipment and may not kosher and
utilise hotel keilim.
catering and meat restaurants must have full time hashgocha
from beginning to end.
Mashgichim must be employed by the Beth Din and may not
receive any pay or bonuses from the caterer.
dishwashers may not be used and equipment must be washed
at caterer's base or by hand in bowls.
dairy products must by Chalav Israel.
Notwithstanding these strict standards, London Beth Din
caterers cater regularly in London's most prestigious five
star venues, including Claridges, the Dorchester, the Guildhall,
and many others. A recent highlight of the catering operation
was the supervision of a kosher state banquet in Buckingham
Palace to celebrate the state visit of the Israeli President.
To conform with Royal protocol, the Beth Din made an exception
and allowed the koshering of the Royal salvers and tureens,
cutlery and even "crockery" - Buckingham Palace
"crockery" is solid gold!
In many ways catering hashgacha is the most complex and
problematic of all supervision. New venues and new menus,
new staff and new ingredients, all within a non-kosher environment
with potential hazards on all sides! A good Mashgiach needs
to be constantly on the alert, have eyes in the back (and
sides) of his head, he must be firm yet diplomatic, efficient
yet meticulous (e.g. for bedikas tolaim), knowledgeable
yet have his mobile always at the ready! To insure careful
control, the Beth Din maintains a team of some 50 Mashgichim
headed by a specific Rabbinic Coordinator for catering -
Rabbi Chaim Dome (a graduate of Gateshead Yeshiva and Amsterdam
Kolel). Likewise the bakeries and restaurants have a dedicated
RC, Rabbi Michoel Kadourie (a graduate of Yeshivas Hanegev
in Netivot, Kolel Shaar Zion, Bnei Brak, and Kolel Harabonim
Mashgichim have shimush with an experienced colleague for
several weeks before being sent out "to the front line",
and regular training seminars are held (including courses
on hygiene and environmental health).
the limited size of the UK Jewish population is such that
the vast majority of manufacturers are uninterested in the
placing of any kosher logo on their products. Thus in order
to provide reliable guidance on local products to both natives
and tourists, the Kashrut Division produces "The Really
Jewish Food Guide" listing several thousand products
whose status have been approved by the Beth Din on the basis
of research by our Food Technologists into ingredients,
processing aids, and any shared use of equipment. This guide
is the Anglo Jewish bestseller, and is regarded as an essential
requirement of Jewish life from Golders Green to Gateshead,
and from Plymouth to Aberdeen.
Kosher certification of factories by the London Beth Din
goes back at least a century. A letter from Chief Rabbi
Adler in 1902 grants his sanction to Marmite - a product
still certified today in bulk form (although the retail
jars packed in the UK are not approved). Similarly Frys
Cocoa bore "the sanction of the Ecclesiastical Authorities"
all the way back in 1910.
the years the London Beth Dins strong links with the far-flung
communities of the British Empire ensured that the London
Beth Din's halachik influence was worldwide. As long ago
as 1830, in the early years of settlement in Australia,
Dayan Aaron Levy of the Beth Din was sent on a mission to
"the other side of the world" to be Mesader Gitin
for the new colonists. To this day the formal title of Rabbi
Sacks is "The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations
of the Commonwealth".
historic links with Australia, Malaysia, India and other
Commonwealth countries, together with the shrinking of distances
and globalisation of world markets over the past decade
in particular, has resulted in the London Beth Din becoming
one of the major forces in international kosher certification.
Indeed as a leading Rav and Kashrut Authority in Eretz Israel
recently put it, there can be barely a product in Israel
which does not contain a London Beth Din certified ingredient.
other authorities have concentrated on granting Hechsherim
to finished products, the London Beth Din's area of expertise
has become raw materials and speciality ingredients. Flavours,
colours, emulsifiers, food chemicals, dairy derivatives
and vitamins are examples of the key ingredients where most
of the major European Manufacturers are KLBD certified.
Once again, in order to maintain high standards of control,
the London Beth Din has an integrated team of Rabbinic Coordinators,
each with their own area of expertise.
Flavour technology is perhaps the most complex area of ingredient
manufacture, certainly from the viewpoint of Kashrut. A
flavour can commonly be made of twenty components, each
one themselves composed of 10-20 sub-ingredients. When certifying
a flavour, it is not uncommon to receive a print out of
the "split formulation" of ten to twenty pages.
In one notable case, a formulation split back for seventy
pages! Each ingredient, and sometimes each supplier must
be traced back to source and be kosher certified or approved.
All the leading European flavour houses such as Sensient,
International Flavour & Fragrance (IFF), Givaudan, and
CPL use the London Beth Din for their Kosher Certification.
Dr Moshe Rosenfeld, an expert flavour chemist and graduate
of Imperial College London and Yeshivos in Manchester and
Jerusalem, utilising a specially designed flavour database,
controls this intricate and sophisticated process. Dr. Rosenfeld's
specialist knowledge is much sought after by other Kashrut
Agencies and manufacturers worldwide.
The Dairy industry is another area where a high degree of
expertise is required for reliable kosher control. The London
Beth Din was amongst the first, if not the first, Kashrut
authority to recognise the kosher problems in many milk
derivatives. Casein -milk protein for example is akin to
cheese and thus may only be kosher if produced under full
time hashgacha - Gvinas Yisroel. Apart from the problems
of properly koshering a huge casein plant and maintaining
supervision during two week long 24 hour productions (including
Shabbos to make sure production does not take place!), a
substantial derivative of cheese and casein production is
whey, and several other dairy ingredients, lactose, proteins
and even minerals may be derivatives of non-kosher whey.
Thus potential problems in blends of dairy derivatives are
myriad. The London Beth Din is fortunate to have the expertise
of Rabbi Akiva Padwa, grandson of R. Chanoch Dov Padwa OBM
as Rabbinic Co-ordinator and Senior Inspector for our dairy
plants across the U.K. and Ireland, Europe and Australia.
the UK is hardly renowned for its vineyards, the London
Beth Din has become very active in Hashgacha of wine in
Spain, Italy, Chile, and Australia. From Chile comes some
highly commended Merlots and Cabernets with Lanzur and Welner
labels, whilst in Australia the London Beth Din is responsible
for the production of Carmel brand Vintage Cabernet, Merlot,
Chardonnay and Vintage Padthaway Chiraz.
Spain, comes the world famous brand leader Tio Pepe Sherry.
Sherry, though essentially a fortified wine, is produced
through the Solaro system, a complex interblending of vintages,
so that there is a minimum of 4 years between first pressing
and bottling! (A serious investment!) Like all wine production,
not only the hashgacha but the entire manufacturing process
must be done by Shomrei Shabbos Yidden, from tipping of
the lorries carrying the grapes through operating the presses,
switching on the pumps, taking the samples, right through
to operating the bottling plant. Because of the complexity
of the process and the ever present Halachic issues, Dayan
Ehrentreu himself heads the team of a dozen Gibraltar Kolel
yungerleit who take over the Bodegas each pressing season.
Another key product with London Beth Din supervision is
Rakusens Matza. The Leeds bakery with its state of the art
non-stick surfaces, high pressure air jets, and uniquely
insulated Pi Hatanur, has been commended by many visiting
experts as one of the finest Matza bakeries in the world.
(The renowned Gateshead Rav, R. Betzalel Rakov Shlita bakes
his Kehila Matzos here.) The full time Rav Hamachshir for
Rakusens on behalf of the Beth Din is HaRav Sadia Amor Shlita
withstanding their heavy workload, both Dayan Ehrentreu
and Dayan Gelley are directly involved in both the Psak
and the LeMaase of London Beth Din Hashgacha. For wine production
in particular, the koshering of casein plants and other
major factories, and whenever complex Kashrut issues come
up, the London Beth Din Dayanim fulfil literally the Halachic
phrase : "Kefi Re'ut Enei Hadayan" and don't hesitate
to come on site to view the situation with their own eyes.
On a daily basis however, the Kashrut Division operates
under the leadership of its Director, Rabbi Jeremy Conway,
a graduate of Gateshead Yeshiva, The Mir in Jerusalem and
Kolel Chacham Zvi in Amsterdam. Formerly the Rov of the
Beth HaMedrash HaGadol in Leeds, he was approached by Dayan
Ehrentreu and appointed to head the Division in 1988. Under
his direction the Department produced the Really Jewish
Food Guide, launched a website (www.kosher.org.uk), developed
the KLBD Logo, and expanded and improved the entire hashgacha
system. Rabbi Conway is a popular lecturer and broadcaster,
and has delivered several keynote addresses to European
Food Industry conferences.
senior Rabbonim in the department are Rabbi Zvi Zuravin,(Graduate
of Yeshivos of Philadelphia, Mir New York and Kollel Iyun
HaTalmud, Yerushalayim and son of Rabbi Ephraim Reuven Zuravin,
Rosh Yeshivas Kneset Beth Aaron, Yerushalayim), Rabbinic
Co-Ordinator with special responsibility for wine productions
and factories in China. Rabbis Aaron Cousins, Feivel Berger,
and Yankel Eckstein look after plants in Europe, and Naphtoly
Lauer and Ilan Grossman control hashgacha operations in
the thousands of inspections required, liasing with factories
and Mashgichim and maintaining hundreds of legal contracts,
is the role of Rabbi Raphael Meyer, the overall factory
certification Co-ordinator. He may be office based, but
virtual non-stop use of his phones, faxes, e-mail, and mobiles
keeps him up to the minute on the details of London Beth
Din productions across the globe.
The Kashrut Division maintains close working relationships
with all other major Kashrut agencies including the Badatz,
Rav Landa, the OK, Star K, and Kof K, and liases with the
OU offices virtually every day. Rav Zushe Blech has started
to work on a consultancy basis for the Kashrut Division
and recently completed an inspection tour of LBD plants
in Malaysia and Singapore.
Chazal said "Ein Beit Hamidrash Belo Chidush",
it is equally true to say ??? ???"Ein Beit Chidushat
Belo Chidush". As food technology becomes increasingly
sophisticated, so Kashrut agencies must constantly develop
and grow and can never afford to rest on their laurels.
motto of every Kashrut agency should be the words of Rashi
at the end of the Parsha of Kashrut: : (Shemini Chapter
11 Pasuk 16)
distinguish between the impure and the pure: Says Rashi:
It is not enough to know the laws superficially, but one
must know (the practical ramifications) and recognise (potential
problems) and become expert in them."
is our aim at the Kashrut Division of the London Beth Din
to live up to these ideals.