Covid's Challenge to Keeping Kosher
Bloomberg Businessweek|September 21, 2020
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Covid's Challenge to Keeping Kosher
Grounded by the virus, rabbis can’t inspect factories in China that make certified foods
By Bruce Einhorn

In an ordinary year, Rabbi David Moskowitz would have spent the weeks before Rosh Hashanah, the holiday that celebrates the start of the Jewish New Year, working in China. For more than a decade, the native of New York’s Rockland County has run Shatz Kosher Services, which verifies that ingredients made in Chinese factories don’t contain pork or otherwise violate Jewish dietary laws. Late summer is usually a busy season, with companies gearing up to make products for Passover the following spring.

Rosh Hashanah starts on Sept. 18, but Moskowitz hasn’t been to China in months. The Chinese government closed its borders to most foreigners early in the Covid-19 pandemic, and the 53-year-old is in Ashdod, an Israeli city about 20 miles south of Tel Aviv. From there, he tries to do his job via videoconferences linked to cameras at Chinese factories showing him everything from the office to the factory floor to the warehouse. “It’s not the traditional way, but what is traditional in corona?” he asks. “Everything has been thrown out the window. We find ways to do the job.”

There’s a lot more to the kosher food industry than Hebrew National hot dogs and Manischewitz wine. Kosher food was a $19.1 billion industry in 2018, according to Allied Market Research, which projects it will grow to $25.6 billion by 2026. Many ordinary products in U.S. supermarkets are certified kosher, with everything from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to McCormick spices having kashrut symbols, and those labels can provide assurance not just for observant Jews but also for gentiles who are vegan or have other dietary restrictions.

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September 21, 2020