Kosher surveillance

Kosher surveillance

Ima Restaurant in Teaneck is at the center of a dispute between the local rabbinical board, the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County, and the OK, an international kosher certification agency based in Brooklyn. According to allegations by the OK’s rabbinic administrator, Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, reported in today’s Jewish Standard, the OK has tapes of conversations between Ima’s owner, Ofira Zaken, and an RCBC mashgiach that disproved the RCBC version of the split between it and the restaurant.

During a meeting at the restaurant on Tuesday, Zaken refused to talk about these tapes or the split with the RCBC. She was focused on moving forward with the OK certification and called for peace in the community.

Questions remain, however. Such as, how did the OK get these tapes? What really happened between Ima and the RCBC? And what will happen between the RCBC and the OK?

Regarding the tapes, the New York Times ran a piece back in October about Basil, an Italian dairy place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home to the Chabad movement. The author recalls a visit to the restaurant by Yoel and eventually the subject of security tapes comes up. According to the article, Yoel and the OK had demanded access to Basil’s security cameras.

WHEN I CALLED LEVY, he disputed a few aspects of Perez’s account. He said his primary objective that Sunday night was to see the kitchen. He hadn’t communicated any desire to regulate how customers dress, he said, nor had he been responding to any complaint. But he also said his kosher-certification agency had a contractual right and responsibility to monitor a restaurant’s entertainment – no crude comedians, no female singers – and to make sure, for example, that young men and women at Basil weren’t socializing “other than for matrimonial purposes.”

“If it became a hangout like that,” he said, referring to Basil, “not only would I take off the certification if needed, no one would go into it. They would shun it. Basil doesn’t want that.” He said that his request to see surveillance video was standard, and that similar requests have been readily met by other kosher restaurants under his watch.

Perhaps this is what happened at Ima. Perhaps not. The saga here is far from over. In an optimistic e-mail Wednesday, Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, president of the RCBC, told the Standard that an independent third-party had stepped forward to mediate between the two organizations.

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