Israel Asper   Letter 02   16-May-2002   The miracle of kosher water
"Imagine the chutzpah of some rabbi telling me that water is kosher." Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky

On 24-May-2002, eight days after the letter below was written, my home was further invaded by rabbinically-taxed drinking water.

16 May 2002

Israel Asper
Executive Chairman
CanWest Global Communications Corp.
3100 TD Centre, 201 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg MB   R3B 3L7

Israel Asper:

Needless Kosher Certification

On a bottle of NAYA Natural Spring Water that I found in my house, I noticed the following Montreal Kosher certification label:

This label, however, clashes with statements that water is not subject to kosher certification, as for example the laconic and dispassionate and anonymous statement:

Flour, sugar and water, however, DO NOT require a hechsher.
Young Adults of Beth Sholom www.yabs.org/page.phtml?pageId=29

Or for example the more elaborate and impassioned and personal statement attributed to Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky:

Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky A kosher for Passover table, no less.  Every item guaranteed kosher by some rabbi or another, down to the fizzy water that Uncle Joe swilled from the blue bottle.  He may have grepsed dyspeptically, but the idea of Kosher for Passover water makes me ready to shout at the rabbi who put his okay on the bottle, "Feh, such a chazzer!"  Imagine the chutzpah of some rabbi telling me that water is kosher.  Water, by definition, is kosher.  And that a rabbi might profit from this type of scam does more than render me dyspeptic.  It makes me apoplectic, because it is nothing less than theft to make a profit on the pious gullability of Jewish consumers.
Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, The Road to Redemption, in Jewish Theological Seminary learn.jtsa.edu/topics/reading/bookexc/visotzky_road/part1.html ("gullability" is in the original).

You can imagine that my own "Feh, such a chazzer!" reaction to NAYA water was even more indignant than was Rabbi Visotzky's to Uncle Joe's fizzy water for three reasons:

That NAYA label made me recognize that kosher certification had metastasized beyond anything that I could have imagined, and threatened to spread next to municipal tap water, and perhaps from there even to air, starting with tanks of compressed air destined for hospitals or aqualungs, and ending in an obligatory rabbinical birth tax on Jews and Gentiles alike, guaranteeing that the earth's atmosphere would be certified kosher for the duration of the life of the newborn.

If only we were talking about the theft of some thousands of dollars nationwide, then it would all be a grand joke played by the wily rabbis upon the simple-minded goyim but we are not talking about thousands, we are talking about millions or billions, which instead of flowing into the rabbis' pockets could have funded cancer research, or the reduction of emergency-room waiting times, or the relief of classroom overcrowding, or perhaps could have funded even a project as zany as the government hiring lawyers with enough competence to keep Canada from being blanketed with the American neurotoxin MMT.

How many millions or billions might that be exactly? Well, that's the very question I have been putting for some two years now, first to Canadian Jewish Congress President Moshe Ronen, and then to press lord F. David Radler's daughter, Melissa, and after that to Joseph Ben-Ami whose credentials I have never been able to fathom, and latterly to Parliamentary Candidate Ezra Levant but to no effect, as they all play both deaf and dumb to the impertinent questions of the prying goy.

Of course kosher water should have surprised me less than others, as I have been aware for quite some time of the spread of kosher certification to products that appear on lists itemizing exemption from the need for certification.  Even in the brief list above, for example, we saw that in addition to water being exempted, sugar and flour are as well, and yet from the evidence available in my own pantry, I long ago discovered that I do regularly pay the rabbinical kosher surcharge to British Columbia kosher certifiers on at least five varieties of sugar and one variety of flour, as you can see for yourself below:

Rogers Demerara Style Brown Sugar, BC Kosher Rogers Golden Yellow Sugar, BC Kosher Rogers Sugar, BC Kosher

Rogers Berry Sugar, BC Kosher Rogers Icing Sugar, BC Kosher Rogers Fine Granulated Sugar, BC Kosher Rogers Sugar, BC Kosher

Safeway Unbleached Flour, BC Kosher Safeway Unbleached Flour, BC Kosher

And that is hardly the extent of it.  If you care to read my letter to Moshe Ronen, titled Needless Kosher Certification, of 13-Apr-2000, you will discover that even a full two years ago I was already asking how it was possible for rabbis to be specifying products that were exempt from kosher certification, and yet for me to be finding these same products kosher-certified in my own kitchen (or laundry room, it turns out), products such as bleach, chocolate, coffee, corn starch, flour, ice cream, laundry detergent, milk, oatmeal, olive oil, orange juice, pepper, salt, spices, sugar, tea, and vinegar.  In that same letter to Moshe Ronen, you will also find me wondering whether still other products that I find kosher-certified on my own shelves fail to appear on any rabbi's exempt list only because they are too obviously exempt to need listing, products such as plastic food-wrap film, scouring pads, and aluminum foil.

Thus, the kosher certification of products that don't require kosher certification is not new to me; what is new is its breathtaking spread to even drinking water.

Unclaimed Kosher Certification

A further revelation concerning drinking water followed hard on the heels of the first.

For years, I have been drinking Canadian Springs water at home, never imagining for a moment that I might be paying a rabbinical surcharge for the privilege of doing so until I noticed on the Internet that Canadian Springs water is in fact kosher!

Wondering how this information could have escaped me, I examined the label on a Canadian Springs bottle, but found no indication of kosher certification.  I examined the hard-copy statements that are left with each delivery, and I examined the hard-copy statements that arrive by mail and again nowhere could I find any reference to Canadian Springs water being kosher certified.  I emailed Canadian Springs enquiring about its kosher certification, but received no answer.  (Needless to say, Canadian Springs has just lost a customer.)

Now I imagine that you will have to agree that this presents us with a major incongruity a producer paying to have his product kosher-certified, and then failing to bring this kosher certification to the attention of the consumer.  This particularly clashes with kosher-certifier claims that consumers prefer kosher products:

Numerous market studies have demonstrated that consumers will most often select a product with a kosher certification over a similar item that is not certified.  Furthermore, these same studies reveal that kosher certification is considered a plus among a wide spectrum of consumers both Jewish and non-Jewish.

And so we are left with the incongruity of paid for but unclaimed kosher certification; the incongruity of producers acting as if they are ashamed of, and prefer to conceal, the kosher certification that they have purchased.

If paid-for-but-unclaimed kosher certification were limited to my former supplier of bottled water, Canadian Springs, then it would be of insufficient interest to bring to your attention, but in fact the phenomenon is ubiquitous.  For example, I examined the labels on several varieties of Coca Cola and of Pepsi drinks at my local supermarket, and found no indication of kosher certification.  Visiting the Coke and Pepsi web sites similarly turned up no mention of kosher certification at least no such acknowledgement is displayed in the more promising locations that I checked, though I cannot swear that such an acknowldegement is not hidden in some obscure corner of these sites.  In the case of the Pepsi web site, an internal search engine search for "kosher" turned up nothing, and an email to customer relations with the question "Is Pepsi kosher?" received no reply.  At the same time, claims are made on many web sites that both Coke and Pepsi are kosher.  Same incongruity, it would appear producers who kosher-certify, but then act as if they are ashamed of having kosher-certified.

What is one to make of the phenomenon of unclaimed certification except that some producers are aware that their disclosure of kosher certification will hurt sales, and that the expansion of kosher certification to an ever-greater proportion of supermarket purchases is not consumer-driven, but in fact would lead to rebellion, including product boycott, if consumers became aware of it?

The kosher issues discussed above those of needless and unclaimed certification are only two of several outstanding issues.  You can read of a few others in my letter to Ezra Levant, titled Have you changed your views on kosher certification? of 27-Mar-2002.

You Have A Role To Play

And so what is going to be your role concerning this parasitical attachment of the rabbinate to the Canadian economy?  You would seem to have two choices:

Lubomyr Prytulak

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