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Israel Asper   Letter 03   04-Jul-2002   The miracle of kosher vodka
"In a protection racket, the victim pays money so that his windows won't be broken, his tires won't be slashed, and his establishment won't be torched; but he is not proud of his protection payments and does not advertise them." Lubomyr Prytulak

04 July 2002

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

Israel Asper:

When I was flabbergasted a while back to discover that the rabbinical kosher surcharge had metastasized to drinking water (as I explained in my letter to you of 16-May-2002), I thought that the world of kosher certification could not possibly hold any more surprises for me but I have encountered one more.

Glancing at the back label on an empty bottle of Stolichnaya vodka that I was about to throw away (the bottle had been in the house for years, I think, with its label escaping inspection), I noticed that it bore the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations kosher logo on it the "U" inside a circle, sometimes referred to as the "OU" for "Orthodox Union," and which you see on the lower-right in the present letter.

At about the same time, I noticed a full-page Stolichnaya ad in the New Yorker magazine, but could find no kosher symbol anywhere on that page, which brings us back to a phenomenon that I asked you about in that earlier letter of mine the phenomenon of manufacturers paying for kosher certification, only to conceal it, or in this case to partly conceal it.

This fresh discovery called a flood of questions to mind, the three leading ones being as follows:

  1. If consumers preferred kosher-certified products, then kosher certification would never be hidden.  On the other hand, we would expect kosher certification to be hidden if it worked like a protection racket.  In a protection racket, the victim pays money so that his windows won't be broken, his tires won't be slashed, and his establishment won't be torched; but he is not proud of his protection payments and does not advertise them.  In the kosher racket, similarly, perhaps the victim pays money solely for the purpose of avoiding harm specifically, he pays so that he won't be blocked from trading with other businesses that have joined the exclusive kosher club; and he often hides the stigma of his capitulation because he expects that displaying it will hurt sales.  The foremost question, then, is whether the driving force behind the spread of kosher certification has little to do with religion and much to do with extortion.

  2. How much does the rabbinical surtax drain annually out of the Canadian economy when all products and all kosher-certifying agencies are taken into account?

  3. Don't responsible rabbinical authorities agree that products like aluminum foil, laundry bleach, drinking water, and vodka are exempt from kosher certification?  In the case of vodka, there appears to be pretty broad agreement that unflavored vodka which is what I had does not require kosher certification, as is expressed, for example, in the following two statements out of the many available:

    All unflavored vodkas are recommended.  Due to the many problems of non-kosher ingredients often found in flavorings (such as wine, civet, ambergris etc.), any flavored vodka needs proper Hashgachic approval or thorough investigating into each source and ingredient.
    www.kosherquest.org/html/General_Information_On_Alcohol.htm

    Date: Thu, 10 Jun 93 11:32:26 PDT
    From: Miriam Nadel
    Subject: Kosher Whiskey

    On another related note, there was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this past week about kosher vodka in Poland.  The basic dispute is between two rabbis, each of whom claim to be the chief rabbi of Poland.  One of them requires vodka to have certification and the other does not.  (And so far as I know, most rabbis throughout the world do not require vodka to be certified, though there may be peculiarities about Polish vodka making procedures.)
    shamash.org/listarchives/mail-jewish/volume7/v7n78

    However, the rule is complicated by vodka imported into the United States not being granted automatic exclusion from certification by American rabbis, and is complicated also perhaps by business interrelations that promise to take time to unravel, such as that Stolichnaya is really owned by PepsiCo Wines & Spirits International, as can be seen at www.alliancefr.com/users/kacher/kboire.htm something not acknowledged either on Stolichnaya labels or in Stolichnaya ads.

So, anyway, here is a golden opportunity for you to demonstrate that you are for the Canadian consumer and against the rabbinical scam artist, and, more generally, for openness and against conspiracy which you can do by releasing the reporters in your media empire from the prohibition against discussing kosher certification.  You can safely expect that once the gags are removed from their mouths, they will have much to say on the subject, and that your subscribers will listen to what they have to say with both interest (in the secrets revealed) and gratitude (for the money saved).




Lubomyr Prytulak

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