“An article in last week’s issue, ‘Kashrut War Has Holy Overtones,’ inadvertently crossed the line from news reporting to sarcasm in the eyes of a number of readers whose views we respect. The piece dealt, in part, with a pizza and wine bar in Brooklyn hiring an interim kashrut certifier named Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the namesake of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It prompted numerous comments on Facebook, including puns, memes and other attempts at humor we cited that were seen as disrespectful to the Rebbe. No disrespect was intended, but we apologize for our lack of sensitivity.”
Rabbi Ari Shishler@Rabbishish Replying to @Mottel @NYJewishWeekSad to see how a Jewish mouthpiece lose sense of what a Tzadik is. Need to refresh some old school values. See laws of Talmud Torah.
Leibel@Squilled Replying to @BersEchoChamber @NYJewishWeekAn apology shoulders responsibility and takes corrective measures. This one obnoxiously blames those who took offense. Better left unsaid
July 6, 2017, 9:45 am
It’s a kashrut shootout at the OK Corral.
And it involves Basil Pizza & Wine Bar, an upscale kosher Italian eatery just north of Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, which recently dueled in a pizza war with Calabria, the recently opened Roman-style kosher pizza eatery across the street. (The two battled it out in religious court in March over competition for business and customers.)
This time around, though, Basil is trading volleys with its former kashrut certification provider, the OK.
On June 26, the popular New York-based kashrut agency posted a “Kashrus Alert” on its Facebook page to inform customers that it removed its certification from Basil.
“Basil NY violated the Kashrus Standards of their contract with OK Kosher,” the organization posted on their Facebook page. “They were not willing to maintain the standards that are required under the Certification Contract. Therefore we had no choice but to remove our certification.”
The clause they allegedly violated: working on Shabbat. A representative from the OK, who requested to remain anonymous, said the organization removed its certification because Basil was caught doing work on Shabbat.
Responding immediately to the news, Basil fired back on its Facebook page that the whole hullabaloo was a “big misunderstanding.” Some routine “maintenance work” outside the Basil building was misconstrued as work on Shabbat, the statement said.
“To reiterate, none of our Kashrus standards have been compromised in the slightest.”
A Basil spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
A source close to the matter told The Jewish Week that the OK’s move is already having a negative effect on business. Removing a trusted certification immediately throws the reliability and trustworthiness of the operation into question, the source said. The restaurant “has already suffered.”
A visit to the restaurant last Thursday afternoon found only three tables filled.
The new interim kashrut certifier is (yes, really!) Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the son of a prominent rabbi in the neighborhood and a namesake of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who led the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
The news — and the name of the new interim certifier — lit up the Crown Heights Jewish Facebook world.
“Basil is moving to the Ohel?” joked one commenter, referring to the gravesite in Queens where the late Rabbi Schneerson is buried.
Another created a meme with the text, “So Kosher the Rebbe Himself Wants a Taste…”
Recalling the Calabria faceoff, one commenter wrote “and now Calabria is under the hashgocha (certification) of the Baal Shem Tov,” an 18th-century Jewish mystic credited with founding chasidic Judaism. Comments went on to say that other local kosher eateries would be under the certification of famous rabbis of generations past.
What none of the meme-sters seemed to realize is that even Basil’s name carries with it some plant yichus, so to speak. Basil is referred to as “the king of herbs” or the “royal/kingly plant,” based on its Greek derivation, apropos of the Rebbe as King Moshiach. And a popular Asian variety of the herb is called “holy basil,” befitting this new holy war over kashrut.
Schneerson could not be reached for comment.
There’s no getting around it, if you’re familiar with Chabad Messianism, “Melech HaMashgiach” is funny.
Mashgiach, mashgiach, mashgiach … aye, aye, aye, aye, yay, yay, yay.
“Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v’Rabbeinu Melech haMashgiach l’olam vo’ed!“
“Long Live our Master, our Teacher, and our Rabbi, King Kosher Supervisor, for ever.”
Even if such quips are disrespectful, they pale in comparison to Chabad’s own malfeasance — frequently reported in the media — which is a far greater disgrace of their Rebbe. But few, if any, in Chabad complain that Shalom Rubashkin, Mendel Tevel, Nisson Friedman, or Boruch Shlomo Cunin is a disgrace to the Rebbe and embarrassment to the movement. On the contrary, Chabad defends them, takes collections of funds on their behalf, and attempts to justify or cover-up the worst Chabad has to offer. It’s difficult to admire a rebbe who represents the distribution of dishonest, nepotistic, schnorring, and often criminal rabbis from Crown Heights.
I once held a lot of respect for the mythological version of their rebbe that Chabad teaches. After some independent research on the Rebbe, and observing the behaviors of local Chabad rabbis (and many worldwide), I realize that respect was unjustified and misplaced.