OU Banishes Jezebel From Soho
02/27/13
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Jezebel is history.

The Queen of Israel who built temples to pagan gods and led her husband, King Ahab, astray will no longer receive tribute in the form of a kosher eatery in downtown Manhattan that bears her sinful name.

That’s because the Orthodox Union won’t certify the upscale restaurant under its current name, and its owners want to attract more traditional kosher diners with the most widely recognized brand of supervision.

As of this month Jezebel will be known under the blander trademark of JSoho. Owners Menachem Sendrowicz and Henry Stimler announced the change in a letter to investors that was later published by the website Kosher Today.

The businessmen said the name change was one of two “concessions” to the OU, the other being a ban on non-mevushal wines, or those that are not cooked in high temperatures to kasher them in case of contact with non-Jews or non-Sabbath observers.

“We felt the name Jezebel does not represent a person who has a positive reputation in the Tanach [Bible] and was not a name we want to promote,” Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the head of the OU’s kashrut division told The Jewish Week.

“This is the name of a rasha, a clearly wicked person.”

Jezebel’s story is told in the Book of Kings, in which she is devoted to the Tyrian deity of Baal, a weather god. Because the New Testament book of Revelations also associates her with sexual immorality, the name has been applied in popular culture to a woman of ill repute.

According to Jewish Virtual Library, Jezebel lived from the end of the first decade of the ninth century B.C.E. and was killed in the insurrection of Jehu in 841.

In choosing the name the restaurant owners may have hoped to associate their establishment with decadence, a tricky prospect in the kosher world.

The restaurant, which has been open for just seven months, did not return a message left on Tuesday in time for publication.

Rabbi Elefant said this was an “atypical” situation because the restaurant was formerly under another certification, that of Rabbi Ahron Mehlman of Lakewood, N.J. Generally, the OU would work with a new restaurant in determining kashrut details prior to its opening.

He said he could not recall a prior incident of objecting to an establishment’s name, but noted that factors such as “ambience” that have no bearing on food are considered in the certification process. For instance, the type of artwork and nature of the entertainment could be grounds for rejection.

“We want to make sure there is a certain environment in the restaurant," he said.

Last Update:

05/20/2014 - 15:20

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"He said he could not recall a prior incident of objecting to an establishment’s name, but noted that factors such as “ambience” that have no bearing on food are considered in the certification process. For instance, the type of artwork and nature of the entertainment could be grounds for rejection."

Too bad awful food can't be considered grounds for rejection. Too many places to count that are absolutely terrible, especially for what they try to charge. I'll stick to my amazing homemade steaks that I get from thekosherexpress.com thank you very much.

Why do we still bother relying on the OU? Can we please get a few sane people together and start a va'ad that enforces only the laws of kashrut? The OU is becoming an embarrassment and their ludicrous decisions make it even harder to find good kosher food.

Many of you criticizing the OU are way over the top. The OU is permitted to set whatever standards it wants for Kashrus, including decor. Would it be within their rights to deny certification if the wait staff was skimpily dressed? The obvious answer (at least to me) is yes. If the only question is whether the food is kosher (and good) the answer would be no. No one forced the restaurant owners to use the OU. The restaurant could have kept Rabbi Mehlman's certification. There are other prominent national Kashrut organizations that could have been brought in, assuming they would permit the name Jezebel and non mevushal wine. I assume they either demurred or the owners did not seek them out. Do you think the OU is required to certify an establishment named Hitler or Stalin yemach shemom? Commenters are either ignorant about who Jezebel was or don't care.

OU DO YOUR JOB! You are not the moral police. You give kosher certification. Perhaps this is why so many people have been turned off from keeping kosher. If you are worried about a name, maybe you should focus on kosher food pricing and make sure people are not being taken advantage of at butchers and so on. For shabbat, I went to kosher mart in Rockville, MD and spent almost 8x the price of non-kosher meat. Why do we allow such a huge markup? The Vaads, OU's and the like should perhaps be focusing on making kosher foods more widely available and affordable than worrying about the name of a reataurant that is trying to provide kosher food! If people are going to go out anyways and have a good time, should kosher food not be important. Perhaps this is why many Israeli restaurants have opted out. Find ways to make it easier on owners, no one aske you to check if they have belly dancers. Figure out solutions. If someone in Tel Aviv is going to be open on shabbos, work to find ways to keep them certified. Yes, add a non jewish partner, a mashgiach like we have on holidays and so on. Dont discount places bec people are not perfect. Look up in jewish law the easiest ways for this to happen. All kosher certs should focus on a way to add the most people in. Widen the circle by lowering the standArds and following the actual law than the extra fences around the law. Make it easier, not harder. Stay within halacha, but get rid of the extra stringencies.. Its not helping the masses.

אלוהים הוא אחד, and authorities who certify your food in His name are multiple, and something one of them, say, Michigan Kashrut, deems kosher, by OU isn't... Patently absurd! Toss in several other phoney authorities with their contradicting each other decisions, and the inevitable conclusion is they're all bunch of clowns. For those who pretend that their grub changes its substance because of what those clown say, you try to find a kosher word yourself.

it is obvious that the OU is a force to be reckoned with.
And if they want to water down their brand by engaging in petty politics and issues having nothing to do with halacha, it's their prerogative

Rabbi Jason, perhaps that's one of the many reasons that the OU is universally respected.
Anonymous of 2/28 11:01, I don't know why you call them "xenophobic, narrow-minded, largely ignorant old men." The ones I know are inclusive, broad-minded, and highly educated. True, some are old, but refusing Rabbinical supervision to a restaurant named after a pagan whore doesn't seem so backward, unless you have a taste for pagan whores. and I'm not judging anyone, to each his own.
A Goner- and despite their awful and disgusting corporate policies they seem to be accomplishing an exemplary job and doing a wonderful service. Huh.
Herr Streicher would chortle at the clever distortions in some of these comments.

The OU did the right thing. Kudos to them.

Today’s newspaper reportsthat the Orthodox Union refused to certify the Kosher status of Jezebel, a Soho restaurant, because it was named after a Biblical personality of questionable character.

This is the same organization whose Rabbinical affiliate, Rabbinical Council of America, finds no problem with allowing its prayer book to carry the name of an individual who was convicted of securities fraud.

What hypocrisy!

I noticed when shopping in the grocery store that the OU has certified foods like chocolate Easter eggs and even a bottle of sauce that is intended to put on ham. I think, given the fact that they found it necessary to change the name of this restaurant, that they shouldn't be putting their certification on these items.

Oh, come on. It's not like they certified rabbits as kosher! I'm waiting for kosher Peeps! And the sauce? Ham is just one thing it can be served with, I'm sure the jar suggests beef, turkey, even tofu...

Another example of the Mafia nature of the OU. What the OU has done is a Hilul HaShem. What's next? Refusal to grant hashgacha because a rabbi at the OU doesn't like the color of the napkins (they best not be red, you know the color of Satan)?

To all the comments about the "narrow-minded" and "xenophobic" OU: Whether or not you agree with OU's policies, at least the next time someone criticizes Kashrut organizations of being mercenary hypocrites, you now will be able to show that the OU is not. You also are apparently unaware that the OU does not force anyone to get their certification, and Jezebel is welcome to get certified by Kosher Michigan or any other agency.

So, the OU decides what is kosher and what isn't...
And Michigan Rabbinical authority decides what is kosher and what isn't...
OU may decide that something deemed by Michigan as kosher, isn't...
Same goes for a huge bunch of other "rabbinical authorities" who agree or not with each other.
And all of them pretend to do their judgement in the name of G-d, who is One?
Well, it means that they all are a bunch of clowns, and those who pretend that their grub somehow changes its substance because of those clowns pronouncements either way... well, you choose a kosher word for them.

I have no problem with what the OU did. The OU is known to have the highest standards. As i am sure Rabbi Jason Miller (see above) can tell you, the relationship b/w the owners and Mashgiach is crucial and trust must be felt between the parties. When you have owners that are clearly trying to push boundaries (decor, name, wine) for the sake of profit , then a Kashrut Agency has to be careful. Choosing a name of one of the worst women in Tanach can fall under their jurisdiction.

So the OU has certify anyone who wants a certification? You have the nudniks such as Morris Allen who want kashrus to include items that have nothing to do with religion at all, yet complain when the OU says that it has no interest in offering certification to an establishment named after a character famous for sexual immorality!

This establishment apparently approached the OU because its standards are either higher or more readily accepted. They wanted the additional business that would generate. If so, it is their resposibility to raise themselves up to the standards of the certifying agency no for the agency to drop theirs.

You want to have standardless certification? You have a commenter above who is happy to do so. Apparently there are those who only care about the fee. But that won't get the customers to come.

How much weight should I give to a statement from a Rabbi named for a trayfe beast?

perhaps the rabbi should change his last name as well. after all, how does it look when a person whose last name is a treif animal has responsibility for OU kashrus supervision?

I believe that most torah observing jews keep kosher and want certification that the FOOD is kosher. most do not want "ou" to be our version of the morality squad.
those that disagree havent attended enough weddings.

I'm happy to say that my kosher certification agency, Kosher Michigan, would be willing to certify a restaurant named Jezebel, Vashti or Golda Meir so long as they adhered to the kosher standards (and the food was good!). http://koshermichigan.com

Well, Rabbi Jason, it seems like they wanted a nationally recognized ORTHODOX certification.
Have a GREAT Shabbos.

is Rav Mehlman from the UWS?

Were all of you complaining when Hechsher Tzedek and MAgen Tzedek or whatever they might be called introduced non-Kashrut standards into their supervision? I didn't hear you accusing those orgs of being emblematic of the problem, ignorant old men etc.
This anti-orthodox rhetoric here is a farcical double-standard.

Fair enough

The Talibanization of Judaism is in full force.

When this restaurant opened. I thought it was weird that the owners named it for Ahab's wife. But that's as far as it went. That the OU decided to make an issue of the name is a sign of a dangerous increase in Rabbinic meddling in what are non Rabbinic issues. I understand the distaste of Rabbi Elefant, but his interference in someone else's silly decision is overstepping his responsibilities. Kashrut organizations, even ones that claim to be non profit, are large commercial enterprises and the heady mix of money and power exerted on issues outside the technical issues of Kosher and Treif creates a situation rife with the potential for corruption and abuse, with which the OU is unfortunately all too familiar. The use of non Mevushal wines is more complicated, because errors made regarding the wine do affect kashrut in a sense. But even there, it should be noted that this is the latest in a long list of issues where a kashrut organization made a decision which really hinged on not trusting the kosher eating public to monitor their own observance, not unlike the elimination of the OU D-E symbol. The OU misunderstands its mandate in kashrut, and whole there is no moral loss on my part for being forced to drink lesser wines where kosher alternatives are available, the encroachment on personal autonomy it represents is another matter entirely.

What's in a name? A matzoh ball by any other name should taste so good.

The restaurant has not been open for 2 years! It opened in July 2012 (7+ months) as I reported it here: http://yeahthatskosher.com/2012/07/jezebel-opens-today-in-soho-nyc/

Really. This is emblematic of the problems with the current state of Jewish orthodoxy. The OU should have two certifications: one for kashrut and one that is more thoroughgoing and that clearly states that the establishment in question hews to the vision of propriety demanded by a bunch of xenophobic, narrow-minded, largely ignorant old men.

Sorry but it is you who are narrow minded and cannot see the whole picture
Kosher represents more than just food - it stands for a way of life which includes integrity, morality and holiness

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