I was once in a meeting with Rabbi Genack, Rabbi Elefant, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, and a representative of a company that manufactures feed for animals across the US and Canada. It was one of the only sources for this kind of feed in the entire country. The issue was that they mixed milk and meat to make the product, and it is halachically prohibited to eat the meat of animals that are only fed something that is assur b’hana’ah [can’t derive benefit from it]. Rav Schachter was trying to determine if perhaps there was an insignificant amount of milk used— but it turned out that milk constituted about 20 percent of the product. Finally, Rav Schachter asked the representative if it were possible to use pork rather than beef in the feed [because there is no issur hana’ah with regard to pork]. The expression on the man’s face was priceless! He was clearly shocked. “Rabbi, I don’t know much about kosher,” he said, “but do you mean you want me to use pork?” It was a pleasure to be there for such moments.
One period that must be mentioned is 9/11. The OU’s headquarters is located in lower Manhattan, so for three to four weeks after the horrific tragedy, we couldn’t go to the office. We tried to get as much work done as we could off site, but working remotely in those days wasn’t anything like it is today. Although the entire country was affected, it was a terribly challenging time to be in downtown Manhattan. When we came back to the office, the smell of death was all around us. But we continued signing contracts, and the work got done. At the same time, we were in the midst of a transition from an old computer system to a makeshift system, on the way to the new highly advanced system we use today. It was very difficult.
I have worked for the klal my entire career, and I must say that the people at the OU have an extraordinary selflessness.
But we continued to grow, even throughout that time. Overall, I attribute our ability to manage during those difficult times to our amazing staff and their level of professionalism. Everyone had a singular mission. It was truly exemplary. I have worked for the klal my entire career, and I must say that the people at the OU have an extraordinary selflessness. That is what stands out in my mind above all else.
Rachel Schwartzberg is a writer and editor, who lives with her family in Memphis, Tennessee.
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