WINNIPEG — Rabbi Mitchell Cohen, Winnipeg’s kashrut administrator since August 2006, has resigned his position with the Vaad Ha’ir of Winnipeg to become a geriatric home chaplain in Milwaukee.
He dropped into the office on Dec. 23 to turn in his keys, says vaad president Don Aronovitch.
Rabbi Cohen, who assumes his new posting on Jan. 21, was born and raised in Chicago, where he trained in and gained his first experience in kashrut supervision. He had served as kashrut administrator in Ottawa for a number of years before coming to Winnipeg.
The Winnipeg vaad originally hired Rabbi Cohen as a consultant in February 2006. The vaad’s goal in bringing Rabbi Cohen in, says Aronovitch, was to raise the WK kashrut standard, which was considered suspect in some quarters, to the normative standard.
“He did a phenomenal job for us,” Aronovitch says. “He raised the standard to the desired level faster than we thought possible.”
Rabbi Cohen takes pride in what he was able to accomplish here. He has particular praise for longtime mashgiach Gabe Broges, and also for Rabbi Yacov Zelkowitz, who started working as a mashgiach here shortly after Rabbi Cohen became full-time kashrut administrator.
Some difficulties were, however, encountered in raising the kashrut standards.
The community’s two ritual slaughterers were retired in the summer of 2006 and have not been replaced. Also, for a time, the vaad temporarily had to suspend the certification for Omnitsky Kosher Food, the community’s only kosher butcher, until the ownership agreed to meet the higher standard.
In his new position, Rabbi Cohen will serve as chaplain at the Jewish Home and Care Centre, an institution with 450 beds divided between two locations in Milwaukee. He decided to take the new job, he says, because it fits in well with his background and training, and also because Milwaukee is closer to his hometown of Chicago.
“My mother has not been well for the last few years,” he says. “My family and I wanted to be closer to her.”
Rabbi Zelkowitz has been appointed as the interim kashrut administrator for the community. The young Chabad rabbi has been the full-time mashgiach at Omnitsky since September, 2006.
Aronovitch reports that the vaad board is considering several different options. He hopes to be able to announce a decision about the vaad’s future direction early in the new year.