The Story of Kashrus in Melbourne

Mizrachi Kashrut was created on 29th July, 1968 when Mrs. Lilly Stern asked Rabbi Baruch Abaranok z"l, then Rav of Mizrachi, to provide supervision for her catering company under the auspices of Mizrachi. A temporary agreement was signed on December 25, 1968 by the Mizrachi Authority and A & L Stern catering, giving the Rav of Mizrachi full control over Kashrus issues at the company.

In May 1973 Masada Hospital approached Mizrachi with a request for supervision. A few months later, the Mizrachi Executive decided that Mizrachi's role in Melbourne, as an organisation concerned with Kashrus, should be put into effect and that Rabbi Abaranok should take upon himself the Hashgacha of more products. In February 1975 Karlâs Bakery bread was certified Kosher. Karl's bakery supplied Mizrachi with the list of places where the bakery delivered. The initial agreement was for a duration of 6 months.

In November 1976 Kashrus lists were available for Mizrachi members for the first time. The membership fee was $5.00 per annum.

In October 1977, Mizrachi Kashrut undertook supervision of the Southern Memorial Hospital kitchen. The SMH kitchen also provided "Meals on Wheels" for the elderly and infirm.

Dr. Norbert Urmann was the advisor "par excellence" to all who headed the Kashrus Organisation. Those who were involved in kashrut sought his invaluable opinion as an industrial chemist and as a Shomer Torah U'Mitzvot. He did not politicise his professional prowess and regardless of which authority questioned him, Adass Israel, the Melbourne Beth Din or Mizrachi, the principle of halachic purity was foremost in his mind. In the later years he attached himself to Mizrachi's authority, as a member of the community and valued confidante of Rabbi Abaranok.

Towards the end of the seventies, the amount of investigative work had grown to such an extent that it had become impossible for Dr Urmann to continue servicing it, on an honorary basis, even with assistance from some Mizrachi members. In November, 1979, Mizrachi appointed Mr Kasriel Oliver as the Investigating Chemist. Mr Oliver's qualifications and training were in industrial chemistry and with this he brought a strong commitment to Torah values. His long experience, continued training and his constant learning of the Halachos essential to Kashrus, have made him the most respected Kashrus investigator in this part of the world and one of a select few throughout the world. In the initial years the late Dr Urmann gave freely of his practical knowledge to give Mr Oliver a solid grounding. In later years, Mr David Baum, as Chief Honorary Chemist supervised his technical work.

Initially Mr Oliver reported to Rabbi Abaranok, and then to Rabbi Baruch Zaichyk, who suceeded Rabbi Abaranok . In the interim following Rabbi Zaichyk's departure, he reported to Rabbis Abaranok and Feitel Levin and now he reports to the Rabbinic Board. Mr Oliver spends a considerable time travelling in the country, interstate and occasionally overseas. Because the load has become so great, Mrs Rose Mehlman, a trained Food Technologist now assists him with his inspections.

Until 1973 the President of Mizrachi and the Committee handled the direction of Kashrus. In that year a subcommittee was formed which eventually became the Mizrachi Kashrut Committee. In the early days, Committee members themselves took part in the necessary investigations to assist Dr Urmann. The first Chairman was the late Mr Bernie Pushett, followed by the late Mr Joseph Feiglin. Rabbi Hillel Bick followed him, and then Mr Pushett served another term prior to Mr Ben Slonim becoming Chairman in 1978, the same year the organisation was renamed Melbourne Kashrut. Mr Slonim served as Chairman until 1992. The Honorary Secretary in the early days of Mizrachi Kashrut was Mrs Raie Levy whose substantial efforts on behalf of Kashrus included the complete typing of the earliest Kashrut lists.

(Excerpt adapted from Mr. Michael S Neubauser's booklet "Fifty Years of Mizrachi in Melbourne", published for Mizrachi's 50th Anniversary celebration in 1994).