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Tablet-K

The Tablet-K hechsher is quite common on products in US supermarkets - especially cheeses. There seems to be a strong sentiment that it is not an acceptable hechsher, but I've heard no halachik reasons for that sentiment.

What are the issues with Tablet-K?

Of interest in responses:

  • Official policies of the organization
  • Ability of the organization to execute on those policies
  • Official policy of other kashrut organizations regarding Tablet-K

Not of interest:

  • Stories of what you've heard "through the grapevine"
  • Stories about what individuals do or do not hold by this hecksher.
  • General pontification on kashrut, the state of kashrut in America, how delicious the cheese must be, recipes, culinary wisdom, or the like.
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I don't think to many Hashgachos will put on their website WHY they don;t hold of a hashgacha, because of libel suits, etc. –  Shmuel Brin Sep 1 '11 at 18:36
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To find out the standards of the tablet-K they can be contacted at: The "Tablet-K," Religious and Kitchen Supervision, 8 Copper Beach Lane, Lawrence, NY 11559-2606. (516) 569-9081; Fax: (516) 569-9083. Rabbi Rafael Saffra. Email: tablet@earthlink.net –  Gershon Gold Sep 1 '11 at 19:34
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@Gershon Gold: R. Rafael Saffra passed away in 2009. legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/… –  Curiouser Sep 1 '11 at 20:14
    
Are you sure it was the same one? And if it is then most likely his son took over. –  Gershon Gold Sep 1 '11 at 20:16
    
Yes, I am sure it is the same one. I don't know who is in charge of the Tablet-K anymore, but he certainly isn't. –  Curiouser Sep 1 '11 at 20:26
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5 Answers

My understanding is that its definition of kosher cheese is below the standard commonly employed by major American Orthodox organizations.

The mainstream definition is: the milk must belong to a Jew at the time of curdling, and have the kosher rennet added by Jews. Anything other than that falls into the prohibited category of gevinat akum.

A minority opinion would be that if the rennet does not pose kashrut issues itself (microbial, or thistle flower) then the cheese is kosher without any further Jewish involvement.

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Do you have a source regarding the Tablet-K's position on this? That's what Laizer's asking for, I think. –  Isaac Moses Sep 1 '11 at 16:39
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I just called to their number. According to the Rabanit Safra, all places are under a "yotze uva" mashgiach. They don't have a different rennet policy. They do not demand that an observant Jew will add the rennet with his own hands, but he can actually use the machine to do that.

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Thanks for the research, and welcome to the site. For a better site experience, I suggest you register your username. –  msh210 Dec 5 '11 at 21:58
    
What do you mean he can use the machine to do that? Must the rennet be added by a Jew or can it be added by machine? –  Curiouser Dec 6 '11 at 2:29
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Rabbanit Safra? –  Shmuel Brin Apr 9 '12 at 21:34
    
@Shmuel Would you prefer the title be translated to Yiddish: Rebbetzin? –  Double AA Jul 31 '13 at 18:52
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I had an email correspondence with Rabbi Saffra several years ago about the cheese question. His response was very clearly that he did not hold cheese produced with microbial media to be cheese in the traditional understanding, since microbial coagulant did not exist at the time of the Shulchan Aruch. He said it is a different product, so the gezerah was not applicable to it.

He did, however, say that it requires supervision of ingredients like other supervised products. He wrote that he visually checks all ingredients to be sure they have kosher supervision (including the microbial media itself) and that he visited the plant routinely.

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Shoshi, welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for sharing your research! Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. –  Isaac Moses Mar 6 '12 at 14:54
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+1 not because I agree with the psak, but Shoshi's answer gives exactly what the questioner wanted. –  user1095 Mar 7 '12 at 19:41
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Tablet K will give a heckshur to a company that also process treif seafood in the same plant. The question then is there a mashgiach present to watch the kosher product being processed on machines that have been cleaned and check prior to the kosher run? As someone who worked in a meat packing plant that processed kosher and non kosher meat and the amount of effort done on the kosher part to ensure kosher integrity, I would refrain from eating a hekshur from any organization that doesnt hold to the highest standards of this type of situation.

http://images.fsenablers.com/Kosher/11/TabletK2011.pdf

http://images.fsenablers.com/Kosher/11/Viking%202007-2008.pdf

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  • A teacher of mine and kashrut expert, Rabbi Jeffrey Rappoport, who edits the Kosher Nexus publication (koshernexus.org) notes that despite Tablet K identifying itself as Orthodox, the Conservative Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards holds that it is unacceptable, and was even going to exclude it from a movement-wide list of acceptable hechsherim, until the Tablet K threatened litigation against the Conservative movement.

  • Their position on cheese seems to rely on a shita of the Rabbenu Tam. Rabbenu Tam in Tosafot Avodah Zarah 35a, s.v. chada, says that the reason why Chazal institutes a gezerah against eating gevinat akum is that they were concerned with the milk becoming exposed to snake venom. Like the Rambam, he believes that there is no concern for non-kosher milk since the milk of a non-kosher animal can't be turned into cheese. Rabbenu Tam says that non-kosher milk doesn't become hard, and notes that the nochrim aren't fools because they know this and don't use treif milk in cheese production. He adamantly says that the only concern Chazal had was with snake venom or a non-kosher stomach or enzymes from cattle being used, and he says the gezerah only applies where snakes are rampant. He notes that in many places, gentile cheese is eaten because it is known they used flowers, not stomach or enzymes, to harden cheese, and he notes that the geonim of Narvonne in the south of France allowed the consumption of gevinat akum that uses vegetarian rennet essentially.

    The Tablet K seems to hold by such an opinion which allows gevinat akum made with vegetarian rennet.

  • The legitimate concerns that would probably arise are the frequency of inspections- does yotzei v'nichnas inspection mean weekly, monthly, or annual inspections?

    It seems to be a small enterprise that supervises so many establishments that it leaves questions as to how frequently they inspect their clients. Perhaps you can call up with she'eilot about specific products. I feel giving a blanket prohibition might constitute lashon hara against the rabbanim in charge of Luchos K. Consumers making informed decisions for themselves is the best approach in kashrut, I feel.

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This view allowing all cheese with vegetable rennet, without supervision, was also held by the Chazon Ish and R. Soloveitchik. See Divrei haRav p193 by R. Schachter –  Curiouser Jun 7 '12 at 23:54
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protected by msh210 Jun 7 '12 at 17:51

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