Teaneck—Rabbi Moshe Dovid Lebovits travels most of the week. In charge of new business development at the Teaneck-based KOF-K Kosher Supervision, he has spearheaded a huge project over the past couple of years. When BJ’s Wholesale Club identifies stores that are located around large Jewish communities, he works with the store administration to kasher the bakeries and helps bring in various packaged kosher items, such as challah, knishes and cheese.
In an interview with the Jewish Link, Rabbi Lebovits shared that BJ’s has done extensive market research on kosher labeling to understand their customers’ general interest in kosher products. He said that fully one in five Americans now look for the kosher symbol on products, even if they are not personally concerned with kashruth, because the symbols are associated with quality.
BJ’s decided to use the KOF-K, which has a national reputation, to kasher its bakeries so that they would “deal with one set of rabbis and rules,” Lebovits said. “Plus, it’s my baby, so to speak,” he joked, indicating that he makes an effort to attend every kashering and is in touch personally with local rabbis around each BJ’s location, so that the kashruth inspections that occur twice a month can be done by a trusted rabbinic authority if Lebovits can’t be there himself.
At the time of this writing, 36 of BJ’s 200 stores have kosher bakeries now certified kosher dairy by the KOF-K, including the Paramus location, which became certified earlier this year. A total of 50 are currently planned to be made kosher companywide. All the baked (mezonos) products are kosher, Rabbi Lebovits told the Jewish Link, including muffins, pastries, croissants, sheet cakes and cupcakes. Cakes can be ordered for birthdays, bat mitzvahs, chagim like Purim or Shavuot and other special occasions. There are packaged breads for sale at BJ’s that are also kosher.
In addition to the store in Paramus, Lebovits has kashered approximately 15 other stories in the New York metropolitan area and has traveled to various other locations, including Massachusetts, Maryland and Florida to do the same. He has responsibility for the entire Eastern Seaboard region. Because he wants the process to be transparent, he has placed customer service above everything else, and places his own cell phone number on the hechsher, which adorns the walls of each BJ’s kosher bakery. “It’s really important to be accessible,” he said.
In his “spare time,” Rabbi Lebovits, who lives in Brooklyn and is a musmach of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, is also an accomplished author and the writer of a book series of monthly articles called Halachically Speaking, which is currently published in three volumes (the books are available at the Israel Bookshop (http://www.israelbookshop.com/). The archives of Volumes four to 11 are published in pamphlet form and are available online at thehalacha.com). Rabbi Lebovits’ writings deals with issues of Jewish law, business and kashruth, which include interesting topics such as the halachot with regard to honey and of working on Tisha B’Av.
To have the BJ’s in your area added to the growing clubs that have kosher bakeries, email Rabbi Lebovits at [email protected] or call 718-744-4360.
By Elizabeth Kratz