By Rabbi Levy Teitlebaum
Of the most integral components of a Jewish community, together with synagogues, mikvah, cemetery, and education, is the availability of kosher food.
Ottawa is fortunate to have its own kashrut agency established in the 1920s. Its role is to facilitate the availability of kosher food and services in our community.
Ottawa Vaad HaKashrut (OVH) works hard with local and Canada-wide companies that wish to market their food products as kosher. After research, we may then set up an initial inspection where we audit all ingredients (including seasonal). Depending on historical use of the equipment, they may require extra sanitization to make them usable for producing kosher products. Kashrut inspections are performed periodically to confirm a successful kosher program is in place.
Examples of kosher clients of OVH include Delisse Fine Cuisine, a manufacturer of hummus and cheese spreads, and Agrosparta Food Processors, an olive packer. Special protocol is in place to ensure the dairy components do not adversely affect the non-dairy hummus, and likewise that the wine used in the marinated olives does not compromise the kosher status of the remaining certified olive recipes.
Such products are sold locally and are available under private label agreements to the public, as well as used in industry as ingredients in recipes of other companies.
Of the most significant roles of OVH is the service we provide to the Ottawa Jewish community, and the many visitors each year that grace our city. We answer questions on various religious topics, most importantly kashrut. Community members of all walks of life seek advice as to availability of products in Ottawa, in cities they will be visiting, as well as answers to questions on kosher law.
An appropriate example is the recent decision of Rideau Bakery to cease operations. Once a hallmark of the Ottawa Jewish community, the Kardish family made the hard decision to close their two kosher bakeries. OVH quickly set immediate and long-term goals to assist our community. Within two days, we published lists of available commercial bread detailing where they are available (https://ovhkosher.ca/). We entered into negotiations with Loblaws College Square to start baking eight varieties of breads in their existing kosher bakery, where in the past it was only baguettes, challah and buns. We also worked with our community caterers to ensure they can provide options for the community. Finally, we worked with independent retailers to sell fresh breads baked in Montreal. Now that these tasks have thankfully been accomplished, we are working with business people who may be interested in opening a kosher bakery that will service our community.
We have a beautiful and diverse community, where all are welcome and made to feel included. OVH plays an important role in their life-cycle events and all religious and cultural milestones.
If you have questions or require more information, please contact Rabbi Levy Teitlebaum at RTeitlebaum@jewishottawa.com.