By: Samuel Gelman (Houston, Texas)  | 

Formerly Banned Restaurants Reinstated in Caf, Nagel, and Available for YU Events

On March 6 at around 10pm, in a post to YU Marketplace, ‎Chop Chop’s manager Matthew Chan announced that Chop Chop will once again be served in the YU Cafeteria. “Just really Baruch HaShem!!” said Matthew. “We want to thank YU, OU and all the Rabbis from Vaad Of Riverdale and all the support from the YU Rabbis, and especially all the students for the support.” Chan said that Chop Chop will be serving Chinese food and sushi at YU events and in the cafeteria.

Food from Carlos and Gabby’s, which was also banned, has been reinstated as well. “I am pleased to announce that Chop Chop and Carlos and Gabby’s are again available on campus and for student events,” wrote Chaim Nissel, University Dean of Students in a March 8 email.

The controversy began on February 12 with a post on YU Marketplace from Chan. In the post, Chan announced that “starting today Chop Chop Restaurant “No Longer” to supply Kosher Chinese Food or Sushi to any YU Cafeteria including Nagel Bagel or any YU Event because Chop Chop is under Vaad of Riverdale not an OU restaurant.”

The manager of Carlos and Gabby’s rebuffed several requests for comment on the matter.

The move came as an apparent reinforcement of the OU’s kashrut policy with Yeshiva University. Since Yeshiva University cafeterias and events are under the supervision on the OU, any food not certified by the OU cannot be served on campus. Chop Chop is certified by the Va’ad of Riverdale, the kashrut organization overseen by YU Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Mordechai Willig.

“Given that Yeshiva University food programs are OU-certified, everything that is sold in cafeterias in the Yeshiva University system must meet OU standards,” said Rabbi Elefant, COO of the Orthodox Union’s Kashrut Department, in an interview with The Commentator. “Therefore, we take our responsibility very seriously and need to be sure that standards are the same as OU supervision.” When asked why this was happening now and why Chop Chop had previously been allowed to sell their food in the YU cafeterias, Rabbi Elefant responded, “We became aware that the students at YU [were] interested in their school selling the products in the food service system of YU, but YU recognized that they needed OU approval. Perhaps things fell through the cracks, perhaps.”

While this policy made sense on the surface, YU does sell snacks and other food items that are certified by kashrut organizations other than the OU. “The OU does not insist that the factories that we certify only use OU ingredients,” Rabbi Elefant responded. “We insist that they use ingredients that meet OU hashgacha and that is the same policy we have for YU. If the supervision is up to standards, we have no problem allowing YU to use it.” When asked whether this meant that the Va’ad of Riverdale was not up to OU standards, Rabbi Elefant said, “I did not say that.”

The OU offered no timetable as to how long it would take to ensure that Chop Chop’s kashrut is up to standards. However, Rabbi Elefant did talk about how they were approaching the matter, saying that “some of our people are visiting those restaurants under the Va’ad of Riverdale to ensure that the standards used in their certification programs are consistent with standards that the OU has in in its programs.”

Yeshiva University was quiet on the matter. Joseph Cook, the YU Director of Administrative Services, stated that “this is currently being worked out between our certification company, the OU, and Chop Chop. We hope to see it resolved very soon.” Neither the staff of Chop nor the Va’ad of Riverdale could be reached for comment at the time.

YU students, however, were more outspoken. Many of the comments on the initial Facebook post expressed sympathy for Chop Chop and confusion as to why this had happened at all.

Furthermore, with the lack of communication from YU and from Chop Chop, many students believe that this entire situation had more to do with profits than with “standards.” Zev Behar, a senior in YC, expressed sympathy for Chop Chop and its owner, saying that “from the outside, it seems like YU is trying to strongarm Chop Chop into switching to the OU, which would cost significantly more than what they pay to be certified by the Va’ad of Riverdale and they are holding their meal plans as ransom, which for Chop Chop I think is nearly 40% of their income.” Aaron Kirshtein echoed this feeling: “As a YU student, it upsets me that YU seems to be penny-pinching other kashrut organizations. I feel the Va’ad of Riverdale is a legitimate kashrut [organization].”

Rabbi Elefant, however, stressed that this situation was simply about kashrut standards. “We need to make sure that everything sold at YU meets YU standards…We don’t have a crisis on our hands here. It’s kosher food.”

But now it appears that the crisis is over. When asked for a final comment about this ordeal, Chan simply responded, with his characteristic piety, “I feel blessed from Hashem. Baruch Hashem.”