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Initial Interview With Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag

Ralbag is the posek and head kashruth coordinator for Triangle K, which was founded in the mid-20th century by his father, Rabbi Jehoseph Ralbag.
Summary after the jump.

Ralbag described the Triangle K’s general application and supervision process roughly similarly to that of the description by R’ Menachem Genack of the Orthodox Union.
What kind of supervision is necessary? “Some require a rabbinic representative 24 hours a day…others require frequent visits, and others require less frequent visits…
Wine and grape juice, cheese…24…baked goods 24 hours.” Some products require “Once a month supervision…others require only a few times a year, because they’re inherently kosher products…soda pop, orange juice…actual supervision on such companies don’t require a monthly visit.”
Why is Triangle K generally regarded as unreliable in much of the Orthodox community? “I’ve never heard…I don’t know why you say that…gedolim, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein never questioned Triangle K.” As well, “any honest, God-fearing Yid” wouldn’t say such things without investigating the matter, including by talking to him, because such talk is “rechilus…if such a thing exists, this is not by people who are in any way considered a gadol…if it does exist, it is maybe by people who are motivated by jealousy and economics.” And then “if you’re gonna focus on why, tell me what…did you find meat that was unkosher?”
As to relative reliability “what you call the large ones…they have always unauthorized supervision…every week have put out fliers…these are on things which contain meat, or non-kosher meat.”
Questioning his organization’s supervision would require “Willfully not taking care of something, or misleading the public, chas v’chalilah…If you’re [going to qustion my supervision]…based on what?”
As to those questioning the quality of his supervision, “Do they cover their hair, do they go to mixed beaches? These are issurim d’oraysah…so that they’re not concerned about…but when it comes to eid echad ne’eman b’issurin…”
So have you never heard that your supervision is considered generally unreliable? “Never heard, no…no one has ever told me that.”
One of the reasons people often give for your supervision being unreliable is that you’re an individual, as opposed to a large organiation. “We have hashgochos in the far east…fifteen, twenty companies…rabbinim who go out every month…supervisions all over Europe…mars, kol dor, tobleron…I have mashgichim the whole time…we hire a rov who goes visiting to all the companies…we are makpid…I’m makpid even on pas yisroel, gevinas yisroel, and you think I wouldn’t care those ingredients.”
So who do you know that does rely on your supervision? “Any hashgocha of us that comes to Israel gets the stamp of the chief rabbinate of Israel…they also give their hashgocha to products that come from abroad…any product of ours that I ask them to…all our products.”
So why do you think your supervision is considered unreliable? He guesses it’s considered unreliable “In the more modern places…in the real frum places” they eat it. He guessed it may have something to do with Wonderbread, for which “in every bakery we have a mashgiach going in every month…it doesn’t mean that everyone’s gonna eat it, it’s not pas yisroel.” But as to the general claim his supervision is unreliable “it’s preposterous, it’s horrendous, I’m shocked.”
Further, “I do what’s right by hashem…others don’t…they want to be more machmir than Rav Moshe [Feinstein], I’m ok with that…I have one policy: someone asks, I’ll tell you exactly what it is…every product that we have…it’s going through the halacha.”
How do you respond to R’ Yitzhock Abadi’s claim that supervision on many products is fundamentally unnecessary, that one can basically rely on FDA standards of disclosure to determine whether many products are kosher? “I’m not gonna speak for Rav Abadi…a big talmid chacham…he can speak for himself, he’s a big talmid chacham…if that’s permitted al pi halacha, strictly speaking, I’m sure he has what to depend on…he’s a person who is God-fearing in shamayim.”
Do you find that the larger supervision organizations are trying to squeeze you out? “Many times…to the ou, to the ok, the chof-k…the star-k never took away a hashgocha…usually when we lose a hashgocha…they apply pressure on the people who buy a product, an ingredient, and they threaten to take away the hashgocha…they monopolize, and they pressure…it’s lo al pi halacha…they do things – the OKand Kof K– which is not with yashrus, which is not with integrity…they make a chillul hashem…it’s one thing to say you want to visit the company…but a blanket statement…is something which is blatantly forbidden al pi halacha.”
Are there supervisions that you haven’t accepted? “Yes, there have been hashgochos…if I feel that sometimes the mashgiach sent is not up to my standards…or that certain leniencies are relied upon in certain products…in such a case, I would never take away the product of the person…if they would come to me to give me the product, I wouldn’t take it…there’s not integrity in how they handle how products are stolen.”
How do you respond to the claim that you’re less reliable because you’re not a large non-profit organization? “I don’t know why we’re less an organization than others are organizations…in Europe and all over…the OU is the only one that I know that’s an organization…the OK claims to be an organization…If a rov stands behind a hashgocha…halacha says eid echad ne’eman b’issurin…they’re the eid echad.”
“What we do is al pi halacha…many products on jewish baking and jewish cooking…I think this is all a public relations ploy…I’m not going to say what the other agencies rely upon…we are open, we are above-board…I say something is kosher, I guarantee it’s kosher, I eat it, al pi halacha.”
“Others don’t want to accept it, so very good…we depend on ABC…On cooking for wine, someone will say 190, someone will say 180…what we do, we’ll say openly what we do…but it’s al pi halacha…Rav Moshe has a tshuva that when you take grape juice and you cook it…175…by the crush you cook the grapes…even if it’s all done by a non-jew, it’s kosher…only considered non-kosher after it’s separated…we set up one of our large grape-juice suppliers in that way…Even if it’s fully in non-jewish hands…it’s kosher…we put a mashgiach there, but even if he wouldn’t be there, it’s kosher.”
“You can always bad-mouth somebody if you don’t…it’s innuendo…if you’re not part of the group, part of the inner-group…kosher consultant…has a magazine…and he has clients, and he pushes them…The big ones…one supports the other.”
If people claim there are problems with his supervision, “Why shouldn’t we know the problems, so we’ll know for ourselves the problems?”
“Reb Moshe writes you’re not allowed to take away a hashgocha, even if the company wants your hashgocha.”
What do you think of the trend of increasingly supervising new classes of products, such as water? “No, water doesn’t need a hashgocha…if they would ask us, I would do it, because everyone else is…salt…there are many products that don’t have to a hashgocha, you know it and I know it…frozen fresh cherries, frozen fresh strawberries.”
What about hard liquor? “We permit hard liquor…even though it’s made in caskets…al pi halacha it’s permitted…stam yaynam…They don’t blend, so far as we found out, they don’t blend any wine…we don’t give a hashgocha on whiskey anyway.”
“The only thing I’ll impugn integrity is when it comes to taking away…I know companies that hate Jews now…it’s one thing if you say you’ll…to actually threaten…if they’re not taking their supervision, they’ll bust their chops, terrible words…between 5 and 10 companies…The OU took away Coca-Cola from us…they started putting a rumor, they started refusing it…they started putting all over that it’s not kosher…cat’s eyes, pig’s eyes…you know and I know that it was kosher and it is kosher…Rav Moshe Feinstein was a major supporter of my father…the OU, they’re pretty straight, they don’t go around and take hashgochos…the emes is always interesting.”

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