09 Jul Q&A With Jack of all Trades and Problem Solver Rabbi Daniel Senter
Name: Rabbi Daniel Senter
Currently Lives in: Teaneck
Family: Wife Jody and 5 children
Titles: Rabbi, Mohel, Shochet, carded ASA umpire & baseball coach, EMT & CPR instructor, classic auto collector, master beer brewer, fishing guide, story teller, magician, balloonist, Animal handler clock maker, swim
instructor and outdoorsman
Current title at the KOF-K:
Chief Operating Officer
Years at the KOF-K:
over 30 years
You are clearly involved in many different things. Let’s start with your day job. Please tell everyone about the KOF-K.
KOF-K Kosher Supervision is one of the premier kosher certifying agencies in the world, certifying thousands of products each year. It was started 50 years ago by its CEO & founder, my father Rabbi Dr. Zecharia Senter. The KOF-K is directed by a staff of kosher food production specialists, each an expert in various aspects of the food industry. Flavor chemists, dairy and bakery professionals, meat processing advisers and computer experts are always available for consultation and have deep and broad knowledge of their respective areas of expertise. All kashrus policies are governed by a Vaad Halacha that reviews and decides all questions of halacha which may arise. KOF-K was the one of first kosher agencys to introduce computer technology to the complexities of kasher supervision/management. In addition to automated inspection tracking, KOF-K has compiled an extensive and comprehensive database of ingredients and ingredient suppliers, fully digitized, and accessible to all companies under KOF-K supervision/ certification. This technology has placed KOF-K at the leading edge of contemporary Kosher supervision, raising industry standards to a new high and providing unsurpassed service, responsiveness, and speed. We give hashgachas to many different companies including Pepsi, Carvel, Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Canada Dry, Canada bread, Listerine, and so many more. With offices across the world, and with their strong interest in consulting with a wide range of experts in various fields to stay current with the trends in technology and food production, the KOF-K has transformed a family business fifty years ago to an internationally recognized symbol of kashrus.
What is your job description for a typical day at the KOF-K?
On a day-to-day basis, I interact with Rabbinic administrators that work in our office. Many of them work under me. If they have technical questions, they very often come to me to figure out how to deal with them quickly. I tend to navigate my way through some of the more challenging situations. I normaly don’t deal with the day to day running of the Kasuris of companies but oversee much of it and I do a lot of the problem solving. I also oversee food service, restaurants, and caterers. The way food service usually works is there is an in-house mashgiach, there’s a head mashgiach who travels around and oversees everything, and then there’s a rabbinic administrator. The OU calls them the RC-the Rabbinic Coordinator, and I sit on top of all of them. Essentially, I run the food service division. They answer to me, not on a daily basis but when there’s a problem to solve, I very often deal with that. I also deal with the other administrators in the office. We have many administrators including myself, my father; my brother, and my uncle (my mother’s brother Rabbi Yehuda Rosenbaum). We also have about seven or eight other Rabbinic administrators in our main office in Teaneck. We have satellite offices in Deal, New Jersey and California.
How many companies do you currently certify?
We currently certify several hundred companies. We have about 40 full time staff and well over 100 part time staff members.
How often does somebody from KOF- K typically see a company?
It depends on the company. Some we see once a month and others that are once a day and anywhere in between. For instance, a company that makes bottled water only needs to be visited four times a year. Then there are companies who produce meat that need full-time supervision.
What would you consider to be the most challenging part of your job as a kashrut administrator this day and age?
I am never off. It’s not like other jobs where if there’s an issue it can be dealt with the next day. If we have a problem reguardless of the time I often have to drop everything and deal with the problem immediately. Kasrush is not a 9-5 job its 24/7.
How did you become a shochet?
I was always interested in Kashrut. As I kid I went on inspections with my father and in the early years the Kof-K office was in our home. I also had a love and fascination with animals so when I was learning in Toras Moshe, I decided that I was either going to become a vegetarian or become a shochet.
You own a bee farm. How did you get into that?
I visited a friend of mine who had a farm and was raising chickens. He was trying to figure out how to shecht and pluck them (you can’t use hot water). He was also having problems with his coop. So, as I mentioned, I’m a problem solver. I went to visit the farm and I saw these boxes and he told me those were his bees. I said “Bees?! Are you out of your mind? They sting!” He said, “Well I don’t normally get stung”. Then I saw he had a fence and I asked him, “What’s the fence going to do? The bees will fly right through it?” (Which is actually a mistake because they wouldn’t’ fly through it, they’d fly above it). He said “The fence is not to keep the bees in. That’s to keep the bears out!” I found this very interesting and I went and bought a book about beekeeping. The next Spring I bought my first two hives. I have bees here [in the Catskills], in New York, Teaneck, and overlooking Central Park. I get some calls for bee emergencies. Sometimes people will have bees in their walls, in the trees outside etc. Very often they’re not honey bees, so I’ll direct them to an exterminator. If they are honey bees I’ll rescue them.
Are you a magician?
I’m an amateur magician. I performed at the Paramount in the Catskills. I was working there supervising Kashrut on a Pesach program and they asked me to perform a magic show. I also performed in Moscow. (I have a cousin there.) I have performed in nursing homes and bungalow colonies. I’m an entertainer and a storyteller, but not a great magician. I was always a storyteller. I get that from my father.
You’re an umpire/referee. How did that come about? How often do you ref games?
I played Little League as a child and when my boys started to play, I became a coach. After Little League, my boys not only played recreationally, but actually played competitively. As I took more interest in their hobbies, I started studying and eventually took course in umpiring.
Have you ever umpired an OBBL game?
Yes, I did for many years.
How did reffing an OBBL game differ from other leagues?
More arguing and fighting. I once went to an umpire interview, not for the OBBL, but also in an area where these umpires call softball. Softball umpires call a lot of girls’ games, they do a lot of slow pitches, extremely competitive games, and also men’s games. These umpires have to sit through a test every year and you need to join a group and then they’ll assign you games. One year I was at one of these meetings and they were talking about this one league and how difficult the players are and how they scream and yell and use profanity. As an umpire, you need to stay neutral and you cannot give in to the pressure of the players. If a player knows he can push you around, everyone will yell at you. So at these referee meetings, they very often tell you what to expect. I had no idea what he was talking about, but then he identified that the league was a Shul league. He said that often the most difficult leagues are the frum (Jewish) leagues. I wish this wasn’t true but my experience has shown the same. I suppose this is because we’re very competitive and we’re used to arguing from being in the Bais Medrash. It doesn’t justify it, and the average Goyish umpire doesn’t understand it.
I hear that you have a hotel and a farm Upstate in the Catskills.
It’s a home and we do have a number of animals. I describe it as a smaller farm. The property used to be called Hotel Israel. Many gedolim visited this hotel on a regular basis for many summers. My family purchased it in 2009.
Does your family have a lot of guests on a regular basis?
We try to have guests most Shabbosim. Sometimes friends and family and sometimes other people. Rabbi Paysach Krohn and his wife come almost every summer.
You’re an EMT. How often do you go out on calls? Are you part of Hatzolah? What do you do?
Teaneck does not have a formal Hatzolah, but we do have a volunteer ambulance service. I’m probably the president there and I’ve been involved for many years. I ride regularly for them and I go on numerous calls over the course of a day.
What is your drive to do all of these things?
I was always fascinated by how things work. I am constantly amazed with Neflaos Haborei! Many of the things that I do are directly related to mitvos that are often overlooked. Last year we were planning for a peter chamor but our dunkey gave birth to a girl. This summer we are have 5 sheep join the farm so we can preform Rashas Hagaz.