06 Apr RABBI DR. ZECHARIA H. SENTER ZT”L, FOUNDER OF KOF-K HASHGACHA. Q & A WITH THE FOUNDER OF THE KOF-K KOSHER SUPERVISION, RABBI ZECHARIA SENTER ZT”L
Rabbi Dr. Zecharia H. Senter zt”l, CEO and founder of Kof-K Kosher Supervision Services, was niftar the last day of Pesach at the age of 84.
Rabbi Senter zt”l was a musmach of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon and a close talmid to Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt “l. He was also a Rav in North Bergen , N.J. and then in Teaneck where he lived for the past 50 years.
Rabbi Senter zt”l maintained a close relationship with many esteemed Rabbanim including Rav Moshe Aaron Poleyeff, his wife’s grandfather, Rav Ahron Soloveitchik , whom he also considered to be his Rebbe, Rav Aaron Felder, Rav Shlomo Gissinger and many others.
Rabbi Senter zt”l built the Kof-K into the internationally recognized hechsher that it is today. The Kof-K is now run by two of his sons, Rabbi Daniel and Rabbi Ari Senter.
Rabbi Senter zt”l is survived by his wife Chana, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren – bnei Torah, involved in chessed, chinuch and harbatzas Torah in their communities and beyond.
The Levayah took place this past Monday, April 5, at RYNJ, in River Edge, NJ. The aron was then flown to Eretz Yisroel for kevurah on Har Hamenuchos in Yerushalayim.
Yehi zichro boruch.
“Rabbi Senter zt”l was a pioneer in the world of Industrial Kashrus. He was an individual of great intellect, but at the same time very warm & easy to get along with.”
–Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the OU
“Rabbi Zecharia Senter zt”l and I were actually quite close. The Senter family are tremendous Baalei Chessed. Along with his tremendous accomplishments in the kashrus industry and being the founder of the Kof-K, he was also a mathematician. Above all, Rabbi Senter zt”l was a loyal talmid of Rav Soloveitchik. He always went to the Rav’s shiurim and the Rav was very fond of him. Recently, I told Rabbi Senter’s children that I was listening to an unpublished tape of the Rav from 1961 in which he was learning Hilchos Tefillin. The Rav called on Rabbi Senter to read and said b’derech chiba, ‘Senter, you’re a mathematician. I want you to read precisely!’ ”
-Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the OU
THIS SECTION IS PART OF AN INTERVIEW ARI HIRSCH/JEWISH VUES DID WITH RABBI SENTER ZT”L TWO YEARS AGO.
When and why did you get into kashrus supervision?
I graduated from Yeshiva College in 1958. In 1959 I got my PhD in mathematics, and Smicha from RIETS in 1963. After I graduated, I taught mathematics at Fairleigh Dickinson University in the mornings, and at YU in the afternoons to supplement my income. In the early 1960s, the students at YU decided to publish a manual about kosher foods, and asked me to help them. Kashrus was always a special interest of mine. As a boy, local store owners called me “Kid Ingredients,” because I was always reading the ingredients labels on packaged foods. I knew which products were kosher, which were treif, and which were “yesh v’yesh.” So I served as the faculty advisor for the student publication, called “A Guide to Kashrut.”
Who was your first client in kosher supervision?
The first big company I certified was Howard Johnson Ice Cream. It was a popular product sold in restaurants that were part of the Howard Johnson motels; but it was not sold in supermarkets. I contacted the company and spoke with them about marketing kosher ice cream in supermarkets, which they eventually agreed to do. They asked me to be their certifying rabbi. It was a complicated process, because they had eight manufacturing plants across the country. Living in New Jersey, I realized I would need to hire mashgichim to inspect the remote plants. The company agreed to pay all the necessary costs. They asked me to submit all the details on my company stationery. At the time I had no company stationery, or even a company name. So I made up a name on the spot: Kosher Supervision Service, or KSS. I had the stationery printed, and I was in business.
Did your business grow quickly after that?
Baruch Hashem, yes. After one year of certifying Howard Johnson Ice Cream, there was a marked rise in their sales. As a result, more business came along. The next big name in ice cream was Schrafft’s. Somebody from Scrafft’s called me and said, “We’re interested in certifying our ice cream as kosher. Do you do any other ice cream brands”? I said, “Yes, we give the certification for Howard Johnson.” So he said, “If it’s good enough for Howard Johnson, it’s good enough for us”. Later, Carvel signed on as well.
What kinds of advice did you seek in your business?
I went to the Skvere Rebbe to ask another question. “Should I hire one person or a Bais Din and tell them to advise me on whether or not to accept a product?” I’ll never forget his answer: “NO! Not an advisor! It has to be his singular decision, or the bais din’s group decision. You have to accept that their word is binding, final and binding”! That’s what we did. It had to be someone who tells you what to do, and it’s done! And we follow what the Bais Din says!
The KOF-K now has a Vaad Halacha, a Rabbinic Committee which is responsible for all of the Kashrus policies of the KOF-K. The Bais Din of the Vaad is comprised of three eminently qualified Morei HoRa’ah, noted Rabbinic authorities: Rav Shlomo Gissinger (zt”l). and Rav Shmuel Meir Katz, shlit’a, Rav Moshe Chaim Kahan shlit’a. The Bais Din is the final authority on all matters of kashrus at the KOF-K.