Jewish women have long been the guardians of the kashrut of their home kitchens and often of their synagogue kitchens. Now, however, women are entering the ranks of mashgihot of commercial and communal establishments as well.
A recent article in jweekly, the Jewish newsweekly of Northern California,1 documented the hiring of several female mashgihot to inspect the kashrut of restaurants and food services in the Bay Area. Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, a kashrut administrator with the Star K in Baltimore, said, “We’ve used women as mashgihot for decades and we’ve found them to be better than men sometimes. They know their way around the kitchen and they follow the rules.”
The Star K was the first kashrut supervision agency to offer a training course for mashgihot, and has run several such courses since 2009. However, completion of the training program does not guarantee a job with the Star K itself. According to an article in the New York Jewish Week,2 the goal is “to share our knowledge and experience for local kosher organizations from the many town and cities” from which the trainees hail.
The OU also holds a training session for women every other summer, with the next one scheduled for the sum-mer of 2015. However, the OU does not bill its program as training to be a mashgihah, but rather for “women interested in a higher level of kashrut awareness.”3
Another place that Jewish women may get training and work as mashgihot is on the college campus. At Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which operates a dining facility that serves the needs of both kosher and vegan students, the mashgihot are Louise Powers and Ricki Gold. At Rutgers University, the JLIC rabbi offered to train students in kashrut supervision, and four of the trainees were young women. “I don’t know of anyone who thought it was remarkable,” said Andrew Getraer, executive director of Rutgers Hillel.
Hopefully, it will become even more unremarkable as more women join the ranks of official mashgihot.