In many schools there is a kitchen which provides a hot midday meal for the pupils. I understood that strangely this did not come within the jurisdiction of the school. It even had its own separate telephone number. The Headmaster was only responsible for seeing that meals were served to the pupils.
Needless to say, in schools such as the King David Schools, the kitchens must be strictly kosher. Instead of purchasing the meat from the butcher listed by the local School Meal Service, it is purchased from one of the local kosher butchers. Since kosher meat is more expensive, I understand that the King David Foundation had to pay the difference to some official body in Liverpool. At first the Liverpool Shechita Board would donate an equivalent amount of money to the King David Foundation. Those were the years when Shechita in Liverpool was done for other parts of the country, including London. The Board then had plenty of money! All good things come to an end, and soon the Liverpool Shechita Board was only doing local Shechita. It then had to stop donating money to the King David Foundation.
There was no official kashrut supervision on the kitchens of either King David Schools. The Director of Jewish Studies of the High School, amongst his many other duties, would “keep an eye” on the High School kitchen. But there is a world of difference between keeping an eye on something and having constant supervision!
The major problem was to ensure that all the products reaching the kitchen were kosher. The head cook made out the food orders on an official form of the School Meal Service, in accordance with the official list of manufacturers or suppliers. I gave an instruction to the school that no order might go out until it had been countersigned by me.
There was one manufacturer on this official list who had supplied Rabbi Solomon with a list that only contained products which were in accordance with our dietary laws. I noticed that the head cook had ordered a certain jelly product, but I could not find this exact product on the list. Since it was a jelly, I was suspicious that it might contain forbidden gelatin. I therefore went to the kitchen and in the presence of the head cook, telephoned the firm and asked them about this product. They told me that it didn’t appear because it did not conform to our dietary laws. This order was therefore not authorised by me.
The cook then insisted that she needed a jelly. The only one I could authorise was Snowcrest, which was under Rabbinical supervision, but it did not appear on the School Meal Service list. I therefore wrote to them explaining that their jelly did not conform with our dietary laws and requested that they therefore authorise Snowcrest. They immediately did so. There were also other occasions when similar things arose and I had to find substitute products. To their great credit and understanding the School Meal Service always authorised everything I requested without any further question.
Another product I would not allow the cook to use was potato powder. I had heard that it could contain non-kosher ingredients
Whilst I was in Liverpool, the London Beth Din brought out a booklet of supervised and approved products. A supervised product is one under Rabbinical supervision. An approved product is one, which whilst not under supervision, has been investigated by the Beth Din and they are satisfied that it does not include non-kosher ingredients. Obviously supervised is preferable to approved.
One of the products the cook wished to use was crisps. On the Beth Din list appeared Smiths crisps as “approved” and Snowcrest as “supervised.” The School Meal Service had Smiths crisps on their list. I allowed them to use Smith’s. I did not feel it would be right to make superfluous requests to the School Meal Service, who were so helpful to us.
Although almost all the meals were meaty, the kitchen on occasion, (such as during the “Nine Days”), served milky meals. I therefore also had to check the complete separation of meat and milk in the kitchen. There were a number of sinks and I asked the cook to label them meat or milk. One day I went into the kitchen and saw she had painted a letter M above each sink. The only problem was that M is the first letter of both meat and milk!
I therefore asked the woodwork teacher to make me a number of small laminated boards, which he did. I ordered self adhesive large letters in two colours and on these boards stuck on the letters in different colours to spell out MILK and MEAT. I then glued these boards with contact glue above each sink.
I was also in regular contact with the Shechita Board and periodically asked them to send their Rabbi and their supervisor to look around the kitchens. It happened that on one occasion, one day before they were due to come, someone contacted them to say that non-kosher meat had been served in the Primary School kitchen. I am convinced that it was a malicious lie, since all the meat came from a local Kosher butcher. What is more, I understand that the non-Jewish cook in the Primary School was very trustworthy. (The Rabbi of the Shechita Board told me that on one occasion when she had unknowingly used some non-kosher product, she was genuinely upset about it.) On that day when both the Rabbi and the supervisor arrived for their planned inspection, the cook of the High School quickly said “You’ve come to the wrong school!” They explained to her that it was nothing to do with what had allegedly happened at the Primary School and their visit had been planned well before that.
The school also had a Cookery Department and obviously all cooking had to be done in accordance with the dietary laws. Whilst I was in the school, there were a number of different cookery teachers, some Jewish and others non-Jewish. I would prefer a non-Jewish teacher to a Jewish one who did not keep kashrut. When the school appointed a Jewish one, my first question to the Headmaster was “Does she herself observe kashrut?” He answered in the affirmative.
I would periodically make inspections of the Cookery Department and I was very pleased to see how everything was carefully labelled meat or milk. On one occasion I learned that the non-Jewish cookery teacher was using non-kosher yellow cheese. She genuinely did not realise that it was not permitted. I pointed out that she could only use cheese under Rabbinical supervision.
Before each Pesach, the school would make a model Seder for the lower classes and I would go to the Cookery Department to help prepare the various foods. We would roast a bone for each table, and prepare the other Seder dishes. One of the non-Jewish teachers grew horseradish in his garden and he would gladly give us a number of sticks for this model Seder. We would grate it up and what a job it was to grate up such a large quantity. We must all have been crying by the time we finished.
Every year the school would raise money for various charities, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Each class would have its own method of raising such money. One of the classes took it upon itself to run a tuck shop which sold sweets, chocolates, crisps and soft drinks. I insisted that everything sold had to be strictly Kosher.
With the development of food technology, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know which products, especially in the confectionery lines, contain no non-kosher ingredients. In the 1950 there was the famous “Gateshead Sweets List” which listed over 500 kosher kinds of confectionery. In the early 1960s, when Gateshead stopped bringing out their list, I myself began to bring out a similar type of list. In those days, manufacturers knew what went into their products. As time went on and the food industry became more sophisticated, a flavouring agent could be made up of 50 components! In the early 1970s, a Committee of real experts in this field started bringing out an annual booklet on approved products, but a few years later these experts stopped. They said that it had become too complicated. And if it was too hard for the experts to decide what is kosher, what can we say about the laymen?!
I therefore only allowed sweets and chocolates under Rabbinical supervision. I found out the names of a number of suppliers and put in the orders. Much of this confectionery came from the Continent, from countries such as Belgium or Holland. I bought big packets of sweets and the tuck shop would then sell individual sweets. Soft drinks were acceptable without Rabbinical supervision and I bought these from a local supplier.
With regard to crisps, at the beginning I would allow Smiths crisps, which had been approved by the London Beth Din. However, after consultations with the Rabbi of the Shechita Board, who told me it was preferable to buy those under Rabbinical supervision, I changed over to supervised crisps. Should one ask why in the dining room I allowed Smiths but in the tuck shop I didn’t, the answer is that the School Meals Service is financed by public funds, whereas a tuck shop is a private enterprise. When I started buying these supervised crisps, I asked the supplier to let me have them at the same price as Smiths. He initially agreed, but then telephoned me to tell me that he had not taken into account that there was VAT on crisps. In fact I kept the supervised crisps at the same price as I had had for Smiths. I made the profits on the soft drinks, so that pupils should not say that kosher food is much more expensive than non-Kosher food!
The pupils could thus observe kashrut and at the same time raise money for charity.
Before every Pesach, I would arrange the sale of the school’s Chametz. The “Delegation of Power of Attorney for Sale of Chametz” written by the Liverpool Shechita Board was among the best I have ever seen, even in Israel. They gave a place and sufficient room to write down the specific location of the Chametz during Pesach. Accordingly, for the School I would list, for example, the school kitchens, the Cookery Department and the tuck shop.
School trips provide an excellent means of illustrating how precepts learned in Jewish Studies lessons are not just theoretical ideas but can be put into practice. If members of the secular staff, both Jewish and non-Jewish organise these trips and ensure that kashrut, Shabbat and davening are put fully into practice, the implication is that Jewish practices are encouraged not just by the Jewish Studies staff.
Around 1974, various school trips, designed to include Jewish pupils, but which included non-kosher food and Shabbat desecration had been arranged (and some had indeed taken place), by the Deputy Head together with a non-Jewish teacher. One of the participants told me that included in the menu was cheese pie prepared and eaten at a non-Jewish establishment! – (it was certain to have contained non-kosher ingredients).
As soon as I heard about these trips, I went to speak to Henry Lachs, Chairman of the Governors, and he immediately agreed with me that these trips must be stopped for Jewish pupils.
As a result of my intervention, “the Governors affirmed the following principles which will apply to school trips and holiday schemes:-
(i) When Jewish children are taking part in a holiday party there must be at least one Jewish person among those in charge;
(ii) On all such holidays and trips there must be proper provision for the observance of Shabbat and Kashrut.
“The governors aim firstly to ensure that all children at the school will be able to join in these important school activities without sacrifice of religious principle and secondly to provide positive opportunity for the children on holiday to live by the practices which form an essential part of their Jewish education at the school.”
Following this ruling of the Governors, the Headmaster sent a letter to the parents:
At their most recent meeting the Governors laid down a principle affecting school journeys, other than day excursions, in which Jewish pupils participate. Not only must nothing be done to offend against dinim (and this has been our rule in the past), but there must also be a positive Jewish content.
In these circumstances we must cancel the European Classical Tour and withdraw Jewish pupils from the summer camps....
One might ask, if as the Headmaster had written in his letter, “and this has been our rule in the past,” why was this rule not enforced?!
Towards the end of 1976, an overnight visit to London to the Pompeii Exhibition had been arranged by the Deputy Head. The itinerary included a non-Kosher breakfast at a non-Jewish hotel and no provision had been made for davening. The Headmaster was fully aware of these arrangements but he raised no objections. When I heard about these arrangements, I made serious objections and was told by the Deputy Head that he would tolerate no interference by me. I went on to show that this trip could just as easily take place with the observance of kashrut and davening.
I first telephoned the JFS school, (which was then quite near to Euston Station, from where one takes a train to Liverpool), and asked whether it would be possible for a group of our pupils to eat dinner at their school. Their kitchen staff agreed. They said they would have to obtain official permission from the school meals service and that they would ask for such permission.
For breakfast, I proposed that on the previous day, food packages would be prepared in the King David High School, containing buttered rolls, tomatoes, cheese etc.
As far as davening was concerned, I hoped that the organisers would make suitable arrangements, and if a Synagogue was near the hotel, the attendance by the boys for Shacharit would be arranged.
I put down all these facts in a memorandum which I sent to the Chairman of the Governors, the Members of the Religious Advisory Committee, the Headmaster and the Deputy Head.
However, the format of this visit was altered to that of a daytime visit only, which would commence at Lime Street station, Liverpool. Being 2nd February, it was too dark to daven Shacharit before setting out. The RAC hoped that suitable arrangements would be made en route for Shacharit. A few days before the trip some pupils informed me that no such arrangements were included in the itinerary of the Deputy Head. This was confirmed to me by the Deputy Head, who insisted that they were running on a tight schedule and therefore there was no time for davening and that pupils must make private arrangements. I cannot recollect him telling me what he had in mind for such private arrangements! I then informed him that I considered it to be the organisers’ responsibility to make suitable arrangements and I gave this opinion to him in writing:
From our conversation this morning, I was upset to learn that no arrangements were being made by the organisers of the Pompeii trip to London, for davening during this trip. I feel I ought to put in writing my view on this subject, which I informed you in our conversation.
In my view, when a Jewish school arranges a trip and the pupils are under the jurisdiction of the school throughout the period of a particular service (in this case Shacharit and Minchah), then the organisers should make the necessary arrangements for davening.
It is too dark to daven Shacharit before setting out on this trip.
There was also a plan of the Headmaster’s for a group of pupils to go to London for a Shabbat and be guests at the houses of JFS pupils. I was concerned with the standard of kashrut etc. at the houses they would be staying at. Remember the JFS does not allow pupils to bring lunch boxes from home to the school, since they are concerned about problems of kashrut! Everyone must eat a school dinner. I therefore suggested to the Headmaster that if he would like pupils to spend a Shabbat in London, he should arrange for them to stay with Lubavitch families. He, however, was sure that the kashrut would be in order even if the families turned on the lights on Shabbat. I can say that from my experience a person who will turn on lights on Shabbat, cannot be relied upon to have a good standard of kashrut. In the end this trip never took place.