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Founded in 1984 by Rabbi Aron Lieberman and Rabbi Edward Davis, the Orthodox Rabbinical Board of Broward and Palm Beach Counties sought to fill a void in reliable kashrus standards in Southeastern Florida. Soon the "kosher style" stores and caterers started asking for reliable kosher certification. The ORB hired Rabbi Berel Simpser as its kashrus administrator and instituted a policy, still in effect to this day, of not soliciting kosher business. Kosher certification was – and continues to be - intended as a community service, to enable a reliable local rabbinical authority to effect and maintain standards that the entire community would trust.
In 1989 Rabbi Kenny Brander organized the South Palm Beach Vaad with the encouragement and blessing of the ORB. Rabbi Brander hired Rabbi Pesach Weitz as the kashrus administrator. In 1998 the South Palm Beach Vaad joined together with the Orthodox Rabbinical Board to create a single, unified kashrus agency that would service the entire Southeastern Florida Jewish community.
The ORB is a non-profit agency. (The administrators receive a salary, and the executive branch members receive no compensation for their services.) South Florida's economy relies significantly upon tourists, vacationers, and "snowbirds." Heavily Jewish areas, and thus kosher interest, can be found throughout this expansive region. The organization has therefore grown into one of the largest regional hashgachos in the country, with well over 100 facilities, a large pool of mashgichim, and close to 1000 square miles of territory to supervise.
The ORB envisions an expanding community role in which it can foster and further community awareness and practice of kashrus, laying of tefillin, affixing and checking of mezuzos, and checking for shatnez. The ORB hopes to expand its role in providing support services to its constituent pulpit rabbis. Also on the horizon might be a periodic magazine enumerating services provided by the ORB, providing an overview of Jewish life in Southeastern Florida, and offering explanations of the ORB's policies regarding kashrus, gittin, beis din, bris milah, and safrus, describing issues to be aware of as holidays approach, and enumerating the challenges of providing kosher supervision to hotels, cruises, and large caterers.
In order to understand what the Torah wants us focus on, and to understand the philosophy of kashrut, it is necessary to be superficially familiar with the kashrut laws themselves. Following is a brief overview:
1. A kosher animal must be a ruminant and have split hooves -- cows, sheep, goats and deer are all kosher, whereas camels and pigs (having each only one sign of kashrut) are not kosher. Most common fowl are kosher, like chickens, ducks and geese, but the birds of prey (hawks, eagles etc.) are not kosher. A sea creature is only kosher if it has fins and scales. So most species of fish are kosher (tuna, salmon, flounder, etc.) but all shellfish are not kosher; dolphins, whales and squids are also not kosher. Any food product of a non-kosher animal is also non-kosher. The exception to this rule is bee's honey.
2. An animal or bird must be slaughtered according to Jewish law (shechita). This involves cutting the animal's trachea and oesophagus (the carotid and jugular are also severed) with a surgically sharp knife. The cut must be swift, continuous and performed by an expert. This method of slaughter reduces the blood pressure in the brain to zero immediately, so that the animal loses consciousness in a few seconds and dies in minutes.
3. The animal or bird must be free of treifot, which are 70 different categories of injuries, diseases or abnormalities whose presence renders the animal non-kosher.
4. Certain fats, known as chelev, may not be eaten. Blood must be removed from the meat, either by soaking, salting and rinsing or by broiling. The sciatic nerve in each leg and the surrounding fat must be removed.
5. It is forbidden to cook, eat, or benefit from milk and meat mixtures. It is also forbidden to cook or eat dairy products together with poultry.
6. In Israel, tithes must be taken from all crops. If these tithes are not separated then the produce may not be eaten; the wheat, barley or fruit is actually not kosher until the commandments of tithing have been fulfilled.
7. Milk products (including the rennet in cheese) must only come from kosher animals.