The Orthodox Union West Coast Region’s Ralphs Kosher for Passover Supermarket Tours took place at several locations between March 11 and March 19. From Pico Robertson, to Irvine and Northridge, OU West Coast Director Rabbi Alan Kalinsky and Rabbi Reuven Nathanson, OU Kosher Senior Rabbinical Field Representative and Director presented practical workshops on holiday preparation. Eight different Ralph’s stores in Los Angeles participated in the tours, all of which have a broad selection of kosher products.
Rabbi Kalinsky explained, “We started this program 25 years ago and it was very novel at that time because there were many Baalei Teshuvah who knew little about keeping kosher for Pesach. There was a community wide need for this program, not necessarily to talk about things on the shelf but to point out items that might not need a Pesach hechsher, even though people were unaware of this.”
The event also served to educate shoppers as to which products are Passover compatible and which are limited to Ashkenazi or Sephardi homes. Kitniyot are traditionally avoided in Ashkenazi homes but Sephardi homes can enjoy legumes including rice, corn, dried beans or lentils, peas, green beans, peanuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, mustard, soybeans and millet. Most kosher homes also avoid garlic because of the way it is dried before being sold.
Some of the tours included large groups of synagogue members who came to learn more. The OU team were keen to acknowledge the tremendous effort that Ralphs makes in having such a large variety of products, as well as making space in certain stores for an all-kosher section, The Kosher Experience .
Rabbi Kalinsky added, “We provide a variety of information 2 weeks before the holiday so that shoppers can make their plans. We’ve come a long way in 25 years. It is incredible to see the sheer number of kosher products that have been developed to enhance the Pesach experience – who would have thought that handmade shmura matzah would be available in Ralphs, a mainstream supermarket?”
At the same time groceries sell kosher products that are kosher year round but not suitable for Pesach and this can confuse the most competent shopper. Telma soup mixes and cubes, Lieber’s Coat ‘n Bake coatings, various brands of frozen chopped liver and kishke, Osem, Gefen, Haddar, Manischewitz, Empire and other brands of products besides, have both Pesach and non-Pesach versions of the same products with similar labels.
The trick to being a good kosher shopper is not to be found on a supermarket tour. Rabbi Kalinsky is quick to emphasize the essence of shopping kosher is to read the labels. You cannot assume that non kosher products have necessarily been removed from the shelves prior to Pesach. Even matzah can be unkosher for Passover. Now that’s an oxymoron.
For more information visit: https://oukosher.org/passover