Piotr Kowalik: Rabbi Charlap, you live in Israel, but you have many connections to Poland- both work connections and blood connections. Please tell us about them.
Rabbi Charlap: We can start with my roots. My family, the Charlaps - which is Hebrew initials of “Head of the Polish exiles”- family, arrived to the land of Israel from Poland, and this surname was given to it here in Poland. We had been living in Poland for over two hundred years.
R: In Wolkowysk and in Mariampol, which is nowadays part of Lithuania, but at that time they belonged to Poland. We arrived here from Italy, and before Italy we lived in Spain and in Portugal. In 5610, according to the Jewish calendar (which corresponds to the years of 1850 according to the Christian calendar), 162 years ago, we arrived in the land of Israel. Of course, the surname remained Charlap, and therefore wherever I go, I see Poland in front of me: my surname contains the letter P, for Polin- Poland. So when I started my work, or better, when due to my work, I started to visit in Poland, I was excited to come back to the place where my forefathers grew up, worked, created, studied and learned the Torah, and to set in this place a Kashrut system, connected to the Nestlé transnational corporation.
As in many countries in the world, which have discovered the potential of the growing and developing Kosher market, so have entrepreneurs in Poland discovered this potential, and there is a great demand for Kosher certificates among factories in Poland, both for raw materials and for finished products, in order to be able to distribute these products in the Kosher market, which is nowadays a big business. I can give you examples of three big Nestlé factories that produce Kosher products in Poland- one located in Toruń, which produces morning cereals; another in Łowicz, which produces the “fitness bars”, and the third one in Dzierżow, the “Gerber” factory for baby products, which nowadays belongs to Nestlé, and conducts special Kosher lines from time to time. In the area of raw materials, I can speak about factories such as “Jaworski” from Dobre Miasto, which is the biggest producer of air dry vegetables in Europe, responsible for the annual supply of over 6,000 tons of dried vegetables. Another big factory with which Nestlé works is located in Głowno, and manufactures potato flakes, of which the instant mashed potatoes are made and different instant-cooking products by Nestlé in Israel. Apparently, potatoes in Poland have a special quality, since these are products of a very high quality.
But what is more interesting is that although unfortunately only a tiny percentage is left nowadays from the vast and rich Jewish community that was active in Poland, three and a half million Jews, and although Poland had most unfortunately passed through the worst of the atrocities of the Holocaust, it seems that something in the atmosphere, in the air, has still remained from the past times. Something from the Torah, which so many Jews have worshipped and studies so much here, is left. For example, I was driving here with a non-Jewish factory manager, and I asked him where he lives. He replied that during the working season, he lives in the factory. I insisted and asked him why, and then he said that he thinks it’s good that the boss will be together with the workers during their work, so he can supervise the work all the time. And I thought to myself at this very moment: “How did such divine wisdom reach a a non-Jew?”. For this principle is in the Talmudic tractate of “Bava Metzia” (“The Middle Gate”), as written: “He who wishes to lose all his fortune, let him take workers and not stand next to them”, meaning, not to supervise them. And if this principle of supervising over the employees is written in the Talmud, it is obviously related to the divine wisdom, so apparently the atmosphere here is so full of divine wisdom, despite all the disasters and atrocities, that something reached even this “goy”.
And so, thank god, we have managed to build here a Kashrut structure that produces and distributes various Kosher products to observing Jews throughout the world, and they can now enjoy the products, made here in Poland.
P: Thank you very much, and all the best.
R: You are welcome.