A beekeeping member of Borehamwood shul has just become the first Brit to be granted a hechsher for honey by the London Beth Din – and just in time for Rosh Hashanah.
Speaking to Jewish News, Ian Shenker, 67, recalled how he was sat outside Orli’s, a famous bagel bakery, when he wondered whether they’d like to buy his honey. Enquiring inside, he was pointed to the KLBD logo and told he needed a hechsher.
“I said ‘honey’s kosher,’ but they were insistent that all their produce had to have a hechsher,” said the retired teacher and foster parent who has kept bees for 35 years.
“I phoned up KLBD and spoke to a rabbi, but he said it costs money. I said I’m only a small beekeeper, and he said he’d see what he could do. The next day I had a call saying Rabbi Conway, the KLBD head honcho, wanted to come and see me.”
Conway, director of KLBD, the kosher certification agency of the London Beth Din, has a personal fascination with honey bees and halacha and arranged to meet Shenker, who pursues his hobby despite being allergic to bee-stings.
“He grilled me for two hours. I took him through the process. He was very knowledgeable and asked all sorts of questions, like do I feed them with syrup, how do I make sure the syrup doesn’t get mistaken for honey, that kind of thing. At the end he said he was happy to grant me a hechsher.”
Delighted, Shenker took ten jars of his newly-certificated honey to Just Kosher, and soon had a call from the owner asked for more. “They’d sold six in as many days,” says Shenker. “I only have two hives so I’ve not got much left.”
Working with a friend as part of Barnet Bee Keeping Association, Shenker said this year’s unusual weather has been “crazy,” but that the threats to bees in 2018 adds a huge importance to his work, describing bees as “almost protected”.
Shenker is now the first United Synagogue (US) member to be granted a kosher certificate for honey and Rabbi Conway, director of KLBD, the kosher certification agency of the London Beth Din, was impressed by Shenker’s work. has a personal fascination with honey bees and halacha. He said:
“It was a pleasure to meet Mr Shenker of ‘In the Wood Honey,’ our very own United Synagogue beekeeper,” said Conway. “I learned some fascinating new details about beekeeping and was delighted to be able to grant KLBD kosher certification just in time for Rosh Hashanah.”
Jews traditionally begin the Jewish New Year meal by dipping the challah (bread) into honey, followed with an apple dipped in honey, then a short prayer asking for renewal and a “sweet” year.
Conway said the custom of eating honey on Rosh Hashanah goes back many hundreds of years and, according to some sources, refers specifically to the honey made by bees, rather than something like honey made from dates.
“Bees’ honey is a unique and fascinating substance and its production is truly one of the wonders of the world,” said Conway. “To produce a pound of honey, bees have to visit two million flowers and travel a distance equivalent to twice around the earth.”