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Kosher meat market at center of scandal bought by philanthropist

April 03, 2013|By Matt Stevens

A prominent local entrepreneur and philanthropist has purchased Doheny Glatt Kosher meat market as controversy about its products continue to swirl through the Los Angeles Jewish community.

Shlomo Rechnitz, who, according to his tumblr blog, has spent years in the healthcare and medical supply industry, is also an "extraordinarily huge player in the international Jewish world of philanthropy," Rabbi Meyer May said.

Rechnitz purchased the business from former owner Michael Engelman on Sunday, May said. Engelman faces accusations of selling meat that was not properly certified under kosher rules.

Last week, the Rabbinical Council of California pulled Doheny's kosher certification, and Tuesday, The Times reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched an investigation into the market. It was not immediately clear how the sale would affect the USDA investigation.

May, who is president of the Rabbinical Council of California, told The Times that the council would likely return its certification to Doheny under Rechnitz’s ownership, possibly as early as Wednesday. Certification from two rabbis on an interim basis was set to expire Friday.

"This is a fantastic and an extraordinary development because of the rapid speed it took in the interest of the Jewish community," May said. 

May said that Rechnitz was part of a meeting in which rabbis and other community members confronted Engelman about the meat scandal. Rechnitz, a businessman, quickly grasped the meat business, May said: "He saw what the need was and he moved."

Rechnitz could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Doheny Glatt Kosher meat market has come under fire since video released to KTLA purported to show one of Engelman's associates at an unsupervised warehouse in Reseda in early March. In the video, the associate appears to load his car with boxes that once held glatt kosher meat, but that were allegedly repacked with other meat. The associate transfers them to Engelman at a McDonald's, private investigator Eric Agaki, said, and Engelman unloads the boxes at his market when the overseer is absent.

Agaki, who is Jewish, said he had no relationship with Engelman prior to the start of the investigation. But he said that during his investigation it became clear that "a lot of distributors had problems with Doheny."

Kosher meat is considerably more expensive than meat sold in a regular supermarket because of the extra supervision and inspections required. Mixing glatt kosher meat, which meets the highest kosher standards, with non-kosher meat or even kosher meat of a lesser quality could help drive down prices if it was falsely advertised.

A Los Angeles man filed a class-action lawsuit against the market and its owner Tuesday, seeking unspecified damages and alleging fraud, false advertising and other charges. Joshua Fard, 30, of Beverly Hills has three children and said he and his family bought meat from Doheny on a quarterly basis. The market serves patrons in the heavily Orthodox Jewish Pico-Robertson district.

Engelman was not present Friday when The Times visited the market.

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Twitter: @MattStevensLAT 

Email: matt.stevens@latimes.com

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