Binyomin Karbal finds living in farm country more satisfying than city life.
A transplant from New York City, Karbal is living in Morrisons Cove where he is performing an important job for Jews who follow biblical dietary laws.
An Orthodox Jewish rabbi, Karbal makes sure that milk from cows on the Kulp Family Dairy - Huntsman Farm in Martinsburg is Chalav Yisrael, or milk produced under kosher supervision.
(Mirror Photo by Gary M. Baranec) Rabbi Binyomin Karbal makes sure that milk from the Kulp farm in Martinsburg meets kosher requirements before it is shipped to a kosher cheese plant where it is made into products such as mozzarella cheese for kosher restaurants and pizza shops on the East Coast.
Philip Kulp, owner of the farm, said he decided to invite kosher production in November as a way to get more value for his milk product and to meet the needs of a specific market.
From before the cows are milked to the time the product is trucked to a manufacturing plant in New Jersey, Karbal makes sure it is pure, clean and up to the standards of the religious Jewish diet.
At the plant, the milk is used to make sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese and high-quality mozzarella cheese that is sold to kosher pizza shops and restaurants in cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cleveland.
About 660 cows are milked three times a day at the smaller of the two Kulp farms, and Karbal inspects each milking that is to be designated kosher. Sixteen cows are milked every seven minutes, and Karbal remains in the barn for the entire milking, which takes about seven hours.
He first checks the cows to make sure they are healthy and that none of the animals have had surgery on their hind quarters. The cows with the surgery are considered unfit for the Chalav Yisrael standard.
Kulp said it is the only thing about the milking process that he has changed for kosher production. He said only about 5 percent of the cows need the surgery during their lifetime, and it is for what is commonly known as a twisted stomach.
Before and after each milking, Karbal inspects parts of the milker (hoses, cups and pumps) that are sanitized after each milking.
The milk's temperature is about 90 degrees when it leaves the cow, but it goes into a compressor and is cooled to about 40 degrees.
It is then pumped into a temperature-controlled tank that holds 56,000 pounds of milk. The tank previously has been steamed to meet kosher standards.
"If the product sits in the tank too long, it takes on the properties of the container," he said. For this reason, milk cannot remain in the tank for more than 24 hours.
If the milk in the tank is satisfactory, he seals the lid to make sure it is not tampered with in any way and marks it with the date and his name in Hebrew.
When the tanker truck arrives to transport the milk, Karbal inspects it using a light and makes sure it has a wash ticket.
He places a seal with his name and the date in Hebrew on the tanker's lid and the rear of the truck. The markings identify the milk as kosher when it is received at the cheese plant.
If Karbal finds impurities during any stage of his inspection, the milk cannot be declared kosher.
He always has found the milk pure, he said.
"The Kulp farm has won awards for its milk. It's very clean," he said.
All the work is important to Jews who abide by dietary laws.
"Religious Jews only eat kosher," Karbal said, "and 45 percent of their daily intake of food comes from cows, whether it be milk, cheese or meat.
Therefore, it is important for Jews who follow a kosher diet to know that products are up to Chalav Yisrael standards and/or Glatt standards for meat products, Karbal said.
"It's all about eating healthy. For anyone, what you take in [in your senses] has an effect on you - whether it's eating, reading or hearing," he said.
Kosher laws can be traced to the time of Moses when God established laws for the Israelites that are recorded in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. To know these laws and how to apply them is the work of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, as well as the people who follow a kosher diet.
Karbal is certified by the Chicago Rabbinical Council and New Square Kosher to perform kosher supervisory work. He received his education by attending two years of rabbinical school at Tomchei T-mimin in Kfar Chabad, Israel, after high school. However, he would need at least seven years of schooling and training under a rabbi to serve as the leader of an Orthodox synagogue.
Karbal grew up in Michigan and went to rabbinical school on the advice of his spiritual leader, Rabbi Menachem Shneerson.
He felt the young Jewish men should be knowledgeable of Jewish and dietary laws before they married. The knowledge would help husbands know what to ask to solve issues that might occur in the home.
In Jewish homes abiding by kosher laws, the kitchen contains two sets of pots and pans and cooking utensils. Meat and dairy products must be kept separate. For instance, if someone would mistakenly grab a knife used to cut cheese and cut into a beef roast, would the roast have to be thrown out?
No, Karbal said, only the section of meat that the blade touched would be discarded. They rest would be OK to eat and the knife would have to be re-koshered before it could be used for dairy products.
After rabbinical school, Karbal earned degrees in business and psychology at Touro College in Brooklyn.
He pursued a career as a real estate broker and then a construction manager for a $20 million luxury highrise being built in Long Island City, N.Y.
When that job ended, Karbal acquired a management position at the cheese plant. When a rabbi was needed on the farm, Karbal agreed.
"I reluctantly said 'yes,'" he said of coming to Martinsburg. Now, he said he wants no other job.
"This is where I am supposed to be," he said.
Karbal said he always has been good with animals, and the cows were no exception.
"A 1,500-pound animal can be quite intimidating, but I got used to it right away," he said.
He called the Cove "a great environment."
Kulp said having a rabbi on the farm has been a positive experience for him and his family. The Kulps have six children ranging in age from 4 to 12 and he said it has been good for them to learn about another culture.
He said he believes the rabbis enjoy the honesty and friendliness of the community.
Karbal found it refreshing when he went shopping and his computer was not touched when he left his vehicle unlocked.
"The neighbors are wonderful," he said.
He also enjoys the countryside.
"There are open spaces everywhere. It's really healthy. I don't want to go back into manufacturing."