History of Klein’s

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As your calendar — and kids — will confirm, it’s official: summer is finally here! More than images of long, sun-filled days and mild summer nights, summer’s also synonymous with…you guessed it, ice cream! After all, what better way is there to “lick” the heat than with a smooth, creamy, ice-cold treat? These days, indulging in a frozen delight while adhering to one’s commitment to kashrus is simply a matter of visiting the freezer section of your local grocery store. It wasn’t always so easy, however. Let’s take a look back and see how the very first chalav Yisrael ice cream cone came to be. How It All Began It all started in 1953, when Reb Ephraim Klein, z”l, a simple, ehrliche Yid in the most classic sense of the word, arrived in America after the Holocaust. His first job involved working long hours for meager wages running a local canned food warehouse. To understand just how minimal his income was, the family remembers how his wife, Mrs. Golda Klein, a”h, a true eishes chayil, could only afford to buy fruits and vegetables if she shopped at the end of the day, when fresh produce was available at “close-out” prices. Despite these challenges, the thought of complaining never crossed either of their minds; they were so grateful to the Ribbono Shel Olam for saving them from the horrors of the Holocaust and granting them the opportunity to begin life anew. Being a man of extraordinary determination and character, he decided to begin saving the then-impossible sum needed to take a long awaited trip to Eretz Yisrael and visit with his Rebbe, the holy Reb Aharon of Belz, zt”l. The cost was exorbitant, but Reb Ephraim, a devout Belzer chassid, hadn’t seen his Rebbe since before the war, and he was determined to somehow come up with the funds for the trip. When he told his boss what he was planning, the man laughed at him. Although Reb Ephraim was practically managing the warehouse, it was inconceivable to his boss that his employee could ever save up enough money to make the trans-Atlantic trip at a time when people — Reb Ephraim included — were struggling just to feed their families. Despite the odds, Reb Ephraim’s incredible resolve enabled him to save enough money for the trip, and he happily went off to meet with the Belzer Rebbe.

Upon his return, he was immediately dismissed from his position at the warehouse. His boss’s rationale was simple. According to his reasoning, there was no way that Reb Ephraim could have afforded the trip. Therefore, the boss surmised, Reb Ephraim must have been stealing from the company all this time, and clearly deserved to be terminated immediately! Reb Ephraim was a man of such integrity that for him to be even accused of an impropriety was incomprehensible. A Company Takes Root Understandably, Reb Ephraim was deeply affected by this episode, and vowed never to work for someone else again. He went home and told his wife that he was going to start his own business manufacturing chalav Yisrael ice cream. Although chalav Yisrael milk and cheese were already available in America, there was no such thing as chalav Yisrael ice cream. Struggling for every penny, Reb Ephraim persevered, and managed to save up enough money to acquire a truck that was so old, it barely ran. In fact, Reb Ephraim’s grandchildren recall that their grandfather always joked that the truck spent more time at the mechanic than on ice cream deliveries! While the truck was less than reliable, the blessing of the Belzer Rebbe wasn’t, and soon the First Family of Kosher Ice Cream was born. The company was run from the Klein’s modest Crown Heights home.The ice cream was manufactured in a nearby plant and stored in two large freezers in the Klein’s backyard. The “office” consisted of one business phone and a dedicated “secretary” – Mrs. Klein herself, who wrote down orders on pieces of scrap paper in between cooking and caring for the constant flow of guests the Klein’s were famous for hosting. (One might say Klein’s was indeed one of the very first American homemade ice cream companies!) Reb Ephraim drove the truck, stopping at each store on his route and personally filling all the freezer chests. In those days the “line” consisted of approximately five items, including such classics as Dixie cups, popsicles and ice cream pops. Unsurpassed Kashrus Standards Reb Ephraim was so famous for his impeccable honesty that the company’s kosher certification consisted of four simple words: “Made by Ephraim Klein.” When consumers saw Reb Ephraim’s renowned name on the container, it was their guarantee that the product was as kosher as it was delectable. As the industry and community saw many years later, Reb Ephraim’s honesty extended to all aspects of his business. In fact, he was so worried about having shortchanged any of his customers that in his will he directed the company to pay a small stipend to the grocery stores and commercial institutions that had been his customers. In return, those customers signed a declaration saying that they absolved Reb Ephraim from any miscalculations or losses they may have incurred during their business relationship with him. (Though it’s unlikely any losses were ever actually incurred.) After a while, the company grew too big for Reb Ephraim to handle alone, so his younger son, Reb Abba, moved back from his home in Eretz Yisrael to help manage the business. Shortly thereafter, Reb Ephraim’s older son, Reb Daniel, joined the growing company. Today, Klein’s has grown beyond Reb Ephraim’s wildest dreams. The original product line has grown to over 380 items, with more in the pipeline! Yet despite this phenomenal growth, the commitment to quality, ethics and honesty remains as strong as ever. Today, Klein’s is kosher certified by not one but two of the most reliable hechsherim available: Hisachdus and Harav Usher Eckstein of Belz. Quality Above All What also has grown is the need for quality chalav Yisrael ice cream in today’s market. The common consumer cannot begin to imagine how much work is involved in kosher certification. In order to meet the Jewish community’s great need for quality chalav Yisrael ice cream year-round, massive amounts of dry milk are processed once or twice a year; the goal is to produce enough dry milk to ensure that there are enough raw ingredients to meet the impressive annual demand.The plants used to process this dry milk are in Arizona, which has manufacturing plants large enough to accommodate a yearly supply. The plants must be completely shut down, cleansed and left untouched for 24 hours for the dry milk to be processed according to Klein’s’ specifications. (Not all chalav Yisrael companies are stringent on Reb Epfraim Klein Z”l The plant in Arizona where the dry milk is processed 24 Hamodi a Magazi ne July 9, 2008 ADVERTORIAL Hamodia Magaz ine 6 Tammuz 5768 25 ADVERTORIAL this 24-hour period of abstention, but Klein’s maintains the standards set by its founder, Reb Ephraim, and will not compromise.) The dry milk production alone takes a full week from start to finish. Growing With the Times Years ago, the primary concern consumers had regarding milk was that it be kosher. Although many people were committed to eating only chalav Yisrael, a large segment of frum society relied on heterim to drink chalav stam. Now, however, there is an additional problem that many consumers are not even aware of. In the world of livestock, all cows are tagged and monitored, as is mandated by government regulations. A DA cow is one with “displaced abomasums,” or a twisted stomach. This condition occurs as a result of the cow’s diet, which is often rich in grain. The abomasums are part of the cow’s digestive system, which shifts out of place. A common correction for this problem is surgical. This is where the problem comes in, kashrus-wise. The surgical procedure can create holes in the wall of the animal’s stomach, and any Posek will confirm that according to the Shulchan Aruch, if a cow has a hole in its abomasums, it is considered a treifah, and is assur al pi halachah. It is extremely difficult – if not impossible – to know which among the marked DA cows have holes in their stomachs that would render them assur. According to U.S. manufacturing laws, there is nothing wrong with consuming milk from a cow with a stomach puncture, but most leading Rabbanim agree that all such cows are presumed to be treifos, which renders both their meat and milk strictly off limits Think about it; a few decades ago, chalav Yisrael was essentially about watching over the milk production. Today, the evergrowing number of consumers who are careful to buy only chalav Yisrael realize that it is about much more than that. Nowadays we must also be certain that both the milk and the cow represent an impeccable standard of kashrus. To ensure this, Klein’s hires their own veterinarians who are very familiar with the laws of kashrus. It is their job to ensure that all of these aforementioned DA cows are strictly separated. Once the dry milk is processed and stored, the individual products are produced. Many items require their own specific machinery. Of course, it would be far less expensive for Klein’s to purchase their own plant and not have to pay for 24- hour shut-down periods — or the week plus of cleaning preceding them — but then they could only manufacture a fraction of the items they do today. Because they want to provide the kosher consumer with the unparalleled selection of hundreds of products they have become known for, they have to lease space and equipment from different plants throughout the country. Of course, each of these plants must follow the same strict kashering laws. Klein’s is clearly serious about ensuring their customers’ peace of mind – a level of “insurance” that has a rather hefty price tag attached. In fact, Rabbi Hillel Weinberger of Hisachdus said that there has never been a situation where Klein’s has not complied with requests made by mashgichim regarding potential kashrus issues. In addition, in keeping with consumers’ awareness of health concerns such as contamination and bacteria, Klein’s has also eliminated eggs from all of their products, both pareve and dairy. And with the ever-increasing trend towards health consciousness, the company’s outstanding sugar free and fat free lines have been greatly expanded. Perfecting the Product Additionally, Klein’s hires professional ice cream consultants, who create the actual recipes and then spend weeks and months tasting, adjusting and perfecting everything from the texture to the actual flavor. Nothing is left to chance – these consultants ensure that the taste, appearance and “flavor consistency” (meaning that the fruit bar or ice cream cone you buy today will taste exactly as delicious as the one you buy tomorrow) of all Klein’s products are the best they can possibly be. Of course, before being brought to the labs and plants, each and every ingredient used by these consultants is first thoroughly inspected to ensure it meets the certifying rabbi’s exacting standards. Reb Hillel Weinberger & Reb Binyomin Arye Glick of Hisachdos observing the cows during the milking process. Rabbi Eckstein Belzer Dayan reviewing a list of ingredients for a new kleins product 26 Hamodia Magaz ine July 9, 2008 ADVERTORIAL As Ari Klein, one of four grandsons now employed by the company, explains, “if you see a Klein’s product on the shelf, it means that the Klein family is willing to stand behind both the quality and kashrus of that product — after all, it is literally our name that is on the line!” Klein’s remains, above all, a family business. When you buy a Klein’s product, the Klein’s family wants you to feel as if that item came directly from their home to yours. To maintain optimum quality control and gain a better insight into local marketers and communities, Ari personally spends days or weeks at a time traveling to different states around the nation. No Price on Premium Quality At one time, relates Reb Abba Klein, (Ari’s father), an entire shipment of twin pops was packed and ready for delivery when it suddenly came to light that a worker had inadvertently mixed in twice the amount of sweetener required. Klein’s immediately disposed of the entire shipment – thousands upon thousands of boxes, rather than take a chance of their customers being dissatisfied. And just a few weeks ago, a machine that had already been filled with milk broke down in the middle of operation. As it was a Thursday night, nothing could be done until Monday. This presented two problems — the issue of the milk possibly spoiling and the issue of the milk not being under constant supervision, thereby creating a possible kashrus issue. The verdict? The entire vat, which would have created boxes upon boxes’ worth of ice cream, was summarily discarded. Avigdor, another grandchild, points out that Klein’s pareve ice creams have filled a large niche in the kosher—and “conventional” markets as well. According to feedback from retailers (Klein’s products are available in many major national and regional supermarkets), consumers who wouldn’t necessarily purchase chalav Yisrael — or, for that matter, any kosher products, are fans of the Klein’s pareve ice cream line as well. That’s because many of their pareve products are ideal for the growing number of vegetarian/vegan consumers, as well as people who have allergies or intolerance issues with dairy products and lactose. Consumer Feedback The following excerpt from a letter Klein’s recently received from a resident of Manhattan sums it up perfectly: Dear Mr. Klein, We have to tell you how great your ice cream is! Someone was celebrating a birthday in shul this past Yom Tov and decided to serve Klein’s chocolate and vanilla ice cream. It was certainly the “hottest” item at the Kiddush … And the consensus was we’d all take Klein’s over other brands during the rest of the year as well! Another loyal fan of the company says it quite succinctly: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re grilling fish or meat – the dessert should always be Klein’s!” “The bottom line,” says Pinches, yet another Klein grandchild, “is siyatta d’Shmaya. With that, and staying true to our grandfather’s legacy, we are, baruch Hashem, producing a truly superior product.” So this summer, as you peruse the frozen food aisles of your local supermarket and fill your cart with some of Klein’s top quality Real Kosher Ice Cream, you can relax, secure in the knowledge that you’re getting the absolute best frozen confection available. Remember – nothing says summer like ice cream, and nothing says ice cream better than Klein’s. Klein’s Ice Cream product line from 1985, which then consisted of just 23 Products