History - The need for supervision

The famous Chossid and Mashpia, Rabbi Yisroel Jacobson, who authored the well-known book "Zichron L'Bnei Yisroel", started importing Esrogim from Calabria to the United States in 1929. The Esrogim were sent from Genova by Mr. Kreh, an Esrog merchant for many years.

Mr. Kreh used to order Esrogim from the farmers in Calabria. They were sent to him by the kilo, as a regular fruit. Most of these Esrogim weren’t Kosher. However, when Rabbi Jacobson started paying per Esrog,  in order to receive better Esrogim, Mr. Kreh started travelling to Calabria to pick the Esrogim himself.

The Friediker Rebbe used to order one case of about 10 Esrogim. From these he would choose one for himself and the rest he would give to his family members.

After Yud Shvat the Rebbe would order the Esrogim from Rabbi Jacobson.

Around the 1950’s, Mr. Ziegelman, a Jew living in Lugano, a small city in Switzerland which had a thriving frum Jewish community, went on vacation to Calabria and he found  that the farmers were grafting the Esrogim trees on lime trees.

Mr. Ziegelman apparently told Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Perlov, a Lubavitcher Rov of the "Ohel Yackov" shul in Milan and he in turn told the Rebbe. The answer came back that the issue should be checked out.

Rabbi Isroel Jacobson

Rabbi Yaakov Gansburg, the Lubavitcher shochet in Milan, was sent to check out the trees and he came back with the same information.

Up untill then the belief was that the farmers in Calabria didn't graft the trees for lack of know-how.

As a result, in 1955 the Rebbe instructed Rabbi Jacobson that he must travel himself to Calabria to make sure that each Esrog comes from a non-grafted tree.

In the first years Rabbi Jacobson came to Calabria with Mr. Max, a Shamash in the shul of Rabbi Perlov, but Mr. Max liked to drink and it wasn’t pleasant for Rabbi Jacobson to bring him back home drunk after a night at the bar.

So in 1964 Rabbi Jacobson asked the Rebbe if Rabbi Moshe Lazar, a Shliach in Milan, could come with him.  The Rebbe gave his blessing and since then Rabbi Lazar has been coming to Calabria every single year.
For a number of years Rabbi Jacobson took Mr. Sholom Hecht as a partner.

Over the years, Rabbi Jacobson stopped coming and his son-in-law, Rabbi Mordechai Altein, took over the business and came to Calabria for a number of years.  Subsequently, Rabbi Shmuel Rodal, another Shliach in Milan, started accompanying Rabbi Lazar.

Rabbi Yaakov Altein, the son of Rabbi Mordechai Altein, took over the business some years ago and Rabbis Lazar and Rodal continue coming to Calabria each year.

Continue: What does supervision of the Esrogim entail? >>>