Rabbi Nathaniel Sommer of Monsey and his son Aaron Sommer were in charge of kashering the commercial ovens of the Evergreen Court nursing home for Pesach a few months ago. They turned off the fire alarms and used blow torches to kasher the ovens. They have been kashering the facilities for many years. The kashering process may violate local town health and zoning codes. Who knows? Nobody seems to care until there is an accident. An hour and a half after the Sommer men finished kashering the Evergreen Court kitchens a fire ignited. The fire alarms were turned off. A blaze ensued. A resident and a fireman tragically lost their lives. Its not clear how the fire started. It sounds like negligence on the part of the Sommer men. They may have heated up materials too hot that ignited after they left. They should have hosed down the kitchen with kosher for Pesach water before they left.
I don’t believe there are any laws that regulate the kashering process, so anything goes. Just like with mohels. No license required. There should be laws enacted, for the public safety, regulating the kashering process and regulating guys who perform major surgery on infants’ shmeckels. The Sommer men have been charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter and fourth-degree arson, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of third-degree assault and two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment. Had there been kashering regulations in place, and had the Sommer men followed the regulations, they wouldn’t be facing the rest of their lives in a New York State prison. When gun companies get sued for gun related accidents, their best defense is that they are regulated by the government and complied with all applicable laws.
There is an arrest warrant for the Director of Evergreen Court Denise Kerr, who is going to be charged with second-degree reckless endangerment. The Sommer men were released on $200K bonds from the Rockland County jail. The Rockland District Attorney’s Office has been investigating for the last 6 months and finally brought charges. Negligent behavior is not a crime. Reckless behavior is a crime. The District Attorney is going to have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that these defendants acted with conscious disregard for the health and safety of others. Is failing to turn the fire alarms back on after they kashered the kitchen reckless or negligent behavior? A jury will have to decide.
Spring Valley Village building inspectors Wayne Ballard and Raymond Canario have also been arrested, for filing false reports. Their charges are offering a false instrument for filing and second-degree falsifying business records. Its not clear what reports they falsified. It will all come out if the case goes to trial.
Its not clear whether the Sommer guys were employed by the nursing home or whether they were independent contractors hired just to kasher the kitchens. This is a good opportunity for the State of New York to enact laws regulating the kasher business. A background check should be conducted on any Hasid who tries to purchase a blow torch. Fees and taxes should be charged to anyone looking to obtain a kashering license. The State of New York could make millions.
According to press reports the investigation is ongoing. The New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, the Department of Fire Prevention and Control, and the Spring Valley Police Department are all involved in the investigation. There may be more arrests. Retain your high powered lawyer now, before they are all taken. Ben Braffman may still be available. Be prepared to provide Attorney Braffman with a six figure retainer. Moshiach NOW!
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