The tension between the Chabad Torah Center and the Columbus Public Health Department began when inspectors showed up in December and jammed a nonkosher thermometer into a chicken, Steven Keller said.
Keller, who is a lawyer, also is a customer at the 2942 E. Broad St. center.
Chani Capland, who has run the center for 17 years and operates a catering business from it, had to throw away the bird, he said.
Keller gave an impassioned speech today to the city Board of Health, appealing to members to understand the implications of shutting down the center for six days, including the days leading up to the Sabbath.
Many people in the central Ohio Jewish community, including the indigent and out-of-towners visiting hospitalized relatives, depend on Capland's meats, salads and breads to keep kosher. Capland prepares about 150 to 250 kosher meals a week.
And many significant changes, costing tens of thousands of dollars, have been made since food inspectors paid their last visit last Wednesday, Keller said.
However, the board followed the recommendations of the health department staff and shut down food operations at the religious center for six days. The center also will operate on probation for six months.
"We have a very high obligation here," board member Jacqueline Williams said. The board must protect the safety of consumers until an inspection shows that problems have been resolved, she said.
Williams also said the Torah center should have paid more attention to violations months ago, not just in the past several weeks.
Board member Mary Ellen Wewers pointed out that Capland took a food-safety class in April, and subsequent inspections still revealed problems.
Inspectors visited Chabad Torah Center seven times and repeatedly found violations, including a lack of food-safety knowledge, improper cleaning of food and preparation surfaces, improper cooling, and foods potentially contaminated by coming in contact with one another.
Keller said he had wanted health inspectors to visit last Friday, after many changes were made. After the meeting, he told Health Commissioner Teresa C. Long that the Wednesday inspection was a "sneak attack."
Keith Krinn, environmental-health administrator, said his office has researched the thermometer issue, spoken to two rabbis and come up with a policy that will prevent such problems in the future. Inspectors will either use a new thermometer when kosher food is checked or use a sleeve on the thermometer, as hospitals do.