Skip Navigation
October 6, 2015 | 23rd Tishrei 5776
Home  /  Worship, Music and Spirituality  /  iWorship Wisdom Archives  /  Kashrut Policies  / 
Kashrut Policies

  1. [At our temple..., there is] a large discussion going on with regard to a policy governing kashrut. I am curious as to what other temples are doing--nothing, kosher-style or kosher.
    We seem to be leaning towards kosher-style, but are struggling with what that means--with one extreme being just no pork or shellfish, and the other being no mixing of meat and dairy in the same meal in any way. In the middle, there is a position of no mixing of the two in the same dish, but both dairy and meat could be served on the same table.

  2. Perspective is always interesting. We have had a "no pork; no shellfish" policy for as long as I can remember. I have never considered it anywhere on the spectrum of kosher style, but I guess it is. Anyway, that continues to be our policy.
    680 member units

  3. It has, since our inception, been the policy of our temple that there be no trayfe. We also try very hard to ensure that only meat or only dairy is served at any one time. If for some reason both appear at the same time--which happens very rarely, they are served from different tables. No cheeseburgers at our place!
    50 families

  4. Our building also has a no pork-no shellfish rule. I thought that was the Reform "standard". On occasion we do "dairy" dinners, more I think for the vegetarians than the kosher ones.

    Our NFTY region has a similar rule for their kallot; they will serve meat and dairy at the same meal, but not "put-together". (In other words, if you make a cheeseburger or put cheese in your meat taco, you do it yourself, and no one has to know!) As far as I know, Kutz Camp and Camp Harlam do the same.

    300 units

  5. I am not quite sure what was meant by, "I understand that the URJ Seminary is now completely strictly kosher." I am a fifth year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR in Cincinnati, and I can personally attest to the fact that this is not so! Most of the "official" events that I have attended on campus have not mixed milk and meat at the same meal or certainly in the same dish, but the meat which was served was not kosher. Pork and shellfish are not served and often the meal will be vegetarian or fish. But this is far from "completely, strictly kosher." The dishes, utensils, serving pieces, pots and pans, etc. are not separate for milk and meat, so anything cooked in the kitchen is not "strictly kosher." This past week, the Sh?liach K?hilah Program (formerly the Para-Rabbinic Fellows Program) was held on campus, and a kosher caterer was used. Kosher meat was served and paper and plastic utensils used, but the ovens in which food was prepared were not "kashered" prior to this event, and I do not believe that the caterer brought all of her own cooking implements! In addition, we have many students on campus, rabbinical and graduate, Jewish and non-Jewish, who bring food into the lunch area and eat what they like. So, although kosher-style is still the order of the day at HUC for college-sponsored events, the seminary is still far from "strictly kosher."

    Might I suggest the following? Although I personally choose to keep kosher, I don't necessarily see this as the litmus test for what makes for a wonderful Jewish community. Perhaps congregations who are thinking about kosher kitchens should ask the following: Are we taking on kashrut because it's the latest "thing to do," or are we taking it on because there is meaning for us as 21st century Reform Jews? Should we not expect that if we keep kosher in our synagogues, that we also make sure that we also bless those meals before and after with HaMotzi and Birkat HaMazon? Personally, I would much rather walk into a warm and "heimish" congregation with a full sanctuary on Shabbat, an active and noisy religious school, b'nei mitzvah kids who can chant and understand their Torah portions (and can't wait to go on for Confirmation!), adults who are actively engaged in life-long learning, and a cross-generational commitment to G'milut Hasadim than to simply ask, "do they have a kosher kitchen?" Just one future rabbi's opinion!

    5th year Rabbinical Student
    HUC-JIR, Cincinnati

  6. [Leah] is so right that the congregation is more than its kitchen.

    At the same time, the congregation is more than its self, too. Can we expand the discussion to the perhaps-uncomfortable one of inclusion? How do we make our synagogues places of worship for all Jews? At least, as much as possible within the principles which Reform has adopted?

    What are the barriers which would make our Reform shuls uncomfortable for Jews who follow different minhagim?

    Reform liturgy is, of course, quite different from the service you will encounter in a Conservative or Orthodox shul. And Reform has set aside some traditions such as mechitza, the order of aliyot, etc. Ditto for our recognition of women in the minyan and in the full participation in all aspects of worship. These are just a few differences which might make more traditionally-observant Jews possibly uncomfortable, but which we would not alter. They are mostly differences which I would call differences of inclusion--making a welcome for women, Jews by choice, and so on.

    But if a more traditionally observant Jew is willing to come to our shul and worship in our fashion and honor our local minhag for participation of women, that same person may not be able to join us at our celebratory meal. The same is not true, of course, in reverse--the Reform Jew can go to any shul in the world and, if willing to accommodate their style of worship, join them in their oneg and Kiddush.

    I think that is terribly sad, and to me it would not be outside the realm of possibility that maybe we would consider restoring kashrut as an inclusive move. It is not a trivial step at all. And many, maybe most, of our members would need to learn what this implies and how to accommodate it in their participation at shul--all the members who cook for the community seder, and host life cycle events, and bring their sandwich while the kids are in Hebrew school. By so doing we'd all learn, and maybe convey that message of K'lal Yisrael, the core of community which should join us. It would be a very big step, and sometimes even an expensive one. But, worth some consideration?

    Some will point out that we could be as glatt as we like, and there are still those who would not eat with us, doubting the reliability of our kashrut, and this is undoubtedly true. Some will point out that the kashrut in Conservative shul kitchens may be practically the only observance of kashrut in those communities, where the members often do not bring that practice into their homes. That's true too. But their institutional kitchens do make a statement that they'll be open to any Jew from any background. And food is, well, it's central to life and to Judaism, yes???

    But as it is, we in the Reform movement have made a statement of exclusion by discarding institutional kashrut, and I do think it's sad. Maybe not the most important issue facing us. but sad.

    Have any congregations addressed this issue as one of philosophy, inclusion, and a desire to welcome Jews from all backgrounds?


  7. I don't know that I would go as far as enforcing kashrut on what people bring with them (e.g. kids' sandwiches for Hebrew school). What I am reminded about by this conversation is one of the explanations we hear for keeping kosher as Reform Jews: The act creates a mindfulness about what and how we eat, creating a holy setting.

    I also agree with [Leah] that we bless meals both before (HaMotzi) and after (Birkat HaMazon) with that same idea of mindfulness.

    And I further agree that a congregation that keeps a kosher kitchen creates an inclusive atmosphere and with it a positive message. It creates a burden, especially for those to whom the practice is unfamiliar; but isn't that how we achieve that mindfulness?

    Kosher-style (not mixing meat and dairy) is a positive step in that direction. Barring pork and shellfish, in my opinion, is necessary. I know quite a few Reform Jews who keep kosher; they pay attention to what they eat from the table. But as a Jew who observes only the "basic" abstention from pork and shellfish, I have been appalled in the past to discover the taste of bacon or clam in a dish served at temple, where I feel "safe" enough to not have to ask.

    600 families

  8. We serve only milchig or parve meals, so we don't have to address the interesting issues associated with the decision to "keep kosher."

    When we have meals outside of the shul and school, we are able to serve meat (buffet style), and people are able to bring any of their favorite dishes. No pork, however. Then, our congregants can choose what they will eat and what they will not eat.

    85 family members

  9. Last year I spoke with several congregations (of varying sizes) that were renovating or moving into new buildings, and the issue of kashrut was seriously explored. It seems from a 2001 survey (10% of the responding congregations keep a kosher kitchen, 80% don't serve pork or shellfish, and in 46% milk and meat are not served together), and from anecdotal information, that most of our synagogues maintain some components of kashrut for their communal meals.

    Rabbi Sue Ann Wasserman, Director
    Department of Worship, Music and Religious Living
    Union for Reform Judaism

  10. Here is yet another sample of one large congregation in the East.

    We are 1300 families (give or take on any given day) and have in place a policy that prohibits ganz treyf (pork and shell fish) and also prohibits dairy and meat at the same meal (a bit beyond kashrut in fact, but easier for those who do not know the rules to observe).

    We have several members who keep kosher and to accommodate them we will special order kosher meat when there is a congregational event. The cost of providing kosher for all makes the price prohibitive for some of our members and our kitchen is not kosher anyhow.

    There are occasions when we have been asked to change to kosher. The biggest argument against making the kitchen kosher is that we would then have to have supervision present to preserve it. And most of our families could not bring food into the building. This is not a good place for a large and diverse Reform congregation to go, today. It would still not open us up to the Orthodox community and the goal of inclusiveness would not be enhanced. When the general Jewish community uses our facility, they bring in kosher caterers and supervision and kasher the kitchen to satisfy the majority of the community. Some will never be satisfied.


  11. seems to me that choosing to kasher the synagogue kitchen as a way to include those who keep kosher strictly enough not to eat at Temple otherwise is not the only way to welcome those who keep kosher and may be more off-putting to those who are our core congregants.

    For many of our congregants, particularly those who remember Sisterhood in white gloves, being able to cook for a congregational events is an integral part of congregational life. Sisterhood cookbooks were built on the list of recipes that members brought to Onegs or congregational dinners.

    If we keep strictly kosher, this stops.

    It's not about educating congregants to prepare or bring in a kosher dish for a potluck or congregational seder. Congregants would have to kasher their own kitchens to the standard of the synagogue or purchase food from a kosher source. Is this realistic? pragmatic? welcoming? (Set aside the question of ritual practice. Whatever might happen in an ideal world, most of our members aren't going to wake up one day and kasher their kitchens.)

    Periodically, we have hosted kosher events. The food arrives sealed and is heated in sealed packages in our ovens. Counters are covered with paper or plastic. Dishes are brought in, or the hosts use paper. Once, we had a kosher event host plan to kasher our kitchen, but the caterer elected to prepare the meal in the Orthodox synagogue's kitchen instead. It was too much work to kasher our kitchen.

    For the occasional visitor who won't eat in our buildings, is it worth alienating the vast majority of our members? Particularly when we can bring in a kosher plate for the visitor. At a recent reception, the local Chabad rabbi arrived after Shabbat and ate a meal that had been brought in from a kosher source and had been left sealed until he could inspect the seal and labeling.

    For the "more frum than thou" visitor who chooses to make a case of our non-kosher kitchen, any meal served in the building is liable to be deemed trayf. It's not the kitchen, it's the Temple. It's not about the food preparation, it's about Reform Judaism being inauthentic in their eyes.

    But I'd like to broaden this. We have, I think, sometimes begun to espouse the idea of being "welcoming" to all in a way that makes it hard for us to be authentic.

    First, we can't be equally welcoming to the classical reform Jew who grew up eating ham and cheese sandwiches and defines his/her Judaism as being non-Kosher and to the traditionalist or reconstructed Jew who has decided that kashrut is integral to his or her Judaism. You can't please all the people all the time.

    Second, should the same attitude of welcome extend to choices about Hebrew and English or religious symbols? Do we extend Torah honors to non-Jews? Do we extend membership to curious non-Jews? Non-Jews who want access to our preschools or day schools? Jews for Jesus? We have to draw boundaries somewhere. To state that "we are...." also implies "We are not...."

    I think it is possible for us to welcome everyone without opening all privileges to everyone, without making everything accessible to the un- or barely initiated. If someone comes to services and doesn't understand the Hebrew, they may be put off by the foreign language or they may be intrigued by the mystery of prayer in a foreign tongue. If they come to a dinner and hear the full Birkat Hamazon, they may be curious about the meaning and impressed by the worshipfulness or they may be aggravated at the endlessness of an unfamiliar Hebrew song.

    How they react is their responsibility. How we present the action may shape their reaction. If we can stake out our minhag and make reasonable accommodation to those who behave otherwise, but graciously and enthusiastically welcome those who join us, then the minhag may matter less than the smile.

    525 families

  12. For those who worry that Kashrut in our synagogues isn't an "iWorship" topic, don't. While this list primarily focuses on Reform worship, it can and should encompass the spectrum of Reform religious life (check out our department name below).

    As I've been reading the postings what keeps coming up for me is our assumption that "kashrut" has been defined once and for all in Judaism. Either we keep kosher in a strictly glatt kosher way or we are not really keeping kosher (This, of course, ignores the such differences in Jewish practice as the sephardic/ashkenazic split over legumes during Pesach). We are very comfortable worshiping in a way that differs from our Orthodox or Conservative co-religionists and still think of our services as legitimate Jewish prayer. Yet when it comes to some ritual observances we've "given it over" to others. Why do we either have to observe kashrut the way other Jewish communities do or abandon the idea of sanctifying the act of eating?

    For several years the CCAR has had a task force on kashrut. I recommend to you reading the papers that have come out of that task force. They are published in the Winter 2004 CCAR Journal. The articles range from historical perspectives to new emerging trends in kashrut. The Joint Commission on Worship, Music and Religious Living has been invited (and accepted the invitation) by the CCAR to partner with them in this conversation. The essential question is: What are the Reform Jewish values of today that we bring to the traditional Jewish value of sanctifying eating? For example, how is the traditional Jewish value of concern about inflicting the least amount of pain on animals when they are killed for our consumption lived out in our modern world where food technologies have changed radically? With a Reform perspective would veal ever be kosher because of the "inhumane" way the livestock are treated?

    What do you think? Can we create a Reform system of kashrut? Should we?

    Rabbi Sue Ann Wasserman, Director
    Department of Worship, Music and Religious Living
    Union for Reform Judaism

  13. I was not brought up in a kosher home but my husband was. For many years my mother-in-law would not allow me to bring anything to her home unless it was something like a cake brought from a kosher bakery. She would eat at my home, however. So I am well aware that the problem is not just the food you eat, but the kitchen in which it is prepared. And yet it is not "meaningful" to me to worry about whether the cake was baked in a kosher oven. So developing a new set of rules surrounding the most basic of human activity, eating, makes lots of sense to me.

  14. And the question for a synagogue to start with is, "Why do we wish to establish and/or follow our Kashrut?" If the reason is: "To make our congregation accessible to those who are more traditionally observant," then I think we have embarked on an uncompletable journey. If the answer is: "to find a way to bring more meaning to our Jewish practice and to explore, understand and make relevant Jewish practices (many of) our parents set aside," then the journey will take us someplace we want to go, regardless of whether we ever change our eating or cooking behaviors.

    One question I'm intrigued by is why our parents and grandparents discarded Kashrut. If their desire was to fit in among their non-Jewish neighbors, and special diet emphasized those differences at every meal, then we must seriously consider the reality of hosting a modern dinner party.

    It's not unusual for guests to not eat: bread, meat, red meat, carbohydrates, gluten, lactose, peanuts, eggs or cheese, salt, sugar. Why is "I don't eat pork or shellfish, and I don't mix milk and meat," any different from, "If you have any peanut products in your house I can't come to dinner?"

    When I took the first year of Melton a couple of years ago, I was struck by two things (where food is concerned). First is the instruction to Adam and Eve that all the seed-bearing plants except the trees of life and knowledge are theirs to eat (Gen. 1:29, 2:16-17). In Eden (to which the messiah will restore us), everyone was a vegetarian. Second, Kashrut seemed (to me) to exist to make us mindful of everything we eat. If every morsel of food requires some thought and a blessing, then I'm constantly giving thanks.

    Thinking about the vegetarian diet, I could imagine early rabbis struggling to define Kashrut and rejecting vegetarianism as untenable. Jews would rise up in protest at not being able to eat chicken soup, gefilte fish and lox, but could forego cheeseburgers, shrimp and Caesar salads with grilled chicken. Kashrut seems a boundary-defining practice, and the boundaries need to be visible enough to matter but not so onerous as to be rejected. Visibility and onerousness change depending on the culture around you, and Ashkenazic and Sephardic rules of kashrut differ slightly...or so I understand.

    I was struck in particular by text from a (relatively) modern rabbi who was able to reject a cheeseburger because God told him to but couldn't resist chocolate. I wasn't sure to be impressed that he could master his own will in deference to God or depressed that he couldn't control his own appetites without divine authority.

    Second, and more important, was the idea of sanctifying every meal, and this I did and do find compelling. I grew up in synagogues where Motzi and Kiddush were ceremonial parts of synagogue worship events but rarely part of any other Jewish activity. Birkat Hamazon was an endless, incomprehensible song the orthodox perpetrated upon us for reasons I could never understand. I am still impressed by the number of Jews who will gladly participate if a rabbi leads a b?rachah, but (mostly) never lead one on their own. (By the way, I've seen groups of rabbis start eating without a visible pause for Motzi, so I'm pretty sure they're like the rest of us.)

    I find the idea of kashrut as a path toward giving greater meaning and spiritual resonance to our lives, toward helping us appreciate the bounty--God-given or not--that we enjoy, incredibly compelling. Whether motivated by gratitude, tradition, spirituality or social action (I give thanks for the food I eat when I know there are others who are starving), kashrut as an expression of mindfulness seems a very good thing.

    And this leads directly to [Sue Ann?s] point that we, as Reform Jews and Reform communities, need to define what Kashrut might mean behaviorally, and to my original point, that we must determine what Kashrut might mean to us theologically and philosophically to answer [Sue Ann?s] very good question.

    525 households

  15.'s not strange for someone to say "I'm trying to lose weight, so I'm avoiding carbs" or "I'm allergic to peanuts and I'll get violently ill if I eat them," but it is strange for someone to say, "I'm Jewish and I find spiritual meaning in not mixing meat and dairy and not eating animals forbidden by Torah." The first two are mundane and easily understandable. The latter is not. How many people subsume their personal wants and needs in order to cultivate a greater connection to the inner workings of the soul and the majesty of God? For how many is that a useful idea or one they've explored, Jewish or not?
    650 families

  16. My parents gave up kashrut when I was seven. My father's service in the medical corps in WWII and our moves to bases near army camps made obtaining kosher meat (and storing any amount of it in 1940's freezer sections that held only two ice cube trays!) extremely difficult. It was not something my parents had done out of well-thought-out convictions; it was what their immigrant parents had done. When my otherwise kindly grandmother came to live with our family in the 1950s, she embarrassed my mother into giving up 'benching licht' on Friday nights because, in Grandma's eyes, lighting candles went with keeping kosher and having a 'truly Jewish home'. (She kept her dishes and pots and pans separate from ours.)

    My husband and I of course feel that we have a truly Jewish home as liberal Jews. We Reform Jews are, obviously, not constrained from lighting Shabbat candles because we don't separate milk and meat and all that that implies in traditional Judaism.

    And we, personally, also didn't feel constrained from reciting the b'rachah over our food at all our family meals because of our traditionally un-kosher kitchen. We talked with our children about the blessing that we had food and what we, the lucky ones, should do about making the world better for those who were not so fortunate. They have continued these practices with our grandchildren. The grandchildren remind us if we forget. To me, that is truly 'benching' in the best meaning of the word and, therefore, creates a different kind of kashrut.

    Of course Reform Jews are free to keep kosher 'babayit u'bachutz'. That would be, at its best, an informed, thought out decision, unlike that of my parents and many of their generation. I don't think Reform Judaism needs to create its own system but to encourage us as liberal Jews to make that place--our tables--a place in space and time where we do not just gobble. Then, to me, it becomes as holy an act as having milchig and fleishig dishes, etc., etc.


  17. We observe kashrut in a different fashion. We do not serve or eat veal. We do not buy food products (or any products) if we are aware that companies producing those products have unjust labor practices, nor do we buy from companies that discriminate in any way or from companies that fund pro-life activities. We did not consume California grapes or lettuce for many years.

    We refrain from eating lobster not because it is shellfish, but because we find it abhorrent that the creature is plunged in boiling water while still alive. To my way of thinking, this way of eating is ethically and morally a far better way to be striving for holiness than worrying whether I used the wrong kind of towel to dry a dish.


  18. To my way of thinking, when describing one's personal or congregational kashrut practices, it's not necessary to ridicule the practices of more "traditional" Jews...

  19. I have found it very interesting to read the various forms of kashrut that people observe, and the various reasons for their doing so. However I find it equally, if not more, interesting that there has been little discussion of the traditional biblical reasoning behind keeping kosher, i.e. "God says so."

    I keep biblical kosher (what some people refer to as "Kosher-style"), that is I do not mix milk and meat, and I refrain from pork, shellfish and other prohibited foods. Not every food item in my house is certified kashrut, however most of the meats are. While I do not observe traditional Rabbinic kashrut laws, (separate dishes, all items COR certified, etc...) I find that keeping kosher along the Biblical lines provides a strong backbone to my Jewish self. My reason for doing so is to bring myself closer to God. While I also find it morally comforting to know that the animals that I eat are killed humanely, it is even more comforting to know that I am following a mitzvah that has a strong impact on my daily life. The act of keeping kosher is a way to bring God closer to us into our daily lives.

    As a 21-year-old, my focus in life is directed primarily to my studies, my work, and the time I have to socialize with my friends. It is often very difficult for people my age to find the spiritual connection to God that we all need. By keeping kosher for the reason that "God says so," I immediately feel the connection to God whenever I eat. I know that by observing this mitzvah, I can bring myself closer to God, and I can do it every day, however hectic or stressed I may be.

    As Jews, we know that food and eating are not mundane tasks. We know that there is a strong element of holiness attached to how we physically sustain ourselves. But how often do we seriously consider that level of holiness? It is extremely important that we acknowledge the holy acts of eating and sustaining ourselves by looking at what God requests of us. When God commands that a kid shall not be boiled in its mother's milk, God is giving us the opportunity to enter into a partnership with God. We follow God's mitzvot, and by doing so we can bring ourselves closer to God.

    While there are 612 other mitzvot that can bring us closer to God, I find that keeping kosher can bring us nearer to God in a stronger way, as it is part of the very nature of sustaining the lives that have been given to us by God.


  20. Sometimes we over-rationalize our observance, rather than relying on Exodus 24:7's formula of "na'aseh v'nishma"--we will /do/, and /then/ understand. Thanks for the reminder!

  21. Regarding na'aseh v'nishmah:

    I love Reform Judaism. I love what it stands for, I love being a Reform Jew, I am applying to HUC's rabbinical school this year and wouldn't dream of any other Jewish path. But one of the things that I struggle the most with is our interpretation of na'aseh v'nishmah. We've somewhat (if not entirely) flipped this in RJ, affirming our policy of "Choice through knowledge." The mainstream approach in Reform Judaism is to "listen" (i.e. study and achieve knowledge) and then "do" (i.e. make our educated choices). Choice through knowledge means nishmah v'na'aseh. Interesting concept.

    As a Reform Jew, this is somewhat acceptable to me. I think in some places it's more important to do first and /then/ listen, e.g. regarding kashrut; however the philosophy of choice through knowledge is and has been the backbone of Reform Judaism for years, and it's because of this very philosophy that I can choose to keep kosher while my sister does not, and we are both "on the level," so to speak, in the eyes of our fellow Reform Jews.

    Where my struggle occurs is regarding how much listening, i.e., how much studying and attaining of knowledge we are doing as Reform Jews. Yes, we put a great emphasis on our child and adult education initiatives, and I think we're doing quite well there. But how many people have studied the mitzvot and made educated decisions on why they choose to or not to follow them? How many people put the initiative into learning why they do what they do? If we proclaim a philosophy of choice through knowledge, then me must acquire that knowledge!

    When our ancestors proclaimed na'aseh v'nishmah, they were saying that they understood that there was a covenant to be entered into with God by observing the mitzvot. Today, we enter that covenant in a different way, but one thing remains the same, we must nishmah, we must listen!


  22. ...It is true that we can learn/understand simply by the doing. In the philosophy of Reform Judaism, that may be a viable path when one is trying to decide what mitzvot to follow. (I guess that would make it a path of learn--do--learn.)

    I wonder how typical, affiliated adults can be encouraged to gain a better understanding of their Judaism. Those in this listserv are here because we desire the knowledge. How do we reach others without appearing judgmental? Is it even appropriate for us to try?


  23. What I love about Reform Judaism is that we often question ritual, customs, and philosophies because we do not accept the justification, "it's what we've always done." With this in mind, I'd like to bring forth a challenge: Why do we say "choice through knowledge"? Is it because it's written somewhere, it's a good philosophy, or just because it's what we've always done as Reform Jews? Rather, I believe the better phrased philosophy of Reform Judaism is "Understanding through knowledge. Choice through understanding."

    Knowledge, using the definition, is merely the state or fact of knowing. Yet, to understand is to grasp the meaning of, to grasp the reasonableness of, to have thorough or technical acquaintance with or expertness in the practice of, and to be thoroughly familiar with the character of propensities of a concept. This is necessary to make a choice, especially when it is in regards to religion. Just as it is imperative not to make choices based on blind faith, it is also just as important not to make choices on an incomplete understanding of the tradition. Now, whether the Reform movement currently provides the resources to fulfill these needs for understanding is a completely different iWorship issue; however, we are doing a fairly good job. There is always work to be done and a goal to work towards.


  24. I think, first, that "because we've always done it that way" is precisely what we say about others (the Orthodox, in particular). To say it of ourselves or our own movement removes our own ability to analyze and appreciate our own practices.

    My own sense is in part derived from "ma'aseh v'lishma" (We will do and we will hear"). We are told in Torah (by way of the Rabbis of the Talmud) that the people of Sinai answered the 10 Commandments that they would do them, and by doing would "hear"--that is comprehend--the meaning and implication of the rules and laws. So, in answer to your first comment, Yes, it is written in Torah.

    By extension, if knowledge comes before understanding (I think there's a philosophical premise like that somewhere), then by knowing the Mitzvot--or any particular mitzvah--we can attempt to do it. By doing it, at least once but hopefully more often and regularly, we can come to understand its power and its value.

    So too with the general category of "choice." If we have merely an idea that we can do one thing or another, we are only scratching the surface of the issue. But if we make conscious choices, we come to know the values they express and their meaning to us and in our lives as Jews.

    920 units

  25. Dec 2005 Digest 197

                …A reasonable policy for a Reform congregation, it seems to me, is to ban pork and shellfish, and also not to mix meat and dairy as in lasagna or cheeseburgers--but not to preclude cream being served with coffee after the meat has been cleared from the tables.


    1100 units
  26. Dec 2005 Digest 197

                We are currently debating our dietary policy. Our current policy is that no pork or shellfish is permitted in the building, period, and that events that are open to the community (as opposed to a private, life-cycle event) will be dairy only. We do permit meat and dairy to be served in the same meal, but that is currently under review. My personal preference would be for a "kosher style" policy (no pork or shellfish and no mixing of meat and milk but not requiring separate dishes, utensils or cookware) but I am not sure that our congregation will adopt that.


    600 families
  27. Dec 2005 Digest 197

                I can only tell you what my congregation's policy has consistently been since its inception nearly fifteen years ago. We have a N.O.T. Policy: Not Obviously Treif. We usually do not serve meat and dairy products at the same meal. Occasionally, rarely, we will have a

    meat meal with a dairy dessert table. But they are not served on the same table. This is true even when we have an off-site, temple-sponsored function.


    Approx. 55 families
  28. Dec 2005 Digest 202

                …We do have community standards regardless of what we may choose to do in our own homes. Some congregants may be embarrassed by the use of shell fish or pork products. The temple should be inclusive by being a real "sanctuary" for all…By analogy, if people talk during a movie, it interferes with the rights of people who want to watch the movie. Conversations can be held anywhere. The theater is the only facility at which the non-talkers can watch the movie. If life cycle hosts choose to serve shrimp cocktails, for instance, that event would be better in a private facility.

  29. Dec 2006 Digest 196

                There's what the Torah says about kashrut, and "the rest." The Torah, for example, does not outlaw cheeseburgers or chicken parmesan, but a specific fertility ritual practiced by surrounding tribes at the time. From that we get food combination prohibitions, separate dishes, and even when you can eat what.

                The milk/meat separations are far less specifically spelled out than, say, no pork or shellfish. And so in a number of congregations I've seen, there are de facto separations of milk and meat without regard for the time in between, but also specific prohibitions on pork or shellfish. As I understand it…the Torah doesn't specifically talk about what makes the meat kosher other than draining the blood and that it is slaughtered "in the manner that I have told you." Just how that blood is drained (such as, for example, by cooking) or how that animal is killed is left for oral tradition which only much later became written law.

  30. Dec 2006 Digest 198

                …Take "kosher-style." It is my practice to avoid shell-fish, pork, and mixing meat and dairy. But I would never think of not eating in a non-kosher restaurant or at a non-kosher home. I am very conscious about this line, and it is not drawn arbitrarily; nor for convenience at a certain point. My thinking is this: I do as much as I can to observe traditional Jewish dietary practices, but I do not want my observance to be a barrier to my being a part of the larger community. I see great harm in avoiding meals with wonderful people, both Jews and Gentiles, because of very limited dining opportunities. When I lived in Israel, eating in Abu Ghosh, an Arabic village just outside of Jerusalem, was a wonderful experience for me--which would have not been possible had I been completely shomer kashrut. That said, kashrut is important, and eating can be a Jewish act. So I compromise--and I believe I am better off for it. This must be what Reform Judaism is about, adaptation. Let us leave "all or nothing" attitudes to the Orthodox.

  31. Dec 2006 Digest 198

                I am not aware that there is an absolute such as "being Kosher" or "keeping Kosher." I know the terms are frequently used but kashruth is a matter of degree.

                …simple example[s] were the receptions for my children’s Bar and Bat Mitzvot. They were totally Kosher in the Conservative tradition. This was done out of respect for those that practice kashruth. For my Baal Tshuva brother-in-law this was unacceptable. We sourced Glatt Kosher meals for them and made sure that they met with the approval of their rabbi.

                My point is that there are many degrees of keeping kosher or being kosher. There is no absolute. Typical of Baal Tshuva my brother-in-law is always raising the bar as he learns more and increases his and his immediate family's level of observance.


    1100+ Families
  32. Dec 2006 Digest 198

                …For those who believe they keep kosher according to tradition, it is binary: You either keep kosher, or you do not. There are no degrees. For those who do not follow these traditions, however, it does indeed look like a continuum. Just look at the number of hechshers out there, and the number of authorities who do not agree. Each has a particular standard to which they adhere, and to them anything that does not meet that standard is not kosher.

                In the Reform Movement, however, we stand mostly outside of that continuum, and are perhaps more able to see it as such. The essential nature of Reform Judaism, to me, is not "compromise" but "informed choice." If we like, we can choose a point on that scale where we wish to reside, thus choosing the level of kashrut observance that is appropriate for us. Conservative and Orthodox Jews, however, by the nature of their movement are not permitted that choice (even if they take it anyway). Just about any of our traditional practices can work properly in the modern world; there is no need to compromise. There is, however, a need to learn and choose.


URJ logo

Donate Now



Multimedia Icon Multimedia:  Photos  |  Videos  |  Podcasts  |  Webinars
Bookmark and Share About Us  |  Careers  |  Privacy Policy
Copyright Union for Reform Judaism 2015.  All Rights Reserved