Kashrut Meets Michael Pollan in Book-to-Be on Contemporary Food Issues

Tu'Bishvat Tree of LifeThis from the folks at Hazon, who bring you the New York Jewish Environmental Bike Ride, the Hazon Arava Israel Ride, and the Latkes to Lattes Conference on Jews, Food and Contemporary Life.

Anna Stevenson and company at Hazon are writing a 120-page curriculum on Jews, food and the contemporary questions of organic, natural, sustainable and the Jewish ethics relating to all. These are questions recently catapulted into the national spotlight by Michael Pollan’s recently published book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the forthcoming Fast Food Nation the movie. This food curriculum will be published and rolled out in 2007 all over the country. So here’s her request: Tell her why you’re kosher, in however way you define it.

We’re coming at kosher from all directions now….an eco-kosher hechsher from the Conservative movement might make it harder for folks who need an Orthodox hechsher to find good eco-groovy food! Kosher is about limits on desire and has nothing to do with factory farming! We’re not sure if Aitan’s goat cheese is kosher, with a big or little K, or just plain awesome…

But what I want to know is: Why do you keep kosher?

Tradition meets modernity, round 5767. And I don’t think it’s just a fad. How we eat and why we eat is a question that is driving us crazy these days, and may end up leading to some real changes in our food systems 25 years from now, Jewish and otherwise. As we are proceeding with all these questions, I want to put some more oomph in this discussion. Why do we keep kosher in the first place? What are our own stories?

Personally, I do not keep kosher, didn’t grow up with it, and don’t feel particularly bound by it – though as I’m learning more one idea that is resonating with me quite strongly is the idea of limiting desire: I can’t just have everything I want, just because I want it. Shopping at the farmer’s market has had this effect — if it’s Tuesday or Thursday, I’m not going to buy bread, because there’s no market near me on those days. I’m enjoying this experience of pulling back.

But this is a pretty small, and un-traditional, piece of kashrut real estate. If we’re going to have this conversation, and we all come from such different places, let’s get that on the table! I invite you to comment and answer the question: Why do you keep kosher?

Send your commentary (or request a copy when it’s done) by contacting Anna directly: anna@hazon.org.

Filed under Food, Halakha

3 Responses to “Kashrut Meets Michael Pollan in Book-to-Be on Contemporary Food Issues”

  1. I am a convert to Judaism, a Traditional Conservative.

    I do because we are commanded to as Jews. Does it mean I don’t miss those bacon double cheese burgers, or lobster? I do, but I don’t harp on it. If those around me aren’t kosher, it’s okay by me, it’s a free country, no matter how hard the DC folk try to hinder things.

    For the most part, I have to be careful what I eat in order to avoid heart trouble, major problem in my family. Keeping kosher helps with that to some extent, as well as eating organic.

    I have to be careful THERE because organic doesn’t necessarily mean Kosher, as I informed one chef who was miffed I wasn’t eating the repast at my company’s “holiday’ party. Sometimes I bring my own food to these affairs, the Labriute products always a good idea. My co workers think I’m either strange or really devout. I may agree with both those statements.

    As a NASCAR racing fan, I even bring two sets of paper plates to the tailgating party at the track! That last one is a joke I use in my comedy act, but it is close to true. At home, I have two of dishes, but areas in the fridge set aside for meat and dairy. ( the apartment comes with one fridge and I don’t think it would be a good idea to tick off the complex manager by brining a second one in). Two of everything as best I can do as a single. I even have a “Kosher Cheat Sheet”. All the “how-to” in one nifty little poster.

    I don’t eat fast food, and restaurants are limited. But I do try, and seem to be pretty good at it.


    Sarah Naomi · January 19th, 2007 at 7:30 am
  2. since cold food doesn’t create halakhic “mixing” unless meat sits in milk for about 24 hours (or the other way around), there is absolutely no reason (apart from just wanting to be machmir without any halakhic basis) to have two fridges, or even separate areas in the same fridge.


    Amit · January 21st, 2007 at 8:08 am
  3. Hrrm. “Kosher is about limits on desire and has nothing to do with factory farming!”

    Suuuure – and factory farming has nothing to do with desire? If anything it is an expression of what happens when unabated individual desire is scaled up across a society, when the individual’s desire’s for inexpensive meat meets a corporate desire to maximise profit by any means necessary (bearing in mind that a corporation is an aggregate of individuals).

    Halacha forbids yoking an Ox and an Ass together. It forbids muzzling the ox that turns the mill. If it is not permissible to do these things, how is it permissible to keep animals in high density living conditions? If Shechita is about minimising the animal’s suffering, then what a cruel joke to say to the animal “I have not let you move your whole life, which you were compelled to spend wallowing in your filth, while being forced to eat food you would not choose by design, and filling your body with chemical to prevent the sickness the conditions would invite. But now, at the end of a life made miserable by greed, I will kill you kindly.”

    It seems to me that giving food animals a dignified life is demanded by our tradition, to do otherwise is a poor repayment to them for the sustenance they give us, and an insult to the hkb”h who has given them to us for sustenance.


    Rich · January 22nd, 2007 at 3:42 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik