Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Orthodoxy's right-ward turn affects all: 1—Kashrut

Not smooth enough

There's regularly kosher meat, and there's glatt kosher meat. At least, that's the way it used to be, up until about 30 years ago.My understanding is that, according to halachah/Jewish religious law, certain lesions on the inside of the lungs of large animals (cattle, goats, sheep, and kosher-slaughtered deer—yes, venison can be kosher if a deer is slaughtered according to the rules) are permissible, while others render the slaughtered animals treif (not kosher). The chareidi (fervently Orthodox), however, have taken a machmir (strict) position, and will eat only animals with totally smooth (glatt) lungs. (These laws do not apply to poultry or fowl, that is, chickens, ducks, turkeys, etc. Technically speaking, there's no such thing as glatt kosher poultry.) Up until about thirty years ago, one could choose which standard of kashrut to adhere to. No more, at least, not in New York City—to the best of my knowledge, it's no longer possible to buy kosher meat that's not glatt kosher in this entire town.

In other words, in some places, the chareidim now dictate the rules for kosher meat, whether you're chareidi or not.

Not old enough

What is this new term, kemach yashan (old flour?) that began appeared on the windows of kosher restaurants, especially dairy restaurants and pizza parlors, about 15 years ago? My understanding is that some are of the opinion that one is not permitted to eat flour from the new harvest until a certain date. Now, the restaurants are afraid of losing business, and advertise their use of yashan flour.

Not clean enough

Bugs, bugs, everywhere. Jews aren't allowed to eat most insects. Okay, fine, so we'll rinse our lettuce. Not good enough. The list of foods and beverages that are now considered, in some circles, off-limits to Jews because of possible insect infestation keeps growing. Here's a list I made a few years ago. I read somewhere that asparagus tips have since been added to the list. I've probably missed a few.

Not Jewish enough

The Orthodox Union, which runs one of the best-known organizations performing kashrut supervision, is of the opinion that, under some circumstances, the fear of government is as effective as the fear of G-d. When it comes to milk, they rely on the United States Department of Agriculture to ensure that all milk sold in the United States is from kosher animals. I believe that the milk certified kosher under this approach is known as “chalav stam” (ordinary milk?). The chareidim take a more machmir (strict) approach—if I understand their point of view correctly, they are of the opinion that only milk from animals milked under Jewish supervision can be trusted to be from kosher animals. Milk certified under that approach is known as “chalav Yisrael” (literally, “Israel” milk [Jewish milk]).

A few months ago, some wise guy put up a parody on the internet stating that the OU would no longer certify “chalav stam” as kosher. This would have been funny, had it not been for the fact that the poor author had to clarify that the parody was a parody, and not the truth. The march toward machmir has become so pervasive that many of the readers (including myself) thought the author was reporting breaking news.

What would happen if the OU did, indeed, stop certifying chalav stam as kosher?

Imagine walking into a supermarket and discovering that every single brand of ice cream that has graced your parents’ and/or your own kosher table for decades is no longer kosher. Imagine the sobbing and/or tantrum-throwing pre-schoolers who’ve just been told that, no, they will not be allowed to have ice cream and/or an ice cream cake at their birthday parties because ice cream is no longer kosher. Imagine the run on kitchen-appliance stores nationwide as literally thousand of Jews descend en masse and buy every single home ice-cream-making machine on the shelves. Imagine the months of waiting as manufacturers gear up to cover the sudden spate of back-orders for home ice-cream makers. Imagine going through an entire summer without a drop of ice cream.

If you think that changes in kashrut standards won’t affect you just because you’re not Orthodox, think again.


Blogger nmk said...

Well, yes. Life is tough. Here in New Zealand, kosher ice cream just does not exist.
Here I am, a transplanted New Yorker raising a 3 year old, and you have not a clue what it means not to have what I used to consider the most common items available. The pleasure of walking into an all kosher store and not needing to worry about looking at every item is in fact a blessing that we just do not have.
BTW, kosher chicken here is about $12.00 US a pound because it is imported from Australia. Count your blessings.

Tue Mar 04, 08:55:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Since neither my husband nor I has much by way of kitchen skills, I've told him that I can't imagine living in a place where we couldn't get kosher take-out. Those of us living in areas with large Jewish populations are definitely spoiled. You have my sympathies.

Tue Mar 04, 09:08:00 PM 2008  
Blogger AS said...

It's an interesting topic. What you should be aware of is that Glatt is not what it once was anyway-glatt in the United States does not mean that an animal’s lung is completely smooth that's why sephardim on eat their own special “Beit Yosef glatt.” For more info on glatt click here. Even if the ou did stop supervising milk other companies would pick it up. There are too many people that don't drink cholov yisroel exclusively to ever worry about that issue.

Wed Mar 05, 10:47:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glatt NOT a Charedi thing... My understanding is that Sephardim have an actual Glatt standard, where they ACTUALLY follow the requirements. In true Yeshivish fashion, the Ashkenazim created enough exceptions that the meat didn't have to be actually smooth, by defining all the problems away. In the 1800s, when the Hassidim were creating their splinter sect, they were adopting a lot of things that sounded Sephardic, by using the "exotic Orient" to be spiritual, and created a fake Glatt.

In the 1950s, to avoid a splinter in Kashrut, the OU adopted the Hassidish Glatt standard, and decreed that all OU Certified food would be Glatt, though only to the Hassidish standard, not the Sephardic one.

Until about 2 years ago, there wasn't a real supply of Kosher, non-Glatt meat. There is one supervision that my Rabbi has said is okay, and implied that if he wasn't the community Rabbi (and therefore needs to have everyone comfortable in his home), he'd eat it, but that he wouldn't permit that supervision for food in the Synagogue, so that people that hold by "Glatt" standards feel comfortable.

Regarding Cholov Stam vs. Cholov Yisrael, basically it's "plain milk" vs. "Jewish milk." Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that since US Law requires all milk that is labeled as "plain milk" be cow's milk, and the penalties for cheating on that are pretty severe, and the US Dairy industry is such that there is ZERO economic incentive to cheat, it is permitted, IN THE UNITED STATES, to drink plain milk, and therefore use it in the production of milk derived products. This does NOT extend to cream or other products, just to "plain milk" which doesn't require hashgacha.

The Cholov Yisrael position is ACTUAL Halacha (not the Machmir position), where Halacha requires that a Jew own the milk (assuming a Jew would never peddle non-Kosher milk as Kosher) or supervise the milk the entire time. The Cholov Stam position is the lenient one based on reality trumping some assumptions made in Europe.

The argument AGAINST the leniency, is either Halachic (disputing the Heter), or practical, the common practice of "eating dairy out" stems from an erroneous assumption that the Cholov Stam ruling permits it.

That said, I think that the tendency towards stringency is why the Chareidi position is SO POPULAR with MO Teenagers, because extreme positions always do well with the young, but has a horrible retention rate as they get older and real life gets in the way... it's easy to demand stringency when your parents pick up the tab, less so when it means time you aren't with your kids, etc... or the reality that paying more for Dairy products may be the financial difference between your kids going to camp that summer, and the fact that there ARE tradeoffs in life is completely missed when peddling that Hashkafa to the young.

Wed Mar 05, 12:37:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Even if the ou did stop supervising milk other companies would pick it up. There are too many people that don't drink cholov yisroel exclusively to ever worry about that issue." Thanks for the reassurance, Jewish Blogmeister.

Alex H., so Chaddisdic versions of glatt kosher are a bit like the "Nusach S'fard" wording of prayers used by many Ashkenazim, an interesting mix of Nusach Ashkenazi and the Nusach of the Sefardim that's neither 100% Ashkenazi nor 100% Sefardi? So you and J-Blogmeister are saying that the Sefardi Bet Yosef is the *real* glatt kosher?

I'm a bit confused by your statement "This does NOT extend to cream or other products, just to "plain milk" which doesn't require hashgacha." Are cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products made in the U.S. from chalav stam kosher or aren't they?

"it's easy to demand stringency when your parents pick up the tab, less so when it means time you aren't with your kids, etc... " It's amazing how much idealism goes down the drain when *you're* the person (or one of the two people) responsible for paying the bills.

Wed Mar 05, 09:54:00 PM 2008  
Blogger nmk said...

I have just reviewed the "Star K" website on shechita/slaughter. They always do a marvelous thorough presentation.

While I may not personally do what they proscribe, I can enthusiastically praise their work.

Wed Mar 05, 10:15:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

nmk, I've looked at the OK kashrut website once or twice, and they do seem to be quite thorough, albeit a bit strict for me.

Wed Mar 05, 11:06:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Milk vs. Cream

Using the Heter of Rav Moshe, I can go into any super market, buy a gallon of milk, and go off and drink it. The milk doesn't need an OU on it, doesn't need to be Cholov Yisrael. The milk is considered plain milk, Cholov Stam. However, his ruling never covered derivatives like cream.

Therefore, if I want cream in my coffee, that requires a valid hecture. If the milk that the cream is separated from was Jewish milk, then the cream is Cholov Yisrael Kosher. If it was plain milk, it's Kosher milk.

Since all milk in the US is Cholov Stam, you can make dairy products by bringing plain milk into the factory, and have Kosher Dairy products. If you only bring Cholov Yisrael milk into the factory, you have Cholov Yisrael products.

That is my completely layman's understanding

Thu Mar 06, 06:40:00 PM 2008  
Blogger nmk said...

Being in New Zealand, I cannot check; but I do recall that in the states, cream has an additive, albeit in very small quantity. So I suppose that it is the additive that requires a hechsher in order to pass muster.

Which then brings up the next question regarding the additive, of 1/60th and also is it edible by itself

wishing all a good chodesh and shabbat shalom

Thu Mar 06, 08:07:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

So I gather that ice cream made in the U.S. would be kosher, provided that it's under rabbinical supervision, whether it's made from Chalav Stam or Chalav Yisrael. Obviously, those who use only Chalav Yisrael will eat only Chalav Yisrael ice cream.

I assume that anything added to plain cream would have to pass muster with the mashgiach/kashrut supervisor, whether the ruling is that there's so little that it doesn't count ("batel b'shishim"?, 1/60th), that there's a question as to whether it can be eaten by itself, or that the additive is kosher.

Thu Mar 06, 08:36:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because ice cream includes all manner of ingredients other than milk (many of which I cannot even pronounce!), I don't really see how Rav Moshe's rulings about cholov sham are relevant. Thus, I am pretty sure ice cream requires a hecksher.

Thu Mar 06, 09:59:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to one of my rabbis, there is a good reason behind insect-phobia. Basically, reduced use of pesticides and increased adaptability by pests means that you can no longer assume that your broccoli is not thrip-infested. (However, he does not go so far as to reject strawberries; he does, however, recommend misc. precautions). There's a lot of material on vegetables on the OU website; basically, some items of produce require a lot of scrutiny, others less so. For details see


Thu Mar 06, 10:05:00 PM 2008  
Blogger nmk said...

As Yogi Berra would say, "Its Déjà vous " all over again.

I am confused, have you edited my remark or was this serendipitious?

"Being in New Zealand, I cannot check; but I do recall that in the states, cream has an additive, albeit in very small quantity.
So I suppose that it is the additive that requires a hechsher in order to pass muster.

Which then brings up the next question regarding the additive, of 1/60th and also is it edible by itself"

Thu Mar 06, 11:31:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

nmk, I am sufficiently tech-challenged to be incapable of changing anyone's comment, short of deleting it, editing it, and re-posting it. What you wrote is what you see.

Fri Mar 07, 10:52:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Woodrow, it is certainly true that *all* ice cream needs a hechsher (a symbol of rabbinical supervision that ensures that it's kosher). I have never questioned that fact.

The question was whether it would be possible to find kosher dairy products in most of the U.S.if all Chalav Stam were declared non-kosher,or whether we would literally have to make our own. Homemade cheese, anyone?

Fri Mar 07, 10:58:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Blogger Kiwi the Geek was kind enough to pass along the formula for converting URLs to links in comments. Here it is:

[A HREF="put the link here"]put the text here, whatever you want the reader to click on[/A]

For every [, substitute a <, and for every ], subsitute a >.

Here's a link to that article on kashrut by the OU that Woodrow recommended in a previous comment.

Fri Mar 07, 11:13:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some months ago there was a big to-do about finding micro bugs in water and so many ortho yeshivot went through a costly effort to filter drinking water.
Does anyone know as to the level of water that might be approved and yet still contain such organisms?

The reason I ask is that I have just read about a technique that will purify turbid water and make it safe for drinking. It is a relatively simple process and perhaps has market value that is not yet recognized.

Sun Mar 09, 03:50:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

No clue. I suggest that you contact the Orthodox Union and/or the OK kashrut certification organization, and/or other generally-accepted kashrut certification group(s).

Kosher restaurants and take-out places all over New York City still have signs in their windows advertising that they use only filtered water. The prohibition against using unfiltered water in New York City because of the presence of bugs barely visible with the naked eye is alive and well.

Sun Mar 09, 01:13:00 PM 2008  

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