Thursday, January 21, 2010

Consistent kashrut? Not quite

Start with part one, "Creeping toward consistent kashrut?" Be sure to read the comments.

I recently read Azriela Jaffe's "'What Do You Mean, You Can't Eat in My Home?:' A Guide to How Newly Observant Jews and Their Less-Observant Relatives Can Still Get Along." It's packed full of practical advice. But some of that advice may be challenging to apply, particularly when it comes to eating in non-kosher or "less-kosher" homes. Do I really want to kasher the oven, pots and utensils in someone else's home just so I can eat food that is cooked for me there? Frankly, no.

But there's another issue, on which Woodrow's comment to my previous post (see link above) touched. As he said, " . . . I'm not ready to go too far when I am back home (let alone staying at my parents' house- my sense is that just not eating chicken is pushing them to the edge of their tolerance!)"

Some of us have relatives and/or friends who barely tolerate our different level of observance as it is. Do we really wish to alienate them further by acting in a manner that they might interpret as "holier than thou"?

Must I stop eating in the home of my vegan friend? What about my old buddy who doesn't keep kosher, but never serves meat when we're there, out of respect for our kashrut observance (such as it is)? How do I explain to my kosher-kitchen-keeping girlfriend that it's one thing to eat cheese without a hechsher (rabbinical seal ensuring that a product is kosher), since the Conservative Movement has ruled that all U.S.-produced dairy products are kosher, but possibly another matter to use products that not only contain unhechshered cheese but are also cooked/baked (etc.) without rabbinical supervision? Am I now going to refuse to eat her latkes because she cooks Celentano's dairy lasagna in her kitchen, since I strongly suspect that Celentano's dairy lasagna may not be kosher even by Conservative standards? And what about my oldest friend, who's struggling to balance her kashrut with shalom bayit (keeping peace in the family), since she's well aware that her step-children, who are certainly old enough to know better, do whatever they want in her kitchen when she's not there?

I appreciate the efforts of my non-kosher-keeping friends to respect our kashrut, and am not willing to alienate them by refusing to eat in their homes or making a big production number concerning what I and/or they would have to do in order to enable me to eat in their homes. I also appreciate the difficulties that some of my other friends have in trying to keep their kitchens at least a reasonable semblance of kosher, and am not willing to alienate any of them, either.

Bottom line: What I eat when I'm in control is one thing. But, provided that I'm not asked to eat non-kosher beef or poultry, milk/meat combinations, or what I call "hard-core treif"--pork or shellfish--I don't see myself ever being "kosher enough" to make a song and dance about what I'll eat in the homes of other people who are kind enough to invite me. I'll try to persuade my friends and family to eat in kosher restaurants when they're available, but I'm not ready to make a song and dance about that, either. I'm simply not prepared to let my kashrut observance interfere with my relationships with my family and friends.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

First one up to bat :~D
My hubby's family were to put it politely, not kosher or kosher tolerant.
These are the folks who tried to convince me that the matzoh ball soup served during Passover was Pesadic when I saw the can that they came from.
These are the folks who got so indignant when I didn't want to have a half cheese and half pepperoni pizza because the oil from the pepperoni sloshed over to the cheese side in my house.
When we lived in student housing in Tallahassee FL 38 years ago we lived on tuna casseroles for milchig meals and HN frankfurters for fleishig. Our first Chanukah was a franfurter omelet with potato latkes.
We've lived in mostly treif areas all our married life. We call it going on a treasure hunt.
Love Vermont Cabot cheese -- excellent and Kosher.

Thu Jan 21, 11:15:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Too Old to Jewschool Steve said...

Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

Based on some of your posts, including some we've hashed out before, I would not have expected you to end up where you did on this one. We reached the same point over the last several years.

We made some effort to be more consistent in our kashrut. No more treyf pizza or chinese food on paper plates at home. We became more careful about eating out and, if available, chose the kosher place over the non-kosher place. But, under certain circumstances, we out in non-kosher places, and choose veggie or dairy selections. We recognize that such items would generally qualify as kosher by any meaningful definitions.

It became obvious that certain family members were uncomfortable with our choices, although we in no way subjected them to them. My mother (unlike my wife, I grew up in a kosher home) feared we wouldn't eat in her house anymore, deeming it insufficiently kosher. But we took the approach that shalom bayit (or, more broadly, shalom mishpacha) was more important than upholding a standard, as long as (like you) we weren't eating pork, shellfish, etc. My parents, who never waited between meat and dairy, still offer their grandchildren ice cream for dessert after deli; my kids know that it's their decision -- but consistently they pass on the ice cream even if their cousins are indulging. My mother's fears have subsided, my kids have completely internalized being kosher, and so far, so good.

Thu Jan 21, 11:43:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Too Old to Jewschool Steve said...

Sorry, that should have read:

We recognize that such items would NOT qualify as kosher by any meaningful definitions.

Fri Jan 22, 08:06:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Anon., I've been relatively fortunate with my relatives and friends, though I think that some of them would probably say, that, in terms of my observance level as a whole, I've "flipped out" (become extremely Orthodox, by comparison to them and to the years-ago me), if they'd ever heard that term. :)

Steve, you said that, "Based on some of your posts, including some we've hashed out before, I would not have expected you to end up where you did on this one." Given *last* January’s discussion of kashrut on my blog , I can see why. But given the February 2007 post in which I complained about the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly's ruling against eating dairy in non-kosher restaurants, imagine how surprised *I* am! :)

Maybe I shouldn't be all that surprised, though. I've been aware for years that my continuing conversations with some of my more traditionally-observant commenters have had an influence on my own observance. For one thing, I went back to my former practice of leaving some lights on on Shabbat/Sabbath so as not to violate the rule against turning an electrical device on or off on Shabbat. For another, I got sufficiently tired of trying to explain my own hypocrisy (in thinking that women should be obligated to pray three times daily, at least before and after childrearing, while refusing to take on the obligation myself) that I decided to put my prayers where my mouth is and davven three times daily. (I'm doing pretty well with davvening Shacharit/Morning Service and Minchah/Afteroon Service, but I've already admitted on my blog that I'm often too busy and/or tired to manage Maariv/Evening Service). So I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised that I've decided to become somewhat more observant in another matter of halachah/Jewish religious law.

But my efforts to be stricter in kashrut observance are entirely place-dependent. If I were living somewhere where the nearest kosher restaurant was an hour away by car, I certainly wouldn't be making the effort to avoid eating in non-kosher restaurants. And my decision to become more kashrut-observant is so recent that I've barely begun to think about how I'm going to handle kashrut challenges when we're traveling.

Fri Jan 22, 11:29:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Too Old to Jewschool Steve said...

Somehow, I think you're much less than an hour away by car from Great Neck, which has many kosher restaurants on Middle Neck Road.

Fri Jan 22, 01:51:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Steve, since we don't own a car, it's actually easier for us to get to Manhattan than to Great Neck. I'm also happy to report that there's a good Chinese kosher restaurant only a few subway stops from our neighborhood. So don't worry--we won't starve for lack of kosher restaurants. :)

Fri Jan 22, 02:05:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Batya said...

Shira, Great Neck has a fantastic variety of kosher places. When I was visiting my parents (and took my father here to Israel) in Oct I escaped by bus from North Shore Hospital, went to town and just followed the green lights until I reached a great kosher restaurant.

Sun Jan 24, 08:38:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Batya, next time we rent a car, perhaps we'll check out Great Neck's kosher restaurants.

Sun Jan 24, 06:44:00 PM 2010  

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