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Kosher Butchers in Long Island Ask: What Is Kosher?

Posted By Rabbi Mordechai Rackover On August 1, 2008 @ 1:19 pm In Kosher,Most Controversial Posts,News,Opinion | 12 Comments

frozenpeas1.JPG [1]

The JTA [2] reported yesterday about a pair of kosher butcher brothers in Long Island who are causing a peculiar controversy: by petitioning the state of New York to stop enforcing its kosher laws.

The brothers’ shop, Commack Deli and Market, adheres to a Conservative definition of kashrut, which holds that some foods (like frozen vegetables) are inherently kosher, and therefore do not need kosher certification. But according to the JTA: “Under New York law, only products labeled as kosher can be sold as kosher. The store’s kosher supervisor – a Conservative Rabbi named William Berman – submitted an affidavit with a different point of view: “the state is infringing upon the religious freedom of the non-Orthodox denomination/sects of Judaism by compelling [them] to adhere to the law requiring labels on all kosher food products.”

On the one hand, I sympathize with the Yarmeisch brothers. I consider myself Orthodox, and I do purchase some foods without heksherim, beer, certain rice products (rice wine, vinegar in some cases), and frozen veggies. But I feel a bit like a hidden Jew – “If anyone finds out!”

BUT from the Ortho P.O.V. I can say as follows: I used to be amazed (okay I still am) at the level of craziness that people went through on Passover. Once a friend mentioned that when he was younger (the sixties) his parents would buy frozen carrots without certification even on passover. Then this year I was reading a Passover kosher manual and found an interesting issue: sometimes the machinery that is used to package, sort, etc regular frozen veggies also is used to make those frozen mixes that include pasta, fish or meat. Imagine dumping a bag of carrots into your Kosher-for-Passover-Chicken-Soup and having a bow-tie noodle jump in as well.

Imagine dumping a bag of carrots into your Kosher-for-Passover-Chicken-Soup and having a bow-tie noodle jump in as well.

What is the moral of the story? Food processing is so complicated these days that there is often significant cause for concern even in what appears to be the simplest of foods. All this notwithstanding, the constitutional questions are fascinating and the Jewish legal questions are equally or even more important: Why is there no significant ‘lenient’ or liberal hashgacha in the U.S.?

Read the JTA’s story here [2].
Read another account of the story in Vos Iz Neias here [3]


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[1] Image: http://jcarrot.org/wp-content/uploads/frozenpeas1.JPG

[2] JTA: http://www.jta.org/cgi-bin/iowa/news/article/20080731Yarmeischkosher07312008.html

[3] here: http://www.vosizneias.com/18724/2008/07/30/new-york-conservative-rabbis-fight-orthodox-kosher-state-laws/

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