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Traif Restaurant

A new restaurant is about to open in Brooklyn. It’s called Traif (the Hebrew word meaning not kosher).  As the BLD (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) Project points out, that while it may be in Brooklyn it is not a restaurant that the local Hasidic community will be dinning in.   Jason Marcus, the chef and co-owner of Traif, is Jewish and according to his blog, he wanted to open a restaurant that celebrates the foods he loves most, shellfish and pork.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the restaurant when I heard about it. My friend sent me this article, announcing the opening of Traif. She was outraged. The idea of the restaurant didn’t sit well with me; but I didn’t think it is anti-Semitic. I wanted to tell the JCarrot community about Traif, but I am not really sure what to say. I am hoping that this post will spark conversation like it has on other blogs. I am curious about how this makes others feel. Especially people that care about food and Judaism.

I read through the comments on the article my friend sent me. Then I read through the Traif’s blog. The debate taking place around the opening of this restaurant is very interesting. The comments ranged from outrage about the it to it’s funny and we should laugh at it. I think the debate from Jews and non-Jews, as well as observant and secular Jews is interesting an important.

These comments question whether or not kashrut has a place in our modern lives. Personally, I believe it does. But I understand that there is more to being Jewish than keeping kosher. I keep kosher, I have two sets of dishes, I don’t eat meat out and I never eat shellfish and pork. On the other hand my family does not keep kosher and they still have meaningful Jewish experiences in their lives all the time. So, kashrut is not the end all and be all of Judaism. It’s a component. An important component.

It’s an important aspect for many reasons, first it’s talked about in the Torah. Incidentally, this weeks Torah portion includes the laws of kashrut. Secondly, food is a vital and integral part of our daily lives. Having rules about what we can and cannot eat has a huge impact on our lives. And finally, the fact that Jason choose Traif for the name of his restaurant implies that people would understand the underlying meaning of the word. The idea of kosher and traif products isn’t a thing of the past, it is very much alive today.

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13 Responses to “Traif Restaurant”

  1. Alan Chananyah Says:

    The name isn’t disrespectful, it’s just honest.
    The owner likes shellfish and, I’m assuming, pork. Customers know where they stand and if they don’t like it, they shouldn’t go in.

    Relax, there are lots of Jews who don’t keep kosher. My guess is that the only ones really upset about this are those that insist that there is only one way to be Jewish. Good luck selling that to a stiff-necked people:).

  2. Lea Says:

    Hi Michelle, your comment that there’s more to being Jewish than keeping kosher set me off thinking about how kashrut is so often at the centre of stories about people who are oppressed for their Judaism – keeping kosher is often the last vestige of Jewishness that people cling to in the face of whatever horrors are befalling them.

    I have a cookbook of marrano recipes (A Drizzle of Honey), and it shows how people were so often reported on by their neighbours based on their eating habits, such as avoiding pork or not cooking on Saturdays and such – one of their few ways to maintain their Jewishness in secret. Eating is so public and yet so intensely personal, especially in such a situation, where eating kosher is a way to keep faith with yourself without taking on other public acts. Although obviously it didn’t always work…

    Our attitude towards kashrut has changed so dramatically in the last few generations. It says a lot about how comfortable we feel here in North America.

    Interesting post. I’m off to read up on this Traif place.

  3. Alan Divack Says:

    Great post. I am reminded of a teaching of, I think David Hartmann:” Kasruth is a very important mitzvah. On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 2.”.
    (someone please correct me if they are certain of source and quote. )

  4. Alix Says:

    the fact that someone could consider this anti-semitic is a joke. disrespectful to some, no doubt, but anti-semitic? “The Jewish obsession with bacon” is a chapter in my friend Sue Fishkoff’s upcoming book, “Kosher Nation.” I think it’s a great idea, and will probably draw a lot of customers, both Jewish and non.

  5. shirley villafranca Says:

    last weekend my brother and his family came over to visit me. when my mother told my sister in law that i do not bake and cook on saturdays (she wanted me to teach her how to bake cookies, i felt the cold shoulder treatment that afternoon. my mother and sister were okay with it, me not eating shellfish and pork, but i know i am being talked about by others. i do not keep kosher because i am compelled to, i keep it because it is a way for me to be close to Him.

  6. Lenore Says:

    It certainly takes alot of chutzpah to name a restaurant, “Treif!”

  7. Michelle Kohn Says:

    Thank you for all of your comments. As I expected it’s very interesting to see how different people react to the restaurant and how different people view kashrut.

  8. Jeff Says:

    I went to Traif on opening night and had a great time. The owners care as much about food as they do serving the community, and they’re created a very warm dining environment.

    I don’t eat traif so this was complicated for me, but I must say that the owners are incredibly nice people who did not mean to disrespect Jews, but rather, express in a kind of Jewish way what kind of food the restaurant’s owner and chef loves, which happens to be pork and shellfish. Traif.

    As I’ve said to others, I think Traif will end up irritating more vegetarians than Jews. I ate the only non-traif things on the menu and they were delicious, seasonal, and thoughtfully done.

  9. Chana Says:

    In a strange way, I appreciate that he frames his actions within Judaism. It’s the difference between a person eating bacon and a Jew eating traif. It sure beats “kosher-style.”

  10. Sandy Says:

    Brings to mind the news from Israel, Jan ’10, of the retired cardiologist (I think from Haifa – Eli Landau) who is publishing a pork cookbook. Not anti-Semitic either, just in poor taste, pardon the pun.

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