|Letter Regarding Kashrut
My name is Ayelet and I'm 14 years old. Before starting my letter, I would like to indicate that I'm not religious at all. I have been to your site a few times, and I agree with many things you have written there, but I didn't agree with one thing: Your point of view about kashruth. I think that Israel, as the only Jewish state in the world, should keep its Jewish identity. If we don't, I doubt whether Israel will continue to be our national home. It doesn't mean we should be religious, I do think buses and shops should be at service on Shabbat, I completely don't agree with the fact that ultra-Orthodox people don't serve in the army and we sponsor them, but I think that a principle as major in Judaism as keeping kashruth should be a compulsory for all Jewish public institutions in Israel by law, as it is today. Non-kosher products should be sold only in a few deli shops, as they are sold today. I'm not religious, but, if Israel doesn't keep its Jewish identity publicly, how will we differ from all other non-Jewish countries in the world?
I would be glad to get your reply.
We trust you enjoy your time at the Hofesh site, and hope you visit us often.
You indicate that Israel should enforce kashruth within the large stores and public institutions as a means of enhancing Israel's identity as a Jewish state.
We at Hofesh insist that Jewish identity and tradition--very important components of our society--cannot be equated with extremist religious rituals dictated by a powerful few to enslave the many. We believe that one component of Judaism is its religion, but not its only component. We also have a language, dance, philosophy, country, customs, and much more.
Hofesh is not against kashruth. In fact, Hofesh supports those who maintain a kosher diet, and anyone who expresses and affirms Judaism. (Some on the Hofesh team even maintain kosher homes!) This includes modest, nonviolent haredim who wear tefillin each day, and hilonim who serve on the Lebanese front. Both are expressions of Judaism.
The purpose for which Hofesh was founded is not to encourage people to spurn normative religious observance, such as kashruth. Check the many articles on our Hebrew site; you won't find one that tells Jews not to observe kashruth.
What Hofesh demands is freedom for people to determine their avenue of expressing Judaism. Writing stories in Hebrew, promoting Israeli businesses abroad, serving in the IDF, working as a mashgiach kashruth--these and many others are valid expressions of Judaism.
Historically, hilonim have not demanded a particular type of religious observance of haredim. There have been some exceptions over the years, but hilonim never made specific demands such as requiring pork to be sold in Me'a Shearim, or shellfish to be sold in B'nei Braq. Such a demand would be ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than the haredi demand that certain types of meat be sold in stores frequented by Russian immigrants in Nazareth Ilit--immigrants who seek to be converted to Judaism but are blocked by the haredi establishment.
A haredi consumer can find kosher food in every large store in Israel; a hiloni must search out high-priced specialty stores to find nonkosher food. This is an economic inequity, and one that is easy to rectify. Individual storeowners should be able to determine what food they stock based on business considerations only. If residents in Nazareth Ilit ask for nonkosher meat and fish, then the storeowners should be allowed to sell them without the fear of secondary boycotts or even physical threats and violence.
On its kashruth page, Hofesh asks to boycott products that are approved by the Badatz (Beit Din Gavoah le'Tzedek) and other extra-governmental haredi institutions. The Badatz, R. Landa and other haredi organizations often grant their kashruth certificates for reasons that have nothing to do with kashruth. A typical example is a function hall that must be closed on Shabbat to maintain a kashruth certificate. However, the same mashgiach who closes a function hall on Shabbat will give a certificate to a food processing factory in the United States which runs 365 days a year--including Shabbat and Yom Kippur and which employs Jewish workers. This is a terrible inconsistency that is based only on power and money, and has nothing to do with the horrendous custom of "cooking a calf in its mother's milk."
In your letter you indicate that public institutions should maintain kashruth. This in fact may be a valid policy. A minister can issue a directive that all cafeterias within a ministry must serve kosher meals. Ministers can also decide that smoking be forbidden within a ministry's buildings, and that the employees must exercise proper demeanor when dealing with the public and each other. All this provides a solid organizational basis for good performance.
However, said minister (or government or religious leader) has no authority to limit the actions of those outside his jurisdiction. Sepharadim eat legumes on Pessach, even though Ashkenazi rabbanim rule against it. There has not been a haredi boycott against Supersol because it sells legumes during Pessach. Similarly, there should be no haredi boycott against stores that sell nonkosher meat. These tactics are not practiced in New York, and they have no place in Israel. Furthermore, the haredi organizations who force their obscurantist form of kashruth on the public do not invigorate Judaism or Jews with virtuous spirituality.
Lastly, Israel does not need kashruth to maintain its identity among non-Jewish countries. More accurately, kashruth by itself will not maintain Israel's Jewish identify. The Moslems do not eat pork--does that mean the distinction between Jews and Moslems is blurred? It is the entirety of Jewish experience--language, beliefs, literature, and bittersweet history--that makes us unique.
We hope you'll come again to Hofesh, and you'll tell your friends and family about our site. We believe we are the leading web site dedicated to freedom from religious coercion.
Editor's note: We do not publish identifying personal information on our site. Last names, email addresses and other sensitive data are discarded by the Hofesh team.