What do the young Jewish star chefs in Los Angeles have in common? For those on the cutting edge of the city’s food scene, it’s not the laws of kashrut.
There are a variety of options for how to begin the process, but all involve study with a rabbi. Some people study with an individual rabbi for a period of time, and other people enroll in group classes designed especially for converts.
Do you want to be experimented on by eating sushi or bagels and lox made with a new type of salmon with eel genes in it – salmon which hasn’t been adequately tested for safety of human consumption?
Ever since March 24, when the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC) revoked Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat Market’s kosher certification, the nonprofit consortium of Orthodox rabbis has been trying to explain to kosher observant Jews in Los Angeles what went wrong, why they responded the way they did and what they’ll do differently in the future.
Everyone has their moments of failure, when they transgress. Not necessarily out of malice, but in response to temptation or opportunity or out of fear.
The most elaborate, comprehensive and effective system for the prevention of animal cruelty was not invented by the FDA or even PETA; it was devised by the Book of Leviticus. This may seem a strange idea. Without question, it swims rather roughly against that trusty river of intuition. Pigeon slaughter is rarely good for pigeons. Bull offerings are not something cows easily stomach. As far as “becoming a sacrificial lamb,” I have it on good authority that this is not what most sheep dream about when they are kids.
Jewish holidays are full of symbolic foodstuffs: We are people of the mouth and stomach at least as much as the people of the book. Passover provides perhaps the best example of this — not only does almost everything on the table have a story, the ritual of the holiday involves telling those stories at length. Everything from the parsley we dip to the wine drink has a narrative attached to it.
Throughout his conversion process, Michael Pershes claims he was an “obsessive superstar Jew.” The 42-year-old real estate developer and fashion designer studied Torah and the laws of kashrut, learned modern Hebrew at the Beverly Hills Lingual Institute, volunteered for the first time at Jewish Family Service, wrote monthly essays, celebrated Shabbat every week and joined his synagogue’s choir in the two-and-a-half years it took him to convert.
Times Square, the icon of New York kitsch and tourism, pop culture and media art, not only looked different that day in late September, it smelled different. The place that many people call the center of the world was transformed into one big Chinese kitchen. That's right. Times Square was home to the 5th International Chinese Culinary Competition.
About eight months ago, when Katsuji Tanabe agreed to display the Tav HaYosher certificate in the window of his one-year-old restaurant on Pico Boulevard, the head chef and owner of Mexikosher knew that the “ethical seal,” issued by the Modern Orthodox social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek, would inform customers that he treats his workers with respect and in accordance with California labor laws.
As Jews, Christians and Muslims united together to find paths to peace, we the participants and friends who are part of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative, are grateful for The Jewish Federation’s decision to cancel the speaking engagement of Pamela Geller.
On our wedding day last year, my wife and I decided that, due to our Jewish convictions, we would no longer drink milk or consume any dairy products. This is a vow we have remained deeply committed to, but we never expected it to become mainstream.
Following an increasing demand for kosher food in Poland, 17 Polish Jews graduated from a seminar certifying them as kashrut supervisors.
On a Monday morning in November, two men sat on the edge of a field in Carpinteria, 85 miles north of Los Angeles. The older one, middle-aged, wiry and bareheaded, had the face of someone who has served in the military, worked in agriculture or, in his case, both. Alongside him was a younger man who wore a black kippah and looked, from his complexion, like he spends his days indoors.
This is a story about a dream afternoon I spent at La Seine, where chef Alex Reznik is cooking seasonal, farm-to-table, California-Asian … kosher food.
Those of us who love Israel have always pointed with pride to its vibrant democratic character – “the only democracy in the Middle East,” we called it.
We appreciate Rabbi Shafran's embrace of the importance of the work of Magen Tzedek when he states in his JTA Op-Ed, "to be sure Jewish ethical values in food production are no less important (than) halachic concerns, and are indeed embodied in independent halachic mandates. But they are distinct from kashrut." With that statement, Rabbi Shafran has conceded the very point that Magen Tzedek seeks to demonstrate for the Jewish community -- Jewish ethical values are no less important than halachic concerns.
There is something ironic, to put it politely, about an effort championing ethics that speaks from both sides of its mouth. That would be the new certification seal for kosher food products, created by a op rabbi and actively being promoted by his movement, that aims to “help assure consumers that kosher food products were produced in keeping with the highest possible Jewish ethical values and ideals for social justice in the area of labor concerns, animal welfare, environmental impact, consumer issues and corporate integrity.”
Seeking to accentuate Jewish traditions that place a premium on ethical integrity, Los Angeles Orthodox rabbis are encouraging local businesses to sign up for a new seal of certification that ensures employers are treating workers fairly and humanely
Following the filing of criminal charges against owners of the kosher meat producer Agriprocessors, the Orthodox Union says it will withdraw its kosher certification of the company within two weeks unless new management is hired.
An undercover video shot at the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant is prompting new claims that the company engages in inhumane slaughter and misled Orthodox rabbis who visited the plant in July.
The Conservative movement released a policy statement and guidelines for its much-anticipated ethical kashrut certification, outlining the social justice standards companies are expected to meet if their foodstuffs are to qualify for the designation
An interfaith coalition -- organized by a Jewish group -- is planning to demonstrate next week in Postville, Iowa, in support of justice for workers and comprehensive immigration reform.
Agriprocessor raid's effects ripple across the community
Although they live more than 12,000 miles apart, Yosef Eliezrie and Moshe Price have a lot in common. In October 2006, Eliezrie received a bone marrow transplant provided by Price. It was his only hope for survival after a recurrence of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. This month, Eliezrie got the chance to meet Price in person, thank him for his lifesaving gift and embark on a unique new friendship.
With the kosher certification of more than 300 food factories in China, each producing multiple products, America's largest kosher-certification company, the Orthodox Union (OU), has more than doubled the number of certifications it does in China just in the past two years.
I was torn between my professional responsibility to attend the most experiential learning moment of the this year's Hazon conference and my personal squeamishness.
Certainly, it was noble that Hazon, a nonprofit dedicated to Jewish environmentalism and food sustainability, wanted to connect participants at their recent conference in Falls Village, Conn., to the food they eat and in doing so, to halachically slaughter organically, pasture-raised goats to feed the participants. But would I be able to watch the killing of not one but three goats?
The holidays are over, and I'm full.I spent a week with family in Manhattan, eating.And when I wasn't eating, I was reading a landmark book -- about food.
It surprised me that a company well-known for its concern for animal well-being and food safety would deem anything kosher treif, or unfit. Long before Whole Foods was even a glimmer in the eye of the Prius-tocracy, hadn't we Jews been telling ourselves and others that we were practicing humane slaughter and thoughtful animal husbandry -- embodied in the very laws of kashrut? What did Whole Foods know that I didn't?
Jonathan Safran Foer, author of the best-selling novel, "Everything Is Illuminated" (Houghton Mifflin, 2002) and last year's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" (Houghton Mifflin) released a video earlier this month in which he argues that the slaughtering practices employed by modern factory farms are out of step with the spirit of the kosher laws. The film ultimately calls upon viewers to consider vegetarianism.
Stretching along the popular beachfront area of Miami, approximately 650,000 Jewish residents support more than 100 synagogues, several Jewish community centers and abundant kosher restaurants, including authentic Thai food. The South Florida city even employs a full-time kashrut supervision department.
"You shall not eat anything abhorrent," the Torah (Deuteronomy 14:3) tells us. And while the Torah is referring to camels, rabbits, badgers and pigs, I would today include foods that that are high in fat and sugar and low in nutritional value. Foods that have been injected with hormones and antibiotics or treated with pesticides. Foods with a shelf life longer than the average life span.
When Julien Bohbot and Jacob Levy opened Delice Bakery on Pico Boulevard two years ago, they had one goal in mind: introducing the kosher community in Los Angeles to authentic French-baked goods that adhered to the highest standard of kashrut without sacrificing taste or quality. So during the year, that meant that Bohbot and Levy were paying three or four times as much as other bakeries for ingredients so that they could use cholov yisroel (milk that has been supervised), butter and cream to make Delice's flaky croissants. But at Passover time, the two men faced a greater challenge to make Passover cakes that tasted as good as year-round cakes and make the cakes affordable -- or almost affordable -- despite the high cost of kosher-for-Passover ingredients.
"Don't Get 'Mad,' Get Kosher. Kosher Meat Is Safe," reads an enormous red-and-yellow banner hanging in front of Santa Monica Glatt Market on Santa Monica Boulevard near Sawtelle Boulevard.
Well, maybe not completely safe, but certainly safer from mad cow disease.
Middle Easterners turn to the more exotic, like dates, quinces or pomegranates during the High Holidays. So if you're looking for some unique recipes this High Holiday season, you might want to turn to Faye Levy's latest cookbook, "Feast from the Mideast: 250 Sun-Drenched Dishes from the Lands of the Bible" (HarperCollins, $29.95).
What do cloven-hoofed cud-chewers have to do with ritual purity, much less holiness? In what way do fins and scales on a fish acknowledge God as the One who redeemed us from slavery? The "explanation" for kashrut demands further explanation.
This week, we begin "Vayikra," the first book of Leviticus, the third book of the Torah. This section of the Torah is filled with many fascinating and important Torah concepts that we can relate to, including the laws of lashon hara (the prohibitions against speaking ill of others), kashrut (keeping kosher) and the well-known phrase: "Love your fellow as yourself."
Just one floor beneath the legendary Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, there's a large room that, for much of the week, remains locked. The chef has the key. So does the catering manager. But if they ever want to so much as crack open the door, they can't do so alone. First, they need the rabbi.