Religion & Beliefs

10 Ways to Keep Kosher, and 3 Ways To Ask About Someone Else’s Level of Kashrut

In Nashville, people are always asking me if I’m kosher. And even though I know it’s unhelpful and overly smartass to say, “No, humans are treyf,” I’m always tempted. So let’s get a few things straight about what it can … Read More

By / July 10, 2007

In Nashville, people are always asking me if I’m kosher. And even though I know it’s unhelpful and overly smartass to say, “No, humans are treyf,” I’m always tempted. So let’s get a few things straight about what it can mean to keep kosher, and how to ask someone what their policy is without pissing her off. As I mentioned yesterday, asking someone if he keeps kosher is kind of meaningless, because there’s a broad spectrum that falls under the yes answer. Here are some of the most common ways people keep kosher, from the least to the most extreme: 1. Avoiding eating nonkosher animals of any kind, such as pork and shellfish, and not eating milk and meat together—though not necessarily waiting any specific number of hours before switching from meat to milk. Owning one set of dishes, and eating meat regardless of its origins.

2. Only eating kosher meat, owning one set of dishes.

3. Owning two sets of dishes, and only eating kosher meat. Eating at restaurants that aren’t certified as kosher, ordering only dairy/vegetarian meals.

4. Same as 3, but only eating cold dairy dishes out (i.e. nothing cooked)

5. Owning two sets of dishes, and buying things that are kosher “by ingredients” meaning that they don’t contain any explicitly nonkosher ingredients such as gelatin, but aren’t certified as kosher. Eating hot dairy out. 6. Same as 5, but only eating cold dairy out. 7. Two sets of dishes, only buying products that are certified as kosher, but eating hot dairy at restaurants. 8. Same as 7 but only eating cold dairy out. 9. Two sets of dishes, only buying products that are certified as kosher, only eating at restaurants that are certified as kosher. 10. Only eating food that upholds strict standards of kashrut. Only eating Glatt meat, for instance, or only buying products with a specific certification on them, such as OU or CRC.

 

A person who observes any one of these levels would likely say that yes, he or she keeps kosher, even though the next person down on the line might disagree. Besides creating lots of political divisions in terms of whose hechsher you hold by and whose you don’t, keeping kosher can be problematic when you are invited to someone else’s place and asked to bring something, or when you’re having people over. How do you tactfully ask if your standards are high enough for them? Or if theirs are high enough for you? Here are a few pointers: If you’re asked to bring dessert you can ask if it needs to be from a kosher bakery. If your host says yes, and your kitchen is ingredients kosher versus certified kosher, you can assume you’ll need to pick something up from a kosher bakery. Offer up your own info from the start by saying something like, “We just have one set of dishes—is it still okay for us to bring something cooked, or would you rather we brought wine?” Ask something along the lines of, “Do you mind if I ask about your kashrut policy?” And then—this part is key—don’t judge. Or at least, judge silently. If someone isn’t up to your standards, ask about maybe meeting them at a kosher restaurant sometime, or ask if you can have them over instead. Saying, “that’s not good enough” is a quick way to make enemies. Just to complicate things further, check out this article over the Washington Post about the Conservative movement’s tzedek hechsher, coming next year.