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German Beer Kosher for Jews for Jesus?

It's called "Simcha" and its blue and gold label flaunts a Star of David. Brewed in the former East German state of Saxony, it's a white pilsner with an alcohol content of 4.9%, and every step of its production is … Read More

By / December 19, 2007

It's called "Simcha" and its blue and gold label flaunts a Star of David. Brewed in the former East German state of Saxony, it's a white pilsner with an alcohol content of 4.9%, and every step of its production is overseen by a rabbi:

A certificate on the brewery wall, signed by Rabbi Yitshak Ehrenberg from Berlin, attests that the beer is produced in accordance with Judaic dietary rules but warns that it is not suitable for Passover.

Special precautions are taken to ensure that it never comes into contact with any beer produced in the "traditional" German way, and no pregnant or menstruating women are allowed to participate in its production.

The barley and hops are grown organically in Bavaria, the yeast used to ferment it is made at the brewery and the water comes from local springs.

And of course, the barley can't have been grown during Passover.

Unsurprisingly, all of the extra steps necessary to gain kosher certification mean that Simcha comes at a cost: the joy-inducing brew sells for about 80% more than the average German beer. Like "Exit," the kosher energy drink that we posted about last month, it's a welcome addition to a small market, but there's a potential problem with this particular Simcha.

Back in August, The Forward published a piece outing the beer–which has enjoyed modest success–as potentially connected with (and profitable for) the Association of Saxonian Friends of Israel. So, who are these friendly chaps from Saxony? Oh, just your average Juden for Jesus, it seems. Haaretz picked up on it, too:

The website for the Saxonian Friends of Israel, which has promotions for Simcha, includes links to a number of missionary organizations, including the local Jewish Messianic community and the German branch of Jews for Jesus. "Jesus of Nazareth is the center of our lives," says the 'About Us' page of the website. "We oppose the idea of converting the Jews and leave this service to others. But if we are asked, we do not conceal our messianic testimony. Yet, we focus firstly on our own people. We believe that the Messiah will gather his people from among Jews and heathens, when He will come according to the testimony of the words of God." As part of the launch promotion for Simcha, a Jesus bookmark and other religious items were offered to customers. The bookmark disappeared recently from the Simcha site.

Which raises a couple of questions: If a product is made according to the laws of kashrut and certified by a rabbi, but it benefits–whether privately or publicly–a non-kosher cause, should it still be regarded as kosher?

And isn't this whole "kosher energy drink" and "kosher beer" phenomenon a big scam, more than anything? Frankfurt Rabbi Andrew Steiman, interviewed by Haaretz this past October, called it all a "hoax" and had this to say:

"People who keep kosher don't need a hecshher (kosher certification) on beer. This is just nareshkeit (foolishness). The hechsher is for [non-Jewish] Germans, so they can say they had a kosher beer."

Nareshkeit, indeed.

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