OU Initiates Literary Kosher Certification

June 27, 2008 NY, NY

In response to growing consumer demand for kosher literature, the OU announced today that they have launched a new literary division and hechsher, and that the first set of 30 approved classic novels has been released today in special OU editions.

Staffed entirely by Baalei Teshuva with Master’s Degrees, the literary division of the OU works under the strict supervision of leading Rabbeim, to extract, expurgate, and endorse only the finest secular literature which meets the highest moral and aesthetic standards of the Orthodox community.

Rabbi Yaakov Rubinosteinfeldwitzman, the division leader says, “Oreos have been made kosher, now finally Faulkner is too. Our goal is to have a significant percentage of the best classic and contemporary literature under our supervision. The Orthodox Jewish market segment is growing ever stronger, and when publishers like Knopf and Random House see how we can deliver customers, they’ll kasher their presses. It will be a boon for the publishing houses, for America, for the Jews, and for the OU.” William Faulkner was unavailable for comment.

Here is the list:

A Confederacy of Blintzes
Tess of the M’atzahballs
Lady Chatterley’s Lubavitcher
As I Lay Plotzing
The Brie on the River Kwai
Love in the Time of Cholent
Dorkiness at Noon
Death of a Seltzerman
The Borscht Supremacy
Rosemary’s Bialy
For Whom the Matzah Balls
The Unbearable Likeness of Beets
Voyage of the Bagel
Profiles in Cabbage,
Beyond Good & Kugel
The Matzah of Castorbridge,
House of the Seven Bagels
The Gouda that Failed
Being & Nerdiness
Raise High the Succah Beam, Accountants
To Kill a Matzahball
Far from the Madding Cholent
A Knish Before Dying
A Long Day’s Journey into Passaic
Flounders for Algernon
Remembrance of Things Pastrami
The Pita & the Pendulum
Tender is the Brisket
The Vegan is a Lonely Diner
The Electric Kool-Aid Hasid Test
Das Kappucino

28 comments on “OU Initiates Literary Kosher Certification

  1. with traditional values?

    Please define.

    –and no, it is not rude to sigh in print.

  2. ::sigh::
    Did I not say that there were limits?

    Sighing is rather rude, don’t you think?

    How many “limits” does one have to find before it is no longer accurate to say that the majority of young adult fiction is acceptable for teens with traditional values?

  3. ::sigh::
    Did I not say that there were limits?

    So if the majority of what they read is antithetical to our lifestyle, then yes, that’s a problem

    False situation and you know it. The “majority” of what they read…”antithetical”?? Come now.

  4. DOH! I always fall for this sort of joke. I’m too literal.

    Obviously everything has a limit but absent the “how to” delinqueny book do you really think any of the other things will have an adverse impact on the reader?

    Eh, have you read secular children’s lit recently? When I was 12 I read books about babysitting clubs. One of the books I found the other day while looking for a gift for my niece was about what happens to a pair of boys (who were friends) when one of the boys discovers that he’s gay.

  5. Do I really think any of the other things will have an adverse impact on the reader?

    Once? No. Three or four times, probably not.

    But my kids easily read 10-12 books a week, each, if not more. At least during the summer, when we hit the library weekly. They’d read more if I let them — these are not kids who are going to experience the infamous “summer slide,” where kids lose ground and a few weeks worth of grade level over the summer from not reading.

    So if the majority of what they read is antithetical to our lifestyle, then yes, that’s a problem — so I make sure it’s not. I’m really not standing over them reading all their books first — I couldn’t possibly keep up. But some types of books are just not appropriate, and I will tell them to avoid those.

  6. ..I hear evrything you’re saying and again would say to have a little more faith in your parenting abilities, what your child(ren) have internalized from said parenting and their overall environment and their general make-up us regular human beings to be able to deal with those passing refrences.

    Obviously everything has a limit but absent the “how to” delinqueny book do you really think any of the other things will have an adverse impact on the reader?

  7. Well, see, 9-12 year olds in the secular world are “old enough” to at least think about dating, and when when I was a kid in public school, (20 years ago!) 11 was old enough to date for some kids, even if *my* mother said 16, so crushes and relationships, and admiring others’ bikini-clad bodies type of stuff tends to creep in, even if that’s not the point of the story at all.

    Or there was a recent kids book I read about a couple of kids cutting school, shoplifting, and spray painting graffiti on buildings, with instructions on how to get away with it — one kid winds up with a book of facts from the library and stays in school and stops stealing, etc., but the other one goes on and never gets punished or caught… glorification of such a lifestyle is not what I want my kids reading.

    Just an example. I did let my then 10 yr old read the Animorphs series, and about 2/3 of the way through this (excellent) series of some 50 books a relationship does develop between two of the kids and there is a little bit of teasing from the other kids and a quick kiss or two in the whole series, but I didn’t make him skip those books or anything, because it seemed to fit in the story, was brief and not too detailed, and it totally wasn’t the point. But I had to read it to determine that. It’s the gratuitous stuff and the general attitudes (lack of derech eretz, use of profanity, lack of respect for authority, etc.) of the characters that can be a problem, and way too prevalent.

  8. especially those designed for the 9-12 age range, has changed dramatically and there is a lot of inappropriate stuff

    –fair enough, so don’t let them read the newer stuff. That still leaves a lifetime’s worth of books that ARE available.

    designed to appeal to the secular reader

    –I have no idea what that means in relation to a 9-12 yr old.

    why give them a jump start on the shmutz,

    –I guess that depends on how you define “shmutz”

    –even if it means time & effort screening the books?

    Yes, but the whole problem was that 100% screening (even if you think it’s a good idea)) is simply impractical.

    ***This fear of books is truly frightening***

  9. There is also some heimish book list that a Bostoner chassidah showed me a while ago which talked about books from picture books to young adult literature. It was quite detailed — gave examples of the good and bad in each book. You might ask around for it in Brooklyn.

  10. G: Sorry, I’ve been in the library since I was very small, and that’s too many years ago to tell. The nature of books, especially those designed for the 9-12 age range, has changed dramatically and there is a lot of inappropriate stuff designed to appeal to the secular reader. As for killing them or scarring them for life, you’re right that the books have less impact than, say, the internet. But while we parents still have some control, why give them a jump start on the shmutz, even if it means time & effort screening the books?

  11. Fact: If your kid is a reader then s/he is not going to be satisfied with what passes for jewish “literature”.

    They are going to be reading…hold on to your hats…library books just like everybody else has done since time immemorial. Guess what, it won’t kill them or scar them for life. Have a little faith in your abilities as parents and your children as human beings.


  12. “Some of us would really appreciate such a (kosher) list of books for kids.”

    I don’t know if the link below is a complete solution for voracious readers and leisure purposes, but this is what some schools use; I’ve read that Mosdos even services some religious Muslim schools(when I went to Yeshivah, they used regular literature texts, but ripped out problematic parts). I also think we need to develop more quality fiction stories, as Bob suggests.


  13. We should also be aware that kids have to want to read the kosher literature. Boring material with a moral won’t get the job done. Suitably talented BT’s should pitch in to increase the amount of entertaining, well-written kosher literature. Maybe not the suggested titles, though!!

  14. Totally funny! Are you implying that Jews are food-obsessed??!!

    But I think there is some sort of database put out by a Christian family organization. Anyone know of it?

    Also, a good rule of thumb is, most chidren’s literature written and published prior to 1970 is probably kosher. After that, you would have to vet it first.

  15. For real now, I wouldn’t mind a list. I”m not terribly happy with what passes for Jewish literature these days and wary of its secular countpart. As a rule I stay away from pritzus and apikorsus but its hard to know what to select. It would also be good to have a list so that we could broaden ourselves, take what is good from the secular world and use it for ourselves.

  16. Once all books are available electronically, one could flip on the kosher book filter of choice to screen out bad stuff before you read it.

  17. EPA18,

    I’m an FFB (OK, married to a BT) and I think it’s funny. Not everyone has the same sense of humor, but I don’t think its a BT vs. FFB thing.

  18. I agree, Chana Leah, even as a voracious reader myself, I’m hard-pressed to keep ahead of my kids, and at least once, one of them read a book first that when I got to, I was very glad most of the “able to ride a unicorn” allusions went over his head! (I let him read “A Wrinkle in Time,” “A Swiftly Turning Planet” and “A Wind in the Door,” but the fourth book, “Many Waters,” turned out to be the problem. Oops!)

    There would need to be a database, rather than just a list, with actual reviews and ratings, because what I think is Kosher may not be what you think is Kosher, but if we identify the objectionable items (Kissing, etc. and profanity, for example, and I’m sure there are more) and mark whether a given book in the database contains them, then that might work. Maybe even an option to select ratings cut-offs and generate a list for taking to the library.

    Email me if you’re interested in discussing it further. miriam at heavenward designs.com

  19. But it touches on a serious subject. For example, what if you have a child who is a voracious reader and the volume of children’s reading material at the Jewish bookstore just doesn’t satisfy? Schools are (somewhat) vigilant about the types of secular lierature they allow in the classroom. Which parent, though, has the ability to read through every book outside the classroom, before they give it to their child,especially when the child is reading them almost faster than they come into the house? Some of us would really appreciate such a (kosher) list of books for kids.

  20. Ok, I will admit, some of these reach an even higher plateau of funniness than others: “Voyage of the Bagel”, “Brie on the River Kwai,” “Raise High the Succah Beam, Accountants”… Pure genius.

  21. Yaakov, that’s great. Tremendously cute. Good enough to print out to amuse my wife on Shabbat, and some of our other hevra.

    Clearly, you have to be well-enough versed in English Lit to get the allusions…

    Thanks for the giggle!

  22. Gads, of course it’s a joke. I think it’s pretty funny. It’s the summer, this is the time to loosen up a bit sometimes. If you get a website of your own, you can put up whatever you want on yours too. :-)

  23. I think this is a joke.

    But what *is* “non-kosher” literature anyway? Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein (PhD in English from Harvard) regularly quotes Christian writers such as Erasmus, Milton, and Blake, not to mention Cardinal Newman, in order to make Torah points.

  24. This post isn’t funny, it’s just embarassing.
    It’s the type of “humor” that causes FFBs to roll their eyes at the “weird” BT.

    – sometimes BTs are their own worst enemy.

  25. Are they editing the classics to make them “kosher” or are they finding classics that are already kosher?

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