Kashrus and the BT

As I said previously, as major as kashrus is, it was one of the last mitzvos I was able to embrace. The reason for that was that I couldn’t bear to hurt my mother. I was sure she would take my refusal to eat her food as a personal rejection.

My mother is not the only one who feels this way. I know a Stoliner family, all FFBs, whose daughter married a man from another Chassidus. The new husband was strict about eating meat from the hechsher of his Chassidus, so the mother had to buy the right meat if her daughter would be coming for Shabbos. The mother had no problem with this, but one of her friends asked in horror, “Aren’t you insulted?” If a frum woman, who ought to know that kashrus is simply a halachic issue and not an emotional one, still assumed her friend would feel insulted or rejected, how then would the average secular mother feel? After all, we mothers do put love into our cooking.

The way to bridge this gap is by being mentschlich. BTs cannot demand that their parents change their old ways to suit their new needs. Parents are masters of their home, and everything the BT does should be with this thought in mind.

I learned how to keep kosher within my mother’s non-kosher kitchen through intensive shiurim at my seminary. In addition to practical and detailed discussion about everything relating to food and cooking, we received advice about how to make the transition easier for our parents. One piece of advice was: Respectfully ask for exclusive use of one rear burner on the stovetop. By choosing only one rear burner, we would effectively show that we were not imposing our way on everybody.

Another piece of advice we received was to take responsibility for the family grocery shopping. This not only insured that we would get the kosher food we needed, it would relieve somebody of a chore. By being helpful, our observance of kashrus would no longer seem like an imposition to our parents.

There’s a wonderful book called Keeping Kosher in a Non-Kosher World by Rabbi Eliezer Wolff. It deals with the specific issue of keeping kosher in a non-kosher home, but the topic of eating out is covered as well.

Although the book is not well-known, I think it’s a must have for a BT. This link will take you to its actual contents, but I think the book version should be distributed at kiruv centers around the world. I also think it should be renamed Keeping Kosher in a Non-Kosher Home but that’s really a small thing.

Chabad also does wonderful work kashering people’s homes, but they can’t help when parents aren’t willing to make a complete change-over. But even BTs living with non-frum parents or roommates can find workable solutions. Keeping kosher in a non-kosher home is not simple, but it is possible. And I can say that with authority because I’ve done it.

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

Fleishig Bagel Shop?

My father stood in front of the counter perplexed why he could not order a corned beef sandwich at the bagel shop for lunch. Other “Jewish” delicatessens that he had gone to offered bagels, cream cheese, and lox and corned beef sandwiches. The bagel shop in his area even has corned beef sandwiches on a bagel. I explained to him that while there was nothing wrong with putting corned beef on a pareve bagel, this establishment could not offer such a sandwich because it was a strictly dairy restaurant.

Although my mother has slowly come to understand what keeping kosher entails, it seems to be much harder for my father. Many times he asks questions about the halachos of kashrus as if trying to find a loophole in the whole system that would permit a Jew to eat a Philly cheese steak.
Read more Fleishig Bagel Shop?

Going Cold Turkey (Glatt of course)

Mmm.., milkshakes, cheeseburgers..ham sandwiches…BLTs.. Cigarettes. Remember those days? Remember when smoking was cool and everybody- I mean everybody did it? Then suddenly the news broke that it caused cancer, lung disease and you tried to stop but just couldn’t? Doctors told you that you would die if you didn’t stop smoking, but in the back of your mind, all you could think was that George Burns was still alive.. Remember the cold sweats, the weight gain, and the frayed nerves of that month last year when you tried to stop smoking? Remember that silly patch that you put on your arm? Nothing worked. Finally, one day you snapped. Another close friend or relative died. Finally, you quit. Now, you can run that extra mile, colds come less frequently, you did not get fat. You were still cool. Best of all the whole country supports your quitting.
Read more Going Cold Turkey (Glatt of course)

You Can Thank BTs for Kosher Sushi

I was schmoozing recently with a local Rabbi who is active in Kiruv. He was telling me about the many important things that BTs have brought to the always-observant community. But the one innovation he mentioned that sticks in my head is Kosher Sushi.

The theory goes something like this: When Baalei Teshuva entered the community they were not happy with the choice of Kosher Restaurants and take-out foods. So they innovated and brought Kosher Sushi to the marketplace. Now you can walk down Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills and drop into Sushi Metsuyan, Annie’s Kitchen or the Bagel Store to pickup a six-pack of your favorite seaweed-rice-vege combo.

So the next time you’re munching on that explosion of Ginger, Soy and Wasabi, give thanks to Hashem, and then remember the BTs who love you and are looking after your best interests. I’ll leave the spiritual appeal of Sushi for a future post.