Opinion: The Struggle of Being Kosher in a Non-Kosher World

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By R. Snyder, Ocean County, CA

As we speed toward the finish line of Tisha B’Av and head toward the Days of Awe, I am compelled to share a great dilemma we oft sweep under the rug – how we feed our bodies and neshama.

One big problem with living in the Diaspora is the despair of the abundance of non-kosher food, and the lack of affordable, available and healthy kosher foods. This is true in Orange County, California, as well as Los Angeles and other communities.

Even with the growing Jewish community in Orange County, there is lack of venues for quality kosher nourishment except cooking yourself. I have found boiled eggs and certain high salt and/or high sugar content readily in convenience stores, not to mention dairy pastries. Grocery stores carry microwave meals that are dairy, but also seem to carry a kashrus that is less than desirable because their certification is not on the top accepted list.

As folks try to open restaurants and food trucks, the fad of the newness is quickly replaced with the demands of the certifying industry that increase not only the cost of the ingredients, but also the time for preparation and final cost. Proprietors and consumers alike find that kosher meats are 4 times the cost of their non-kosher counterparts. The requirement for a certified mashgiach including the override to the company providing the service generally takes the place of 2 or more productive employees. Even then, that mashgiach is usually looked down as a dun sail who constantly wants to hinder production and profits.

During Pesach, prices are once again double that of normal days. Some establishments say it is the cost of totally transforming the kitchen and/or supply. And others say it is the demand because fewer restaurants are open. I drove to Los Angeles this past Pesach only to stand in line in extreme pain for over 30 mins. When it was finally my turn in line, this 20 something female came up and informed me that she was standing there and it was her turn. I looked at the double prices they were charging for Pesach and gave up my place only to drive the hour back home and cook scrambled eggs in my own kitchen. I should have saved myself the 3 hours of commute plus the cost of the fuel by not leaving home and cooking myself in the first place.

I ask why the communities are so non-supportive of new ventures. I also wonder why higher prices are tolerated as well as lack of food quality and service. Is it that certain frum people feel that keeping kosher is not important? Do we somehow feel that eating once in a while in a kosher restaurant is a luxury, or that when we are doing a mitzvah and paying a penance only to be lax in our observance on other times? Why do we allow certain agencies to have a mafia type hold over us, our eating establishments and lives? Are we more willing to delegate the responsibility for our observance to others as we blindly follow those we pay money to, trusting their observance is acceptable by the almighty?

If we as a community and we as a people are going to grow in not only numbers but observance things need to change. First we need to take the responsibility for our own kosher observance. Second we need to demand and support more food industry that is affordable and readily available. Not to mention HEALTHY. Importantly we need to demand, yes DEMAND, from those we trust in the oversight of our eating establishments that they do everything they can to support new and varied establishments and venues. Eating kosher should not be an expensive indulgence. Neither should it be non-healthy. Kosher food should be as available, cost effective and healthy as other ma and pa neighborhood establishments in the non Jewish world.

If we as a community are going to attract and keep our children and those who feel the need to return. We need an about face which says just educating our children is not enough, we need to put our energy into wholesome establishments so that the lure of leaving kosher observance and assimilation into the eating of the goy is not realized by those who are living and working outside the huppah of the community,

I have been told many times that the OC community would never support kosher eating establishments. And that any restaurant or deli needed to be 100% supported by non jews, and not rely on kosher Jews in Orange County. My reply is simple. If we as a community are going to establish viable communities and curb the assimilation, we need to do something now about establishing and promoting more kosher establishments in our neighborhoods.

Yes, it is expensive to be Jewish and observant. But it is ultimately expensive to not be observant and provide for our own, thus allowing assimilation to cost us everything. Including our children and grandchildren.

{Matzav.com}

10 COMMENTS

  1. It is the biggest problem that the non-orthodox jew thinks with his grandiose hate of Torah that he can cheat Hashem’s way.

    Every city that has over 1000 jews should even have 2 kosher restaurants. The idea of the world being so poor that only a minor amount even keep kosher is terrible.

    Still, if a good way was that every jew kept kosher, we would not have any problems finding the better place in smaller communities to have a good meal out at a good restaurant.

    The problem in my community is that there are about 2000 or so jews living almost all unorthodox and not a single one has tried to establish a public mikveh or even a kosher restaurant. We can get kosher food at the grocer, but it is so bad that no one has any way to even enjoy good faith best by kosher dining.

    Scary, but I think that the unorthodox are so bad that no one can view them as anything other than christian motif eager thoughts of poor thoughts and fraudulent futile suffering evil.

    It would be good because Hashem is making the world stronger day by day right now. I am sure that as we have more Torah, each of us to learn will be so happy to know that each day a good mood can be G-ds ways more and more in our society. I see it every day. It is very happy.

    Good to think that time might have more to say about the non-orthodox. They are so bad that even the grapevine in the sun withers more than their own fame.

    Careless, hateful, disrespect for Torah and a total disgrace to jewish humanity.

    Still, they eat treif.

    Sad.

  2. In NYC there are many dairy restaurants like donut shops and frozen yogurt shops that are open on shabbat and have “shady” and “non reliable” hashgachos because the rabbis behind them refuse to participate in the kashrut protection racket. I definitely agree with the author that we need to have more kosher establishment. Trashing those who open them is not a way to do that.

  3. Everything you say is absolutely true. To be Torah observant has challenges as we are fully functional in a world that not only lives by values that are contradictory to Torah values. It is also hard enough to deal with the fact that the prevailing society does not always accommodate us when they schedule events Friday night or Shabbos. There are plenty of Professional challenges when training and conferences are held on Shabbos. Juxtapose all of this with the fact that outside of large frum metropolises it is challenging and difficult to find kosher food or reasonable prices.

    I have heard the “supply and demand” argument. This is true. However, as a community we have to remember the message that we are sending when there isn’t sufficient variety available or prices are double and triple that which is the price in the bigger communities. I think that the writer is onto something. I was recently in an established community who does not have a kosher restaurant where I could take my non-frum cousins. There is a market with some tables. From a kiddush Hashem/chilul Hashem perspective, the experience was a disaster. I quietly walked over to a youngerman who was sitting and eating and I whispered to him “Why don’t you have a descent restaurant where there will be no chilul Hashem?”. He shrugged his shoulders and said “We don’t need one. Most people like eating at home.”. This is the wrong mindset in this day and age!!! What was this community’s message to a non observant Jew? It just reinforced her skeptical perception of the Torah Jew…schlepper…

    We live in a world of aesthetics – yes aesthetics are important because part of living a beautiful Torah life is to have dignity and class. There is no reason that communities should not have varieties, healthy eating and yes – at least a caterer or take out with tasty and appealing food. We have to “wear” the fact that we think that our life style is appealing. Once we change our mindset and show that we care, then like every other community service e.g. bikkur cholim, hospitality etc. we will have what we deserve – appealing and healthy kosher options. This is not much different than the halacha that a talmid chochom needs to dress and appear dignified. Why? Because he represents the Torah. Similarly, every Torah Jew has the opportunity to make a kiddush Hashem or chilul Hashem every day because he/she represent Torah life. Let’s start changing our mindset and caring…

  4. I understand why someone asked if this is not an article more suited for a local paper. However, I think that there is an advantage to raise an awareness. This is a real problem for “out of town” and kol Yisroel arayvim ze la-ze…

  5. He who lives in Orange County California and has a problem finding Kosher foods? I lived in Los Angeles and spent a lot of time in Orange County. I believe he’s full of it! I think if you really wanted to keep kosher he really could.

    I’ve flown throughout the country and NEVER had a problem finding what to eat.

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