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Keeping Kosher (Part 3)

Getting some more info on the site on keeping kosher.

The following has been extracted from Judaism101:

 

 

Kashrut Certification

The task of keeping kosher is greatly simplified by widespread kashrut certification. Products that have been certified as kosher are labeled with a mark called a hekhsher (from the same Hebrew root as the word “kosher”) that ordinarily identifies the rabbi or organization that certified the product. Approximately 3/4 of all prepackaged foods have some kind of kosher certification, and most major brands have reliable Orthodox certification.

The process of certification does not involve “blessing” the food; rather, it involves examining the ingredients used to make the food, examining the process by which the food is prepared, and periodically inspecting the processing facilities to make sure that kosher standards are maintained.

The symbols at right are all widely-accepted hekhshers commonly found on products throughout the United States. These symbols are registered trademarks of kosher certification organizations, and cannot be placed on a food label without the organization’s permission. Click the symbols to visit the websites of these organizations. With a little practice, it is very easy to spot these hekhshers on food labels, usually near the product name, occasionally near the list of ingredients. There are many other certifications available, of varying degrees of strictness.

The most controversial certification is the K, a plain letter K found on products asserted to be kosher. A letter of the alphabet cannot be trademarked, so any manufacturer can put a K on a product, even without any supervision at all. For example, Jell-O brand gelatin puts a K on its product, even though every reliable Orthodox authority agrees that Jell-O is not kosher. On the other hand, some very reliable rabbis will certify products without having a trademark to offer, and their certifications will also have only a “K.” Most other kosher certification marks are trademarked and cannot legally be used without the permission of the certifying organization. The certifying organization assures you that the product is kosher according to their standards, but standards vary.

It is becoming increasingly common for kosher certifying organizations to indicate whether the product is fleishik (meat), milchik (dairy) or pareve (neutral). If the product is dairy, it will frequently have a D or the word Dairy next to the kashrut symbol. If it is meat, the word Meat may appear near the symbol (usually not an M, because that might be confused with “milchik”). If it is pareve, the word Pareve (or Parev) may appear near the symbol (Not a P! That means kosher for Passover!). If no such clarification appears, you should read the ingredient list carefully to determine whether the product is meat, dairy or pareve.

Kosher certification organizations charge manufacturers a small fee for kosher certification. This fee covers the expenses of researching the ingredients in the product and inspecting the facilities used to manufacture the product. There are some who have complained that these certification costs increase the cost of the products to non-Jewish, non-kosher consumers; however, the actual cost of such certification is so small relative to the overall cost of production that most manufacturers cannot even calculate it. The cost is more than justified by the increase in sales it produces: although observant Jews are only a small fragment of the marketplace, kosher certification is also relied upon by many Muslims (see: http://www.muslimconsumergroup.com/hfs.htm), vegetarians (although this is not fool-proof; dairy and pareve foods may contain eggs or fish; but if it isn’t kosher, it probably isn’t vegetarian), some Seventh Day Adventists, as well as many other people who simply think that kosher products are cleaner, healthier or better than non-kosher products. It is worth noting that many charitable organizations also charge manufacturers for the privilege of putting their logo on a product, and they do not perform any service in exchange for that charge.

Do All Jews Keep Kosher?

About 25% to 30% of Jews in America keep kosher to one extent or another. This includes the vast majority of people who identify themselves as Orthodox, as well as many Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews and some Reform Jews.

However, the standards that are observed vary substantially from one person to another. According to the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS), only about 17% of Jewish families eat kosher meat all the time. (see Table 28 in the survey, if you can find it — I can no longer locate it online). Others keep kosher more strictly some times than others.

The strictest people will eat only foods that have reliable Orthodox kosher certification, eating only glatt-kosher certified meats and specially certified dairy products. They will not eat cooked food in a restaurant unless the restaurant has reliable Orthodox certification, and they are unlikely to accept an invitation to dinner from anyone who is not known to share their high standards.

Others are more lenient. Some will “ingredients read,” accepting grocery store items that do not contain any identifiably non-kosher ingredients. Some will eat cooked food in a restaurant or a non-kosher home, as long as the meal is either vegetarian or uses only kosher meat and no dairy products. Some will eat non-kosher meat in restaurants, but only if the meat comes from a kosher animal and is not served with dairy products. Many of these more lenient people keep stricter standards in their homes than they do in restaurants or in other people’s homes.

As rabbi/humorist Jack Moline noted, “Everyone who keeps kosher will tell you that his version is the only correct version. Everyone else is either a fanatic or a heretic.” (Growing Up Jewish, 1987). There is a lot of truth in this humorous observation. I have no doubt that I will receive mail calling me a heretic for even acknowledging the existence of lower standards.

You can find more information about kashrut at the websites of major kosher certification organizations.

The Orthodox Union, which is responsible for “OU” certification, has some excellent information on its website, including a kosher primer, an explanation of their kosher policy, a philosophical discussion about “thinking kosher” and a questions and answers section. (Please note: the “Judaism 101” listed on some of their pages is not this website and has no connection with this website).

The Star-K Kosher Certification organization also has an excellent website.  The wonderful thing about Star-K is, they give you an incredible amount of detail about the research that they put into determining whether a product is kosher. They tell you what products may be used without kosher certification, and they explain why such products can or cannot be used without kosher certification, giving complete detail about the research that went into making their determination.  It also has articles about kashering appliances, and other useful information.

KosherQuest has a searchable database of kosher products as well as an extensive list of reliable kosher symbols and other interesting things.

 

… I may choose to add more content to this later on, but this is where I will leave this for now…

I hope you learned a lot from these posts. If you liked these posts, rate them below.

About the author

Dani Klein

Dani Klein is the founder of YeahThatsKosher, is passionate about global travel, good kosher food / restaurants, social media & the web, technology, digital marketing, and spending time with his friends & family.

Dani has an MBA in Marketing and works in the Social Media Marketing field for a large media agency.

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