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Kosher Certification Has Gone Mainstream

Posted on: April 14th, 2022 by Kosher Michigan

Republished from Food Safety News

By Cookson Beecher on April 19, 2022

For the approximately 15.2 million Jewish people in the world, this is a time to celebrate Passover — the festival commemorating the exodus of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery in the 1200s BC. This year the holiday runs from April 15 through April 22.

As with other holidays, food is an important part of this annual celebration, with the main observances centering around a special home service called the seder, which includes a festive meal. The foods served must all be kosher.

Kosher Certification Agency Near Me - Kosher Supervision

Derived from Hebrew, kosher means to be “pure, proper or suitable for consumption.” It’s a term that describes foods that comply with dietary guidelines set by traditional Jewish law. Not only do these laws set forth which foods may be consumed, but also how they must be produced, processed and prepared. And which foods should not be eaten.

With the extra supervision required to be accepted as kosher, with oversight by rabbis for example, kosher food is perceived by many people — Jewish and non-Jewish alike — as being healthier and cleaner.

No wonder then that a kosher label on food attracts shoppers of all kinds. In fact, according to research in 2017 by Kosher Network International, the global market for kosher foods was worth $24 billion, with growth expected to hit 11.5 percent by 2025.

OK Kosher, one of the largest kosher certification organizations in the world, has certified about 700,000 products made by 4,000 manufacturers, which include Kraft, Heinz, Kellogg and General Mills. Even Coca Cola has gone Kosher.

Rabbi Eli Lando, executive manager of OK Kosher, said that by and large, “consumers see a kosher certification as a verification that a product is healthy, clean and safe. And while the certification has roots in religious traditions that are thousands of years old, it now speaks directly to the modern consumer’s demand for wholesome foods.”

Although there are 6 million Jews in the United States, according to World Population Review, Lando said Jewish people represent only 20 percent of the kosher product consumer base.

In other words, kosher has gone mainstream, with social media helping to boost people’s awareness of it.

Roger Horowitz, author of “Kosher USA,” describes a Kosher seal as a “silent salesman.

“It may seem ancient,” he said, but the people doing it are modern and in the modern marketplace.”

What’s kosher and what isn’t
Food that is kosher must adhere to specific Biblical-based dietary laws. Some of these rules require only eating animals that are kosher — cloven (split) hooved mammals that chew cud. These include cows, sheep, goats, lambs, oxen and deer. Cuts of beef from the hindquarters of the animal, such as flank, short loin, sirloin, round and shank, are not considered kosher.

Some meats, such as meat from pigs, rabbits, squirrels, camels, kangaroos and horses are not considered kosher.

Pigs? Pigs can transmit trichinellosis, or trichinosis, a disease transmitted by eating raw or undercooked pork contaminated with the parasite Trichinella, which is not visible to the naked eye. Symptoms range from nausea to heart and breathing problems. In the past, trichinosis was fairly common and can still be a problem in rural areas.

The best way to prevent trichinellosis is to cook meat to a temperature of 71 degrees C (160 degrees F). Freezing, curing or salting, drying, smoking, or microwaving meat may not kill infective parasites. Of course, In the case of kosher, you can prevent infections by not eating pork altogether. In Biblical days, this was a practical safeguard against it.

Certain domesticated fowl, such as chicken, geese, quail, dove and turkey may be eaten. But predator birds such as eagles and hawks may not.

Fish is considered kosher only if the fish has fins and scales. This would include tuna, salmon, halibut and pickerel. But shrimp, crab, oysters, lobster and other types of shellfish are not permitted. That’s because they have spread typhoid and are also a source of a type of hives.

Meanwhile fish and eggs and plant-based meats are classified as “neutral,” meaning they don’t contain milk or fish.

Fruits in their unprocessed forms are kosher but they can’t contain insects, which means they must be inspected to make sure no insects or larvae are present before being sold or eaten. Specially trained rabbis do the inspections.

Nuts and seeds and the oils from them are kosher, although sometimes the processing of these foods can make them non-kosher because of possible cross-contamination from equipment that was used for meat or dairy products.

Also, under kosher rules, meat and dairy may not be made or eaten together. In other words, it’s one or the other at mealtime. This is based on the belief that dairy foods and meat digest at unequal rates, which is hard on the body.

Grains for the most part are fine. But during Passover, all leavened grain products — those made with yeast or a leavening substance — are forbidden. But unleavened breads such as matzo are allowed.

Kosher slaughtering . . . and after
Kosher requires that an animal or bird be slaughtered by a trained kosher slaughterer. The process involves severing the trachea and esophagus with a special razor-sharp knife. This also severs the jugular vein, which kills the animal or bird instantaneously and is said to cause a minimal amount of pain to the animal or bird.

After the animal has been slaughtered, the internal organs are inspected for any abnormalities that would make the animal non-kosher. The lungs are also checked for abscesses and other health problems.

The blood, which is a medium for the growth of bacteria, is drained. Meat must be “koshered” within 72 hours after slaughter so that the blood won’t congeal. Eating the blood of an animal or bird is forbidden.

Labeling is important
Because foods nowadays can contain so many different ingredients and also because of the complexities of modern food processing, it would be hard for a consumer to know if a product is kosher or not. That’s where labeling comes in. A kosher label on the packaging indicates that the product has met all of the necessary requirements. For those who want to adhere to kosher dietary guidelines, the advice is to choose only foods with these labels as a way to avoid accidentally eating something that isn’t kosher.

In North America, kosher certification ranges from around $5,000 to $15,000 for annual certification. As well as regular inspections, unannounced inspections are also part of the certification process. Rabbis are involved throughout the certification process. This gives consumers added trust in kosher products because an extra set of eyes are involved.

According to the JIFA, the Jewish Initiative for Animals 74 percent of Americans chooses kosher based on concerns for food safety. In fact, of the people who buy kosher products, the majority point to food safety as their key concern. And previous research has shown that American shoppers believe that kosher food is safer.

Washington state dairyman Dick Klein, who isn’t Jewish, is one of them. He said he always buys kosher, if it’s on sale, because “it’s healthier and safer.”

Some problems
Meanwhile, JIFA, says that despite the fact that people think kosher food is inherently better, this is despite the fact that almost all kosher and non-kosher meat, poultry, dairy and eggs come from animals raised on factory farms, which raises concerns about the overuse of antibiotics.

When it comes to how kosher animals are bred and raised, JIFA says that kosher certification has no relationship to antibiotic use, health genetics, confinement, or access to pasture.

Food safety enters the picture
Although many people consider kosher foods to be safe when it comes to standard food-safety requirements, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Kosher Check, a Canadian certifying company, is a full-service certification agency — but one with an important difference, according to its website. While kosher agencies worldwide aim to certify that the ingredients and manufacturing processes of their clients follow the Jewish laws of kosher as set out in the Torah (the Jewish Bible) Kosher Check goes further.

Formerly BC Kosher, it was the only agency in the world that required its clients to be in good standing with all applicable food safety rules as a condition of kosher certification.

Now Kosher Check certification has been introduced for those manufacturers that want to promote not only their kosher compliance but their commitment to food safety as well.

The company says that certification of a company’s products and manufacturing processes by Kosher Check is a mark that “not only guarantees your ingredients and products kosher status, it also acts as a mark of assurance that food safety laws have been strictly followed to a minimum level of HACCP compliance.”

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) compliance requires businesses to identify potential food safety issues and review their entire food storage and handling processes and procedures. The goal of using HACCP is to ensure a business is HACCP compliant. Compliance implies all aspects of food storage and handling are conducted in a safe manner.

Kosher Check says it can work with companies that don’t meet this standard to achieve it.

The company’s website also says that this double-layered guarantee formalizes and reinforces the widely-held belief among consumers that Kosher products are safer to consume. Besides attracting Jewish shoppers, the Kosher Check label will attract “the throngs of shoppers concerned about food safety issues,” thus greatly expanding the market for a company’s kosher products.

Kosher Foods Industry Grows in U.S. and Globally

Posted on: January 17th, 2022 by Kosher Michigan

The awareness regarding health and wellness is rising rapidly. This trend has caused the demand and availability for various types of kosher food to grow speedily in the past several decades. This growth is expected to continue to rise over the next decade and beyond.

The global kosher food market is expected to reach a market size of $28.85 billion by 2028, and project a CAGR of 4.16% during the forecast period, 2019-2028. The base year considered for the market study is 2018, and the forecast period is between 2019 and 2028.

Key factors fuelling the global kosher food market growth: High prevalence of lactose intolerance, the demand for kosher food products among non-Jewish consumers, and an increase in the number of health-conscious consumers.

Rabbi Jason Miller of Kosher Michigan Kosher Certification Agency

 

In the 1990s, only 18 kosher certification agencies were functional across the world. With the expansion of the global kosher certification industry, the current number is estimated to be over 1,600 kosher certification agencies led by rabbis. Of this number, approximately 600 are found in the United States. Of the 600 kosher certification agencies in the U.S., the vast majority are run by Orthodox rabbis. Since the mid-2000s, a small number of U.S.-based kosher certification agencies have been started by non-Orthodox rabbis, including Rabbi Jason Miller of Michigan, the founder and kosher director of Kosher Michigan — KM Kosher Certification Agency, based in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Rabbi Miller’s kosher organization now boasts hundreds of clients around North America plus dozens more in India. While Miller faced much pessimism when he launched KM back in 2008, he was determined to grow his kosher agency, which is now the largest non-Orthodox kosher certification agency in the world.

What has fueled the growth in the kosher market?

This growth is primarily attributed to customer demands for allergen-free, clean labels, organic, and vegan foods. As companies are continually adapting to kosher certification, it has become mandatory for raw material suppliers to be kosher certified. This upsurge in demand for kosher food products around the world has renewed prospects for enterprises, including raw material suppliers and kosher food manufacturers.

The consumption of kosher food by non-Jewish consumers is also propelling market growth in the kosher segment. The snacks and savory, bakery, and confectionery product segments, under the product category, are estimated to witness a significant compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during the forecast period. Snacks and savory items comprise rolls, wraps, sandwiches, bread, nachos, crackers, chips, gushers, and peanut butter, among several others. Bakery and confectionary products like cookies, pies, pastries, and muffins are usually prepared using flour. The growth of these segments is driven by emerging and new market players, and assorted food items.

The North American region is estimated to be the major contributor to the global market in terms of market share. The United States is second to Israel in terms of Jews and is one of the most lucrative markets for kosher food manufacturers. Therefore, the presence of Jews in the United States and Canada bolsters the kosher food market growth in the North American region. Furthermore, the adoption of kosher food by the non-Jewish community, owing to its benefits, is anticipated to offer potential expansion opportunities for the market players in the region.

The global market is witnessing potential lucrative opportunities, owing to the rising presence of varied kosher food products. The professional culinary sector has emerged as a positive trend, increasing the popularity of kosher food. Chefs are the key cuisine trend drivers. Online shopping is one of the leading distribution channels for kosher food products as a result of consumer behavior, availability, and variety.

Former Boxing Champion Yuri Foreman Gives Kosher Certification to Donut Store

Posted on: December 9th, 2021 by Kosher Michigan

Fom the JTA

Yuri Foreman’s professional peak as a boxer arguably came 11 years ago, when he faced off against Miguel Cotto in a marquee boxing match at Yankee Stadium.

The match, dubbed the “Stadium Slugfest,” was a super welterweight title fight that had been promoted on huge posters at subway stops around the city. Foreman was a world champion who had won his belt the year prior. Cotto was one of the best boxers in the world, and won the fight by technical knockout in the ninth round.

For most boxers, it would have been a tough break. Luckily, Foreman had a backup plan: He was also studying to be an Orthodox rabbi. He was ordained in 2014 but kept training, fighting and teaching self-defense classes. Now, a decade later, he’s putting his ordination to use — with a twist.

Like many rabbis, he’s using his expertise to provide kosher certification to eateries. Unlike most rabbis, however, he’s only going to certify vegan restaurants.

Oh, and he’s also mounting a boxing comeback at age 41.

Yuri Foreman Kosher Certification

 

“People know quite a bit of the ‘sweet science,’ which is boxing because we’ve been punching each other for thousands of years,” Foreman told the New York Jewish Week when asked why he started a vegan kosher agency. “We know way more about the sweet science than the science of food…. It’s horrific, what people do to themselves. Even though we say Jewish law says ‘don’t harm animals,’ we’re harming ourselves every single day.”

Foreman’s journey to veganism was gradual — but now he’s a true believer. He likened it to his experience of becoming Orthodox after growing up in a secular family that immigrated from the Soviet Union. One transformation flowed from the other: learning to keep kosher, he said, taught him to be more selective in what he ate. That led first to vegetarianism and then veganism.

His conversion to veganism was due at least in part to the influence of his wife, Shoshana Foreman, a physician’s assistant who became vegan well over a decade ago while working at a health food store. Her secret, she said, is to ask someone what their favorite childhood dish is, and then make a vegan version of it. For Yuri, whom she married in 2018, she made vegan pelmeni, Russian meat dumplings.

In May of this year, the Foremans established VBR Kosher — which stands for “Vegan Boxing Rabbi” — as a limited liability corporation. Since then, the couple has certified one establishment: Dun-Well Doughnuts in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. The small shop now bears a certificate in the window with Foreman’s signature, certifying that Dun-Well’s offerings are “strictly vegan, kosher and pareve.” Foreman hung the sign after checking the shop’s kitchen at the end of November, ensuring that all of the ingredients — hence all of the food being sold — met the standards of Jewish dietary law.

This week, Foreman helped Dun-Well co-founder Daniel Dunbar hang mezuzahs on its doorposts.

Around noon on a mild fall day, Foreman and Dunbar affixed the small case bearing a scroll to the doorpost of the red-brick building and recited the appropriate blessing word by word. It now hangs somewhat above a bumper sticker reading “LOSERS WEAR FUR TRIM.”

“I like making a product that’s accessible to everybody,” said Dunbar, who is of Jewish descent and identifies as secular. “We get asked a lot, ‘Are any of your donuts vegan?’ and when we tell them they’re all vegan, they’re very excited. Now I get to do that with people that are seeking kosher options and it’s really nice to be able to say, ‘Yes, you can have anything in this shop.’”

Dun-Well may be the first vegan establishment certified kosher by the Foremans, but they hope it won’t be their last. After all, vegan dining is on the rise in New York City; according to Eater, a string of restaurateurs are opting to go vegetarian or vegan both to save money and shrink their carbon footprint.

The couple hopes to supplement the kosher certification with online content — videos, posts, a podcast — about keeping kosher and being vegan.

“Our goal is to put this content out there for people to see, and to teach by example,” Shoshana Foreman said.

Being vegan is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not popular among the couple’s Jewish friends in their Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Shoshana Foreman said friends were adjusting to their diet, though from time to time they need to decline invitations to meals on Shabbat.

“The short answer is, we stopped being invited,” Foreman joked.

At VBR Kosher, the Foremans are working with Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, an Orthodox rabbi who works at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, an LGBTQ synagogue in Manhattan. Moskowitz has decades of experience in kosher supervision and provided certification to Dun-Well several years ago before the certificate lapsed.

Because Dun-Well’s products contain no meat or dairy, kosher supervision is easier there than at many restaurants. But there are still things to look out for, like whether the food colorings and other ingredients are certified kosher. Dunbar said he had to switch out his soy milk to maintain the certification.

Moskowitz and the Foremans understand that some observant Jews may not recognize or trust their independent authority, as opposed to the imprimatur of a large and well-known kosher certifier like the Orthodox Union. But they’re confident that it will make a difference to some people.

“For people who feel that they know the people here involved and they trust them, then each person should do things that make them feel comfortable,” said Moskowitz. “I don’t feel kosher supervision is there to be persuasive. It’s meant to be transparent and educational and give people the opportunity to make informed decisions.”

Avrom Pollak, president of Star-K, a large kosher agency based in Baltimore, said that because the kosher certification can be so complex, a lot of kosher eaters may be hesitant to trust a new certification.

“A lot of the kosher consumers are very discerning,” he said. “They want to know who stands behind that certification and they want to know if a problem does arise, are they going to deal with it in an honest and forthright manner?”

For now, Foreman considers VBR Kosher something of a passion project and isn’t charging for the service. In any case, it’s not his main gig. These days, he wakes up at 5 o’clock every morning to run eight miles or lifts weights. He trains at a boxing gym in Sunset Park. He said he wants to get back in the ring because he feels good and doesn’t want to regret passing up an opportunity. And at a time when antisemitism is rising in New York, he added, he wants to show that Jews can be tough.

“I don’t want to be years ahead [and] be disappointed that I stopped doing this because a lot of people told me I’m old,” he said. “And partially, being a Jew, we need an image of Jews being descendants of freaking warriors, kings, priests. But we are definitely not a weak people.”

Foreman’s dual career does present a bit of a contradiction. How does he reconcile the violence of boxing with the rabbinic teachings that drew him to a peaceable vegan diet?

Shoshana Foreman  — who is also her husband’s boxing manager — pointed out that, in boxing, both fighters have consented to the potential bloodshed, which isn’t the case with animals at a slaughterhouse.

Plus, Foreman said that he’s an old hand at separating his work in the ring from his life outside of it. “I’m wearing two personalities,” he said. “In boxing, I have to be a different person. I cannot be a husband in the ring, right? Or a father in the ring. Otherwise, I’m gonna get beat up completely. So I have to be that person who is about to punch someone in the face.”

Kosher Food Industry Set to Expand Greatly

Posted on: November 12th, 2021 by Kosher Michigan

Kosher Foods Market to See a Big Increase in 2023 and Beyond

“There’s no question that the kosher food industry has already grown significantly and is on a path toward historic expansion,” said Rabbi Jason Miller, a Conservative rabbi and the founder of Kosher Michigan. Kosher Michigan is a kosher certification agency based in Rabbi Miller’s hometown of Metro Detroit, Michigan. Launched in 2008, Kosher Michigan (KM) has seen immense year-over-year growth in both the number of kosher clients as well as the shear number of food products KM has certified as kosher. An expansion to India and some Far East countries in 2015 has led KM’s advancement in the spice and dry foods industry.

Rabbi Miller, the kosher director of Kosher Michigan Kosher Certification Agency, referenced a recent competitive landscape summary of the “Kosher Foods Market” report that detailed the essence of what is driving the record numbers of growth in the kosher food industry. The report Rabbi Miller referred to evaluates historical data on the kosher foods market growth and compares it with current market situations.

Rabbi Jason Miller of Kosher Michigan Kosher Certification Agency

 

Further information about the Kosher Food Industry report also focuses on market share, the highest growth rate of emerging players, business strategies, production, and prospects. The report provides data to the customers that are of historical & statistical significance informative. It helps to enable readers to have a detailed analysis of the development of the market.

The Kosher Foods market report provides a detailed analysis of the major market players with the overall market overview of their business, recent developments, expansion plans, gross margin, profit status, and strategies. Additionally, this report includes the current market opportunity of the market. The research report contains development restraints and challenges faced which can control the market growth and risk. The company profile discovers a business overview and financial information include economic growth and recovery during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kosher Foods Market Segment and Scope:

The Kosher Foods market report growth depends on product application, type, technology, and region. This report covers a comprehensive outlook on market size, regional sales, growth rate, global opportunities, and manufacturing costs in the respective regions. It provides detailed information on emerging trends, leading competitors based on the technology-oriented innovations to demonstrate the Kosher Foods market growth and portfolio strategies. Each market segmentation allows readers to grasp the difficulties of the current market situations. Our report provides insights into the financial fluctuations of all the major players, along with its product benchmarking and SWOT analysis. The competitive landscape includes development strategies, market share, and market ranking analysis globally.

The global Kosher Foods market report provides a holistic evaluation of the market for the forecast period (2021–2027). The report comprises of various segments as well an analysis of the trends and factors that are playing a substantial role in the market. These factors; the market dynamics, involves the drivers, restraints, opportunities and challenges through which the impact of these factors in the market are outlined. An extended view of regional analysis aims to bring readers closer to market opportunities and risks. It also examines the economic scenarios with the impact of Covid-19 analysis is expected to grow the market on a large and small scale.

Geographical Analysis:

The global Kosher Foods Market research report provides compressive data of the current market, geographical regions, and sub-regions are worldwide. This report gives market size estimates and forecasts in different countries. The report focuses on quantitative records with applicable qualitative insights. The report highlights the significant regions are North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Africa, South America.

Some of the key questions answered in this report:

What will the market growth rate, growth momentum or acceleration market carries during the forecast period?
Which are the key factors driving the Kosher Foods market?
What was the size of the emerging Kosher Foods market by value in 2021?
What will be the size of the emerging Kosher Foods market in 2027?
Which region is expected to hold the highest market share in the Kosher Foods market?
What trends, challenges and barriers will impact the development and sizing of the global Kosher Foods market?

Michigan Prisoners’ Attorney Objects to Conservative Kosher Certification Agency

Posted on: March 4th, 2020 by Kosher Michigan

DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Attorney Daniel Manville says an Orthodox agency must provide kosher certification to prison kitchens.

A Conservative rabbi cannot certify Michigan prisoners’ meals as kosher, according to an attorney representing incarcerated Jews who sued the state corrections department.

Two weeks after observant Jewish prisoners in Michigan won the right to eat meat and dairy kosher meals in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan, the plaintiff’s counsel, Daniel Manville, claims the Michigan Department of Corrections is violating the terms of the settlement by contracting with a Conservative-run kosher-certification agency instead of an Orthodox one.

As part of the settlement, MDOC either had to provide prisoners with pre-packaged and wrapped meat or dairy kosher meals or have their kitchens certified as kosher. MDOC decided to certify its kitchens.

“To plaintiffs’ dismay, the defendant has obtained illegitimate kosher certification of its prison kitchens by a Conservative rabbi,” Manville wrote Feb. 25 in a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. Kosher Michigan, which won the MDOC contract, is owned and operated by local Conservative Rabbi Jason Miller.

Prior to the settlement, MDOC provided its kosher-observant prisoners with vegan meals, as well as the option to purchase prepackaged kosher meat and dairy products in the commissaries.

According to Chris Gautz, spokesman for MDOC, the settlement agreement that requires prisoners to be provided with kosher meals does not cover meat and dairy kosher meals. “That issue was litigated by the parties separately,” he said, adding that MDOC offered to arrange loans for prisoners who could not afford to purchase the kosher meals through the commissaries.

“Plaintiffs claimed that making them buy the meat and dairy at the commissary created a substantial burden on their ability to exercise their religion,” Gautz said. “After a trial, the court sided with plaintiffs. MDOC plans to appeal this decision.”

MDOC and Kosher Michigan

According to Gautz, Miller has certified four of MDOC’s kitchens as kosher and notice was given to plaintiffs’ counsel as required. The Michigan Attorney General’s office had learned about Kosher Michigan during the legal proceedings and passed it along as an option for MDOC to contract with.

“After receiving notice, plaintiffs have an opportunity to inspect the kitchens with their own expert. Instead of coming out to inspect the kitchens, plaintiffs’ counsel filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement,” Gautz said.

But Manville argued in the motion that kosher certification from a Conservative rabbi does not comply with the settlement agreement because the plaintiffs are Orthodox Jews.

Manville is asking the court to issue an order that “certification from a Conservative rabbi will not accommodate plaintiffs’ sincere, Orthodox Jewish beliefs and continues to impose a substantial burden on their beliefs.”

Manville argues that the plaintiffs’ Orthodox beliefs rely exclusively on the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) and require a qualified mashgiach tmidi (continuous kosher supervisor) during kosher-sensitive production, rather than the Magen Tzedek protocols established by prominent leaders of Conservative Judaism. Kosher Michigan follows Magen Tzedek in its certification process, according to its website.

Miller objected to Manville’s argument.

“The claim that a non-Orthodox rabbi cannot establish a facility or product as certified kosher is completely unfounded in Jewish law and is used as an unfair business practice to maintain a monopoly in the kosher-certification industry by a handful of established kosher-certification agencies,” Miller told the JN. He declined further comment due to the pending litigation. (Miller is also a JN contributor.)

MDOC maintains it has held up its end of the settlement. “The word ‘Orthodox’ does not appear anywhere in the document and was not negotiated by the parties,” Gautz said.

But Manville said that when he received notice from MDOC that several of its facilities had been certified by Kosher Michigan, the plaintiffs’ expert, an Orthodox rabbi, said it would be futile to inspect a kitchen that had not been certified by an Orthodox rabbi.

What Comes Next?

MDOC has until March 5 to file its response to the motion. Plaintiffs then have five days to reply, after which a hearing will be scheduled, Manville said.

Manville wrote in the motion that he realizes on-site supervision would be a daunting (and expensive) task for Michigan’s prisons. But he believes the problem could easily be solved with pre-packaged kosher meals. He said he’s willing to provide MDOC with a list of potential Orthodox food providers.

“But if [MDOC] insists on certifying its kitchens, it must do so to Orthodox standards,” he wrote.

MDOC has until March 28 to appeal the court’s decision that Jewish prisoners should be provided meat and dairy kosher meals, Manville said.

Flavors of Diaspora – Interview: Rabbi Jason Miller, Kosher Michigan

Posted on: June 28th, 2018 by Kosher Michigan

Interview by Jonathan Katz, Flavors of the Diaspora Blog

Rabbi Jason Miller is the founder and director of Kosher Michigan, the world’s largest non-Orthodox kosher agency. He received his semichah (ordination) from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. He and his colleagues supervise the kashrut of food, kitchen products, and ingredients that are produced not only in Michigan and elsewhere in the Midwest, but across North America and even now in India. A number of years ago, he authored a popular article about the Orthodox domination of the kosher system and the “keeping up with the [frum] Joneses” culture around kashrut that it encourages. “Ending Kosher Nostra” is one of the best Jewish food articles I have read, and I strongly urge you to read it.

One of Rabbi Miller’s former students, Dr. Samuel Zerin, put me in touch with Rabbi Miller when I was soliciting stories for my pieces on institutional cooking. Rabbi Miller was very gracious with his time and allowed me to interview him by phone one recent evening. The transcript of the interview, slightly redacted for readability, is here.

A note to readers: there is a lot more Hebrew and Yiddish in this than in past pieces. Though normally I translate words into English, I kept the words here in my notes to preserve the integrity of the interview. I have provided or linked to definitions for all terms.

Katz: Tell us a bit about your background, and how Kosher Michigan got started.

Miller: I was ordained as a Conservative rabbi in 2004 from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. While I was in rabbinical school, I served as a mashgiach in the cafeteria. In the course of rabbinical school, you have classes on hilchot kashrut [laws of keeping kosher], but you don’t learn how to be a mashgiach unless you’re a mashgiach in the cafeteria. At the time, Rabbi Joel Roth was in charge of the hashgacha [kosher certification], and he would lead seminars only for the mashgichim. So that’s where I learned to be a mashgiach.

In 2007, I was hired by one of the largest Jewish camps in the country, Tamarack Camps in Michigan. For many decades, it was under the [kosher] supervision of the Detroit Orthodox va’ad [rabbinical council], which was well known. Around that time, the camp made the decision to no longer be under the supervision of the va’ad, and that a Conservative rabbi would be hired year-round to be the mashgiach for the kitchen, which is the largest kosher kitchen in Michigan. So I was hired, and 50% of my job was to oversee the kitchen. I learned how to handle the hashgacha for a year-round institution – there are camps, events, and programs all year, not just during the summer.

This made news in Michigan, that the va’ad was out and a Conservative rabbi was in. For many people, it was the first time that they heard that a Conservative rabbi could be a mashgiach. The va’ad made a public statement that was in support of Tamarack’s decision, and that they felt I would uphold the standards of kashrut and support them. Besides, the va’ad did not want to continue sending Orthodox mashgichim to this liberal progressive camp.

Many local businesses read this news, and contacted me, saying “we are a bakery, or a bagel store, we want to be kosher, but we met with the va’ad and they said no, or it was too expensive. We read that you did this for Tamarack, can you do it for us?” Initially, I said no, because I didn’t want to get into supervision politics. But people in the community pressured me, because they felt it would be great for the community. So in Summer 2008, I agreed to give certification for a bagel store and a bakery. I kept the price low, and I did not want to do a shakedown. At the last minute, someone asked “what is your hechsher [kosher seal]?” So I got on the computer and made one with a K and an M. It felt too self-serving to make the M “Miller,” so I said it was “Michigan.” And that’s how Kosher Michigan was born.

Katz: Here in New York, the Orthodox va’adot [councils] are very particular about who they support regarding kashrut, and invariably it is other Orthodox rabbis. I find it really interesting, in a good way, that they support you.

Miller: Well the va’ad has not been 100% supportive, because in the past decade we’ve now become a major competitor. But at the time they were supportive because they didn’t want to deal with the camp. It was difficult to find Orthodox mashgichim to go to this progressive Jewish camp, with all this gender mixing, girls in swimwear at the beach – and Camp Tamarack is 45 minutes from Metro Detroit, which has the closest synagogues.

Katz: I have friends who grew up in Orthodox Jewish areas of Southfield, so I’m a bit familiar with gender politics.

Miller: Yes. It was not a comfortable situation for them. So they were not interested in doing more. I would say they knew that a Conservative rabbi would uphold the standards they were used to. That was the promise I made to them and the community, and one I still keep now.

Katz: But that’s still really interesting that it was possible. As you know, in New York, we have a lot of people who have a “frummer (more religious) than thou” attitude to kashrut, where certain hechsherim (kosher seals) are and are not okay, and Conservative kashrut is not “good enough.” I’m personally of the opinion that it’s nonsense – kosher is kosher, despite the politics.

Miller: My own attitude has been similar to yours. I tell people that “I sleep very well at night” when I consider my approach to kashrut. When someone is “frummer than thou,” so frum that they won’t buy a Kosher Michigan-certified bagel, how does it affect me? Why does that person feel the need to say that? The person is most likely not doing that to other rabbis, just as I wouldn’t go to the owners of an Italian restaurant and tell them that I don’t buy Italian food. My response is dignified and respectful: “Thanks for letting me know.”

This, I think, gets to the heart of kishke Judaism. [Emotional Judaism] Why do you have that neurosis that you have to let me know that? I have written about this [in Kosher Nostra]. The same person will go into a non-kosher pizza shop and get a cheese pizza baked in the same oven as the pepperoni pizza, which is a lot more problematic for kashrut. It makes no sense.

Katz: There’s a performance to it.

Miller: People feel the need to say “I need you to know how frum I am.” A funny story from Tamarack: this Reform Jewish woman came up to me and said: “so now you’re in charge. Well congrats, but you should know my daughter is ba’alat teshuva [roughly, “born-again” Orthodox] so she won’t eat at the camp. She’s really frum, and she will only eat glatt pizza.” I responded, “well the cheese on our pizza is smooth!” After all, glatt refers the smoothness of the lungs on a cow – and thus only to the category of red meat.

But I don’t think it’s about people being ignorant, it’s something deeper – a spiritual, psychological meshugaas [nuttiness] that some people have.

Katz: It reminds me of the histrionics you see with adaptations in the liturgy and the crowing about matbe’ah shel tefillah [integrity of the prayer]- for example, people who get upset about adding the imahot/Matriarchs in the Shemoneh Esrei.

Miller: It’s this idea that “if it’s not the Judaism of my grandfathers, it doesn’t feel authentic.”

In ten years, I’ve seen and learned a lot because of my certification agency. And something that I’ve learned to do is to brush off the verbal attacks. The question “can a Conservative rabbi give a hechsher” is on the face of it a silly question. There’s no such thing as a Conservative hechsher, or an Orthodox one. There’s a trustworthy one.

It’s interesting. If someone is giving the certification, well, who is this person? Are they valid? Can they be trusted? Ask yourself these questions, but don’t ask where they went to school! It makes no sense when it comes to ne’emanut [trustworthiness].

Katz: I want to switch gears here to talk about being a mashgiach – what does your typical day look like?

Miller: So the agency has grown to the point now where I’m not actually the main mashgiach anymore – I have hired staff certifying all over the country, paid mashgichim. On a typical day, I’ll stop into several places, and I’ll be on the phone with the mashgichim elsewhere who supervise for my agency. It’s gone from mashgiach to a business of mashgichim.

I also answer a lot of phone calls and emails from business owners who want to become kosher. Sometimes it’s a long-standing business, like a jelly manufacturer seeking to expand outside of Michigan, and the food consultant tells them that becoming kosher will help them market the product better. And then there are the food product startups – the little old lady in Northern Michigan who make fudge and sells it out of her home, and people at church tell her to make it kosher, and she contacts me. And I tell her to go to a production facility – there are wholesale companies, co-packers, doing private label and producing and selling this kind of thing, and the shared facilities are much easier to make kosher.

Katz: I work for a New York City government agency writing information on basic safety and licensing regulations. (This is the non-accessibility part of my job.) A lot of the businesses we work with are food producers, and we’re trying to push them to shared kitchens. It’s very hard to have a home kitchen to the standard New York State requires for food manufacturers. Is it a big thing in Michigan? And how does that affect being a mashgiach?

Miller: Yeah, that’s interesting. In Michigan, back in 2008-2009 when the economy was in really bad shape, Governor Jennifer Granholm made a strong effort to spur more business. She made it much easier for folks to produce food out of home kitchens, but a home kitchen is impossible for me to certify as kosher because then I would need access to their home. So I got them to go to shared kitchens and in relationships with co-packers. There are so many people here in Michigan though doing that sort of thing.

Katz: I imagine, given that you’re in Michigan, that there’s a lot of Michigan-specific things, like jam, candy, and fish.

Miller: Well in Michigan we have some specific challenges – grape jam has its issues, and strawberry jam of course brings up all sorts of questions with inspections. But we’re the cherry capital so a lot of our specific stuff is cherries. More of our business is outside of Michigan though! We have an office in Chicago and a partner in London doing certifications in India –

Katz: India? How did that happen?

Miller: So we spread to India over the past three years, with food manufacturers and lots of different products like spice. It’s not sexy but it’s necessary.

It’s interesting. When Kosher Michigan began, we started off very basic with an Indian vegetarian restaurant, a kosher caterer, bakeries, et cetera. Then as the agency grew, we started certifying other things: meat dinners at Michigan State University at the residence halls, paper mills, chemical producers, so we’ve been moving more and more into that less sexy part of kashrut. There’s a whole industry of kosher certification for chemicals, vitamins, wax paper, and parchment paper – India is part of that.

Katz: It’s more of an exploration of food systems.

Miller: It’s the nitty-gritty of kashrut! No one at JTS taught me that or how to certify, say, a tractor-trailer. When we talk about kelim [food vessels], we don’t usually think of a tractor-trailer, but rather pots, pans, and so on. But if the beans are being hauled in a tractor-trailer that hasn’t been washed, that had pork in it, then that affects it.

Katz: A different sort of kelim.

Miller: Yes. The first time I got a call from a guy who wanted to certify a truck, I thought it was a prank call. But then I got on my computer and did some research. I didn’t realize that washing out a big tanker, so on, turns out to be a big part of the kosher industry. Same with two paper mills in Port Huron, Michigan, when dealing with paper and paraffin wax. So as a rabbi, I’m now wearing protective goggles, earplugs, and a hairnet to check the kashrut of paper in industrial mills – I never thought rabbinical school would lead here.

Katz: this whole thing of food systems and industrial food is interesting to contrast with the standard conversation on ever-frummer kashrut – the strawberries, the lettuce, and so on.

Miller: Yes, it’s interesting. A comment I get often from people is that Conservative rabbis probably wouldn’t be punctilious enough to require lettuce to be washed three times. That’s their way of saying that they’re so frum they go to the extremes to ensure there’s no bugs in their lettuce. What they don’t consider is that no one wants to be eating little, disgusting bugs in their lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, and so on. That’s not only not kosher, but it’s gross.

Many thanks to Rabbi Jason Miller for his generosity of time and story-telling. Tizku le-mitzvot!

Why is 41% of America’s Packaged Food Kosher

Posted on: March 9th, 2018 by Kosher Michigan

Less than 2% of the US population is Jewish. So why is 41% of the country’s packaged food kosher?

By Deena Shanker

Considering how few people keep kosher in the US—Jews make up less than 2% of the American population, and only a portion of them follow Jewish dietary laws—it’s fairly astounding that more than 40% of the country’s new packaged food and beverage products in 2014 are labeled as being kosher. That makes it the top label claim on food and beverages, according to market research firm Mintel, beating out the ever-present “gluten-free” label and even allergen claims.

“Kosher” food meets the broad range of requirements of Jewish dietary laws. The laws define, for example, which animals are and are not allowed to be eaten (cows and chickens are ok, pigs and shellfish are not), as well as how the animals are slaughtered, and how their meat is prepared; the laws also lay out which foods can and cannot be mixed (no meat with dairy, for example), and even, when it comes to wine, who is allowed to touch it.

To be certified as kosher, food companies must work with certification bodies like the Orthodox Union (“OU”), which says it certifies an estimated 65% to 71% of kosher foods, an endeavor that involves both paperwork, on-site supervision, and payment to the certifying bodies.

In 2009, market research firm Packaged Facts estimated the kosher industry to be worth as much as $17 billion. And the label’s relative popularity seems to be growing: While it was on only 27% of packaged foods in 2009, in 2014 it appeared on 41%. New business for OU certifications grows by about 10% each year, according to Phyllis Koegel, the group’s marketing director.

But if less than 2% of Americans are Jewish, and not all Jews even keep kosher (an estimated 80% to 85% don’t), then who is buying all of this kosher food?

“[T]here are other consumer groups that buy these foods,” Amanda Topper, a food analyst at Mintel, tells Quartz.

Muslims are one such group, she says. While there are even fewer Muslims than Jews in the US, their numbers are growing. They now account for 0.9% of the US population, according to the Pew Research Center, up from 0.4% in 2007. Muslims have their own set of dietary laws, called halal. But “if they’re not able to find halal, they rely on kosher,” says Koegel.

However, there are differences between kosher and halal, and not everyone agrees with OU and Mintel’s assessment: “We have no statistics to indicate any appreciable number of Muslims seek kosher products,” says Roger Othman, CEO of the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America.

Many consumers go for kosher foods for completely non-religious reasons. Some “gravitate toward kosher products for positive health or taste perceptions, or for vegetarian reasons,” says Topper. Others buy kosher to avoid certain allergens, like shellfish. But not all of these reasons are based on a correct understanding of what “kosher” actually means.

The word “kosher,” says Koegel, has connotations of healthfulness and cleanliness. But as she points out, plenty of kosher foods, like OU-certified candy, are decidedly unhealthy. As for cleanliness, she says, the OU does provide an extra set of eyes on a facility and wouldn’t certify a company that wasn’t meeting its standards. (But whether it upholds its own standards has been questioned.)

Some of the kosher market’s expansion has come from already popular, non-kosher foods making the switch, like when Oreos removed lard and got certified in the late 1990s. And now and then the kosher aisle will have a cross-over hit, like when Lil’ Kim rapped about Moscato wine in 2005, and Bartenura, a kosher wine company, became an unexpected favorite for hip-hop musicians and their fans.

Kosher Food at Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield, Michigan

Posted on: April 16th, 2015 by Kosher Michigan

Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield, Michigan Offers Kosher Meals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:   Sally Ann Brown  (248) 325-3081

April 16, 2015

West Bloomfield – Visitors to Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital can now have a certified kosher meal in Henry’s, the hospital’s café.

The new Kosher Korner is partnering with Kravings, a premier kosher restaurant in Oak Park, in an effort to provide kosher food options for patients, guests and staff.

“At Kravings and Quality Kosher Catering we take great pride in providing quality glatt kosher food, primarily on the on the east side of Oakland County. Now, with the opening of our Kosher Korner at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, we’re excited to bring the same delicious meals to the west side,” says Daniel Kohn, owner of Kravings.

All food items are prepared fresh daily at Kravings and are under the certification of the Star-K certification agency, with Kosher Michigan serving as a consultant to the hospital.

Recent offerings in the Kosher Korner include sandwiches, salads, and sushi.

“We are pleased to be able to meet the dietary needs of the Jewish community,” says Chef Rob Hindley, director of Culinary Wellness at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. “This initiative is part of our community outreach efforts to provide delicious and healthy food to a variety of cultures.”

“Kosher Michigan partnered with Daniel Kohn of Kravings and Henry Ford West Bloomfield because it is part of our mission to bring more kosher food options to the community,” explains Rabbi Jason Miller, founder and director of Kosher Michigan certification agency. “Whether you’re a hospital patient, caregiver, visitor, physician, staff member, or just in the neighborhood and hungry for a delicious certified kosher meal, this is a win-win for our community.”

The food selection in the kosher menu also meet the dietary needs of individuals following the practice of halal.

Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital is located at 6777 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield.

Kosher Michigan is a kosher certification agency in Metro Detroit, which seeks to increase the amount of affordable kosher options in North America. www.koshermichigan.com

Kosher Korner at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital
Kosher Korner at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital
Kosher Korner at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital

 

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Metro Detroit in a Kosher Restaurant Boom as Diners Seek Healthy Options (Detroit Free Press – August 11, 2014)

Posted on: August 18th, 2014 by Kosher Michigan

Keeping kosher in Metro Detroit
By Zlati Meyer, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

The theme of 28-year-old Daniel Kohn’s newly opened Oak Park restaurant can be summed up with one menu item that blends contemporary Americana with Old World traditions — the brisket burger.

Kravings, the brainchild of the Ritz-Carlton alumnus and third-generation caterer, is certified kosher, but it focuses instead on its healthy, quality ingredients and dishes made from scratch. The menu is chock-full of items that would surprise his late grandmother, who founded Quality Kosher Catering in 1968, such as portobello mushrooms, “bacon” made from cow rather than pig and sushi that’s shtetl meets Shogun.

Metro Detroit is in the middle of a kosher boomlet. In addition to Kravings, a kosher steakhouse, Prime 10, opened about a block away and downtown Detroit saw the return of Chef Cari’s the Spot in the revolving lineup of pop-ups at Campus Martius this summer. Proprietor Cari Rosenbloom is planning a kosher vegetarian restaurant downtown by the end of the year.

“Kosher has so many strict rules that people know when they buy a product that it’ll be a good and safe product,” Kohn said, crediting the “evolution” of the community over the last two years for the increased interest in kosher food. “The community is so flooded with people, like myself, who come back from New York or someplace else. All these people are used to kosher dining options that are not selling old-school items, like chicken soup.”

The laws of kosher, based on the Hebrew Bible and further elucidated by the Talmud, are extensive; Jews, many of them Orthodox, adhere to these rules, such as not eating meat products and milk products together; shellfish and other fish without fins and scales; the meat of animals that don’t chew their cud and have split hooves, such as pigs and horses; bugs in produce, and eggs with blood spots in them. Meat and fowl must be slaughtered with a special ancient ritual.

Specially trained kosher experts, called mashgichim (mahsh-GEE-chim), supervise slaughterhouses, dairy farms, restaurants, industrial food companies, bakeries and other commercial and retail sites to make sure all processes and ingredients are OK. Certifying agencies are both national, like the Orthodox Union, which puts the OU on Coca-Cola, and local,like the Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit.

“Many people consider kosher is cleaner and with an extra level of supervision. Things don’t get in,” said COR chairman Rabbi Doniel Neustadt.

Kosher is a $12.5-billion industry in the U.S., according to the most recent data by Mintel, a market research firm that tracks the field. The report says that the major reasons for purchasing kosher food is food quality (62%) or general healthfulness (51%). Thirty percent cited religious observance; 14% follow kosher rules; 10% follow some other religious rules with eating restrictions similar to kosher, and 6% follow halal rules. Others cited ethical reasons and allergies.

“It’s a segment of the food industry that continues to grow. It’s another niche part for the food industry that has cache, like organic, local,” said Sue Fishkoff, author of the book “Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority.” “The growth of the particular interest in kosher food, primarily kosher meats and poultry, came in the late 1960s, early 1970s with pesticide scares and food safety scares and Americans become more aware of the prevalence of food-borne (illnesses). The idea that another pair of eyes, religious eyes, is overseeing the manufacturing process makes them feel comfort and it’s only perception, but it’s a very strong one.”

Rabbi Jason Miller, who founded the certification agency Kosher Michigan in 2008, agreed that kosher makes good business sense.

“More people are taking on a kosher diet, both Jews and non-Jews and business owners have also found that kosher certifications have increased their sales,” he said.

Fishkoff credits the growing number of Jews embracing the kosher lifestyle after spending the first part of their lives developing sophisticated non-kosher palates for the boom, plus many of today’s kosher restaurateurs come from the wider culinary world, too.

Rosenbloom, who trained in New York City in what is today called the Natural Gourmet Institute, pointed to her abridged Campus Martius menu, including falafel, chicken shawarma and Belgian-style fries — and her mostly non-kosher-observant customers.

“Tabouleh, fresh, delicious, gluten-free salad. Who cares if it’s kosher or not? It’s absolutely delicious,” said the Ferndale resident. “People aren’t lined up because it’s under the supervision of the Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit. They’re lined up because it’s delicious.”

And in metro Detroit, which is home to a huge Muslim population, kosher can pinch-hit for halal, when the latter isn’t available, according to Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The tenets of halal, which means permissible in Arabic, outline what practicing Muslims may eat; for example, no pork, carnivorous animals, bugs or alcohol.

One downside to kosher restaurants is their prices are higher; all that extra supervision, be it at the eatery or farther up the line at the commercial plant that makes the ingredients, gets passed along. Neither Neustadt nor Miller would discuss their organizations’ fees.

But Fishkoff predicts the kosher trend will continue: “It’s going to increase for the foreseeable future. It will particularly increase as part of the local, organic, high-quality foodie movement not as the heimish Old World borsht restaurant.”

Contact Zlati Meyer: 313-223-4439 or zmeyer@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @ZlatiMeyer.

Kosher Restaurants in Metro Detroit Under Kosher Michigan (Conservative Rabbi Jason Miller)

  • Earthen Jar, Ann Arbor, www.earthenjar.com
  • Inn Season Café, Royal Oak, www.theinnseasoncafe.com
  • Liquid Lunch Café, Birmingham, www.bewelllifestylecenters.com/lifestyle-services/be-well-cafe
  • Try It Raw, Birmingham

Kosher Michigan also certifies:

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Gefilte Fish Shortage Before Passover (Pesach) AP (April 14, 2014)

Posted on: April 14th, 2014 by Kosher Michigan

WHITEFISH SHORTAGE CAUSING PASSOVER MEAL PROBLEMS

BY JOHN FLESHER
ASSOCIATED PRESS

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A shortage of whitefish in the Great Lakes region resulting partly from the winter deep freeze is coming at an inconvenient time for Jewish families: the Passover holiday, when demand is high because it’s a key ingredient in a traditional recipe.

Markets in Chicago and Detroit were among those struggling to fill whitefish orders before the beginning of the eight-day celebration Monday evening, and a representative of a commercial fishing agency said the shortfall extended as far as New York.

“Everybody’s pulling their hair out,” said Kevin Dean, co-owner of Superior Fish Co., a wholesaler near Detroit whose latest shipment provided just 75 pounds of whitefish although he requested 500 pounds. “I’ve never seen it this bad this time of year.”

The dish that inspires such angst is gefilte fish, which somewhat resembles meat loaf or meatballs. Recipes handed down for generations vary but typically call for ground-up fish and other components such as onions, carrots, eggs and bread crumbs. Other fish such as cod, pike and trout are sometimes a part of the mix, but whitefish is especially popular.

“Just smelling that gefilte fish aroma tells my senses that it’s a Jewish holiday,” said Jason Miller, a rabbi and director of Kosher Michigan, a kosher food certification agency in West Bloomfield, Mich.

In the Chicago suburb of Skokie, Ill., Ira Kirsche of Hungarian Kosher Foods said his market ordinarily would get 200 to 300 pounds of whitefish daily this time of year but has had to settle for 10 to 20 pounds.

Justin Hiller’s family market in suburban Detroit eventually received the 4,000 pounds it needed to meet demand but it was a close call.

“There was a short period a couple of days before Passover where we had to create a waiting list,” he said.

Gefilte fish (“gefilte” is a Yiddish word for “stuffed”) originated in eastern Europe, where it was an inexpensive and tasty choice for Sabbath and holiday meals, Miller said. Because it could be prepared ahead of time, it provided a way to avoid violating the Jewish law against deboning fish on the Sabbath.

It’s also available frozen or in cans or jars. But for many, only homemade will do.

Elyse Fine of Rochester, N.Y., who travels to the Chicago area yearly to prepare Seder meals for extended family, said her family used jar varieties until about 10 years ago when her husband suggested she try producing it from scratch.

“Everybody loved it,” Fine said. “Now they don’t want me to go back to the jar stuff.”

She finally located some whitefish an hour’s drive away after coming up short at stores closer to home.

The whitefish shortfall is yet another ripple effect of the bitterly cold winter, which caused more than 90 percent of the Great Lakes surface area to freeze over. In some places, the ice cover was many feet thick, leaving commercial crews stuck in port.

“You have a lot of boats that can’t get out to fish, even now,” said Chuck Bronte, senior fishery biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Green Bay, Wis.

Native American crews in northern Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, as well as Lake Superior, were able to drop their nets through holes drilled in the ice, said Mark Ebener, fishery assessment biologist with the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, which regulates tribal fishing in the area.

They had some success but the whitefish population has dropped in recent years, making the Passover shortage worse, he said.

The reason is unclear, although some scientists blame invasive mussels, which create food scarcity in aquatic food chains by gobbling vast amounts of plankton.

Follow John Flesher on Twitter at HTTP://TWITTER.COM/JOHNFLESHER .

 

CONTACT DETAIL

KM KOSHER CERTIFICATION AGENCY

5657 W. Maple Road
Suite B
West Bloomfield, MI 48322

Phone: 248.535.7090

Monday – Friday 9 am – 5 pm
Closed Saturday and Sunday

 
 

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