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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 Certification in America – Why Kosher for Passover is Thriving

Posted on: April 14th, 2022 by Kosher Michigan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN FOOD DIVE

The ‘silent salesman’: How kosher certification went mainstream

By Megan Poinski

Right now, Jewish people around the world are scrutinizing their cabinets and pantries, trying to get rid of any food items that aren’t kosher for Passover.

Hanan Products has been ready for this year’s holiday, which runs from the evening of April 15 to 23, for months.

Every January, the New York manufacturer of whipped toppings and creamers converts its entire factory to kosher-for-Passover production for a little more than two weeks.

In an interview in late January, as the special manufacturing period was drawing to a close, Chief Operating Officer Ryan Hanan described the process. Several rabbis were moving around the factory floor, scrutinizing every detail as the factory churned out non-dairy whipped toppings and coffee creamers that can be used during the eight days of Passover. Specialized sealing tape was everywhere. Only one line in the facility was running, and workers spent long hours making the specialized products that the commercial bakery customers Hanan Products serves will need for the annual holiday.

“It’s a little hectic,” Hanan said.

But the hectic time pays off at Passover. This year, Hanan Products made about 250,000 pounds of kosher for Passover items. The company is one of the few in the space that makes a product that can be enjoyed by observant Jews during the holiday. Rabbi Eli Lando, executive manager of certification organization OK Kosher, said that kosher for Passover is an especially hot market because most people in the Jewish faith — not just those who follow a kosher diet on a daily basis — will stick to those products during the eight-day holiday.

Every day of the year, however, kosher is a hot market, period. Research in 2017 by Kosher Network International — commonly abbreviated KNi — found that the global market for kosher foods was worth $24 billion, and was projected to grow 11.5% by 2025. OK Kosher, which is one of the largest kosher certification organizations in the world, has certified around 700,000 products made by 4,000 manufacturers, Lando said. Its clients include Kraft Heinz, Kellogg and General Mills.

Kosher is one of the most popular certifications in the food industry today. According to one commonly cited estimate, the certification is on about 40% of all products in a U.S. grocery store.

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

What is kosher?
In essence, food that is kosher adheres to specific dietary laws for members of the Jewish religion. Different religious texts and their interpretations lay ground rules about the types of food items and ingredients that observant Jews need to eat, as well as which foods and ingredients they need to avoid. Some of these rules involve not cooking meat and dairy together and only consuming products from animals that are kosher — generally cloven-hooved mammals that chew a cud, certain birds, and seafood with scales — and killed and prepared according to kosher rules.

In the days before widespread CPG food and drink manufacturing, it was relatively easy for observant households to be able to make choices based on those dietary laws, said OK Kosher Project Coordinator Ilana Klein.

As CPG-style food became more popular, different ingredients, additives and processes changed the ultimate composition of food and drink. It became much more difficult for individual consumers to know whether items met with their dietary laws. So, Klein said, kosher certification groups formed to visit manufacturing facilities, scrutinize and study ingredients and offer advice to CPGs and consumers about which foods, processes and ingredients were kosher.

OK Kosher has been certifying food products since 1935, and is one of the larger certification organizations today. The ingredients and manufacturing processes for every product that has the organization’s circled K on its packaging have been scrutinized by OK Kosher’s staff of experts. In addition to all of the CPG products OK Kosher has verified, Lando said there are more than 1 million ingredients that the group monitors.

“Any certification worldwide has their standards based on regulations that were developed by mankind, people who have come together and decided that this would be the standard,” Lando said. “The standard of kosher is the interpretation of the Bible, which has been in Jewish tradition for thousands of years.”

Kosher certification is not about ensuring food is high quality or healthy, Lando said. It attests certain processes related to safety and purity enshrined in Jewish law are followed. And it means that those who work with certification — many of whom are rabbis — continue to make site visits and investigate processes and ingredients.

“Any certification worldwide has their standards based on regulations that were developed by mankind, people who have come together and decided that this would be the standard. The standard of kosher is the interpretation of the Bible, which has been in Jewish tradition for thousands of years.”

Geller, who is known as the “Queen of Kosher” for her presence in Jewish lifestyle media — writing cookbooks, hosting online cooking shows and founding KNi — said that the halo of a kosher certification has deep roots. While it is important to consumers who only eat kosher products all year long, it’s also become synonymous in popular culture for something that is pure and honest. After all, she said, it’s not uncommon for people making any kind of agreement to talk about whether it is “kosher.”

“People have a lot of reverence for a religious set of eyes, which cannot be compromised,” Geller said. “So they really know that whatever is in the package is actually in the package — nothing more, nothing less. And there’s an independent board or body governing that process. That’s why it’s become so much more mainstream.”

Kosher continues to be top-of-mind for both consumers and manufacturers. According to Innova Market Insights, almost a third of all product launches in 2021 had a kosher claim. More than half of all dessert and ice cream launches were certified kosher, and 17% of the new kosher launches came from the bakery category.

Read More in Manufacturing
Roger Horowitz, author of “Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food,” said that in this day and age, a kosher certification is almost a need-to-have. Unless a product is something that could never be kosher certified — for example, something containing shrimp — or it would be extremely expensive to create a kosher version — like a budget product that contains meat — the default is for it to become kosher certified.

In kosher we trust
While kosher certification began as a way to tell members of a religious community what they could eat, the symbol means much more to a wider swath of consumers today.

“If the product has a kosher symbol on it, it says … [it is] a company that invests in quality, a company that cares about the product they make,” OK Kosher’s Lando said.

Lando recalls something an attorney told him: Kosher certifiers answer to a higher authority. For that reason, he said, they don’t let things slide. When examining manufacturing facilities, kosher certification groups point out any issues and force the manufacturers to deal with them.

Because of the vital role a kosher certification plays to observant consumers, Lando said that transparency is key. The effect of that transparency, as well as the trust the community places in rabbis, adds to the deference that consumers give the certification.

The popularity of kosher certification is something that has snowballed through the years. Horowitz said that one impetus for manufacturers to get the certification is simply access. There are areas of the U.S. with larger Jewish populations — like the New York City region, as well as several other East Coast cities. Grocery retailers that serve those populations may prefer to put more kosher products on their shelves simply for those customers. And if these stores are part of larger chains, the kosher products will spread to new locations.

Geller said this begins a validation loop for kosher food. As there are more kosher certified products available throughout the store, she said, they become both more prevalent and prominent. The sheer numbers, she said, increase demand among consumers.

Kosher also has the connotation of being healthy, Geller said — though the certification has nothing to do with nutritional qualities. Kosher certifications are usually next to the other labels and symbols that show a product’s nutritional and ingredient qualities, such as “vegan friendly,” “organic,” “all-natural” or “gluten-free,” providing the association.

Kosher certification offers other helpful information to consumers, Horowitz said. If a consumer is lactose intolerant, for example, kosher certification can indicate whether a product contains dairy.

“People have a lot of reverence for a religious set of eyes, which cannot be compromised. So they really know that whatever is in the package is actually in the package — nothing more, nothing less. And there’s an independent board or body governing that process.”

The 2017 KNi study found that kosher products drive three times larger basket sizes among shoppers, though only 10% of those products come from specialty kosher sections that provide Jewish ethnic food. Geller said the reasoning behind this is two-fold. For consumers eating all kosher food for religious reasons, they follow other Jewish traditions, including weekly entertaining on the Sabbath. This is akin to having a Thanksgiving-style meal each week, she said, inviting friends, extended family and neighbors.

For consumers who have no religious reason to buy kosher food, the ones who pay close attention to the certification tend to be more affluent, Geller said. These people usually buy more at the store anyway, but they are also more apt to pay premium prices for the branded products they most want.

Because kosher traditions date back thousands of years and find their beginnings in a religious, ethnic and cultural community, Geller said that kosher presents a sense of authenticity. As people are embracing more genuine forms of food and drink, items that are kosher fit into that space for consumers.

“They really, really feel that it’s authentic, and from the source and it’s timeless,” Geller said. “…If you want to really learn how to make tomato sauce, I want an Italian grandmother to teach it to me. That’s the idea with kosher food.”

How to be kosher
While hundreds of thousands of products have kosher certifications, the right to bear a kosher seal is something that is hard earned. OK Kosher’s Klein said that the certification goes far deeper than filling out a form and checking boxes.

“It became more and more sophisticated as time went on, and it’s definitely one of the major pioneers in the United States and across the world,” Klein said. “Our organization is constantly upholding the standards, setting the standards, determining new standards, always examining the new technology and new practices.”

Lando said that earning kosher certification through OK Kosher is no different than working with any other regulatory agency. After a CPG manufacturer applies online, OK Kosher discusses product specifics with the company and visits its manufacturing facility. It puts together a certification plan and requirements, and schedules visits to ensure that the manufacturing lines remain in compliance. The manufacturer also signs a legal agreement to use the OK Kosher trademark.

It can take as little as four weeks for a product to get an initial kosher certification, depending on how ready the item and facility are. OK Kosher’s certification lasts a year, meaning all companies are subjected to at least an annual reinspection. However, Lando said, kosher inspectors do make unplanned visits to ensure companies are continuing to follow the proper procedures to maintain certification.

In his book, Horowitz wrote about some of the specific challenges CPG companies have dealt with as they sought kosher certification. Many involved single ingredients that were not kosher. Horowitz said that gelatin has caused problems through the years. The ingredient can be sourced from a variety of places — including red meat, fish and vegetables — but the mouthfeel varies depending on its source. Horowitz said that finding a kosher source of gelatin that does not impact the eating experience has been challenging, especially because the ingredient must be sourced from an animal killed in accordance with kosher law.

“If you’re a large manufacturer making large sorts of products, if you have to disrupt the assumptions and the habits of consumers by changing their product mix by changing the gelatin, it’s not worth it for you to do that,” Horowitz said.

“If you want to really learn how to make tomato sauce, I want an Italian grandmother to teach it to me. That’s the idea with kosher food.”

In the 1950s, Coca-Cola faced a similar ingredient challenge, Horowitz said. At the time, its signature soda contained a small amount of animal-derived glycerin, which is not kosher. However, industrial ingredient producers found that petroleum-derived glycerin is kosher, edible and less expensive than the animal variety, Horowitz said. All of those contributed to Coca-Cola — and other manufacturers — turning to the petroleum-derived ingredient.

Lando advises companies today to go into designing products and manufacturing processes already thinking of kosher certification. If a company has to make big changes in order to become kosher, or if attaining certification gets in the way of doing business, he often counsels them not to do it. For a food manufacturer to make kosher products, the ingredients, equipment and production lines all need to be certified. And it all needs to be kept in order — a non-religious person may not mind if a product with a kosher seal was made on a production line that did not undergo proper sanitization processes, for example, but it means much more to someone who is observant.

Like many trends today, KNi’s Geller thinks that kosher’s popularity has been magnified by social media. Historically, while many large CPG brands have offered certified kosher products for decades, not many had promoted it, and the certification seal itself isn’t especially prominent on packaging. Geller said manufacturers seemed to not consider kosher as an earned certification that every consumer would want to know about.

About 10 to 15 years ago, Geller said, that started to change. The ability to do specific marketing on social media helped drive the realization of how important a kosher certification really is to consumers.

“They started to actually target the kosher customer, and then saw that value expand out to … the international community or those that just see kosher as a symbol of approval,” Geller said. “Then the explosion really happened and the certification went mainstream.”

On KNi, the huge popularity of kosher food is evident. Geller publishes an array of KNi cooking videos featuring different cuisines and cooking styles, in which all of the recipes are kosher. The most popular videos are on KNi’s homepage — with 187.3 million views for a video on Middle Eastern dips, 74 million views for one on the Arabic dip matbucha and 44.2 million views for one on cheese-stuffed falafel.

“There are only 15 million Jewish people in the entire world,” Geller said. “People. We’re talking about men, women, children and babies. And we have videos with over 10 million, 15 million views.”

As far as certifications go, kosher is relatively inexpensive. OK Kosher is a nonprofit, Lando said, and most companies in North America pay somewhere around $5,000 to $15,000 for an annual certification. The cost is based on aspects like the location, number, size or volume of facilities where the food is made and the amount of supervision and monitoring needed based on the product type.

When manufacturers ask what the return on investment is for making a product kosher, Lando responds that they should also consider the “return on ignoring.” He noted that certification costs are a fraction of what a company pays for larger marketing expenses, like a Super Bowl ad.

“If you take off the kosher symbol, you will find out how many customers you chased away, and that is going to be a much more expensive lesson to learn,” Lando said. “…It’s not a mistake that companies large and small, have kosher symbols on their products year after year after year after year.”

Horowitz said studies have shown only about one in 10 consumers seeking a kosher certification on products actually follows a kosher diet.

“You’re talking about millions of people who are looking for a kosher label on products,” Horowitz said. “And if that label can be obtained for a relatively modest cost, then it becomes an asset to the marketing activities.”

Kosher certification organizations — and CPG manufacturers as well — all realize that a kosher seal on a package is like a “silent salesman,” Horowitz said. And while certification organizations have a primary interest of ensuring products with the seal truly are kosher, there is a secondary goal of encouraging consumers to buy the products.

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

Keeping Kosher – Spiritual Eating (By Rabbi Warren Goldstein)

Posted on: March 24th, 2022 by Kosher Michigan

Spiritual Eating
by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein

Keeping kosher is a vital part of Jewish life. The word “kosher” comes from the Hebrew word kasher, meaning “fit” or “proper”. And, indeed, the term itself has even entered the general vernacular. When something is kosher, it is considered “above board” and meets certain required standards. As we shall see, kosher is an entire worldview – a philosophy on food, and on life in general.

Before delving into the ideas and philosophy behind kosher, it’s important to acknowledge two things. Firstly, the basis for all of the mitzvot is that God commanded us to perform them. With loyalty and commitment, we dedicate our lives to fulfilling His will, whether or not we understand the true meaning and significance of the commandments. While acknowledging that we cannot truly probe the ultimate Divine wisdom and motivation behind the mitzvot, nevertheless, we are called on to do our best to understand them so the mitzvot can have a maximum impact on who we are and have a maximum transformative impact on making us into better people. This follows the philosophy of the Ramban when it comes to mitzvot, which he says is about how the mitzvot transform and make us into better people.

Secondly, kosher encompasses a wide range of halachic principles and applications, each immensely detailed. There are the laws governing which animals are kosher and which are not, documented in this week’s parsha, Shemini. There are the laws governing how animals are slaughtered and prepared for consumption. There are the laws governing the separation of milk and meat. Each of these aspects of kosher comprises its own world of details and ideas and meanings, and we can’t possibly do justice to them in a short discussion.

But, we can make a start. Let us embark on a journey of discovery. And perhaps, the best place to begin is with our perspective on non-kosher food. Is there something intrinsically wrong with non-kosher food? Is it simply unhealthy? Rav Yitzchak Don Abavarnel, one of our great sages, argues forcefully that kashrut has nothing to do with health. He explains that the Torah is a book of Divine wisdom, not a health manual. Furthermore, he says, there is no indication that non-Jews who eat nonkosher foods are any less healthy than Jews, and also, that there are a number of unhealthy foods and even toxic substances not even mentioned in the Torah as being unkosher.

According to the Abarbarnel, and many other sources, keeping kosher is about spiritual health. The Maharal of Prague has a particular perspective and maintains that this doesn’t mean there is anything bad intrinsically, whether spiritually or physically, with non-kosher food. Rabbi Azriel Chaim Goldfein cites the halachic ruling that if you have three indistinguishable pieces of meat, two of which you know for certain are kosher, and they become mixed up, you are in fact permitted to eat all three, since the two kosher cuts are in the majority, and the non-kosher cut gets subsumed into them. (If you have a question of this nature, you should consult a competent halachic authority just to clarify all the details and make sure that the halacha is being properly applied.) If there were something intrinsically wrong with the non-kosher meat, then how could this principle of nullification in the majority apply?

So, what is the distinction between kosher and non-kosher? The Maharal explains that the Torah is the spiritual blueprint of the world. He says that keeping kosher, as with all the other mitzvot, aligns us with this spiritual blueprint, and helps us actualise our latent spiritual potential. And so, the laws of kosher follow the framework of spiritual principles that God created. And that framework exists external to the food itself. Eating kosher is living in harmony and in sync with the spiritual blueprint of the universe, and not doing so is departing from that framework, and that is spiritually damaging.

To illustrate this, the Maharal cites the Midrash, which describes kashrut as a way “to purify people”. This purification takes place through the connection of a person’s soul to the ultimate spiritual blueprint of the world, which was created by God. But, it is not about the intrinsic nature of the food itself. He cites another Midrash which says: “A person should not say I do not want pork… but rather I would like it, but what can I do that my Father in Heaven has decreed upon me [not to have it].” (Torat Kohanim Kedoshim) So the laws of kashrut follow a framework of Godgiven spiritual principles embedded in the Torah – a framework that exists external to the food itself.

Rabbeinu Bechaye shares a different perspective on kosher. In his commentary on this week’s parsha, he refers to the verse that concludes the section dealing with the laws of kashrut: “And you shall sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy, for I am holy.” (Vayikra 11:44) Rabbeinu Bechaye says that we see from this verse that keeping kosher helps us to live a life of holiness.

There are two primary components to the human being – the physical and the spiritual. These two components are naturally in conflict with one another, and the fact that they co-exist in a single organism is itself something wondrous. But to help us navigate this power struggle and ensure the spiritual force within us ultimately frames and guides our physical drives, the Torah provides for the expression and fulfilment of these physical desires within a spiritually and ethically enriching framework. This framework helps us infuse meaning into even the most mundane, basic activities such as eating. It is in this context that the laws of kosher need to be seen.

Rabbeinu Bechaye says the more immediate physical needs of the body can easily overwhelm our spiritual selves. This natural predominance of the physical over the spiritual is rooted in the fact that human beings are physical before we are spiritual; as children we are consumed by our physical wants and needs, and only later do we develop a spiritual muscle, a capacity to reflect and to channel, to exercise self-restraint. There’s also the fact that the world we inhabit is very much a physical, material one; the soul is a stranger in this world.

And so, we need all the help we can get to transcend this material world, and our physical selves, and become truly elevated, spiritual beings. Keeping kosher does this because it places a spiritual framework around what we eat. We can’t just eat whatever we want. We learn self-restraint. And we immerse ourselves in this holy framework from a young age. The Sforno says the laws of kosher help us achieve Godliness, even holiness, in this world.

Kosher fits into a broader philosophy of food and of eating, one that is saturated with holiness, spirituality and meaning. We have in the Torah the mitzvah of Birkat Hamazon – Grace after Meals – in terms of which we give thanks to God after eating, that the process of eating is not just one of self-gratification, but also one connected to gratitude. The sages of the Talmud added to that, and formulated blessings to be said before eating food to acknowledge where it comes from. It is part of acknowledging that this world and everything in it belongs to God, and that, when we take from it, we express our gratitude.

We don’t just consume. We stop. We give thanks to God, we give thought to whether or not the food is kosher. We acknowledge the source of the food and give thanks for its tastiness, its nourishing goodness. Eating becomes a more refined, uplifting and meaningful experience in this way.

This idea of elevation is embodied in the mitzvah of washing our hands before eating bread. The blessing we recite is al netilat yadayim. The word netilah, explains Rav Yaakov Zvi Mecklenberg, comes from another Hebrew word, meaning elevation. The implication is clear. When we wash our hands before eating, we elevate ourselves, we connect the act of eating to something higher, something greater than merely satiating our hunger.

Rav Mecklenberg connects the mitzvah of washing before bread to the requirement that the Kohanim, the priests in the Beit Hamikdash, wash their hands before beginning the sacred Temple service. He says we, too, should view this world as one great Beit Hamikdash, a world filled with holiness, with God’s presence, where we are called on to serve God and to live lives of meaning and dedication and spirituality. The world, and everything in it, was created by God, and therefore belongs to God, like the holy property of the Temple. And when we reach out to take anything from this world, from God Himself, we should do so in a state of holiness and purity, with a sense of reverence for the sacred task at hand.

Ultimately, we see that kosher and the laws around eating are about transcending the self, transcending our own selfish physical needs, and creating a holy framework for them. In doing so, we get in touch with our souls, our spiritual selves. We attain a sense of self-mastery, and become not merely a body, but a soul clothed in physical garments. Whatever our bodies take from this world needs to be done in a framework of morality and ethics, in a framework of kindness and compassion, of spirituality, meaning and elevation. And then the experience of eating food gets transformed from an animalistic self-gratification experience into one that is truly holy, and elevated into something meaningful, refined and ethical, and we ourselves become transformed.

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?

Can Vegan Pork be Kosher?

Posted on: October 4th, 2021 by Kosher Michigan

Judaism often thrives on new technologies. That doesn’t mean Impossible Pork should be kosher.

(JTA) — The Orthodox Union won’t certify Impossible Pork as kosher, representing a break from the way that decisions about certifying kosher food are normally made. But as someone who studies Judaism’s long relationship with technology, I would argue that it is undoubtedly the right move.

Since the OU first started certifying products a century ago, kosher supervision has always remained doggedly focused on objective fact-finding: Food is kosher because of what’s in it and how it’s made (and, occasionally, who makes it) and that’s basically it. To get this information, modern kosher supervision agencies have built out fantastically complex global operations that keep track of complicated and constantly shifting supply chains. These systems are often incurious about almost everything not directly related to the food processing itself, including whether factory working conditions are acceptable, whether the ingredients are sustainably sourced, or whether the certified product will kill you (though politics sometimes leaks in anyway).

So it was unusual when the OU — the largest certifier of kosher products in the world — denied certification to Impossible Pork, a next-gen meat substitute, despite the fact that every ingredient in the product is kosher. The OU explained that it could not certify a product that described itself as pork.

Despite protestations to the contrary from hungry Jews and my own deep culinary curiosity, I believe that the OU made the right call. Though it seems that the decision was narrowly decided, the move to withhold kosher certification may in fact turn out to be one of the most important Jewish legal decisions of the 21st century. This may seem like a hyperbolic way of talking about soy protein slurry, but I really think it isn’t. The OU’s move is a first, tentative step towards a stance on technological innovation that desperately needs to become more common.

Impossible Pork Char Siu Buns were presented at a consumer technology conference in Las Vegas in January 2020.

To understand why, we need to understand the effect of new technologies on legal regimes. Law needs to be specific to be effective, and so well-constructed law is often carefully tailored to the nitty-gritty details of specific objects, systems and ways of behaving. When a new technology comes along and replaces the old — even if the new tech does exactly the same thing as the old — it can make the old law irrelevant unless lawmakers intervene with an update. Interventions are especially important when the old technology has been around for a long time and law has grown intertwined with it. Regulating cryptocurrency, for example, is crucial precisely because so many financial regulations assume that transactions take place exclusively through state-issued currency that is mostly stored in banks.

But if the job of lawmakers is to create continuities between old and new tech, many modern tech firms, with their “move fast and break things” culture, often seem hellbent on tearing them apart. The makers of new technology like to call things “unprecedented” because it generates hype, but disconnecting new technologies from old ones is also a good way of shielding themselves from ethical and legal responsibility for how those technologies behave.

This new tech dynamic plays out in Jewish law, too. How should the rule forbidding leather shoes on Yom Kippur — because they were considered an indulgence — apply in an era of comfortable synthetic shoes? Must one wear tzitzit (ritual fringes) at all when modern shirts don’t have the four corners that triggered the Biblical requirement of tzitzit? On a larger scale, the Shabbat elevator, the Kosher Lamp, as well as a host of technologies developed by Israel’s Tzomet Institute, all employ new technologies to circumvent existing rules while keeping within the letter, if not the spirit, of the law.

Sometimes Jews have allowed these rules to be eroded because the stakes didn’t feel high enough, but when a new technology threatens to undermine Jewish tradition, the rabbis have tended to respond appropriately.

The best example of this is the ban on turning electricity on or off on Shabbat. For millennia, the experience of Shabbat was shaped by the Biblical prohibition on lighting fires; with the advent of electricity at the turn of the last century, that ban threatened to become irrelevant. Orthodox rabbis responded by coalescing around the argument that electricity is fire, or was covered by some other well-established prohibition. That electricity is not actually fire didn’t matter; the argument carried because it was understood by leadership and laity alike that electricity was coming to replace fire, to do everything fire could do and more. Today, the restrictions on electricity are a cornerstone of the Shabbat experience, so fundamental that it is hard for many observant Jews to imagine Shabbat without it.

Is Impossible Pork the 21st century version of electricity? There’s a good case to be made that it is. The rise of plant-based meat substitutes has been spurred by ethical and environmental concerns around meat production. Their success depends on their being so delicious that they escape from the boutique realm of eco-conscious consumers and take on the same cultural role as meat. That Burger King offers an Impossible Whopper signals that this is already happening, as does the fact that major meat producers have invested heavily in the growth of plant-based alternatives to their own products.

These developments should be celebrated—but rather than diminishing meat’s special cultural meaning, its substitutes have only served to burnish it.

Meat has a special significance in Judaism, too. God is a big fan of animal sacrifices, and many holidays still involve the ritual or cultural use of meat — and inasmuch as meat matters, it matters that the meat isn’t pork. It’s irrelevant that the Ancient Israelite origins of the ban are obscure; it’s enough that modern observant Jews (and Muslims) still treat the ban on pig products as a cultural touchstone. We should be glad that technology has created a meaningful difference between veggie beef and veggie pork — but if the distinction is there, the ban on the pork must be, too.

The OU’s ruling does not yet amount to a full-fledged policy that all fake meat should be treated like real meat; a kosher restaurant can still serve plant-based “cheeseburgers” without fear that its license will be revoked. But even if it was not intended to be profound, the OU’s decision is an example of how all regulators, both religious and governmental, can fight back against the cultural unmooring that the present onslaught of new technology continues to cause. In this unprecedented age, creating continuity between the past and the present serves to ground society in the wisdom and norms of its own past.

is the scholar in residence and director of new media at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and the owner of Print-o-Craft Press. He holds a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.

Jewish Prisoners Win Right to Kosher Meals in Michigan

Posted on: February 1st, 2020 by Kosher Michigan

Kosher Meals in Michigan Prisons

From the Detroit Jewish News

A proposed settlement reached Oct. 12 grants Michigan’s Jewish prisoners the ability to have Kosher meals.
Jewish inmates in Michigan prisons will start receiving kosher meals under a proposed settlement reached Oct. 12 in a class-action lawsuit handled by the Civil Rights Clinic at Michigan State University, led by Professor Daniel Manville. “We got the entry for preliminary approval and the notices will begin going up in the 16 Michigan prisons that house Jewish inmates,” Manville said.

Manville, an ex-offender who spent four years in prison in the 1970s, is an advocate for prisoners’ rights who likes to take on cases “that make an impact,” he says. He’s been working on this case since 2013.

Kosher Food in Michigan Prisons

“It stemmed from a lawsuit by Muslim prisoners who wanted a halal diet,” he explains. “The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) agreed to provide those prisoners with a vegan diet to settle the claim. They then extended that vegan diet to Jewish prisoners who wanted kosher meals — kind of a one-size-fits-all religious meal solution.”

Former prisoner Michael Arnold filed suit after that decision because, he said, a vegan diet lacks kosher meat and dairy and, most importantly, doesn’t adhere to kosher principles of preparation, such as proscriptions against contamination with non-kosher utensils and prep areas. Arnold, who told the Detroit Free Press, “The policy of enforced vegetarianism was targeted” at Jewish prisoners, was dropped from the suit when he was released from prison.

Arnold’s original lawsuit eventually became “Gerald Ackerman and Mark Shaykin v. Heidi Washington,” the suit that was just settled, which resolves prisoners’ claims to kosher meals.

Currently, inmates have the option of purchasing kosher meals and products at the prison commissary twice a month, but, Manville says, the cost is prohibitive for most inmates. “Each meal costs around $5-$6, which is hard to afford when you’re earning $30 a month in your prison job and need to buy shampoo and other incidentals.”

Under the proposed settlement, which is subject to a fairness hearing Dec. 11 in front of U.S. District Judge Linda Parker in Detroit, Jewish inmates who keep kosher will be entitled to meals prepared in a certified kosher kitchen within the facility or certified kosher meals from a third-party vendor. Facilities that produce kosher meals onsite must submit to inspections to maintain kosher certification.

MDOC has cited the cost of creating kosher kitchens at $100,000 for each of the 16 facilities holding Jewish prisoners, or $1.6 million. “Which seems a little high,” Manville said.

According to MDOC, there are about 600 Jewish prisoners in Michigan’s 33,000 prison population. Of those 600, Manville said, between 85 and 193 are approved for kosher meals. “The discrepancy in the numbers likely stems from the 2013 settlement that forced those requesting kosher meals to eat the vegan meals,” Manville said. “Many Jewish prisoners dropped their requests for kosher and opted for the general menu.”

Prisoners not already approved for kosher meals can become eligible for kosher meals by living kosher for 60 days, which means that prisoners must use only the religious diet line for meals and may not “purchase, receive, possess or consume” any non-kosher item from the commissary, visitors or another prisoner. If at any time they are found to have consumed something non-kosher they have to restart the 60-day process.

“That provision was added to the settlement to ensure Michigan didn’t have 32,000 prisoners decide they were Jewish once they read the notice,” Manville said.

The settlement does not resolve plaintiffs’ meat and dairy consumption claims, Manville adds. The issue of whether Jewish prisoners will receive kosher meat and dairy meals 56 days a year (each Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shavuot) is still in dispute and was just litigated early this month, “although all parties have agreed to at least one cheesecake per year,” Manville said. “We expect a ruling on that early next year.”

Manville said MDOC has claimed in court that it is reluctant to provide meat and dairy meals to kosher-observant prisoners 56 times a year because of the cost, which, according to Manville, would add $10,000-$20,000 per year in expenses for MDOC.

David Kraemer’s Review of Roger Horowitz’s “Kosher USA”

Posted on: June 7th, 2016 by Kosher Michigan

From Treif to Treat: How Oreos, Coke and Jell-O Became Kosher

‘Kosher USA’ is a detailed account of the scientific and business-related aspects of the history of kashrut, including the battles to allow observant Jews to enjoy forbidden favorites.

By Professor David Kraemer
Haaretz Daily

 

“Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food,” by Roger Horowitz, Columbia University Press, 320 pp., $35

 
Not so very long ago, obtaining kosher food was a relatively simple affair. The food you ate was available in your garden or local market. Ingredients were seasonal, simple and few. There were no preservatives as such, so durable foods could be stored; perishable foods might be smoked, pickled or salted. In general, you acquired, prepared and ate your food all within a day or two.

By virtue of the transparency of such markets, there were no kosher signs or organizations granting formal kashrut certification; your meat had to be slaughtered by someone who was approved by the local rabbi, but nothing more was demanded.

Kosher USA Book - Roger Horowitz

Kosher USA Book – Roger Horowitz

 

Then, in the 20th century, kashrut changed forever. Increasingly, food production was industrialized, the sources of ingredients often distant and obscure. Whereas in earlier times you could see the grain or potato or onion you were buying in the market bin, and you knew what kind of fat you were using to fry or flavor your food – now everything was prepackaged, and ingredient lists, filled with chemical names and technical terms, did an inadequate job of allowing you to separate the kosher from the non-kosher. Only professional rabbinic overseers, increasingly employed by kashrut organizations, had the expertise to determine what you were permitted to buy. Kosher symbols on packaging became essential to the observant community.

Nowhere did this process occur earlier or more completely than in the United States, which also happened to be, and continues to be, home to one of the largest Jewish communities on Earth. The experience of this community, therefore, is of extraordinary interest to anyone interested in modern Judaism. Thus, Roger Horowitz’s “Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food” is a rich account of its path through the transition just described. There is no prior book that documents the history of kashrut in America with such detail (though Sue Fishkoff’s “Kosher Nation” covers some of the same territory from a different perspective).

The story Horowitz’s book tells is a fascinating one, and he does a masterful job sleuthing and documenting the development of kashrut and the kosher food industry from the major waves of Jewish immigration in the early 20th century through the status quo of the early 21st.

After a cursory history of the origins and development of kashrut from antiquity, Horowitz begins his account with a discussion of the complications and controversies regarding the kashrut of Coca-Cola — not merely a soft drink but a symbol of American culture and power.

Recalling the important place Coke had on his seder table when he was a child, Horowitz reports that when he looked into the story of its kashrut, he quickly discovered that the standard account — according to which Atlanta Rabbi Tobias Geffen persuaded the company, in 1934-35, to change the drink’s formula to make it acceptable — is full of holes. He recounts that the controversy over Coke’s kashrut began before Geffen got involved, and continued until the late 1950s.

So what was the full story? The ingredient that rendered Coca-Cola — and many other processed foods — a kashrut problem was glycerin, derived primarily from the fats of unkosher animals. An earlier rabbi had declared Coke kosher, but didn’t understand the origins of glycerin. Geffen ruled that such glycerin was unacceptable, even in minute quantities, but he persuaded Coca-Cola to use glycerin of vegetable origin, and thus saved Coke for the kosher table.

Coca-Cola. Author Horowitz remembered how important it was at the seder meal and looked into the story of its kashrut. Bloomberg
However, an Orthodox chemist by the name of Abraham Goldstein, whom Horowitz views as the protagonist of the story, demanded greater stringency, insisting that Coke’s sourcing of glycerin was still suspect. He challenged the expertise of rabbis in rendering such opinions, insisting that, in the modern industrial context, only someone trained in chemistry, like himself, could make an educated judgment.

Goldstein was relentless in promoting this position, championing it through the increasingly popular publication, the “Kosher Food Guide,” put out by the Organized Kashrut Laboratories (aka OK Labs). Ultimately, it was his approach that prevailed, making scientific considerations central to kashrut decisions until the present day. Coke “remained” kosher by changing its formula to conform with Goldstein’s standards.

Glycerin wasn’t the only ingredient that created such problems. The kashrut of a variety of foods popular in the 1950s and ’60s, such as Jell-O and marshmallows, was subject to question on account of the gelatin that was essential to their manufacture. Gelatin might be extracted from various sources, kosher and unkosher, and earlier rabbinic authorities had mostly given it a green light, whatever its source, on account of the radical transformation of the original substance in the process of making gelatin. But during the period in question, gelatin came to be made primarily from collagen originating in pigs. This, Horowitz writes, was a “ticking time bomb,” because kosher consumers would never accept an ingredient with such a source, no matter how changed it might be.

Partly as a response to this reality, the rabbinic establishment came to accept the more restrictive view championed by Goldstein with respect to ingredients with unkosher sources. However, Horowitz perceptively writes, “such a dramatic change indicates that something more than a rethinking of kosher law was at work… something that closely touched basic issues of Jewish identity in postwar America.”

What was this “something?” In Horowitz’s view, the “Orthodox were becoming more stringent to ward off the challenge posed by Conservative Judaism.”
This may well be part of the explanation. But then why admit the crucial place of science in questions of kashrut, particularly since attention to science and other modern disciplines was part of what characterized the approach of Conservative Judaism in the first place? Besides, the rightward direction of kashrut practice was part of a much larger rightward inclination in Orthodoxy, as amply documented by Samuel Heilman in “Sliding to the Right.”

What was it about life after the Holocaust that might have influenced these trends? What about changes in the demographics of Jews in the U.S.? About what was happening in religious practice in Israel and how Israel affected the Diaspora? There is a considerable literature on all of these questions, yet Horowitz seems not to be familiar with it; in any case, it doesn’t influence his analysis, and this is an unfortunate weakness.\

One of the great strengths of the book is Horowitz’s discussions of business considerations in shaping the growth or shrinkage of the market for kosher foods (Horowitz, as a historian of American business, is the person to write this history). Energizing growth were such factors as the greater efficiency of manufacturing a single product for both observant Jewish and other markets rather than having different production lines — which led, for example, to the decision to make Oreos kosher so that they could be used in Cookies and Cream ice cream. This was the answer to many a Jewish child’s dream, as before they could only long for the popular but forbidden cookie!

Also crucial to successes enjoyed by kosher food manufacturers was the perception among gentiles that a kashrut mark was a sign of purity and quality, making kosher products more desirable. Kosher manufacturers consciously sought to take advantage of this broader market, and their advertising often targeted non-Jews directly. Hebrew National hot dogs, sold in super markets and not just kosher butcher shops, and advertised as “answer[ing] to a higher authority,” is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon.

Horowitz’s discussion of kosher wines is particularly well done, weaving a story of both a growing and a shrinking market – a trajectory that, in his view, leaves observant Jews in a more marginal position than is commonly understood. Horowitz begins by recounting the growth of the market for sweet kosher wine — made by Manischewitz — among poorer minorities, who appreciated its lower cost and sweeter taste.

Correctly sensing a potential boon to its sales, the company enthusiastically promoted its product to this market. But — in some measure due to racist attitudes — Jews began to eschew the wine, and even led some to question its kashrut. Most Jews turned to other kosher wines, and, with the development of more refined tastes, to drier wines. But the need, in America, for wine that was mevushal (“boiled”) — so that non-Jews would be permitted to serve it at Jewish affairs (in general, the touch of a non-Jew renders kosher wine impermissible, but Jewish law permits it if is mevushal) — meant that the quality of kosher wines was compromised.

Unlike many other kosher products, kosher wine never developed a reputation for quality, and the market for such wines remains overwhelmingly limited to observant Jews. The final chapters of the book are devoted to the production and sale of kosher meat. Again, Horowitz offers a fine history of kosher slaughter in the U.S., along with the kosher marketplace and its changes. He describes how kosher slaughterhouses were originally a local affair, located, for example, on both the far west and far east sides of Manhattan (the meat-packing district and the present property of the United Nations).

Following World War II, when meat production was increasingly industrialized, moving to massive plants in the Midwest, maintaining kashrut presented a problem: To assure that the blood could still be extracted from the flesh through salting, carcasses had to be washed every three days while being transported to local markets. This was common practice in the 1950s and later, until the slaughtering plants began salting and packaging the meat themselves.

However, solving such problems created other issues, as animals came to be treated as mere meat-producing commodities, and cruelty to animals (in how they are raised and slaughtered) has led to disgust and condemnation. This is not problem unique to kosher meat, but it is particularly difficult to ameliorate, as kosher slaughter does not permit stunning before the knife is put to the neck.

Horowitz offers a fine history of both the ethical problems involved in kosher slaughter and the development of organizations that seek to improve conditions in the slaughterhouses. As a journalistic history of kashrut in America, Horowitz’s book is to be recommended. But its journalistic quality is both a strength and a weakness. Horowitz is a reporter who does superb research, and, as a business historian, he is very attentive to the dynamics of the market. But the market is never the full story, and his reportage is rarely accompanied by a fuller analysis. He almost never incorporates consideration of sociological or social-religious factors, and when he does, his analysis is cursory, at best.

There are, for this reader, other weaknesses that should also be mentioned. Seeking to render his discussion more accessible, Horowitz frequently cites his experiences with his own family and neighborhood. But his virtually exclusive reference to the life of Jews on the Upper West Side of Manhattan makes both the author and the neighborhood seem parochial, and leaves the reader asking, “What about the rest of Jewish America?”

Finally, I have some question about the author’s Hebraic proficiency: his translation of b’lios as “taste” (as opposed to “[material that is] absorbed”) is incorrect, if serviceable for his purposes, and he repeatedly — and incorrectly — refers to the “ethical kosher” organization Magen Tzedek as Magden Tzedek, an awkward error.

Despite these problems, I strongly recommend Horowitz’s books to anyone interested in the topic. His history is superb, and his work will allow others to offer their own analyses and interpretations. He lays a very strong foundation here, and for that he is to be commended.

 

David Kraemer is a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary and the author of “Jewish Eating and Identity Through the Ages.”
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/books/.premium-1.722415

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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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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