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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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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 .

Rabbi Jason Miller Meets Demand for Kosher Products (Oakland Press – December 1, 2013)

Posted on: December 1st, 2013 by Kosher Michigan

Rabbi meets demand for Kosher products

Rabbi Jason Miller of Kosher Michigan
Rabbi helps meet demand for Kosher products. Rabbi Jason Miller launched Kosher Michigan, (KM), to help bring Kosher products to market. Miller works with restaurants, bakeries and manufacturers.His is the first kosher certification agency owned by a non-Orthodox rabbi to have a booth and exhibit at Kosherfest.

He was an exhibitor at the 2013 trade show in Secaucus, NJ, Oct. 29-30.

Kosherfest marked its 25th anniversary as an annual meeting and trade show and product resource for the kosher trade industry: supermarket, restaurant and foodservice buyers.

According to Miller, founder and director of Kosher Michigan, “My certification agency has grown over the past five plus years and becoming a part of Kosherfest for the first time is a milestone for me.”

Menachem Lubinsky, co-producer and founder of Kosherfest said, “In the last 25 years we have seen the number of kosher-certified items grow from a few thousand to almost 200,000. Major food companies have changed their ingredients and equipment in order to get kosher certification, and consumers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, seek the kosher symbol on the food products they buy more than ever before.”

Attendees to Kosherfest represent a broad spectrum of the industry, from chain and independent restaurants, caterers and specialty markets, to grocery/supermarket, big box and club chains, independent retailers, manufacturing ingredient buyers, distributors and buying agents, among many other industry professionals. Kosher Michigan was a co-exhibitor with Excalibur Seasonings, a large spice company in Pekin, Illinois that has been certified by Kosher Michigan for the past few years.

“As a non-Orthodox rabbi it has certainly been an uphill battle to gain acceptance in the kosher certification industry,” Miller explains. “However, it has been a worthwhile endeavor for me. Today Kosher Michigan certifies over fifty businesses and that number is growing each month. KM has expanded outside of Michigan and the KM hechsher (kosher symbol) is found on products sold throughout the U.S. and Canada.”

Miller started Kosher Michigan in 2008 to promote the observance of the Jewish dietary laws. KM is endorsed by the International Rabbinical Assembly and under the rabbinic advisement of Rabbi Joel Roth, a world renowned kashrut expert.

People of all faiths are purchasing kosher food for health and safety reasons. Additionally, people are purchasing kosher food for lifestyle and dietary reasons such as vegan, vegetarian, and lactose-free. There are more than 400,000 kosher certified products in the United States.

FYI

Kosher Michigan, 5657 W. Maple Road, Suite B, West Bloomfield Township 248-535-7090, koshermichigan.com.

Thanksgivukkah: Light Menorah, Pass Turkey (Detroit News – November 27, 2013)

Posted on: November 27th, 2013 by Kosher Michigan

For Thursday: Light menorah, pass turkey

Mark Hicks | The Detroit News

This Thanksgiving marks a first at Margo Grossman’s home: Menorah candles will burn while latkes as well as blue-and-white Star of David-shaped sugar cookies accompany heaping portions of turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and other dishes.

Thursday is the national holiday honoring the Pilgrims’ harvest with help from the Wampanoag American Indians in the 1600s. It’s also the first full day of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates emancipation from religious persecution in the second century B.C.

For many Jews across Metro Detroit, the rare convergence is a chance to combine celebrations of each holiday — shared goods, family gatherings and more to show an appreciation for blessings — into a joyful period some have christened “Thanksgivukkah.”

“It’s a cool, once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Grossman, a transition consultant from Franklin. “I’m definitely welcoming it. Doing the holidays together is fun and different. … It’ll be interesting.”

By some calculations, this is the first time since 1888 Thanksgiving and the start of Hanukkah have fallen on the same day. And, according to a Chabad.org article, the two holidays would next coincide in 2070.

To traditionalists and grateful diners alike, the unusual occurrence this year — Hanukkah begins at sundown today — links national history with spiritual heritage.

“It really highlights the fact that the Jewish-American community is American,” said Rabbi Steven Rubenstein of Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield Township.

To some, the holidays share similarities.

Having fled Europe seeking economic viability and freedom to practice their religion, the pilgrims faced enormous challenges — including the threat of death from disease and starvation — adapting to a tough new terrain, said the Rev. John Staudenmaier, a history professor at the University of Detroit Mercy.

“That’s the context that originally framed the Thanksgiving feast and it is deeply important for the people who ate that feast,” he said. “They knew they couldn’t have done it on their own. … Thanksgiving is a celebration of survival but also of bravery by people desperate for a fresh start.”

Hanukkah — also known as the “Festival of Lights” — marks the victory of the Maccabees and their allies over Syrian forces, allowing them to recapture the desecrated Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

It also recalls the belief that a single day’s supply of lamp oil miraculously lasted eight full days during the temple’s rededication.

While non-Jews have associated Hanukkah, which often has fallen in December, with Christmas, this year the proximity to Thanksgiving and the holidays’ related themes seem more sensible.

“Thanksgiving fits a lot better with Hanukkah,” said Debra Darvick, a Jewish author from Birmingham. “It resonates more.”

With the overlapping observances in mind, some are creatively mixing traditions.

Rabbi Jason Miller of Kosher Michigan, a certification agency, and Patrick Coleman, owner of the Southern Nosh restaurant in Southfield that serves kosher vegetarian items and soul food, created a sweet potato latke.

A traditional Hanukkah item, latkes typically are cooked with potatoes and oil. But the Southern Nosh version uses a sweet potato — a popular ingredient in African-American and soul food kitchens, Coleman said.

Since adding them to the menu this month, cooks have averaged about a dozen orders a day, he said.

“Folks are really enjoying them. They think they’re very tasty. … They’re literally going out of the restaurant like hotcakes — no pun intended.”

The day after lighting the first candle in their menorah for Hanukkah, Lisa Soble Siegmann of Bloomfield Hills and her family plan to visit a relative’s home in Ohio for turkey, latkes, cranberry sauce, challah stuffing, pecan and chocolate gelt pie; games with dreidels, the four-sided spinning tops; and songs extolling both holidays.

“It’s going to be a night of fun and family and being together,” she said.

For Leah Gawel’s family in Novi, the convergence is more of a curiosity.

After a feast complete with latkes Thursday, they will light the menorah and let their children open gifts. Holiday decorations — colored lights, a banner — adorn their home.

“It just makes it interesting, makes it a little fun,” Gawel said. “It will be something the kids will remember.”

Partly to accommodate those celebrating Thanksgiving, organizers of the third annual “Menorah in the D” plan to hold the public lighting of the 24-foot-tall steel/glass menorah and the related community party in Detroit’s Campus Martius next week, said Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov of the Shul-Chabad Lubavitch in West Bloomfield Township. The ceremony usually occurs earlier during Hanukkah.

Some of the coordinators also are expected to display a dreidel-shaped mobile and distribute tin menorahs along with chocolate coins during America’s Thanksgiving Parade on Thursday, said Ben Rosenzweig, a member of the Shul.

That underscores a central theme of Hanukkah that dovetails with Thanksgiving, he said. “The idea of Hanukkah is good defeating evil and the idea that everybody has the freedom of religion to practice what connects them spiritually.”

mhicks@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2117

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20131127/METRO08/311270030#ixzz2mun1VBa1

Thanksgivukkah 2013 Sweet Potato Latke (Kosher, Gluten Free)

Posted on: October 27th, 2013 by Kosher Michigan

Southern-Nosh-Kosher-Michigan

KOSHER MICHIGAN AND SOUTHERN NOSH TEAM UP FOR THANKSGIVUKKAH SWEET POTATO LATKE

Contacts: Rabbi Jason Miller | 248-535-7090 | miller@koshermichigan.com
Patrick Coleman | 248-352-1682

West Bloomfield, MI – Rabbi Jason Miller, the founder and director of Kosher Michigan, knew that it would be big news that the first day of Hanukkah was going to fall on Thanksgiving this year. In an effort to have a special food item dedicated to what is being called Thanksgivukkah, he contacted Patrick Coleman, a local Detroit restaurateur who owns Beans & Cornbread and Southern Nosh (29540 Northwestern Highway, 248.352.1682), both in Southfield, Michigan.

 

Miller’s Kosher Michigan certification agency certifies Coleman’s Southern Nosh Vegetarian Soul as a kosher restaurant. Southern Nosh offers casual dining centered on plant based down home cooking – sort of a kosher vegetarian menu fused with a soul food menu, or what has become known as “Upscale Yiddish Soul Food.”

 

Together, Miller and Coleman came up with the idea of a Thanksgivukkah Sweet Potato Latke. The dish is gluten free and is served with a garnish and either house-made applesauce or a vegan sour cream with herb garlic and pepper seasoning. “Hot sauce is optional,” says Coleman.

 

“The potato pancake, or latke as we call it, is a traditional Hanukkah delicacy,” explains Rabbi Miller. “On Hanukkah we eat foods that are cooked in oil to remind us of the miracle of oil that allowed the menorah to burn for eight days instead of just one in the Temple that stood in Jerusalem.”

 

“The idea of using a sweet potato for the Thanksgivukkah latke is not only symbolic of Thanksgiving, but is also a popular food item for African Americans,” said Coleman. “So not only have we merged two holidays – Thanksgiving and Hanukkah – but the rabbi and I also have brought two cultures together with a staple Jewish dish for Hanukkah and a staple soul food dish.”

 

The Thanksgivukkah Sweet Potato Latke will be available at Southern Nosh throughout the month of November. It is made by Chef Keith Hayes using rice flour instead of wheat flour so that the gluten free crowd can enjoy it too. The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
1. Place sweet potatoes in a colander. Place a cheesecloth over the potatoes, and squeeze the potatoes to release as much liquid as possible. Let the potatoes sit to release more liquid, then squeeze again.
2. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, eggs, brown sugar, flour, cloves and cinnamon; mix well.
3. Heat oil in large heavy skillet to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
4. Form mixture into pancake size cakes, and fry in hot oil. Flip cakes after 2 to 3 minutes (when bottom is browned) and brown other side. Drain on paper towels, and serve piping hot! Kosher Michigan certifies Southern Nosh Vegetarian Soul as a kosher restaurant.

Kosher Michigan was founded in 2008 by Rabbi Jason Miller to promote the observance of the Jewish dietary laws. KM is endorsed by the International Rabbinical Assembly and under the rabbinic advisement of Rabbi Joel Roth, a world renowned kashrut expert. Rabbi Miller seeks to increase the availability of kosher products as well as to keep the cost of kosher products at affordable prices. KM provides kosher certification to Southern Nosh and over fifty other businesses. Both Rabbi Miller and Mr. Coleman are available for interviews.

#  #  #

Images:

Sweet Potato Latke for Thanksgivukkah

Sweet Potato Latke for Thanksgivukkah

Sweet Potato Latke for Thanksgivukkah

Sweet Potato Latke for Thanksgivukkah

Contact:
Rabbi Jason Miller 248-535-7090
Patrick Coleman 248-352-1682

Mark Your Calendars for Thanksgivukkah (Detroit News – October 8, 2013)

Posted on: October 8th, 2013 by Kosher Michigan

Mark your calendars for Thanksgivukkah

Not since 1888 have Thanksgiving, start of Hanukkah fallen on the same day

LEANNE ITALIE | ASSOCIATED PRESS
Woodstock-inspired T-shirts celebrating Thanksgiving and Hannukkah have a turkey perched on the neck of a guitar and implore ‘8 Days of Light, Liberty & Latkes.’ The creators nabbed the trademark to ‘Thanksgivukkah.’ (AP)

New York— It’s a turkey. It’s a menorah. It’s Thanksgivukkah!

An extremely rare convergence this year of Thanksgiving and the start of Hanukkah has created a frenzy of Talmudic proportions.

The last time it happened was 1888, or at least the last time since Thanksgiving was declared a federal holiday by President Abraham Lincoln, and the next time may have Jews lighting their candles from spaceships 79,043 years from now, by one calculation.

A 9-year-old New York boy has invented the “Menurkey” and raised more than $48,000 on Kickstarter for his already trademarked, Turkey-shaped menorah. Woodstock-inspired T-shirts have a turkey perched on the neck of a guitar and implore “8 Days of Light, Liberty & Latkes.” The creators nabbed the trademark to “Thanksgivukkah.”

Songs have popped up with lyrics like these from “The Ballad of Thanksgivukkah”: “Imagine Judah Maccabee, sitting down to roast turkey and passing the potatoes to Squanto …” Rabbi David Paskin, the song’s co-writer and co-head of the Kehillah Schechter Academy in Norwood, Mass., proudly declares his the Jewish day school nearest Plymouth Rock.

Some observers in Metro Detroit say the convergence means Hanukkah, which often has fallen close to Christmas, could this year absorb the flavor of Thanksgiving.

“Because of Hanukkah’s usual proximity to Christmas, it’s taken on this gift-giving culture. So it’s possible that this year, because of it coinciding with Thanksgiving, there might be more of a focus on being thankful … for what you have,” said Rabbi Jason Miller, director of Kosher Michigan and based in West Bloomfield Township.

Let’s not forget the food mash-ups commemorating the staying power of the Pilgrims and the fighting prowess of the Jews, along with the miracle of one night’s oil lasting eight days. Pumpkin latkes, apple-cranberry sauce and deep-fried turkey, anyone?

“It’s pretty amazing to me that in this country we can have rich secular and rich religious celebrations and that those of us who live in both worlds can find moments when they meet and can really celebrate that convergence. There are a lot of places in the world where we would not be able to do that,” Paskin said.

The lunisolar nature of the Jewish calendar makes Hanukkah and other religious observances appear to drift slightly from year to year when compared to the U.S., or Gregorian, calendar. But much of the intrigue over Hanukkah this year is buried deep in the history of Thanksgiving itself, which hasn’t always been fixed in the same spot. That caused some initial confusion over Thanksgivukkah.

In 1863, Lincoln declared Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November (the month sometimes has five of those) and the holiday remained there until President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress fixing it as the fourth Thursday, starting in 1942.

Since 1863, Thanksgiving and the first full day of Hanukkah on the Gregorian calendar have not overlapped. Jewish practice calls for the first candle of eight-day Hanukkah to be lit the night before Thanksgiving Day this year, so technically Thanksgivukkah falls on the “second candle” night.

Jonathan Mizrahi, a quantum physicist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., puzzled on the convergence last January, in a blog post with buzzed-about line graphs picked up by others online.

More than 100,000 people have visited the blog since then, he said, including some who questioned his calculations and prompted him to post a couple of clarifications.

He hadn’t made it clear that he was referring to the “second candle” night of Hanukkah, and he hadn’t realized Thanksgiving had shifted from the last to the fourth Thursday of November.

While the whole thing is lots of fun, is there anything truly cosmic happening here?

Well, there’s Comet ISON, which is set to pass close by the sun on Thanksgiving and may provide a nice show — possibly even during daylight. Or not, since comets can’t always be counted on.

Detroit News staff writer Mark Hicks contributed

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20131008/NATION/310080034#ixzz2mulywrrm

 

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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