Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Truth In Advertising

For Torah observant Jews, there are generally two standards of kashrus: good and not good. The major difference between the two is that in the "good" category, there are many levels, like mehadrin, mehadrin min mehadrin, etc. Someone who holds to a stricter level might not eat food prepared at a lower one but would not call the food non-kosher. When something doesn't meet the basic minimum standards as defined by halacha, then all agree it's not kosher.
What's interesting then is the kerfuffle the Conservatives are putting up in various U.S. states over the definition of kashrus. Having unilaterally changed basic requirements and conditions, like declaring all cheese and wine kosher, they still wonder why Orthodox Jews don't consider their standards to be up to snuff. Never mind that something like 95% of their membership don't keep even the basics of kashrus other than a possible avoidance of bacon on Saturdays. They have standards, darn it, and they want to be taken seriously.
A Conservative rabbi in Georgia is challenging the constitutionality of his state’s kosher law, saying it favors Orthodox religious standards and constitutes state entanglement in religion.
The case follows the overturning of similar kosher laws in two other states and the city of Baltimore. It also comes at a time of growing public interest in kashrut, following last year’s immigration raid at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, and the ongoing trials of the plant’s owners and managers.
On Aug. 7, Rabbi Shalom Lewis of Congregation Etz Chaim in Marietta filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court claiming that Georgia’s Kosher Food Labeling Act, passed in 1980, prevents him from fulfilling his duties as a rabbi.
In a complaint filed on Lewis’ behalf, the American Civil Liberties Union charges that Georgia’s kosher law, which defines “kosher food” as “food prepared under and of products sanctioned by the orthodox Hebrew religious rules and requirements,” ignores different kosher standards of other streams of Judaism.

Well of course the law ignores the kosher standards of other so-called streams of Judaism. For one thing, two of those streams, Reform and Reconstructionism, don't have any kosher standards. As for the Conservatives, while in theory they have standards these are observed more in the breach than anything else.
Consider: a frum Jew is walking down the street looking for a restaurant to eat in. He spies one with a teudah but then discovers that it is a Conservative one. Will he eat in that restaurant? No.
Now, a Conservative Jew is walking down the street looking for a restaurant to eat in. There's a 95% chance he'll pick the nearest one that meets his current craving. The kosher/non-kosher nature of it won't even come into play. For the final 5%, yes they would recognize a Conservative certificate but how many people are we really talking about here? A few thousand, concentrated mostly in the New York area? A handful here and there elsewhere?
It is always interesting to me that Conservatives talk about Jewish unity and how the Orthodox are holding aloof from the general Jewish community. At the same time they are constantly changing the standards that have been accepted by the Jewish world for millenia in the name of pluralism and freedom. Achdus through diversity? That's double speak. No wonder they have to turn to non-Jewish courts that don't understand the real dynamics here to help them out.

5 comments:

Shalmo said...

"Never mind that something like 95% of their membership don't keep even the basics of kashrus other than a possible avoidance of bacon on Saturdays."

Oh really? Some proof would be nice. Until then don't spread misinformation about other sects.

The Jewish infighting that you pander to is slowly finishing off adherence to religion. You yourself talk so much on the epidemic of growing OTDs in Orthodoxy, ever wonder if maybe you are part of the problem?

David said...

Very foolish argument, Garnel. If you get your way, then the State of Georgia will have the final authority to decide which products are or are not kosher. You like it when they're pushing your views, but when the (largely gentile) legislature and judiciary of that state decide that there are more Conservative Jews than Orthodox Jews in Georgia, why shouldn't they change their minds? Are you willing to leave that question to a democratically elected legislature?

Leaving aside the violation of the First Amendment involved in having the government pasken shaylas about kashrus, I can't imagine how you or any other Orthodox Jew would want to give the government that kind of authority.

On the subject of "achdus," the Conservatives aren't asking you to use their heckschers. They aren't asking you to follow their philosophy. They're merely arguing that, for Conservative Jews who wish to follow their movement's understanding of kashrus, they should be allowed to use the world "kosher." You, on the other hand, have taken a "my way or the highway" view on the subject, and then accused them of being obstinate. Dude, with all due respect, you're being far, far more obstinate than they are.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

No, but the Conservatives are demanding to be taken seriously as "halachic" Jews. They are demanding that the Orthodox see their version of kashrut as an alternative, just like the Orthodox see Sephardi and Ashkenazi kashrut rules as two alternate.
As for being obstinate, yes I'll admit it. But they won't. They'll stubbornly admit they're flexible. As a Conservative told me once: "We're traditional but ours is a tradition of change!"

David said...

They won't admit that they're being obstinate in their insistence that they should be recognized as a legitimate stream of Judaism? Why not? I can't imagine that they would disagree with that characterization. And, what's wrong with a tradition that allows for change? Tradition is keeping faith with the dead-- traditionalism is just keeping alive a dead faith.
To take a good example that you raised, the Conservative view on wine makes much more sense than the Orthodox view. There's nothing in the Torah on the subject-- merely an outdated d'rabbanan that was instituted to avoid the use of wine that had been consecrated for idolatry. At present, by general acknowledgement, this is a non-issue. And yet the Orthodox persist in this foolishness. At least the Conservatives have shown themselves open to reason on the subject. Elsewhere, I believe, you've argued that a willingness to change one's mind in response to rational persuasion was something of a virtue...

SJ said...

The United States does not adjudicate on religion. period.