TCOMD Kashrut Policy Set forth below is the Kashrut Policy for the Traditional Congregation of Mount Dora. In order to ensure that a maximum number of people are able to partake in meals and refreshments comfortably and with confidence, the purpose of this Policy is to establish a uniform kashrut standard for the synagogue kitchen, any meal functions or food served in the synagogue, or for synagogue-sponsored events outside the synagogue. This Policy is not a comprehensive guide to the laws of kashrut. Nor is it intended to be a statement regarding any individual’s personal practice. Please speak to Rabbi Solomon if you have any questions.
1. Policy for food in TCOMD:
a. Only store bought or catered food is permitted to be brought into TCOMD, whether for Kiddush or any other synagogue-sponsored event. No home made food is permitted unless the production of that food was supervised by the Rabbi or his designee.
b. Every food item used for any synagogue-sponsored event must have been prepared under the supervision of a kosher supervising agency that is approved by TCOMD. A partial list of approved kosher supervising agencies can be accessed through the following links:
Please note – these lists are not exhaustive. If you have a question about an agency or symbol not found on these lists, please contact the Rabbi Solomon.
c. All food products brought into TCOMD or for any other synagogue-sponsored event must be unopened and in their original package, unless supervised by Rabbi Solomon or his designee.
i. TCOMD permits all unflavored blended or single-malt whiskeys and bourbons -which excludes all whiskeys aged in casks that formerly contained sherry, port or any wine product.
ii. All wines and wine-based drinks, including cognac, vermouth, port and sherry must be under the supervision of an approved kosher supervising agency.
iii. All unflavored beers or sake are permitted. Unless certified by an approved kosher supervising agency, questions about all flavored beers, hard ciders, hard lemonades and the like must be referred to Rabbi Solomon. Sierra Nevada is not kosher.
- All unflavored vodkas are permitted. All flavored vodkas require supervision.
- All gin (not sloe gin) is permitted.
- vi. For a list of specific recommended liqueurs and cordials, please see http://www.crcweb.org/LiquorList.pdf or contact Rabbi Solomon.
- e. No meat or meat products are to be brought into the synagogue without permission from the Rabbi.
- i. If there is an off-campus event sponsored by TCOMD which includes serving meat, the Rabbi or his designee must be present.
- f. For all synagogue-sponsored events at TCOMD where caterers are used or wait-staff is employed, the Rabbi or his designee must be present.
- g. For synagogue-sponsored events taking place on Shabbath, please ensure that all food, platters, utensils, etc., are brought to TCOMD or the venue prior to Shabbath.
2. Kitchen Policy:
a. All foodstuffs brought into the kitchen must have hashgahah (a kosher mark) or have prior approval from the Rabbi. The Rabbi must be informed when food is being brought in.
b. All utensils (except during Pesaḥ) are to be assumed to be and treated as if they were dairy utensils.
c. The Pesaḥ drawers and cupboards containing TCOMD’s kitchen supplies will be kept locked during the year.
Kashruth: Jewish Dietary Laws – a Primer (the source for this section is dominantly from Judaism 101)
Kashruth is the body of Jewish law dealing with what foods we can and cannot eat and how those foods must be prepared and eaten. “Kashruth” comes from the Hebrew root meaning fit, proper or correct. It is the same root as the more commonly known word “kosher,” or “fit for use,” which describes food that meets these standards, and can be used as ingredients in the production of additional food items. Contrary to popular misconception, rabbis do not “bless” food to make it kosher. Food can be kosher without a rabbi ever becoming involved with it: the vegetables from your garden are undoubtedly kosher (as long as they don’t have any bugs, which are not kosher!). However, in our modern world of processed foods, it is difficult to know what ingredients are in your food and how they were processed, so it is helpful to have a rabbi examine the food and its processing and assure kosher consumers that the food is kosher. This certification process is called hashgaḥah. There is no such thing as “kosher-style” food. Kosher is not a style of cooking. Chinese food can be kosher if it is prepared in accordance with Jewish law, and there are many fine kosher Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia and New York. Traditional Ashkenazic Jewish foods like knishes, bagels, blintzes, and matzah ball soup can all be non-kosher if not prepared in accordance with Jewish law. When a restaurant calls itself “kosher-style,” it usually means that the restaurant serves these traditional Jewish foods, and it almost invariably means that the food is not actually kosher. Food that is not kosher is commonly referred to as treif (lit. torn, from the commandment not to eat animals that have been torn by other animals).
Why Do We Observe the Laws of Kashruth?
Many modern Jews think that the laws of Kashruth are simply primitive health regulations that have become obsolete with modern methods of food preparation. There is no question that some of the dietary laws have some beneficial health effects. For example, the laws regarding kosher slaughter are so sanitary that some kosher butchers and slaughterhouses have been exempted from many USDA regulations. However, the short answer to why Jews observe these laws is: because the Torah says so. The Torah does not always specify any reason for these laws, though many of the prohibitions have known associations with idolatry. For a Torah-observant, traditional Jew, there is no need for any other reason except Torah.
How Difficult is it to Keep Kosher?
People who do not keep kosher often think that it is difficult to do. Actually, keeping kosher is not particularly difficult in and of itself; what makes it difficult to keep kosher is the fact that the rest of the world does not do so. As we shall see below, the basic underlying rules are fairly simple. If you buy your meat at a kosher butcher and buy only kosher certified products at the market, the only thing you need to think about is the separation of meat and dairy. Keeping kosher only becomes difficult when you try to eat in a non-kosher restaurant, or at the home of a person who is not friendly to the needs of keeping kosher. In those situations, your lack of knowledge about ingredients and food preparation techniques makes it very difficult to keep kosher. Not too long ago, most food products were made in the family kitchen or in a small factory or store in the local community. It was relatively easy to ascertain if the product was reliably kosher. If rabbinical supervision was required, it was attended to by the rabbi of the community, who was known to all. Today, industrialization, transcontinental shipping and mass production have created a situation where most of the foods we eat are treated, processed, cooked, canned or boxed commercially in industrial settings, which can be located hundreds or thousands of miles away from home. Often times, industrial food production leaves much to be desired (see Upton Sinclair, The Jungle). USDA and FDA standards allow for ‘filth’ (FDA’s term) up to: 6% by volume in coffee, 1 rodent hair and 30 insect parts per 100 grams of peanut butter, even more than 4 rodent hairs and 5 whole bugs per 100 grams of apple butter, mold (as high as 75%) in your jam, 10 whole insects in your 8 ounces of raisins, 450 insect parts and nine rodent hairs in every 16 oz. box of spaghetti, 1 piece of rat poo per 50 grams of cornmeal. (look at https://www.fda.gov/food/ingredients-additives-gras-packagingguidance-documents-regulatory-information/food-defect-levels-handbook#using if you dare.
No processed food is going to be absolutely pure, but just to compare, for food to pass kashruth supervision, NO visible or detectable impurities, no possibility of impurities greater than 1.6%, NO whole bugs in any amount. What adds further complication is that it is generally not possible to judge the kosher status of an item on the basis of the information provided in the ingredient declaration for a variety of reasons. First, the product may be made from kosher ingredients, but processed on non-kosher equipment. Second, the USDA does not require the listing of certain processing aids, such as pan liners and oils that serve as release agents. Though not legally classified as ingredients, these items could nonetheless render the product non-kosher. Third, many ingredients can be kosher or non-kosher, depending on their source of origin.
For example, glycerin and emulsifiers are made from either vegetable or animal oils. Gelatin (found in jello and marshmallows) used in all non-kosher production is made from pig or horse hoof. Colorings and glazes found in foods, especially candies, are made from bugs. Ground up bugs.
Finally, many ingredients are listed only in broad terms, with no breakdown of the many complex components that make up the actual item. For example, a chocolate flavor may contain 50 ingredients, but the ingredient declaration will list this entire complex of ingredients as “flavors”. Who knows what they are?
In kosher food production, EVERY ingredient must be identified and approved. Unless a person is an expert in food production, the average consumer cannot possibly make an evaluation of the kosher status, which is why it is important to purchase only those products that have the endorsement of a reliable kashruth agency.
Butchers, bakers, caterers, restaurants, and hotels – any establishment which handles, prepares or processes food must be supervised by a reputable rabbinic authority.
It cannot be assumed that kashruth is maintained simply because a kosher impression is created by an advertisement or by a statement, such as, “we serve a kosher clientele.” Too often, ‘vegetarian’ or ‘dairy’ restaurants are assumed to be kosher and beyond the need for supervision. Unfortunately, this is a prevalent misconception. Fish in the US is frequently mis-identified, swapping one species for another. Baked goods, cheese, shortening, oil, eggs, margarine, dressings, and condiments are among the many foodstuffs requiring supervision in ‘vegetarian’ and ‘dairy’ restaurants, as they may contain animal products not listed as ingredients.
Even those food items that are kosher in their raw states could be rendered non-kosher when prepared on equipment used for non-kosher food. For these reasons, reputable kosher supervision is required
Although the details of Kashruth are extensive, the laws all derive from a few fairly simple, straightforward rules: Certain animals may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals. Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law. They must be inspected and found healthy and uninjured before slaughter. Those animals found too sick for kosher slaughter generally end up in the standard retail food system. Blood must be drained from the meat or broiled out of it before it is eaten. Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten. Fruits and vegetables are permitted, but must be inspected for bugs. Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. Utensils that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. Utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food. This applies only where the contact occurred while the food was hot. Grape products made without supervision may not be consumed.
Animals that may not be eaten: Of the “beasts of the earth” (which basically refers to land mammals with the exception of swarming rodents), you may eat any animal that has cloven hooves and chews its cud. Lev. 11:3; Deut. 14:6. Any land mammal that does not have both of these qualities is forbidden. The Torah specifies that the camel, the rock badger, the hare and the pig are not kosher because each lack one of these two qualifications. Sheep, cattle, goats, deer and bison are kosher. Of the things that are in the waters, you may eat anything that has fins and scales. Lev. 11:9; Deut. 14:9. Thus, shark and catfish, and shellfish such as lobsters, oysters, shrimp, clams and crabs are all forbidden. Fish like tuna, carp, salmon and herring are all permitted. For birds, the criteria are less clear. The Torah provides a list of forbidden birds (Lev. 11:13-19; Deut. 14:11-18), but does not specify why these particular birds are forbidden. All of the birds on the list are birds of prey or scavengers, thus the rabbis inferred that this was the basis for the distinction. Other birds are permitted, such as chicken, geese, ducks and turkeys. Of the “winged swarming things” (winged insects), a few are specifically permitted (Lev. 11:22). Rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and insects (except as mentioned above) are all forbidden. Lev. 11:29-30, 42-43. Even for those animals which passed the stringent pre-slaughter health exam, it is required to do a post-mortem examination of the lungs of cattle, to determine whether the lungs are free from adhesions. These adhesions would be a sign of a previous injury or illness, from which the animal may not have fully recovered, but was not visible from an external examination. As mentioned above, any product derived from these forbidden animals, such as their milk, eggs, fat, or organs, also cannot be eaten. Rennet, an enzyme used to harden cheese, is often obtained from non-kosher animals, thus kosher hard cheese can be difficult to find.
The mammals and birds that may be eaten must be slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law. (Deut. 12:21). We may not eat animals that died of natural causes (Deut. 14:21) or that were killed by other animals. In addition, the animal must have no disease or flaws in the organs at the time of slaughter. Ritual slaughter is known as sheḥitah, and the person who performs the slaughter is called a shoḥet. The method of slaughter is a quick, deep stroke across the throat with a perfectly sharp blade with no nicks or unevenness. This method is painless, causes unconsciousness within two seconds, and is widely recognized as the most humane method of slaughter possible. Another advantage of sheḥitah is that it ensures rapid, complete draining of the blood, which is also necessary to render the meat kosher. The shoḥet is not simply a butcher; he must be a pious man, well-trained in Jewish law, particularly as it relates to Kashruth.
An egg that contains a blood spot in the yolk may not be eaten (blood spots in the white must be removed before the egg may be used). This isn’t very common, but is found once in a while. It is a good idea to break an egg into a glass and check it before you put it into a heated pan, because if you put a blood-stained egg into a heated pan, the pan becomes non-kosher. Eggs that come with kosher supervision do not need to be checked (they were pre-checked, or ‘candled’.)
Fruits and Vegetables
All fruits and vegetables are kosher (but see the note regarding grape products below). However, bugs and worms that may be found in some fruits and vegetables are not kosher. Fruits and vegetables that are prone to this sort of thing should be inspected to ensure that they contain no bugs. Leafy vegetables like lettuce and herbs and flowery vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are particularly prone to bugs and should be inspected carefully. Strawberries and raspberries can also be problematic. If you are not familiar with the methods for checking for bugs, please consult Rabbi Solomon before you prepare any vegetable or fruit products.
Utensils (pots, pans, plates, flatware, etc., etc.) must also be kosher. A utensil picks up the kosher “status” (meat, dairy, pareve, or treif) of the food that is cooked in it or eaten off of it, and transmits that status back to the next food that is cooked in it or eaten off of it. Thus, if you cook chicken soup in a saucepan, the pan becomes meat. If you thereafter use the same saucepan to heat up some warm milk, the basari status of the pan is transmitted to the milk, and the halavi status of the milk is transmitted to the pan, making both the pan and the milk a forbidden mixture. Kosher status can be transmitted from the food to the utensil or from the utensil to the food only in the presence of heat, thus if you are eating cold food in a non-kosher establishment, the condition of the plates is not an issue. The food, however, may still be problematic. Stove tops and sinks can become non-kosher utensils, when they come in contact with both meat and dairy in the presence of sufficient heat. It is necessary, therefore, to use dishpans when cleaning dishes (don’t soak them directly in the sink) and to use separate spoon rests and trivets when putting things down on the stove top. Dishwashers are a Kashruth problem. Please consult Rabbi Solomon.
Certain kinds of utensils can be “kashered” if you make a mistake. Please consult Rabbi Solomon.
The restrictions on grape products derive from the laws against using products of idolatry. Wine is commonly used in the rituals of religions, and wine was routinely sanctified for pagan purposes while it was being processed. For this reason, use of wines and other grape products not made under supervision was prohibited. (Whole grapes are not a problem, nor are whole grapes in fruit cocktail). For the most part, this rule only affects wine and grape juice. This becomes a concern with many fruit drinks or fruit-flavored drinks, which are often sweetened with grape juice. You may also notice that some baking powders are not kosher, because baking powder is sometimes made with cream of tartar, a by-product of wine making.
All beer used to be kosher, but this is no longer the case because fruity beers made with grape products have become slightly more common.
All unflavored beers (except Sierra Nevada) are Kosher.
Sake made in the US and Japan is kosher.
Many fine whiskeys are often aged in casks that previously contained non-kosher wine, brandy, or other grape products, ostensibly to impart the taste of the grape product to whiskey, or to improve it. These whiskeys are not kosher.
There are a few additional considerations that come up in more sophisticated discussions of Kashruth. Bishul Yisrael In certain circumstances, someone who is required to keep kosher must be involved in the preparation of food for it to be kosher. Please speak to the Rabbi with any questions on this topic.
Chalav Yisrael An ancient rule required that a Jew must be present from the time of milking to the time of bottling to ensure that milk from kosher animals did not become mixed with milk from non-kosher animals. Milk that is observed in this way is referred to as Chalav Yisrael, and some people will consume only Chalav Yisrael. However, in the United States, federal law relating to the production of milk is so strict that all domestically sold milk, without additives, is kosher. Our community holds that any milk with supervision (heksher) is kosher. This is also the ruling of R’ Moshe Feinstein, and is followed by the majority of the observant community in the United States.
Milk outside of the US, especially outside of North America, cannot be assumed to be unadulterated kosher milk.
Mevushal Most kosher wines in America are made using a process of pasteurization that qualifies as mevushal (cooked), which addresses some of the Kashruth issues related to grape beverages. It is required that wine used in public settings be Mevushal.
All wine and grape products brought into the synagogue MUST be Mevushal.
The task of keeping kosher is greatly simplified by widespread Kashruth certification. Products that have been certified as kosher are labeled with a mark called a heksher that ordinarily identifies the rabbi or organization that certified the product. Many prepackaged foods have some kind of kosher certification, and most major brands have reliable certification. The process of certification does not involve “blessing” the food; rather, it involves examining the ingredients used to make the food, examining the process by which the food is prepared, and periodically inspecting the processing facilities to make sure that kosher standards are maintained. Symbols of accepted agencies are on the accompanying sheet. The most controversial certification is the K, a plain letter K found on products asserted to be kosher. A letter of the alphabet cannot be trademarked, so any manufacturer can put a K on a product, even without any supervision at all. For example, Jell-O brand gelatin puts a K on its product, even though Jell-O is not kosher, as it is made from pig toenails. On the other hand, some very reliable rabbis will certify products without having a trademark to offer, and their certifications will also have only a “K,” – Kellogg’s and Starbucks being famous examples. Most other kosher certification marks are trademarked and cannot legally be used without the permission of the certifying organization. The certifying organization assures you that the product is kosher according to their standards, but standards vary. It is becoming increasingly common for kosher certifying organizations to indicate whether the product is basari (meat), halavi (dairy) or pareve (neutral). If the product is dairy, it will frequently have a D or the word Dairy next to the Kashruth symbol. If it is meat, the word Meat may appear near the symbol (usually not an M, because that might be confused with “milk”). If it is pareve, the word Pareve (or Parev) may appear near the symbol (Not a P! That means Passover). If no such clarification appears, you should read the ingredient list carefully to determine whether the product is meat, dairy or pareve. Kosher certification organizations charge manufacturers a small fee for kosher certification. This fee covers the expenses of researching the ingredients in the product and inspecting the facilities used to manufacture the product. There are some who have complained that these certification costs increase the cost of the products to non-Jewish, non-kosher consumers; however, the actual cost of such certification is so small relative to the overall cost of production that most manufacturers cannot even calculate it. The cost is more than justified by the increase in sales it produces: although observant Jews are only a small fragment of the marketplace, kosher certification is also relied upon by many Muslims, vegetarians (although this is not fool-proof; dairy and pareve foods may contain eggs or fish; but if it isn’t kosher, it probably isn’t vegetarian), some Seventh Day Adventists, as well as many other people who simply think that kosher products are cleaner, healthier or better than non-kosher products. It is worth noting that many charitable organizations also charge manufacturers for the privilege of putting their logo on a product, and they do not perform any service in exchange for that charge.