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What do you think of kosher restaurants that are open on shabbos?

caravan of dreams is it kosherI ate at Cafe Viva on the upper west side last night, I have heard countless people rave to me about their pizza, and so I decided to pay them a visit before an event I went to at the Jewish Museum. On the window there is a kasharus certificate, and there were yarmulkes in the place, but Cafe Viva is open on shabbos which many people in the frum community are quick to call treife. 

Cafe Viva is under the hashgacha of Rabbi Yaakov Spivak, a talmud of Ner Yisroel, but some on the community refer to the UKS as ghetto kasharus, in that it isn’t as thorough and strict as the OU or Star-K, more of like a triangle- K. If I am not mistaken, all of these restaurants that are under hashgacha and open on shabbos are vegetarian and owned by non-Jews.

So what’s the deal?

Is there anywhere that dictates a restaurant must be closed on shabbos? What about bakeries and establishments like Dunkin Donuts and Ben and Jerry’s?

Why is it that all of the best, healthiest and most fun restaurants to eat at in the city are under these fringe kasharus agencies? Caravan of Dreams is my absolute favorite, OZU, Buddha Bodai and a number of those Indian places around 26th and Lexington to name a few.

This is the certificate for Buddha Bodai – seems whack to me but my Luabvitch friend looked into it and found it to be ok…

Kosher_Certificate

Is there any reason not to trust the hechsherim?Is there any reason to? Are all the people who patronize these establishments like myself, just lax in kasharus and going straight to hell? What about all the shit that goes down under the noses of major kasharus agencies?

After all most vegan places would probably be kosher if not for bishul akum (which only applies to food that cannot be eaten raw) and vinegar issues or wine issues.

Maybe Rabbi Fink the official Frum Satire Rebbe has something to say…

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  • There are two categories of problems with a kosher establishment being open on Shabbat. The first is if owner or chefs are mehallel shabbat then aside from not being able to get benefit from the food cooked on Shabbat, but even for cooked after Shabbat they would have no ne’emanut/halakhic trustworthyness (SA Y.D. 2:5)

    If however the establishment is run by non-Jews and there is no “mashgiach temidi (permanent checker) required, then the problem with being open on Shabbat is if the proprietors know that the Rabbi will not be checking on that day. The reason why “yotzei venichnas” (the mashgiach coming and going) works is because the person does not know when he’ll be checked. Once he knows definitively he won’t be checked on a particular day, the fear of being caught will not necessarily exist.

    It was reported to me that when the first Dunkin Donuts in Elizabeth NJ became Kohers, R. Teitz would walk in through a back door on random Shabbatot to let the employees know the Rabbi could stop in any time.

    Regarding the “private” hechsherim, there are many good reasons to assume they’re ok, such as eid echad ne’eman be’isurin. Furthermore, a private hashgacha may be considerably cheaper than a more established one. On the other hand, certain individuals have been known to cut corners. As you probably know, much of a kashrut’s reputation is built on heresay in which case you should ask a trustworthy rabbi who is knowledgeable. (Don’t forget that when you ask an organization about another certification, you’re asking them to evaluate their competition).

    In any case it is crucial to remember that food is kosher or not-kosher based on halakha, not certification. As with professional certifications, just because you don’t have a sheet of paper doesn’t mean you’re not competent in a given area, and just because you have the paper does not mean you know know what you’re doing. The certification system is based entirely on the trustworthiness of the person or organization overseeing the operation, which is difficult to evaluate unless one is not only well versed in halakha but also knows the operations of the establishment in question.

  • Wow Rabbi Yuter thank you – and being a resident of NY and a Rabbi of a shul near many of said establishments – would you be able to enlighten us if any of them are reliable or unreliable.

  • More rigorous Kashrus certifications require the restaurant to be closed on Shabbos for two reasons (AFAIK).

    1 – There is no Mashgiach on Shabbos. So the utensils and pots may become unkosher.

    2 – It is a penalty for making money on Shabbos. Some more lenient certifications allow for a heter mechira, so the restaurant is sold to a non-Jew for Shabbos and thus should not be subject to the penalty.

    Dunkin’ Donuts and the like are already owned by non-Jews so there is no heter mechira necessary and there are no utensils or pots to worry about. Also, D and D in particular has some 100% kosher warehouses that supply all the stuff to the D and Ds and are highly regulated so you can trust that you are getting your kosher donuts.

    Some Rabbis will give a hechser to a place open on Shabbos just for the purpose of giving less strict Jews more Kosher options. So if someone does not keep Shabbos but does keep Kosher at least they will have somewhere to eat. Everyone agrees that these places are better than “no hechser” places.

  • But what about a place that is owned by non Jews and is vegan – vegan seems to solve many issues, they check veggies for bugs, there is no meat and almost everything can be eaten raw.

    I am also curious about Raw Food places, do they even need a hasgacha if its raw food vegan?

  • I should have added that one reason why it’s hard to get good information is because of libel and slander laws; you can’t say a place isn’t “kosher” if it meets some standard. So for example, the cRc in Chicago won’t say a hashgacha is illegitimate or not kosher, only that it’s “not recommended”.

    • Hence my answer to Rabbi always using that as their answer with regards to many things – its also used in reference to my favorite drink at Starbucks according to kosherstarbucks.com

    • Mark

      So if a Reform “rabbi” gives a hechsher to a chazer traif place, then they will say “not recommended”? 🙂

      What about a Conservative Rabbi’s hashgacha?

  • I would be concerned about bugs in a Vegan place.

    Do Raw Food places need a hechsher?

    Probably not. But I would still want to be sure that they were playing by their own rules. There’s no penalty if they use some cooked ingredients or prepared ingredients that would be not kosher. So it’s just not good advice to eat there…

    • Mark

      There’s also the issue of employees bringing in personal food from outside. If a Vegan place isn’t very strict, their employees could bring treif food in for their own lunch and maybe heat it up in a kli.

  • MM

    FYI re vegan restaurants and wine: most wine is not vegan because egg whites or other non-vegan ingredients are used in the clarification process. Therefore vegans tend not to cook with wine, or else they seek out vegan wine. Vinegar, however, is used in vegan cooking. Strict vegans also avoid ordinary cane sugar because bone is used in the processing. OTOH most beer is vegan. I don’t know what process vegan restaurants would use to get rid of bugs, but I do know that vegans are no more interested in eating bugs than kashruth-observing Jews are.

  • Bone is NOT used to process sugar. Otherwise it would be labled a MEAT product. Trust me on that.

    Whether or not you can eat in a restaurant that is open on Shabbat is dependent upon a number of things.
    1) If all the veggies that they will use on Shabbat were checked before Shabbat.
    2) You need to be certain that there are
    no Jews working there on Shabbat.
    3) Is there a Mashgiach that still at least walks through on Shabbat.

    If those issues are clarified, then yes you should be able to eat there with a clear conscience.

    As far a raw foods place. Yes it does need a hechsher, for the simple reason that you need to check for bugs.

  • Reb Itche Srulik

    While there are ways of having reliable hashgacha on a store owned by nonjews open on shabbos in general, there is a problem with Rabbi Spivak’s teuda (the hecsher Hesh brought up) in particular: He does not know what chalav Yisrael or chooses to act as if he doesn’t. His certificate in Cafe Viva (NYU area) says chalav Yisrael but there is no mashgiach temidi and no Jewish employees observant or otherwise. I have no problem because I am lax with chalav Yisrael, but I would still look into his inspection practices before I eat there again.

    PS My girlfriend cracked up when I showed her the certificate on the way out. “Such a tzaddik, why didn’t you check on your way in?”

    • Amitai

      Is Cafe Viva a dairy farm, that it needs a mashgiach temidi in order to serve chalav yisrael? If Viva agrees only to buy chalav yisrael milk and cheese, and the good rabbi checks their order manifest and does spot checks, then the store should be as chalav yisrael as it is kosher. You disagree?

  • Janet

    The raw foods places make a lot of use of red wine and balsamic vinegar.

  • Moshe Carl

    If you think the Coke, Oreos or whatever factory is closed on Shabbos, I have a bridge to sell you. There, too, it’s not really owned by Jews (public companies, but as we know, plenty of Jews invest in things like index funds and own a little piece of almost everything–most poskin that this is not ownership.) But there is a difference: these companies hire full-time mashgihim, who work on Shabbos, as opp. nikhnas v’yotze and the restaurateur might guess “oh, the rabbi will never come today since it’s Shabbos” and therefore buy/use treyf products that day. The full-time, employed by corporation, mashgiah is a different story (not to mention that a large factory is unlikely to switch its ingredients for one day due to cost, quality control, etc.) So here’s the real deal, say I and says my Teacher: if the restaurateur knows full-well that the mashgiah might come in on Shabbos (very do-able in Brooklyn, Manhattan, etc, where there’s no shortage of rabbis or others to serve as mashgihim,) then there’s no problem. If you’re so concerned about Bishul on Shabbat (what % of line-cooks in NYC are Jewish?), so don’t eat there Motzei Shabbos through Tuesday or so, but you’d better also stop eating all manufactured products, as you can be sure that 1/7 of them were produced on Shabbat.

  • MM

    Mekubal–

    Bone is DEFINITELY used to process sugar:

    “It is often used in the sugar refining industry for decolorizing[3] (a process patented by Louis Constant in 1812).[citation needed] This is a concern for vegans and vegetarians, since about a quarter of the sugar in the US is processed using bone char as a filter (about half of all sugar from sugar cane is processed with bone char, the rest with activated carbon).[3] As bone char does not get into the sugar, sugar processed this way is considered parve/Kosher.[citation needed] Sugar processed in Australia does not use bone char.[4] In Canada, Lantic (owner of the Rogers and Lantic Sugar labels) uses bone char at its Vancouver refinery, however in eastern Canada and at the Taber Sugar Beet refinery, bone char is not used. Redpath does not use bone char.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone_char

    While this may not be a kashruth issue, it is certainly an issue for vegans and vegetarians. To some extent vegans can use a pareve hechsher as a guide, but the interests of vegans and kosher observant Jews do not coincide completely. For example, eggs and filtered honey can be used in pareve meals, but they are not acceptable ingredients for vegans. Vegan restaurants will go to extreme lengths to avoid using animal products of any sort, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily kosher. They do use vinegar, and they can use vegan wine–wine clarified without egg whites or other animal products–which may not be kosher.

    The point is that what is acceptable to vegans may or may not be kosher, and what is kosher may or may not be acceptable to vegans. There is overlap between between vegan eating practices and kashruth, but the two are not completely congruent.

  • HESHY-your ignorance never ceases to astound me…

    Seriously.

  • There’s also the issue of employees bringing in personal food from outside. If a Vegan place isn’t very strict, their employees could bring treif food in for their own lunch and maybe heat it up in a kli.
    P.S.: Wanted to mention great post!

  • ConservativeSci Fi

    Just a comment on a Conservative Rabbi’s Hechsher. While something fleischig, either a meat restaurant or meat would likely be required to satisfy the same constraints as those required by an orthodox certification (though certifications like triangle K would probably be accepted), if the item were dairy it would be very unlikely to be chalav yisrael, and somewhat unlikely to be certified at all. (There is a conservative teshuva which accepts all rennet). So while I suppose a conservative hechsher on meat would be better than no hechsher, and reasonably reliable, I am not as certain that would be true for a hechsher on dairy.

    • Skeptic

      The Ramo is the one who says that all rennet is acceptable — and I think he predates the Conservative movement. And as for gevinas akum, see the Aruch HaShulchan YD 115:17

      • Jonathan Baker

        Not the Ramo. I think the Chazon Ish and other Israel poskim do.

  • There are at least two kosher restaurants in the Upper West side of Manhattan that serves during Rosh Hashanah and during Friday night Shabbat dinner.

    The first one is Talia’s Steakhouse located on Amsterdam Avenue and 92nd Street.

    http://www.taliassteakhouse.com/

    The second one is Darna located on Columbus Avenue and 89th Street.

    http://www.darnanyc.com

    These restaurants have the kosher certification of the Orthodox Union (OU).

    http://www.oukosher.org

    The OU is the largest and strict glatt kosher Jewish organization. Both restaurants are very good. Talia’s Steakhouse serves mainly American cuisine and Darna serves mainly Moroccan cuisine.

    Although both restaurants are open on Jewish holidays and Shabbat, they are considered kosher because all items to be served are pre-cooked before the sunset and all meals are pre-paid. Moreover, a Rabbi, called a Mashgiach or supervisor, must be present at all times of operations.

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