Categorizing different kasharus levels

My buddy recently went to the Upper West Side for a shabbos of boring conversation, shallow questions and a shidduch marathon which means 3-5 dates over a weekend. He found something interesting, when he asked many people where he could take a girl to eat, being as he is not from New York, they would immediately ask Kosher??? He found this completely ridiculous being that folks rant rave about New York as compared to smaller communities due to its breadth of kosher eateries, and how could someone who lived in a city with so much choice even consider eating treife. These people also considered themselves orthodox didn’t they?

With that story I bring you the unfortunate state of kasharus within the different sects of Judaism. The most common being the folks who say they are orthodox yet will say “Oh, I eat milk out”, I call this psychological kosher, these are the folks that will go into the Olive Garden and order anything on the menu as long as it does not contain meat. Salad, soup, bread eggplant ptarmigan- that’s actually what I would order if I were one of these folks- who tend to deny that their fish and sticks was fried up in the same oil as the bacon that is wafting through the air of the roadside diner they are seated in.

These psychologically kosher people tend to cross pollinate within modern orthodoxy and conservative sects. So while sitting in a shull with mixed seating is just appalling- eating treife that doesn’t “seem” like treife is perfectly kosher- pun intended.

Of course that was generalizing, what about the folks who order a salad at a company party or at some conference, because they don’t want to eat an apple. Maybe they will be embarrassed tearing open the 300 wrappings on those stomach pain inducing meal mart meals that the person running the event will inevitably order. So while your co-workers are eating from the 5 course gourmet meal- you are seen trying to use your car kets to get into your meal of old matza kugel and tzimis topped with an old Dr. Shoals shoe sole that has been drizzled with gravy to take on the look of roast beef “just like bubby made”.

Kosher style is what today’s intermarried crowd does. You know the guys you meet with last names like Goldberg or Cohen, who’s father is Jewish and they had choice between Catholicism and Judaism. Then you go to a wedding done by one of these couples or maybe they are fully secular besides for a kamtza and one mezuzah in their house. The wedding will undoubtedly have the finest in treife foods, then you will hear hushed whispers from the folks that grew up with Yiddishism’s spoken in their house by their semi-knowledgeable parents, these whispers will inevitably be “this wedding is so goyishe, did you see the shrimp?” or “I don’t even think the bride is Jewish”. Of course this is coming from people in skimpy gowns with children in prep schools who know more about Jesus then Moses. Side by side with shrimp and calamari will sit matzo ball soup and kasha knishes. Jewish food meets the ultimate in treife- interjewish fusion food eh…

Kosher style also can happen when everything is treife but Jewish. These are the folks that define themselves as culturally Jewish- they may not even be Jewish. Kind of like in every city without a true kosher restaurant. They all have one of these “used to be kosher” delicatessens- names like Katz’s or Foxes or Bubbies. Old school sounding names with big salamis hanging in their greasy windows, maybe some big jars of pickles and pickled tomatoes. Menu’s filled with homemade tzimis, kinishes and stuffed cabbage. Always run and patronized by the types of folks who get Lifestyles Magazine and Moment, maybe they are members of B’nei Brith and ADL. Kosher and Jewish Style without actually doing anything religious. Like the types of folks who donate to charities because it’s the Jewish thing to do, yet they will die before actually giving to a Jewish charity. The types of folks that protested Borat and the Passion, yet praise Noam Chomsky and Jesse Jackson, munching on their kneidalach, talking about how much the goyim hate them.

I spent the first days of Pesach with anarchists, well actually they were Lubavitch, but judging from the food they were definitely anarchists when it came to kasharus. Homemade everything including potato starch and mayonnaise, I felt like I was in a white supremacist camp up in the panhandle of Idaho training people like Tim McVeigh and Ted Kaczynski. Nothing is kosher on pesach and they revolt and do it themselves. Yet they are not militant about it, simply going about their business in a non-violent way. At least they don’t go in public and declare that something is treife so they can get their way.

If you talk with any mashgiach or someone that works for a local vaad they will undoubtedly tell you about the politics within kasharus, which leaves me to believe that whenever someone tells me that a certain hashgacha is no good, I usually don’t believe them no matter how learned and high up they are. If we judged by actions of folks within organizations we probably wouldn’t hold of many hechshers. The Agudah’s cover up of Rabbi Kolko and his sexual escapades, the OU covering up Rabbi Lanner and his NCSY touch a thons, or the latest in Star-K with the dead guy who loved little boys. If they are covering up such massive items that effect peoples lives, what’s to say they don’t throw in pork to the pork and beans or dolphin into the tuna?

When my father attended Ner Yisroel in the 1950’s the Rabbis told the bochrim to check the back labels of products and that’s how you knew it was kosher. Well these people still exist even though I have no flippin idea what guar gum or maltodextrin actually is. I like to call these folks the technically kosher crowd. These people tend to be orthodox folks who think that kasharus agencies are full of crap and they just make up excuses to charge the companies who in turn charge us more for their services. I know a ton of people like this, they won’t eat out in a treife restaurant, but when it comes to a can of vegan soup void of hechsher it is no issue.

What about the folks who will only eat in treife restaurants when they are on vacation. There is no food where they are going and they don’t bring any with the notion that vacation can be vacation from many things including kosher. They will of course only eat milchigs, they may even wash for bread, or wear a head covering, but they inevitably eat treife. I know people who look forward to vacation due to the fact they can sample some “real” food. This is kind of like those frummies in the Catskills who will wear polo shirts during the summer yet in the year they speak out loudly against any outfit besides penguin.

What about the yarmulke effect? This is most prevelant in Israel where no one knows what is really kosher, so they just look in the place and check if anyone has a yarmulke and depending on their kasharus level they will judge based on yarmulke. A restaurant with a bunch of peyos and hat wearers will deem high scores even if you just saw these folks in a peep show- because of course they keep kosher. A srugi in Israel may not score that high but if you saw a dude with a knitted kipa in one of those questionable Indian places on the east side in the 20’s in Manhattan you wont think twice about going in. I remember this popular vegan place on the upper west side that had no hechsher but everyone ate there anyway, Zen Palate, as I recall. Vegan has its issues, grape and vinegar products, wine, bishul akum, non toiveled equipment and non-Jews cooking as well as a slew of other issues. On top of this if you live in Manhattan there are a slew of kosher vegan places, I guess if you lived in Montana it may be understandable.

The yarmulke effect also works like this, your sitting at someones house on shabbos and they whip out some wine coolers that you know not to be kosher. Instead of embarrassing your host, you say “I didn’t know those were kosher, when did they get their hashgacha?” Your host will answer, “Oh I saw them at whats his names house.” Whats his name is
obviously someone who wears black velvet and therefore is a valid source of course. This happened a lot with Mikes Hard Lemonade and flavored beers like Tequiza- which is awesome so if anyone knows the deal with Tequiza- give me a shout.

There is also the hangout effect, this is the opposite of the yarmulke effect. This is when someone goes to restaurant and sees folks of the opposite sex hanging out with each other, they either wont eat there saying it supports such activity or the vaad will tell that place that certain nights have to be take out to prevent the kids hanging out. This of course takes these kids and puts them in front of seven eleven or at some open house, at least in the pizza store they couldn’t all get naked and start snorting vicaden. I know for a fact that this has happened in a few communities where I have stayed in. This is also known as the bribery effect.

The bribery effect works similar to federally funded programs that force states to lower speed limits or ban smoking in order to receive their funding, is this what happened to that store in the Five Towns that every blogger screamed about a few months ago? This is of course where kasharus gets political and some folks just say screw it and don’t even bother looking at the hashgacha, as long as there is a K.

The as long as there is a K folks tend to be the Liberal Modern orthodox folks and old people like my dad who remember a better time, a time before black hats meant your place within the caste system we have created. People who say, “of they took the time and effort to put something on the product” it must be kosher. I really don’t know if it is, these people also tend to eat Hebrew National nowadays since they recently got promoted from kosher style to the lofty well known but less trusted triangle-K.

In your face kahsarus is alive and strong in places like Monroe and Mea Shearim. Places where in order to open up a baker you need two entrances men and women. Places where clothing stores can receive hechshers- though I always wondered what would happen if a girl who is size 14 bought something that was size 10, would the kasharus police come and deem her muffin top inducing skirt treife? Places where secular products are banned, who knows if Heinz bottles will have women or men without yarmulkes on their wrappers? Or maybe the Spongebob giveaway at the bottom of cereal boxes will be untznius? Places where mechitzas are not only reserved for shulls and buses, and they adorn the restaurants as well.

This post is definitely a work in progress and will be added to when I get home to my own computer that doesn’t mess with my typing style, I figured I would throw it up and maybe when Wednesday rolls around add some more.