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Orthodox Union certifies Israeli brand of lab-grown meat as kosher — but not pareve

(JTA) — The Orthodox Union has granted kosher certification to a type of lab-grown meat, a decision that could signal an expansion of the options available under Judaism’s intricate dietary laws.

The O.U., the most prominent kosher certifier in the United States, recognized poultry products from Israeli startup SuperMeat as kosher, the company announced Wednesday. The startup is part of a growing industry that aims to provide an alternative to traditional meat by creating the food in a laboratory from stem cells.

“This collaboration aims to bridge the gap between scientific understanding and halachic adjudication, setting unprecedented standards in the cultivated meat industry,” Rabbi Menachem Genack, the CEO of O.U. Kosher, said in a statement, using a term referring to Jewish law.

The process of certifying lab-grown meat, a years-long quest for SuperMeat, demonstrated the complexity of applying Judaism’s age-old dietary laws to a culinary landscape where the range of foods, and how they are produced, is expanding rapidly — from lab-grown meat to plant-based alternatives and more. It may also represent yet another increase in the number of products kosher consumers can take off supermarket shelves.

“This step represents our commitment to inclusivity and respect for diverse dietary needs, making our cultivated chicken meat accessible to audiences around the world,” Ido Savir, CEO of SuperMeat, said in a statement. “We believe this historic initiative with the Orthodox Union not only broadens the options for kosher consumers worldwide but will also set clear guidelines for other companies in the cultivated meat industry seeking kosher certification, opening new avenues for the Kosher food industry.”

The lab-grown meat industry is in its infancy and may appeal to consumers who enjoy eating meat but oppose slaughtering animals for food. It remains to be seen whether lab-grown meat produced at a mass scale will be cheaper or more environmentally sustainable than regular beef or poultry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted its first approval for cell-cultured meat in late June, and SuperMeat first plans to roll out its products in the United States. The company is also looking into halal certification.

“The vast majority of the vegan-vegetarian movement is very supportive,” SuperMeat’s co-founder and CEO, Koby Barak, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2016. “And we thank them for really supporting us.”

On the surface, kosher certification for lab-grown meat doesn’t appear to herald a revolution for observant Jewish eaters, especially in places where traditional kosher animal products are already easy to find.

As with regular chicken, the O.U. has certified the lab-grown variety as kosher meat, meaning that it can’t be eaten with dairy products. That separates it from recent plant-based meat alternatives such as Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat, many of whose products are certified as pareve — neither meat nor dairy — meaning that they may be eaten together with all kosher foods.

Plant-based meat has provided a pathway for observant Jews to eat imitations of some archetypal non-kosher foods, such as cheeseburgers or pizza with a meat topping. SuperMeat will not offer those kinds of possibilities.

But Genack said that for Jews who keep a stringent form of kosher laws, SuperMeat’s certification will be a boon. “Theoretically, the impact on prices and availability should be significant,” he said.

That’s because the company’s chicken products are categorized as Mehadrin kosher — the strictest form of kosher supervision. And if the O.U. moves to certify lab-grown beef as kosher, which it has yet to do, it could lead to an increase in the supply of meat that is “glatt” kosher, a term that refers to meat slaughtered from an animal whose lungs are smooth.

The kosher seal of approval came after SuperMeat hosted two rabbinic delegations, and kosher authorities held a series of conversations on Jewish law surrounding the science used in the company’s technology, the Times of Israel reported.

Obtaining kosher certification for lab-grown meat is complicated because the process of cultivating meat from stem cells requires the use of living animals — and kosher law bars the consumption of any part of a living animal. Founded in 2015, SuperMeat’s lab-grown poultry avoids this dilemma by acquiring stem cells from eggs rather than from the living birds themselves. And because the eggs are at an early stage of fertilization, there’s no concern that blood will end up in the product, which would also be prohibited by Jewish law.

“We were looking for something that can be universally accepted as Mehadrin, completely kosher, and that’s what taking the stem cells from the eggs represents,” Genack said.

The cells are planted in a meat fermenter that simulates a bird’s biology. In the fermenter, the cells are provided with heat, oxygen, and plant-based liquid nourishment. They then mature into meat tissue and grow quickly, doubling in mass in just a few hours. When the meat is ready to harvest, the liquid feed is removed.

Other Orthodox rabbis, such as Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, have ruled that some lab-grown meat labeled as a meat alternative could be considered pareve. Genack said that at the Orthodox Union, there were different opinions on how lab-grown meat should be classified.

But the agency decided to mark it as meat because it’s derived from an animal and looks exactly like meat.

Leading rabbis in the Conservative movement came to the same conclusion in 2018, ruling that lab-grown meat of kosher animals would be kosher but that disputes over its status and possible confusion meant it should be considered meat.

“Cultured meat should be designated as ‘meaty according to the rabbis’ even though there will be no need for kosher slaughter, inspection for injury, deveining, soaking or salting to remove blood,” wrote Rabbi Daniel Nevins, the author of the legal opinion on the topic that was accepted almost unanimously by the movement’s law committee.

Genack noted that lab-grown pork will remain off-limits because it is derived from a pig, which is not kosher. (The O.U. also declined to give certification to Impossible Pork, even though it is plant-based, because of what Genack called “sensitivities to the consumer.”)

“Anything which you derive from something non-kosher itself is not kosher,” he said. “If you milk a non-kosher animal, the milk is also non-kosher, because it derived from a non-kosher source. So this doesn’t open that opportunity.”


The post Orthodox Union certifies Israeli brand of lab-grown meat as kosher — but not pareve appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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‘Crisis at Columbia’: Elite University Spirals Into Chaos Against Backdrop of School President’s DC Testimony

Demonstrators take part in an anti-Israel demonstration at the Columbia University campus, in New York City, US, Feb. 2, 2024. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

Columbia University exploded into a welter of anti-Israel protests while its president, Minouche Shafik, was in Washington, DC on Wednesday testifying before US lawmakers about antisemitism on the New York campus, where law enforcement had to be called to pacify the ongoing demonstrations on Thursday.

A group that calls itself Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) commandeered a section of campus on Wednesday afternoon and, after declaring it a “liberated zone,” lit flares and chanted pro-Hamas and anti-American slogans, according to reports. When the New York City Police Department (NYPD) arrived to disperse the unauthorized gathering, hundreds of students reportedly amassed around them to prevent the restoration of order.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, a wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!” they shouted, words that reinforced the theme of Wednesday’s US congressional hearing: “Crisis at Columbia.”

NYPD officers began making arrests on Thursday morning, although it was unclear how many of those apprehended were Columbia University students and what success they have had in regaining control of the “liberated zone.” Video from the campus showed officers loading dozens of protesters onto police buses.

“Out of an abundance of concern for the safety of Columbia’s campus, I authorized the New York Police Department to begin clearing the encampment from the South Lawn of Morningside campus that had been set up by students in the early hours of Wednesday morning,” Shafik said in a statement, adding that the protesters had “violated a long list of rules and policies.”

Founded in 1754, Columbia University has reached an inflection point in its history as critics strive to hold it to account. Since Oct. 7, anti-Zionist agitators have beaten up Jewish students, stolen posters of missing Israelis who have been taken as hostages into Gaza, called for a genocide of the Jewish people, and invited members of a terrorist organization to speak at events on campus. Critics have alleged that no one has been punished for these violations of the school’s code of conduct.

While Columbia spiraled into chaos, Shafik was in Washington, DC telling lawmakers on the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce that she has done all she can to address the severity of antisemitism fueled by anti-Israel animus.

“Trying to reconcile the free speech rights of those who wanted to protest and the rights of Jewish students to be in an environment free of discrimination and harassment has been the central challenge on our campus and numerous others across the country,” said Shafik, who admitted she prepped many hours for Wednesday’s hearing. “Regrettably, the events of [Hamas’ invasion of Israel on] Oct. 7 brought to the fore an undercurrent of antisemitism that is a major challenge, and like many other universities Columbia has seen a rise in antisemitic incidents.”

At one point, Shafik claimed that over a dozen students have been suspended for antisemitic conduct and holding an unauthorized event, titled “Resistance 101,” to which a member Palestine Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was invited. However, committee chair Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), responded that since Oct. 7, only Jewish students have been suspended for allegedly spraying an “odorous” fragrance near anti-Zionist protesters, an incident mentioned by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to seemingly undermine the verbal and physical abuse to which Jewish students at Columbia have been subjected.

On Thursday, Miriam Elman, a Columbia University alumna and executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, told The Algemeiner that Shafik was outshone by three of her colleagues who were also called to testify before the committee and discussed the presence of antisemitism among the school’s faculty: Professor David Schizer — co-chair of the school’s antisemitism task force — Claire Shipman, and David Greenwald, both of whom are members of the board of trustees.

“Shipman was right to say that professors need to be held to a higher standard than students,” Elman said. “The Columbia official who delivered the best performance at the hearing, however, was David Schizer. He compared what Jewish students are facing on campus to the long history of anti-Jewish hate and to experiences that his own grandfather faced when he was nearly lynched by antisemitic thugs. His powerful and personal opening statement was pitch perfect for the moment.”

Columbia University is under investigation by the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce and is preparing to defend itself against a civil lawsuit alleging that school officials intentionally ignored antisemitism and left Jewish students exposed to numerous physical and emotional injuries inflicted on them by students and faculty.

For many in the Jewish community, what is happening at Columbia is a microcosm of a problem plaguing colleges and universities everywhere.

“Yesterday’s hearing is a recognition of the growing atmosphere of hate that continues to target students around the country,” said Brooke Goldstein, founder and executive director of The Lawfare Project, which is representing one of the students who is suing Columbia. “We want to thank Chairwoman Foxx and the committee for their work to hold higher education institutions and their leaders accountable for protecting against antisemitism.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post ‘Crisis at Columbia’: Elite University Spirals Into Chaos Against Backdrop of School President’s DC Testimony first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Doorstep Postings: Doug Ford scarfs it down after some of his party members support the house speaker keeping keffiyehs out of Queen’s Park

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN. It’s a shame that our Palestinian friends have spent so much time and gotten so good at pointing out the contradictions that underlie and undermine our political systems. I say it’s a shame because they never […]

The post Doorstep Postings: Doug Ford scarfs it down after some of his party members support the house speaker keeping keffiyehs out of Queen’s Park appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘A Time for Vigilance’: FBI Director Says Agency on Alert for Threats Against Jewish Community During Passover

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies before the House Approbations Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, US, April 11, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

The director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Wednesday said his agency was on alert for threats posed to the Jewish community during Passover, which begins on Monday night.

Christopher Wray told a group of Jewish community security officials about the FBI’s state of alertness during an event titled, “Passover Without Fear: Preparedness and Security Considerations in Today’s World.”

Wray said the FBI was “particularly concerned” that lone-wolf attackers may target Passover gatherings, high-profile events, and/or religious locations. 

At the same time, he said that while “I’m not providing these updates in any way to alarm you, because this is not a time for panic,” it was “a time for continued vigilance.” 

The Jewish holiday of Passover, which celebrates the Biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt, will begin next Monday evening and end the following Tuesday.

The national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network — the organization Wray was speaking to and that describes itself as “the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America” — said he was not aware of any specific threats at this time.

Taking a step back, Wray said that even before the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, “the threat to Jewish Americans had already elevated.” However, he continued, “in the six months since then, we’ve seen those threats elevated” even further.

In December, the FBI said there had been a 60 percent spike in antisemitic hate crime investigations since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. Then on Wednesday, Wray said the probes into antisemitic crimes tripled in the months following Oct. 7.

“Between Oct. 7 and Jan. 30 of this year, we opened over three times more anti-Jewish hate crime investigations than in the four months before Oct. 7,” he explained.

Last year, the FBI found that 63 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes were directed against Jews.

There have been a number of mass shooting, bomb, and other threats against synagogues across the US since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terror group killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages to Gaza.

Wray’s latest comments came one day after the the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released its annual audit of hate incidents that targeted the Jewish community.

The ADL recorded 8,873 antisemitic incidents in 2023 — an average of 24 every day — across the US, amounting to a surge of 140 percent compared to the prior year and the most such outrages since the organization began tracking such data in 1979.

The vast majority of the antisemitic incidents — 5,204 — occurred after the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7.

“Since Oct. 7, anti-Zionism is impossible to separate from the Hamas attacks,” the ADL said. “These rallies have a dramatically different impact on the Jewish communities that have felt demonized and harassed because of this sustained level of intense anti-Zionist street activism.”

Beyond outrages such as assault, vandalism, and harassment, the ADL included in its tally “rallies that include support for Hamas or justify its attacks, calls to ‘globalize the intifada’ or ‘by all means necessary,’ and expressions of anti-Zionism such as the phrases ‘Zionism is terrorism,’ or ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’”

The post ‘A Time for Vigilance’: FBI Director Says Agency on Alert for Threats Against Jewish Community During Passover first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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