(JTA) — For years, a subset of Jews who eat only at kosher-certified restaurants have bent the rules by taking advantage of a growing trend: fully vegan eateries.
Now, a ruling issued by the Conservative movement has given that practice its official imprimatur, declaring that Jews may eat at vegetarian or vegan restaurants that don’t have kosher supervision.
In practice, the ruling’s target audience is small. Most Jews who eat only in certified kosher restaurants are Orthodox and pay little if any attention to Conservative opinions on Jewish law. According to a 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center, 17% of Jews identify as Conservative and only a fraction keep kosher at home. Even fewer adhere to the strict dietary laws when they dine out.
But the ruling does represent a change in how the Conservative movement approaches one of the core elements of traditional Jewish life. It comes as an increasing number of Americans are going meatless and amid a broader reckoning over what counts as kosher, now that products such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Pork, which are plant-based and contain no animal products, are available in grocery stores.
“It has been the case for a number of years already that many people, making a judgment of their own, have begun to eat at vegan restaurants, looking at them and seeing no obvious kashrut problems,” said Rabbi Avram Israel Reisner, the ruling’s lead author.
A study by Dror Fixler, an Israeli religious Zionist rabbi and physicist, also concluded several years ago that Jews may eat in a strictly vegan restaurant, as long as they refrain from consuming vinegar, which could be non-kosher. The ruling also comes after the Conservative movement updated its Passover guide, permitting Jews to purchase certified gluten-free products ahead of the holiday, as long as they were also oat-free.
Previously, the movement deemed that Conservative Jews who keep kosher should eat only at restaurants under kosher supervision. But the 38-page ruling, issued earlier this month, says that without any meat products, many of the concerns surrounding kosher observance are rendered moot. The decision was voted on by 20 of the 25 members of the committee, the vast majority of whom voted in favor.
Without meat, there can be no mixing of meat and milk, the ruling says, and there is also no possibility of eating non-kosher foods such as pork. Even though the vast majority of kosher supervisors say cheese needs certification, the ruling permits eating at vegetarian restaurants on the grounds of a prior Conservative ruling stating that animal rennet is not prohibited.
The ruling is explicit in that it does not apply to restaurants that serve meat or fish but otherwise have vegetarian options, because there is still the risk of cross-contamination of un-kosher foods.
“The requirement to eat only kosher is not one of health or physical purity, but one of Godliness and the observance of mitzvot,” the ruling concludes. “While there are some levels of risk which the halakhah prohibits undertaking, we have argued that eating in an unsupervised vegan or vegetarian restaurant where government oversight exists and restaurants are generally concerned with their reputations does not overstep that boundary.”
The document adds that ancient rabbinic prohibitions on the consumption of bread baked by non-Jews were instituted primarily to prohibit social interactions with non-Jews.
“The prohibitions are social and unrelated to any concern of kashrut,” the decision says of the ancient ban. “We see ourselves and our gentile neighbors as equal members of society and reject social discrimination that holds us separate from those of other religious persuasions.”
The ruling notes that one of the reasons for the intricacy and strictness of certain kosher laws is to prevent intermarriage. Reisner said that the new openness to vegan and vegetarian dining does not signal a loosening of the prohibition on interfaith marriage.
“The Conservative movement has for some time been moving away from edicts to maintain social separation, arguing a more humanist position about the desirability of good relations with all of our compatriots,” Reisner said. “Now, that is not the same as to say that it approves of intermarriage.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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