Communal Food Guidelines

A Reconstructionist Approach to Kashrut

Judaism is a theology of the common deed. The purpose seems to be to ennoble the common.

--- Abraham Joshua Heschel

Introduction

Kashrut (the body of Jewish dietary laws and customs) is among the most universally recognized Jewish ritual practices. Observance of the dietary laws ties adherents to the Torah, to Jews in other times and in other places through the most common of human acts: eating.

Within Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation, the ways in which individuals observe Jewish dietary traditions vary. Some members observe all the laws of kashrut in all settings while others observe traditional kashrut to varying degrees. For example, some avoid the forbidden foods, but do not follow the laws regarding the mixing of meat and milk. Some members avoid foods that are grown or prepared under conditions that violate Jewish ethical laws, such as oshek (the law of not oppressing workers), tza'ar ba'alei chayim (the law of compassion for animals) and bal tashchit (the law of not wasting). Other members eat without regard to the traditional Judaic dietary laws.

Our communal dietary practices reflect a compromise that allows most of our members to participate in community events while at the same time respecting Jewish tradition. The purpose of these guidelines is to document the specific kashrut-related practices that we, as a community, have adopted over time and now apply to our own shul.

Adat Shalom is, of course, also concerned with the ecological consequences of consumption and is undertaking actions to minimize the environmental impact of our communal events. These activities, including recycling and composting, will be addressed in a separate statement. Similarly, a separate statement will address rules for the private use of our shul's facilities.

In the spirit of Reconstructionist Judaism, we seek to retain as much of our tradition as possible even as we modify the practice of certain rituals and adjust our understanding of their meaning. And, by documenting our practices and the intentions behind them, we hope to ennoble our own community's traditions regarding this most common of all deeds.

Definitions

A. Kashrut: The dietary laws of Judaism, defining what food is and is not "kosher," are cited in the Torah in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, and expanded in the Talmud and the codes of Jewish law. The word "kosher" literally means "fit" or "acceptable."

B. Treif: All non-kosher foods including pork products, shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, etc.) and non-kosher fish (fish without fins and scales, such as shark), non-kosher meats or poultry, ingredients made from non-kosher meat or poultry, and foods that contain both dairy and meat.

C. Dairy (also called "milchig" in Yiddish, "halav" in Hebrew): Foods that consist in whole or in part of milk or products derived from milk (e.g., butter and cheese).

D. Meat (also called "fleishig" in Yiddish, "basar" in Hebrew): Foods that consist in whole or in part of ingredients derived from the flesh of animals. To be kosher, meat must come from poultry or an animal that has split hooves and chews its cud, and has been prepared according to the requirements of kashrut under rabbinic supervision.

E. Fish: Only fish that has both fins and scales is considered kosher. Shellfish is treif. Kosher fish is considered pareve.

F. Pareve: Foods that in their natural state are neither meat nor dairy. Examples are fruits and vegetables, fish, eggs, pasta, grains, nuts, coffee. Pareve foods can be served with either dairy or meat.

G. Kosher Certification (also called "Hashgacha", "Hechshur"): Food products approved as kosher under rabbinic supervision.

H. Oneg Shabbat: The communal luncheon following Shabbat services, the food for which typically is prepared by Adat Shalom members in their own home.

Guidelines

1. Ingredients: All Adat Shalom community events, whether in the shul, in members' homes, or off-site, are dairy or pareve. In other words, no meat or poultry, shellfish, non-kosher fish, and no foods containing meat, poultry, shellfish or non-kosher fish ingredients may be served at these events. This restriction applies (but is not limited) to oneg Shabbat, kiddush reception, and Shabbat "pot luck" meals at members' homes.

2. Preparation: While we limit the foods at community meals to dairy or pareve, we are flexible about the type of kitchens in which they are prepared. This means that containers, appliances and utensils that are not kashered (ritually cleaned) may be used to prepare and serve a dish at a communal function. When preparing foods at home for Adat Shalom events, however, we urge congregants to be sensitive to the variety of levels of kashrut observance within the Adat Shalom community. In all cases, members are expected to comply with the following:

  • (a) Food prepared at home or purchased commercially MUST be checked to make certain that it contains no treif ingredients.
  • (b) Special care should be taken when purchasing commercially prepared baked goods for an Adat Shalom event. Check that the products are made with vegetable shortening, not lard, and that they are dairy or pareve.
  • (c) Members are encouraged to accompany their dishes with a written list of ingredients. It is appreciated by many, including members who don't eat any dairy or egg products, and those with health issues.

3. Private Events: A private event held on the Adat Shalom premises, whether sponsored by an Adat Shalom member or non-member, must conform to the following:

  • (a) No foods that contain treif ingredients (see definition above) may be served at the event, regardless of whether the food is prepared on-site or off-site.
  • (b) Any meat/poultry served at the event must be certified kosher. Furthermore, any food containing meat ingredients (e.g. broth) must be made with certified kosher meat or poultry.
  • (c) Dairy foods may not be served at the same event where meat or poultry is served. Similarly, no dish may be served which contains both dairy products and meat ingredients.
  • (d) A private event may be catered by a kosher or non-kosher caterer. All caterers must be provided with a copy of these Guidelines in advance of the event and must agree to adhere to the Guidelines. All caterers serving meat at Adat Shalom must be interviewed by the congregation's designated representative to make sure that they understand these guidelines and are willing to abide by them. As caterers are interviewed and approved, Adat Shalom will maintain a list of such approved caterers for event sponsors to consult.
  • (e) Subject to separate guidelines governing the private use of Adat Shalom facilities, a sponsor of a private event may have the Adat Shalom kitchen kashered to their own specifications. The kashering of the kitchen will be at the sole expense of the event sponsor. Similarly, the sponsor or the sponsor’s caterer will be responsible for making the arrangements for kashering the kitchen, and all such arrangements must be approved in advance by the Rabbi or the Rabbi's designee.

4. In You Home: The dairy/vegetarian rules set forth above for Adat Shalom communal events do not apply to private life cycle events, such as a shiva minyan, wedding, meal of consolation or brit milah, held in Adat Shalom members' homes or sponsored by members at other facilities, even if an open invitation to attend has been extended to the entire community. If there is doubt as to what food to bring to such an event, though, it is always best to use these communal guidelines as a common denominator.


These guidelines were approved by the Adat Shalom Board at the March 1999 meeting and were approved by the congregation at the annual meeting in June 1999.