Tefillah Tips - Kosher vs. Kosher Style

Dear reader: As the High Holidays Approach before returning to our weekly sessions on prayer I have devoted a column to Kashruth. The proverbial statement: “You are what you eat” most certainly applies to Kashruth. May we all be inscribed for a peaceful, successful and kosher new year.

Let My People Know - Kosher vs. Kosher Style

As Rosh Hashanah 5767 rapidly approaches and synagogue tickets are being mailed out, butchers around the nation are selling roasts and briskets for the holiday celebrations. In Cherry Hill alone more then one thousand briskets are purchased for the holiday.

A question often pondered by the 21st century Jew in North America is What exactly is the difference between Kosher and Kosher Style?

The word kosher – ko’sher is explained by the Encarta dictionary as “food that has been prepared so that it is fit and suitable under kosher law”. Therefore the California Penal Code states, “The term "kosher" should be used only on food products that meet religious dietary requirements.” Jews have been obliged to keep Kosher Laws for over 3300 years since they were transmitted to Moses and the Israelites at Sinai.

The phrase Kosher Style is a more recent term. A San Francisco based Jewish group defines it as “vegetarian and fish – but with no Kashruth supervision”. The New York Times columnist Ed Levine describes Kosher Style Hot dogs as, “all beef with a lot of spices, but they have a natural casing, these days made from sheep's intestines” –* please note that his definition has nothing to do with Judaism and Kosher Law. The California Penal Code mentions Kosher Style as well, “The precise significance of the phrase "kosher style" as applied to any particular product by the public has not been determined. There is a likelihood that the use of the term may cause the prospective purchaser to think that the product is "kosher." Accordingly, the Food and Drug Administration believes that use of the phrase should be discouraged on products that do not meet the religious dietary requirements.”

Where did Kosher Style come from? It is a 20th century concept that was born out of an allegiance to Jewish history and tradition and the desire to enjoy all the culinary delights both kosher and non kosher of our host culture-from soup to nuts. Therefore it is not uncommon to see a non kosher deli that serves and prepares pork, sausages and bacon while prominently displaying their Kosher Style Rosh Hashanah menu. This is confusing at best and G-d forbid misleading to the less educated consumer.

The notion of Kosher Style is quite unique. Would an Olympic athlete who planned on competing in the Olympics be satisfied with playing in an Olympic style event? Would a trader of precious metals be prepared to buy and sell gold style? Would an art collector pay millions for a Picasso style painting? So why should one settle for Kosher style?

Rosh Hashanah is a time of introspection, return and improvement. May we all merit striving for truth, sincerity and wisdom. And may we all be inscribed in the Book Of Life in the year to come.