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Merry New Year

It can be very challenging being an observant Jew.

Even those of us who proclaim to be “modern Orthodox” — a term whose meaning is entirely different than it used to be. The “modern Orthodox” of the 70s and 80s is considered the traditional Conservative of today. And “modern Orthodox” today is way more religious than I am, so I am proclaiming to be “modern” for the purposes of this column only, and what I actually am probably is up for discussion.

In any event, in this column, I would like to discuss the challenges of keeping kosher.

Like everything in Judaism, there are different levels of “kosher.” For example, Son #2 and Dil #2, who live in Israel — Israel, you know, the homeland of the Jewish people, where McDonalds and Pizza Hut are “kosher” — only eat in a handful of restaurants that are “really” kosher. Please don’t ask, because I really don’t understand it. The dairy restaurants have to be under a certain rabbinical whatchamacallit, the meat restaurants have to be under a certain rabbinical whatchamacallit — it totally boggles my mind.

At least they don’t have to worry about cholov yisrael in Israel, like Son #1 and Dil #1 do here in America (for now, please stay, please, please, please don’t ever take my little Strudel away from me) at least I don’t think they have to worry about cholov yisrael in Yisrael. Again, the whole thing just boggles my mind. Add to the discussion the whole “shmitah year” situation — about what fruits or vegetables you cannot eat — or can you eat them if they fall off the trees? How many years of Jewish education did I get? Clearly, not nearly enough — but I digress.

It is like when I go to the kosher supermarket in Monsey. In the meat department, you can find a second-cut roast for $7.99 a pound, $12.99 a pound, and $19.99 a pound (all prices approximate and for point-making purposes only), all supervised by different rabbis, but all kosher enough to make it into a Monsey supermarket. Am I considered less kosher because I by the cheaper roast, or am I just smarter for buying the cheaper roast, because they are really all the same anyway? I don’t know. Husband #1 thinks I am smarter for buying the cheaper ones, but his reasoning is purely financially motivated. That whole situation is also a little nuts, but everyone has to do what they are comfortable with.

There were always products when we were growing up that we wished were kosher, and then really and truly celebrated when they became kosher. Let’s just mention Dunkin Donuts. When they became kosher in Elizabeth, it was like the heavens had opened up. People who had never eaten donuts before couldn’t wait to take the drive out to Elizabeth to get their hands on the newly kosher sugar-coated carbohydrates. It was the best day ever! And then they opened in the Five Towns, and now, going to Dunkin Donuts is like going for a Slurpee. It is completely taken for granted. Entenmann’s becoming kosher was another huge deal (and made people huge, or maybe that was just me.) I had asked Husband #1 what product he had always wanted to be kosher and he responded, “Big Red Gum.” So random and a little confusing to me, because I could not imagine him liking the taste of Big Red Gum (not that I know what it tastes like), but it’s all good.

So the reason why I decided to delve into the world of kosher food is because of my little Strudel. She has recently started eating “solids.” Green beans (where she actually shuddered three times and it was so adorable), carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash. (I am still not allowed to give her the yummy stuff — peaches, pears, apples, rocky road ice cream…). Anyway, I had noticed that on the “stage 1” Gerber foods there was no OU, but on the “stage 2” Gerber baby foods there is an OU. Exact same ingredients in both, but different packaging. How can squash and water not be kosher in a teeny tiny container, but then be kosher in a just-tiny container?

Well, we asked our local CEO of the Orthodox Union kashrut division, and in no time at all, he got back to us. Turns out, stage one foods are processed with non-kosher kaylim (the instruments used to make the food), but stage 2 is made with kaylim/instruments that are kashered beforehand. My follow up question was, “what kind of baby ham is Gerber making???” I don’t think that is really the case, but it was what entered my mind.

And now you know. Stage one not good, stage two good. And all is right with the world and with my daughter in law again…

Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck will be very sad when all the Christmas decorations around town are taken down. Can’t they leave them up all year long, like her sukkah poles?

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