Refraining from an non-kosher pepperoni pizza on a Friday night before attending Sabbath services may be normal, but keeping kosher totally, not just on holy days, remains a controversial and touchy subject among some Jews.
Spearheaded by a younger generation returning to tradition, the Reform Judaism movement is interested in establishing its own Jewish dietary practices. The Reform movement is the largest and most liberal stream of Judaism in the world.
Keeping kosher includes not only separating meat and milk, but refraining from pork, various sea foods. And of course all food must have a rabbinic stamp of approval certifying that it is kosher.
In keeping with their liberal lifestyle, Reform Jews prefer loose guidelines to keeping kosher. So, the Reform rabbinic task force on kashrut (kosher laws) is attempting “to come up with a philosophy or theology of kashrut with options.”
The Director of Religious Living Rabbi Sue Ann Wasserman said the Department of Worship, Music and Religious Living is interested in developing a study guide in the next year to help Reform congregations establish kosher kitchens.
“The majority of our congregations keep some elements of kashrut, and that’s very interesting,” said Wasserman. “It represents a change over time, [they] expect higher dietary standards in Jewish communal settings.”
Orthodox rabbis, more religious and strict than Reform Jews, are not so keen on the idea of Reform Jews defining kosher. Yet, Rabbi Richard Levy Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles promotes the idea of a Reform kosher certification.
“I would like to see it as an extension of halachah (religious law),” he said. “It would expand what dietary practice means in a Jewish setting to include a concern for the people who harvest our food, bring it to market and sell it.”