Do all Jews keep kosher?
Although I grew up in a Jewish family, I did not follow all the customs and traditions that most Jews follow. One of the customs I did not follow is the kosher diet. My mom never pushed keeping kosher on my brother or I. I learned the basics of what it meant and why it was done but never grasped the full importance.
Kashrut is the part of Jewish law dealing with diet. Kashrut explains what can and cannot be eaten and how foods should be prepared. The term Kosher is used to describe foods that meet the standards of Kashrut. Judaism 101 is one of many websites that explains the details of Jewish dietary laws.
So why keep kosher? Modern Jews feel that kosher dietary guidelines can provide health benefits, especially with modern food preparations techniques. As a food science major, I have studied a wide range of cooking and slaughtering methods. Kosher laws can be more sanitary and more humane for the animals. The laws regarding kosher slaughter are so sanitary that the butchers are exempt from numerous USDA regulations. Although there are health benefits, those do not play a role in why Jews keep kosher. Most Jews that keep kosher, do because the Torah says so. The laws of kashrut often fall into the category of “chukkim“, or laws that have no reason. I think I chose not to keep kosher growing up because it was such a foreign concept which is why I decided that I would embrace keeping kosher for a week for my adventure blog.
Kashrut rules are extensive and detailed so I chose to follow the basic rules. According to koshercertification.org, some of those rules include not eating pork, not mixing meat and dairy, only consuming kosher meats, and only consuming fish with scales and fins. Now these are only four basic rules. In orthodox homes that follow all laws of kashrut, separate utensils and cookware are used for dairy and meat products, separate sinks are used, and separate refrigerators are used to store dairy and animals products.
Living in an apartment with nine other individuals, who do not keep kosher, made it nearly impossible to follow all the orthodox rules. There was no way I would be able to clear out the refrigerators and cabinets in order to separate meat and dairy so I decided to follow the more conservative laws. Personally, I found that keeping kosher was easier than I expected. I refrained from eating meat products and dairy for the week and only purchased foods with the kosher food label. Overall I was successful in completing my kosher week. I may try to continue to keep a more kosher diet but do not see myself following all the laws in the future.
According to the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey, only 21% of American Jews keep kosher in their home. I had a few friends who kept kosher growing up but met more coming into college. Keeping kosher on a college campus is very challenging. Campus dining does not label if foods are kosher which makes it difficult for many students. In San Luis Obispo, kosher delis are not common. One of my friends keeps a vegetarian diet at school because kosher meats are difficult to find. I have found that there are places to find kosher foods while staying in London. There are a wide variety of kosher products sold at supermarkets and kosher butchers are available.
I think that it is important to branch out and experience the customs of different religions. Keeping kosher was an eye opening experience and I would like to try different religious practices in the future.