Kosher…but not

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The owner of a kosher restaurant in Newton, Massachusetts suspended his kosher certification, letting his former employers know that, simply, he couldn’t afford them anymore.

The rising gap between the haves and the have-nots is incredibly apparent in the Jewish world. Especially in New York, it’s hard to find a kosher store or a kosher restaurant that has any Jewish workers — except for the lone kashrut supervisor, who’s usually a single boy on his night off from yeshiva anyway. When $350-an-hour lawyers have dinner at a $100-a-plate restaurant prepared by a minimum-wage chef with a $3-an-hour waiter* taking their orders, you’ve got to wonder: is Judaism no longer a self-sustainable culture?

Ricardo Bosich, the owner of the deli, said that the official kashrut certification was becoming too expensive to maintain. “I hope to keep my business kosher,” he’s quoted as saying, “but business is business and I have to support my family.â€?

Meanwhile, a representative for the kashrut authority remarked, smarmily, that the kashrut being revoked “was not due to a violation, but a business decision made by the proprietor.�

I mean, yeah. If kosher authorities keep demanding ludicrous standards (my wife and I went to T Fusion Steakhouse, which was an amazing dinner, but the strawberries were peeled to protect against bugs!?) and demanding ludicrous compensation, the righteous person’s fear of G-d isn’t going to be enough to keep the support of kosher-keeping Jews.

The most interesting thing about the article is what it doesn’t outright say, but hints strongly at: Bosich plans on keeping his restaurant kosher. He says he’s searching for a replacement authority that’s more affordable, but if he can’t find one, he may be forced to abandon supervision. Yes, it’s good to have someone watching over a restaurant — but do we have somebody supervise the kitchen when we eat at a friend’s house? It’s not inconceivable that, if you trust the kashrut of the proprietor of an establishment, and he or she says it’s kosher, you’ll eat there as well.

In Bosich’s paraphrased words (and in the words of Tito Jackson), “I gotta eat, too.”

* – Yes, it’s true. Waiters often receive below minimum wage because their tips, which are reported on restaurant forms and taxes, are expected to fill in the gap.

Posted on September 17, 2008

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2 thoughts on “Kosher…but not

  1. TamarFox

    A few years ago when I was living in Israel my friend Jared’s favorite kosher meat restaurant was called ‘hashgacha pratit’ or ‘privately supervised.’ The place wasn’t certified by any rabbinic authority, you just had to trust that the owner/chef kept kosher to your standards. Which, of course, is what you have to do any time you go to someone’s house for a meal, too. It makes sense that we should have a system of certifying that things are kosher, but when the prices for certification get so out of control, it seems like the community should decide whether or not they want to trust a long-kosher restaurant or not.

  2. matthue Post author

    I want to say it’s a delusion of grandeur — a side-effect of the whole beatification of scholarship that also led a few errant rabbis to start issuing kosher certification for music. (And, in a way, Jewish rock stars are the worst people they could have chosen to go after. I mean, Haredi people identify with lectures and Torah discourses…but they love themselves some Mordechai ben David.)

    But I don’t think that’s totally the answer. It’s just a few low-level sergeants who think, because they have an extra stripe, they can kick around the enlisted men. It doesn’t mean the ideas are flawed, but it might mean that their practice is getting out of control. But, hey, I love your friend’s idea — it’s like an underground restaurant of kashrut!

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