Ethical Kashrut: Going Live in 5

It’s been exactly one year since the Agriprocessors/Rubashkin’s scandal broke out, and today, the Orthodox Social Justice organization Uri L’Tzedek announced Tav HaYosher, an “ethical seal for kosher eating establishments.”

ethical kosherRecently on our site, Uri L’Tzedek cofounder Shmuly Yanklowitz wrote a piece about how ethical behavior figures into kashrut, and how it figures into Jewish law. This morning’s move marks Uri L’Tzedek’s first official move in their stated mission, which is to make sure that kosher establishments are obeying all the rules of Jewish law — not just separating the cheese and the burger, but keeping 13-year-olds from working 18-hour shifts and paying slave wages and stuff like that.

Certification is free, and all of the supervisors are volunteers (including MJL’s own Jordanna Birnbaum) … so, really, there’s no reason why a restaurant wouldn’t sign up. Unless, of course, a restaurant either:

(a) hasn’t heard of Tav HaYosher
(b) they have a super secret recipe for Waldorf salad that they don’t want anyone else in the kitchen finding out about (hint: it’s apples and mayonnaise, genius), or
(c) they aren’t treating their workers well.

So far, there are only a handful of restaurants certified under Tav HaYosher, all of them in New York. Since most people will eat at more than 5 restaurants in their lifetime, it’s impractical to suggest that people only eat at THY-safe places. But it’s a great start — and, if you are looking for a new restaurant, it’s better than Googling “manhattan pizza” and taking the first place that comes up.

Also, the approved restaurants are actually quality places — they include Cafe Nana on Columbia’s campus, which has superb light-but-filling Israeli food and an awesome, canopy-shrouded dining area, and Mike’s Bistro, an upscale restaurant which is the first kosher place I’ve ever heard of with a chef’s tasting menu.

Someday, hopefully, Tav HaYosher will be a standard that kosher-keeping people can actually hold by. (On his blog, the Orthodox hip-hop artist Y-Love spoke about how an obscure law prohibiting wine and dancing in the same place caused a revolution in Brooklyn’s kosher community. And this, my friends, is a much bigger deal than wine and dancing.) Right now, however, Tav HaYosher is, if nothing else, a great way to find new restaurants.

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