I'm Okay, You're Okay, but Bring OU

I confess that I guffawed when Missy Younger relayed to me that her friends, all of whom are native-born Israelis, regard Kof-K, a hecsher that is near and dear to my New World family, as “exotic.” In the Old World, Kof-K, and a handful of additional koshrut symbols, such as OU, such as OK, and such as Star K, is fairly universally accepted. While yet other certifications, as exemplified by cRc, by COR, and by the Bais Din of Crown Heights, too, are well esteemed at New World tables, where careful adherence to koshrut laws takes place, these hecsherim do not seem to be, on the whole, as well known.


Analogously, when my family made aliyah, before we had a chance to acquire a LOR, Local Orthodox Rabbi, we relied on the well-informed advice of a Jerusalem friend who had earned semika and who was learning at a renowned kollel, as to which hecsherim we ought to trust in this Old World. He suggested: Badatz Agudas Yisroel, Badatz Eida Chareidis, Rubin, and Landau. Later, we learned about: Belz (Machzikei Hadas), Chug Chasam Sofer, and Shearis Yisroel.


Koshrut is a beautiful group of mitzvot, yet koshrut can make a balabusta crazy, even during nonschmittah years. One of the first shilot we officially asked our local rabbi concerned what to do about eating at a home or at a simcha of another Jew who might accept different hecsherim than do we (our friends, B”H, are even more heterogeneous here than they were in the New World). Our rabbi’s answer (don’t try this at home folks; one can NOT rely on the answer formally given to another Jew) was that if the woman of the house covered her hair, was shomer mitzvot (including, but not limited to Shomer Shabbot), and was shomer koshrut, we could accept her food or the food of her designated agent, e.g. her caterer What’s more, we were admonished that koshrut is meant, in part, to separate Jews from goyim, not Jews from Jews, and that we ought not to enter into the fray, birthed from fear, of not holding to sufficient numbers of fences.


Since I am neither learned nor interested in feeding conflict, I will suggest that certain specifics of koshrut are personal to individuals, to families, to communities, and so forth, and that koshrut decisions must be made in a predictable and consistent manner as supervised by a rabbi. In the end, in our case, my family keeps more stringencies than do some members of our community so that members of other communities, who are sometimes are guests, can feel fully comfortable in out home.


Meanwhile, there remains the issue of knowing whether or not it’s acceptable to eat at various businesses. Until very recently, the site Jerusalem Kosher News was active and was a wonderful font of information about who was holding by which hecsherim. I’m not sure of other, English, sites that provide the same service. Regardless, eating out remains a “buyer beware” situation; check the Teudat; do not rely on the word of employees or on signage painting on a façade or elsewhere, as to whom is certifying a restaurant’s, a grocery store’s or a caterer’s koshrut.


Accordingly, it’s not a bad idea to make ourselves useful to tourists or to others who happen to be temporarily in the Holy Land. As Rav. Hillel evoked, "What is hateful to you do not do to another." I think most of us would be miffed, in the least, if we were strangers in a realm and ate something we regretted or missed something we desired because no one helped us navigate the local certification system.


Finally, at the same time as my children’s friends and some of Computer Cowboy and my friends remain as weary of New World hecsherim as they do of Ashkenazi delights, like gefilte fish, or of Yemenite treats, such as schug, depending on their backgrounds, it is likewise the case that they will eat around items made with OU or with other New World-certified ingredients when they are joining us at our table. We accommodate our dear ones as much as is reasonable, but try not to drive ourselves crazy.


Sigh. Just when I was getting comfortable with separating fleisch from milk, with carefully checking my lentils, fruits, and vegetables, and with making sure that my cakes tasted good (not an issue of koshrut, but an issue of hospitality), I had to return to rethinking which koshrut marks, among the ones used by my family, would make our guests most comfortable.


Oh well; merit is given according to difficulty. In the interim, I contend that I’m okay, you’re okay, and to my home, even if you don’t grasp this mark’s authentic goodness, please feel free to bring OU.