Sunday, February 11, 2007

News Flash: Conservative Rabbis Supposed to Keep Kosher

"Do you eat dairy out?"

It's one of those phrases that only makes sense to a select group of people, in this case, Jews with some traditional background. The question refers to the relatively common practice of keeping a strict separation between meat and dairy at home while eating non-meat products at non-kosher restaurants, even though such establishments obviously do not use separate meat and dairy utensils. For the most part, the practice has persisted as a folk custom without rabbinic endorsement. In the mid-twentieth century, when kosher restaurants were few and far between, some Conservative rabbis and a few liberal Orthodox rabbis found ways to make limited exceptions, but for the most part, those who considered themselves bound by traditional halakhah were forced to concede that food prepared at non-kosher establishments was not kosher. Mordecai Kaplan, the spiritiual father of the Reconstructionist movement, endorsed the practice of keeping kosher at home while "eating out" as a way to maintain Jewish culture while allowing Jews to experience the modern world and interact freely with their gentile neighbors. This position was based on sociological considerations, however; Kaplan had no interest in preserving the traditional halakhic system.

It is not surprising that many Conservative Jews (as well as some nominally Orthodox Jews) continue to eat dairy out. People aren't entirely consistent by nature, and not everyone who keeps kosher does so for strictly halakhic reasons. Nor is it surprising that many Conservative rabbis eat out, as many are essentially Reconstructionist in theology. What continues to amazing me is how many Conservative Jews, including so-called rabbis, seem to think that "eating dairy out" is a coherent halakhic position. Many, in fact, seem to think that it is the only coherent halakhic position, and that anyone who doesn't eat at non-kosher restaurants is a religious fanatic, while anyone who doesn't keep separate utensils at home is "non-observant."

According to an article in the New York Jewish Week, a recent survey found that 71% of Conservative rabbis eat hot dairy food in non-kosher restaurants, while 92% eat hot food in vegetarian restaurants lacking rabbinic supervision. This has prompted Rabbi Paul Plotkin to begin to compose a teshuvah opposing the practice. The word teshuvah means "answer." Traditionally, teshuvot responded to specific questions, which means that they usually expressed halakhic positions that weren't maddeningly obvious. Unfortunately, the Conservative movement has apparently reached a point at which its rabbis can't appreciate what would be apparent to any outsider who gave it a moment's thought.

I fell into the Conservative movement more or less by default. For a while, I found its peculiar foibles amusing, but lately, it's really started to piss me off. I'm thinking of starting my own Deconstructionist community. Any takers?

(Cross-posted to the Kosher Blog)

35 comments:

BZ said...

The same survey also said that 9% of Conservative rabbis eat meat in non-kosher restaurants! But I'll be dan lechaf zechut and assume that 9% of Conservative rabbis were confused by the wording of the question.

BZ said...

"Eating dairy out" (and keeping separate dishes at home) can be a coherent position if one doesn't believe that hot dishes really transmit taste, but one wants to be able to cook for people who believe (implicitly) that they do.

rinvchisq said...

Food in a restaurant is primarily prepared by non-Jews for non-Jews. If one knows that the ingredients are kosher, whatever is non-kosher is bitul b'60: that's why it's allowed to drink milk with shark oil added for vitamin D.

I have not seen it inside, but Rabbi Broyde once mentioned a Rashi discussing whether one has to look inside a sardine sandwich to verify that the fish are kosher. Rashi says that you do not have to because it's disgusting to see the fish and the fish are usually kosher. Has anyone seen this, or know anything else about the sandwich-eating habits of Jews in medieval France?

elf said...

But I'll be dan lechaf zechut and assume that 9% of Conservative rabbis were confused by the wording of the question.

Ha!

"Eating dairy out" (and keeping separate dishes at home) can be a coherent position if one doesn't believe that hot dishes really transmit taste, but one wants to be able to cook for people who believe (implicitly) that they do.

I deliberately used the word "utensils" in order to include pots and other cooking utensils, which are more of a problem than dishes. However, what you've said makes some sense, if that's the real reasoning behind the practice (which it may be in some cases, but certainly isn't in all).

Food in a restaurant is primarily prepared by non-Jews for non-Jews. If one knows that the ingredients are kosher, whatever is non-kosher is bitul b'60

I admit that I've simplified the issue. Kashrut is very complicated and I can't claim to know all the halakhot. There are instances in which the rules are different for large-scale, non-Jewish food production and food cooked at home by a Jew. However, I don't think the differences extend as far as you're suggesting. They certainly aren't self-evident, as some people seem to think.

that's why it's allowed to drink milk with shark oil added for vitamin D

That case is a little bit different, since the shark oil isn't added for flavor.

I have not seen it inside, but Rabbi Broyde once mentioned a Rashi discussing whether one has to look inside a sardine sandwich to verify that the fish are kosher. Rashi says that you do not have to because it's disgusting to see the fish and the fish are usually kosher.

I've heard about this source, too, but haven't seen it. It certainly argues against some of the more stringent positions on fish that are common in the Orthodox community these days, but I'm not sure how applicable it is to eating hot dairy out. The medieval sardine sandwich seems to have been a pretty simple dish, not like pasta marinara from an Italian restaurant where God knows what is cooked in God knows what.

Marc said...

It wouldn't have been possible to post this without the derogatory headline? As your postings and those on KosherBlog and anywhere in the world of kashrut can attest, standards of kashrut are not now, nor have they ever been, universal or static. Much of your critique is valid, but you diminish your arguments by resorting to what is, essentially, name calling ("so-called rabbis", "essentially Reconstructionist in theology", "nominally Orthodox" - any movement label is nominal and little more). Further, I don't know who the "many" are who think that separate dishes, etc.-in and dairy-out is the "only coherent halakhic position," and think you dramatically overstate this proposition. I think, as some commentors have noted, that most people who are committed, at one level or another, to halakha but maintain this practice recognize that it is not justifiable from a halakhic standpoint, at least as currently defined, but it is rather a concession to modern life. That most of kashrut, at least at the level relevant here, is de'rabbanan further muddies the waters as to what is the halakhic gold standard.

Anonymous said...

ELF --

It's interesting to compare the comments here vs. those at Kosherblog.

You raise a legitimate point: People who hold themselves out as members of a Halachic-oriented clergy should abide by halacha as interpreted by their movement. I have fewer issues with a Conservative rabbi eating unhekshered Cheddar cheese, for example, than I do with a Conservative rabbi eating at an unhekshered restaurant. While I personally disagree with both practices, I do recognize that CJLS specifically mattered the eating of unhekshered cheese (with the exception of blue cheese), and that a Conservative Rabbi who eats unhekshered cheese is still internally consistent with his movement's practice.

The main issue I have with this is that it sounds as if the Rabbis in question don't even know what the Conservative movement's actual stance on kashrus is... is this subject matter covered at the Rabbinic seminaries? I know that JTS requires it's clergy students to observe Kashrus and Shabbos as defined by CJLS standards (not sure if this holds at UJ). Does anyone know if JTS provides courses on what, exactly, consitutes a halachic observance of Kashrus and Shabbos observance within the Conservative movement? If not, has anyone considered adding them to the curriculum?

-- Mer

elf said...

The comments on the Kosher Blog version of this post have been redirected here. If you haven't already, please take a look at the comments there before responding.

Okay. First, I'm pleased to see that the people who were upset by the post were apparently most bothered by the perception that I was insulting other Jews. It's always nice to discover that there's a desire for decorum and mutual respect in the J-blogosphere. Of course, I did intend to insult other Jews, but not in the manner or to the extent that some readers seem to think.

To clear things up a little, here is a confession: I eat dairy out, and my own theology is more or less Reconstructionist. It's interesting that SteveP assumed that describing some Conservative rabbis as "essentially Reconstructionist in theology" was intended as a slur. Although the Reconstructionist movement now has its own institutions, Mordecai Kaplan himself never left JTS, and it is simply a fact that many members of the Conservative clergy have more in common with him philosophically and theologically than, say, A. J. Heschel. From a Reconstructionist standpoint, eating out makes a lot of sense, and it doesn't bother me that many people (including some rabbis) do it. What does bother me is the frequently unexamined claim that it is halakhic, and that anyone who refuses to eat out is fanatical or "Orthodox" (in many Conservative circles, that is a slur).

As for "so-called rabbis," yes, that was intended as an insult. The term "rabbi" connotes respect for an individual's Jewish learning, and the people I'm criticizing aren't educated or thoughtful enough to deserve that label. However, I have not personally taken a survey of Conservative rabbis and asked for their thoughts on this matter. I have had a few negative experiences with a few people, but I hope that SteveP and marc are correct and that these experiences are not representative.

Finally, I apologize to the rest of Team Kosher and to Kosher Blog readers if my post was too inflammatory for that site. As Yitz Greenberg is reputed to have said, it doesn't matter what denomination you belong to, as long as you're ashamed of it.

Anonymous said...

Surely if the Conservative rabbis knew anything about Kashrut they'd realise that they are better off eating out non-kosher meat (and just the meat) and would be transgressing less aveirot than when they eat out dairy and unchecked vegetables. It's ten times worse to eat a bug than a non-kosher animal - just a little point to consider.

Howard said...

Anonymous?

What if the meat had a bug on it? More importantly, how are you to be sure that "it's ten times worse" and not maybe seven and one third times worse?

Better yet, I'm something of an operations researcher by career, so I have a modest proposal: I'd like to live a satisfying and moderately sinful life - but I'd also like to optimize the satisfaction given a level of sin. Perhaps you could supply me with similar quantification for other sins as well so that I can be most efficient in my rule-breaking? I'd be happy to pay you in whatever the currency they use in the afterlife once we both get there (since I'll presumably have a much better endowment thanks to your information) - think of it as a long term profit sharing offer.

BZ said...

Anonymous-
Makkot 16b says that eating a bug involves 5 issurim; 6 if it's a flying bug. How do you make the leap from there to 10?

Also, this metric of comparing the number of makkot to determine the severity may not be useful in this case, because:
1) eating unchecked vegetables is only eating insects besafeik (at worst this would be an asham talui)
2) non-kosher meat may contain blood (and perhaps cheilev?), which is an issur kareit.

And if your claim that eating dairy out involves more aveirot is because of basar vechalav issues (due to netinat ta'am), wouldn't the same issues apply to eating meat out?

Anonymous said...

So many comments to respond, so little time!

As a Conservative Rabbi who does NOT eat in unhekshered restaurants, I feel I need to clear up a few things:

1. JTS and UJ students certainly learn about Kashrut: details, importance, range of practices.

2. People tend to emphasize observance of certain halakhot in ways that are not always consistent; similarly they may be more "completely" observant in one area, but not another. People change, evolve, learn, change some more. People simply don't behave the same way.

3. The Law Committee records show an opinion (not a sweeping decision to be imposed on everyone) about eating out in certain circumstances.

4. Let's remember that kosher restaurants are not found in all places where Jews live. People will compromise. Who knows how they've chosen to justify this compromise. Perhaps they are stronger in some other area of halakha.

5. I don't believe there are more than a few Conservative Rabbis who seriously use rulings from Yoreh Deah to justify eating out. In other words, they are not re-defining Kashrut from the inside; they are making a statement about the importance of kashrut in their personal life. The same Rabbi may very well be extremely strict about the shul's kashrut, but more lenient in his personal practice outside of the shul.

6. I think Conservative Rabbis are doing a tremendous amount of good work, balancing their jobs, their family's needs, and their commitment to halakha and klal yisrael. Most of them are surrounded by people who are not observant or learned, so there is very little support for the patterns of Jewish life they saw in Rabbinical School.

7. While kashrut seems to be the "litmus test" of a "serious halakhic Jew" in the eyes of some, there are many areas of Jewish life where the same people who "eat out" are probably way ahead of other Jews.

With these facts in hand, perhaps readers would reconsider the sweeping condemnation and sarcasm about Conservative Judaism and Rabbis...

Thank you.

SteveP said...

Elf -- Your explanation was enlightening. I still think your original language was unduly harsh. My view of the conservative rabbinate may be clouded by the number of CJ rabbis in my own congregation, in addition to our congregation's Rabbi, in a community where (I suspect much like yours) its relatively easy to be jewish and observant. Multiple hekshered meat and dairy establishments on the same block of a small town make jewish life more convenient.
But your comments, and your references to Reconstructionist theology beg the broader question -- what are your expectations for a the level of observance of a congregational Rabbi? Do they change depending on where the congregation is located -- i.e., if in a more remote, less "jewish" area?

elf's DH said...

Marc --
It wouldn't have been possible to post this without the derogatory headline?
But would anyone have read it?

Rabbi Anonymous --
1. JTS and UJ students certainly learn about Kashrut: details, importance, range of practices.
Mer --
The main issue I have with this is that it sounds as if the Rabbis in question don't even know what the Conservative movement's actual stance on kashrus is
Not to bring it up again, but, this reminds me so much of the driving teshuva issue...

Rabbi Anonymous --
3. The Law Committee records show an opinion (not a sweeping decision to be imposed on everyone) about eating out in certain circumstances.
The 1940 Arzt opinion? I've read second-hand that it is founded on a number of assumptions that are now invalid. I haven't read it myself. Is there any way normal people can get access to it?

I don't believe there are more than a few Conservative Rabbis who seriously use rulings from Yoreh Deah to justify eating out. In other words, they are not re-defining Kashrut from the inside
Given that the prompt for this post was the article it linked to -- why is there so much opposition then to reconsidering Arzt 1940 or clarifying what practical Conservative kashrut means? And why do people think that the proposed reconsideration is actually making the standards more stringent than they were if nobody thought it was halachic in the first place?

7. While kashrut seems to be the "litmus test" of a "serious halakhic Jew" in the eyes of some, there are many areas of Jewish life where the same people who "eat out" are probably way ahead of other Jews.
Well, kashrut and Shabbat observance. Probably because these are the things that really socially separate out Jews from everyone else. Unless you're at a certain Jewish-dominated Boston-area university, in which case it's negiah observance.

With these facts in hand, perhaps readers would reconsider the sweeping condemnation and sarcasm about Conservative Judaism and Rabbis...

The who would we direct our sweeping condemnation and sarcasm at? :-)

stevep--
what are your expectations for a the level of observance of a congregational Rabbi?
What's most interesting is that this question really only has meaning within Conservative Judaism. For Reform Jews, the rabbi can make his own decisions about observance. For Reconstructionists, the rabbis has to practice cultural Judaism. Orthodox Jews always expect their rabbis to be halachically observant (even if they aren't).

Some Conservative Jews expect their rabbis to be observant, like they are. Many expect their rabbis to be observant as paid Jews-by-proxy, so they themselves don't have to be. Others expect their rabbis to be observant, but not *too* observant because then they might be "Orthodox" (used as a slur). Some Conservative Jews don't expect much observance out of their rabbis. There's an old joke that a Conservative synagogue is a Reform congregation led by an Orthodox rabbi. At one time, it might have been literally true (at least in some places), but it really isn't so true anymore. CJ has been struggling with that for some time.

Anonymous said...

DH --

I apologize if I'm beating a dead horse, but, how does the driving teshuva tie in?

-- Meredith

Mar Gavriel said...

Elf,

What would define your "own Deconstructionist community"? Sounds interesting. I like Deconstruction.

elf's DH said...

Mer--
I apologize if I'm beating a dead horse, but, how does the driving teshuva tie in?
As a Conservative teshuva that justified itself as a specific, limited heter, but is applied more broadly.

SteveP said...

elf's dh --

>> what are you're expectations...<< While I agree with your comments, my question was directed at your spouse, as I am interesed in knowing her expectations, given her thoughts in her initial post.

Personally, I expect my congregational rabbi to set an example; and most of the congregational rabbis I have known did so. But I don't necessarily expect the perfect performance of every mitzvah, and certainly have no right to inquire with respect to the performance of "private" mitzvot. But I think Shabbat and kashrut are aspects of a public life where a congregational rabbi should be stricter than the rest of us.

What does Elf expect?

BZ said...

Many expect their rabbis to be observant as paid Jews-by-proxy, so they themselves don't have to be.

In all fairness, I should apply Yitz Greenberg's dictum that you mentioned above, and note that this is true in the Reform movement as well (except that "observant" may have a different meaning). Informed autonomy may be an ideal there, but is no more respected by the masses in the Reform movement than the Conservative movement's expectations are respected by the masses in the Conservative movement.

SteveP writes:
But your comments, and your references to Reconstructionist theology beg the broader question

No they don't.

elf said...

Rabbi Anonymous:
Thank you for your comments. They were helpful.

SteveP said:
what are your expectations for a the level of observance of a congregational Rabbi? Do they change depending on where the congregation is located -- i.e., if in a more remote, less "jewish" area?

I'm not sure that I can answer that question. Practically, it makes sense to expect a lower level of kashrut observance from a rabbi who lives in an area where there are fewer kosher restaurants, but I'm not sure that that can be systematized. Personally, I'm willing to accept a fairly wide range of philosophies and personal observances in a rabbi, as long as he or she is thoughtful and educated and has certain interpersonal skills. However, what's right for me isn't necessary right for the average Conservative congregation.

BZ:
SteveP's use of the phrase "begs the question" is more common than the original usage at this point. I think it's time to give up on that one.

SteveP said...

elf --

Thanks for the response to my question; as to your response to bz, while I hate to admit it, he's right, and I stand corrected. [I hate that.]

bz --

Touché

BZ said...

From the FAQ at begthequestion.info:

===

But language is constantly evolving.

That's great to know! Descriptivist linguists, whom we do not fault for their stand, are quite free to watch as we bring about an evolution in the vernacular understanding of "begging the question."

Rabbi Anonymous said...

Again, to clarify some issues:

1. The "driving Teshuva" of the early 50's was part of an overall "program for the revitalization of the sabbath" which was needed to counteract the very low level of Shabbat observance of American Jews, especially out in the suburbs where Jews were moving to, but shuls had not yet arrived.

2. There were two opinions published at the time. One said that driving was indeed problematic, but that it was okay - but only to shul - with the ultimate hope that shuls and/or congregants would move closer together. The other opinion said that there was absolutely no way to justify driving and that people needed to either stay home on Shabbat or find another place to live.

3. The "two opinion" approach gave local Rabbis an option in terms of guiding their congregants.

4. In retrospect, the biggest mistake was one of education. Most congregants never heard the "just for now" nature of the lenient opinion and it became "de facto" that "Conservative Jews may drive to shul.

5. Today there are Chabad Rabbis who obviously allow people to drive to shul; they just don't make it a "public" decision.

6. Back in the 50's the Law Committee was dealing with the larger phenomenon of an under-educated laity whose Shabbat observance was closely tied to being in shul. The Kashrut issue is different in that no one is arguing that Jewish life would be diminished or untenable unless people could eat fish in a non-Kosher restaurant. Nor is there a huge Kashrut observance problem because of the lack of kosher restaurants. What is similar, however, is the overgeneralization in the mind of congregants that "Conservative Judaism allows you to eat out in a restaurant." Again, this is an education challenge.

7. Finally, some of the posts marked "anonymous" weren't me. I only posted once and I couldn't figure out how to do it correctly. From now on I'll either be "menahel" or Rabbi Anonymous"

Anonymous said...

5. Today there are Chabad Rabbis who obviously allow people to drive to shul; they just don't make it a "public" decision.

I am not aware of any rabbi within the pale of Orthodoxy who tells Jews that it is permissible to drive on Shabbos.

The official Chabad policy on driving is that they will not turn away those who drive to shul on Shabbos. This is very different from saying that driving on Shabbos is "allowed" and not a violation of the 39 Melachos (categories of prohibited activity on Shabbos), even if it has the same net result.

-- Meredith

Lawrence said...

Elf: I have found that there are many unique and oddly specific definitions of where observance ends and fanaticism begins. For some people it's eating only in kosher restaurants; for others it's concern over the presence or absence of an eruv; still others, deactivating the light in the refrigerator.

Rabbi Anonymous: I've been long troubled by the notion that the driving teshuvah was part of an overarching program for revitalization of Shabbat observance. I know that that's what the document said, and that the teshuvah itself called for an emergency Shabbat education initiative so that the heter described within could be quickly phased out of existence. It's been more than half a century, and so far nobody seems to know what happened to that initiative.

Meredith: Certainly no orthodox rabbi would openly permit driving to shul on Shabbat, but it's not at all unheard of for some orthodox rabbis to look the other way when non-shomerei-Shabbat congregants do so. The reasoning, I imagine, is that if they're going to drive then they might as well be here rather than the mall.

Anonymous said...

Lawrence: Pretty much. I just wanted to highlight the distinction between the common practice of "looking the other way" when people drive to shul--which does have its advantages in many scenarios--and the false contention that an Orthodox Rabbi (who does not hold of the "driving teshuva) saying that driving on Shabbos is "allowed".

elf's DH said...

I wrote extensively (for a blog post) on the driving teshuvot and the missing education campaign here, here and here. I did not mean to divert the discussion of kashrut, only to make point by analogy that Rabbi Anonymous made in his points #4/#6. The analogy extends to the point that it's not just the laity that seems "under-educated" (not my word) but the rabbinate as well, to the extent that some (but not all!) Conservative rabbis take advantage of heter in the driving teshuva.

Nor is there a huge Kashrut observance problem because of the lack of kosher restaurants.
From the reporting, this seemed to be one motivation behind the 1940 teshuva. I can't verify that because I have no access to the document. If true, that (and the changes in assumptions on food preparation between 1940 and now) would argue for re-evaluation of the teshuva.

Rabbi Anonymous said...

Obviously Chabad Rabbis do not publically utter the words "You may drive." Obviously they don't privately tell people "It's ok to drive here." They use a passive approach.

But make no mistake about it: Chabad Rabbis indeed "allow" driving! Do they approach people and tell them "don't drive"? No. Do they lock their parking lots on Shabbat? No. Do they deny aliyot to those who drive to shul? No. Do they give sermons telling people not to drive? No

By the way, in my community half of the Orthodox Rabbis use this same "don't ask don't tell" approach.

A final comment: though the educational backstopping did not occur for the driving Teshuva (or for Kashrut), the Law Committee decisions did NOT turn observant Conservative congregants into non-observing Jews. This was a front-loaded feature of those who chose (and those who still choose) to join Conservative shuls. The larger issue is: for whom are Conservative Rabbis (and the Law Committee) making decisions?

elf's DH said...

educational backstopping..(or for Kashrut)
I don't know what Arzt 1940 said about this subject.

the Law Committee decisions did NOT turn observant Conservative congregants into non-observing Jews.
They did, however, fail to turn non-observing Jews into observing Jews.
Your point is correct in the first generation. The question is about the second generation that knows only the practical effect of the "emergency" or "temporary" measures. That's how you end up with the JTS, which ostensibly follows the CJLS rulings, essentially requiring rabbinical candidates to drive on Shabbat for their assignments (see the comments to my blog for anecdotal references).

The larger issue is: for whom are Conservative Rabbis (and the Law Committee) making decisions?
Rephrased -- Does anybody really care what the CJLS says?

Incidentally, they are getting somewhat better at opening up [some of!] their teshuvot, so, at least someone who does care and is not a rabbi, can read them on the Internet instead of in an obscure journal that few can access.

Subway Sally said...

"Does anyone care what the CJLS says?" Well, no and yes. I'm not sure how much the average Conservative Jew (of which I'm one) actually observes halachah to the degree that what the CJLS says should, in theory, matter. On the other hand, if we *really* didn't care, we wouldn't be having this discussion, would we? And when I say "we," I mean that I, too, have a few words to say on this subject.

Subway Sally said...

Sorry, let me try that link again.

Agnoxodox said...

A final comment: though the educational backstopping did not occur for the driving Teshuva (or for Kashrut), the Law Committee decisions did NOT turn observant Conservative congregants into non-observing Jews.

you're wrong, as I can speak to experience from my family. When my father was a little kid (late 40s early 50s), his parents were members of an orthodox shul, but not particularly "orthodox". They would walk to shul, but since it was a good distance, on the days my father would go, they put him in the neighbors car who drove.

They moved to the suburbs, though they ended up being founders of a conservative congregation whose location was right around the corner from them. However, they ended up driving other places besides shul on shabbos or yom tov. I was always uncomfortable with the fact that they would drive to us on pesach and drive home after each seder.

Essentially, from my limited experience, the conservative movement fits the stereotypes. It's successes become orthodox (my father, who when he graduated HS wanted to go to JTS, but his parents didn't believe someone could make a living in the rabbinate, so made him get a "real" degree first and he decided there were too many problems with conservative judaism to remain a part of it in college) and the majority of the rest actually go down in observance (his sister and parents, though his sister's son, my first cousin did end up becoming a BT and going through all the BT crazy steps, though is now fairly normal. His brother, while raised in a kosher home, that I feel comfortable eating in, no longer keeps kosher out of the house).

The point I'm trying to make is to forget the law comittee's actual decision as that's not what PUBLIC halachik decisions are always about. When one makes a public halachic decision, one has to be aware of where it can lead. If one doesn't take it into account or ignores the possibilities, one is arguably someone who is placing a stumbling block before the blind. Just like chazal said that people wouldn't distinguish between fowl and meat, so to the CJLS should have known that people wouldn't be able to distinguish between driving to shul and driving to the park (forget the mall).

Marc said...

Agnoxodox: Forgive me if I don't accept your contention that your family's experience can be extrapolated to the entire movement. I find it unlikely that your grandparents' decision to start driving places on Shabbat after moving to the suburbs had anything at all with the limited teshuva regarding driving on Shabbat, but rather a concession to convenience or a decision on how they chose to live their lives. Of course there are examples of other families like yours, but it's an exaggeration or outright falsehood to claim that the movement's "successes" become Orthodox and the "majority of the rest actually go down in observance". While the NYC Jewish community may be unique and not a good exemplar based on the group it attracts and its concentration of Jews, there are large groups of committed observant Conservative Jews who are the movement's "successes" (Ramah/USY/Koach/Schechter graduates, JTS students, etc.) and who are still committed to the movement, even while recognizing the difficulties that it faces. In fact, to make a point based on my own limited personal observations, many of the people I know who grew up in active, engaged Conservative homes have become more observant than their families, but have remained Conservative. But, of course, we are now far off the point of kashrut...

Will said...

It's unfortunate that halakha in general, and kashrut in particular, has become something either to buckle under and accept or an obstacle to be overcome (or ignored). It seems to me that there are all sorts of very important needs addressed by a system of food taboos and the ensuing development of a system to identify when one ought or ought not to worry about them. (Some of them, off the top of my head: providing communal cohesion; providing a link to tradition; symbolically demonstrating ethical values in the supposedly-mundane [and thereby actually inculcating those values]; marking borders between communities while still allowing social interaction.) Those "in the know" about Yoreh De`ah are well aware of the extent to which halakha in this are have been quite lenient; others can simply follow Rav Abadi; the best would be to take a class in which these values are being explicitly discussed and balanced. I'm a big fan of Deconstructionism, and I hope it can can eschew the dichotomies currently propounded by the movements (both de facto and de jure) and strive for the kind of fuller understanding which study of halakha can bring.

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Anonymous said...

Hmm,

What about eating dairy in an all-dairy restaurant? What about eating dairy in an all-dairy restaurant which cannot get a heksher because it is open on Shabbat, but whose owner is a Ba'al Teshuvah who claims that only hechshered products are used in preparing all the dishes? There are such places ...