Why Too Kosher, or, Y2K?

February 1, 2000
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Dan Messinger

I recently attended a kashrut conference, “Why it’s possible to be too kosher,” or, for short, “Why2K.” The conference, held in a posh hotel outside of Los Angeles, focused on a number of different aspects of keeping kosher in a non-kosher world. Representatives from the major movements attended: strictly kosher, kosher in the home but not out of the house, kosher-style, and eat trayf but feel guilty.

The four-day gathering featured a number of interesting and innovative presentations. Noteworthy sessions included a heated debate between Mrs. Adler and Mrs. Manischewitz on the gravity of gefilte-goo, an inspiring political discussion with a panel of noted Hebrew Nationalists, and a moving lecture by the Pillsbury Dough Boy on accepting the “O-U.” (Though in private he admitted to me that he really does miss lard!)

On the final day of the conference, the American Committee on Kashrut (ACK) made its now infamous declaration. In a six to four vote the cross-denominational agency decided that from that day forward, not only is chicken a kosher animal but in fact “anything that tastes like chicken is acceptable to eat.” The announcement was met with shocked faces and growling stomachs. Reaction was certainly mixed. Samuel Goldenheim, of Goldenheim’s frog legs and other body parts, applauded the decision, declaring “no longer will frogs be seen only as the second plague!”

Representatives of the Orthodox Union of America were not as pleased. One rabbi from the O-U declared, “Are you kidding? By the same logic pork would be acceptable since it is the other white meat! And pork doesn’t even taste like chicken… or so we’re told.” Conservative representatives, willing to consider the new policy, stipulated that it would not be for the Orthodox alone to decide “what in fact tastes like chicken.” For them, “who is to chew” is the main issue. The delegates from the Reform movement officially commented on the decision at a press conference held at the local Sizzler. “Today ‘tastes like chicken,’ tomorrow, ‘tastes like whatever’!”

Reactions from Israel were also divided. Most of the religious parties condemned the decision. Shas, however, was willing to accept the decree if–in return for their cooperation–Shas was given the ministry of shnitzel and shwarma. Barak’s government is said to be considering the offer. Peace Now delightfully accepted the policy and formed a new commission called “piece of ostrich now.” The immigrant party’s statement indicated an apparent error, and translated “chicken” into the Russian word for lettuce.

Perhaps the most surprising reaction came from the three major movements’ combined Sisterhood branch. In a letter to the ACK, Goldie Horowitz complained, “Do you have any idea of the impact that this will have on Sisterhood cookbooks across America? It might take years before we’re able to properly supply the American Jewish household with tasty recipes for alligator.”

What had started as a calm conference on culinary practices closed mired in controversy and dispute. Once again the Jewish community has proven that while we may have all left Egypt together, we didn’t all stop at the same restaurants.

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