David M. Frank
Our temple is a laboratory of Jewish practice.
Increasingly, Reform Jews are discovering kashrut as a compelling
mitzvah in their religious lives. Accordingly, our Movement has shifted
dramatically from the disparagement of kashrut voiced in the 1885
Pittsburgh Platform to its reconsideration as an elevating option for individual
Our temple installed a Reform kosher kitchen in 2005 for several reasons.
First, we see our synagogue as a living laboratory where members can
experiment with different Jewish practices in order to discover which ones work,
or don’t work, for them. If kashrut is a mitzvah for Reform Jews
to consider, but there is no way to experience it within the synagogue, we would
fail in fulfilling our institutional responsibility to help our members grow
Second, we want our congregation to be a welcoming, inclusive community for
our members, as well as the greater Jewish community in our city. Many members
observe kashrut in their homes and appreciate being able to eat
comfortably at their synagogue, too. When they hold celebrations at the temple,
they are pleased that kashrut -observant guests can eat the food we
serve. In addition, our kosher kitchen allows us to host many Jewish
community-wide events that require a kosher venue.
Third, we wish to go a step further and reframe kashrut for our age,
instituting kosher practices that also encompass eating foods produced with care
for the environment, humane treatment of the animals being consumed, and fair
conditions for laborers on farms and in food-processing plants.
Temple Solel’s kosher kitchen does not limit individual autonomy, but, in the
highest spirit of Reform Judaism, expands it, by encouraging knowledgeable
choices for every Reform Jew. If our Movement truly considers kashrut a
viable option for individual Reform Jewish observance, then our synagogues might
indeed provide a means to experience it.
Rabbi David M. Frank is spiritual leader of Temple Solel, Cardiff by the
A kosher kitchen would be a step back in time.
A kosher kitchen in our temple! For whom? Certainly not for my congregants
who freely mix milk and meat at their meals. And certainly not for the rare
kosher-observing guests at a family’s bar or bat mitzvah reception. Why should
we invest expense and effort to make occasional visitors feel more at home when
they can be easily served fruit, salad, and fish on paper plates? What’s
next—separate seating for men and women in our sanctuary so that those with
Orthodox sensibilities might feel more comfortable worshiping with us?
Though a case can be made for the ethical benefits of observing traditional
kosher practices (i.e., inculcating a sensitivity to the shedding of blood), my
congregants are more drawn to environmental health, and other ethical issues
involving eating. They want our temple to serve food from local sources (to
reduce fossil fuel consumption) on recyclable paper goods (to reduce waste).
They complain when only sugary foods are served at the oneg, insist that
artificially colored punch be replaced by healthy alternatives, and (sensitive
to those abstaining from alcohol) keep plenty of grape juice on hand.
Reform Jews should keep kosher, but not the kashrut of the past.
Kashrut for our time needs to be concerned with food quality (real foods
free from harmful chemicals and additives), meat consumption (weighing the
environmental and personal health implications associated with eating red meat),
humane treatment of animals (when we do eat them), organic foods (to avert
health risks associated with pesticide spraying), and employment practices (fair
wages and safety for those involved in food production and distribution).
To provide a traditional kosher kitchen in our temple would be to step back
in time. Our congregants and I are looking ahead to our future.
Rabbi Jeff Marx, a fourth-generation Reform Jew, is spiritual leader of
Santa Monica Synagogue, Santa Monica, California.