Breast-Milk Addicts for Edwards

I took them, or rather her, along with me to hand out flyers this evening at Grand Central for the sake of the Plucky Underdog. It was my first piece of campaigning ever. Blanca slept comfortably, once I decided to propagandize inside, and didn't seem to pay much attention to the proceedings. (After all, if she did vote, only one issue would matter to her: a constant, ever-flowing supply of milk, interrupted by naps.) However, I found it all really enjoyable -- making up slogans on the spur of the moment, thrusting pieces of paper at unsuspecting passersby, and engaging in debates with the more curious. A sample:

'Me: Vote for the best candidate, John Edwards, on March 2nd!

Passerby (tall, businesslike type, with chiseled jaw and no-nonsense demeanor): Why is he the best candidate?

M: [Discourse on income inequality, Kerry's obfuscation, etc.]

P: What do you mean by income inequality?

M: [Description thereof.]

P: Is he a socialist?

M: [with barely suppressed guffaw] No.

Another possible response was: well, sir, I don't think you have anything to fear about socialist influence in today's Democratic Party . . .

While the Edwardsites were soldiering along at one GCT entrance, Team Kerry staked out the other. Here's what I noticed, based on a lifetime's lack of knowledge of political science and grassroots campaigning:

Kerry: lots o' brightly colored posters, suitable for wrapping round poles.
Edwards: posters, yes, but no pole-wrappers, and not quite as many.

Kerry: again, lots o' colors.
Edwards: Xeroxed handouts.

As I was about to leave, I met a fellow Caltech housemate who's now teaching political science at NYU. We cheerfully agreed that we were both going to vote for Edwards, though he's probably going to get clobbered. I hope, though, that the best candidate has more of a chance than the pundits credit him with. We are not Kerry's sheep.


Wanted: fact-checker (copy editor?) for Nextbook

Yossel Birstein, Novelist and Raconteur
For 13 years, Birstein traveled with painter Yosl Bergner from Poland through Tahiti, Panama, and Australia. In 1950, he arrived in Israel, where he produced Oyf Shmole Trotwarn (Narrow Paths), the first Yiddish novel of kibbutz life, before switching to Hebrew. His works include Don't Call Me Job and "The Blood Bond."

Um...he never "switched to Hebrew." He started writing in Hebrew once he came to Israel (or perhaps even before?), but continued to create important work in Yiddish. This bilingual literary output is part of what made Birstein remarkable, and at the same time a continuation of Jewish literary tradition. (Oh, and who spells his name "Yossel"?)


Conservosexuality, II

In a comment on my earlier post, Naomi Chana asks:

Hmmm. I wonder if the Reform movement has issued a halfway coherent halakhic defense of *its* position on homosexuality. (I certainly hope so, because I'm not really qualified to write one.)

Curious myself, I used a one-of-a-kind, creative search method over millions of Web sites. It turns out that a satisfying Conservative teshuvah on homosexuality might already have been written -- by the Central Committee of American Rabbis, i.e. the Reform movement. It's longish, and I haven't had a chance to dissect it thoroughly. Maybe you, Faithful Readers, can go through it, and then we can discuss it together later. However, on a quick once-over, it seems to consider the main points I talked about earlier. The problem, I think, is that the responsum fails to acknowledge that the Rabbis themselves acknowledged the possibility of "uprooting" Torah legislation. This omission, I would guess, is due to the greater liberality of the Reform movement toward halachah, which does not see itself as a continuation of the Rabbinic tradition.

Any Conservative approach would have to answer the same question that the CCAR responsum addresses: how can we approve of homosexuality when the Torah forbids it? However, the Reform answer (which is multi-faceted) is not meant to maintain continuity with Chazal. A Conservative answer would have to convince its readers of such a continuity.

A Conservative responsum, also (and as I said earlier) would have to carefully critique R. Joel Roth's teshuvah in the proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. I do mean to post on this in the future, but it will be more difficult. Why? Well, the CJLS responsa are not on-line, as I've complained before. Making them accessible might play into the hands of those who . . . um, want to learn and teach Torah.

(Postscript: Actually, the Roth teshuvah is available on-line, through a helpful collection of resources and essays maintained by Keshet, an organization which calls itself "the Jewish Theological Seminary's student group advocating for social and religious equality for Jews of all sexual orientations within the Conservative movement." Their Web site also includes a link to a teshuvah authored by Rabbi Stuart Kellman of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley. Though liberally inclined and well-written, I don't find it as narrowly drafted as the CCAR responsum, and it fails to adequately defend the arguments which Roth attacks in his teshuvah.)

As an afterthought, it occurs to me that a Conservative responsum would also have to address one additional issue. In his teshuvah, R. Roth implies, or says directly (I don't remember which) that those who follow halachah are duty-bound to follow his conclusion. I don't mean to accuse him of arrogance -- such confidence in one's ajudication is part and parcel of the shu"t literature. However, Conservative halachah, if it is to occupy a middle-of-the-road position, must allow multiple interpretations.

That is to say, oftentimes Conservative Jews are asked, "Why doesn't the C. movement hew more closely to halachah?" When the definition of the H-word is pushed on a little bit, though, it turns out that what the questioner is referring to is his (or her) brand of halachah. Many of the assumptions, narrow readings, and over-stringent interpretations made by R. Roth in his teshuvah are not native to halachah, but only to this rabbi's instantiation thereof, which one is not obligated to follow. Unless, of course, one is a student in or member of an institution for which R. Roth is the mara d'asra. And, unfortunately, he is. Or was.

Post-postscript: On rereading R. Simcha Roth's teshuvah (thanks, Apikorsus Online, for pointing it out
-- I guess I wasn't paying attention the first time I saw it), it seems that it indeed addresses all the points one would want in a Conservative responsum on the matter.

In addition, the more I think about it, the more I realize that a point-by-point refutation of Joel Roth's teshuvah is unnecessary, and even more so by the likes of me -- especially since Dorff and S. Roth seem already to have done so.

Perhaps what is needed now is simply an internal battle in the Conservative movement, so that misplaced legal formalism can be acknowledged as such.


Stepping out of character for a moment . . .

This isn't a politiblog, nor do I want it to be, but I want to encourage all my readers to vote for John Edwards on March 2nd. The differences between him and Kerry are not related to policy. With regard to the war in Iraq, which I think was generally a good idea despite Bush's unprecedented lack of planning and actively harmful foreign policy, both Democratic candidates seem to have supported it, though Dean drove them (too far) left in their votes against continuing funding for troops in Iraq. In domestic policy, too, not much separates them. (Edwards' campaigning on trade is misleading and a tad disturbing.) However, much I have heard and read about Kerry serves to emphasize his great weaknesses of personality: a tendency to make clear positions seem less clear, even suspicious. This, plus his lack of articulateness and tendency to bloviate, will make him an easy target in November.


Direct from Houston, it's poetry!

I am very honored to be in the new issue of Lyric, whose fifth issue is hitting newsstands everywhere. Well, probably not exactly everywhere, but I encourage you to buy a copy.

It's actually not my poems, more's the pity. I got in on the coattails of a Yiddish poet that more people should know about, Yankev Glatshteyn, by translating two of his poems:

* * *

Yankev Glatshteyn

Good night, world,
big stinking world.
Not you, but I slam the door.
With my long robe,
fiery yellow patch
and proud step,
at my own command
I’m going back into the ghetto.
Trampling baptismal traces.
I roll in your garbage.
Praise to you, praise, praise,
hunchbacked Jewish life.
To hell, world, with your polluted cultures.
Though everything is laid waste
I dust myself in your dust
sad Jewish life.

Swinish German, hateful Polack,
thieving Amalek, land of gorging and slobbing,
flabby democracy with your cold
compresses of sympathy.
Good night, electrified brazen world.
Back to my kerosene, candlestick shadows,
eternal October, minute stars,
to my crooked streets, hunched lanterns,
my stray pages, my twenty-four books
of Bible, my Talmud. Back to knotty
passages, to shining Yiddish glosses,
to judgment, deep intent, duty, justice:
world, I stride with joy to the quiet ghetto light.

Good night. To you, world, I donate
all my liberators.
Take the Jesusmarxes, choke on their bravery.
Die for a drop of our baptized blood.
I hope that though it tarries
my waiting will rise up daily.
Green leaves will still rustle
on our withered tree.
I need no comfort.
I’m going back to my four cubits,
from Wagner’s idol-music to wordless tune and murmur.
I kiss you, shaggy Jewish life.
There weeps in me the joy of return.

Paris, 1938

* * *

Yankev Glatshteyn

With signs of far away
The wagons arrive.
The doors thrown open
But no one waits to meet them.
The village is still, bells of quietness sound.
Every blade of grass bows
Under the enflamed cool.
A few sick men come down from the wagons
And a wise word is stuck
In every thoughtful head:
God, on your scale of good and bad
Put out a plate of food,
Or toss out, at least,
Some oats for the skinny horses.
The deadness of the village grows darker.
A terrible quietness befalls the Jewish beards
And everyone glimpses in the other’s eyes
That a prayer is being trembled in fear:
When death comes
May I not remain alive alone.
Don’t overlook me with my thin bones.

* * *

The issue's chock-full of other good stuff, which I will post here over the next few days. Particularly noteworthy are poems by Li-Young Lee, Mark Doty, Robert Winner, and Paul Guest. But most of the poems in the issue are good. That sentence is unbelievable to any regular reader of poetry journals. Most poetry is crap; most poetry journals are crap. Lyric seems to be a shining exception.


The Gray Lady discovers the Gretsch

The Times took its sweet time printing its Williamsburg artists article. It's a well written piece -- a wonder what one can do with 1,300 words to work with. (See the 314-word version of the same story.) I doubt the reporter knows Yiddish, and for that reason I think she fails to convey the urgent, dramatic, even racist and demagogic tone of much of the quasi-official Chasidic protest, and the interestingly riven intra-Chasidic dynamics. Many Times articles suffer from such over-mild portrayals of complicated brawls in the public square.


Sudden Rain

Support Yiddish poetry!

Read about the book, and then buy it. (It's a bilingual edition, so readers of English can enjoy it too.)

It seems Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, the chancellor of JTS, has issued his psak:

"The principal reason for not ordaining [homosexuals] and not performing commitment ceremonies is that there is simply no halachic justification for it," Schorsch said.

Whether he was asked for his judgment seems immaterial to Schorsch himself. (Does this mean that even the Conservative movement now approves of daat Torah, i.e. rabbinic infallibility?)

I have the sinking feeling that I will have to write something on this issue in the coming weeks. Just for purposes of preview, I'd like to lay out the points that any pro-homosexuality pseudo-teshuvah would have to detail. ("Pseudo-teshuvah," because I'm not a rabbi.) Of course, one would first and foremost, from a Conservative halachic perspective, have to deal with the drown-'em-in-erudition-but-skimp-on-the-argumentation teshuvah of Rabbi Joel Roth, which stretches over a numbingly wide expanse in the latest collection of responsa from the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. To devote even a preview blog to a point-by-point refutation of Rabbi Roth's teshuvah, however, would take hours. So I'll save that for the main event.

In any case, here are the bare outlines of what I would try to say.

1. Any statement in the Torah cannot be understood without interpretation. Any so-called "simple reading" of the Torahs prohibition is not relevant to a halachic argument. [Though I think it's relevant to mention Jacob Milgrom's argument in his Anchor Bible commentary on Leviticus, according to which homosexuality, only between men, and only in the Land of Israel, is prohibited because it does not lead to conventionally borne offspring. He recommends that gay couples adopt children.]

2. However, the chain of Biblical interpretation is not broken. Halachic authority is not based on unquestioning acceptance of Talmudic conclusions, but rather on understanding of their approach and exercising our own intellect and fear of God within that system.

3. In an important Talmudic discussion, the word תועבה (toevah) is interpreted as a term of moral censure: תועה בה (to'eh bah), "straying in it." What this means is the material of that lengthy discussion, which I won't go into here. Suffice it to say, however, that despite Rabbi David Weiss Halivni's claims to the contrary, the Rabbis did approach ajudication in explicitly moral terms on more than one occasion, this being one of them.

4. If Chazal took into account their criteria of moral censure in understanding the meaning of the term toevah, it would be inappropriate for us not to take into account our moral criteria. However, moral arguments for the immorality of homosexuality are unconvincing.

5. How to treat the Torah verses halachically is, obviously, a complicated matter, but it would not be out of place to mention that the rabbis often halachically "uprooted" sections from the Torah, or reinterpreted them into something close to legal impossibilities. This would seem to be viable in this case as well.
Want to see what I bought?

It's easier for me to brag about what I didn't buy at the SOY Seforim Sale. I could have spent hundreds of dollars there, but I figured that Blanca needs a chance at a college education, and, more immediately, enough space to sleep in our apartment. But I'll also list what I did come home with, along with an interesting tidbit from a few of them. Sociologically speaking, and surprisingly enough, I didn't eavesdrop on chance to overhear any spicy conversations or anything otherwise revelatory of the state of today's Orthodoxy. Shucks. (I wonder what the Students of JTS Seforim -- sorry, Sefarim -- Sale would look like? Sexual orientation checked at the door? [See next post.])

What I didn't buy (not because I didn't want to! Who is a hero? He who conquers his impulse!):

Hasidism on the Margin: Reconciliation, Antinomianism, & Messianism in Izbica & Radzin Hasidism, by Shaul Magid et al.;

פיוטי סליחות, a collection of out-of-print liturgical poetry edited by an all-star team of "those who wake the slumbering" (the traditional term for those who recover forgotten manuscripts), including Daniel Goldschmidt and Israel Ta-Shma;

כתר ירושלים, The Bible of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, According to the Text and Masorah of the Aleppo Codex and Related Manuscripts, Following the Methods of Rabbi Mordechai Breuer;

Happiness in Premodern Judaism: Virtue, Knowledge, and Well-Being, by Hava Tirosh-Samuelson.

What I did buy:

God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God, by Alvin Plantinga. ("[B]elief in other minds and belief in God are in the same epistemiological boat; hence if either is rational, so is the other. But obviously the former is rational; so, therefore, is the latter.")

Magic and Folklore in Rabbinic Literature, by Daniel Sperber. ("[Describing a source in Tanhuma] [The] Biblical teraphim . . . were made of slaughtered first-born men, salted and oiled. Then certain magical formulae were engraved on a golden plate. The resultant image was then placed in a niche in the wall, candles were lit beside it; it would speak in oracular fashion, answering questions and no doubt foretelling the future.") I particularly look forward to his translation and treatment of Yerushalmi Berachot 1:1.

בעלי התוספות, The Tosaphotists: Their History, Writings, and Methods, by Ephraim Urbach (Expect me to wax even more Ashkenazic over the next weeks and months . . .)

The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised, by Marc Shapiro ("Some kabbalists taught that as a punishment for what Maimonides wrote in his philosophical writings he was condemned to be reincarnated as a worm.")

הלכה, מנהג ומציאות באשכנז 1000-1350, Ritual, Custom and Reality in Franco-Germany, 1000-1350, by Israel M. Tashma

(As for Agnon's A Simple Story, suffice it to say that my purchase thereof is not so simple. I've tried to buy it twice from D-book, an Israeli on-line firm, which I would have recommended once upon a time. Now I have to go buy it somewhere in person, which might take me a while. Just -- cough, cough -- go on without me, fellow Book Schnooks! Leave me by the side of the road! And do so with the help of Kobi Haron's Web page.)


The early visit of an unwanted guest
Texas: West Nile virus infected bird found in Houston

(Excerpted from this report.)

Officials in Houston, Texas, have discovered West Nile virus in a bird, but
its early detection may not indicate a severe season. The fact the dead
blue jay (found in north west Houston on 22 Jan 2004) tested positive for
West Nile virus indicates the virus survived through winter and that Texas
can expect to grapple with the mosquitoborne virus again this summer,
according to Ray Parsons, head of Harris County's mosquito control division.

In 2003, infected birds were not found until May [2003], but the early
detection is probably not an indicator of the severity of the problem West
Nile [may] pose this year, the Houston Chronicle reported on Tue 10 Feb
2004. "There is really no need for alarm right now," Parsons said. "We
wanted to put this information out because if we find something, we want to
let the public know."

The vast majority of people who become infected with West Nile virus show
no symptoms, or only mild symptoms such as a low fever. Severe symptoms,
such as high fever, stiff neck, and muscle weakness, usually occur between
5 and 15 days after a bite from a virus-carrying mosquito, usually after
the month of June.


If you see me downtown tomorrow . . .

I'll be heading to the FBI for my Yiddish exam. (*whistles, affecting nonchalance*)


Friends of Aron

Did anyone go to this? Want to tell me how it was? (I mean, I can read the pro-Aron Chasidic newspaper to tell me it was terrific, and the pro-Zalmen Leib newspaper to make dark insinuations about the proceedings, but an eyewitness report would be helpful.)

Cong. Yetev Lev D’satmar takes great pride in extending this invitation to participate in an extraordinary event, The Satmar Hasidic Community, in an expression of profound joy, is hosting a

Gala Engagement Party

celebrating the upcoming marriage of Mr. Joel Glantz and Ms. Roiza Blima Teitelbaum. The new bride is the daughter of Rabbi Mendel Teitelbaum, the eldest son of Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum, Chief Rabbi of Kiryas Joel in upstate Orange County, NY Rabbi Aron is the eldest son of the Satmar Grand Rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbum who proudly celebrates the engagement of his first great-grand-daughter.

Thousands of community members, from all over the five boroughs, Monroe, Monsey and beyond, are expected to attend this historic event. Your presence at this beautiful occasion, called a "Tnoyim", will greatly enhance the joy of the Teitelbaum family and the entire Satmar community. The event will be held in a specially constructed and heated tent on:

Saturday Night, February 7, 2004
At 10:15 PM
At the Corner of Lee Avenue and Taylor Street
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

For more information, directions and to confirm your attendance at [...] or [...]. I look forward to personally greeting you at behalf of Cong. Yetve Lev this enjoyable and memorable evening.


Agnon the Yiddish novelist

It turns out, to no one's surprise, that I'm a book schnook. For some reason, I already feel guilty about not posting a cogent, witty, wide-ranging (i.e. Baraita-style) review of Shmuel Yosef Agnon's A Simple Story. I do have the perfect excuse: I haven't read the book yet, and my copy is still winging its way to me over the great seas separating me and the Holy Land.

I have read some Agnon, though not enough. Thus my first installment, in which I will reveal to you the secret to getting the most entertainment out of your Agnon dollar, providing you can read him in Hebrew.

What's that, you ask? Read him in the Ashkenazic accent of your childhood, or, if you didn't have that sort of childhood, learn the accent (like I did) or find someone whose Ashkenazis you can imitate. The fact is that Agnon is the best prose writer in Yiddish of the twentieth century, so you might as well read him with an appropriate inflection.

Agnon wrote in Hebrew! True. But the English word "Hebrew" generalizes a great number of different sorts of language available in traditional Jewish life both yesterday and (perhaps even more so) today. In the big grab-bag "Hebrew," I mean, are found all of the following: Biblical Hebrew (in all its varying strata and literary registers), Rabbinic Hebrew, both early and late, Medieval Hebrew, modern literary and spoken Hebrew (starting around the 19th century), and, most recently, modern Hebrew as spoken in Israel, called "Ivrit."

When I separate "modern Hebrew" from "Ivrit, " I'm trying to make clear that it was possible to write Hebrew, and even to some extent to speak Hebrew, before the founding of the state of Israel. This Hebrew, though a modern language, sounded quite a bit different than modern Israeli Hebrew sounds to us. In the Eastern-European, Yiddish-speaking context, and to a lesser extent today as well, such allusive, literary Hebrew is called loshn-koydesh, or, more academically, Ashkenazic Hebrew. I would argue (though I don't have the time or the expertise to do so here) that Agnon wrote in this very language. (I don't know how Agnon spoke Hebrew in the pre-war-milieu [1935] in which A Simple Story was written.) If one maintains that Yiddish and Ashkenazic Hebrew form a continuous cultural-linguistic system, then it's not too much of a stretch to say that Agnon wrote in Yiddish. In fact, some linguists hold that modern Israeli Hebrew is a "relexification" of modern Yiddish. I'm still not clear what that word means, but I think it refers to some sort of one-to-one replacement of Yiddish words by Hebrew equivalents. I'm no linguist, so I can't judge whether this is true. However, it is the case that a reader of Yiddish -- who can also read Hebrew -- feels completely at home in Agnon. It is a through-the-looking-glass world in which the Yiddish cultural idiom is rendered somehow more monumental and imposing through its Ashkenazic Hebrew transcription.

Ashkenazic Hebrew is a complicated language, and an entire book on the topic, edited by Lewis Glinert, appeared some years ago. Particuarly fascinating is Dovid Katz's article on penultimate stress, one of the markers of Ashkenazic Hebrew -- when, where, and in what contexts it appears. (For example, the first verse of the Bible starts, in Israeli pronunciation, bereyshit bara elohim. The Ashkenazic Hebrew pronunciation might be berey'shis bo'ro eloy'him, or bereyshis' boro' eloyhim', depending on the context; the latter more formal, in communal Torah reading, the former more colloquial, for example, in the context of Torah study.)

These days, Ashkenazic Hebrew is no healthier than Yiddish, sad to say. If you look carefully, though, you can still see traces. There are people who still write loshn-koydesh poetry (including you host), of higher or lower quality. Many of this falls under the category of payet, or religious poetry. Or even closer to the ken of most modern Jews: listen to the way Israelis (and everyone else) sing "Hatikvah": "...Ne'fesh yehu'di homi'ah. Ulefa'atei miz'rach kadi'mah, ay'in letsi'on tsofi'ah." That's right, it's sung with Ashkenazi stresses, though with an Israeli, "Ashkesfard" pronunciation.

So if you can stumble through a page of Agnon in Hebrew, try reading it in Ashkenazis. You might be glad you did!

(Another example of a great writer in modern Ashkenazic Hebrew: Bialik. Even more interesting is the fact that a number of his later poems were specifically written to be read in "Sefardic" (actually "Ashkesfardic") pronunciation. Yet another category of writers, who I hope to talk about at some later date, are those who write in both Yiddish and modern Israeli Hebrew. Perhaps this category's greatest, though hopefully not its last practitioner, was Yosl Birshtein, who died a month ago.)

Postcript: Kobi Haron, who has relatives from the Second Aliyah (and more knowledge about Agnon than I do) informs me that very few Hebrew-speakers in Israel, even in the early days of the twentieth century, actually spoke Hebrew with an Ashkenazi accent. Any other relevant reminiscences out there?

Enentation comments


In which I answer to a lower authority

The next time I go to the Associated grocery store on 23rd Street and Second Avenue, I can either buy the premium kosher meat that's recently appeared there -- a variety of tempting cuts, quite pricey, but a lot more convenient than the nearest proper butcher -- or I can eat something I've never eaten before: Hebrew National.

I have mixed feelings about this new possibility. For many years, Hebrew National was considered kosher enough to eat by an ever-shrinking slice of the Jewish pie. I don't know how long Hebrew National has been a brand unto itself, though now it seems to be part of some food monolith with the unappetizing name of ConAgra. In any case, though, until recently, it was possible for a product to be kosher without being certified by some large national organization. Indeed, kosher certification by those organizations (e.g. the O-U), is only eighty-some years old, if this on-line history is reliable. Widespread use of these hechsherim as the gold standard is even more recent.

What is the effect of this ever-broadening appeal to organizational hechsherim? As with any organizational convergence, the end result is more conservative (with a small "c") -- the national supervising organizations are more liberal than some other alternatives (like some ultra-Orthodox hechsherim often seen on Israeli products), and more stringent than others.

The problem for Hebrew National is that, for whatever reason, what one might call the "stringency curve" for traditional Jewish religious observance is sharply right-shifted. In English: most observant folks are on the rightward end of the spectrum. It used to be that the imprimatur of Rabbi T. Stern (the name on Hebrew National products until the recent change) was enough for many people who kept kosher. But as this right-shift began to take effect over the past few decades, a premium was placed on mass-market hechsherim. Loyalty to rabbis known personally in one's community ceded pride of place to brand loyalty, rigorous attention to the most stringent halachic detail, and a new industry of kosher supervision. One proof of this can be brought from the reasons I heard given for people refusing to eat Hebrew National when good old Rabbi Stern was its certifying rabbi -- the only evidence adduced was darkly whispered "leniencies," and rarely anything more specific than that.

All this means that for the duration of Rabbi Stern's Hebrew National hechsher there was a gap between national brand-name hechsherim and a smaller-scale, non-hegemonic definition of kashrut. It would have been perfect for the Conservative movement to take advantage of, an opportunity to explain the difference between Jewish law and tradition and standardized Orthodox stringency. National kashrut organizations encourage stringent observance - but that is not the only variety of kashrut. There is a community standard, independent of the kosher industry, which has not yet been completely coopted. Unforunately, while many Conservative Jews probably did eat Hebrew National, they weren't the sort that were likely to keep kashrut in general. Thus, while I approved theoretically of Rabbi Stern's hechsher, I never ate of it myself, since I never found a kosher-keeping community that approved of it.

With not a completely light heart, then, but with a curious palate, I'm going to buy myself some Hebrew National hot dogs next time I'm in the store, with the triangle-K brand of hechsher. For those of you who find these fine distinctions faintly ridiculous, consider them another reason to be vegetarian.

Postscript: The Kosher Blog has links to more information about the late Rabbi T. Stern, the lone certifier. (I got his name wrong, but I've corrected it above.) Also, it seems I missed the number-one reason why the right-shift rendered Stern's certification not kosher enough: it wasn't glatt kosher.

Enentation comments