Sue Fishkoff writes for JTA:
… According to two recent studies, more Reform Jews are putting their mouths where their values are. In a 2000 survey that was never published, 344 congregations — about half the movement’s affiliates — showed a surprising adherence to kosher laws.
Ten percent reported that their synagogues have kosher kitchens, 80 percent ban pork or shellfish and nearly half won’t serve milk and meat on the same plate or platter.
“The majority of our congregations keep some elements of kashrut, and that’s very interesting,” Wasserman says. “It represents a change over time.”
Wasserman wasn’t surprised at the ban on pork or shellfish. That’s “deeply culturally” ingrained in many Jews, she says, who may eat nonkosher food in restaurants and even bring it into their homes, but expect higher dietary standards in Jewish communal settings.
But separating milk and meat, she says, is “going to another level that I didn’t expect to see 46 percent of our congregations going to.”
Another survey conducted last November at the movement’s biennial revealed that individual Reform Jews are becoming more kosher-friendly.
More than 500 conference participants, about one-quarter of the total, answered online questions about their dietary practice. At home, 62 percent say they ban pork, 46 percent ban shellfish and 35 percent don’t mix meat and milk. In restaurants, however, just 51 percent avoid pork, 34 percent won’t order shellfish and 29 percent stay away from dishes that mix milk and meat, such as cheeseburgers.
Some 38 percent said they eat vegetarian in restaurants, compared to 28 percent who do so at home, reflecting a significant number of Reform Jews who presumably are avoiding kosher questions entirely by eschewing meat when eating out.
The survey, which has not yet been published, asked about dietary practice rather than kashrut. It included actions such as eating matzah at Passover — nearly 71 percent said yes — and saying motzi, the blessing over bread — 48 percent do it on Shabbat — that Wasserman explains are expressions of Jewish identity that would be lost in a survey only on kashrut.
“The connection of the table to something holy and sacred, the notion that what we eat is connected to an expression of being Jewish that is appropriate in a Reform Jewish context, is bubbling up within the movement,” she says.…
At the same time, Fishkoff notes that a group of Reform rabbis are planning on developing their own kosher supervision. The OU’s Menachem Genack is, no suprise here, opposed:
Setting up your own standards “is too amorphous,” Genack says. “It’s very subjective — people can agree or disagree philosophically.”
What will those standards be? Rabbi Richard Levy explains:
Rabbi Richard Levy, director of the School of Rabbinic Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, promotes the idea of Reform kosher certification. He says it actually would be more stringent than traditional kosher laws because ethical considerations would be added to existing dietary prohibitions.
“I would like to see it as an extension of halachah,” or Jewish law, he says. “It would expand what dietary practice means in a Jewish setting to include a concern for the people who harvest our food, bring it to market and sell it, a concern with the pain of living creatures, which has led people not to eat veal or foie gras, to look for free-range poultry and beef, or more humane methods of slaughter.”
Levy thinks such a system could emerge in the next decade.
“It’s not a pipe dream,” he insists.
It is not a pipe dream. It is in large part a reaction to Orthodoxy’s handling of the Rubashkin animal abuse scandal. And Orthodoxy is going to get what it most deserves – real competition that will cut the margins of their own kashrut supervisions. Why? Because most people keep kosher for non-Orthodox reasons, and soon they’ll have people to rely on who don’t torture live animals for a living. This cannot happen soon enough, or to a more deserving bunch of rabbinic criminals.