09 June 2006

Sitting on a Picket Fence...

and boy does my tuchus hurt!

Because of the things that I might be talking about in this blog (even without giving names and identifying details) could put me into serious trouble, I am trying my best to withhold actually identifying my name and location on this blog.

I have found it necessary, though, to tell my readers where I fall on the "frum spectrum" as a result of a "conversation" on another blog about how to decide if you trust someone's kitchen as kosher. It is true that there needs to be a unifying standard of what is kosher. This is difficult in a country that supports over 200 hekhsherim! Each of us knows of at least 20-25 that "everyone" can rely upon, and 50 that have been branded "not recommended". The reasons aren't always given, at least once I did find out that it was "political" (the local va'ad was upset that someone "dared" to go out on their own to certify a place so the va'ad declared said place "not recommended").

Back to that fence...we live in what could best be described as a "charedi" area of the community. (However, they will say that the truly "yeshivish" people live out by, where else, the yeshiva.) Within a ten minute walk from my house is both the cheder school (which requires parents to sign a no TV/no Internet [except for parnasah use] pledge) and the "not so charedi" school (which does not make families sign a similar agreement but it is clear that the factions do not mix on many occasions). I can imagine that the fence for these families can also be a rough one to sit upon... but not my problem.

In the more affluent area resides the MOs and some of cool yiddishe maidel's classmates. They live in the 3000 square feet houses and some are movers and shakers in the community at large, such as developers, doctors, attorneys, etc. The "other" Orthodox affiliated school is a religious Zionist one. Truthfully, while one of the main goals of the school appears to encourage any and everyone to make aliyah, the school's bread and butter comes from some of these families who "know" that aliyah will never be an option.

Okay, so what is the problem I am having with this school? In addition to the machers of the community, there is a faction that seem to emphasize the "MODERN" more than the "Orthodox" (my mother pointed out to me one day). These are the people who wanted the Orthdox school option because of its "higher standard" but were put off by the other Orthodox schools for whatever reason. No, I do not peek into their cupboards (or even their bedrooms), but I was a little leary when my daughter attended a birthday party of a classmate (whose mother worked in the school) and I discovered that the cake came from a local grocery store's bakery (which does NOT have a hashgachah). The rabbi's wife who was at this party was discreet enough to ask, "Where did you get such a beautiful cake?" [Side note, I could tell that it did not come from one of our kosher bakeries, since it did look so "good".] Cool yiddishe maidel is not that into dessert (especially after 3 slices of pizza that I could verify came from the kosher pizza store), so it was not a problem. Back to the question of whether or not to accept some of these families' kashrut (it seems extremely hypocritical of me, but you have to "read" me out).

The school does have a kashrut policy that they expect the families to uphold, even to the extent of what is brought in the school lunches. NO ONE is permitted to use their own kitchen for preparing anything that is to be served at the school. [The nursery director had assured me that "70% of the families do keep kosher".] I found out from the daughter of friends of ours (whose in the middle school) that out of 20-some kids in her grade, only 4 do not eat out "vegetarian" (herself included). Some of the kids treat her like she is "too frum", etc.

For the record, neither cool yiddish papa nor myself eat "vegetarian" in non-kosher restaurants. However, he has had to have a salad in some places for a business lunch when the restaurant was not okay with him eating his own food. We do not live in a city that has a kosher option downtown. Most of the time, though, he will eat his lunch before "lunch" and then settle for coffee or soda at the "lunch". The few occasions that he did have a salad, he went short of doing a complete inspection, and deemed the whole process "too much trouble" for future occasions.

In this community, we are not being judged on any "real" evidence except for cyp's lack of a "full-time" kipa, my elbow exposure, and cool yiddishe maidel's interest in shorts. [I stick to all the "respected" hekhsherim.] Oh, I did admit to a seminary girl I was driving from Hebrew school that we don't "keep" chalav yisrael. Now, mind you, I was not denying her the right, nor was I teasing her with Godiva chocolates. In her naive way, she told me that I don't really "keep kosher" if I don't buy chalav yisrael. Oh, did I mention that I live somewhere that does not have a local source for chalav yisrael (we used to). For those who take it on here, it is a financial hardship. The milk costs almost twice as much and goes sour quickly.

So, if you are still reading, kol ha kavod! So here's the fence part. I am worried that we will be "too frum" in the upcoming years at my daughter's school, but not frum enough to fit in at the other schools. We are sending our children to this school because it is the only Orthodox one in town that teaches Hebrew as a language (better to prepare them for seminary in Israel) and offers text study for girls. I am an "intellectual" BT and hope that my girls will develop the same love of rabbinic texts and study of halakhah that I have. The way that I am rationalizing it right now is that these families are at a different place on the derekh and will reach each step at their own pace. So, for the purpose of klal yisrael, we are accepting meal invitations by these families, and just accepting that they have a different level of understanding than I do.

For example, in my kitchen, we have separate counters for meat, dairy, and pareve; along with placemats/tablecloths. I have been in houses where the same tablecloth is used for meat and dairy. Since this is not something that I do, should I say that I don't accept their kashrut? Maybe what we should do is go to the sources and figure out what is halakhah and what is only a minhag. [About the counters, the contractor who worked on our kitchen is Sephardi, and called our separate counters "a vus-vus thing". He said, "You Ashkenazim and your silly chumras!"]


  1. We have the same problem in our community. We send our son to the charedi school, but do not keep cholov yisroel or pas yisroel. I know perfectly well that many people will not eat in my house, and there are houses that I can't eat it.

    But how can we tell? I know I keep a kosher home. I have friends who keep strictly kosher where the mom does not cover her hair, wears pants and maybe the father doesn't wear a kippa full time. But they are very frum and I know I can trust them. There are others in this community who wear sheitels whose houses I would hesitate to eat at.

    It is very tricky...

  2. I consider sitting on a fence a sign your brain is still thinking. :) Signed, proud fence sitter.

  3. the 11th commandment: if your daughter wears shorts and your husband doesn't wear a kippah, your meat is treif. *rolls eyes*.

    If you're looking at the school on the other side of town as school A, and the modern school here as school B and the no tv no internet school here as school C, we'll probably most closely consider school B.... but we don't expect to follow the exact same chumrahs as everyone else in that school community--- it's a diverse world, and hopefully there is room for everyone. Will we fit in? Who knows. But ignorance has to be combatted (the girl who said that not keeping chalav yisroel means you're eating treif--whaaa?) I'd like to think that we left wingy rebels who have *gasp* television in our homes will be welcomed with open arms. We'll see. :)

  4. ps--- feel free to give me Godiva chocolate ANYTIME. :) Unless I'm fleish. But keep in mind that I'm frummer than you--- I hold SEVEN hours. Because I said so. *grin*

  5. Love your contractors line. It about sums up a continual discussion in our "mixed" marriage (me - sephardi, hubby - ashkenazi).

    I shake my head in wonder at many of these things as they are as foriegn to me as to you.

    I'll join on the fence and hopefully all of us on the fence can help restore sanity to various situations that are headed for the deep end.

  6. Cool Yiddishe Mama-Just be happy that you have enough counterspace for separate counters. We don't!

  7. Fence sitters unite...though I'm way UNKOSHER by any of your standards. :)

    I keep a "kosher" home. It's all vegetarian, everything I buy has a hechsher, but I'm not particular about whose hechsher and I don't keep Chalav. I am cautious about hot items not going on the counter tops and such.

    And so, I invite you all over for dinner :) LOL

    My real point of commenting is that it's just so sad how many fractions and divisions we Jews have, especially in Orthodox. Granted I'm not ortho but I am close to many who are Hasidic and Orthodox and have come to appreciate, respect and participate in many things and between that and the blogosphere, I just seem to keep seeing separation after separation.

    It's sad.

  8. Anonymous28/6/06 17:06

    Unfortunately, many people today seem to be caught up in "kosherer than thou". As if there weren't enough mitzvot around, they feel the need to continually add to the list of things one cannot eat and the complexity of things one must do in order to keep "truly" kosher.

    Does anyone really believe that there are companies out there trying to add milk from unkosher animals into their cow milk in the middle of the night when no-one is looking? Yet, there are those who would claim that if you don't keep chalav yisrael you aren't kosher enough.


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