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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Finding Food for Needy Settlers for Passover

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

The Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council is preparing Passover food packages for families in their region who are finding it difficult to make ends meet. According to Anat Tzafrir, head of the Charity and Volunteer Unit at the Council, “We encounter difficult situations such as families, some victims of terror attacks, who are at the verge of starvation.”

At least 100 basic food packages are prepared monthly, according to Tzafrir. The need grows exponentially with the unique demands of the Passover holiday.

Some 34 Jewish communities are included in the Shomron Regional Council catchment area, most nestled among the soaring hills that separate Jerusalem from the Mediterranean coast and the Galilee. Those who live in such communities – which are part of Israel’s defense line in holding the territory won in the 1967 Six Day War — tend to be self-sufficient and strong-minded individuals able to survive on bare essentials. But even with those points in their favor, certain basics are necessary for a reasonable life, especially one with a family.

Security and defense of the perimeter is provided by each community’s own civil defense team, as well as by the IDF. But making sure there is enough food on the table has become for some a cause for tears and frustration in a region tension is already a fact of life.

Food packages are not the real answer to the problem – but it is certainly one way of relieving at least some of the pressure so everyone can have a joyous holiday of freedom.

Meir Panim: Lighting Up Life for Israel’s Neediest Residents

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Charity in Or Akiva, a town in Northern Israel near Caeseria, goes beyond traditional packaged food deliveries, soup kitchens and after-school clubs for the needy. Ilanit Hafuta, director of Meir Panim’s Or Akiva branch, has a tremendous heart and endless commitment to help her neighbors. Hafuta runs a vast amount of the community’s charity operations.

Across Israel, the not-for-profit organization Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs. Since 2000, the organization annually has served at least 300,000 free meals out of a network of restaurant-style soup kitchens, which also prepare meals-on-wheels for delivery to an additional 125,000 people. Meir Panim also targets children in impoverished areas, offering hot lunches, after-school clubs and summer day camps. All programs give dignity, respect and relief to many of the country’s neediest residents.

These projects run strong in Or Akiva, with hundreds of people participating in the meal programs and the beloved after-school programs daily. But Hafuta has not stopped there.

For Jewish holidays, she ensures that there is always something special. “Purim is a favorite for the children in our after-school programs,” she says, explaining that she hands out free costumes every year so that the children whose parents cannot afford costumes can be included in the fun. “At the Meir Panim branch, we host a festive Purim seudah (feast) for families to celebrate the day,” Hafuta says. “We host a special Purim party, too, for the children.” Last year, the party joined with a school in London, where Skype hosted a simultaneous celebration for the kids.

“The most remarkable thing is taking our children from our after-school clubs, who are usually on the receiving end, to hospitals and army bases on Purim,” Hafuta explains. “There, they give out mishloach manot to those who also are in need. This experience teaches that they can also give and not just receive. The children feel an incredible amount of pride and joy in this, and they learn the important value of giving.” Beyond the holidays, every family goes through certain momentous lifecycle events. For Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, Meir Panim extends a hand to needy Or Akiva residents. “Our two-story Meir Panim building is transformed into a simcha and event hall,” Hafuta says. In the months prior to the Bar Mitzvah, a teacher will volunteer to train the boy in learning the Torah portion and the blessings for the Torah and Tefillin. On the Bar Mitzvah date, the boy is called up to the Torah at Meir Panim. The occasion is marked with a celebratory meal with family and friends. For weddings, preparations are made with the help of the community of volunteers and the new couple is married in the event hall, complete with full celebrations.

Sometimes, there are less joyous occasions and Meir Panim volunteers step in to help. “In the past several years, we have helped renovate some 30 homes of needy Or Akiva residents,” Hafuta says, explaining that many of the elderly, the ill and single-parent families in her town live in disastrous conditions. Depending on the need and case, Hafuta organizes renovations, whether structural, electrical or more expansive, and ensures that the homes can be functional for a healthy life. Hafuta and her volunteers recently renovated a decrepit apartment for a Holocaust survivor. “He had the biggest smile across his face after his apartment was fixed,” she recalls. A widower and father of four told Hafuta that she saved his life when Meir Panim remodeled an old two-bedroom apartment into a space for a family, with three rooms and a new bathroom and kitchen.

Meir Panim brings a smile onto people’s faces – that is precisely our goal,” says Hafuta, who has built an operation that nourishes impoverished Israelis with food, shelter, fun and a big dose of Jewish tradition. “When someone finds the good in his or her heart to volunteer, they can make a tremendous difference in the lives of those in need. We have seen miracles.”

New Jerusalem Kashrut Certification Gaining Popularity and Saving Money

Monday, January 20th, 2014

In August, the Jerusalem Rabbinate introduced a new Kashrut certification which is now beginning to become popular among Jerusalem restaurants.

The certification, called “Mehuderet”, is designed for Jerusalem restaurants who are interested in providing Badatz and Mehadrin level certified foods and Kashrut to their clients, but aren’t interested in the politics and prices that the private Badatz certifications bring along with them.

Typically, the private certifications have high monthly fees and lock the restaurants into specific suppliers, especially in the case of meat, even if the other Badatz and Mehadrin products are considered just as kosher.

The “Mehuderet” certification requires that all the products used in the restaurant be at the Badatz and Mehadrin level, but don’t require an additional private Badatz certificate or purchase of products from only specific Badatz certifications.

In addition, unlike the standard Jerusalem Mehadrin certificate, meat that is certified as Mehadrin by the Rabbinate from other cities and not just Jerusalem may be used, which can sometimes result in major cost savings.

One Jerusalem restaurant who made the switch told JewishPress.com, “I pay for the Jerusalem ‘Mehuderet’ certification less per year than I was paying the Badatz each month, and that fee was above the cost of the Mashgiach! After I switched to the Jerusalem Rabbinate’s ‘Mehuderet’ certification I kept my same exact Mashgiach, but I now have flexibility in choosing my Mehadrin and Badatz suppliers and products. My clients care about Mehadrin and they are definitely OK with this new certification.”

In recent years, due to the high certification costs, some Jerusalem restaurants began to forgo the Badatz/Mehadrin certifications completely, trading them in for the minimal Jerusalem Kashrut, while still only using Mehadrin and Badatz products. But that cost saving measure also resulted in a loss of customers.

This new certificate may reverse that tide, by assuring customers that the food they’re eating is Mehadrin and prepared according to the Mehadrin levels they want, while significantly lowering prices.

If this new Jerusalem certificate continues to grow in popularity, we may see other other local Rabbinates in Israel begin to copy the model, creating a revolution in Israel’s tightly controlled Badatz/Mehadrin Kashrut certification industry.

New Winners: A&H Kosher Hot Dog Contest

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Abeles and Heymann has announced a new winner in the Abeles and Heymann and JewishPress.com “Like us and Win Free Kosher Hot Dogs” contest.

The latest winner is Sol Matsil of Five Towns, NY. Congratulations Sol!

In addition, Rachel Antosofsky, who was listening in to Naomi Stein Nachman’s “Table For Two” during the Abeles and Heymann interview, has also won a box of assorted Abeles and Heymann Franks. Congratulations Rachel!

Remember, it’s not to late to enter the contest and win free kosher hot dogs. In fact, the more people who enter, the faster we get to the next drawing.

To enter, click on http://www.abeles-heymann.com/winfreehotdogs

Kosher Food Firms Rush to Introduce New Products

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Several kosher food manufacturers and distributors introduced new products in time for the Jewish holidays as part of an overall push to gain an edge over competitors. For some, the timing of the introduction was designed to coincide with what several termed “a period of time when you have the customer’s attention.”

In the major kosher markets, orthodox Jewish newspapers and magazines featured expanded editions full of ads by kosher food manufacturers and retailers. They included Klein’s Ice Cream, Shneider’s, Golden Taste (horseradish without vinegar during the sweet New Year and subsequent holy days), Norman’s (three new Greek Yogurt flavors), Lieber’s (new box drinks for children), Abe’s Pareve Ice Cream, Golden Flow (new fruit juice blends) and some of the regulars like Kedem.

American Culture: How to Reconcile the Brutal and the Effete?

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

I’m deeply confused about American culture. Let me cite two incidents as examples and then talk about some attitudes I hear about from my son’s reports on visits with friends. Perhaps readers can explain this contradiction between the effete and the brutal.

Arriving in the United States, I go to the nearby Trader Joe’s food store. It is of course very PC. At the checkout counter, the clerk asks, “Have you returned anything?” I did a double-take. Is this a bid for higher taxes? A taunt to the 1 percent who shop there?

No, he explains that they have some kind of program about bringing back bags. “The people in Bethesda,” he smugly asserts, “are the smartest!”

By coincidence, I had just heard some article saying that using returned bags is potentially dangerous since there can be some food remnants that rot and may breed bacteria. (I certainly don’t know what is true scientifically.) Unable to resist, and out of curiosity, I said, “Maybe they are not the smartest,” and explained my concern.

Instantly, he changed his attitude, snarled and said, “They’re the smartest!” No contradiction would be tolerated. Anyway, he started it. But given all the waste involved in a supermarket business–let’s start with the packaging–the small but highly right-thinking-people gesture of reused bags strikes me as a laughable symbol. Not to mention the fact that Trader Joe’s isn’t giving out food to the poor or opening stores to take big losses in what Michelle Obama calls, “food deserts.”

Is this salvation on the cheap, like those in wealthy California coastal cities that take away the farmers’ water to save some obscure fish and then congratulate themselves on their enlightenment?

About the same time, I sit in a sandwich place and a song comes on the radio. My jaw drops. A female singer repeats the lyric, “I said drive, bitch,” apparently it’s a car-jacking? She just keeps going over and over again in a very aggressive tone. At the end, the sound effect indicates that the female driver has been shot and fell down dead.

I sat there speechless. I simply couldn’t believe what I was hearing. If there is a “war on women” isn’t it actually waged most vigorously in certain sectors of popular music? The same could be said of the music of the much honored Jay-Z or many others.

Now perhaps this is a silly taking of two extreme phenomena, and I’ll accept that verdict if that’s what you think. But it symbolizes perhaps a bigger thing. On one hand, American culture today (should I say popular culture?) is one of watch your language, goody-goody, we are just so virtuous. There is rap music and the message given to children in Politically Correct lessons.

On the other hand, though, on film, television, literature, music, and public discourse it is intolerant and at times proudly brutal. Is that a valid observation? And if so how is this tension reconciled?

During a visit to the United States, conversations among young teenage boys, who in school were subjected to intense indoctrination, run like this:

–They make fun of alleged gays among them, flinging the charge as insulting but then quickly adding, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

–They show very vile disrespect toward girls of their age. It doesn’t seem that there is any change over the decades, but there certainly isn’t a reduction of “sexist” attitudes. They discuss them far more openly. The concept of gentleman or even restrained behavior is gone, perhaps in conjunction with the musical examples. Attitudes that would once have been derided as “low-class” by the elite have now become common place. So how is there then an elite setting a good example?

–They use far more racial epithets and negative stereotypes of others than my generation, though it is covered by frequent accusations that this or that is racist. Dubbing of something as racism is used as a weapon, a description of something one doesn’t like.

–They see themselves as part of some downtrodden class even though they are financially well-off. For example, they talk about rich white people but when pointed out that they live in big houses, they say the houses are bigger in some other neighborhoods.

What’s Wrong With the Star-K Kosher Phone?

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

About a month ago the Star-K, a world renowned Kashrus agency, announced that they were certifying kosher phones. These phones have no access to the Internet, cannot place or receive text messages, cannot take photos, and most importantly, cannot be hacked to perform any of these tasks.

It’s not troubling to me that people would want a phone that is insulated from certain tasks. Although I think it is an unnecessary measure and perhaps counter productive, I don’t begrudge people their personal self control restraints.

What is troubling is that a kashrus agency is part of this initiative. A kashrus agency should be concerned with one thing and one thing only. Their singular concern should be the kosher status of the food. I don’t even think that a kashrus agency must concern itself with humanitarian or other ethical issues that may arise. I have no problem with a secondary agency coming in and providing a secondary level of supervision. But the kosher status of the food cannot be affected by anything other its status as kosher food.

So when I see a kashrus agency entering into the phone market, I see an agency that should be worried about kosher status of food but is now legislating morality. It’s not even as if the technical skills involved in kosher supervision overlap the neutering of cell phones. They have nothing to do with each other. I don’t think it is smart for kosher supervision to be intertwined or even related to morality supervision.

Similarly, when kosher supervision agencies make demands on the clientele or ambience of an eating establishment I believe they are overstepping their bounds. There are restaurants that are not allowed to be open at certain hours because they will lose their hechsher if they are open. This is far beyond the scope of kosher supervision. Tell me if the food is kosher and I will decide if I want to patronize the restaurant. That is all we need from a kashrus agency. The stretching of their authority serves no important purpose for the public. It seems to me that it is merely a self-serving, self-righteous way to legislate their morality. If they can legislate phones and who can eat where, what’s next?

I am not making a slippery slope argument. I am pointing out that there is no logical connection between the kosher status of food and the kosher status of a phone. There is also no relationship between the kosher status of a restaurant and whether teenagers are hanging out. In other words, the kashrus agencies are already legislating their morality. There is no reason to think it only will apply in these two instances because there is no connection between these two things and the kosher status of food.

We need to stop using the word kosher for things other than food. Yes, the word is a general term but it has evolved into a word that describes whether food can be eaten by orthodox Jews who keep kosher. We don’t eat anything that is not kosher. Using the word kosher for phones and Internet implies that the non-kosher versions are not allowed to be used. This is sophomoric and divisive.

If anything, the kashrus agencies should be concerned with the ethics and morality of the actual food. This is something they have resisted time and time again. I am not recommending they get into the ethics of food business, but if they must expand their business and purview of supervision I think that is the first place they should be looking to legislate seeing as they have the knowledge and expertise to monitor and report on that aspect of food production. But teens mingling and phones? They don’t belong there at all.

Visit Fink or Swim.

Is the Lab-Created Burger Kosher?

Friday, August 9th, 2013

By Yehuda Shurpin

Question:

Scientists have recently demonstrated that they can now take stem cells from a cow and build them into hamburgers that look, feel and (almost) taste like the real thing. What does Jewish law have to say? Is this considered real meat? Is it kosher?

Response:

This is a fascinating question that needs to be studied carefully by expert rabbis when the issue becomes more practical and Petri-dish burgers become an affordable option. But here are some preliminary thoughts on the subject to give you some perspective.

Meat from Heaven

What makes this question so intriguing is that this is an example of how those seemingly fantastic Aggadic tales in the Talmud are nowadays becoming a starting point for new halachik questions.

There is actually a discussion in the Talmud about whether meat that does not come from an animal is considered kosher, although the origin of the meat in this case was even more miraculous:

A story of Rabbi Shimeon ben Chalafta, who was walking on the road, when lions met him and roared at him. Thereupon he quoted from Psalms: “The young lions roar for prey and to beg their food from G‑d,”1 and two lumps of flesh descended [from heaven]. They ate one and left the other. This he brought to the study hall and propounded: Is this fit [for food] or not? The scholar answered: “Nothing unfit descends from heaven.” Rabbi Zera asked Rabbi Abbahu: “What if something in the shape of a donkey were to descend?” He replied: “You ‘howling yorod,2’ did they not answer him that no unfit thing descends from heaven?”3

Miraculous meat appears again in the Talmud, although this time it was man-made:

Rabbi Chanina and Rabbi Oshaia would spend every Sabbath eve studying the “Book of Creation”4 by means of which they created a calf and ate it.5

In discussing this story, later commentators debate whether such an animal would require shechitah (kosher slaughter) in order to be eaten.

Rabbi Yeshayah Halevi Horowitz, known as the Shelah, writes that it is not considered a real animal and does not need shechitah.6

Others write that while a technical interpretation of Biblical law may not require such an animal to be slaughtered, the rabbinical prohibition of “marit ayin” (not engaging in acts that look misleadingly similar to forbidden activity) would necessitate slaughter–lest an onlooker think that ordinary meat is being consumed without shechitah.7

Test-Tube Beef

So far we have discussed “miracle meat” that came from heaven or was created by spiritual means. Some commentators defined this meat as miraculous because it did not come from a naturally-born animal. But do we consider any meat that does not come from a naturally-born animal to be “miracle meat”? Or does it need to come through an actual miracle? How about test-tube meat, which does come from actual animal cells? In this case the dictum that “no unfit thing descends from heaven” obviously would not apply. Here are some of the issues that will need to be explored:

The Cells The scientist extracted the cells of a real animal and used them to grow the tissues in a Petri dish. If, and that is not a small if, the mere cells are considered substantial enough to be called meat, this may present a problem. In addition to the prohibition of eating a limb from a living animal,8 there is an additional injunction not to eat any meat that was severed from a live animal.9

This is an issue for non-Jews as well as Jews, since Noahide law dictates that non-Jews may not eat even a minute amount of meat that was separated from a living animal.10

For Jews, if the cells are considered real meat, then presumably they would need to be extracted from a kosher animal that was slaughtered according to Jewish law.

Another consideration is that there is a halachik concept, “the product of non-kosher is itself not kosher, and the product of that which is kosher is itself kosher.”11 While at first glance this would seem to imply that the cells need to come from a kosher source, it is not clear whether the above rule would apply to microscopic cells that were extracted from an animal.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/is-the-lab-created-burger-kosher/2013/08/09/

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