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Posts Tagged ‘kitniyot’

OU Reverses Position and Says Quinoa Can Be Kosher for Passover

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

The Orthodox Union (OU) has re-studied its ban on “superfood” quinoa fit to eat on Passover and now says it is perfectly all right to consume it on the holiday without fear of violating the Ashkenazi custom that prohibits eating “kitniyot,” which are grains such as rice, corn and peas.

The Kosher Today publication reported this week , ”Following extensive research and on-site investigation of cross-contamination issues by OU Kosher personnel at all quinoa growing areas…as well as the collection, washing and milling stations of quinoa, OU Kosher is recommending quinoa for Passover, when processed with special OU Passover supervision and bearing the OU-P symbol.”

What changed in a year?

The Jewish Press reported here last March, “It seems that in South America, where it is grown, a wind might blow a grain of barley into cultivated rows of quinoa. Barely, like wheat, is prohibited by the Torah for use on Passover. That is enough for the OU to rule that quinoa is not kosher for Passover.”

The Baltimore-based Star-K kosher supervisors ruled differently. “Rav Moshe Feinstein said we weren’t to add on to the rules of kitniyot, so I don’t know why anyone would,” said Rabbi Tzvi Rosen of Star-K, referring to the esteemed posek of Jewish religious law who died in 1986. “And what’s more telling of this ridiculous debate is that quinoa is a seed, not a legume.”

Last year, Rabbi Genack said, “We can’t certify quinoa because it looks like a grain and people might get confused. It’s a disputed food, so we can’t hold an opinion, and we don’t certify it. Those who rely on the OU for a kashrut just won’t have quinoa on Passover.”

Well, quinoa hasn’t changed; it still looks like a grain, but the OU apparently is basing its new policy, which just happens to bring it line with the far from lenient Star K, on OU supervisors walking in the fields in South America to make sure winds do not pick up a nasty kernel of wheat a couple of miles away and plop it down in the middle of quinoa field.

“It is only recently that quinoa has become popular outside of its high-altitude growing area in the Andean mountain region of South America,” Rabbi Genack said. “Known for its nutritional qualities, it has been referred to as a ‘superfood.’”

The United Nations proclaimed 2013 as “The International Year of Quinoa.”

Quinoa for Passover: Kashrut Debate or Power Struggle?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

The two most widely-known kosher certification agencies are battling it out over whether the grain quinoa, a life-save for those on a gluten-free diet, is kosher for Passover.

The Baltimore-based Star K kosher agency has said that Quinoa is not “kitniyot,” one of the grains that Ashkenazi rabbis forbid on Passover, while the venerable Orthodox Union’s OU kosher division says it is.

The prohibition on eating kitniyot, such as peas, corn, and green beans, has been challenged by an increasing number of Jews in recent years. The prohibition is based on the lifestyle of 500 years ago when open sacks of legumes stood next to wheat in stores. If a tiny bit of wheat were to fall in the sack of legumes, it could ferment and cause the entire sack to be considered chametz and forbidden by the Torah to be eaten on Passover.

Lifestyles have changed, but the minhag, or custom, remains, and the rabbis explain that one should almost never cancel a ruling of Torah sages just because conditions have changed.

However, some have expanded the ban to include foods that were not in the original ruling, sparking an argument among rabbis.

Decades ago, many rabbis ruled that peanuts were kitniyot, until it was pointed out to them that they simply did not correctly understand the meaning of a legume.

Similarly, soybeans were not around 500 years ago, and many, if not most, Ashkenazi Jews do not even use soybean oil, even though the late Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook allowed its use.

A recent book In Hebrew, “Without Fear of Kitniyot” and authorized by Hevron-Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior, discusses the rulings on prohibiting on Passover the use of certain kitniyot derivatives such as soybean oil. The author writes that those who think “it is good to be strict” do not necessarily receive a blessing for their severity.

Now comes quinoa, “the mother of all grains,” which by all definitions is not a legume and certainly not a grain,

So what could be the problem?

Well, it seems that in South America, where it is grown, a wind might blow a grain of barley into cultivated rows of quinoa. Barely, like wheat, is prohibited by the Torah for use on Passover,

That is enough for the OU to rule that quinoa is not kosher for Passover, while Star K totally debunks the reasoning.

“Rav Moshe Feinstein said we weren’t to add on to the rules of kitniyot, so I don’t know why anyone would,” said Rabbi Tzvi Rosen of Star-K, referring to the esteemed posek of Jewish religious law who died in 1986. “And what’s more telling of this ridiculous debate is that quinoa is a seed, not a legume,” he told JTA.

Quinoa is known for its high nutrient quality and as an alternative for those following a gluten-free diet. But quinoa is not a grain at all. It’s a member of the goosefoot family, and closely related to spinach and beets, making a very good substitute on Passover for the Torah-prohibited grains of wheat, oats, rye, spelt and barley.

That could change, however, with the world’s major kosher certifier refusing to give quinoa its Passover seal of approval.

Perhaps adopting the line of “when in doubt, be strict,” Rabbi Genack said, “We can’t certify quinoa because it looks like a grain and people might get confused. It’s a disputed food, so we can’t hold an opinion, and we don’t certify it. Those who rely on the OU for a kashrut just won’t have quinoa on Passover.”

Rabbi Rosen said the Star-K certifies only the quinoa that has no other grains growing nearby. This year, for the first time, the company sent supervisors to South America to supervise the harvesting, sifting and packaging of the product.

“Whenever there’s a new age food, there’s always a fight between kosher factions,” Rabbi Rosen said. “But we should be worrying about other things, like all the cookies, pizzas and noodles that are Passover certified but appear to be chametz. Quinoa is the least of our problems.”

The argument, which could be over “who calls the shots” rather than a pure understanding of kosher status of foods that are not prohibited on Passover by the Torah.

Gentile Prisoners Suddenly Become Jewish for Kosher Food

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

The York, Pennsylvania prison has recorded a sudden upsurge in “Jewish” prisoners, along with a much higher food budget following their demands for kosher food.

The law requires serving kosher food to Jews who request it, but that does not cover the non-Jews. Kosher food has to be prepared outside the prison and costs up to four times the price of a non-kosher meal. Multiply the difference by the 140 “kosher” prisoners and the result is an additional $100,000 a month.

Acting York County Solicitor Donald Reihart said during a recent prison board meeting that the prisoners think kosher food is better, which may or may not be the case.

Rabbi Jeffrey Astrachan of York’s Temple Beth Israel, York’s largest Jewish congregation, told York media, “It’s more expensive to prepare a kosher meal because of the processes that are involved with the slaughtering and the preparation of the food, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is any better.

“You could give someone two pieces of bread and a piece of cheese and that could be a kosher meal. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get some brisket or matzo ball soup. They could get a kosher meal that still tastes horrible.”

His congregation has approximately 600 people, one percent of whom keep kosher, he added. There is no orthodox Jewish synagogue in the city, so that leaves the question of how many “outsiders” in the prison are Jewish, which has a population of approximately 2,400. Nearly 1 percent claim they are Jewish, which means there are a whole lot of Jews from elsewhere, or more likely, there are a lot of fakes.

Prison officials are trying to figure out to solve the problem. Some of the Jewish wanabees give themselves away quickly, switching back and forth every so often from kosher to non-kosher meals. Apparently, they just can’t give up the bacon and eggs.

A “circumcision check” would not solve the problem because there are plenty of non-Jews who are circumcised. On the other hand, prison officials could tell those who are not circumcised and who claim they are Jewish that they must get a quick operation on you know where. That would probably work.

That the leaves the question of those who are circumcised but are not Jewish. Their birth certificates could be checked, but then there is the question of those who claim they converted.

Linda Seligson, the cultural director at York’s Jewish Community Center, has an even better idea to get rid of the phony Jews. Simply wait for Passover and see how many of the inmates can get along eating matzah for eight days and sticking to a diet of potatoes and more potatoes because of the Ashkenazi restriction on eating “kitniyot,” such as corn and other grains.

So much for the “food of freedom” for prisoners.

But what about the Sephardim, who do not hold by that custom?

York Daily Record columnist Mike Argento has a better solution. He reminds readers that being a Jew is not all matzo balls and gravy.

If the inmates stay Jewish long enough, they will encounter anti-Semitism, and then the prison budget will go back to where it was.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/goy-prisoners-suddenly-become-jewish-for-kosher-food/2013/02/26/

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