The cost of keeping kosher

The cost of keeping kosher

Although it is understandable that kosher food necessitates additional, costly supervision, and kosher businesses seek to maximize process, the exorbitant price of kosher products has reached an inexcusable extreme.

By | Oct.10, 2011 | 4:47 PM | 14
Supermarket, August 11, 2010

Photo by Getty

Sukkot is almost upon us, and as a people, we are reminded to give thanks for the harvest we receive. Sadly, however, this season may not be as thankful for many Jews.

The internet is replete with posts from exasperated Yidden who simply can’t afford what has become a luxury. Although it is understandable that kosher food necessitates additional, costly supervision, and kosher businesses – like all businesses – seek to maximize process, the exorbitant price of kosher products has reached an inexcusable extreme.

The cost of food is on the rise all over the world, and kosher food is no exception. Many Jews simply cannot afford a kosher celebration of the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Controversies about kosher facilities, coupled with an overall economic downturn, have made keeping Jewish dietary laws a growing challenge, and action must be taken to enable Jews to keep kosher without breaking the bank.

In most U.S. grocery stores, the kosher section is small, providing basic staples and traditional foods needed for Jewish holidays. But these items are often too pricey for many Diaspora Jews, who , like many other Americans, are struggling during these difficult economic times.

The cost of food is rising at an alarming rate worldwide. Wholesale food prices have jumped by approximately 3.9%, and kosher food is even pricier; by Passover 2010, kosher meat cost some 20 percent more than non-kosher meat, according to Slate.

The cost of maintaining a kosher facility is significant, and obtaining the Orthodox Union’s kosher certification is expensive as well, further inflating the price.

Is there justification for soaring kosher food prices? How is it ethical to charge so much for kosher products, that many Jewish families simply cannot afford to keep the dietary laws?

This above-and-beyond competitive pricing is a cheap way to gouge Jews committed to upholding Jewish traditions, while depriving many from doing so. It often seems like the price isn’t worth the product, and oftentimes, the quality is poorer than the less costly non-kosher equivalent.

Why buy kosher if it is both more expensive and inferior?

There may be hope yet for hard-on-their luck Jews who want to keep kosher. Hazon, a leading Jewish food organization, sponsors Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. These programs provide access to healthy, local produce, connecting recipients with their Jewish community. Jewish food banks provide sustenance for hungry families.

Although these programs are a great start, more initiatives are needed to keep the kosher food movement alive. Community food banks that provide kosher products, kosher food stamps, or discount savings programs would make buying kosher food easier and more viable option for people who don’t have the means to purchase kosher foods at retail price.

In addition to making kosher food more affordable, facilities must be made more sustainable, environmentally sound, and labor-friendly to ensure the quality of its products and its practices. Online programs can be used to promote healthy and budget-friendly kosher food.

Sukkot is meant to be a celebration of bountiful harvest and health, and there is no reason for Jews to go without kosher food on this joyous holiday. We must take action to sustain not only ethical business practices and fair pricing, but our cultural heritage as well.

Yael Miller is a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

 

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Kosher foods, atheism dominate immigrant hearings in Quebec

Source: CBC

Last Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 | 4:30 PM ET

Atheism could resolve tensions between cultural and religious groups in Quebec, said a witness who spoke Tuesday at the Bouchard-Taylor Commission hearings on immigrants.

The provincial commission, which is looking into the so-called reasonable accommodation of immigrants, is meeting with Quebecers in the Laurentians region this week to hear people’s thoughts on cultural and religious traditions.

Mirabel resident Jocelyn Parent told the hearings that atheism — a philosophical view based on the non-existence of gods — is the only set of values that can make a pluralistic society function harmoniously.

“Faith, God and dogma are inventions that have no concrete tie to reality,” he said Tuesday morning.

Rather than accommodate religions, it would be easier to get rid of them, including Catholicism, Quebec’s dominant religion, Parent said.

“Monotheistic religions say God is everywhere, but I don’t see him here,” he argued.

A community group that helps foreigners settle in Quebec said a provincial constitution would help immigrants better integrate into the French-speaking province.

The constitution could spell out terms for gender equality and secularism, guidelines that would temper tensions that arise when there is a question about accommodating the different religious and cultural traditions that immigrants bring to Quebec, said Line Chaloux, who works with Le Coffret, a community organization.

More pressing is provincial funding for community groups that pair newly arrived families with Quebecers, Chaloux said. The Liberal government has cut funding for the program at a time when that kind of support is urgently needed. “We need that for integration. It’s very important to us,” she said.

Immigrants in Quebec have a hard time finding meaningful employment even if they are professionals, because the province often doesn’t recognize credentials from foreign universities and the government doesn’t offer training courses to help immigrants upgrade their skills, Chaloux said.

That’s why so many engineers, teachers and doctors who immigrate to Quebec end up driving cabs and washing dishes in restaurants, she concluded.

The best kind of accommodation the province could make for new immigrants is to make it easier for them to work in their fields of expertise when they move to Quebec, she said.

Premier Jean Charest created the commission last winter after a protracted public debate about immigrant integration into Quebec society.

Philosopher Charles Taylor and sociologist Gérard Bouchard are co-chairing the commission.

On Monday, the commission heard from several Quebecers who are upset about kosher foods. Many mass-produced packaged foods available in supermarkets are kosher, which means a rabbi supervised their preparation to ensure the products meet Jewish dietary laws.

Laurentians resident Émile Dion said that makes him angry because he believes the cost of getting a rabbi’s blessing raises food prices by as much as 10 per cent. “Why should I pay 10 per cent more for the Jews?” he asked during his comments, which went on for several minutes. “It forces us to eat kosher, and I don’t want to,” he said in French.

Midway through Monday’s hearings, commission co-chair Bouchard interrupted the comments to remind the audience that only about two per cent of Quebec’s population is made up of Muslim and Jews.

“Do you see a certain disproportion there, between your concerns and the cause?” he asked in French.

Laurentians resident Jonathan Drouin said Quebecers need to look in the mirror to resolve their discomfort. “We aren’t capable of perpetuating our own customs, and then we go complaining and blame other people for taking them away from us,” he said.

His view was echoed by François Rochon, another local resident. “If you are proud of your home, you are happy to welcome others,” he said.