Friends Not Kosher

Published: January 31, 2013
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I'm in the process of converting to Judaism. Among other things, this involves eating kosher. It was difficult initially, but I know that doing this brings me closer to understanding more of my new religion and people. My problem is that most of my friends, including my Jewish friends, seem to have an issue with my eating habits. They claim that eating kosher is outdated and imply that I think myself better than them because I do it, which isn't the case, and actively discourage my efforts. I get confused because I don't do things like scold my friends for eating cheeseburgers or pork, and I don't insist upon special treatment. Some have even wondered loudly why I'm even converting in the first place. Conversion is not anywhere near an easy process and I'd like the support of my friends, but it's hard to keep my head up sometimes, especially during meals together. How do I approach this? Do I need other, more supportive friends?

Dear Friends Not Kosher,

TeenHealthFX is by no means an expert on the Jewish religion but we would like to give our readers a general understanding of what “eating kosher” involves.

 

Keeping kosher means complying with kashrut, the body of Jewish law set forth in the Torah that stipulates what foods Jews may and may not eat and how foods must be prepared and eaten. The levels of kashrut (keeping kosher) observed vary greatly, with Orthodox Jews maintaining the strictest standards. Orthodox Jews tend to eat only foods with reliable Orthodox kosher certification. In addition, they will only eat in kosher restaurants or accept invitations from people who maintain kosher kitchens. In general, Conservative and Reform Jews may be more lenient in their observance of kashrut. Some will buy products without kosher certification as long as they do not find non-kosher ingredients on the ingredient list. Some will eat food cooked in a non-kosher restaurant or home, as long as the meal does not contain non-kosher meat. Some only keep kosher on the high holy days or not at all. Here are some of the basic principles that are followed:

  • Eat no flesh, organs, eggs or milk that come from forbidden animals, and avoid certain parts of permitted animals.
  • Eat permitted animals only if they have been slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law.
  • Make sure all blood has been drained from meat or broiled out of it before you eat it.
  • Do not eat meat ("fleishig," the flesh of birds and mammals) with "milchig" (dairy). You may eat foods considered "pareve," or neutral, with either meat or dairy. Pareve foods include fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains, though some Jews do not eat fish with meat.
  • Keep utensils used with meat separate from those used with dairy, and do not use utensils with kosher food if they have come into contact with nonkosher food. (This rule applies only if the contact occurred while the food was hot.)
  • Do not eat or drink grape products made by non-Jews.

Keeping kosher is not a style of cooking. Any kind of food - including Chinese, Indian or nouvelle cuisine - can be kosher if prepared and served in accordance with Jewish law.

TeenHealthFX does not have a good understanding as to why your friends would be giving you a hard time because of your religious choices. Perhaps since you are converting that they are not accepting of the change or somehow doubt your sincerity. Since their comments seem to be having a negative impact on you to the point that you doubt yourself, it would be a good idea to discuss this with your Rabbi. He/she could help you look at this from the role it plays in your faith as well as how to handle the naysayer's

Your friends may not like your choices but they need to respect it. If you want to keep kosher as a way of deepening your faith way then you should not let others stop you. Your friends also need to realize that they are not only insulting you but everyone who follows kashrut.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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