7 Haiku for Parsha Ki Tisa (God’s got “back”) by Rick Lupert


I
An artist hired
for a major project. Here
is my half shekel.

II
Three thousand idol
worshippers executed.
Lesson of gold calf.

III
Moses is selfish.
He tries to sign God to an
exclusive contract.

IV
God’s got back…and that
is all any human will
be able to see.

V
The One with thirteen
merciful attributes has
got our stiff necked backs.

VI
You should not cook a
kid in its mother’s milk. Don’t
worry. They mean goats.

VII
Moses comes down the
mountain with the new tablets.
Hide the molten gods.


Los Angeles poet Rick Lupert created a the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 20 collections of poetry, including “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Donut Famine” (Rothco Press, December 2016) and edited the anthologies “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

The Case Against a Kosher Casket By David Zinner


[Ed. Note: Again this week, I am presenting a previously published blog entry. We are working on improving the presentation of the blog articles for readability, style, and appearance. I would appreciate hearing from you about this blog, particularly if you are having any difficulties, problems, or issues accessing or reading it. If you have any comments – or a blog submission, please contact me at j.blair@jewish-funerals.org. — JB] 

Kosher Casket

A Kosher Casket?

A Kosher Casket?

Kosher means fit or proper for ritual use, but unlike the biblical delineation of which foods are kosher, there are no biblical rules to give guidance regarding manufacture of kosher caskets. The Talmud contains dozens of occurrences of Hebrew words that are translated to English as “casket”, “coffin”, “bier”, “chest” and more. But nowhere in Jewish writings is there a discussion of what makes a casket kosher.

Tachrichim (shroud or burial garment) manufacturers have suggested that there are “kosher” tachrichim dependent on the observance level of the workers and certifying that the product was not made on Shabbat. The rationale for this seems slim for tachrichim, and even slimmer for caskets. Basing Kashrut on worker’s level of observance is a novel approach not practiced in kosher food manufacturing. More interesting and fruitful pursuits to define a kosher casket might include looking at working conditions, wages and health benefits of the employees, as well as the environmental impact of the manufacturing ingredients and process.

Simple & Inexpensive

The Talmud directs that all aspects of funeral and burial should be kept simple and inexpensive, and by extension fit and proper. BT (Babylonian Talmud) Moed Katan 27a- 27b contains an extended discussion of funeral practices and a story about Rabban Gamliel. This discussion can open a window to the meaning of ‘Kosher’ in relation to a casket.

Formerly, they were wont to bring out the rich [for burial] on a dargesh [a tall state bed, ornamented and covered with rich coverlets] and the poor on a plain bier, and the poor felt shamed: they instituted therefore that all should be brought out on a plain bier, out of deference for the poor.

 Without knowing the difference between a dargesh and a bier in Rabban Gamliel’s time, the implication is clear – the dargesh is fancy and affordable to the rich; the bier is simple and used by those who are poor. The dargesh made it easy to carry the body and to show off wealth. The bier (Hebrew – mitah) is a simple stand or platform that holds and/or carries the body.

Jewish Law (Halachah)

The Shulchan Aruch allows for burial with or without a casket, but gives no indication of how to determine if a casket is Kosher. Rabbi Mosha Epstein in his Taharah Manual of Practices quotes Rav Moshe Feinstein. Rav Feinstein could find no source for an all wood casket. He cites Rambam, yet Rambam in his Book of Judges – Laws of Mourning – 4:4 says: “It is permissible to bury the dead in a wooden casket.”

In the 1960’s, the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America negotiated funeral standards with the Jewish Funeral Directors of America. The Orthodox Rabbis were successful in incorporating taharah, tachrichim, Shmirah, and ground burial into the standards. They failed in their attempt to include simple plain caskets.

Plain Pine Box

It was only 60 years ago that an expensive all wood casket became acceptable in the Jewish community. Our Moed Katan example goes back over 1,700 years. We should pick up Rabban Gamliel’s cause and champion a simple casket (or none at all) as a return to less expensive funerals and burials.

David Zinner is the Executive Director of Kavod V’Nichum (honor and comfort), and of the Gamliel Institute, and serves as instructor for the non-denominational Gamliel Institute, a nonprofit center for Chevrah Kadisha organizing, education, and training. In his role as executive director Zinner co-teaches courses on Chevrah Kadisha history, organizing, taharah and shmira (sitting with the deceased until burial),  and building capacities in Jewish communities that enable all participants to meaningfully navigate these final life cycle events.

David Zinner

David Zinner, Executive Director of Kavod veNichum

____________

          GAMLIEL INSTITUTE COURSES

LOOKING FORWARD: UPCOMING COURSE

Gamliel Institute will be offering course 4, Nechama [Comfort], online, evenings, in the Spring semester starting March 28, 2017.

CLASSES

The course will meet on Tuesdays (and three Thursdays in those weeks with Jewish holidays during this course). The date of classes will be from March 28 to June 13 2017. Please note: due to holidays, classes will meet on Thursdays on April 13th, April 20th, and June 1st. There will be an orientation session on Monday, March 27th, 2017.

REGISTRATION

You can register for any Gamliel Institute courses online at jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of all of the courses is found there.

For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or look at information on the Gamliel Institute at the Kavod v’Nichum website or on the Gamliel.Institute website. Please contact us for information or assistance. info@jewish-funerals.org or j.blair@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or 925-272-8563.

______________

TASTE OF GAMLIEL

In 2017, Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute are again sponsoring a six part “Taste of Gamliel” webinar. This year’s topic is From Here to Eternity: Jewish Views on Sickness and Dying.

Each 90 minute session is presented by a different scholar. Taste of Gamliel gives participants a “Taste” of the Gamliel Institute’s web-based series of courses.

Taste of Gamliel Webinars for this year are scheduled on January 22, February 19, March 19, April 23, May 21, and June 25. The instructors this year are: Dr. Dan Fendel, Rabbi Dayle Friedman, Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, Rabbi Richard Address, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, and Dr. Laurie Zoloth.

Learn from the comfort of your own home or office.

The Taste sessions are done in a webinar format, where the teacher and students can see each other’s live video feeds. The sessions are moderated, participants raise their virtual hands to ask questions, and the moderator calls on and unmutes participants when appropriate. We’ve been teaching using this model for seven years (more than 250 session). We use Zoom, a particularly friendly and easy to use platform.

This series of Webinar sessions is free, with a suggested minimum donation of $36 for all six sessions. Online sessions begin at 5 PM PST; 8 PM EST.

Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions, and will also receive information on how to access the recordings of all six sessions.

The link to register is: http://jewish-funerals.givezooks.com/events/taste-of-gamliel-2017.

On registration, you will receive an automated acknowledgement. Information and technology assistance is available after you register. Those who are registered are sent an email ahead of each webinar with log on instructions and information for the upcoming session.

You can view a recording of the sessions, uploaded after each session, so even if you need to miss one (or more), you can still hear the presentation.

More info – Call us at 410-733-3700   

Attend as many of these presentations as are of interest to you. Each session is about 90 minutes in duration. As always, we plan to hold time for questions and discussions at the end of each program. 

Again, the entire series is free, but we ask that you make a donation to help us defray the costs of providing this series. The suggested $36 amount works out to $6 for each session – truly a bargain for the valuable information and extraordinary teachers that present it.

Click the link to register and for more information. We’ll send you the directions to join the webinar no less than 12 hours before the session.

Suggestions for future topics are welcome. 

The Gamliel Institute is the leadership training arm of Kavod v’Nichum. The Gamliel Institute offers five on-line core courses, each 12 weeks in length, that deal with the various aspects of Jewish ritual and actions around sickness, death, funerals, burial and mourning. Participants come from all over the United States, Canada, Central and South America, with Israelis and British students joining us on occasion.

 ________________________

KAVOD v’NICHUM CONFERENCE

Looking ahead, hold June 18-20, 2017 for the 15th annual Kavod v’Nchum Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference. Register, and make your hotel reservations and travel plans now!

15th Annual North American Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference

At Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, California June 18-20, 2017

Registration is now open. Group discounts are available.
The conference program will include plenaries and workshops focused on Taharah, Shmirah, Chevrah Kadisha organizing, community education, gender issues, cemeteries, text study and more.

The conference is on Sunday from noon until 10pm, on Monday from 7am to 10pm, and on Tuesday from 7am to 1pm. In addition to Sunday brunch, we provide six Kosher meals as part of your full conference registration. There are many direct flights to San Francisco and Oakland, with numerous options for ground transportation to the conference site.

We have negotiated a great hotel rate with Embassy Suites by Hilton. Please don’t wait to make your reservations. We also have home hospitality options. Contact us for information or to request home hospitality. 410-733-3700, info@jewish-funerals.org
____________________

DONATIONS:

Donations are always needed and most welcome. Donations support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organizations, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

___________

MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent an email link to the Expired And Inspired blog each week by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

To find a list of other blogs and resources we think you, our reader, may find of interest, click on “About” on the right side of the page.There is a link at the end of that section to read more about us.

Past blog entries can be searched online at the L.A. Jewish Journal. Point your browser to http://www.jewishjournal.com/expiredandinspired/, and scroll down. Along the left of the page you will see a list of ‘Recent Posts” with a “More Posts” link. You can also see the list by month of Expired and Inspired Archives below that, going back to 2014 when the blog started.

____________________

SUBMISSIONS ALWAYS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, Shomrim, funeral providers, funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

_____________________

Some Coffee Bean stores opt out of kosher standing


After years of assuring customers that everything sold is kosher, a handful of Southern California Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf shops can no longer make the promise.

Kosher LA, which oversees the kosher certification of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf stores in the region, announced last month that several privately franchised stores have opted out of being kosher. Previously, all Coffee Beans in Los Angeles, including the corporate-owned and franchised locations, were kosher.

The locations no longer certified include those at Paramount Studios, USC Cinema, USC Roland Building, the Santa Barbara Airport and two at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) — the Tom Bradley International terminal and Terminal 1. In May, the store at LAX Terminal 5 will not be kosher.

JJ Smith, vice president of franchise operations for Coffee Bean, said in a telephone interview those locations became non-kosher after their supplies of kosher-certified snacks and sandwiches ran out and were replaced by non-kosher items.

“When they wanted to change their grab-and-go items, we discussed it with our rabbi, and he said they needed to take down their certification,” Smith said. “These locations are not kosher as of right now, but we’re working to get them back up to status.”

In a statement, the company said, “All of our Company-owned stores and the vast majority of our franchise stores in Southern California are certified Kosher. The relatively few franchise locations not fully Kosher are so at the discretion of the franchisee due to their specific business requirements.”

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, owned by two Jewish brothers who are kosher observant, is the oldest and biggest privately owned specialty tea and coffee retailer in the United States.  The company was founded in 1963, with the first store opening five years later in Brentwood. Today, there are more than 1,000 Coffee Beans worldwide, including a large presence in Asia and one store on Jaffa Street in the heart of Jerusalem.

The company-owned stores are in California, Arizona, Singapore and Malaysia, and the rest are franchise locations.

All of the corporate-owned stores will remain kosher, according to Smith, who acknowledged the need to satisfy kosher customers.

“Working with the Jewish community is such an important part of our heritage and our future,” he said. “And being kosher is extremely important to us and our guests.”

For now, some Coffee Bean regulars say they are upset about not being able to rely on the kosher certification. “When you keep kosher, your options are so limited,” said Nina Safar, a kosher chef who owns Kosher in the Kitch. “It was a great relief knowing that on the West Coast, there was always a Coffee Bean nearby, and at the airport, especially.”

Most Coffee Bean locations not only sell kosher certified drinks, they also offer a mix of pareve and dairy kosher salads, sandwiches, fruit cups, yogurt, muffins, cookies, bagels, challah bread, gummy bears, chocolate and nuts.

The store at Beverly and Alta Vista boulevards near Hancock Park also provides cholov yisroel drinks as well for customers keeping the stricter kosher status for dairy.

Rebecca Klempner, a writer living in Pico-Robertson, said the changing kosher status of the coffee chain poses an inconvenience.

“Jews in California will have to plan more carefully while spending the day out or traveling around the state. It’s not a tragedy, by any means, but it is a hassle.”

Despite the recent changes, the company insists it will remain true to halachic standards.

“Kosher products are our heritage,” Smith said. “It’s our brand image. It’s who we’ve been and who we are as Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.” n

Hamantashen: As easy as one, two, three corners


What makes the Purim holiday so special? Is it the heroic tale of Queen Esther? The children dressing up in costume to re-create the story? The sweet pastries her story inspired?

For all of these reasons, my family loves Purim! It is a time when our grandchildren and great-grandchildren dress up, attend a Purim carnival and feast at our Purim dinner — a reminder of how our children celebrated when they were young.

This year, we will enjoy the holiday with family and friends at one long table in the dining room. A sampling of our Purim groggers (noisemakers) will be arranged down the center. (We can’t include them all because our collection now numbers almost 100.)

The most popular treats for Purim are hamantashen, three-cornered pastries. They are served throughout the world, filled with poppy seeds, prune jams and more. 

I still remember making my first hamantashen using a recipe I received from my mother. Instead of using the traditional yeast pastry, sold in bakeries, she made them with cookie dough filled with poppy seeds and homemade strawberry jam.

Over the years, I have developed many recipes for making these holiday delights. One year, I added chocolate and poppy seeds to the cookie dough and filled it with a mixture of melted chocolate and chopped nuts, resulting in a decadent treat for chocolate lovers.

Another family favorite is a Poppy Seed Yeast Ring; it’s like a delicious coffee cake that doubles as a hamantashen yeast dough. The dough is covered with a towel and refrigerated overnight, then rolled, filled and served hot for breakfast. Or you can make the dough in the afternoon, refrigerate it for several hours, bake and serve for dessert after dinner.

This year I am including a recipe for a hamantashen pastry filled with vegetables, too. It can be served as an appetizer or a main course for the vegetarians among us.

Remember, the dough and fillings usually can be prepared in advance, and stored in the refrigerator or freezer, then baked when convenient.

Now, go get ready to make some noise — in the kitchen and at the table with your Purim grogger!

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE HAMANTASHEN

– Chocolate Filling (recipe follows)
– 3 cups flour
– 1/2 cup finely ground almonds
– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 cup unsalted margarine
– 3 tablespoons hot water
– 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 egg
– 1 egg white

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare Chocolate Filling; cover and set aside. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, almonds, baking powder, salt and sugar. Blend in margarine until mixture resembles very fine crumbs.

Blend water and cocoa in small bowl and beat in egg. Add to flour mixture and beat until mixture begins to form dough. Do not over-mix.

Transfer to flour board and knead into a ball. Chill 30 minutes for easier handling. Divide into 6 or 7 portions. Flatten each with palms of hands and roll out 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 3-inch rounds with scalloped cookie cutter. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Brush edges with a little water. Fold edges of dough toward center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of filling visible in center. Pinch the edges to seal.

Place on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased foil or a Silpat mat and brush with egg white. Bake in preheated oven until firm, about 20 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool.

Makes about 5 dozen hamantashen.

CHOCOLATE FILLING

– 1/2 cup cocoa powder
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/3 cup coffee, milk or half-and-half
– 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
– In a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, sugar, coffee and walnuts and blend thoroughly.
– Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

In a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, sugar, coffee and walnuts and blend thoroughly.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

POPPY SEED YEAST RING

The dough from this recipe also can be used to make Yeast Hamantashen; see below. From “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” by Judy Zeidler.

– Poppy Seed Filling (recipe follows)
– 2 packages active dry yeast
– 1 cup warm milk (110 to 115 F)
– 1/2 pound unsalted margarine
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 3 eggs yolks
– 2 1/2 cups flour
– Pinch of nutmeg
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons olive oil

Prepare the Poppy Seed Filling; set aside.

In a measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the milk. In a large mixing bowl, cream the margarine with 2 tablespoons sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat well.

Combine the flour, nutmeg and salt. Add the yeast mixture to the mixing bowl alternately with the flour. With the back of a wooden spoon, smooth the top of the dough and brush with oil. Cover with a towel and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Divide the dough into 2 portions. Roll out each portion on floured wax paper into a 16-by-20-inch rectangle. Spread half the Poppy Seed Filling over each dough half, leaving a 1-inch margin around the edges. Starting from a long edge, roll up each one, jelly-roll fashion. Bring the ends together to form a ring.

Place each ring in a 10-inch pie pan, sealing the ends together. Brush the top with the remaining milk and sprinkle with poppy seeds. (If you like, you can hold the rings in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 hour.) Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.

Makes two Poppy Seed Yeast Rings.

POPPY SEED FILLING

– 3 egg whites
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 1/2 cups canned poppy seed filling

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold in the 1/2 cup sugar and poppy seed filling.

Makes 4 cups.

To make Yeast Hamantashen:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Roll out the dough and cut it into 3-inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Place a teaspoon of poppy seed filling in the center of each circle of dough. Fold the edges of the dough toward the center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of the filling visible in the center. Pinch the edges to seal.

Place the hamantashen on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased foil or a Silpat mat and bake for 10 minutes; pinch edges again to reseal and bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Transfer to racks and cool.

Makes 3 dozen hamantashen.

VEGETABLE HAMANTASHEN

– Carrot or Eggplant Filling (recipe follows)
– 1/2 cup unsalted margarine
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 3 eggs
– Grated zest of 1 orange
– 2 cups flour
– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Prepare Carrot or Eggplant Filling; cover and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat margarine and sugar until well blended. Beat in 2 of the eggs and zest, blending thoroughly. Add flour, baking powder and salt, blending until dough is smooth.

Transfer dough to a floured board and divide into 3 or 4 portions for easier handling. Flatten each portion with palm of hand and roll out 1/4-inch thick. Using scallop or plain cookie cutter, cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in center of each round. Brush edges of round with a little water. Fold edges of dough toward the center to form a triangle, leaving a bit of filling exposed. Pinch edges to seal.

Place hamantashen 1/2 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased foil or a Silpat mat. Brush with beaten egg. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in preheated oven, until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.

Makes about 5 dozen hamantashen.

CARROT FILLING

– 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
– 1 1/2 cups water
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1/3 cup ground almonds
– 1/4 cup golden raisins

Combine carrots and water in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally until all the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Add sugar, almonds and raisins. Simmer on low heat until thick and liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Makes about 2 cups.

EGGPLANT FILLING

– 1 (1 pound) eggplant, peeled and diced
– Water
– 2 cups sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 2 tablespoons lemon juice
– Grated zest of 1 lemon

Place eggplant in a large saucepan and cover with water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Combine sugar, 2 cups water, cinnamon and nutmeg in large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add eggplant. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand 1 hour.

Remove eggplant with slotted spoon. Cover syrup until thick, about 20 minutes. Add eggplant, lemon juice and zest. Boil until syrup forms into a firm ball when dropped into cold water from spoon, 220 F on candy thermometer. Spoon into a bowl and cool.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.


JUDY ZEIDLER is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

California may soon legalize pot, but what does Jewish law say?


Among the more puzzling of the Jewish mitzvot is the commandment to get so drunk on Purim that you can’t distinguish the hero from the villain in the holiday story. 

This year, recounted Rabbi Yisroel Engel, director of Chabad of Colorado, one ultra-Orthodox Denver man decided to ditch the booze and substitute marijuana brownies to achieve the required inebriation. 

“I found that very bizarre,” Engel said in a phone interview. 

The experiment was the exception to the rule in Denver’s Orthodox community, Engel said: Most understand that whatever state laws might say, recreational use of marijuana stands contrary to the values of Orthodox Judaism.

“It’s great to get high,” Engel said. “But you know what? You can get high on spirituality, on the soul, on prayer. Get high on God.”

The conventional Orthodox line on marijuana is at best ambivalent. 

Nobody is suggesting that taking a puff of cannabis is like eating pork,” said Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, an Orthodox lecturer, writer and pulpit rabbi in Manhattan.

Rosen compared the Jewish view on cannabis to that of wine, which halachah allows — even encourages — but only in moderation.

“Drunkenness is totally disapproved of,” he said, dismissing Purim as a debatable exception. In general, “nobody is in favor of being drunk. But in small quantities of wine, it’s a mitzvah.”

On Nov. 8, Californians will have a chance to vote to legalize marijuana, and in fact, it seems likely they will: A statewide UC Berkeley poll of California voters published last month showed more than 60 percent of California voters favor legalization.

But just because Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, would legalize the drug in California doesn’t mean it would become allowable under Jewish law.

Though most Orthodox authorities consider smoking weed a frivolous pursuit to be discouraged, an end to pot prohibition creates an opportunity to reconsider some of the halachic and religious considerations around lighting up.

To be sure, Jewish texts bristle with verses that poseks — interpreters of Talmudic law — use to prohibit the smoking of marijuana.

Deuteronomy 4:15: “For your own sake, therefore, be most careful.”

Leviticus 19:2: “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”

Numbers 15:39: “Do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge.”

For Diaspora Jews, though, the clearest prohibition is perhaps dina d’malchuta, literally, sovereign law — Aramaic shorthand for the concept that an observant Jew should obey civil authorities as well as rabbinical ones.

Legalizing weed would lighten the dina d’malchuta concerns around using cannabis. But Jewishly speaking, the absence of a prohibition doesn’t constitute permission.

“The idea, ‘Well if something is not illegal it must be OK,’ is very much not a Jewish idea,” said Rabbi Mark Washofsky, professor of Jewish law and practice at the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.

“Lots of things are not prohibited,” he went on. “At the same time, you might not want to spend a whole lot of time using them. … Just because you’re allowed to drink wine doesn’t mean you should be a drunkard.” 

And although wine proves a useful analogy, pot is not explicitly addressed in the Torah. Where the word of law is unclear, as it is with cannabis, the normal Jewish prescription is dialogue.

“Merely because the state of California decides to legalize marijuana does not mean anything for Jews until we talk about it,” Washofsky said.

As it stands, much of the Orthodox mainstream rejects marijuana entirely. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986), the Lithuanian-born posek whose pre-eminence in American Jewry is such that the Orthodox often refer to him by only his first name, Rav Moshe, declared smoking marijuana to be “obviously forbidden.”

“It destroys his mind, and prevents him from understanding things properly,” he wrote in “Igros Moshe,” a nine-volume halachic commentary. “This is a terrible thing, since not only can the individual not properly study Torah, he also can not pray and properly perform mitzvot [commandments], since doing them mindlessly is considered as if they were not done at all.”

To bolster his opinion, the rabbi cites the punishment for gluttony offered in Deuteronomy: death by stoning.

A Torah of cannabis

Sure enough, there are those, such as Yoseph Needleman, who dismiss Feinstein’s prohibition as “suck-up-to-the-man disinformation.”

That’s the message in his 2009 book (written under a pseudonym), “Cannabis Chassidis: The Ancient and Emerging Torah of Drugs (A Memoir),” about the canned answers he received from mainstream rabbis when he was looking for guidance as a high schooler as to how the Jewish religion treats pot.

“Not that I thought I would find one, but I wanted a tradition that was helpful about how to enjoy drugs better — specifically, reefer,” he said. “Because that was a wholly natural thing, according to all the rumors on the street.”

That search led him to Jerusalem, where he spoke with the Journal in March at a café in the Nachlaot neighborhood.

Law and stigma

Then as now, divisions in Jewish opinion were stark. In a 1772 letter, the Vilna Gaon, a legendary Torah scholar, excommunicated the followers of the Baal Shem Tov, taking issue with their dancing, exuberant methods of prayer and their smoking.

In today’s terms, the letter might have read, “What exactly is it that they’re smoking over there?”

There are many who now take a similar disapproving view of Needleman’s cannabis theology.

“If that’s what you’re talking about as spiritual experience, then Timothy Leary must have been the most spiritual person ever,” said Rosen, the Orthodox lecturer, referring to the psychedelic pioneer who popularized LSD.

“I don’t call that spiritual,” he added. “I call that something else: altered mind state.”

But then, there are plenty who are inclined to agree with Needleman on the spiritual potential of marijuana use.

The manager of marijuana law and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, Amanda Reiman, is among the top backers of Proposition 64 in the state.

Reiman grew up in the Reform tradition, though today she no longer observes most rituals. Once a year, however, she gets together with a group of friends on Yom Kippur to light up and share insights on how they hope to change and grow in the new Jewish year.

“I would say it’s absolutely been a helpful tool in terms of spirituality,” she said in an interview.

But aside from her own practice, Reiman believes that legalizing pot is a Jewish imperative because marijuana prohibition disproportionately affects marginalized populations, she said.

“As Jews, we’ve had so much in our history of being marginalized and unfairly persecuted,” she said. “I think we have a responsibility to recognize that this has been happening to our communities of color for decades in the United States, and we need to play an active role in righting those wrongs.”

In that belief, she might find some support from halachah. 

“If you see an injustice, you have to fix it,” said Washofsky, the Reform rabbi. “That’s what Jewish law tells us. But how we understand the definition of injustice is not always determined by the text. Sometimes we have to look at the world and make the decision on our own.”

Coexisting with cannabis

For years, Ean Seeb, a marijuana entrepreneur in Denver, wanted to sponsor the local Jewish Community Center’s annual poker tournament, and for years the organizers turned him down because they were uncomfortable carrying the logos for his marijuana businesses.

This year, they reached out to him to say they were going to be allowing cannabis-related sponsors and branding.

For Seeb, a regional board member for the Anti-Defamation League who’s active with JEWISHcolorado (formerly the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado), the reversal is a signal that “the negative stigma of cannabis users is slowly fading away.”

If California voters choose to legalize marijuana, run-ins between the recreational marijuana industry and Jewish communities here would be likely, if not inevitable. 

They wouldn’t be without precedent: At one time, the South Robertson district, which encompasses several heavily Jewish neighborhoods, was home to more than 20 medical cannabis dispensaries, said Doug Fitzsimmons, president of the South Robertson Neighborhoods Council.

For the most part, dispensaries and the neighborhood’s religious institutions coexisted without problems, Fitzsimmons said. Over time, though, it became clear that a lack of strict regulation created nuisances to the community. Because dispensaries are cash businesses, robberies were frequent, and customers would sometimes loiter and smoke weed in front of the shops, Fitzsimmons said.

After a crackdown on dispensaries citywide by the city of Los Angeles, the number of shops dwindled. But if recreational pot becomes legal after the November vote, demand for the plant could bring such businesses flocking back to Robertson Boulevard.

Talking to kids about pot

Each year, Bruce Powell, founding head of school at de Toledo High School in West Hills (formerly New Community Jewish High School), gives a talk to the school’s entire student body. He tells the teens to ask themselves five questions before doing anything:

Is it legal? Is it moral? Does it comport with Jewish values? Is it going to hurt another human being? Can you proudly tell your grandmother about it?

Powell’s prescription addresses risky behavior more broadly. But with regard to marijuana, a change in the law would modify the students’ answer to the first of those questions: Although the product would still be forbidden for those younger than 21, it would exist in the same legal classification as alcohol.

But Proposition 64 wouldn’t touch any of the other questions. Notably, Powell said, it would not impact the Jewish values on which the high school bases its drug and alcohol education. 

“This is definitely going to be another challenging parenting moment,” he said of the likely change in legal status. However, “it’s no different than parents talking to their children about drinking, about driving, about sex.”

In all those conversations, Jewish teachings figure prominently for Powell.

“Everything is created b’tselem Elohim [in the image of God],” he said in an interview. “So how do we want to treat that image? Do we want to diminish that image?  Do we want to increase that image? And then we ask the question: What do drugs do to that image? Do they help the image? Do they increase the image?”

Meanwhile, at Chabad of Colorado, Engel has a different strategy for dissuading people from toking. 

Instead, he suggested, “Try POT — stands for ‘put on tefillin.’ ”

UC Berkeley opens public system’s first kosher dining station


A dining station at the University of California, Berkeley will be certified kosher, the first in the public university system.

The dining station by Cal Dining is also designed to appeal to Muslims who eat halal, the local Berkeleyside news website reported.

“A lot of people don’t know what ‘kosher’ means or what the criteria is that dictates it,” Josh Woznica, president of the Jewish Student Union, told the news website. The dining station “could be a place where people could learn more about different values and cultures. It has the potential to be an intersection of ideas – a station that’s open to everyone.”

The meat served at the station will be kosher certified. Muslims who observe halal generally can eat meat slaughtered according to Jewish dietary laws, since theirs is a fellow Abrahamic religion. All the kosher food at the station also will meet halal standards, according to the report.

“The implementation of the new food station also relieves a lot of food security concerns for students who eat kosher or halal,” Sarah Bellal, external vice president for the Muslim Student Association, told Berkeleyside. “Moving to Berkeley and starting college already requires adjustment in terms of academics and social life. No longer being able to eat the food you used to eat at home is yet another way students may need to adjust.”

She said she is pleased that Jewish and Muslim students will have the opportunity to eat together on campus.

“Our communities coming together to share meals at Berkeley is symbolic of a centuries-long shared tradition between Jews and Muslims — a tradition that includes many other religious commonalities,” Bellal said.

Is kosher all or nothing?


Because of the many objections, most of them from Orthodox Jews, to my last column (“If You Don’t Eat Bacon, You Keep Kosher,” Aug. 5), and because the column was widely disseminated, I feel I owe readers a response to some of those objections.

Before I begin, I should point out that many Orthodox Jews agreed with what I wrote. But, as is well known, people who disagree are far more likely to express their opinions publicly than people who agree.

My primary argument, in a nutshell, was that even if a Jew only desists from eating the prohibited animals of the Torah, this Jew should be regarded as “keeping kosher” — just as one who gives less charity than Jewish law commands is usually regarded as a charitable Jew.

The most often made objection to this argument was that my charity comparison is invalid since halachah (Jewish law) does not require that a Jew give, as I had (apparently erroneously) written, a tenth of his income to charity. In fact, many noted, halachah doesn’t really require that a Jew give almost anything. As one responder wrote, “The law merely requires 1/3 shekel to tzedakah a year. Thus someone who donated $10 to tzedakah has fulfilled his legal obligation.”

This, I embarrassedly admit, was news to me. That on a moral issue as important as helping the poor and the sick, Judaism demands essentially nothing came as a surprise. On the other hand, it demonstrates that halachah is not the only way to achieve what God wants, given how charitable Jews have traditionally been.

But whether or not Judaism specifies the amount a Jew should give to tzedakah, my argument was this: We call a Jew “charitable” if he gives just about any tzedakah, but we do not say a Jew “keeps kosher” unless he keeps kosher in every detail.

This led one responder to write:

“I found the idea of the all or nothing in ritual but not in ethics really interesting!”

That is the issue I most wanted to raise: It is not good for Judaism that we view ritual law as all or nothing. That is why I wrote the column — not to have Jews “feel good about themselves,” as some wrote, or, even more amazingly, in order “to lead Jews to sin.”

I wrote it because “all or nothing” is intellectually and Jewishly counterproductive — it almost always leads to people doing nothing rather than doing all.

Think about it. In what areas of life would we really want to advocate all or nothing? 

If you were a passenger in a car going 10 miles per hour above the speed limit, would you say to the driver: “You know you are deliberately violating the traffic law; you are a lawbreaker, no different from someone driving 40 miles an hour above the speed limit”? 

Probably not.

Would you say to the driver: “You are entirely wrong to consider yourself a person who observes traffic laws”?

Again, probably not. 

And why not?

Because most of us recognize that in life “all or nothing” is usually absurd.

Over the course of 40 years, I have brought innumerable Jews to keeping kosher (including Orthodox levels of kashrut). And one of my most persuasive arguments has been that the moment a Jew declines to eat any food because he is a Jew, he is keeping kosher.

I never wrote that a Jew who only refrains from eating Torah-prohibited animals keeps “fully” kosher. I don’t use the word “fully” with regard to kashrut, or Shabbat, or any other Jewish law, including ethical laws. The term is worse than useless; it is damaging.

As one Orthodox rabbi, Ephraim Epstein, the senior rabbi at Congregation Sons of Israel in New Jersey, commented on the Jewish Journal website: “We would do much better if we threw away our FRUMometers and did away with the urges to assess levels of other people’s religiosity. …”

Let me end with a story that illustrates how powerful not using “all or nothing” is to bringing Jews to observance of kashrut (and other Jewish laws).

One day, many years ago, I was eating in Factor’s deli in the Pico-Robertson section of Los Angeles, when out of nowhere a woman approached me and said: “You have no idea how important it is for me to see you eating here. I heard you make the case for keeping kosher, and you persuaded me. But I still didn’t think I could do it because I knew I wouldn’t restrict myself to eating only in kosher restaurants. Now that I see that you can eat in a regular restaurant and still keep kosher, I will start keeping kosher.”

Did I cause that woman to sin? Or to keep kosher?

Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

If you don’t eat bacon, you keep kosher


If you are a Jew who doesn’t eat bacon or shellfish because Judaism prohibits eating pork products and shellfish — but you do eat chicken and beef that have not been slaughtered according to halachah (Jewish law) — do you keep kosher?

Nearly every Jew who keeps kosher — and probably most who don’t — will answer that you do not.

[MORE FROM PRAGER: Is kosher all or nothing?]

Among Jews who keep kosher, in order to be considered a Jew who “keeps kosher,” one must eat only kosher food. That means refraining from eating not only the animals prohibited by the Torah — pork, shellfish, birds of prey and nearly all insects — but also any land animal not slaughtered halachically, not eating in a non-kosher restaurant and avoiding any foods not certified kosher.

I would like to make the argument that this attitude is both logically and Jewishly flawed — that a Jew who only refrains from pork and shellfish should in fact be considered a Jew who “keeps kosher.” 

To understand why, let’s take the example of tzedakah (charity). The Torah commands us to give 10 percent of our income to tzedakah. Now, if a Jew gives 5 percent, do we say that he gives tzedakah? Of course we do. In fact, we might even characterize such a Jew as baal tzedakah, a charitable man. 

But if we applied the same criterion to tzedakah that we do to keeping kosher, we would never call such a person — one who only gives half of what Judaism demands — a baal tzedakah. In fact, we wouldn’t even say that he gives tzedakah. If a Jew who only keeps half of what Judaism demands regarding kashrut doesn’t “keep kosher,” why would we say that a Jew who only observes half of what Judaism demands regarding tzedakah “gives tzedakah”?

This attitude tells us a lot of what has gone wrong in Judaism.

It tells us, for example, that we are far stricter in assessing Jews’ observance in ritual laws (the laws between man and God) than in ethical laws (laws between man and man). Partial observance of ethical laws doesn’t disqualify a Jew from being regarded as observant of those laws or as ethical, but any deviation from what is considered complete observance of ritual laws means the Jew simply doesn’t observe those laws.

It has gotten to the point where even a Jew who refrains from eating any non-kosher foods, even those that do not have an Orthodox Union certification, but who will eat off dishes that may have touched nonkosher food prior to being washed, or eats fruit in a nonkosher restaurant, will not be considered by many Orthodox Jews as keeping kosher.

The same holds true for Shabbat observance.

The prevailing definition of a shomer Shabbat — one who keeps Shabbat — is one who keeps all the laws of Shabbat. If a Jew refrains (even at the sacrifice of income) from working on Shabbat, he is not a shomer Shabbos if he so much as turns on lights in his house on Shabbat, let alone if he drives to shul or to a Shabbat meal. 

In other words, when it comes to ritual, it’s all or nothing when we describe a Jew. But in the realm of ethics, we never apply all or nothing.

There is a very negative consequence to this attitude: We expend far more religious energy in disqualifying Jews from considering themselves religious than in trying to have more Jews consider themselves religious. As a result, the Jew who refrains from eating only Torah-prohibited animals is deemed to be — and deems himself to be — a Jew who doesn’t keep kosher, which is one of the defining rituals of a Jewish life

Why is that good for Judaism? Why would Jewish life want to exclude as many Jews as possible from being considered or considering themselves religious instead of wanting as many Jews as possible to be considered or to consider themselves religious?

It makes no sense logically or Jewishly to say that a Jew who doesn’t eat Torah-prohibited animals doesn’t keep kosher, or that a Jew who doesn’t work on Shabbat but drives to Shabbat-related events on Shabbat is a mechalel Shabbat (Shabbat desecrator). Does any religious Jew label a Jew who only gives 5 percent of his income to charity a mechalel tzedakah (tzedakah desecrator)? And if not, why not?

The bottom line is that a Jew who doesn’t eat any non-kosher foods for Jewish reasons keeps kosher. He simply doesn’t keep kosher to the same extent as more observant Jews do. 

So, if you don’t eat bacon or shellfish because you are a Jew, you can, and should, proudly say that you keep kosher. 

Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

Israelis start to reject rabbinic establishment


This article originally appeared on The Media Line.

When Yuval and Lin Djamchid decided to open a café in their Eden Hotel, a small 24-room hotel in Jerusalem, they knew they wanted it to be kosher, but not to have the traditional supervision from the Jerusalem rabbinate. So they chose Private Supervision, a new movement led by Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, an Orthodox rabbi who is also a city councilor from the Yerushalmim movement, which is trying to revitalize Jerusalem.

“It was a matter of principle,” Yuval Djamchid told The Media Line. “We don’t like the rabbinate and what it represents. We have enough problems without worrying about the rabbinate. Besides, everything here is kosher, and we are observant ourselves.”

For food to be kosher, it must contain only kosher products and be prepared according to kosher rules. Milk and meat cannot be served in the same restaurant, and meat must be slaughtered by a trained kosher slaughterer. Pork and shellfish are forbidden.

Some restaurant owners claim the Rabbinate erred on the side of strictness. They were forced to purchase special vegetables grown hydroponically as they have fewer bugs, which are not kosher. There were also complaints of corruption – of kosher supervisors spending just a few minutes each week I the restaurant and then demanding large sums of money.

Djamchid said the rabbinate wanted $500 per month, while Private Supervision asks just $150. He said the inspectors, all women in a field usually dominated by men, are easy to work with. Yet he admits that he may be losing business because of his choice.

“Jerusalem is a small town and many people know Rabbi Aaron and trust him,” he said. “But we have had events where people say they can’t come because we don’t have official rabbinate supervision.”

Started just two years ago, Private Supervision has grown to 27 restaurants in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The rabbinate recently challenged the new movement in court, and the court ruled that only the Chief Rabbinate can grant official kosher certification. In response, Private Supervision has changed its certificate not to sue the word “kosher”.

Instead it reads “we regard the trust put in us by Rabbi Leibowitz and his team regarding the activities of the business as being of sacred social value. We will make every effort to abide with the conditions they have set us so that the community can eat with us safely.”

Private Supervision says they are all about offering an alternative to the traditional establishment.

“The Rabbinate has a monopoly on kashrut and once there’s a monopoly bad things happen,” Ayala Falk, the CEO of Private Supervision told The Media Line. “We think that an open market is better for everyone. We present an alternative.”

In the US, there are several bodies that can give kashrut supervision, meaning there is no monopoly. A spokesman for the Jerusalem rabbinate was not available to comment, but in the past has said that only the official body of the rabbinate can make sure that consumers are getting strictly kosher food.

The new movement seems to show a growing dissatisfaction with the Israeli Rabbinate, which also controls marriage and divorce in Israel. When the country was created in 1948, following the decimation of a large part of world Jewry in the Holocaust, Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion agreed to let the Orthodox rabbis handle issues of personal status.

That means that there is no civil marriage in Israel, only religious marriage. Anyone who is not Jewish according to Jewish law, meaning they either had a Jewish mother or an Orthodox conversion that is recognized by the rabbinate cannot get married in Israel. Those numbers are increasing, according to Rabbi Uri Regev, head of Hiddush-Freedom of Religion for Israel

“Our estimates are that more than 660,000 Israeli citizens cannot marry in Israel,” Regev told The Media Line. “This includes about 350,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union, as well as their children.”

In 1990-91 Israel absorbed a wave of one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union. According to the Law of Return, which is based on the Nazi Nuremberg laws, anyone with one Jewish grandparent can receive automatic citizenship, and all of the social services including health care that Israelis are entitled to. However if they are not Jewish according to Jewish law they cannot get married in Israel.

Many of the immigrants say they want to convert to Judaism but the conversion process is slow, and many are stuck in limbo.

Regev says that more and more couples, even those who could get married in Israel, are choosing to either marry abroad or marry in Israel in a non-Orthodox ceremony.

“There is no question that it is happening more and more,” Regev said. “What is interesting is that you find even modern Orthodox in Israel joining the trend.”

Over the years, the Chief Rabbinate has become more hardline and ultra-Orthodox. Many modern Orthodox and “traditional” Israelis, who keep kosher but might not keep the Sabbath as strictly, say it’s time for an alternative.

South Korea wants to boost its kosher food market


South Korea has seen the future — and it’s kosher.

The Korean government announced plans Thursday to attract new businesses and boost international sales by educating producers about kosher and halal foods.

Following a meeting with President Park Guen-hye, officials announced plans to provide “administrative and technical support” to help kosher and halal food and cosmetics makers set up shop in Korea and qualify for kosher and halal supervision, the Korea Times reported.

The Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance said that the global halal market, serving observant Muslims, is growing swiftly and is expected to reach $5.2 trillion globally by 2020, and values the global kosher market at around $250 billion.

The first phase in the plan is to educate companies about the requirements of the Jewish and Muslim markets. Only about 25 companies in South Korea have earned kosher certification on items such as kimchi, rice pasta and salt, according to the Korea Times.

The government plans to provide food makers with kosher glossaries and encourage them to attend Kosherfest, the massive kosher products trade show held each year in New York.

Their halal initiatives seem to be a little further along. According to the ministry, nearly 300 Korean companies have earned halal certification, primarily granted by the Korean Muslim Federation.

Kosher food is hard to come by even in Seoul, the capital city, although the Chabad of Korea says it sells “hundreds of items … from all over the world” for residents and visitors.

UK agency fears for future of kosher slaughter following Brexit vote


A group working to safeguard kosher slaughter in Britain warned of uncertainty surrounding its mission following the British vote to exit the European Union.

A spokesman for Shechitah UK said Tuesday that he fears losing the European Union’s protections of “faith communities” or seeing kosher slaughter put to a vote in Parliament that might be influenced by critics of Jewish and Muslim techniques for slaughtering animals.

“While some European countries have implemented domestic legislation against shechitah and there was a danger that a wider precedent would be set,” Shechitah UK spokesman Shimon Cohen told JTA, Britain’s government “has always been guided by the European Union and the European Commission has put great emphasis on protecting faith communities.”

But if Britain leaves, Cohen said, its government “would either have to ask parliament to adopt” EU regulations that exempt faith communities from certain regulations “or come up with its own law. Either way, if it goes to a vote in the House of Parliament, it’s a numbers game and the risks are very high.”

Shechitah, the Hebrew word for kosher slaughter, and the Muslim variant of the practice are facing attack in Europe because they are deemed by many to be cruel to animals since stunning is prohibited prior to slaughter.

Other opponents of ritual slaughter resent its proliferation following the arrival to Europe of millions of Muslims from the 1950s onward.

However, EU membership does not necessarily enshrine shechitah, as member states are free to dispense with the exemptions from EU regulations.

Opposition to schechitah led to a ban by the Netherlands in 2010, but it was overturned by the Dutch Senate in 2012. Also, the Polish parliament banned the practice in 2013, though the prohibition has since been partially overturned. The practice is currently illegal in two EU member states – Sweden and Denmark – as well as three other non-EU countries in Western Europe: Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. EU members Finland, Austria and Estonia enforce strict supervision of the custom that some Jews there say make it nearly impossible.

In the debate leading up to the Brexit vote, advocates of remaining argued that staying in the EU assured protection for religious liberties. Supporters of an exit took the opposite view, citing legislation limiting religious freedoms on the continent.

Albany kosher cheese maker charged with defrauding investors


The owner of an Albany, New York kosher cheese business has been charged with fraud.

Lawrence Rosenbaum, 64, of Albany, was arraigned on Monday. He is accused of promising investors in Saratoga Cheese Corporation, his kosher and halal cheese business, high returns and shares of stock in his corporation. He never developed the production lines or facilities for which he solicited the money, the local ABC affiliate reported.

Rosenbaum also is accused of writing checks to himself from the business accounts and using some of the investment funds to pay for an apartment with his mistress in Costa Rica. He also did not file his personal income taxes for several years.

 

He is charged on 27 counts including grand larceny, securities fraud and tax fraud.

Rosenbaum looked for investors for a plant to process the cheese and also to create alternative bio-energies from the manure from his milk-producing cows. The $40 million cheese factory announced in 2008 was slated to be built in the Cayuga County Industrial Development Agency industrial park, which was predicted to be an economic boon to the area. He ran his business from the porch of his Albany home.

In 2009, he spoke to Chabad.org of his plans to headquarter his cheese business in rural Cayuga County, and use it as a base to “found a yeshiva, revolutionize the national kosher and Halal cheese industry, and establish a Jewish community in the New York countryside.” In 2014, Rosenbaum told an interfaith gathering in Morristown, New Jersey that his production of cheeses for the Jewish and Muslim markets was part of an effort he called “Cheese for Peace.”

Rosenbaum pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, Rosenbaum faces up to 15 years in state prison. He is currently being held on $200,000 bail.

As Passover approaches, longtime OU kosher supervisor sounds alarm on Manischewitz


Three days before the beginning of Passover, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, a veteran mashgiach (kosher supervisor) for the Orthodox Union (OU), filed a lawsuit against Manischewitz and the OU, saying he can no longer stand behind the kosher status of the Manischewitz products he has supervised for 20 years, including its Passover matzos.

“I believe this is a breach of public trust. I just couldn’t handle it,” Horowitz told the Journal on April 21, two days after he filed suit in the New York State Supreme Court.

Within the kashrut world, and particularly when it comes to Manischewitz, Horowitz is seen as a knowledgeable authority. The OU website’s “

An opulent showcase for kosher wines and food


“I’m not even Jewish!”

This is not the conversation I expected to have with an expert winemaker who has been involved with the production of kosher wines for more than a dozen years. But such was the case with the affable Philip Jones, senior winemaker and managing director of Goose Bay from New Zealand and the Pacifica label from Oregon. 

His Oregon pinot noir is certified kosher, and a terrific value for any Oregon pinot, really. The Bay Area native was raised Catholic but found himself intrigued by the idea of getting into kosher wine when a friend suggested it to him over dinner one night in Santa Maria, Calif., more than 20 years ago. 

The exchange I had with Jones, during which he talked about the challenges of bringing Jewish winemakers from Melbourne, Australia, to his remote New Zealand vineyard to produce Goose Bay’s kosher vintages, was one of the many unexpected pleasures of the Kosher Wine & Food Experience held March 2 at the Petersen Automotive Museum. 

Sample iconic French label Laurent-Perrier rosé and classic Champagnes, and taste vaunted Rothschild kosher wines? Nosh on short rib cavatelli and pastrami-style cured cod on a rye blini from the chefs at Herzog Wine Cellars’ flagship Ventura Country kosher restaurant, Tierra Sur? See the range of the famed enterprise’s kosher production, including reserve bottles and its special edition Camouflage blend that combines 12 varietals? All this, plus a chunk of Israel’s wine industry all present under one roof in L.A.? Twist my arm. 

For the sixth annual Los Angeles event that originated in New York City, organizer Royal Wine Corp. moved the tasting extravaganza with approximately 50 wineries and eight spirits brands to the Petersen from last year’s location at the W Hollywood hotel. Attendees tasted Israeli wines while snapping photos of Maseratis, rare alternative-fuel cars, vintage motorcycles and the like.

Hebrew word of the week: Kasher/kosher


When one hears or sees the word “kosher,” one immediately thinks of Jewish food. However, the original meaning of the root k-sh-r is “to be fit (in general),” as when Esther asks Ahashverosh if it is kashér, meaning “agreeable,” with him to annul Haman’s plan (Esther 8:5).

Hence, in Israel, Hadar kósher is a “fitness room, gym”; hakhsharah is “making kosher,” as well as “preparing, training (someone for a skilled job, aliyah to Israel, etc.); makhsir is “makes kosher” (verb), or an “instrument” (noun) (a gadget that makes something fit for use); kisharon means “talent, ability”; and mukhshar “talented, very fit.”

*The Israeli (Sephardic) kashér (with kamats) has the same meaning as the American (Yiddish) “kósher,” which coalesces with the Israeli kósher (with Holam), meaning “fitness.”

Yona Sabar is a professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in the department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA.

The country’s tastiest chicken will soon be kosher


Thousands of birds strutted around like rambunctious kids at recess — six varieties of turkey and nearly 40 breeds of chicken, duck and geese.

As soon as a stranger stepped into their dominion, a dozen of the largest toms surrounded the visitor. “They’re just making sure you’re not here to take over the flock,” fourth-generation farmer Frank Reese Jr. explained.

Out on the open Kansas prairie, about 80 miles north of Wichita, Reese’s Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch has become an oasis of what’s known as heritage poultry — healthy and genetically pure breeds of fowl that meet the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection, first codified in 1874.

In a poultry trade dominated by industrial farms brimming with birds that have been genetically engineered for size and growth — to the point where they can’t walk, let alone fly — Reese has become something of a trailblazer. He’s done it by sticking to methods that are responsible, humane and, as it happens, not the least bit innovative.

“I’m not doing a thing new,” Reese, 67, told JTA. “This is the way all turkeys and chickens were raised 60 years ago — and for generations before.”

Still, there’s something novel about the batch of chickens that’s about to hatch. When the multi-breed mix of approximately 1,500 reaches market-ready maturity in May, the chickens will head east to a rabbinically supervised slaughterhouse in upstate New York — and become the first kosher heritage poultry commercially available since the rise of factory farming more than a half-century ago.

How a Catholic farmer with pre-Civil War Kansas roots became the source of kosher cuisine’s latest leap has to do with a new venture by Farm Forward, a nonprofit advocacy group working toward alternatives to factory farming. Reese is a board member.

The Jewish Initiative for Animals, or JIFA, officially launches Monday with the aim of educating the Jewish community on the ethical issues of industrial farming and encouraging Jewish institutions to create food policies showcasing animal welfare as a Jewish value. The initiative is being jumpstarted by Washington, D.C.’s Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies and the Leichtag Foundation in Encinitas, California.

“The Torah and the Talmud give many examples of how humans are responsible for protecting animals,” said Brooklyn-based JIFA head Sarah Chandler. “Not only are Jews required to provide animals with a good life, there are even prescriptions for providing a good death.”

JIFA aims to encourage institutions to take whatever simple steps they deem appropriate to promote animal welfare, whether that’s dedicating a percentage of an organization’s food budget to vegan products or no longer serving challah made with caged-chicken eggs.

For such a mission, she said, Reese’s poultry is a natural fit.

“What’s more Jewish than chicken?” asked Chandler, whose official title is chief compassion officer. “I know so many people who stopped keeping kosher because they wanted local, organic, free-range and higher-welfare.  And now we’re saying you don’t have to stop.”

Reese — who shares his 160-acre property with three dogs and, depending on the season, somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 birds — concurred that the conscientious kosher consumer is his ideal customer.

“I love the idea that these animals are going to people who respect their food, and who realize that what they choose to eat affects creation for the next generation and that nothing should be wasted,” he said, sitting in the dining room of his 107-year-old farmhouse. The room overflowed with turkey-themed keepsakes, Catholic statuettes and family heirlooms.

Across the table sat Yadidya Greenberg, JIFA’s program coordinator, who’d stopped by to check in on the kosher chicks-to-be. He was last at Good Shepherd in December, when he “U-Hauled” a small batch of chickens to the Pelleh Poultry plant in Swan Lake, New York — essentially, a test run — so they could be butchered and served at the recent Hazon Food Conference in Connecticut.

“When we brought Frank’s chickens to the slaughterhouse, the head rabbi said, ‘Oh, these are the chickens I ate when I was a kid!’” Greenberg recalled. “He was just ecstatic.”

As for Reese, he was always fascinated by birds. At age 11, his Jersey Black Giant chickens qualified for the Kansas State Fair. There, he saw his first Standard Bronze turkeys — the kind featured in Thanksgiving decorations — and met Norman Kardosh, the “Turkey Man” of the poultry world, who became a friend and mentor.

After college, a stint in the army, a career as a nurse-anesthetist (which he still pursues part-time to supplement his poultry habit) and a year at a monastery in Texas, Reese returned to Kansas in 1989 and bought his ranch. At first, his goal was merely to preserve the breeds and techniques that were dying out around him.

His quiet passion made headlines in 2001, when the venerable food writer Marian Burros named Reese’s turkeys the best in the country in The New York Times. It wasn’t long before Martha Stewart came calling, followed by Mario Batali and Alice Waters, who have hosted farm dinners showcasing Good Shepherd birds.

Reese’s ranch is featured prominently in the 2009 book “Eating Animals” by bestselling author Jonathan Safran Foer — now also a Farm Forward board member — and it will be featured in a documentary based on the book, produced by Natalie Portman, that’s scheduled for release later this year.

Poultry distributors took notice. Reese boosted his turkey production from 500 to more than 5,000 annually, and added chickens to the mix. Heritage Foods USA and Emmer & Co., the primary online retailers of Reese’s birds, sell them for $10 per pound or more, with the largest turkeys costing upwards of $200.

Yet the challenge of building a market is daunting, not only because of the expense, Reese said, but because most people don’t understand what “heritage” really means — it isn’t just how you treat animals, but how you treat their DNA. Under the definition of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, birds must show a specific set of genetic traits, like natural mating and long lifespan, to be labeled heritage. (Reese actually dislikes the term, as it’s easily misappropriated, like “natural.”)

By contrast, according to Farm Forward, 99 percent of poultry raised in the U.S. now comes from corporate hatcheries that produce a single genetic line, crossbred dozens of times to produce the most meat or eggs as quickly as possible. Reese compares it to packing 400 pounds onto the underdeveloped body of a 5-year-old child.

“All the modern broiler chickens today, including the so-called freedom-rangers, suffer from cardio-vascular problems, diabetes, everything you expect in morbid obesity,” he said.

Plus, whereas the factory chickens are “a blank slate,” birds of various breeds and ages offer tastes and textures as diverse as cuts of beef, Reese said. “Old hens, old roosters, spring chickens, broiler chickens, fryers — all those distinctions actually meant something.”

“Old chickens are my favorite,” Greenberg chimed in. “You just can’t beat the flavor.” They have the highly prized, deep yellow fat that went into your bubbie’s best schmaltz, he added.

But don’t let the fat fool you; heritage poultry is healthy, too. Preliminary findings in a Kansas State University study have shown that one of Reese’s chickens contains six times the Omega-3s of an industrially raised bird, and significantly more protein and less cholesterol than even the higher-end Smart Chicken brand sold in grocery stores.

Kosher pasture-raised poultry is available, “but they still have the factory farm genetics and problems,” said Greenberg. “That’s why we’re working with Frank, to get these birds on the kosher market and get them to these consumers and help fight factory farming.”

Chandler agreed: “Everybody [else] who is fighting factory farming is saying, ‘Well, all you can do is stop eating animals.’ But there are good farmers out there.”

She said JIFA will have a distributor in place by the time Reese’s chickens are processed this spring, with plans for more chickens — and those prize-winning turkeys — to follow. The details are being worked out, Chandler said, but the distributor will likely ship frozen poultry directly to individuals and consumers.

JIFA will also transport some of Reese’s eggs to Jewish farms such as Isabella Freedman in Connecticut and Coastal Roots in California, which will raise the heritage birds as part of their educational programming. There is also a trip planned to bring some of those groups’ farmers to Good Shepherd to learn from Reese, with a longer-term goal of becoming heritage breeders themselves.

That’s encouraging to the only farmer in America recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a producer of heritage poultry, who fears the extinction not only of his breeds, but of an approach that is no longer taught. Reese hopes to start a hands-on institute on his ranch to train the next generation.

“I feel that I am keeping a promise I made to my teachers,” he said. “I’m keeping their legacy alive.”

And through JIFA, Reese will carry on another recently discovered heritage of his own: Last year, a DNA sample sent to Ancestry.com revealed some Jewish lineage on his mother’s side.

“That was fun to find out,” he said, laughing. “Now I know why I’ve always had a tremendous interest in the Jewish faith.”

Pot doesn’t need kosher certification, Canadian agency says


On the day kosher-certified medical marijuana first went on sale in New York, Canada’s largest kashrut agency said it believes such certification is unnecessary.

Following a debate Thursday, the Kashruth Council of Canada announced that medication need not be kosher, The Canadian Press reported.

Last month, Vireo Health of New York announced that the Orthodox Union, one of the largest kashrut agencies in the world, is certifying its medical marijuana products, which come in three forms: pills, oils and vapor.

Canada’s Kashrut Council considered the issue after MedReleaf, a producer of medical marijuana, inquired about obtaining certification.

“Something that is medicine, that’s prescribed from your doctor, that you need to take for your health, that doesn’t need kosher certification,” the group’s managing director, Richard Rabkin, told the Press.

“We don’t really want to get into the business of providing kosher certification for something that is doctor-prescribed,” he added.

Not all kashrut agencies are in agreement on the issue, however. In a statement on its website, the New York-based OU said claims that cannabis, because it is a natural product and because it helps with life-threatening conditions, requires no certification are “factually incorrect.”

“While the cannabis plant is inherently kosher, the final product may contain kosher sensitive ingredients such as alcohol, gelatin and oil,” the statement said. ” The qualifying medical conditions are not always life threatening, and even in such instances where there is a threat to life, it is preferable to use a kosher medication when available.”

Noting that it “stands by” its decision to certify medical marijuana, the OU statement concluded: “New York residents who are experiencing intense pain, can now use OU supervised Vireo Health medical marijuana and not be concerned that the product might contain non-kosher ingredients.”

Kosher Check, a global kosher certification agency headquartered in Canada’s British Columbia decided two years ago in favor of certifying edible medical pot products, but has not yet certified any such products, according to The Canadian Press. A representative of the group said smokable marijuana does not need to be certified kosher, but that edible forms, including capsules, should be certified.

On Thursday, New York became the 23rd U.S. state where medical marijuana is legal. However, it is subject to numerous regulations: Only five producers, including the kosher-certified Vireo Health of New York, have been approved by the state, and sales must go through state-approved dispensaries. In Canada, all forms of medical marijuana are now legal.

First kosher-certified pot to go on market next month


A New York company is preparing to market what it says is the world’s first kosher-certified marijuana.

The Orthodox Union has certified Vireo Health of New York’s non-smokable medical marijuana products, Vireo announced in a news release Wednesday. Vireo is one of five medical marijuana providers selected to participate in a New York state medical marijuana program that goes into effect next month; none of the others will be certified kosher.

“Being certified kosher by the OU will not only help us serve the dietary needs of the largest Jewish community in the United States, but also combat unfortunate stigmas associated with medical cannabis,” Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung said in a statement. “Today’s announcement sends an important message to New Yorkers of all faiths and backgrounds that using medical cannabis to alleviate pain and suffering does not in any way represent an embrace of ‘pot’ culture.”

Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the O.U.’s kashrut department, said in a statement that Vireo’s medical cannabis products “were developed to alleviate pain and suffering in accordance with the New York State Compassionate Care Act.”

The statement adds, “Using medical cannabis products recommended by a physician should not be regarded as a ‘chet,’ a sinful act, but rather as a mitzvah, an imperative, a commandment.”

Vireo operates a facility in the upstate town of Perth and will open four retail dispensaries in January, including two in the New York City area.

Let my people go (to Dodger Stadium’s new kosher hot dog stand)!


The Red Sox have done it. The Yankees have done it. Even the Kansas City Royals have gone kosher. 

Now — finally — Los Angeles baseball fans can enjoy a glatt kosher dog. 

Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory began offering a decidedly Jewish twist to the Dodgers’ traditional ballpark menu July 28, when it set up shop and began selling specialty items like jalapeno dogs and sweet Italian sausage with grilled onions and peppers. It will continue for 14 more games this season, including tonight’s.

WATCH: Do people prefer Jeff's Gourmet Sausage over Dodger Dogs? Story continues after video.

A native Angeleno, sausage master Jeff Rohatiner said he is excited to now serve fellow Dodgers fans with some consistency, after only doing so on occasion in the past.

“I hope that the option of kosher food will allow more Jews to fully appreciate the American pastime without worrying about any extra preparations,” he said. 

The stand is located in the right field plaza next to Tommy Lasorda’s Italian Trattoria. If it proves to be a hit — or, Rohatiner hopes, a home run — the menu options could expand in the future. 

Rohatiner had seen the need all the way from his restaurant in Pico-Robertson.

“Dodger fans regularly stop in to Jeff’s before a game and bring our food to the stadium, even if they have to eat it cold,” Rohatiner said. “Now they can have the pleasure of a fresh-cooked kosher dog at their seats.” 

Hebrew National hot dogs are served at Dodger Stadium, but for more observant Jews, the dogs still don’t cut the mustard. With Jeff’s grand opening, the Jewish community no longer has to worry about mixed facilities and the possibility of non-kosher buns.  

This culinary development makes sense for a team that currently has a Jewish player in center field, Joc Pederson, and other members of the tribe in the front office — President and CEO Stan Kasten and president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman. 

Fans have repeatedly lobbied for kosher food options at the stadium, but logistics have made it difficult. Michael Berenbaum, professor of Jewish studies and director of the Sigi Ziering Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Ethics at American Jewish University, has been a strong advocate for bringing kosher dogs to Chavez Ravine, and he visited the Jeff’s stand on its opening night.  

“It was inconceivable to me that the second largest Jewish community in America does not have a kosher dog stand,” Berenbaum said. “It felt absolutely terrific to have a hot dog with all the trimmings.” 

The Lou Barak Memorial Kosher Hot Dog Committee joined in the rejoicing. Named after group founder Paul Cunningham’s late father-in-law, the committee is made up of multiple professionals who have continuously fought for selling kosher hot dogs. 

“After wandering through the concession stands for years at Dodger Stadium, our people can finally eat,” Stuart Tochner, president-elect of the committee, wrote in an email to the Journal. “Given the Jewish fan base in L.A., we knew this day would eventually come. Let’s just say Sandy Koufax had an easier time pitching four no-hitters.”

Jewish and non-Jewish fans alike can enjoy these sausages at every home game except for those that fall on Shabbat and holidays. These dates include July 29; Aug. 2, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 30 and 31; and Sept. 1, 2, 20, 21 and 24.

Pork-eating Israeli soldier spared detention after secular outcry


An Israeli soldier was spared 11 days in detention for eating pork, a non-kosher food, the military said on Tuesday, after a public outcry.

Secular standards sometimes clash with conservative Jewish law in Israel.

Local media said the soldier, an American immigrant, was not aware that his ham sandwich, obtained off-base, was in breach of religious dietary restrictions enforced on military premises.

“Bottom line – we made a mistake,” armed forces spokesman Brigadier-General Moti Almoz said on Facebook of the sentence.

“There are tensions in Israeli society, and there are varied positions and opinions. In the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) there is room for everyone,” he said.

Florida prisons ordered to serve kosher meals


Inmates in Florida’s prisons who request kosher meals must receive them, a federal judge in Miami ruled.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz issued the order late last week after the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Corrections on behalf of 13 inmates. The decision is the latest following years of legal wrangling.

The two sides have until Wednesday to come up with a way to implement the plan.

The Florida case dates to 2010 when a Jewish prisoner serving life for the 1995 murder of his parents, Bruce Rich, said the state’s refusal to provide him with a kosher meal violated his rights under federal law.

More than 9,500 Florida prisoners have been approved for the kosher meals, The Associated Press reported.

The department canceled its kosher meal service in 2007, citing the expense. An average of 250 inmates used the kosher meal service at that time, including Muslims. The state offers vegetarian and vegan options.

The Obama administration joined the case in support of Rich in 2012.

At least 35 states and the federal government provide kosher diets in prison.

Ice scream, you scream, we all scream for kosher ice cream


Los Angeles is going through an ice cream renaissance. And while it’s hard to cheer warming winter months, given global climate predictions, the new reality may be what led to more high-quality frozen foods that are ready to meet a growing public appetite. This expanded market also includes new local kosher ice cream options.

Although the team behind Sweet Rose Creamery ice cream had some sense of the community it was joining before expanding eastward to a location on Beverly Boulevard near Curson Avenue, the learning curve really happened after the doors opened and customers appeared: “We want to be neighborhood places, and there was more demand for kosher there than expected,” explained chef and co-owner Shiho Yoshikawa.  

Josh Loeb — who with his wife, Zoe Nathan, owns a family of restaurants that includes, along with Sweet Rose Creamery, the flagship Rustic Canyon, plus Huckleberry and Milo & Olive, all in Santa Monica — agreed to take action. He researched and pursued the kosher certification process, hiring Rabbi Jonathan Benzaquen of Kosher L.A. to handle the duties of transitioning the main production kitchen on Pico Boulevard near Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica to get kosher certification for the ice cream shop last fall.  

Previously, all of Sweet Rose Creamery’s products had been made in much smaller quarters at its original Brentwood Country Mart location. The team moved to the roomier facilities to handle expansions, as well as to add another retail storefront, in front of the commercial kitchen. 

Yoshikawa admits it can be challenging to reconcile the business’ longtime dedication to using top-notch, non-GMO (genetically modified organism) and organic ingredients with its new kosher status. But given her skill and experience, which also includes having been a baker at San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery, she has made it work. 

Yoshikawa no longer makes the popular goat cheese ice cream, and she also had to invest significant research and development time perfecting her almond- and rice-milk recipes. She has learned to adapt in all sorts of ways. Kosher olive oil, for example, has “a more buttery than spicy flavor,” she explained, so she had to make specific adjustments. 

Yoshikawa has also created siblings of her tried-and-true flavors for Sweet Rose Creamery’s kosher-observant clientele, such as the Warren pear-vanilla sorbet, which is a modified version of her pear-riesling sorbet. But because so many of Sweet Rose Creamery’s ice creams come from already kosher ingredients that haven’t been commercially processed, such as fresh fruits and raw nuts, the products haven’t suffered in the slightest.

There were also some pleasant surprises along the way, such as that the Sho Chiku Bai sakes she uses for sorbets are already certified kosher. 

Everything is sourced kosher, and many of the ancillary items, such as waffle cones, brownie bites and sauces are made in-house, except for the sprinkles and nibs. A select number of non-kosher flavors are still available at the Santa Monica stores and are marked “NK”; everything at the Mid-City location is kosher. 

Whereas Sweet Rose Creamery touts its old fashioned and traditional methods of making farm-to-cone flavors that appeal to contemporary palates — dark chocolate with candied grapefruit or coconut-tangelo sorbet, anyone? —another shop, Ice Cream Lab, satisfies the sweet-seeking science geeks. 

Since opening its first shop, in Beverly Hills, on South Santa Monica Boulevard near Beverly Drive — a stretch that has since become an ice cream row of sorts, with Sprinkles Ice Cream and a new outpost of the Parisian Amorino gelato chain — fans have been lining up to get their instant made-to-order scoops created with dramatic flair. (Chic kosher-certified pastry shop Bo Nuage also is opening another sweets boutique on this street soon.) 

A dairy ice cream base is combined with raw ingredients to concoct Ice Cream Lab’s signature flavors, such as Banilla (fresh bananas and Nilla Wafers), Salt Lick Crunch (salted caramel and pretzels) and Blue Velvet (blue velvet cupcake and cream cheese frosting). The roster of classic options features vanilla bean, chocolate, strawberry and cookies-and-cream, in addition to changing seasonal flavors. The added instant-freezing agent creates fresh, thick ice cream; the temporary curtain of cold steam that emerges from the ice cream-making devices on the shop’s counter can’t help but draw attention. 

Ice Cream Lab, which is also under the supervision of Rabbi Benzaquen, has opened additional locations in Pasadena and Little Tokyo, with Westlake Village coming soon.   

“Being kosher is true to Ice Cream Lab’s roots of being super-fresh and keeping our ice cream 100 percent natural,” said co-owner Joseph Lifschutz. Kosher certification “also allows all of our local Jewish population to enjoy our fresh ice cream both at our locations and at all of our catering events.”

None of these options comes cheap. Sweet Rose Creamery’s farmers market and organic ingredients translate to $4-and-up scoops and $9.50 pints, while Ice Cream Lab’s scoops start at $5.50 and pints cost $13 each. When outdoor  temperatures soar, however, there’s no such thing as buyer’s remorse after enjoying terrific ice cream.

The Cask serves up kosher wines for connoisseurs


In the past, trying to put together a kosher wine tasting was a challenge because it seemed the major stores offered so few choices. A quick look at the inventory of some of the more sympathetic non-kosher wine shops around Los Angeles reveals a mere page of choices, but if you look a little further, there are only a couple each of Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, or whatever varietal you choose. It’s like they looked at the broad spectrum of wine and decided it was better if they had one kosher selection of each varietal and left it at that. Look further still, and you’ll see only a couple of options that cost more than $30. On the one hand, the frugal oenophile may see this as a plus, but I see it as a kind of dismissal that implies kosher wines probably aren’t that good, so why go to the trouble of putting any of the more expensive juice on the shelf?

This lack of choice and of higher-end titles is self-perpetuating — you don’t get very good selections, or much of a selection at all, and it reinforces the sense that kosher wine overall — and Israeli wines in particular — aren’t very good. Well, there’s a case to be made that they weren’t very good for a very long time, but that the tide has turned, and a new crop of more artisanal winemakers has come into their own over the past several years. 

Winemaking has been part of Jewish history from the very beginning (Noah gets drunk and passes out naked in Genesis 9:21) and from the very earliest references to Israel. However, for generations in modern times, the landscape was completely dominated by Manischewitz, about which I will not write another word in the name of common decency.

Of course, making better wine is one thing, but selling it is another. Enter Michael Bernstein and The Cask on Pico. With a selection of nearly 500 wine titles, it is the largest and best all-kosher wine and spirits shop on the West Coast. 

Bernstein, 34, was looking for a “recession-proof” business and saw a void in the market for selling kosher wine to an evolving, increasingly sophisticated market. Four years later, and he’s loving it. “This is one of the best times I’ve ever had in terms of business. You meet very interesting people, whether it’s the winemakers or the customers. There’s a great camaraderie in the business. I can’t think of another industry that’s more fun.” 

Admittedly more of a “Scotch guy,” Bernstein (and his staff) has tasted every title in the store, and he’s developed his palate in the process. Although he prides himself on service and selection (he sells almost every bottle himself), Bernstein sees himself as equal parts educator and salesman. “People like to compare one bottle or vintage to another,” he said. His approach is to broaden the consumer’s horizons: “I love to get people to try more exciting things. If you liked that, you should really try this.”

The Cask’s refrigerated wine cellar behind the main sales floor holds some of the rarest and most expensive selections, including older vintages of Domaine du Castel (Judean Hills, Israel), Pontet Canet (Pauillac, Bordeaux) and Covenant (Napa Valley). Most bottles in this chilly little sanctuary sell for more than $65. The most expensive bottle it has sold? A 2003 Valandraud from St. Emilion in Bordeaux for $550. 

Best-selling title? Bartenura Moscato at $13.95, a title that has caught fire, in part, because its distinctive blue bottle was prominently featured in a video of the song “Do It Now” by half-Jewish rapper Drake. Evidently, Moscato rhymes with bravo, model and bottle. 

As for Manischewitz: Bernstein doesn’t carry it. “I’m a fan of tradition, but this,” he said, waving his hand at the handsome display of dozens of hand-picked bottles that adorn the walls in dark wood cabinetry that runs from floor to ceiling, “isn’t about that.”

What wine to pair with gefilte fish? “Who eats gefilte fish?” If you absolutely had to? “I hope I don’t have to.”

There is a full selection of every kind of spirit imaginable, including a wall of Scotch whiskeys — some of which do not carry a kosher designation on the label and the reason his store does not carry a kosher hechsher. “I’ve done my own research,” he says about the “disputed” titles, mostly having to do with a bit of arcana surrounding the kind of casks used for aging.

Bernstein is perhaps the greatest champion of kosher wine and spirits in Los Angeles. A back room is host to tastings with visiting winemakers and privately catered parties. Last month, he hosted a Scotch tasting at the SLS Hotel attended by more than 150 enthusiasts nibbling on kosher hors d’oeuvres and smoking presumably kosher cigars, part of an ongoing series of off-site events. “You get people’s honest opinions,” he says of comparative tastings. What’s the Yiddish expression for “In vino veritas”?

Here are some of Michael Bernstein’s Passover picks: 

Rose du Castel 2013 (Israel), $39.95

Capcanes Peraj Petita Rosat, $29.95

Barkan Pinotage 2011 (Israel), $70

Adir “Plato” Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, $70

Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Napa Valley), $40

Hajdu Syrah 2012, $40

Malartic La Graviere Bordeaux 2005, $100

The Cask, 8616 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 205-9008.


Jeff Smith is the founder of Van Nuys-based Carte du Vin Wine Cellar Management and the author of “The Best Cellar.” He was formerly known as J.D. Smith. 

Breaking Bad: NonKosher


Many Persian Jews in Los Angeles keep what I like to call ‘LA Kosher,’ or ‘Persian-Kosher.’ This is a custom in which you sometimes delve into nonkosher chicken or red meat, but still refrain from doing the more nonkosher things, like mixing milk and meat, or eating shellfish, pork, etc. This was what I adhered to for most of my life, up until I turned eighteen and went to college.

This was also the same time I became roommates with Michael, a secular American Jew, a passionate eater and probably the antagonist of this tale. One night as freshmen, we headed to In-N-Out together, and I ordered my LA Kosher meal–a double-double without the cheese. He inquired about my cheese exclusion, and I explained that I will, from time to time, eat nonkosher beef, but won’t have cheese with it. Michael challenged me and said that no self-appointed foodie could go through life without ever consuming a double-double from In-N-Out.

“There’s a reason the Torah bans milk and meat,” he liked to say. “Cheeseburgers, philly cheesesteaks, just too dank for people to eat all the time. Otherwise they’d all be fat wandering the dessert and get nowhere.”

“They didn’t have cheeseburgers at the time the Torah was written, man.” He ignored this comeback, but still, he was stubborn, and over the course of the next three semesters living with him, I caved in to eating a cheeseburger three times. This decision, I learned later on, marked a turning point in my life: I implicitly permitted breaking kosher rules when the temptation was too high.

That’s also what happened another time, when my two roommates wanted to prepare a fancy, shellfish oriented meal–because these are the sorts of things you do in college, they explained. They asked me if I wanted in, and I denied them flat out. They proceeded to cook shrimp and crab in melted butter, while I warmed up a microwavable turkey and carrots meal. When they added garlic to the shrimp, tossed in some more butter, the irresistible aroma filled the room. “Sure you don’t want any?” they asked mockingly. It didn’t take long for me to toss the microwavable meal in the garbage and break Halacha. Shrimp, a protein almost too delicious to be true at times, became the next bit of Breaking Bad. Then, if you’re going to eat shrimp, what separates you from the other shellfish? Scallops came next.

When I moved back home after school, a diner nearby offered a breakfast of two eggs, hash browns, toast, bacon or sausage, and coffee, for $6.99. And all of it was delicious. My order was consistent: Poached eggs, wheat toast, coffee black, no bacon. A perfect way to start the day, I started going there almost every morning, bringing a book with me to read while waiting on the food. Breakfast started becoming my favorite part of the day.

One morning, though, my waitress brought me the regular, but included two fatty, red strips alongside it.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I ordered no bacon.”

“Oh, sorry about that!” she said, out of breath. “Let me get that out of your way, then.” She started hustling around the diner bar. Realizing I was asking her to do extra work, I told her it was fine. She nodded and walked off.

I took the two strips and placed them on a little plate beneath my cup of coffee I no longer had use for. As I plowed through my eggs and hash browns, however, I suddenly felt like the bacon was talking to me, like in a bad Comedy Central cartoon. And eat me, it kept saying. Eat me. I’m free, and I’m here, and you’ve always been curious about me, haven’t you? I tried to ignore it. I promise I did. I thought about asking the waitress to come take the plate of bacon now, but how weird do you think she would think I was, if I were to request this, after she had already offered and I brushed her off? The voice was incessant.

I always associate breakfast bacon with this one experience I had with my friend Josh, when we were in Las Vegas. While making our plates bigger than either of us could conceivably handle, he clawed a handful of bacon strips and tossed it onto his big plate.

“What?” I asked him.

“Look,” he said, “I eat bacon and I don’t need to hide it from you anymore.”

We ate our breakfast in silence, me trying to convey to him my disapproval. The cherry on top was that he’d shake his head in admiring pleasure from each bacon bite as if to say, you don’t know what you’re missing. Most disconcerting, though, was that nothing was happening to him. He was flat out breaking the rules in my face and nothing was happening. I don’t know what I expected, but an angry text message from God, or a sighting of his deceased grandparents shaking in disapproval, somehow, someway, didn’t seem that delusional of a thought. In result, after this experience I began viewing the meat through a less evil lens.

Back to the diner, where I’m sitting, trying to stay focused while being harassed by two imaginary strips of food. Eventually, the bacon’s talking became yelling, and as you were probably able to predict, I acquiesced. I took a tiny bite of it with an ensemble of droopy yolk and spiced hash browns, and what ensued afterward perhaps changed my breakfast experience forever. Bacon was that smoky, crunchy taste I’d been subconsciously craving to with my breakfast. From that day on, I couldn’t go to the diner without bacon. First I started ordering one strip instead of the two they offered, in order to somehow appease the shame. But then it became the two. Nowadays, I even consider asking for a third, but I tell myself to relax.

For a long time, the degree to which you separate milk and meat or refuse nonkosher meat has been used as a measuring tool of your observance, or, rather an assessment to your ‘Good Jew-ness.’ But in this regard I think Judaism is in a transitional period. There are more pressing issues to Judaism than Kosher rules at present. For example, I believe educating yourself on Israeli affairs, or representing the country in college, is far more helpful to collective Judaism than passing on a bloody steak would be. Or, a willingness to join a group when nine Jews need a tenth to make minyan helps the community more than passing on certain meats. Warning Americans about the dangers posed by terrorist organizations or radical Muslim countries also seems more pressing than our dietary laws.

In another perspective, keeping kosher is a ritual that has kept the Jewish community unified for centuries, and one wouldn’t be faulty to suggest that if kosher rituals were to be totally abandoned, a vital quality to our togetherness could be in jeopardy. The answer is that there probably is no answer—it’s up for interpretation. But these are the sort of questions Judaism allows us to explore and discuss, decide for our own—one of the reasons I love being a Jew.

Kosher supermarket reopens two months after Paris attacks


The Paris kosher supermarket where four hostages were killed in January by an Islamist gunman reopened on Sunday morning to “show that life is stronger than barbarity,” supermarket officials and France's interior minister said.

The Jan. 9 attack on the Jewish foodstore by Amedy Coulibaly, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and also killed a policewoman in a separate attack, had been coordinated with two other gunmen who killed 12 people at satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo two days earlier.

“There we are, we are open again,” the new manager, Laurent Mimoun, told local media, wearing a black kippa and visibly moved in the supermarket, completely refurbished and bearing no trace of the deadly attack.

“We are thinking about all the victims, this has been the driver behind reopening the shop,” he said.

The shop reopened with an entirely new staff since those present at the time were still recovering from the attack on sick leave, according to shop managers.

“It is important to pay respect to the memory of those who fell under the fire of barbarity,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said as he attended the reopening, which took place under heavy police surveillance.

France has both the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in Europe, leaving people to fear heightened tensions after the attacks and authorities to insist all would be protected.

“This foodstore reopens bravely to show that life is stronger than everything,” Cazeneuve said, adding that French authorities would “do everything so that all French people can live freely.”

The attack prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to invite French Jews to emigrate, leaving French Prime Minister Manuel Valls scrambling to reassure the community it was safe and an integral part of France.

The Hyper Cacher group said in a statement released by local media that the reopening was a sign of the resilience of France's Jewish community.

“With (this) we reaffirm that life will always be stronger than barbarity. We are more determined than ever to allow our clients to eat kosher,” the statement said.

2 men charged for links to Hyper Cacher shooter


Two men have been charged for their links to the Paris kosher market gunman who killed four Jewish hostages in January.

The men, identified as Amar R. and Said M. by the Associated Press, were charged for participating in a terrorist group with intent to commit a crime.

Amar R. exchanged over 600 text messages with the Hyper Cacher gunman Amedy Coulibaly between September and January. He also met with Coulibaly on Jan. 5 and 6, just days before the Charlie Hebdo shooting on Jan. 7 and Coulibaly’s killing of a French police officer on Jan. 8.

Said M.’s DNA was found on a stun gun Coulibaly had with him on Jan. 9 when he took hostages in the Hyper Cacher market and killed four before being killed by police officers in a raid.

The prosecutor said that Amar R. and Said M. contacted each other more than 1,200 times between February 2014 and January 2015 and met regularly. They also destroyed their phone microchips on Jan. 9, the day of the Hyper Cacher attack.

Two others who had been detained earlier this week in conjunction with the new suspects were released.

Coulibaly claimed allegiance to the Islamic State in a video that surfaced after his death. The Kouachi brothers, who carried out the Charlie Hebdo shootings, said that the attack was sponsored by Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.

Coulibaly’s widow Hayat Boumeddiene left a few days before the attacks in France and is believed to be in Syria.

Medical marijuana may soon get kosher stamp of approval


Kosher marijuana could soon be available to Orthodox Jews in New York State — but only on doctor’s orders.

Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher certification agency, said he has held “preliminary discussions” with several companies interested in obtaining a kosher seal of approval for medical marijuana.

Read more at Forward.

British right-wing party backs ban on religious slaughter


Britain’s right-wing UKIP party has come out in support of legislation that would ban the production of ritually slaughtered meat.

The United Kingdom Independence Party  became the first major political party in the country to call for a ban on religious slaughter for halal and kosher meat.

“Animal and veterinary science has long concluded that cutting the throats of animals whilst they are fully conscious can cause significant distress and pain,” a UKIP statement sent to the media said. Stunning before slaughter must occur as it is “fully compatible with all world religions,” the text also said.

Jewish religious law, or halachah, requires that animals be conscious when they are slaughtered – a principle that is accepted by the major denominations of Judaism in certifying food as kosher. A similar requirement exists in Islam, though it is less strictly observed, according to some accounts.

Many Jewish professional slaughterers and rabbis claim that kosher slaughter, or shechitah, is as quick, painless and compassionate as any other method used in Western commercial slaughterhouses.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed several times to ensure ritual slaughter remains legal in Britain out of respect for religious groups that require it.

UKIP’s statement said, “We find the government response to this issue is weak, lazy and bordering on spineless.” It added, “We find the rights and demands of groups within those religions override the UK’s compassionate traditions of animal welfare.”

At least one senior representative of UKIP, European Parliament member Stuart Agnew, opposed the policy announcement, The Jewish Chronicle reported.

Shimon Cohen, an adviser to Britain’s Jewish communities on how to defend the practice and campaign director for the Shechita UK not-for-profit, said UKIP’s new position is based on “weak, agenda-driven science” as well as “an opportunistic and a disappointing shift” that “returned UKIP to the fringes of mainstream politics.”

French forces kill newspaper attack suspects, hostages die in second siege


Two brothers suspected of a bloody attack on the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were killed on Friday when anti-terrorist police stormed their hideout, while a second siege ended with the deaths of four hostages.

The violent end to the simultaneous stand-offs northeast of Paris and at a Jewish supermarket in the capital followed a police operation of unprecedented scale as France tackled one of the worst threats to its internal security in decades.

With one of the gunmen saying shortly before his death that he was funded by al Qaeda, President Francois Hollande warned that the danger to France – home to the European Union's biggest communities of both Muslims and Jews – was not over yet.

“These madmen, fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim religion,” Hollande said in a televised address. “France has not seen the end of the threats it faces.”

Following heavy loss of life over three consecutive days, which began with the attack on Charlie Hebdo when 12 people were shot dead, French authorities are trying to prevent a rise in vengeful anti-immigrant sentiment.

Hollande denounced the killing of the four hostages at the kosher supermarket in the Vincennes district of Paris. “This was an appalling anti-Semitic act that was committed,” he said.

Officials said Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said, both in their thirties, died when security forces raided a print shop in the small town of Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris, where the chief suspects in Wednesday's attack had been holed up. The hostage they had taken was safe, an official said.

Automatic gunfire rang out, followed by blasts and then silence as smoke could be seen billowing from the roof of the print shop. Amid thick fog, a helicopter landed on the building's roof, signaling the end of the assault. A government source said the brothers had emerged from the building and opened fire on police before they were killed.

Before his death, one of the Kouachi brothers told a television station he had received financing from an al Qaeda preacher in Yemen.

“I was sent, me, Cherif Kouachi, by Al Qaeda of Yemen. I went over there and it was Anwar al Awlaki who financed me,” he told BFM-TV by telephone, according to a recording aired by the channel after the siege was over.

Al Awlaki, an influential international recruiter for al Qaeda, was killed in September 2011 in a drone strike.

TARGETING JEWS

Minutes after the print shop assault, police broke the second siege at the supermarket in eastern Paris. Four hostages died there along with the gunman.

The hostage taker, Amedy Coulibaly, also called BFM-TV before he died to claim allegiance to Islamic State, saying he wanted to defend Palestinians and target Jews.

Coulibaly said he had jointly planned the attacks with the Kouachi brothers, and police confirmed they were all members of the same Islamist cell in northern Paris.

France plans a unity rally to protest against the violence on Sunday. Among those who plan to attend are German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Ministers David Cameron of Britain, Matteo Renzi of Italy and Mariano Rajoy of Spain, and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

President Barack Obama also expressed U.S. support. “I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow,” he said.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder joined the condemnations, saying “Jewish life in France under threat if terror does not stop”.

HOSTAGES RUSHED OUT

News footage of the kosher supermarket showed dozens of heavily armed police officers massed outside two entrances. The assault began with gunfire and a loud explosion at the door, after which hostages were rushed out.

Reuters photographs taken from long distance showed a man holding an infant and looking distressed being herded into an ambulance by police. Others were carried out on stretchers.

French authorities have mobilized a force of nearly 90,000 since Wednesday's attack on Charlie Hebdo, a weekly that has long courted controversy by mocking Islam and other religions and political leaders.

A witness said one of the gunmen in Wednesday's attack was heard to shout: “We have killed Charlie Hebdo! We have avenged the Prophet!”

The Kouachi brothers are believed to be the hooded gunmen who shot dead some of France's top satirical cartoonists along with two police officers.

Security sources said the French-born brothers of Algerian origin had been under surveillance and had been placed on European and U.S. “no-fly” lists.

The violence raised questions about surveillance of radicals, far-right politics, religion and censorship in a land struggling to integrate part of its five million-strong Muslim community.

French Jews on edge after 4 killed in Paris siege


The two hostage crises that transfixed France and much of the world on Friday epitomize the problem Islamic radicalism poses in the heart of Europe: They’re a danger to civilized society generally, but especially to Jews.

Now it’s time for the authorities to wake up to the problem and confront it, French Jewish leaders said Friday.

At the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris’ 12th arrondissement on Friday, a gunman believed to have killed a Paris policewoman a day earlier killed two people and holed up in the store with an unknown number of hostages.

Meanwhile, the two brothers that French police identified as having carried out Wednesday’s attack at the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, which left 12 people dead, were cornered at a printing shop north of Paris. The brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, also were holding a hostage.

“We have warned that the menace of rising anti-Semitism threatens French society at large,” Simone Rodan-Benazquen, director of the Paris office of the American Jewish Committee, said. “The Charlie Hebdo massacre makes clear that the war against France’s democratic values is in high gear.”

French police identified the captor at the kosher supermarket as Amedy Coulibaly, 32, and said he was in contact with the Kouachi brothers. Police received threats that the hostages in the kosher shop would be killed if the brothers were harmed, Reuters reported.

Near day’s end, the two sieges ended almost simultaneously: Firefights erupted between the captors and the police, and the captors were killed – along with several hostages at the kosher supermarket. The hostage held by the Kouachi brothers was freed.

Wednesday’s attack at Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper that drew admirers and detractors for offensive cartoon caricatures, was described by many in France as a national shock akin to 9/11. Tens of thousands of protests gathered in Paris after the attack to memorialize the dead and express their support for press freedom.

Despite assurances by the government to fight anti-Semitism, French Jews are facing the Islamic jihadists alone, said Chlomik Zenouda, vice president of National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism.

But the attack came after a long period of increased anti-Semitic attacks in France that grew worse during last summer’s war in Gaza. Since then, synagogues have been set ablaze, Jews have been attacked and Jewish institutions have been threatened.

“Thousands showed up to protest the Charlie Hebdo killings – that’s nice. But they gathered at a square where just a few months ago public officials stood idly as around them calls were heard to slaughter the Jews. No one came out to protest that – no one but the Jews,” said Zenouda, referring to the inflammatory rhetoric at Gaza War protests held last summer at Place de la Republique.

After the Charlie Hebdo killings, Jewish community institutions went on maximum alert. But it wasn’t enough to thwart Friday’s hostage taking.

During the sieges, a local TV station, BFMTV, interviewed the captors both at the printing plant and the supermarket, and the men said they answer to al Qaeda in Yemen and that the two attacks were coordinated, Le Monde reported. They said they had ties to the American-Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was killed in 2011.

Police were in contact with the Kouachi brothers during the siege, and the brothers reportedly said they wanted to die as martyrs.

Near the supermarket site, schools were put on lockdown or evacuated.

Paul Bernadini, a 22-year-old technician, said he was in a van near the supermarket listening to news on the radio about the Kouachi brothers’ hostage situation when he suddenly heard gunfire about 20 feet away and people screaming. He ran into a shop adjacent to the supermarket and took cover.

“We heard a series of shots and knew it had to come from an automatic weapon,” he told JTA. “We heard the cries, but then we took shelter and we didn’t hear them anymore.

The Hyper Cacher market is located in a neighborhood on the easternmost edge of Paris, bordering Saint-Mandé — a heavily Jewish suburb, where there are many kosher shops and restaurants. Just a quarter mile away from Hyper Cacher is the century-old Synagogue de Vincennes, which long has catered to the community’s sizable Ashkenazi population. The synagogue sits adjacent to another Jewish congregation, Beth Raphael, founded in 2005 to serve to the growing population of Jews of North African descent.

In 2013, JTA reported on an incident in which France’s Jewish Defense League, a vigilante group, beat an Arab man after he reportedly attacked Jews in Saint-Mandé.

On Friday, Courts de Vincennes, usually a lively boulevard with a street market, was nearly abandoned. The only sound there was that of police convoys heading to the hostage site. Meanwhile, police ordered the shops closed on the rue de Rosiers in Paris’ Marais district, where Jewish area where shoppers tend to proliferate in the hours before Shabbat.

As news of the hostage crisis spread, Jewish groups and institutions in the United States sent out urgent messages to constituents to pray for the hostages in France, attaching a list with nine Hebrew names said to be the hostages.

In France, some Paris synagogues canceled their Sabbath-eve services, a French Jewish official, Shlomo Malka, told Israeli Army Radio, according to the Times of Israel.

“There’s a huge amount of fear,” Malka said, according to the report.

Finally, after several hours, police stormed the two hostage sites.

The news of the Kouachi brothers’ deaths was greeted with relief in France after a two-day manhunt that police said involved a deployment of more than 88,000 police officers.

“The operation in Dammartin is finished,” said Rocco Contento, a spokesman for the Unité S.G.P. police union, according to The New York Times. “The two suspects have been killed and the hostage has been freed. The special counterterrorism forces located where the terrorists are and broke down the door. They took them by surprise. It lasted a matter of minutes.”

At the supermarket, witnesses reported hearing explosions and gunshots. Images from the scene showed heavily armed police officers escorting hostages from the store. The captor was killed, but there were additional civilian casualties. Two more hostages were dead and four were seriously wounded, according to reports. The U.K. Telegraph said two police officers were injured in the supermarket raid, one critically.

Some 15 hostages were freed after the raid, reports said.

Police were still searching Friday for the supermarket captor’s girlfriend, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, who was also said to have been involved in the killing Thursday of the French policewoman in Montrouge, on the outskirts of Paris.

Later in the night, a third hostage situation developed in the southern French town of Montpellier. Two people reportedly had been taken hostage in a jewelry store, and police surrounded the area. It was not immediately clear whether the episode was an unrelated robbery or somehow tied to the hostage takings in Paris.

Shimon Samuels, the Paris-based director of international affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JTA that France needs to face up to the danger posed by radical Islamists and recognize it for what it is, rather than excusing it away.

“A culture of excuse exonerates the perpetrators as disaffected, alienated, frustrated, unemployed,” he said. “No other group of frustrated unemployed has resorted to such behavior.”

Samuels called on the French government to declare a state of emergency that would give it sweeping powers to crack down on Islamist organizations. Other Jewish groups in France also have issued such calls.

In the United States, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York announced it would hold a gathering of prayer, mourning and solidarity on Sunday evening in Manhattan in the wake of “the barbaric assault in France.” The meeting was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln Square Synagogue.

Uriel Heilman contributed reporting from New York. Additional reporting by Gabrielle Birkner in New York.