Bay area chef revives tradition of supper clubs


What’s the difference between a “pop-up” restaurant and a supper club? About 50 years.

Intimate dining rooms had all but faded into a thing of the past until recently, when the idea re-emerged among millennials as the underground or “pop-up” restaurant. While these smaller, informal dining arrangements are similar to the traditional supper club in basic function, the spirit has changed. In today’s so-called supper clubs, the love and warmth of a chef who truly enjoys cooking a good meal for friends is often superseded by a desire to be exclusive or edgy. 

But chef Noah Jacob doesn’t go for the clubby part of supper club.

With his Bay Area-based gastronomic venture, Comestible Catering & Supper Club, Jacob has given new life to the supper club tradition. At Comestible events, the atmosphere is light-hearted and carried by the laughter and chatter of family, as well as friends new and old. The meals are skillfully prepared, yet unpretentious. There is a sense of fresh creativity and energy in this old-fashioned affair. 

Comestible caters events both large and small, kosher and non-kosher. The team of chefs and culinary entrepreneurs are actively involved in the local Jewish community, often hosting events for the San Francisco Jewish Federation and the Jewish Film Festival, as well as elaborate Passover seders. 

It all began when Jacob and a friend, chef Tim Symes, slaughtered a lamb in Jacob’s garage at his Northern California home. But even before that, Jacob had long been passionately engaged in all aspects of the world of food. 

When Jacob was 14 years old, he began his first job in a Portland restaurant as a dishwasher. “Working as a dishwasher gave me great respect for people who do those jobs, the dirty jobs, the less-desired jobs, the physically hard jobs. … I’m sure it’s because of what I learned in those years that I make it a priority to treat my staff as I would like to be treated,” Jacob said, looking back on the experience.

Jacob continued to work in restaurants through high school and college, but when he moved to New York City in 2001, he gave up cooking to pursue a career in finance. After several years in the financial sector, Jacob got married and moved with his new wife, Dori, to San Francisco. It was then Jacob realized that it was cooking, not finance, that made him happy. Jacob explained, “I had a strong connection to my cultural Jewish heritage. … I was hoping to have that be a piece of what I was going to do next.” 

Jacob heard about a new Jewish deli opening in the Mission District of San Francisco, Wise Sons. He tracked down the owners, told them he wanted to be a part of their team and that he’d do whatever they needed, even without payment. “I just wanted to be back in the kitchen learning,” Jacob said. For the next year, Jacob worked at the deli, where he was trained to smoke and cure meats, slice fish, make pickles and prepare vegetables with speed and accuracy. 

 It was around this time that chefs Jacob and Symes butchered the lamb, which they then served over eight courses to 10 people at Jacob’s house. “From there, the supper club evolved to be a more elaborate event, starting with a theme or an ingredient and four or five chefs in friendly competition, with a sommelier or mixologist and a wait staff,” Jacob said. The supper clubs gained in popularity and guests began asking if Jacob could cater their corporate events. 

Jacob’s love of food, and the source of inspiration for much of what he cooks, stems from his Jewish heritage. 

“The techniques and flavor combinations of the foods I grew up with are my daily inspirations, using smoke and brine, caraway and dill, and using cheaper ingredients and attempting to elevate them to more sophisticated levels,” Jacob said. “Beyond that, it’s also about feeding people and how it equates with showing love. I think that’s one of the things that I appreciate most about Judaism and food culture, how tied to food and love are.”

With a baby at home, Jacob has had less time for creating menus, but plenty of food and love in his life. He enjoys reinventing antiquated Jewish recipes and believes that “soon enough, we’ll see modern adaptations of kugel and kishke and gefilte fish on fancy menus all over the place.” 

His embrace of his heritage has lead directly to his emphasis on ethical food. We must pay attention to where our food comes from, Jacob said, not just because the way something is grown correlates to the quality of its taste, but also because it’s the right thing to do. 

“With kashrut, Jews were probably the first people to truly source their food and closely examine its origins,” Jacob said. “While training as a chef and a caterer, I worked for a fully kosher-certified Bay Area caterer to learn exactly how kashrut is applied in commercial kitchens and professional events.”

When sourcing ingredients, Comestible goes beyond the farm-to-table movement, returning to Jacob’s Jewish roots. During his interactions with farmers and suppliers, Jacob strives to find the best kosher ingredients and ensures that the animals used in his dishes were treated humanely. 

Jacob remembers the early days of his supper club events fondly. “I know that it’s not going to be possible to ever go back to the way they were at the beginning, with all of the excitement and mistakes and far too many drinks for both cooks and diners. … It felt like a moment in time, where everyone kind of knew something special was happening. There was just so much creativity and teamwork, and I think you could really see it in the presentation and taste it in the food,” Jacob said. 

In the near future, Jacob hopes to grow Comestible’s team of chefs, but he is also determined to remain personally involved in every event that they cater. He will only take on as many events as he can while still offering the same high-quality, heartfelt dining experience. For Jacob, the goal has never been about numbers or filling seats. Comestible is founded on a simple tradition of sharing good food with good company. 

COMESTIBLE GRAVLAX

People always think that lox have to be expensive or labor-intensive, but in reality, these dishes are super-easy to make and fairly inexpensive. All you need is some foresight, as the fish takes 4 to 6 days to cure, minimum. 

  • 2 sides of salmon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground star anise
  • 2 tablespoons ground juniper
  • 2 tablespoons ground clove
  • 2 tablespoons ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons ground fennel seed
  • 4 bunches of dill

 

Start with two fillets of salmon, skin-down, on a cutting board.

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. 

Pour half the dry rub over both salmon fillets and rub into salmon meat thoroughly. Next, lay bunches of dill over one of the salmon fillets until it is completely covered in dill. Pour the remaining dry rub over the fillet with the dill. 

Place the other fillet skin-up on top of the dill-covered fillet to create a salmon sandwich, with the thick layer of dill as the middle. Line up the fillets as closely as possible so all the spices and dill stay inside.

Next, wrap the salmon sandwich tightly in plastic wrap and place in a large roasting pan. Place another roasting pan directly on top of the salmon sandwich (covering it completely) and weigh it down with cans or something heavy, such as a Dutch oven or cast iron pan. This is the pressing process. Place in refrigerator.

After two days, open it up and flip the salmon sandwich so the other side is facing up. Rewrap it with fresh plastic wrap and place the salmon sandwich back in the roasting pan, repeating the pressing process for the second side. The salmon will release some water, but it shouldn’t smell bad or fishy. 

After an additional two to four days, pull from the refrigerator and unwrap. Toss the dill and give the filets a quick rinse before laying them skin-down on a paper towel. You will see the pin bones starting to protrude. Go down each fillet and pull out the bones with tweezers; they should slide right out at this point. 

Once it is deboned, your salmon is ready to be sliced for lox or used however you see fit. The serving size will depend on the size of your salmon fillet, usually between 2 and 4 pounds. One side of salmon usually makes sliced lox for 20 to 30 people. The scraps can be chopped up and whipped into cream cheese for homemade shmeer. 

Genetically engineered salmon: Coming soon to a bagel near you?


Do you want to be experimented on by eating sushi or bagels and lox made with a new type of salmon with eel genes in it — salmon which hasn’t been adequately tested for safety of human consumption?

If not, then we in the Jewish community need to speak up now, for the sake of our health, the environment, kashrut, and to ensure that there will be native salmon left in the future.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking public comments through April 26, on whether to approve the first genetically engineered (“GE” or “GMO”) animal species: Atlantic salmon with chinook salmon and ocean pout (eel, non-kosher) genes forced into its DNA. 

Manufacturer AquaBounty plans to sell it without a GE label.  You won’t know you are eating it.

Over 300 consumer, health, fishing, environmental, parent, and animal rights groups are opposing FDA approval.  The Los Angeles City Council unanimously opposes it.  Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s pledge not to sell it.

Here’s why I am taking action, and I hope you will, too.

HEALTH

Dr. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist at Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports) writes that the FDA determination of no additional significant health risk is based on manipulated data and inadequate studies. Allergy risk findings were based on only six fish, and those allergic to finfish could experience severe allergic reactions.

Friends of the Earth writes, “GE salmon are unhealthy and suffer from skeletal deformities, jaw erosions, inflammation, lesions, increased susceptibility to disease, and increased mortality, raising serious … human health concerns from eating sick fish.  Overall, GE salmon have 40% higher levels of IGF-1.” 

“IGF-1 is a hormone that has been associated with increased risk of a number of cancers, especially prostate, breast, colorectal and lung,” adds Dr. Hansen.

The Center for Food Safety summarizes that the science is not there to say these fish are safe to eat.  Further research is needed.

KASHRUT

The Orthodox Union says GE salmon is kosher, because it has fins and scales.

However, even though some authorities currently state that this fish is kosher, there are Jews who will reject it, saying, “I definitely won’t eat it – it’s not kosher to me.”  Views ranged from an ethical sense of kashrut to “it’s not the natural, healthy food G-d created for us.”

Rabbi Elihu Gevirtz of Netiya said the Torah prohibits eating swimming animals that do not have both fins and scales. Eel lacks scales, suggesting GE salmon might not be entirely a salmon, and therefore may not be kosher. Also, creation of a part-fish, part-eel seems impermissible as a violation of the Torah’s prohibition to mix species.

Brooklyn Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Serebryanski said, even though a small amount of a non-kosher food doesn’t usually render a food non-kosher, it does when it becomes an intrinsic part of the food.  It is prohibited to genetically engineer salmon with eel genes because such boundary crossing is prohibited by the Creator. Using genetic engineering to cross boundaries set up by the Creator creates an imbalance and distortion, disrupting a person’s connection with the Creator.

ENVIRONMENT

GE salmon raises serious concerns about the survival of native salmon. AquaBounty says its fish will be infertile and cannot escape their controlled, land-based environment.  But the FDA allows for 95% sterility, and there will certainly be fertile fish that produce the GE eggs.  Fish and eggs can escape through land-based water recirculation systems. Market competition may potentially push all fish farms to buy and raise AquaBounty’s GE eggs.  Most farms are on coastlines. Thousands of farmed fish escape annually.

Could escaped GE salmon out-compete native salmon for habitat, food and mates, causing extinction of native salmon?   Would eating GE salmon cause illness, infertility or death to bears, whales, seabirds, etc., that rely on them as food?  AquaBounty and the FDA have not done adequate studies.   

The FDA is accepting AquaBounty’s assurances.  Instead it should honor requests from California Senator Feinstein and others, for a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement, and from experts like Dr. Anne Kapuscinski, professor of sustainability science at Dartmouth, for a quantitative failure mode analysis.

ACTION

Friends, if this salmon is approved, you and I may have to stop eating salmon completely to protect our health and/or Jewish practice. Even doing so might not protect our ecosystem from disastrous consequences.

We can make a difference on this issue!  Comments to the FDA may be made until April 26 at: http://tiny.cc/in82qw. To help stop this fish from entering the market by getting stores and restaurants to pledge not to sell it, contact www.gefreeseafood.org or the author.


Lisa Kassner is the San Fernando Valley co-coordinator of the Label GMOs Campaign.

PRO PROP 37: Should genetically engineered foods be labeled?


[Read the con argument here]

Did you know that you have been enrolled in the largest research study ever conducted in the United States, but you never signed a consent form or agreed to participate? That’s because since 1996, you — and basically everyone you know — have been eating genetically engineered foods.

Genetically engineered foods, also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are created by forcing a piece of DNA from a totally different species, such as bacteria or viruses, into the DNA of a plant or animal. For example, genetically engineered soybeans have DNA from bacteria and viruses spliced into their DNA to help them tolerate weed killers such as Roundup.

This genetic feat creates a whole new species of plant that would have never occurred in nature. Most soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, some zucchini, yellow squash and alfalfa are genetically modified. Products such as oil, high fructose corn syrup and sugar are created from these crops and added to processed foods. This explains why nearly 80 percent of processed foods, including baby formula and most fast foods, contain GMOs.

The question is, are GMOs safe for us and the environment? The answers are not clear. When we decided to write an article on GMOs, we quickly realized there is no evidence that GMOs are safe for humans. We also found that the Food and Drug Administration did not do its own safety testing before GMOs were put into our food supply. The “studies” done by the companies that created the seeds compared genetically modified corn to regular corn and found that they were similar and thus thought to be safe.

However, there are animal studies with negative findings, including organ damage, tumors, infertility and immune system changes. Toxins from GMO corn and soy have been found in the blood of 93 percent of pregnant women and 80 percent of their umbilical cords. It is clear that more research is needed.

The environment is another issue. What are the implications when a genetically engineered plant crossbreeds with other plants? Monarch butterflies are declining due to the destruction of milkweed. Super bugs and super weeds are already appearing. What other consequences are possible? Do we really want to irreversibly change the face of plant life with unknown consequences?

The bottom line is that we have a product in our food supply with unknown health and environmental implications. At the very least, we should have these foods labeled. However, try as we might, we cannot make that happen in the United States. Polls show 90 percent of people want them labeled, but the biotech companies and food manufacturers do not. If their products are beneficial and safe, why not be proud of those products and label them? Nearly 50 countries, including China, require GMO labeling, and some countries ban GMOs. Don’t we have a right to know what’s in our food?

What do Jewish leaders have to say about labeling? The Resolution on Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods issued by Reform Judaism’s Commission on Social Action states that “GE [genetically engineered] products ought to be labeled as such, since the concealment of vital information (and this information is vital, important to the decision of the consumer to use it) is a violation of the prohibition against deceitful advertising.” (Shulchan Aruch) Similarly, a Conservative rabbi and a Chabad rabbi told us they support labeling because “it’s important for Jews to know what is in their food.”

The Rabbinical Council of California (RCC) says that kashrut would need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Surprisingly, kashrut agencies may decide that salmon with eel genes (which may soon be sold unlabeled) is kosher. But, observant Jews may feel otherwise and want to avoid it. Vegetarians may prefer to avoid ice cream that is now sold with GMO yeast with fish genes in it. 

Everyone has the right to be informed, through labeling, and thereby avoid foods that violate their personal standards of conscience and religious observance.

Proposition 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act, will be on the November ballot. Companies such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta will probably create ads telling us that labeling is expensive and unnecessary because GMOs are safe. But, prices did not increase when Europe introduced GMO labeling in 1997 or when companies began labeling trans fats in the U.S.

Food labels already tell us if a food has high fructose corn syrup, trans fat or is irradiated. Why can’t we know if it’s genetically engineered? These companies’ biggest fear is that once GMOs are labeled, we won’t want to eat them anymore. And that may happen, just like it did when we found out there was pink slime in our hamburgers.

Our country is based on a free-market economy. If you supply a product the public does not want, the market dictates it will go away. So, biotech companies and food manufacturers will probably spend $50 million to $100 million to prevent the labeling of GMOs.

Whether you are concerned about health and fertility, the environment, or kosher or ethical eating, we hope you will join us and vote for the right to know when there are genetically engineered ingredients in our food.

Adapted with permission from an article at laprogressive.com.


Carole Bartolotto, a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in exercise physiology, has worked in the field of diet and health for more than 20 years. She blogs about nutrition and health at healthyeatingrocks.com. Lisa Goldwag Kassner lives in Northridge and can be reached at labelgmos80@gmail.com.

Salmonella outbreak linked to smoked salmon brand sold by Costco


Smoked salmon tainted with salmonella bacteria has sickened hundreds of people in the Netherlands and the United States, sparking a major recall, health authorities said Tuesday.

The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said the salmon has been traced to Dutch company Foppen, which sells fish to many major Dutch supermarkets and to stores around the world, including the United States.

Read more at MercuryNews.com.

Remembrances of Passover Food Past


Ruth Reichl, Gourmet magazine’s editor in chief, reminisced about the versatility of matzah brie in her memoir, "Tender at the Bone."

Likewise, Elizabeth Ehrlich wrote of her longing for the salty gefilte fish of her childhood, comparing it to her mother-in-law’s sweeter variety in "Miriam’s Kitchen," her memoir on kosher cooking.

Although neither of these dishes achieved the renown of Marcel Proust’s madeleines, the memories of these authors resonated for millions of readers.

Many people feel passionately about foods associated with Passover, the Jewish holiday claiming the largest number of courses per meal, but not everyone has the talent to weave tasty morsels into literature. Although gefilte fish and matzah ball soup are most often linked to the holiday, there are other foods connected to peoples’ cherished memories.

Family and friends who gather for Passover at attorney Lorraine Abraham’s apartment in Fort Lee, N.J., anticipate a tangy treat when she ladles soup from a tureen on her table.

Abraham also initiated another Passover tradition — pickled salmon. Her recipe is practically foolproof. It involves freezing salmon for 48 hours to knock out dangerous organisms, before submerging fillets in pickling brine for several days.

Juggling a demanding career with Passover preparations, Abraham makes the salmon the weekend before the holiday; it holds for at least a week. It is faster and easier to finesse than its competition — gefilte fish. "I gravitated to pickled salmon 20 years ago, because it’s delicious and I’m forever pressed for time." She describes a zesty marinade of spices and thinly sliced onions, claiming she whips up twice as much fish as she needs. Not one spec goes to waste, because her sons, 30-something bachelors, consume leftovers with gusto. "They even love the onions, which they pull from the marinade and place on plain matzah."

While some people dedicate certain foods exclusively to Passover, other families partake in dishes they enjoy all year.

"If you like the crunch of freshly fried latkes, you’ll love my potato kugel," says Nelly David, a retired shopkeeper living in Boca Raton, Fla. "When I was a girl in Germany, my mother taught me how to make this recipe." By now it has been passed down through four generations of women in her family.

When David’s daughters were growing up, she lit Shabbat candles every Friday night and served roasted chicken, chicken soup and, because her family loved it so much, potato kugel. This delectable dish always graced her seder table.

"My children would die if they didn’t have potato kugel at Passover," says Manhattan resident Lynda Sobel, one of David’s daughters. She prefers it when her mother visits at Passover because she prepares the holiday kugels.

"If my mother is not here, I make her kugel recipe, but it never tastes the same," says Sobel, explaining that her mother sprinkles in love as she grates potatoes by hand. Sobel cheats and uses a food processor, which turns potatoes watery.

During the flourless chocolate cake craze of the 1980s, I began baking a chocolate almond torte, which achieves its loft from whipped egg whites instead of starch of any kind. Although I always cover my sideboard with a variety of homemade desserts, my torte is so popular that I must bake two of them to get through one seder.

My daughter claims that she could survive without the four kinds of charoset I serve, the special way I brown hard-boiled eggs and soften matzah so it tastes like pasta in vegetable lasagna. But, my daughter said, "It wouldn’t be Passover without the bittersweet chocolate of your almond torte."

Yet, before I introduced this dessert, she had adored my marzipan macaroons, meringue cookies and lemon chiffon sponge cake, too. Over the years, I kept collecting recipes and adding more marvelous foods to our family’s Passover traditions.

Between ridding the household of leavened foods and the amount of cooking Passover generates, the holiday is labor intensive. This accounts for the popularity of bottled gefilte fish, canned macaroons and packaged foods on supermarket shelves, although manufacturers can never duplicate the magic that people infuse into delicacies they prepare at home.

The events of the past fall have catapulted home-cooked foods to the front burner, as people have become increasingly nostalgic for a less stressful past. Passover, the most cherished of Jewish holidays, is the perfect time to please loved ones by renewing castoff culinary traditions or by adding new recipes to your repertoire. Tantalizing aromas and warm feelings will fill your dining room, and if you’re lucky, a budding writer at the table will immortalize your Passover fare.

Pickled Pink Salmon

Marinade

2 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

6 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons salt

3 cloves garlic, whole

1 stalk celery, halved

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Place ingredients in a saucepan and stir. Boil for five minutes. Cool to room temperature. Remove garlic and celery.

Reserve.

Salmon

2 pounds salmon, skin and bones removed

2 tablespoons pickling spice

5 bay leaves

2 medium-sized Vidalia onions, sliced thin

Garnish: one seedless cucumber and 3 tablespoons minced dill

1. Freeze salmon for 48 hours.

2. During defrosting, while fillets are still partially frozen but slightly flexible, cut into 1-inch-by-3-inch pieces.

3. Spread a layer of fillets on the bottom of a large glass bowl. Sprinkle with half the pickling spice, bay leaves and onions. Repeat for a second layer. Pour marinade over the top. Cover.

Refrigerate for four days.

4. Drain salmon and remove bay leaves and pickling spice. Serve cold on a platter surrounded by sliced cucumbers. Sprinkle dill over fillets and cucumbers.

Yield: 20 pieces.

Piscatorial Compassion


"Fish is meat," announces Danny, my 9-year-old vegetarian son.

"Fish is fish," responds Larry, my 50-something pescetarian husband.

Judaism backs up Larry, classifying fish as pareve, neither dairy nor meat, and telling us that fish first appeared almost 6,000 years ago, on the fifth day of creation, when God commanded, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures" (Genesis 1:20). God later elaborated, "anything in water, whether in the seas or in the streams, that has fins and scales — these you may eat" (Leviticus 11:9).

But the National Audubon Society supports Danny, categorizing fish as wildlife, and, along with other ecological and animal rights groups, raising questions that transcend the mere availability and codification of fish and directly challenge our ethical obligations as both fish-eaters and fish-catchers.

Indeed, with the yearly haul for all sea food estimated at 100 million metric tons, according to Britain’s Marine Conservation Society, and with 30 percent of the world’s fishes listed on the World Conservation Union’s "2000 Red List of Threatened Species," can we, in light of various Jewish moral precepts, continue to serve salmon at Shabbat dinner or take our kids fishing off the Santa Monica pier?

The Jewish mitzvah of bal tashit, do not destroy, can be traced back to Deuteronomy 20:19-20: "When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them."

Thus, the rabbis have interpreted, if we are prohibited from destroying fruit-bearing trees even during the extreme conditions of wartime, imagine our responsibility to earth’s living plants and creatures under normal circumstances.

And so, we must pay heed when National Audubon Society, through its Living Oceans marine conservation program, alerts us that certain fish are abused, endangered or nearly depleted.

Wild salmon, for example, except in Alaska, are in serious trouble. Orange roughy, which became very popular in the 1980s, are fished out, as are Chilean sea bass, which may, according to some sources, face extinction by 2005. Additionally, the shark population is decreasing, especially in the Atlantic where they are overfished and depleted, and groupers, flounders, red snapper and swordfish are in serious trouble.

Plus, commercial fishing for many of these species results in the accidental catching and killing of other aquatic life as well as damage to the ocean habitats and ecosystems. For example, for every pound of shrimp caught, never mind that it’s halachically off-limits to us anyway, another four to ten pounds of sea life is killed or destroyed.

The National Audubon Society encourages us to select fish from a well-managed fishery. Among the kosher ones are tilapia, pacific cod, striped bass, pacific halibut, dolphinfish (aka mahi mahi or dorado) and wild Alaska salmon.

The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), founded in 1993 to bring a Jewish perspective and response to the environmental crisis, reiterates the need to safeguard the diversity of all life. According to Executive Director Mark K. Jacobs, "Based in the very beginning of Jewish tradition, in the story of Noah, we believe we have an obligation to preserve all the species we find on this planet."

And so my pescetarian husband has sworn off swordfish and orange roughy. He eats wild salmon only from Alaska.

But my vegetarian son, who has already sworn off eating fish, has a more difficult task in store for him; he must swear off fishing, which his older brother Gabe says, not entirely ironically, is the leading cause of death among fishes.

The Jewish concept of tzaar baalei hayyim (showing kindness to animals) puts fishing as a sport in the same category as hunting. In fact, when 18th century Rabbi Ezekiel Landau was questioned about hunting, he replied, "In the Torah the sport of hunting is imputed only to fierce characters like Nimrod and Esau, never to any of the patriarchs and their descendants… When the act of killing is prompted by that of sport, it is downright cruelty."

"But I throw the fish back," is the defensive response of anglers.

"But the fish are not even aware of their own existence," they protest. "They can’t feel pain."

Wrong. According to various scientific studies, including The Medway Report, sponsored by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, published in 1980 and updated in 1994, fish do suffer. They have a brain, a central nervous system and pain receptors throughout their bodies.

Thus, hooking a fish on a line and subsequently releasing it hardly qualifies as compassionate behavior. A fish’s mouth is covered with nerve endings, causing it to experience pain — as well as fear — as soon as it is snagged. Also, once out of water, a fish begins to suffocate, often causing its gills to collapse. And even returned to the water, a fish can die of trauma, infection or serve as a vulnerable target for a predator, including another "catch and release" fisherman.

The challenge for us Jews, based on what our tradition teaches us, lies not in reeling in the "big one" and mounting it conspicuously on our den wall. Nor does it lie in elevating animal rights over human rights. Rather, the challenge lies in finding a balance that respects and preserves all life.

As COEJL’s Jacobs says, "Fishing in and of itself is a good way for humankind to harvest the food that it needs. But it must be done in a way that is going to sustain the fish population."

For more information about the National Audubon Society’s Living Oceans program, please visitwww.audubon.org/campaign/lo

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