© 2007 Clove Garden
As mentioned above, many of the dietary laws are of rather obscure
purpose. Some hold Judaism favors eating only "ideal animals", those
definitive of their type, in order to be more in tune with God. Since pigs
and fish without scales do not match the "ideal" for their type they are
forbidden. This may have been a consideration but does not explain many
other rules which seem quite arbitrary.
Many authorities suspect a major factor was deliberately making it
difficult for Jews to socialize with non-Jews. This may have been desired
by the religious authorities because of earlier problems with Jews slipping
out of their grasp and fading into the more comfortable non-Jewish
Today observance of the laws ranges very widely, as evidenced by Jewish
doctors and media moguls commonly found scarfing quantities of forbidden
creepy-crawlys in Japanese sushi bars here in Los Angeles. The Conservative
and Orthodox communities look very much askance at this.
The largest congregation of Judaism in the U.S. is Reform Judaism.
In 1885 the American Reform Rabbis wrote the Pittsburgh Platform which
declared kashrut obsolete. This was based on the theory of the time that
the laws were hygienic in purpose, but that theory has since been discredited.
Kashrut is now thought to be about identity and spiritual integrity.
A large number of Reform Jews still eat pork (probably variable by
region), but the trend is away from that. The Reform movement's 1999 Statement
of Principles included observance of dietary laws, though not with traditional
rigidity (compliance is still a completely personal matter). One Reform
rabbi notes that the cookbooks published by his temple included pork and
shellfish dishes in the 1920s, shellfish but no pork in the 1970s, and
neither pork nor shellfish from the early 1990s on.
This list is not exhaustive or in sufficient detail to be a complete
guide to keeping kosher. It is more a guide to persons who have not but who
have found a need to understand the rules well enough to get along. For
authoritative detail see the Links section.
If serving Jewish guests you need to determine their level of compliance
in advance so you will not screw up. If you find you are dealing with Jews
who do keep strictly kosher, give up. Sharing food is simply not on the
menu. "This behavior is by design".
- Animals allowed are those with cloven hooves that
chew a cud (ruminants). This includes cattle, sheep, goats, deer and
and bison. Pigs, rabbits, camels and rock badgers are specifically
forbidden. In addition, approved animals must be slaughtered, all blood
drained and otherwise prepared in accordance with kosher law and all under
strict rabbinical supervision to be rated "kosher".
- Animal Products from non-kosher animals, including
eggs, milk, etc. are forbidden.
- Animal Parts: Some parts of kosher animals are
forbidden including organ fats and certain nerves and blood vessels.
Removing these nerves and blood vessels is tedious so most slaughterers
sell the hind quarters to non-kosher outlets and only kosher
the fore quarters. Blood and products made with blood are forbidden.
- Meat / Dairy: Meat (birds or mammals) and Dairy
(milk and milk products) cannot be eaten together. Some authorities
also include fish as meat. Eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten
with either meat or dairy but fish must not be cooked with or on the same
plate with meat. Utensils used to prepare meat and dairy must be kept
separate. There must be a period variously stated as three or six hours
between eating meat and eating dairy or vice versa.
- Milk technically must be watched over by a Jew from
animal to bottle to make sure it is not mixed with any milk from non-kosher
animals. Milk production is so strictly regulated and inspected in the
U.S. that most authorities consider it to be kosher without this level
- Birds are specifically listed but turkeys were
unknown so there is controversy there. Specifically birds of prey and
scavengers are forbidden but chickens, domestic ducks and geese are
- Insects: Certain "winged swarming insects" are
permitted but positive identification has been lost so all insects are
considered forbidden except in a few communities with a tradition of
eating certain ones.
- Pigs may not be eaten nor any foods derived from pigs.
Unlike Islamic law Jews are not forbidden to farm or sell pigs nor to use
leather derived from pigs, just forbidden to eat them. Various reasons have
been propose which I summarize on my page
Pig - Prohibitions.
- Fish must have fins and scales that can be scraped off
without breaking the skin. Fish must be purchased whole so it can be
positively identified or from a reliable kosher fish market. Kashrut.com
has a list of Kosher and
Non-Kosher Fish. Some of the kosher fish have barely enough scales to
get by, but they have at least a few.
- Shellfish are all forbidden including crabs, lobsters,
clams, etc.. They come from the sea but don't have fins and removable
- Rodents are all forbidden including rabbit.
- Reptiles and Amphibians are all forbidden.
- Cheese must be manufactured by Jews. Some authorities
exempt soft acid set cheeses (farmer's cheese, etc.) but others do not.
Kosher hard cheeses are hard to find and very expensive because of the
extensive rabbinical supervision required.
- and products containing it are forbidden. Whey is
a byproduct of cheese making and non-kosher rennet may have been used.
- Fruits and Vegetables can be eaten, but must be
inspected to assure they contain no bugs (creepy-crawlys are forbidden).
- Grape Products (Wine, etc.) made by non-Jews are
forbidden. Fortunately actually drinkable kosher wines have become
widely available in the U.S..
- Pareve is a term used for foods that are neither
meat nor dairy nor have they had any contact with meats or dairy nor
with equipment used to process meats and dairy. Grains, fruits and
vegetables are examples. These foods may be served with either meats
or dairy without restriction.
- Utensils: A kosher home must have two sets of
pans, utensils, towels, potholders, trivets, spoon rests, etc. - one for
meat and the other for use with dairy products. Any mistakes decertify
the utensil and a rabbi must be consulted as to whether or not it can
be "koshered". All utensils must be washed in a dishpan reserved for their
type, never in the sink.
To make keeping kosher easier, there are a number of rabbinical
organizations that inspect food production and award (or deny) certification.
Certification is generally identified by a symbol on the package the food
Quest has a good multi-national list of certification symbols they
consider reliable and identify the organizations providing the
This list includes a few references of outstanding interest, but by no
means includes all sources used to compose this page.