As an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, I am deeply committed to keeping kosher. Even as a teenager, I took pride in the strict rules governing food preparation in the kashrut tradition””like the separating of milk and meat, and the strict supervision preventing the consumption of such things as blood or bugs””thinking it raised simple consumption to a higher ethical and spiritual plane.
Many have also long believed that kosher certification conveys greater healthfulness. That was especially the case in the era before government food inspection. During the period of the “New Immigration” (1880-1920), when East European Jews were crowded into neighborhoods such as New York City’s Lower East Side, kosher laws were seen as preventing illness, in contrast with nonkosher food such as pork, which was often contaminated with trichinosis, and other foods that were prepared without supervision. But the most important aspect of keeping kosher is that for centuries it has helped the Jewish people remain spiritually alive.
It pains me to say this, but given what I have learned in recent years, I cannot pretend anymore that kosher meat, poultry and dairy is any healthier or ethical than nonkosher food. I still promote how kashrut in its pure form aims to morally and spiritually elevate us, but the authentic realization of this timeless ritual is vanishingly rare.
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