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< Q18.4.17 TOC Q18.4.19 >

Question 18.4.18:
Fallacy: Reform Jews ignore the laws of Kashrut


[The following is based on Kashrut: A Reform Point of View in Gates of Mitzvah]

Gates of Mitzvah, a guide to mitzvot in a Reform context, states regarding Kashrut:

Many Reform Jews observe certain traditional disciplines as part of their attempt to establish a Jewish home and life style. For some, traditional Kashrut will enhance the sanctity of the home and be observed as a mitzvah; for some, a degreee of kashrut (e.g., the avoidance of pork products and/or shellfish) may be meaningful; and sill others may find nothing of value in kashrut. However, the fact that kashrut was an essential feature of Jewish life for som any centuries should motivate the Jewish family to study it and to consider whether or not it may enhance the sanctity of their home.

The basic Reform philosophy is that it is a Reform Jew's responsibility to study and consider kashrut so as to develop a valid personal position. For although "classic" Reform Judaism did reject kashrut (as noted in the Pittsburgh Platform of 1885,, it did not prevent Reform Jews and Reform congregations from adopting and observing the dietary laws. The reasons for observing the laws by Reform Jews varied, from a desire to allow a wide variety of Jews to share in celebrations, to deeper meanings.

In attempting to evolve a position on Kashrut, a Reform Jew has several options, for example, abstention from pork/shellfish products, not mixing meat and milk, etc. They might observe the laws at home, but not when eating out, or they might observe them all the time. They might eat only Kosher meat, or might become vegetarians in consonance with the principle of tzaar baalei chayim--prevention of pain or cruelty to animals. The range of options is from full observance to total nonobservance.

The Torah commands Jews to observe the dietary laws as a means of making it kadosh--holy. Holiness has the dual sense of inner hallowing and outer separateness. There are many reasons that Reform Jews adopt some form of Kashrut:

  1. Identification and solidarity with worldwide Judaism

  2. The ethical discipline of avoiding certain foods or limiting one's appetite because of the growing scarcity of food in parts of the world.

  3. The avoidance of certain foods traditionally obnoxious to Jews, providing a sense of identification with past generations and their struggle to remain Jews.

  4. The authority of ancient biblical and rabbinic injunctions.

  5. The desire to have a home in which any Jew can eat.

One or more of these reasons (or perhaps another reason) might lead a Reform Jew to adopt some form of Kashrut. Others might still choose to not observe Kashrut. But given the central nature of Kashrut to traditional practice, Reform Jews are encouraged to study it and consider carefully whether it would add kedushah, sanctity, to their home and their lives.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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