Keeping a Kosher Community

Keeping a Kosher Community

Michael Jacobs

Atlanta Jewish Times Editor Michael Jacobs is on his second stint leading the AJT's editorial operations. He previously served as managing editor from 2005 to 2008.

Editor’s Notebook

An Orthodox Atlanta rabbi sent an interesting email in early May. He was disappointed that the Israeli Consulate’s invitation-only Yom HaAtzmaut reception May 12 at the High Museum was using a nonkosher caterer.

As a result, this rabbi decided not to attend, even though the consulate did offer kosher options at the reception. It’s his policy not to attend Jewish organizational events that are not kosher because he doesn’t think accommodating observant Jews with one section of the hors d’oeuvres table or with special, plastic-wrapped meals represents true inclusion.

This is not an issue about the consulate, whose event didn’t involve a full meal and which in any case is not unique in facing the decision about whether serving the Jewish community means serving kosher.

The AJT struggled with this decision when we relaunched the Jewish Breakfast Club (next meeting is Wednesday morning, June 15; email We chose to be kosher, but the caterer we tried to work with let us down.

We figured it would just be bagels, lox, whitefish, cheese and fruit, so it wouldn’t be a big deal if we went kosher-style instead. Besides, we could also wrap up a special meal as a kosher option on request.

We soon heard from people for whom it was a big deal, and the JBC is now a kosher event.

Kosher catering does not sacrifice quality, and price usually isn’t an issue (any additional cost can be covered by prioritizing kashrut over other event expenses). We do perhaps have a capacity problem in Atlanta, but if you plan early with the determination to be kosher, you can be kosher.

Communal gatherings often involve conflicts over levels of observance, and it’s understandable that more liberal denominations won’t accommodate the highest common denominator in areas such as the mechitza. But kashrut is a Torah-dictated practice that has adherents in all streams of Judaism.

The bottom line is that, whatever the difficulties, a Jewish communal event should be a kosher event.

More on the Study

Our May 27 article about the community survey launching online June 6 wasn’t on our website an hour before I got a complaint from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. There was some displeasure that we had noted that the Federation-funded, Federation-contracted, Federation-directed study was being conducted by Federation, rather than a coalition of Atlanta Jewish organizations.

Apparently, because of less-than-positive opinions about Federation, people in some communities have hesitated to respond to such surveys when they heard that their local Federations were behind them.

I understand not wanting to do something that could make you a target for Federation fundraising, but this community survey is not about fundraising or Federation. It’s about making our Jewish community stronger and more responsive to the needs of its members.

If you are a part of this community and care about it or any organization within it — and why else would you be reading the AJT — you should take the survey, which will benefit all of us. Skipping it to spite Federation is just hurting yourself.

It’s also sad that we’ve reached a point at which anything associated with Federation is tainted. Conducting a community study every 10 years is exactly the sort of community-building project for which we need and should be thankful for Federation. Who else has the resources, the reach, the connections, the database and the neutrality to organize something like this?

Federation should be able to promote the survey as one of the invaluable things it does for Jewish Atlanta. Its resistance to having its name associated with the survey is a sign of how much tough work Eric Robbins has ahead of him when he becomes CEO in August.

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