Kosher and Halal. Same or Different?
The answer is both. Kosher and halal are strict religious dietary laws that Jews and Muslims respectively, are required to follow. How else are the laws similar? How are they different?
Similarities between Kosher and Halal
Kosher is the Yiddish word for “clean, fit, or proper,” according to the article "What is Kosher?" found on New Jersey’s The Famous Kosher Nosh delicatessen website. It falls under the Jewish dietary laws of kashrut. During Biblical times, certain food rituals were required to keep the citizens healthy. Some scholars believe the rituals were followed because they were part of the Torah laws dictated by God. Others include an environmental component. Whatever the reasons, kashrut prohibited Jews from eating certain foods, and foods that were permitted had to pass a sanitary test before they were deemed kosher.
The Biblical chapters Deuteronomy 14 and Leviticus 11 in the Old Testament reflect the Torah laws, which forbid consumption of pigs, rabbits, camels, rodents, insects, birds of prey, and reptiles, but allows the eating of cows, sheep, goats, ox, deer, and other animals that chew their cud and have cloven hoofs (minus parts of their carcass such as innards, sciatic nerve, testicles, and certain fats). A Jew can also eat salmon, tuna, other fish with scales and fins, eggs, dairy, vegetables, and fruits.
Halal is the Arabic word for permitted. Like kosher it is usually associated with food and the regulations fall under the Islamic laws of the Qur'an. And like kosher the reasons are to ensure Muslims eat foods that are healthy, safe, and pure. Muslims are prohibited from eating pig or pork and its products, carrion, birds of prey, carnivores, as well as land animals without ears, animals not slaughtered or prepared under the required Islamic process, blood, lard, and alcohol.
Similarities in Kosher and Halal Meat/ Food Preparation
Under kashrut laws to be kosher-certified, meat must be handled in specific ways as it travels from farm to plate. First, the animal must be inspected to make sure it is healthy. Next, a shochet (derived from the Hebrew word to kill) -someone who is a devout, skilled, expert on Jewish law but not necessarily a rabbi- kills it with one quick, deep swipe to the throat, avoiding the sciatic nerve/ spinal cord. The knife or chalaf must be perfectly even, smooth, and sharp, so the procedure can be performed once and save the animal unnecessary pain. Blood is then drained completely from the animal’s body. This entire ritual is termed shechitah (also spelled shehitah, shehita, or shekhita), which also stems from the Hebrew word meaning to kill.
Another common term used today is Glatt or Glatt kosher. It’s applied when the slaughtered animal’s lungs are free from disease or defects.
The Muslim ritualistic slaughter is called Dhabiha or Dhabihah. Like the Jewish shechitah a specifically-trained Muslim must deliver a quick, deep cut to the throat of a healthy animal with a very sharp, smooth blade, while carefully avoiding its spinal cord. All blood must then be drained from its body, as stated in a 2014 article titled "What is halal meat?” written for BBC News by Nick Eardley.
Additionally, both Jewish and Muslim religious laws dictate the raising and feeding of animals used for consumption. Laws of both religions also require foods not be in contact with ‘unclean’ utensils and machinery. Stunning, which is rendering the animal unconscious prior to slaughter is generally forbidden. However, the British Halal Authority does allow certain types of stunning (see Source entry for further reading).
Companies dealing in kosher and halal products must receive certification from authorized agencies. An example of a kosher agency is OU Kosher. An example of a halal agency is the Muslim Consumer Group. They inspect the premises, equipment, machinery, ingredients, and the process to make sure everything is in compliance with the guidelines.
The Jewish Shechitah
Differences between Kosher and Halal
The differences between kosher and halal also occur in meat preparation and food consumption.
The Muslim Dhabiha
Differences in Kosher and Halal Meat/ Food Preparation
According to the article "Jewish Dietary Laws" from Judaism 101, an online encyclopedia of Jewish information, the Jewish schechitah requires that within 72 hours of slaughter, the animal's blood to be drained completely and its organs inspected to make sure it’s healthy. If it passes the health test, the carcass is then washed, broiled, or soaked in water for 30 minutes and salted with kosher coarse salt. An hour later, the carcass must be washed again to remove the salt. Prayers are recited during the draining of the animal’s blood.
Following the Dahabiha, the first step in making the animal halal is a blessing in the name of Allah by an Imam Muslim. This blessing is called tasmiya or shahada. In some communities as long as the person is “of the Book” meaning an adult Muslim, Jew, or Christian, he can perform the slaughter. The animal is then hung upside down (without boiling or salting) until all of its blood is drained from its body.
Differences in Kosher and Halal Food Cooking and Consumption
Kashrut laws (see Deuteronomy 14:2, Exodus 23:19, and Exodus 34:26) require meat and dairy to be prepared, cooked, and eaten with separate utensils. So, every kosher home must have a set of pots, dishes, flatware, and cleaning materials for meat and another set of the same for dairy. According to the article “Kosher and Halal- Meat Science” from the Texas A&M University website, one should also eat meat and dairy three to six hours apart to allow residue from the meat to dissipate. If you eat the dairy before the meat however, rinsing your mouth is the only requirement.
Some foods that are kosher year-round are not considered kosher during certain times or holidays on the Jewish calendar such as Passover.
Foods denoted as Pareve such as eggs (as long as they’re blood-free), grains, vegetables, and fruits can be eaten with meat and with dairy. Vegetables and fruits are considered unclean and therefore forbidden from consumption if they come in contact with insects or bugs.
Jewish dietary laws also permit the consumption of alcohol or kosher products/ ingredients cooked in or containing alcohol.
Islamic Dietary restrictions are not as stringent as the Jewish ones mentioned above. A Muslim can eat seafood, including shellfish, and dairy with or without meat products, grains, fruits, and vegetables. They do forbid the consumption of alcohol regardless of preparation and cooking process.
Eating Kosher. Eating Halal
How many of you have tried
Where to Find Kosher Food on the East Coast
One of the best places for kosher food on the East Coast, according to the search engine Bing, is Six Thirteen in Stamford, CT. With 57 Yelp reviews they are rated four out of five stars. Their website: www.613restaurant.com.
For kosher foods and products, Yelp recommends Westville Kosher Market in New Haven, CT. With 11 reviews they are given four out of five stars. Their website: www.westvillekosher.com.
Where to Find Halal Food on the East Coast
The Trip Advisor website chooses Saray Turkish Kitchen in West Haven, CT as one of the best on the East Coast for halal dining. With 99 reviews they receive four and a half stars out of five. I will add mine to that and say that I found their food to be fresh, well-spiced, and quite tasty. Their website: www.saraykebab.com.
For halal foods and products, Yelp recommends Dunya Market and Deli in Waterbury, CT. With 187 reviews they’re rated four and a half stars out of five. Their website: https://dunyact.weebly.com.
“What Is Kosher?” The Famous Kosher Nosh delicatessen. www.koshernosh.com/.
Eardley, Nick."What is halal meat?” 12/5/2014. BBC News. www.bbc.com/news/uk-27324224.
"Jewish Dietary Laws." Judaism 101. www.jewfaq.org/.
"Kosher and Halal- Meat Science." https://meat.tamu.edu/ansc-307-honors/kosher-halal/.
Dr. Wahab-Amalmerge (M), Ahmad Robin (Sdr. Bhd). “Guidelines for Preparation of Halal Foods and Goods for The Muslim Consumers.” 2004. www.halalrc.org/images/Research%20material/literature/halal%20Guidelines.pdf.