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Keeping Kosher

Updated on April 14, 2014

Kosher sybols

Here is a list of symbols to find on food.
Here is a list of symbols to find on food.
This symbol is for the Chicago rabbinic council
This symbol is for the Chicago rabbinic council
Union of orthodoxx
Union of orthodoxx

How to Keep Kosher

Have you ever met someone who said they 'kept kosher'? What does that mean? Well, there is not real clear cut answer. Keeping kosher can mean a variety of different ways to keep kosher. Since there are different denominations of Judaism and within those denominations each person can find what is meaningful for them there are lots of ways to 'keep kosher'.

Keeping kosher has to do with eating food which has been deemed kosher by a rabbi. Certain animals such as bottom feeders, pigs are not kosher, shell fish, not even a rabbi can change that. The back quarter of the cow is not kosher. The animal needs to be slaughtered in a certain way for it to be considered kosher. In food production plants there needs to be supervision so that food is not mixed, either meat and milk on the same machine or if the machine is used to cut up bacon the machine could not be used to cut up kosher meat.

Sometimes people will require that every food product to have a hechsher in order to be in their home. Others will require a hechsher on some food items but not all. For instance meat must have a hechsher but not raisins. For some even salads items need to be deemed kosher because they have small bugs in them which make them not kosher. Most items found in the store already have hechshers they just are not noticed because unless they mean something to you they could be just another symbol for the product.

Another aspect of keeping kosher is not mixing meat and milk. No cheese burgers, no corn chip pie or chocolate shake with your burger.When making a turkey sandwich or hamburger the bread needs to be parve. Parve means there is not dairy or meat in the product. It is sort of a limbo product and can be used either way. Most of the time the issue about parve is concerning meat. When having coffee after a meat meal the creamer must be parve for those that do not want dairy products following a meat meal. Again, there are a variety of ways this can happen and it all depends on the person and their way of keeping kosher. Keeping kosher is not a one size fits all.

  • some people do not eat meat/dairy together at all during a meal and will wait six hours before having dairy after a meat meal.
  • another way is to eat a meat meal and wait three hours before having a dairy dessert
  • some will eat a meat meal without dairy, clear the table then have a dairy dessert without any wait time
  • still others will eat meals in 'kosher style' meaning the meat may not be kosher but they do not mix meat and dairy

For some keeping kosher will come up for special events, so you could have a friend who will eat anything any time you see them but will want their weeding to have a kosher caterer. This has to do with making sure everyone in the Jewish community can come and eat and some feel that any celebration needs to be kosher, even those who do not keep kosher regularly, want to add ritual to their celebration and keeping it kosher brings that added sanctity.

If someone tells you they keep kosher do not worry about walking around nervously thinking they will have nothing to eat. Most things in your home probably have a hechsher and something can be made for dinner. Someone who keeps kosher is able to go into different settings and find something to eat at the level of kashrut we keep. Any level of kashrut is important to the person choosing to keep kosher in that way.

Eating out and Keeping Kosher

Someone can keep kosher in their homes but when they eat out they do not keep the same rules. But even this has different levels. Someone can choose to eat out, which by strict law unless the restaurant is kosher then nothing made in it is kosher. So if someone decides they eat out here are a few varieties

  • a person could eat salad choosing not to eat anything cooked
  • they could eat just fish, cooked but no meat
  • some people choose to eat anything except bottom dwellers and pork when eating out

Every person has a different choice on how to make meaning from their level of kashrut/keeping kosher

Reasons for Keeping Kosher

For some keeping kosher has to do with labor laws, ethical kashrut. So for them they will only buy food from producers or farmers which can prove their labor workers are treated fairly. This kind of kashrut might not have an hechsher because the focus is on people being treated fairly not the law of kashrut.

Some keep kosher by keeping along the lines of organic. They will buy meat and other food kosher or not from organic or free range farmers. Recently there has been a movement which has local farmers have a rabbi supervise the slaughter of the animal then they bring the meat to the synagogue for people to buy. Usually the meat is pre-ordered so that the farmer does not loos out on the sale.

Keeping Kosher and Passover

During Passover the level or keeping kosher becomes over then top. We clean out all our cabinets, get out dishes which are only for Passover, eat food that only has hechshers that say Kosher for Passover. And we are not to eat anything that germinates, flour, wheat, etc. None of the food can be made in a plant where the possibility of chametz can be in the packaging. Chametz is what you call food which is not Kosher for Passover. Some people will make sure all their food which is chametz is gone before Passover. Others will 'sell' their chametz to someone not Jewish for a penny and then buy it back from them when Passover week is over. Again, within Passover, as with other kashrut times there are varieties for how to keep kosher during Passover.

  • not everyone changes out dishes-some will use the same dishes during the week of Passover
  • some people eat out during the week but stay away from bread products while others will only eat the food labeled Kosher for Passover
  • some will eat only Kosher for Passover food during the sedirim (seder nights) but will eat regular food after
  • some people sell their chametz while others will keep their chametz in a cabinet and just label it 'Not for Passover'

How many symbols can you find?

Go to your grocery store or your kitchen cabinet and find how much of your food has a hechsher

See results


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