Rabbi, students bite into silence surrounding Kashrut

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By Suzi Marsh
For the Mitzpeh
@suzannahmarsh

The topic of Kashrut is one that, even in the Jewish community, tends to not get discussed as in-depth as some may hope.

This is why Maryland Hillel Rabbi Aderet Drucker attempted to combat that shortcoming by leading a two-part discussion on the origin of Kashrut and the role it plays in society today.

Drucker led a group of seven attendees April 19 in a lesson about Kashrut, a set of Jewish dietary laws. The night was enhanced by two platters of chocolate chip cookies and brownies, as promised. This class followed a class Drucker taught about the Kabbalistic (Jewish Mystical) tradition of Shabbat. Drucker said she was inspired to bring such a series to Hillel after being approached by two students who had interest in being led in Beit Midrash, a traditional Judaic house of study.

The intimacy of a small group was vital for this complex discussion. In order to create that intimacy, Drucker led an icebreaker in which she asked all attendees to say their names along with one part of Kashrut that perplexes them. Many attendees raised the issue of eating out while still keeping kosher.

Drucker first made a point of validating any and all feelings attendees had. She said “people are so emotionally connected to their food” because it is so ingrained in almost every culture worldwide.

Drucker pointed out that she has “the unique opportunity to connect with students from different backgrounds on their Jewish journey,” so this discussion brought people with a wide variety of views to the table.

Drucker created a packet that outlined kosher vocabulary. It examined different samples of texts, both biblical and contemporary, that covered a broad range of subtopics under the larger umbrella of overarching Jewish dietary laws.

After reading an excerpt from Deuteronomy (14:2-21), Drucker had everyone discuss their interpretations in small groups. The passage lists God’s rules on what the Israelites could and could not eat. Conversations that turned into passionate yet respectful debates about what should and should not be considered kosher circled around the table.

Drucker said “it is not a black and white answer.” She urged everyone to make decisions within their own set of values, emphasizing one’s intentionality with regards to how and why they are keeping kosher.

Virginia Commonwealth University graduate Madeline Paul said she came for “the potential to talk about realistic Kashrut decisions,” as well as to experience a more “Conservadox” atmosphere than the predominantly reform community from which she hails.

The interior design major found herself at Hillel because her fiancé, Alex Berger, is an active member of Jewish life on campus. Berger, a senior computer science major, said it was interesting “to see that other people are struggling with the same issues.”

Many of the discussion attendees already assumed positions of leadership in their respective Jewish communities while still having a difficult time grappling with the constant dilemma of how to honor kosher traditions.

“People aren’t perfect,” Berger said.

Berger and Paul agreed that they want to use this time before marriage to figure out a plan that works for their future family.

“What you decide is what your children will grow up with,” Paul said.

CORRECTION: This article previously named Rabbi Aderet Drucker as an Orthodox rabbi. She is a conservative rabbi.

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