Kosher 2.0: Not Your Bubbe’s Kosher!
Submitted by: Hanna Category: Ensuring the Jewish Future
The Big Idea
Many Jews don’t keep kosher, and even among those who do, many lack a personal connection with the doctrine. At the same time, there is an explosion of interest in contemporary food trends, and how they connect with our Jewish values. The Kosher 2.0 project addresses key questions of what calls us to be kosher or not, how we as a community would reimagine the concept of kosherness, and ultimately presents a new vision of Kosher 2.0—A Manifesto for Modern Jewish Conscious Consumption—to take its place at the table of modern Judaism.
How we eat, indeed what we eat, defines us as a community. This project will engage hundreds of members of the Los Angeles Jewish community in one-on-one and workshop discussions to collect and synthesize people’s feelings about food, food justice, and what it means to be “kosher” in every sense of the word. The Kosher 2.0 project will document and blog throughout the process. Then, the project will produce a “manifesto” that promulgates a set of principles and practices that modern Jews can choose to adopt, updating and personalizing their faith. The project will also connect with organizations working in the “good food” movement and Jewish community to make people aware of the manifesto and encourage its use in the community.
Kosher 2.0 is compatible with all versions of Kosher 1.0—that is, whatever your relationship and adherence to the rules of kashrut, you can choose which aspects of Kosher 2.0 to adopt. Kosher 2.0 will not replace 1.0, but will be able to stand alone as the “New Kosher.” The code is simply an overlay of modern values and community-derived principles and practices to give modern Jews a new tool for connecting to Judaism and the wider community on a daily basis.
The Kosher 2.0 Project will promote areas of work the Federation holds dear. By giving modern Jews a set of traditions they personally identify with but that tie to the historical kosher rules, Kosher 2.0 will inspire more Jews to consider themselves kosher, thus ensuring the Jewish future. Further, the process of cataloguing the attitudes of our community about Kosher 1.0 and Kosher 2.0 constitutes direct community engagement community. Moreover, the project will continue this community engagement beyond the initial work by planned activities to promote and discuss the product of the work. When the idea catches on and people commit to augmenting their kosher practice to encompass Kosher 2.0, then a whole generation and generations to come will carry forward this community-driven connection.
Kosher 2.0 indirectly serves the goal of caring for Jews in need. In preliminary discussions with many Jews, modern notions of principled eating include promoting food justice. Beyond the Passover exhortation to “let all who are hungry come and eat,” Kosher 2.0 will incorporate requirements to provide food and access to nutrition for people in need. Accordingly, Jews who adhere to Kosher 2.0 will necessarily care for Jews in need as part of their practices of keeping kosher.
The Kosher 2.0 project has several goals. The first goal is to take the pulse of Jews in Los Angeles to find out what is meaningful to this community in terms of food choices, food justice, and food rituals. It will find out what calls us to be kosher, what we identify with in the original kashrut, and how we would like to connect our principles to an organic, community-derived modern food code. The bottom line is, the project will ask: What's Your Kosher? And the project will collect and synthesize the answers for this community. The answers can cover a range of practices, from how often families gather for meals (or how often they should) to how conscious we are about the effect of our food choices on the environment.
The next project goal is to derive from the research a broad set of shared principles that will take the form of a code, or manifesto. This code will become part of the debate about food that Jews will always engage in, but more importantly, can offer a meaningful way to engage in Judaism that emanates from the very principles that resonate for our community. For preserving the Jewish future, this could emerge as a touchstone that draws people to a deeper, more engaged Jewish practice.
The impact of this project on the Los Angeles Jewish community would be to bring us together in a robust debate on the topic of what is kosher - yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Ultimately, as the code is adopted by many in our community, it would be a living doctrine grown organically in our community, binding us all together in shared values and practices. This can broaden the local Jewish community's appeal, swell the ranks of observant Jews here, create strong shared goals for food justice, thus inspiring vastly increased tzedakah, and strengthen the overall sense of community.
This Is A Great Idea Because
Kosher 2.0 builds on a tremendous body of work in the Jewish community and in the wider community, but it adds two innovative twists that will enrich the debate, and can even enrich and enliven the religion itself, making the Kosher 2.0 conception the Next Big Jewish Idea.
The first innovation is the journalistic/anthropological collection of views about notions of kosher in the past, present, and future. This kind of research and engagement has not been done, and would offer a window onto where the zeitgeist of the modern food movement is taking us, and what the ancient doctrine of kashrut offers us as we move forward on our journey as a people.
The second innovation is the creation of a living, community-derived doctrine that could become the basis for a modern Jewish movement, and could offer Jews a personally meaningful way to engage in Jewish life. The themes of food consciousness, food ritual, food justice, and food codes are not new: what is new is the idea that we can grow our own code from within our community, adopt it, and use it to bring our community closer in shared values, shared practices, and shared food. L'chaim!