Rabbi Joel Mosbacher, who contributed a chapter on eating fish to “The Sacred Table,” has a “holistic sense of kashrut.”
“Many people across the religious spectrum,” he explained, “are trying to figure out how to blend traditionally held beliefs about kashrut with a modern understanding of the industrial food system … and to what extent we can and should expand our conception of kashrut to include the way our food is raised and the way it gets to us.”
The religious leader of Beth Haverim Shir Shalom in Mahwah, he noted that the word “kashrut” means “fit,” adding, “we should be as concerned, as Jews, about the fitness of an animal’s life as we are about the way that it’s slaughtered. Kosher slaughter has the potential to fit the bill as far as the way an animal dies but it doesn’t say anything about the way the animal lived.”
His goal, he told The Jewish Standard, is “to live in a world where we can eat meat and fish that was raised according to high ethical Jewish standards.
“I will eat meat,” he continued, ‘but am trying to eat only meat that was raised in a righteous way. I will eat fish but am trying to eat only fish that is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council,” meaning that “we know the fish was raised and lived and died in the most humane way.”
This larger sense of understanding kashrut, he said, is a “way to reclaim kashrut in a broader context.”
For example, while he does not look specifically for kosher certification, he will not buy foods that are made with unkosher ingredients, like seafood and pork. He does, however, look for food that is organic and, if possible, locally grown.
He has spoken to his 400-family congregation about this broader sense of kashrut in adult education classes, at confirmations, and even, he said with a laugh, “from the pulpit on Yom Kippur, when everyone was fasting…. People are resonating with this conversation a great deal. Many people are trying to eat throughtfully. Even in my congregation,” he added, “where there is not a great level of traditionl kashrut observance, there are many who are passionate about understanding what they eat, how it’s raised, and where it comes from.”