by Rabbi Allie Fischman, Camp Director
In my first year of rabbinical school in Jerusalem, I stood before my classmates and professors, wearing a large tallit and tefillin, and stated in a loud clear voice, “I love bacon.” I created a bit of a stir while talking about the Torah portion (which was actually the other time kashrut is described in Deuteronomy) and stating my love for pork products while also donning traditional ritual garb. A segment of this week’s portion, Shemini in Leviticus, also talks about the purity or impurity of animals.
I have always felt a draw to the laws of kashrut in the same ways I feel about ritual garb…but I have always loved bacon (and shellfish and other non-kosher food). During rabbinical school, I learned even more in-depth about the laws and for a time, I did keep kosher. Ultimately though, after much soul searching and experimenting with my own food practices, I stopped. I took time to think deeply about why kashrut laws exist in the Torah and in Judaism today and I read through Reform responsa, answers from our rabbis, about why one should keep kashrut. I found that in the end, it didn’t speak to me in the way I thought it would.
This past summer, many of our campers did a similar deep dive into the laws of kashrut. They read source texts and studied about why the laws of kashrut exist. They thought deeply together about the need or lack thereof of keeping kosher. Then, in small groups, they debated about camp’s kashrut policy. They had debates about whether or not we should keep our kosher style status, start buying all kosher meat too, or move to allowing the mixing of milk and meat.
Every group that wrote to me from our seventh and eighth grade campers concluded that we should keep our kosher style status, and had beautiful reasons and explanations behind their choices such as, “Camp is the place where we should try to serve all Reform Jews and kosher style allows this. It’s special and meaningful for many of us that we keep kosher style at camp and if we started mixing, it would take away from our Jewish atmosphere.” And more.
Camp is wonderful for so many reasons but as an educator, I love that campers get the opportunity to study texts and sources (including those about keeping kosher), think about how it might affect their lives, and then make informed decisions about celebrating Judaism. What a gift to give to our children!
From our team to yours, we hope that whatever good graces your Shabbat table helps you celebrate the joy of another day of rest with loved ones. Shabbat shalom.