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June 29, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 29, 2012 PAGE 5A HERITAGE encourages readers to send in their opinions for the Viewpoint column.JThey must be signed; how- ever, names will be withheld upon request. Due to space limitations, we reserve the right to edit, if necessary. Opinions printed in Viewpoint do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the paper. You don't have to be Jewish to buy kosher By Rabbi Eliyahu Safran OU Kosher Vice President of Communications and Marketing Kosher foods, although based on one of the world's oldest dietary laws, are among the fastest growing current trends in food pro- cessing. Here in the United States, home to 40 percent of the world's Jewish popu- lation or about 6.15 million consumers, kosher food has always occupied an impor- tant marketing sector, but it is not Jews fueling this explosive growth in kosher foods. More and more, we are seeing that kosher foods are increasingly attractive to the non-Jewish popula: tion--the population that now makes up the lead- ing and fastest growing consumer base for kosher" products. The growing popularity resulted in a U.S. kosher market valued at $12.5 billion in 2008, an increase of 64 percent since 2003. When in 2010 products as diverse and renowned as Tootsie Rolls, Gatorade and Glenmoran- gie Original, Scotland's fa- vorite single malt whiskey, attained OU Kosher certi- fication, they were obvi- ously seeking to broaden their appeal and expand their market. Which market? The mar- ket that includes vegetar- ians, vegans, gluten-free shoppers, and health buffs. The market, that Mintel, a leading market research company, reports includes 62 percent purchasing ko- sher for its quality rather than because of religious reasons. In other words, three out of five kosher food buyers are not motivated by religious influences. Undoubtedly, all compa- nies committed to going through the kosher certifi- cation process and willing to be governed by rigorous monitoring of every aspect of production--from ingre- dients, to preparation, to processing facilities--are happy and eager to have ob- servant Jews purchase and enjoy their products. They are much more anxious however, to be part of the explosive growth of the ko- sher the general, all-inclusive market place. I recall attending my first food show in Baltimore in the spring of 1994. I had recently begun as an OU Kosher New Companies Rabbinic Coordinator. I was accompanying Rabbi Moshe Elefant, who then headed OU Kosher's New Companies department (He currently serves as OU Kosher's Chief Operating Officer.) I remem- ber feeling ill-prepared to attend a major show. What might I contribute to its success? Nevertheless, it was an opportunity to learn from the master, who had by then perfected the "art of selling kosher." I vividly recall listening to his presentation before a group of companies eager to grasp why it would be propi- tious for them to "become kosher." A phrase he used has remained with me ever since, which I myself have repeated countless times when it was my turn to presenL Elefant said, "Ko- sher is hot." How right he was. The New York Times' Karen Barrow concurs. She writes: Kosher food is " an ancient diet [that] has become one of the hottest new food trends." She notes that more and more super- market shoppers are "going kosher." Why? Because these shoppers are " convinced that the foods are safer and Kosher on page 19A By Ira Sheskin (JTA)--The 2011 Jewish Community Study of New York was recently released with some fanfare. Some of the UJA-Feder- ation of New York's survey results came as somewhat of a surprise. After a decrease from about 2 million Jews in 1970 to 1.4 million in both 1991 and 2002, the region's Jewish population increased to 1.54 million in 2011, reflecting higher "numbers of both children and elderly. Even more surprising was that nearly 500,000 Jews now live in Orthodox house- holds, making the eight- county area (New York City's By Micah Stein Jewish Ideas Daily Yafa Friedman lives in a modest,-two-story town- house in Brooklyn with plastic lawn chairs on the porch and peeling white trim around the windows. On June 17, the shades were drawn as a group of 30 protestors marched outside the house chant- ing, "Yafa Friedman--stop the abuse!" After an hour, the group drove over to Merkaz HaSimcha, a Jew- ish wedding hall owned by Friedman's brother, Rabbi Jay Horowitz. For two hours, the protestors-- young and old, men and women, from every shade of Orthodoxy--continued to chant, hold up signs, pass out fliers and recite psalms. What was Friedman and Horowitz's crime? Accord- ing to the protestors, they are guilty of abetting Aha- ron Friedman, their son and nephew, respectively, in his refusal to divorce his wife. The family is at the center of a religious impasse that has chal- lenged rabbis and Jewish communities for centuries: freeing the agunah, the Chained Wife. First, the facts: Tamar Epstein and Aharon Fried- man married in 2006 and had a daughter the follow- ing year. Soon after, the relationship soured. The couple separated in 2008 five boroughs, plus Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties) almost one-third Orthodox. At the same time, the number of people who are "Just Jewish" and have much weaker ties to the Jewish community also is increasing. Thus, the two extremes are growing at the expense of the middle (Conservative and Reform Jews). The study also found significant diversity (Rus- sians, Israelis, Syrians and others), a significantly in- creased percentage of Jews living in poverty (about 20 percent) and modest decreases in philanthropic giving as needs are increas- ing. But the reader should before divorcing in 2010, with Epstein retaining primary custody of their child. Or, rather, the couple civilly divorced-- Freidman has contiriually refused to grant his ex- wife a get, the Jewish writ of divorce, leaving their marriage intact according to Jewish law. For Epstein, the conse- quences are severe. With- out a get, she is prohibited from remarrying and any future children she has will be considered mamzer- im--bastards--a designa- tion which in turn compli- cates their own marriage prospects. However, Epstein is not without allies. The Orga- nization for the Resolu- tion of Agunot (ORA) has launched an aggressive campaign on her behalf, using social media and ral- lies (like the one in Brook- lyn) to pressure Friedman into divorcing her. New tactics, perhaps, but an old war, as the problem of recalcitrant husbands dates back to the Talmud, where the rabbis suggest beating such a man until he grants his wife a divorce. But physical coercion can only be used in extreme cases, typically involving a husband who has become physically intolerable to his wife; "irreconcilable differences" does not quali- fy. Besides, beating people is illegal--which is why the FBI in 2011 arrested a not concentrate just on the findings initially high- lighted by the media. The report contains more than 250 pages of interesting and instructive information on this most important Ameri- can Jewish community. With the New York area's 1.54 million Jews represent- ing as much as 25 percent of America's Jews, changes in its demography and Jew- ish engagement affect the overall profile of America's Jewish population. So can a Houston, a Tucson, Ariz or a Springfield, Mass learn anything from a reading of the New York results that will assist them in their own community planning? Yes--and no. Jewish couple for kidnap- ping and assaulting a man who had refused to issue a get. Jewish law does permit communities to exert some pressure, but not compul- sion; historical examples include sanctions and excommunication. Today; the legitimate methods used to pres- sure recalcitrant husbands vary: In Israel, where reli- gious courts handle mar- riage and divorce, get re- fusal can incur hefty fines or indefinite jail time; In America, the legal options are more limited. New York's "Get Law" enables judges to penalize finan- cially a recalcitrant party, while a preventative option is the Halachaic Prenup- tial Agreement, which obligates a recalcitrant husband to continue sup- porting his estranged wife to the tune of $150 per day. ORA's executivd direc- tor, Rabbi Jeremy Stern, is not deterred. While Epstein is ORA's most high-profile case, the organization has helped resolve moe than 160 cases of get refusal since its founding in 2002. Stern explained the pur- pose of the Junel7 rally, and those previously held in Friedman's home town of Silver Spring, MD.: to target his support system. Stern calls Freidman's actions "a distortion of halacha." But Jewish law gives men the sole author- ity to dissolve a marriage; New York is New York. It is different Jewishly (and otherwise) from the rest of the country. Bethamie Horowitz, the researcher for the 1991 New York Jewish Population Survey, in a 1994 article in Contemporary Jewry posited a "New York effect" (that New York is dif- ferent from other American Jewish communities) even though, demographically, N.Y. Jews did not differ significantly in 1990 from the rest of America Is this still the case today? To answer the question, I used the Comparison of Jewish Communities: A Compendium of Tables and Report on page 19A Friedman is, therefore, merely exercising that right. This does not excuse his actions, but it does suggest that the problem is, on some level, institu- tional. Enter ORA's critics: the Forward faults such organizations for focusing on recalcitrant husbands, rather than stubborn rab- bis, while several right- wing blogs accuse ORA of violating Jewish law in its pursuit of gets. The Brooklyn rally cap- tured the advantages and limitations of ORA's ap- proach. The issue of agu- not can seem strange to those unfamiliar with Jewish law: one man, spot- ting the rally while walk- ing his dog, sympathized with Epstein's plight but felt the neighborhood had more pressing concerns. However, another woman who read one of ORA's flyers quickly joined the demonstration. Was the protest success- ful? Neither Freidman nor Horowitz showed up, but their neighbors, friends and customers certainly did. ORA has succeeded in making life difficult for Friedman and his sup- porters--if only that were enough. Micah Stein is a fellow at the Tikvah Fund. This article was first published by Jewish Ideas Daily and is reprinted with permission. HERITAGE welcomes and encourages let- ters to the editor, but they must be typed or printed and include name and phone number. We will withhold your name if you so request. Please limit letters to 250 words. Due to space limitations, we reserve the right to edit letters. Send letters to P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Or e-mail to Creating Jewish ritual for same-sex marriage is unconscionable Dear editor: It is fascinating to see the excitement generated by Rab- bis [Avram] Reisner, [Ellliot] Doffand [Daniel] Nevinswhen they created rituals for same- sex "Marriages" [Heritage Florida Jewish News, June 15]. The preoccupation with enshrining such fruitless nuptials into Conservative Judaism at a time when our synagogue services are sparsely attended by young heterosexual men andwomen is astounding. Undoubtedly it is compelled by the public campaign to redefine mar- riage for legal purposes, which is opposed by the vast majority of Americans. The theological problem with same-sex marriage. The former has rejected the need to follow halacha or biblical commandments, and the latter does not believe in God. The Conservative movement, however, ostensibly still fol- lows Jewish law, although as Sometimes reinterpreted by its rabbinical scholars. Ad- mittedly many provisions in the Torah lend themselves or require interpretation. There are no latent ambiguities in Leviticus 20:13 and 18:22, or in the references to becoming fruitful and multiplying. There is no reason to deprive people with anti- biological sexual identities advoca.tes have provided no of employment opportunities new definition but want to create some kind of Civil Right to Marriage. There is as yet .no Civil Right to biological parenthood, which is more of a divine privilege historically linked to marriage. I understand why the Re- form and Reconstruction- ist movements found no or synagogue membership. However, to sanctify with a religious Jewish ritual a re- lationship in which intimacy is manifested in a manner expressly and repeately con- demned in the Torah is un- conscionable. David G. Danziger Winter Park HAMAS M LE A'rTACKS U~ THAT I tST Ot ES HAVE SgZED CONTROL 01: SINAI.