Skip to comments.Some local Jews boycotting strawberries
Posted on 09/05/2008 5:30:51 PM PDT by Coleus
The strawberry: luscious, red, juicy and now forbidden fruit in some of North Jerseys Jewish communities. Some rabbis have issued edicts classifying the fruit on market shelves as unclean and therefore in violation of Jewish dietary law. The culprit: small bugs called thrips and aphids attracted to strawberries and a variety of vegetables. The controversy, which began with local edicts that have affected Jewish enclaves in the cities of Passaic, Teaneck and Lakewood, has ripened into lively discussion worldwide in cyberspace. Its also produced a lively debate about the limits of kosher law governing fresh produce.
Despite assurances from the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations the largest consortium of Orthodox congregations in the world that cleaning strawberries with soap will rid them of bugs, many in Passaic Parks Orthodox Jewish community, for instance, are sticking with a boycott. The Kosher Konnection grocery store on Main Avenue and local caterers say theyve plucked the red berries from fruit platters served at Bar Mitzvahs and weddings. The same goes at Main Ingredient on Main Avenue, where Daniel Strimber, owner of the kosher caterer, says, Ill use grapes, fresh papaya, or star fruit instead anything that lends color. Strimber said he stopped serving the sweet fruit on orders from his meshgiah, the Yiddish word for a rabbi who is a kosher supervisor.
The pesky little insects are hard to spot because in colder environments, like a refrigerator, they burrow inside berries to keep warm, kosher supervisors say. The size of a small freckle, these pests are often hard to spot. Jewish dietary laws, based on Leviticus, ban consumption of live insects the naked eye can see. All winged swarming things that go upon all fours are a detestable thing unto you, an English translation of Leviticus Chapter One reads. Rabbi Daniel A. Senter, a Kashrus administrator for the Teaneck-based KOF-K, a multinational kosher supervision company, holds seminars at schools, Jewish community centers and synagogues to show people the flying creepy crawlers because, he says, Seeing is believing.
On Monday, Senter, 44, set up a microscope in the conference room of his office and pointed out a yellow thrip scampering across the seeds of a ripe strawberry and a close-up of an aphid, magnified 30 times its size. Science aside, Senter looked at the berries longingly. My problem is, I like strawberry shortcake and everything else, he said. On the Internet, religious rabbis who have banned consumption of the fruit include members of the ultra- Orthodox religious tribunal, Keddasia Beth Kadin in London.
In 2007, rabbis from the Orthodox Union met with industry experts in Lakewood and checked strawberries from a variety of sources to decide if the ban was needed or if a legitimate cleaning method could be found. The Union ultimately decided to issue cautionary instructions for proper cleaning. Rabbi David Bistricer a New-York based kosher supervisor for the Orthodox Union, said the concern about the cleanliness of produce has always existed.
People always checked their produce my ancestors in Europe definitely checked their lettuce, Bistricer said. Most shoppers coming out of Kosher Konnection on Tuesday said theyd stopped eating the berries. Because of the bug issue, we just avoid them, said one woman, who did not want to be named. Meshgiahs (pronounced Mesh-gee-ahs) said that in the United States, a ban on pesticides like DTD, along with an increased number of imported fruits and vegetables available in supermarkets and sharp climate changes, is fueling increased concerns about insects in fresh produce. But, whether the rabbis decrees are valid or excessive is still up |for debate in the Jewish community.
When someone posted a message on Passaicjews.com warning Orthodox Jews against the berries, angry e-mail ensued. Do we as a community need to find ways to invalidate all the small pleasures in life? asked one resident, Motti Schleider. Passaic resident Tamar Hollander, who describes herself as modern Orthodox, wonders why the sudden concern over strawberries when for thousands of years religious Jews have enjoyed the luscious fruit without a worry. It gets to the point of absurdity, said Hollander, 51, who last week was scrubbing them in soap before serving them up for her daughters birthday. Ive never seen the bugs, but then again I dont have a magnifying glass.
That really isn’t ‘boycotting’, just adhering to their religious practice. What’s wrong with that?
Can’t just wash ‘em good?
But whatever, it’s their choice to buy or not.
Jews will be Jews, and I leave them to the task.
i think some rabbis go over and above the Torah. If i’m not mistaken, if the naked eye can’t see it then it’s ok to consume. I remember a few yrs. ago some NYC rabbis didn’t want their flock to drink the tap water because a microscopic crustacean was found. Believe it or not the water for NYC is ranked the most pure for large cities which is pumped in from reservoirs from upstate.
I workin the agriculture industry - I had an orthodox rabbi working for a customer instruct us to use “extra” pesticide, because they wanted NO aphids.
I can see aphids and thrips on my rose bushes, but I can see the problem with their burrowing in the fruit. (So wash the fruit good before you put it in the fridge!)
However, if the people choose to follow the directives of their rabbis, whether we or anybody think it makes sense or not, it's still the free market.
I hope this doesn’t mean that Junior’s will stop making strawberry cheesecake!!!
More for me.