The Conspiracy

J Street Conference: Not Kosher

Some people say J Street is too far to the left; others complain that it’s too far right. But there’s another, more basic reason for Jews to doubt J Street’s kashrut:

Its food is literally not kosher.

Of course, plenty of Jewish organizations serve non-kosher food at their events, and that’s fine. Given that the vast majority of Jews don’t keep strict, certified kosher, there’s no reason to foot that bill. But almost all Jewish organizations, and certainly all major ones, make the effort to provide kosher options for those Jews who do require a hekhsher. At the very least, they would offer kosher food for purchase.

Not so with J Street.

When I arrived at the conference this morning, before 8 a.m., I asked a staff person if the breakfast would include kosher options. She told me it would. But when the food arrived, there was nothing kosher to be found–not even fruit. I sufficed with coffee and decided to wait for lunch, when–with an hour of free time–I could rush on the metro to a kosher restaurant.

When that time came, I got ready to hurry out of the conference room only to be told by multiple J Street staffers that there were sandwiches for purchase across the building and yes, some of them were kosher.

You can guess what happened next. I arrived at the sandwich cart and requested the kosher option. I got a blank stare in return, and when I asked the manager she told me she had no idea what I was talking about. She hadn’t heard anything about kosher sandwiches. The best they could do, they said, was a regular turkey sandwich with the cheese taken off. No good. I bought a Clif bar, a Nature Valley, a Kit Kat, an apple and a banana. I filled the feast out with some mini Twix I found at a conference table.

Maybe I’m making too much of this, but I think that an intentionally Jewish organization that bases its platform on Jewish values should make more of an effort to respect a basic traditional Jewish practice. This is especially true for J Street, which emphasizes pluralism and acceptance. I think it’s great for an organization to encourage myriad political ideologies, but there needs to be space for a multiplicity of religious observances as well. And on perhaps the most practical level, I have trouble thinking about the nuances of US Middle East policy when I haven’t eaten all day.

In the future, J Street should consider doing one of the following things:

1. Providing kosher food at its conference.
2. Informing participants, ahead of time, that there will be no kosher food available.
3. Giving participants a guide to kosher restaurants in Washington DC, and enough time to go to those restaurants, eat a meal and return.

Either way, tomorrow I’m coming prepared. Immediately after arriving at my friend’s apartment tonight, I went to the Walgreen’s and picked up bread, peanut butter (JIF creamy), two blueberry muffins and a stack of Pizza Pringles.  It may not be healthy, but at least it’s food. Yes, all of it is certified kosher.

And I’ve already eaten all of the Pringles. For dinner.

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13 Older Responses to “J Street Conference: Not Kosher”

  1. enivel
    February 28, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    You’re not making too much of this. This is a perfect metaphor for the wrong decisions J Street has been making along the way to attract the so-called mainstream Jewish community. You’re correct that not too many people need a kosher option, but the point is that the kosher option is expected as a given, and first and foremost out of respect.

  2. Zaev
    February 28, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    I attended the conference last year with a small group of open-minded Orthodox students from my university, no kosher food to be found. We notified one of the senior staff of J Street who apologized and told us it was an organizational slip, that they had ordered kosher food but it somehow didn’t arrive. At least this time they didn’t lie about not expecting any observant attendees.

  3. Bethany
    February 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    Was there Halal food available?

  4. David Zarmi
    February 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    And halal, I would hope (although Muslims tell me they’re cool with kosher…).

  5. Carl
    March 1, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    Wake up people–Look who is funding this anti-Israel organization. Doyou think they care about kosher food?

  6. Phillip Cohen
    March 1, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    I am a J Street suporter. It is terrible that they did not have kosher food. It is disrespectful and uncaring. The idea, if they want support, is to reach out to as many people as possible from the various Jewish communities. Alienating so many by not offering a kosher option during a multi-day conference is not an oversite. As soon as the problem was brought to their attention they should have made urgent calls to have kosher food delivered and offered it for free to conference attendees.

  7. zalel
    March 2, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    That *is* pretty clueless. particularly because J Street should, as part of its media strategy, be precluding every possible line of attack that would say their outlook is fundamentally un-Jewish, or anti-Israeli. I only keep kosher at home, but I certainly would have noted the abscence of kosher options.

    My personal point of view is that all public Jewish events should be kosher, so that no-one is ever excluded. The inclusive attitude is actually the primary reason that I started keeping kosher at home (in kidhood, I thought kashrut was dumb).

  8. Hailey
    March 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    Were you even the only Kosher person there??

  9. Ben Sales
    March 2, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    I can’t imagine that I was.

  10. Harpo Jaeger
    March 2, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    I appreciate Ben pointing this out, and as a strong J Street supporter, I agree that it was a mistake on their part not to order Kosher food. But that’s all it was, a mistake. It doesn’t make them less Jewish, pro-Israel, or sincere in their desire to reach out to many different people.

    It was a mistake, one that should be corrected in the future.

  11. Dan
    March 4, 2011 at 12:31 am #

    This was no mistake. Who are you trying to kid? Even a non-Jewish event inviting many Jews would have asked that question.
    I think it says it all. They invite JVP clear anti-Zionists and not observant and have no food……..

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