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.