Thanks to the Free Market, and to Popular Interest, American Jews Benefit from a Cornucopia of Kosher Foods

Nov. 21 2018

Having grown up in a religiously observant Jewish home in the 1960s and 70s, Jeff Jacoby remembers that such commonplace packaged foods as Oreo cookies and Sara Lee cakes were off-limits, since it was impossible to know if they were kosher. Now these are among the many items—40 percent of all packaged food and drinks sold in the U.S.—that bear kosher certification. Jacoby reflects on the radical expansion of what he calls “the kosher-industrial complex” in his own lifetime:

America has undergone a kosher revolution. It wasn’t all that long ago that demand for kosher food was restricted to a tiny niche of the public—Jews amount to less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, and only a minority of Jews keep kosher. . . . The first company to [receive rabbinic supervision] was Heinz, whose canned vegetarian beans began carrying kosher certification in 1923—a distinction the company played up in advertising targeted to Jews. But other companies were slow to follow suit. In 1945, the OU’s kosher symbol appeared on just 184 products made by 37 companies; by 1961, that had grown to 1,830 products from 359 companies—still a mere drop in the food-industry bucket.

Gradually, though, market demand for kosher food was spreading beyond observant Jews. Vegetarians began to see kosher certification on a dairy product as a guarantee that it contained no animal byproducts whatsoever. Muslims, for whom pigs are anathema, learned that the kosher symbol on a package meant there was no pork or lard inside. Other consumers came to associate kashrut with a higher level of purity than U.S. law mandates. . . .

With kosher food as with so many other things, where there is a need, a free market will satisfy it. In the rise of the kosher-industrial complex, all parties have come out ahead. It has generated a vast array of formerly inaccessible options for a small religious minority. It has enabled a key industry to meet a growing market demand and reap billions of dollars in revenue. It has enriched contemporary American culture with one of the most ancient food traditions of all. And it has done it all not through top-down coercion, but through voluntary private cooperation.

What could be more quintessentially American?

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jeff Jacoby

More about: American Jewish History, American Jewry, Free market, Kashrut, Religion & Holidays

 

Maintaining Security Cooperation with the PA Shouldn’t Require Ignoring Its Support for Terror

In accordance with legislation passed last year, the Israeli government has begun to deduct from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) an amount proportional to what the PA pays to terrorists and their families. Last year, a similar law went into effect in the U.S., suspending all payments to the PA so long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” policy. The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, has retaliated by refusing to accept any tax revenue collected by Israel—raising concerns that the PA will become insolvent and collapse—while insisting that payments to terrorists and their families are sacrosanct. To Yossi Kuperwasser, Abbas’s behavior amounts to mere extortion—which has already worked on the Europeans to the tune of 35 million euros. He urges Israel and the U.S. not to submit:

Abbas [believes] that influential Israeli and European circles, including the security establishment, view strengthening the Palestinian Authority, and certainly preventing its collapse, as being in Israel and Europe’s best interests. They will therefore give in to the pressure he exerts through the creation of an artificial economic crisis. . . .

[T]he PA leadership’s insistence on continuing wage payments to terrorists and their families, even at the price of an artificial economic crisis, shows once again that . . . the Oslo Accords did not reflect a substantive change in Palestinian national aspirations or in the methods employed to achieve them. . . . If paying wages to terrorists (including the many terrorists whose attacks took place after the Oslo Accords were in force) is the raison d’être for the PA’s establishment, as Abbas seems to be saying, . . . one cannot help asking whether Israel has to insist on maintaining the PA’s existence at any price.

True, Israel cooperates on security issues with the PA, but that serves the interests of both sides. . . . The short-term benefits Israel gains from this security cooperation, [however], are of less value than the benefits enjoyed by the Palestinians, and worth even less when measured against the long-term strategic damage resulting from Israel’s resigning itself to the constant incitement, the promotion of terror, and the political struggle against Israel carried out by the PA. Israel should not do anything to hasten the PA’s breakdown, because it has no desire to rule over the Palestinians and run their day to day lives, but it also should not feel more obligated to the PA’s continued existence than do the Palestinians themselves, thereby leaving itself open to continuous extortion.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Israel Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror