By Rachel Gross
Mark your calendars: November is Kosher Month. This is a month dedicated to different events and classes in the area for anyone who is interested in learning all about kosher.
This 30-day kosher experience, hosted by the Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA), will give participants kosher supermarket tours at Tom Thumb, a challah baking class, children’s contests and programs, 10 percent off at kosher establishments and a free copy of the “Kosher for the Clueless, but Curious” cookbook.
Registration is $45 per person or $60 per family. During Kosher Month, people can expect to learn everything they need about keeping kosher, from separating their dishes to locating different items in the supermarket.
Rabbi Yogi Robkin, co-director of DATA of Plano who is in charge of Kosher Month, said many people don’t realize how readily available kosher items are.
“For almost any product people are interested in, there is a kosher form of it,” the 28-year-old said. “Without a guide, keeping kosher can seem daunting. By the end of the month, people learn that they can do everything they have always done and enjoy the same foods they have always enjoyed.”
Around 65 people attended different Kosher Month events last year. Almost none of those people were fully observant. They came from various synagogues and some were even unaffiliated.
Robkin said they don’t expect people to start keeping kosher after this, but it is intended to inform them about kosher products.
“This really is for anybody … it’s for someone who has to cook meals because their kids go to day school, or someone who has a son or daughter that keeps kosher, or for anybody that is just curious,” he said, eating a kosher spicy tuna roll from Tom Thumb. “Many people want to keep kosher and think it’s beyond them, but this shows them that it’s really in their reach.”
The first event will take place on Nov. 3, when Rabbi Robkin will discuss how he became kosher. Growing up, he kept kosher at home but did not become fully observant until age 16.
Robkin said he wants people to know that he understands what it’s like to adapt to a new lifestyle.
“It’s a new year and everyone is searching for their resolution. What better way then to take on learning about kosher?” he said. “There is no expectation for someone to become kosher, only that they come in with an open mind and open heart, and learn about the Jewish way of eating.”
Rabbi Sholey Klein, administrator of Dallas Kosher, will also be in charge of some of the Kosher Month events. He said people attended Kosher Month last year solely for the learning experience.
“Nobody turns around the next day and makes their home kosher,” Rabbi Klein said. “We just want to educate them.”
Klein said people don’t realize that about 70 to 80 percent of the items in their kitchen are already kosher. By taking the supermarket tour, they can see that ordinary items like Coca-Cola and Cheerios are kosher. Everything people learn from this has a lasting impact.
“I usually get calls from people a year or two later saying they want to make their homes kosher,” he said. “This is an experience that plants seeds and gives them the opportunity to make a decision down the line.”
Some of the people who previously attended Kosher Month already keep kosher. One of those people is Valerie Granat, a local Dallas resident, who is helping plan some of the events this year.
Granat grew up keeping kosher and keeps a kosher home for her family. She said she went to Kosher Month last year simply to learn more about what items she can use on a daily basis.
She said that, sometimes, things that are kosher don’t have the hechsher (kosher certification symbol) on them, and that’s something people learn from the rabbis during the supermarket tour.
“Often you pass things by in the grocery store, like certain Mexican foods, because you don’t know they are kosher,” she said. “I found that really interesting. In the past, I wouldn’t think to use something because I really didn’t know it was kosher.”
Granat said her favorite part of last year’s events was the challah baking class. Here, people learned how to bake delicious challah and were taught the specific prayers to recite.
She also liked how entertaining all of the events were. One thing she wants people to realize is that no matter how observant they are, they can still learn so much.
“If you have friends who keep kosher, this will teach you what to bring to their house, and shows that there are kosher supermarkets and restaurants out there,” she said. “This brings in so many people from different levels of observance. It doesn’t matter what step you’re on, Kosher Month just makes you aware of what’s out there.”
To register, call DATA at 214-987-3282 or go to www.dataofplano.org.
How to keep kosher at home
Keeping kosher is more than just not eating meat and milk together; it is a whole lifestyle. At first, it may seem overwhelming for some people. However, with the right guide, it can be easier than you think. Here are some rules on how to kasher your kitchen.
Dishes and silverware: It is essential to have a separate set of dishes and silverware for dairy products and meat. Most people have two distinct patterns, so as not to confuse them. To make things easier, a lot of people sometimes use paper goods and plastic utensils.
Cabinets, drawers, and trays: To avoid confusion, it is best to assign different cabinets for dairy and meat equipment. For starters, it may be easiest to label cabinets on the outside.
Tablecloths, napkins, and placemats: As with the kitchen, the eating area should be separate as well by using separate tablecloths, napkins and placemats for milk and meat products.
Refrigerators: When placing food in the refrigerator, care should be taken to avoid contact between open packages of meat and dairy products.
Ovens: The oven should not be used for dairy and meat at the same time. Between using the oven for dairy and meat, it should be cleaned if spillage occurred.
Dishwasher: There is a difference of opinion when discussing the dishwasher. Some Orthodox authorities say that you cannot use the same dishwasher for meat and dairy utensils, even if they are washed at different times. Other authorities say that you can use the same dishwasher as long as the utensils are washed at different times. Some also say that it must be given a thorough cleaning and that separate racks must be used between meat and dairy cycles.
By Rachel Gross