JBC Talk Ep 2 Part 1: Observance & Going Along to Get Along



Note: This is a truncated (yet still long!) version of the original Episode 2 recording. Why is that?, you might be wondering. Despite our going into this episode with the intention of keeping things short, it ended up running nearly two hours.  So we have decided to split Episode 2 into two, separate podcasts which will air (well you know, go live!) a week apart. As a result, there are a few breaks in continuity.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


Podcast Synopsis

In this podcast Yair and I go over some of the listener feedback we received regarding episode one. By the way, we get it! Shorter is better! We are working on it, friends!

The rest of the recording is spent discussing some of the issues that can come up around differing levels of observance when attending family functions. More specifically, I ask Yair (and all of you) for some advice regarding an actual situation that has recently come up regarding reasonable expectations at a cousin’s Bat Mitzvah.

Please note that show notes will be included with Part 2 next week.

The JBCTalk Podcast is part of the Lifestyle PodNetwork. For more interesting podcasts visit the Lifestyle PodNetwork website.

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Related content:

  1. JBC Talk Ep: 1 The Welcome To Our Podcast Edition
  2. Observing Observance: A Surprising Reality Check
  3. Sometimes Less is More: Rabbi Arthur Green on Observance
  4. Let’s Talk about Kippot With Michele Holtz & Cantor Leigh Korn
  5. The JBC Podcast Promo
 About Avi M
Avi converted to Judaism in the spring of 2006 in his home country of Canada and is a founding member of JewsByChoice.org. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife Tamara and is an active member of the local Jewish community.


  1. 1
     Tara McNamara says:

    Oh sure, use puppies and kittens to make me read this.

  2. 2
     Debbie B says:

    Avi, I think you mentioned a possible family simcha in San Francisco? Warning: food served at the San Francisco JCC need not be kosher. An evening reception and dinner for the bat mitzvah of the daughter of my husband’s cousin was held at the SF JCC. They don’t keep kosher (although they do avoid pork), but I figured that the food would be kosher since that would be required for any catered event held at the JCC in my town. There was a very large cheese station with about two dozen different kinds of cheese. And servers came around with lots of different hot appetizers. But I got suspicious enough to ask about ingredients when I saw mini pizzas that sure looked like they had meat and cheese—and they did. The mini tacos had chicken in them, I think. I started to wonder if I should fill up on the cheese (since I do eat cheese without a hechsher) because there might not be anything I could eat at the dinner. In fact, there was a very nice fish option which was fine for me because I eat cooked dairy/pareve cooked/served with non-kosher cookware/plates.

    These relatives say they call us their “frum relatives”—LOL. They have been very accommodating about kashrut and don’t seem at all offended or resentful that we are being “frummer than thou” although they were surprised by the fact we keep kosher now because they knew that we did not observe kashrut at all many years ago, and even several years ago weren’t too strict outside our home (which was kosher except for mixed use of some cookware and plates, but they didn’t know that). They are an interesting family Jewishly speaking: the wife is from a multi-generational intermarried family—she has intermarried grandparents and parents, but she still self-identifies as Jewish. They are active members of a Reform shul, where I think Josh’s cousin has been on the shul board. He is a JBB through all branches of his family and who grew up not very religious, but his father was a native Yiddish speaker who was raised in what was probably an observant home in pre-war Poland. The daughter who celebrated her bat mitzvah now attends a Jewish high school (and likes it), but ended up going there because she did not get into her first choice which was, of all things, a Catholic high school (God works in mysterious ways!)

    The whole issue of eating with friends and relatives is one of the most important reasons why I choose to continue to eat dairy/pareve at non-kosher restaurants and homes. I don’t even tell most people I keep kosher; I just ask for a vegetarian option. For people who don’t keep kosher themselves, asking for “kosher” can just lead to mistakes such that you still can’t eat it (like when my sister-in-law’s non-Jewish grandparents bought an Empire chicken, but stuffed it with bread with dairy ingredients). These days vegetarians are much more common so most people are used to that accommodation.

    I did not stop eating non-kosher meat (except for pork) that I was served by family or friends before I converted because I felt that I could not ask for that accommodation if I did not truly have a religious reason for the choice. The first family event I went to after I converted was my cousin’s wedding in L.A. only two days after my immersion in the mikveh. But they had offered a vegetarian dinner option because in fact, the bride was a vegetarian. One thing that was nicely convenient was that the wedding and dinner, although the service started Saturday evening before the end of Shabbat were within easy walking distance of the hotel. That morning, my parents treated us to brunch at the hotel and then we walked over spend time going through a free museum. So we didn’t go to shul, but we weren’t faced with the need to do an Shabbat-desecrating activities. The wedding service was secular: officiated by the same judge and family friend who had married the groom’s parents over 30 years before (a wedding that I had also attended).

    I think it is not unreasonable to tell hosts of a big event like a wedding or bar mitzvah that you keep kosher, but it is also considerate to let them know if you would be OK with merely vegetarian but not strictly kosher food, for example. I think that you need to make the request in such a way that you indicate that you know that you are asking for special accommodation and don’t want to put them out, so that it doesn’t seem like you might be judgmental about the fact that the event is not all kosher (even if you feel that way, you’ll just create animosity by saying so). I personally prefer if my guests tell me about their needs because I have sometimes found out later that guests had needs that I would have been happy to try to accommodate (like gluten intolerance—thank goodness I had on hand some pareve sorbet that I could offer in lieu of the dessert at that Thanksgiving where she could not eat any of the several pies). For that reason, I always ask if there are any dietary issues: allergies, kashrut, vegetarian/vegan, or even strong preferences. I’d rather serve food that my guests can or will eat. In the case above, the gluten-intolerant guests was a friend of a friend, so I didn’t invite her directly and didn’t think to ask our friend to ask her friend about dietary requirements.

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