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Unholy Wafers

At first Oreos were an unkosher, forbidden temptation. Then they became just another unhealthy cookie.

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Oreo cookies were the first trayf thing I ever ate. It was the late ’70s, and I attended a Jewish day school. My mom kept a kosher home. This meant one thing: We had Hydrox. Oreos contained lard; Hydrox had some Crisco-like substance instead. Jewish mothers throughout the nation assured their kids, “They taste just like Oreos!” But we suspected we were getting the lame knockoff, the fake Izod, the discount Jordache of snacks. (As it turns out, we were wrong: Hydrox, which hit the market in 1908, were actually the real thing, and Oreos, born in 1912, were the copycat. Who knew?)

Maybe it was the kids at Nathan Bishop, the nearby public school, who showed us how much we were missing. (That is, when they weren’t throwing pennies at us.) Maybe we were seduced by the commercial that cheerfully sang, “Do you know exactly how to eat an Oreo?” The jingle became a handclapping game—like Miss Mary Mack—that rocketed around Jewish summer camps. An Oreo was a forbidden fruit, even more enticing than the one that got Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden.

Ah, temptation. When I was 8 or so, questions about free will, crime, and punishment started dogging me. Our color war theme at Day School was ahava (love) vs. yirah (fear). According to Maimonides, we needed to experience both states to have a meaningful relationship with God. I was on Team Ahava. Team Yirah won.

I was very attuned to yirah, having devoured the stories of God’s omnipotence and cruelty. In school, we spent a lot of time on the book of Genesis, source of the juiciest Bible stories. It’s rife with examples of God’s scariness—the expulsion from paradise, the great flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. Yet we were told God loved us and had chosen us; we were supposed to obey out of love as well as out of fear. Figuring out the balance of love and fear is essential to the creation of selfhood in child-development theory, too; we begin to internalize and believe in our own moral code, acting as we do because we believe in right and wrong, not because we’re afraid of punishment or want to win a pat on the head. As I got older, I wanted to explore what I believed. I just wasn’t sure what that was. Did I want to keep kosher? What would happen if I flouted God’s law?

One afternoon, I walked to the corner store, psyching myself up with each step. I bought a packet of Oreos. I didn’t have a purse, so I hid it in my sock, as if I were a young Rosa Klebb and it was a poison-tipped knife.

I knew I was about to do something momentous and terrible. I couldn’t bring those cookies of death into my home. I seriously worried God would strike the house with lightning and take out my family.

So, I took the Oreos to the gardening shed in our yard and ducked inside. That way, if it got hit by lightning, I’d be the only one to fry. I unwrapped the package—they really did look exactly like Hydrox!—took a deep breath, and nibbled the edge of a cookie. Nothing happened. The skies stayed un-rent. The seas did not boil up. I ate half. I remember it as having a slightly smokier, deeper taste than Hydrox; the lardy center was grainier and less greasy. And I was not dead.

Three decades later, when I read The Foreskin’s Lament, by Shalom Auslander, I was gobsmacked that someone else had had the exact same experience. Auslander’s Oreo was a Slim Jim. (“Imagine that,” he writes. “A stick of meat!”) He too worried that eating trayf would trigger God’s vengeance upon him and his family. (“He’d find a way to drown me,” he thinks as he stands at the Snack Shack. “Then He’d drown my mother. She might even be dead already.”)

I didn’t turn on God completely, though. I bobbed and weaved, still unsure about how observant I wanted to be. I left the day school after 8th grade, along with almost all the other non-Orthodox kids, and went to public high school. There I was a vegetarian (it was easy to blend in with the hyper-sincere animal-rights activists) except when it came to kosher meat cooked by Mom. When I went to college I ate no meat at all, which was probably a good thing given the state of the cafeteria. And when I moved to Manhattan after graduation, I kept a veggie kitchen. But I kept only one set of dishes, and I began to eat chicken outside the home.

Meanwhile the world changed. Oreos became kosher. Joe Regenstein, professor of food science and director of the Cornell Kosher and Halal Food Initiative, told students in a 2008 lecture how it all went down. “It was probably the most expensive conversion of a company from non-kosher to kosher,” Regenstein said. The process took more than three years and millions of dollars, and concluded in 1997. It involved rabbis climbing into the company’s ovens (I know!), each one about 300 feet long. To meet the strictures of the Orthodox Union, the 100 or so ovens had to be manually blow-torched inside on the highest heat.

Ironically, Nabisco, which makes Oreos, replaced the lard with trans fats, which are today considered demonic obesity-engendering child-killers but in the ’90s were considered healthy, at least compared to animal fats. Eliminating the lard was a way to woo new cookie fans, both Jewish and non.

Oreos remain the canonical sandwich cookie; Kraft (which now owns Nabisco) claims that worldwide, 7.5 billion Oreos are eaten every year. The Oreo line is ever-expanding, much like the universe itself. In a flurry of inexplicable spelling and internal capitalization, Nabisco has created DoubleStuf Oreos, Fudgees, Oreo WaferStix, Big Stuf, White-Fudged-Covered Oreos, Oreo Cakesters, and the Triple Double (a layer of vanilla creme and a layer of chocolate creme pancaked between three chocolate wafers). “Our fans’ passion and enthusiasm has challenged us to raise our game,” Jessica Robinson, associate director of consumer engagement, said in an unironic statement. There are also Oreo Sippers, chocolate straws lined with creme so you can actually drink your milk through an Oreo, but they’re sold only in Canada.

While Oreo’s embrace of kashrut contributed to its juggernaut status, poor underdog Hydrox fizzled out. In 1996, Sunshine, Hydrox’s manufacturer, was bought out by Keebler. In 1999, Keebler renamed Hydrox Droxies, which sounds like a band of drunk leprechauns, and continued producing them until 2003. For Hydrox’s 100th anniversary in 2008, Kellogg’s (which had bought out Keebler in 2001—are you keeping up?) brought back Hydrox in a flurry of nostalgic ads. But by the end of the year, Hydrox had quietly disappeared from grocery shelves again.

My relationship with kashrut is still ambivalent. I married a man from Wisconsin, who would no sooner be a vegetarian than a Minnesota Vikings fan. Oreos continued to play a role in my life. In 1999, I took a job at a new TV network located at the just-gentrifying western edge of Manhattan, in an industrial building that once housed the National Biscuit Company. Yes, I worked in the original Oreo factory. In a referential bit of hipster architecture, the iron base of one of the original ovens remained embedded in the floor 10 feet from my desk.

Today my husband and I still have only one set of dishes, but I insist on buying only kosher meat. I follow my own inconsistent, semi-random rules. When Josie was not quite 3, she attended a wedding in Utica where she tasted her first pork breakfast sausage in the hotel restaurant. Over two days she ate 13 of them. I felt strangely sad but didn’t try to stop her. Maxine, on the other hand, has my palate; she doesn’t like meat at all and is essentially a vegetarian. We all love Oreos.

Which are under fire again. They’re a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the current American food system. The company’s marketing of 100-calorie packs (each containing a small handful of communion-wafer-like “thin crisps”) isn’t fooling anybody. Today’s upper-middle-class Jewish kids, if they get cookies at all, get Late July brand organic vanilla bean cookies (“sustainably harvested from a beautiful orchid”) or Newman-O’s (made with “organic cacao that comes from small farmers in the Talamanca region”). How’s a Jewish mother to decide? Newman-O’s uses certified “slavery-free” cooperatives, but Late July makes a version with “white chocolate between Endangered Animal Vanilla Cookies,” which makes it sound like they’re made of actual Sumatran rhinos. Orthorexia is the new kashrut. The attention our people once lavished on fins and scales, vein-removal, and proper bloodletting is now dedicated to finding boxes that say “antioxidant” on them. Today’s trayf is anything stuffed full of chemicals and polyunsaturated fats.

Apparently Jewish Oreo ambivalence comes in stages. First there’s the ambivalence about being denied the cookie. Then there’s the ambivalence of being allowed to eat the cookie. (As Rabbi Joshua Hammerman pointed out on his blog, assimilation is a double-edged sword. “I know that in some perverse manner my Oreo envy kept me safely at the outer edges of middle America, shielding me from total absorption into the vanilla masses. … Oreo denial was, for me, a direct extension of Egyptian slavery—it made me uncomfortable enough to feel different and different enough to feel proud.”) Now there’s the ambivalence of not wanting to buy into the trend of demonizing foodstuffs, thus feeling ambivalent about feeling ambivalent about the cookie. Sometimes you yearn for the taste of your childhood; sometimes you don’t.

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Marilyn Newman says:

Ah, Oreos. Not a coffee drinker, Oreos and milk was my breakfast as a newly married, out of the kosher kitchen. HOWEVER, I NEVER realized they contained lard until years after I changed my early in the day menu. Still luv em but seldom indulge.. As an aside, my first episode with “what to do” occurred in high school when I thought my lunch contained a cheese sandwich and I purchased chocolate milk and went outside to eat. Imagine my surprise to find a salami sandwich. Hmm, what to do. First couple of swallows weren’t easy to say the least. But beyond, hooray, hooray!!! Loved the article!

june brown says:

I grew up on Oreos. I’m 76 years old, two 5k races a month and always finish in 50 minutes or less. – have run one 10 k and training for a marathon? I munch on oreos while I’m running.

I didn’t grow up kosher, but as a teenager began to move toward it, mostly with my own made-up rules and compromises. But lard in the cookie was just gross, no matter how you looked at it.

And now yes, it is (at least here in Northern California) feeling like Michael Pollan’s rule of thumb about eschewing packaged food with more than five ingredients is becoming the new kashrut. I think that’s a good thing – a bit of stewardship of the earth and some basic compassion toward animals seems a fine intention to breathe into the kashrut puzzle.

Gordon Schochet says:

The only commercial cookies my kosher-keeping grandmother permitted me to have were Hydrox. I loved the crispness and strong taste, and when I finally experienced Oreos, I regarded them as a weak imitation.

Hydrox are among the joys of my youth whose passing I still lament. When they were briefly reintroduced, the Joseph in me bought several packages, which I shared with my grandchildren, hoping to teach them about one of life’s rare pleasures. They preferred Oreos, but what do they know? They like soft chocolate-chip cookies!

JCarpenter says:

Blessings on the memories and recipes of my grandmother, who used butter in her truly home-made oatmeal/raisin cookies and in her ginger/molasses cookies. Hydrox, let alone Oreos, were anathema in her kitchen.

For almost 1% of the world’s Jews, matzoh is also an unhealthy food because it contains gluten (from wheat). For people with celiac disease, consumption of gluten can cause all sorts of digestion problems, extreme discomfort and may well shorten their lives. Unfortunately, about 97% of celiacs don’t know they have the disease according to the University of Chicago. The body can cope with gluten for a very long time before you start feeling crummy. But damage may be happening just the same.

If you experience digestion issues every Passover, you may have undiagnosed celiac disease and should get tested for it. For more information on this disease, read “Celiac Disease A Hidden Epidemic” by Peter Green, MD.

Just because a food is deemed to be kosher by the rabbis, doesn’t mean it is healthy. Even kosher hot dogs have nitrates in them.

Lovely story!

We love Oreos because they are dairy-free (even though the hechsher says dairy). I should note that in Israel, however, we found that they are not dairy-free…they are produced in Spain or Portugal and contain milk.

Bob Schwalbaum says:

As a completely treyf-eating Jew.. I am aghast at all the angst suffered by “Koshers” (Oreos??..huh?).. from my perspective beyond belief. The only bow to kosher in my family was that we never ate pork.. until my first pork chop at the Coast Guard training camp.. sheer ambrosia.

Dorit Sapir says:

My “moment” was during Passover when I was 16 years old. My friends and I were in the city and we planned to eat at Deli City or some other kosher place. It was so crowded we couldn’t get in. We made the rounds and it was the same everywhere we went – crowds of people waiting on line to get in. So we gave up and went to a “regular” deli. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. When I took my first bite I was sure the skies would open and I would be struck by lightning. But I was wrong. I lived to tell the tale.

as a kosher cookie-lover who lusted after Oreos for years (but still keeps kosher and never broke ranks), I still get a small thrill when I buy a small pack of Oreos at a train station….which is more often than I’d like to admit!

Oh, can I relate to this. In fact, my SIL and I were just talking about Hydrox at lunch today!!

Here was the post I wrote on the 100th birthday of Hydrox, z”l: http://frumesarah.com/2008/09/11/to-see-the-world-through-jewish-eyes/

Emes le'Am says:

Perhaps she wonders, as she watches her daughter eat her pork sausages, why the orthodox don’t like their children to play with hers? Or more largely, why the frum world sees this kind of liberal Judaism as just irrelevant?
Because it will not survive more than another generation or two. And why should it?
If a Torah life is so difficult and unimportant to a person – well, best they should rejoice in their pork sausages and the rest of us will just move the story of the Jewish people forward.

Lansing Reed says:

Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of red lentils. You all basically did the same for a pork chop, a cookie and a grilled cheese sandwich.

This is really, really sad.

henry gottlieb says:

This is worth reporting ?????????????????

tantelaeh says:

Oreos tasted so disgusting to me when my non-kosher friends foisted them on me that I recoiled and threw it away.
I’m an organic eater for over 40 years. I hate having two sets of dishes so I am a milk and fish eater at home.

It’s not whether or not you are kosher that matters but whether you are observantly Jewish. Light candles on Friday night, say the Shema, support the Jewish community attend a synagogue, perform Mitzvot. I’m really opposed to Halahic law and support Torah Law which does not say to have two sets of dishes or a separate refrigerator for milk and meat.

I am grateful for your kosher “angst” (as an above rant called it), because it led to this piece.

Ahava v. Yirah via the Oreo: absolutely fabulous.

Let’s change Joshua Hammerman’s story a bit to make it more understandable.

His parents tell him not to eat peas. He doesn’t eat peas and imagines he’s better than those dolts who eat peas?

Keeping kosher is one thing; being vain about it is something else.

Hey Marjorie, you write that “the lardy center was grainier and less greasy.” Are you sure there was lard in the filling? I think the lard was only in the cookie portion. All Nabisco cookies had animal shortening, even those without “white stuff.” The center could have tasted different for other reasons.

Masortiman says:

“Perhaps she wonders, as she watches her daughter eat her pork sausages, why the orthodox don’t like their children to play with hers?”

the day that mainstream orthodox institutions (other than ones led by Avi Weiss) acknowledge the Judaism of Conservartive Jews who keep seperate kitchens and dont drive on shabbat, comments like the above will have some meaning. Meanwhile you can be as observant as you like, and you are still a heretic because you have egalitarian davening, and rabbis who dont believe in bodily resurrection.

Masortiman says:

Tanteleah

Judaism survived for 2000 years by interpreting torah. Why light candles on Friday night? Because we have a HALACHIC prohibition on lighting them later (all the mysticism and beauty emerged afterwards) Karaites, who, like you, reject rabbinic Judaism, do not light shabbat candles. Judaism didnt freeze in 500BCE, and rabbinic halacha carried it forward and is part of our heritage. Ergo, keeping kashrut is PART of being observant. That doesnt mean its wrong to make the compromises each of us has to make as we struggle toward a way of being judaism that works for us. But to say you are “opposed to kashrut” or to halacha – how would you feel if someone said they are opposed to shabbos candles? Kashrut can be very meaningful, a way to infuse our eating with holiness, and to keep torah as Jews have kept it for 2000 years.

Newman’s peanut butter O’s and mint O’s are truly amazing. Perhaps the next installment in this series might explore this important topic further.

Connie says:

This was a great read…..real life, informative and funny…but Why would you let your daughter eat pork sausage? This, I don’t understand.

Stu Kaplan says:

Forget Oreos. The real question is: When will Malomars get a heksher?

Masortiman says:

the kashrut of malomars? thats a sticky one.

My trayf lovey were those sno-balls–creative spelling rules!–and I have never had one, ever…oy. FABULOUS writing, fabulous cookie.
Yasher Koach!

My great uncle wouldn’t eat treyf in Aushwitz. Enough said?

@Emes le’Am says:”why the frum world sees this kind of liberal Judaism as just irrelevant?
Because it will not survive more than another generation or two. And why should it?”

Two hundred years, and you people are still singing the same tune, over and over, like a broken record – yet here we are.

How that must gall you.

Emes le'Am says:

To JDE – No, it doesn’t gall me. Amuses yes, galls no. In any case those non-Torah communities are slowly phhhht, draining away. And the frum communities are ever increasing.

“Perhaps she wonders, as she watches her daughter eat her pork sausages, why the orthodox don’t like their children to play with hers?”

My 15 year-old son has learned to select his friends based on attributes such as their empathy, their sense of humor, their intellectual curiosity, and their honesty. I’m secure in his internalization of our values, spiritual and otherwise; I don’t feel threatened by his association with good people who don’t happen to be cookie-cutter versions of us.

To be honest with you, it’s *your* judgmental attitude that concerns me, and I’d lose no sleep if you prohibited your child from associating with mine.

And, regarding our contribution to the “demise” of Judaism? He attends a URJ overnight camp each summer where Torah is read in a chapel built high on a hill and Jewish learning is experiential; after Confirmation this Spring, he will travel with more than 500 other NFTY teens next summer to Israel; next Fall, he’ll attend classes at Gratz and teach religious school after he completes that program. He’s Tikkun Olam chairperson and song-leader for our (HUGE)shul youth group, and a song-leader for his regional NFTY chapter.

(He’s playing “L’Cha Dodi” on his guitar as I type this-just because. :-) He’s told us, many times, how much he loves being Jewish.

And, in my mind, the ONLY tragedy in all of that is that there is an entire segment of our people who consider HIM to be “trayf”, to be “outside”.

We have managed to instill this love of Judaism in him without fear tactics, without cloistering him from the larger world, without subjugating women … all while embracing practicing Jews of all stripes – yes, “even” those who are gay or the product of so-called “mixed” marriages.

There are many, many families like ours, and many, many kids like my son. Yet you persist in marginalizing us, in mocking us, in telling us that our “brand” of religion is dying. To borrow an old trope, reports of our death are HIGHLY exaggerated.

I agree completely with RS, and I’d add that it is the Orthodox communities that are in imminent danger. Although both camps have managed to sustain themselves over the past two centuries, Orthodoxy is now at a watershed. The Haredim have, through sheer number, commandeered the franchise, and they can no longer provide for their increasing numbers, nor can they function in a global marketplace. Their subculture is succumbing to pressure from without and collapsing from within – and when it goes, there goes most of Orthodoxy. There probably won’t be enough non-Haredi Orthodox left to sustain it; there may not even be enough to provide a viable gene pool.

But I don’t expect anything by way of a rational response. The fact that you say the prospect of our demise “amuses” you says much about you as a person.

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Emes Le'Am says:

Let us go back to basics – which was the article by Ingall. I made a deliberately snide coment about notwanting my children to play with her traif eating daughter because for my community Jewish values are a preeminent value. To protect the integrity of our community we build walls. This is called Halacha. And why shouldn’t there be walls? As Frost said, good fences make good neighbors. People applaud the Amish for their quaint, insulated lifestyle. People applaud Amazonian Indians fighting against encroachment upon their culture and value system. People applaud Bhutanese for making native dress mandatory. But the orthodox and Haredi, we are demonized and told our ways must change – we must become part of the majority culture, with its consumerist mentalities, x-box fantasies, sexualized advertising and so on and so on. But we say – no. We will not go there. For us, Torah is the sweet honey from the rock which will preserve us and our children and our grandchildren. And we treasure it in a way that the 50% of American Jews who intermarry, simply do not. We treasure it with our hearts blood. And so, our numbers double every 15 or so years and the rest of the Jewish community, whether liberally religious or non-religious, continues to dwindle. This is the demographic bottom line.

You cannot compare Haredi with the Amish. In the first place, the Amish do not avail themselves of ANY government services – in fact, they live “off the grid”, even manning their own fire depts. Haredi want it both ways: they wish to be free to “learn” full-time yet subsidized by tax-supported gov’t public assistance programs so they can do so. And even those who deign to work are put at a perpetual disadvantage because they don’t receive the type or quality of education that is necessary today to make a living wage, particularly one sufficient to support a super-sized family.

In addition, Amish teens have their rite of passage called Rumspringa. During that time, they venture into the larger world and have “worldly” experiences … All before they decide whether or not they will join the church. So those who DO join are doing so as an informed decision … Not because it is the only life to which they’ve been exposed.

It’s also my understanding that, as long as they have not joined the church, there are no penalties imposed for their experimentation: their familues continue to support them financially and emotionally. And they are still considered to be a part of their communities. So, for those who ultimately DO decide to join the church, it is a decision made, the vast majority of the time, by the individual, after having experienced other options and of their own free will.

Can you say the same for Haredi youth, or young adults, who have questions, yearnings, or doubts? Are they allowed to have the latitude to explore the purview of the larger world – to dress as they wish, read any books or see any movies that they desire, mingle with those who do not share their families’ beliefs? Maybe even sample a cheeseburger? Or are they shamed and ostracized, so that their only options become either begrudging compliance or risking excommunication from their families/communities? So no, the parallels you attempt to draw are not valid, at least in this sense.

“To protect the integrity of our community we build walls. … And why shouldn’t there be walls? As Frost said, good fences make good neighbors.”

What you refer to as “walls” and
“fences”, I consider to be more akin to the bars of a prison cell. “Neighbors” implies a degree of interaction and familiarity – and even friendliness – that the Haredi won’t condone.

Yes, fences allow us to determine when and to what degree interaction will occur, but they also include a gate, so that it’s possible to traverse back and forth – to convene for a cup of coffee or borrow a cup of sugar. Or make it possible for neighboring children to play together in the back yard.

And that’s where your analogy falls apart. You are not “neighbors” with the larger society, or even with your fellow-Jews who observe differently than you do; you deign to isolate yourselves permanently from others who don’t believe and practice as you do. You teach your children to fear and abhor outside influences rather than overseeing their exposure to “what’s out there”. The rules don’t change as your children mature. You tolerate no departures from your narrowly-proscribed path, no association with the “other”.

Many of us believe that the Torah is a document largely comprised of parables and symbolism, written by many (fallable and inconsistent) individuals, and that its contents were a reflection of the political, societal, and economic times in which it originated; thus, rather than existing as a static “gameplan”, it is more appropriately a set of guidelines mitigated by a given political, societal, and economic age. This is not “cafeteria Judaism”, as it’s often derisively called; it’s the result of critical thinking and informed decision-making.

With all of that said, we love Torah too, and we are proud to be Jewish. But, to most of us, eating a pre-halachic Oreo is less important than connecting spiritually with G-d, performimg acts of tikkun olam, or celebrating the wonder of G-d’s world.

I think it’s terrific that you’ve found a way of life that works within your community. What I don’t understand is why you feel superior because of it. I was raised to think of the orthodox as backward and superstitious, and refused to do so. I’d hope you could return the favor.

“the orthodox and Haredi, we are demonized and told our ways must change – we must become part of the majority culture, with its consumerist mentalities, x-box fantasies, sexualized advertising and so on and so on. But we say – no. We will not go there.”

Why do the Orthodox and Haredi seem to feel that non-Orthdox parenting and rules/standards are somehow mutually exclusive? Not all of us indulge our children’s every desire or allow unmonitored access to every media offering at any age; believe it or not, not all of us own video game consoles or allow our children to dress like street people or sluts, either. What we DO do, however, is encourage our kids to ask us questions and to reason … so that they can learn to make informed decisions as they grow into independent adults and navigate the larger world.

As far as “demonizing” … I think your community does a stellar job of instilling fear and disgust for all who do not fit your mold. Even your so-called “fellow Jews”. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told that I am a Jew ONLY by dint of my birth, but that my religion is not “Judaism”. I respect your right to observe as you do, and teach my son to do the same; pls don’t marginalize or mock us.

“our numbers double every 15 or so years and the rest of the Jewish community, whether liberally religious or non-religious, continues to dwindle.”

Strawman. Your “numbers double” because your community persists in popping out children like gumballs from a penny gumball machine – not because you have any monopoly on our Judaic heritage. Your proliferation depends at least partially on tax dollars that support public assistance programs. The rest of us are cognizant the effect of an exploding population on our carbon footprint, and on the available supply of natural resources. We also prefer, most of us, to be able to financially support the children we have – not rely on public assistance because we are under-educated and over-extended.

Emes Le'Am says:

I have no doubt that you subscribe to all the currently correct fashions of thought. You no doubt recycle, worry about your “carbon footprint”, and cry when whales get stranded. I am sure you love your children and lavish upon them every tutor by which they can be all that they can be. I am sure you love Torah (even though the Torah is to you mere parables and some enlightening stories). Yes, all very commendable – but Torah itself tells us how to feel about Judaism. “…If I forget thee, O Jerusalem/ Let my right hand wither;/Let my tongue stick to my palate/ If I cease to think of you,/If I do not keep you / As my chief joy…”[ps 137].
And this, you do not feel.
Torah is the center of the wheel of our life. What is the center of your life? Neighborliness? Friendliness? Again, very commendable. But it does not make for the preservation of a people or a culture. As the Native Americans learned long ago, if you are not willing to die and fight for your spiritual, ethnic path – you lose it.

So, while you mock the fact that the frum and Haredi struggle to have children (I have four and pray for more), indeed, calling our children gumballs – my oldest gumball returns from the IDF to marry, live close to home and have religious children.

The bottom line is outlined in the current NJPS study. “Secular, Reform and Conservative Jews are far more likely to intermarry than Orthodox Jews. Secular Jews have doubled their intermarriage rate, while Reform and Conservative Jews have tripled theirs. Secular Jews in the 18 to 39 year age group have an intermarriage rate of 72%, while those over age 39 have an intermarriage rate of 35%. Younger Reform Jews now at a 53% rate, compared to a 16% rate for the older group. Among younger Conservative Jews, the intermarriage rate has increased to 37%, compared to 10% for those over age 39. Only Orthodox Jews have reversed this trend: Their intermarriage rate has fallen from 10% among those over 39 to 3% of the 18-39 group today.

JCarpenter says:

RS—you are a friend and neighbor I’ve not yet had the pleasure and honor to meet. Thank you for your words and testimony.

@JCarpenter – I sometimes feel like a salmon swimming upstream in these fora; it gets old being marginalized and indicted as “lesser” so I *really* appreciate your kind words (I’ll assume that what you wrote is sincere … see how cynical I’ve become, that the possibility you were being facetious even enters my mind? Apologies for that.).

Thanks very much for taking the time to post them, and it’s a pleasure to “meet” you as well.

“Oreo denial was, for me, a direct extension of Egyptian slavery—it made me uncomfortable enough to feel different and different enough to feel proud.”) ”

This is the crux of the problem. Oreo cookies are just dust in the wind. The fact that all of you are idolizing Oreo Cookies is simply pathetic.

Hashem has given us choices. The mitzvahs are nothing other than opportunities for connection with the Divine. If we choose to trash them, our loss. Halakha seeks to keep us from blowing our attempts at not trashing the opportunities the mitzvahs provide. Admittedly it goes overboard much of the time. But that is because its function is as a safety… much like a safety belt in a car. 1 time out of 10,000 it actually is useful, but we are ordered by law to use it anyway. It keeps us safer if we do.

Hasn’t anybody noticed that our society is hopelessly screwed up? Don’t you wonder why this is? It is precisely because people spend their time idolizing Oreo Cookies and ignoring Gd and the Torah.

If it doesn’t make any difference to you whether your kid eats pork sausages or whether you have a chanukkiah AND a Christmas tree, then you are already lost to Jewish. There is no hope for you.

We owe a tremendous debt to the Ortho-Haredi world for preserving a culture, religion and way of life that we are too busy idolizing Oreo Cookies to worry or care about or appreciate.

My teacher says: Whatever you think about most is Gd to you. In that case all of you are nothing more than Oreo Cookie worshipers. If that’s the legacy you want to pass down to your children and grandchildren, keep doing what you’re doing. If you want something more meaningful and enduring for yourselves and our future generations, get back to something with real meaning and substance: Torah.

And another thing…
Expecting children to reason is asking wisdom from a turnip. The same is true of these fru-fru denominations that let everybody decide what they “feel like” doing vis-a-vis spiritual practice. It’s like someone who knows nothing about the legal system representing himself in court. He simply doesn’t have the knowledge to make wise decisions. Those decisions are supposed to be made by people with knowledge, wisdom and experience. Letting children make their own decisions is asking too much of them and ultimately leads to bad choices, bad children, bad adults and generations upon generations of increasingly ignorant and less moral individuals, and the degradation of society as a whole.

“The fact that all of you are idolizing Oreo Cookies is simply pathetic.”

“Idolizing” Oreos? You’re kidding – right? You’re attaching an awful lot of power to a *cookie*. The ironic thing in my case is that although I like Oreos well enough, I can’t remember the last time I had one. The only ones who have posted paeons to Oreos here are those who are either formerly or currently frum.

It’s the frum crowd, not those of us who don’t observe kashrut, who think about food such a disproportionate amount of time, overall. You agonize about whether food A can be eaten with food B, whether the right Rabbi or organization has given your food a seal of approval, in whose kitchen and on which dishes your foods are prepared and served.

And all of that is certainly your right. But don’t try to claim that those who observe differently are the ones who fixate.

I eat what I eat – making meals about nutrition, sustenance, and socializing – and then I move on. I certainly don’t go out of my way to make “treyf” choices, but it’s not a preeminent concern of mine either.

Maybe we can achieve those “meaningful and enduring” things for ourselves and future generations because we’re not obsessing about what we consider to be JUST FOOD. So we can instead devote our time to things we believe have “real meaning and substance”: Acts of tikkun olam, spending time with our families, lighting Shabbat candles, or (as I did last year) attending a year-long series of classes to become Bat Mitzvah at the age of 49. THOSE things are part of “what is G-d to me” – not a d*mn cookie.

To unilaterally claim that someone is “lost to Jewish [sic]” because they eat a sausage link is absolutely ridiculous.

My life HAS “real meaning and substance”; in NO way am I “ignoring G-d” – I feel a connection that does not depend upon mitzvot… and trust me: I’m as much a Jew as any other. So is my husband; so is our son. And I have PLENTY of hope, and confidence in our “legacy”

“Expecting children to reason is asking wisdom from a turnip. The same is true of these fru-fru denominations that let everybody decide what they “feel like” doing vis-a-vis spiritual practice.”

Learning to reason is a process. Just as I wouldn’t let a six year-old decide what to eat for dinner every night or whether to go to school each day, I would not provide carte blanche freedom of choice in this realm, either. But if we provide them with information, with insights, with good options to choose from … then yes, kids grow and learn to make informed choices because we’ve taught them to do so.

I assume that you’re referring to Reform Judaism when you derisively refer to “fru-fru” denominations. (Thanks for that, btw) As I stated (way) above in this thread, Reform Judaism is not synonymous with being a “cafeteria Jew”. At least, it’s not to me or the people I know. Reform Judaism is also a “process”, of sorts – it encourages questioning, discourse, learning. All of these lead to informed decisions.

Tonight, I attended a “family education night” as part of my son’s Confirmation program. We spent two hours discussing whether the commandment pertains to a prohibition against murder, or against killing, and what the differences are between those two things. We parsed different Talmudic opinions about when killing and murder might be acceptable. There was no firm conclusion that was drawn, no neat “bow” that wrapped up the session.

That approach is pretty typical for us. We inform, we learn, we discuss, we *think*. Our “choices” are, ideally, arrived at logically, and mesh with our own belief systems.

So no – our children do not have autonomy in matters of spirituality (or much else, for that matter!) Our long-term goal is to help give them a foundation of info to inform their decisions, gradually granting them more freedom as they are ready for that responsibility. Ultimately we hope that this will lead to making good choices in life as adults.

@Bato: “We owe a tremendous debt to the Ortho-Haredi world for preserving a culture, religion and way of life that we are too busy idolizing Oreo Cookies to worry or care about or appreciate”

Appreciation must be earned.

When the Ortho-Haredi stop subjugating women and instead allow them to read Torah and participate as equal members of the congregation (and please spare me the “explanations” of how women’s responsibilities in the home are SO important)…

When children who choose to explore other non-Haredi lifestyles are no longer shunned by their communities and disowned by their parents …

When there is tolerance and respect for Jews who observe or live differently even if you don’t agree with how they observe or live …

When Ortho-Haredi are not “kept in line” or kept silent through a combinaton of fear, guilt, and ignorance …

When Ortho-Haredi ensure that their children are educated so that they are able to earn a living wage – and when the adults work at jobs that allow them to support their families, rather than depending upon tax-assisted public assistance programs that enable them to “learn” rather than work …

THEN I will certainly feel a measure of appreciation for these dedicated Jews.

Until then, however, while I respect your right to observe as you believe (which is more than you’ve shown me), I cannot feel “debt” to a community that disparages my own observance and whose practices are anathema to my own sense of “right” and ethics.

Yikes, Oreos sure have given rise to a lot of philosophy. I was also raised on the Hydrox and would like to advise those who live in the Midwest or who can otherwise avail themselves of the housebrand products of the Meijer grocery chain, their “Double-Os” oreo knockoff actually taste just like the Hydrox of old.

Ok, it is painfully obvious that metaphor is not well understood in this forum.

“Oreo Cookies” are a metaphor for idols, meaning to say, anything that we inappropriately embue with too much significance in our lives. If you don’t think you bow down to idols, think again. There was a recent poll in which people surveyed placed internet access above clean water in the top ten necessities of life. Guess what? We worship all sorts of things. Our lives no longer revolve around Gd and Torah, and they should.

Frumniks really don’t spend much energy agonizing over their food. They have a different set of rules about food than we do, but they have it down. It’s second nature. It certainly doesn’t detract from their ability to do tzedaka or tikkun olam. That’s a projection from outside the system by those who suppose it would be agonizing to keep that level of Kosher.

RS: To unilaterally claim that someone is “lost to Jewish [sic]” because they eat a sausage link is absolutely ridiculous.
Again, the sausage link is just a metaphor, and the statement was that if one does not care about these things …. CARE being the operative word.

Wisdom from a Turnip is another metaphor. My point being precisely that reasoning IS a learned skill. To make good decisions, one must have knowledge and wisdom. For Jewish issues this means knowledge of Torah. That one’s spiritual community “encourages” questioning, reasoning and learning implies that these disciplines are optional. They shouldn’t be.

(see next)

Children having spiritual autonomy is again a metaphor. 95% of American Jews are spiritual children run amuck. We haven’t learned enough and haven’t gained sufficient spiritual maturity to make good decisions about what is important to Gd or what is good for us. Most often we have a vague notion of Gd’s will and we do what makes us feel good. As evangelist Joyce Meyer said,”If you’re going to make decisions based on what you feel like doing, you might as well stamp DISASTER across your life right now.” But the good news for us is that the knowledge we need is in the Torah. We just need to learn it. Learn it. That’s my point. Make Torah and Gd the hub of the wheel that drives your life. (Hint: the hub of the wheel thing is another metaphor.)

The majority of Ortho-Haredis have jobs and work very hard for their living. Sure, some receive assistance. But so do some members of virtually every other demographic group. If you made such blanket statements about any other ethnic or religious group you would be labeled a racist. And for the record, Haredi women are permitted to read the Torah. (I happen to agree that many of their practices are less than attractive to our sensibilities, but they are by-and-large content and successful people, as their demographics will attest. Their numbers are increasing while the numbers of other denominations are rapidly decreasing. They will be around in three generations. Will we?)

The point of all this is not to disparage one group or laud another. The point is, for the vast majority of Americans, life is not Gd/Torah centric. Most people don’t even know what’s in the Torah, yet insist they somehow know what Gd does or doesn’t care about.

(see next)

RS: “While I respsect your right to observe as you believe….”
See, it is not a matter of belief. It is a matter of knowing.
I am not Ortho-Haredi, Conservative, Reform, Renewal etc., nor am I frum. We should all learn what is important to Gd by knowing Torah and listening to the Still Small Voice (of Gd). As my teacher says, “Gd hears all prayers.” If Renewal is how you want to go, great. Gd bless you. But learn Torah. Psalm 34: “Taste and see that the Lord is Gd” and Psalm 46:”Be still and KNOW that I am Gd.”
Then you will not to have rely on your “beliefs.”

JCarpenter says:

RS: totally sincere, no offense taken. Keep swimming! (keep teaching also!)

RS, you won’t get anything resembling reason from the “frumniks”. Their goal is to continue clinging to the security blanket; everything else is secondary. They’ll accept only “evidence” that supports their a priori conclusions. If they come across a statistic indicating higher rates of intermarriage for Liberal Jews, they consider it definitive. Of course, a statistic demonstrating increasing numbers defecting from Orthodoxy – it’s goyishe science; it can’t be trusted!

They’re losing the ability to function in a global society and are inbreeding themselves into extinction. We’ll see how they fare over the next generation (if humanity has that much time left).

I like foregathering useful information , this post has got me even more info! .

cai@ix.netcom.com;nfi@ix.netcom.com;rjfi42@gmail.com;jisackso@depaul.edu says:

to feed the funny bone…..

cai@ix.netcom.com;nfi@ix.netcom.com;rjfi42@gmail.com;jisackso@depaul.edu says:

to feed the funny bone…….

two words. joe-joe’s.

Jephthah says:

I don’t think anyone else has mentioned this yet (sorry to necro), but polyunsaturated fats are the ‘good ones’, that is, the best of the fats for you. Fats (fatty acids) can be divided into saturated fat and unsaturated fat, the latter of which can be further divided into polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. The former of these two is the grouping to which fatty acids such as Omega-3s and Omega-6s belong. Basically, if you’re going for fat (and fat is crucial to the human diet, let’s not forget), polyunsaturated is the best way to go (although a little of all [barring the dreaded trans fats and other marginal offenders] is important).

This design is steller! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained.
Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Wonderful job.

I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
Too cool!

Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your post seem to be running off the screen
in Opera. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let
you know. The style and design look great though! Hope you get the issue solved soon.
Thanks

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