Certainly, we are a community with diverse religious practices, and we are honored and blessed to welcome everyone into our congregation. We take pride in creating a non-judgmental, inclusive community. At the same time, an awareness of certain halachik guidelines can help us feel even more comfortable in each other’s homes. If you are opening your home to guests for a kosher meal, bringing food to a potluck, or providing kosher food for new mothers, the bereaved, or the sick, we ask that these communal standards are observed in the preparation of your food. Even if you do not regularly keep these standards, it may be possible to adhere to them for these
These guidelines are presented with the hope that we can continue to embrace the wonderful spirit of hospitality and chesed thriving within our community. I am also hopeful that this document will provide helpful information to those who are considering increasing their kosher observance. Of course, these guidelines do not replace deeper learning and ongoing study, and your questions are always welcome.
~ Rabbi Uri Topolosky
Acceptable Kosher Symbols
Most processed foods require a reliable kosher certification. Certifications are offered by a variety of nationally and locally based organizations. These organizations rely on varying standards of kashrut, and are not subject to universal oversight. Due to a number of factors, certain organizations are deemed more reliable than others for Orthodox kosher consumers. The list below is not exhaustive, but it includes common reliable certifications. The Chicago Rabbinical Council maintains a more complete list on their website.
The plain K
Merely having the letter “K” on a product does not mean it is kosher. On the other hand, there are products that bear a “K” which represent a reliable supervision. The best example of this is Kellogg’s cereal (and other products). KD means that they are dairy. Kellogg’s with a “K” are under the supervision of the Va’ad Harabanim of Massachusetts. Please note that some of Kellogg’s cereals are not kosher and do not bear any “K”. Other notable examples of a reliable “K” are Tabasco sauce and Starbucks bottled Frappaccino with a “K” – both under reliable supervisions. Otherwise, you simply have to be “in the know” to know which “K”s you can rely on and which you cannot.
The Triangle K is run under the auspices of Orthodox rabbis, however, the Orthodox community standard is generally not to accept these symbols as reliable. If you have used Triangle K products in the past, you do not need to kasher your dishes, and if you are in an awkward situation where you feel you will embarrass someone by not eating a Triangle K product, there is room to be lenient and to eat it. On a regular basis, however, Triangle K does not meet the community standard.
The Orthodox community standard is generally not to accept this symbol as reliable.
What Requires Kosher Supervision?
Cheese and milk
Milk does not require kosher supervision. However, all cheeses and other milk-based products need reliable supervision. Tablet K cheeses do not meet our community standard.
Wine, grape juice and any product with grape juice or grape flavoring, including unspecified “fruit juices”, need to be reliably certified as kosher. (Fresh whole grapes are kosher.) In addition, because of the symbolic nature of wine, open bottles of wine that have been moved or poured by gentiles are no longer kosher unless that wine has first been cooked (or pasteurized). Wine that has been cooked is called “mevushal” and will be indicated as such on the label
(sometimes it is in Hebrew – מבושל.)
Weinstock and Herzog wines from California, Teal Lake Wines from Australia, Bartenura Wines from Italy, and Barkan wines from Israel are mevushal. Many other Israeli wines are not mevushal, such as Galil, Golan, and Yarden.
Except for grape juice, which always needs reliable supervision, other fruit juices which are 100% pure – orange, apple, pineapple, grapefruit, etc. – with no added natural or artificial flavorings, or added “fruit juice” listed in the ingredients, do not need supervision. Tomato juice always needs reliable supervision.
- Most soft drinks are kosher.
- All whiskies and unflavored spirits (Vodka, Gin, Scotch, Bourbon, etc.) which are not grape derived, are kosher.
- Liqueurs require reliable supervision, with notable exceptions such as Amaretto Disaronno, and Peter Cherry Heering, which are both kosher without a kosher sign.
- Unflavored beers do not require kosher supervision.
- Brewed coffees do not require supervision, even if purchased in an establishment that sells non-kosher food.
It is acceptable to buy the fish from a regular store as long as the following conditions are met:
- Make sure the fish is a 100% kosher fish. It can be identified as such either by seeing its scales, or because it is red or pink in color.
- Ask that the fish be cut on a new piece of paper.
- If you cannot have them use a knife that you bring, try to have them wash off their knife before they cut your fish.
In any case, make sure you wash the fish thoroughly when you get home. Since nothing hot touched the fish, washing them off will clean off anything else that might have touched them. It is also advisable, when you return home, to gently scrape off the cut part of the fish with a knife.
Frozen vegetables are acceptable, even when they do not bear any kosher certification, with the exception of: artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. However, there is a common practice only to purchase frozen vegetables with a kosher symbol. In the case of frozen vegetables, any symbol (plain K and Triangle-K included) is sufficient.
Prepared fruits and vegetables
Canned fruit does not require any supervision (except on Passover) as long as the only added ingredients are salt, sugar, corn syrup or water. The one exception is canned fruit that comes from China (for example, Mandarin oranges), which does require reliable kosher supervision.
- Cut-up fresh fruit in a supermarket is generally fine without any kosher supervision.
- All unflavored apple sauce is kosher even without any kosher supervision.
- Canned vegetables do require reliable kosher supervision.
- Commercially processed vegetables such as baby carrots, celery, sliced mushrooms, etc., are kosher without supervision.
- Lettuce needs to be washed and checked leaf by leaf for insects, which are not kosher to eat.
Romaine lettuce should be soaked (preferably in water with vinegar) before being checked.
- Bagged lettuce with a reliable supervision does not need to be washed.
- Artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower should be especially washed
and checked for insects, preferably over a white surface. If you don’t see any, it is kosher to eat.
- Dried beans, lentils, whole/ground spices, grains, sugar, and flour do not require supervision.
- Fresh fruit should be washed before eating.
- Please note that special handling may be required for produce from Israel during shemittah years.
- All new glassware and metal utensils should be immersed in a mikvah before use with food.
- Keep in mind, though, that this mitzvah is unrelated to kashrut. If items have not been immersed, they do not affect the kosher status of the food. (The Aspen Hill Mikvah is available for this use.)