Why I’m No Longer Buying Croutons

by Brian on August 26, 2010

in In the News,Politics

One of my favorite condiments for Friday night chicken soup is croutons. So it is with a heavy heart that I’ve had to ban my beloved fried, garlic-infused mini-bread squares from my culinary repertoire. The reason: I don’t agree with the ideological goals of the organization that grants them their kosher certification.

My problems with croutons began several months ago when I received an email urging recipients to no longer purchase products with a particular heksher (the all important stamp of kosher correctness). The heksher in question is the “Badatz Yerushalayim” controlled by the Eda Haredit, a group that has been at the forefront of many of the more extreme conflicts between halacha (Jewish law) and the running of a modern state.

The Eda Haredit, a small but vocal ultra-Orthodox sect numbering just a few thousand in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh and comprising such Hassidic courts as Satmar, Toldot Aharon, Dushinsky and Breslav, was behind the recent rioting against the construction of the much-needed rocket-resistant emergency room at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.

The Eda Haredit also rioted to protest the opening on Shabbat of a parking lot near the Old City of Jerusalem, which was intended to relieve severe illegal parking on sidewalks. Following that action, the Eda Haredit moved on to stop Shabbat operation of Intel’s new fabrication plant in the Har Hotzvim Industrial Area, even though it would have been operated entirely by non-Jews.

Collectively, these riots have resulted in millions of shekels of damage as traffic lights were destroyed and trash bins set on fire. Repairing this destruction of public property will need to be paid by taxpayers…like me.

The Eda Haredit is also one of the most public anti-Zionist groups. A YouTube video shows numerous signs in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Meah Shearim reading “Jews are not Zionists” and “No passage to Zionists,” along with pictures of Eda Haredit members burning the Israeli flag.

As citizens of the democratic state of Israel, we of course can express our opposition by voting for the political party of our choosing. But the Eda Haredit isn’t part of the government; indeed, it doesn’t participate in the political system at all.

What we can do is take our own ideology to the marketplace…specifically the supermarket. For every shekel you spend on a product that’s been blessed by an Eda Haredit heksher, the group receives some portion of the proceeds – either by employing kashrut inspectors or directly into its porous pockets. It may not seem like a lot, but hundreds of thousands of purchases can add up.

The boycott campaign was kicked off several months ago by an article from journalist Nahum Barnea, writing in the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, who asked why, if one checks the price, the ingredients, the weight and the expiration date of products we buy, why not also its kosher certification?

A follow-up piece by Michael Hirsch in the Jerusalem Post agrees, urging that those “who are careful in their adherence to the kashrut laws should question the validity of kashrut supervision provided by an organization (Badatz) which condones and implicitly supports…anti-religious behavior.”

If enough people stop buying products with hekshers they don’t agree with, perhaps the manufacturers will feel the heat and consider other alternatives. It’s not going to be easy. Two of the biggest food manufacturers in the country get their supervision from the Eda Haredit: Osem (the makers of perennially popular snack foods Bisli and Bamba along with the aforementioned croutons) and Angel (the number one bread maker in the country).

Also on the list are foods from the Nestle conglomerate and, inexplicably, Sano which makes cleaning products not food.

Sticking to my guns will result in a significant edible sacrifice, not to mention a return to a mentality we had thought we’d given up, where checking hekshers on products was an annoying Diaspora pastime.

This plan may also be totally ineffective. Another article in Yediot article claims that the proposal to not buy the Eda Haredit heksher has already failed. However, the piece adds there may be potential: a recent poll found that 23% of respondents, when given a choice, said they would prefer to purchase products with a different group’s supervision and 21% would endorse a full “boycott.”

The term “boycott” is controversial, to say the least. Israelis bristle when educational institutions overseas put our country on the no contact list. Others say a boycott will never work and suggest a letter writing campaign instead. When I put this out on Facebook, many responded that the most stringent kashrut supervision is the only way to ensure Jewish culinary unity.

The “Badatz Free” protest group would disagree. The organization, which sponsors demonstrations around the country, is now claiming its first victory: Nestle has launched its new Joya line of gourmet ice creams without the kosher certification of the Eda Haredit. Badatz Free vows to plow on until all Nestle products are supervised by a different body.

In the meantime, the Badatz Free website provides a list of controversial products and alternatives you can buy instead (substitute Vita croutons for Osem). The group also has a Facebook page with nearly 1,500 members.

A shorter version of this post appeared on Israelity.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 jerold September 24, 2010 at 10:34 am


Monday, December 01, 2003
The Lost Jews of Jaipur
Daniel is a very knowledgeable and sweet guide and driver. If you’re traveling to Rajistan, feel free to email him and ask him his prices. You can reach him at jdsdsd@yahoo.com. +91-9660058440 / + 91-9783110862
Or visit his website at http://www.jennifertours.com Tell him Brian from Jerusalem sent you.
Posted by Brian at 3:34 AM

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