According to the Ynet article, “America Goes Kosher,” kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) is the new Kabbalah. Kosher restaurants in large metropolitan areas have suddenly become fashionable, and the Hollywood trendsetters have not only staked out their own tables but their own rooms in such establishments. The article reports:
In the last decade, kosher food sales in American supermarkets have reached a growth rate of 15 percent as opposed to a four percent growth rate for food that is not kosher. Eleven million Americans buy kosher food, and they are responsible for a yearly turnover of $9 billion. What’s interesting in all this data is that there are only just over six million Jews in America and even fewer keep kosher. Slowly but surely the kosher food market is being taken over by non-Jewish Americans who are on the lookout for kosher food that is not just gefilte fish and matza.
Kosher food manufactures and restaurants are doing something right. How have they gotten individuals who have no ties to kashrut for religious reasons to buy their products and enter their establishments? One survey suggests that many non-Jews eat kosher food because they believe it is healthier. There may also be a spiritual element, however. Someone quoted in the article suggests that “The kosher trend fits in with modern life. Like the Kabbalah, it combines the old with the new. Kosher food meets spirituality and health in one plate, and that’s what people are looking for today: a little spirituality with an everyday practicality.”
What can the Jewish community learn from this phenomenon? Just like the kosher food industry (with a little help from a few celebrities), the Jewish community can transform its image from one of gefilte fish, matzah and old world Jewry to one of gourmet food and welcome to all if it offers programs and events that intersect with people’s needs.