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Chapter 6 - Kashroth Wherever and whenever Jewish leaders meet to consider the state of Judaism in America, the concern is voiced that American Jews are increasingly abandoning traditional Jewish rites, rituals and observances, from kashroth to intra-faith marriage. As Professor Nathan Glazer, ten years ago, summed up the conditions underlying this concern: (See note #1) There are American Jews who have been given a good traditional education and who, following the pattern of the twenties and the thirties, have broken with all religious observances. They do not attend the synagogue, they do not observe the dietary laws, they do not mark the Jewish holidays, and they do not believe in the existence of God. In the fall of 1965, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America established a special commission to "cope" with the "alarming proportion" of intermarriage of Jewish with non-Jewish college students. "If the trend is not reversed," the, President of the Union declared, "the whole fabric of the Jewish communal structure in the United States will suffer irreparable harm and damage." The problem, he said, "constitutes a grave challenge to the continuity of the Jewish community and a serious menace to the very survival a traditional Judaism." (See note #2) In this and the following chapters we trace some of these tendencies as they have manifested themselves in the past 60 years within one group of Jewish families, the B'nai Khaim. We obtained relevant data by means of a questionnaire which we addressed to 251 persons over age 16: 47 immigrant B'nai Khaim, male and female, 50 per cent of the original 93 still living and willing to participate in the study. 63 native-born married B'nai Khaim-the second generation 39 native-born unmarried B'nai Khaim, age 16+ the third generation; and 102 spouse of both foreign- and native-born B'nai Khaim --- Total 251 The data we gathered make possible an evaluation of the changes in the religious, social and cultural patterns of the B'nai Khaim and of the nature of their acculturation to the American way of life. In the matter of the changing religious patterns we must bear in mind that Jews are enjoined to observe 613 commandments 365 "don'ts" and 248 "do's." Here we consider the most common and distinctive of them, beginning with the observance of the dietary laws. Next to the rite of circumcision, observing kashroth is probably the most sacred tenet of Jewish orthodoxy. We asked, first, these two overall questions: 1. To what extent do you observe the Jewish dietary laws? (a) strictly; (b) in part; (c) not at all. 2. To what extent did your mother observe them? (a); (b); or (c). Here are the responses of B'nai Khaim males: Observed ----------------------------- In Not Respondents Strictly Part At All Total ----------- -------- ---- ------ ----- Foreign-born married B'nai Khaim males 5 7 8 20 Their mothers* 9 3 0 12 Native-born married B'nai Khaim males 2 6 21 29 Their mothers* 7 8 8 23 Unmarried B'nai Khaim males, age 16+ 2 8 12 22 * As reported by their offspring. The number of mothers is less than the number of offspring, since in many cases more than one offspring reported the same mother. To count a "mother" for each of several siblings would involve a duplication error. Only five of the 20 foreign-born married B'nai Khaim males still observed the dietary laws strictly in 1964, while nine out of the 12 mothers were strict observers. At the same time eight of the 20, or 40 per cent, observed these laws no longer, while none of their mothers observed "not at all." The five strict observers were married to foreign-born women, two of them gentiles, while four of the eight non-observers were married to native-born women. Six of the eight non-observers were in professional occupations. Two of these six, both university graduates abroad, came from Rumania after World War II where, as in Russia and in all other communist countries, Jews, with the rest of the population, were abandoning all aspects of religion. The trend away from the observance of kashroth becomes pronounced with the returns for the native-born married B'nai Khaim males. Here, out of a total of 29, only two were found to be strict observers, and one of the two is a grandson of Rabbi Avrom Kaprov. At the same time, 21 of the 29, or 72 per cent of the total, no longer observed at all. Three of these 21 were married to gentiles, two were of mixed parentage. None of the mothers of the foreign-born did not observe at all, while eight of the mothers of the native-born were non-observers. B'nai Khaim females appear to be less "radical" than their male relatives. Here are their responses to the questions on kashroth. Observed ----------------------------- In Not Respondents Strictly Part At All Total ----------- -------- ---- ------ ----- Foreign-born married B'nai Khaim females 10 11 6 27* Their mothers 13 5 0 18 Native-born married B'nai Khaim females 0 16 18 34 Their mothers 12 9 5 26 Unmarried B'nai Khaim males, age 16+ 2 6 9 17 * Includes one who died unmarried in 1965 at age 80. Thirty-seven per cent of the foreign-born married B'nai Khaim females were strict observers of the dietary laws, compared with 25 per cent for their male counterparts, and only 22 per cent were non-observers, against 40 per cent for the foreign-born males. On the other hand, while none of the 34 native-born females observed strictly, 18, a little over 50 per cent observed not at all, and two of these were married to gentiles. Among the native-born married males, 72 per cent were non-observers. In sum: 25 per cent of the foreign born-married B'nai Khaim males observed the dietary laws strictly; 40 per cent observed not at all. 75 per cent of their mothers had observed the laws strictly; none of them had been non-observers. 7 per cent of the native-born married B'nai Khaim males observed these laws strictly; 72 per cent did not observe at all. 30 per cent of their mothers observed strictly; 35 per cent did not observe at all. 37 per cent of the foreign-born married B'nai Khaim females observed the dietary laws strictly; 22 per cent did not observe at all. 72 per cent of their mothers had observed strictly; none of their mothers had been non-observers. No native-born married B'nai Khaim females observed the dietary laws strictly; 53 per cent observed not at all. 46 per cent of their mothers observed strictly; 20 per cent observed not at all. Our B'nai Khaim women, both foreign- and native-born, were found to be more conservative than the men. For B'nai Khaim spouses, we have the following data: Observed ----------------------------- In Not Respondents Strictly Part At All Total* ----------- -------- ---- ------ ----- Wives of foreign-born B'nai Khaim males 3 9 10 22 Wives of native-born B'nai Khaim males 0 11 17 28 Husbands of foreign-born B'nai Khaim females 6 12 3 21 Husbands of native-born B'nai Khaim females 1 12 18 31 *The number of spouses in the table is not always the same as the number of their B'nai Khaim mates because of the different number of widows and widowers in each group. In one case, a gentile spouse submitted no return. The wives of the native-born B'nai Khaim males, of whom two were gentiles and one of mixed parentage, were all native≠born and were less observing of kashroth than were the wives of the foreign-born males. None of the 28 wives of the native-born males observed this commandment strictly, and 17 out of the 28, or 60 per cent, observed not at all. Of the 22 wives of foreign-born B'nai Khaim, of whom two were gentiles, three observed strictly, and ten of the 22, or 45 per cent, did not observe at all. In general, this was true also of the husbands of B'nai Khaim females. Only one of the husbands of the 31 native-born B'nai Khaim females was a strict observer, against six of the 21 husbands of the foreign-born females. Nearly 60 per cent of the 31 did not observe at all, but only a little over 14 per cent of the 21 did not observe at all. The one gentile husband among them made no return. It is reasonable to expect that husbands and wives would tend to give the same answers to the same questions relating to their religious observances. However, enough differences were found in their responses to the questions on kashroth to reflect a considerable degree of independent attitudes. B'nai Khaim and their spouses were furthest apart in the matter of strict observance and were closest to one another in homes where kashroth was observed least. This held true for both the foreign-born and the native-born groups. Thus: 25 per cent of the foreign-born B'nai Khaim males observed kashroth strictly; 14 per cent of their wives observed kashroth strictly. On the other hand, 40 per cent of these B'nai Khaim did not observe at all, and 45 per cent of their wives did not observe at all. For the native-born B'nai Khaim males and their wives we have these figures: 7 per cent of the B'nai Khaim observed strictly; none of their wives observed strictly. But: 72 per cent of the B'nai Khaim observed not at all, and 60 per cent of their wives observed not at all. In all cases, female B'nai Khaim observance of kashroth was closer to that of their husbands than was male B'nai Khaim observance to that of their wives. For the foreign-born B'nai Khaim females and their husbands we have the following figures: 37 per cent of the B'nai Khaim females observed strictly; 30 per cent of their husbands observed strictly. 22 per cent of the B'nai Khaim females did not observe at all; 30 per cent of their husbands did not observe at all. Of the native-born B'nai Khaim females and their spouses: None of the B'nai Khaim females observed strictly, and only 3 per cent of their husbands observed strictly. 53 per cent of the B'nai Khaim females did not observe at all; 58 per cent of their husbands did not observe at all. Mothers of B'nai Khaim spouses were more "advanced" than B'nai Khaim mothers. Twenty-three per cent of mothers of spouses did not observe at all, while only 16 per cent of B'nai Khaim mothers did not observe at all. The suprising thing in these figures is the extent to which mothers, that is, the older generation in both groups, were abandoning observance of the dietary laws. Still, this too, might have been expected. The drift away from ritualistic Judaism is not entirely an American phenomenon. We are accustomed to think of the "older" generation as shtetl Jews, vintage 1900. But already at the turn of the century secular enlightenment and socialist thought had begun to penetrate the shtetl. Most Socialists rejected all religion, and socialist influence began to affect Russian youth of all persuasion. The Revolution of 1905 broke through the crust of shtetl isolation. The images which Jews now saw of themselves in the mirrors held up to them by Perez and Sholem Aleichem and the Bundists shook many of them out of their centuries-old habits of thought and religious behavior. Their growing self≠awareness as a stagnant people was brought to a climax in the Bolshevik Revolution. If some B'nai Khaim who came here before World War I still wore untrimmed beards, others already had their beards trimmed, and those who came after the October Revolution, especially from the cities, had pretty well abandoned those outer symbols of Jewishness as well as more intimate family practices, such as the dietary laws. In America this process would be accelerated. The exigencies of having to earn a living among goyim were new compelling factors. The remarkable thing about our findings is not that so many of the B'nai Khaim and their spouses had abandoned strict observance of kashroth, but that so many still adhered to much of it as late as 1964, some of them after living in America for 60 years. It should be added that among the immigrants who came here before age 18 a larger proportion dropped kashroth altogether than among those who came after age 18. Also, among both the foreign-born and the native-born those in professional occupations were the least observing. The degree of observance seems to bear no relation to the descent along the patriarchal lines A1, A2, A7 (except for the branch A2 B8, the Rabbi's family), nor to the neighborhood in which our people live. In 1964, most B'nai Khaim lived in "mixed" neighborhoods. Of the 111 B'nai Khaim homes, 73 were located in "mixed" areas, 16 in areas "mostly Jewish," and 22 in areas "mostly gentile." Of the 13 homes in which there was strict observance, two were in Jewish, two were in gentile, and nine were in "mixed" areas. Of the 41 non-observing families, nine were in Jewish, 11 in gentile, and 21 in "mixed" neighborhoods. So far, we calculated the drift of the B'nai Khaim away from kashroth in the general terms of departure from the "dietary laws." We now tested our findings in terms of observance of specific commandments. We asked these specific questions of all married B'nai Khaim and their spouses: 1. Do you eat kosher meat only? 2. Do you eat (a) pork, (b) ham, (c) bacon ? 3. Do you eat shellfish? The responses confirm our earlier findings as well as supply evidence for the "in part" observance of the dietary laws in general. They also throw light on the degree of independence of B'nai Khaim and their spouses in their respective responses to our questions. Here are the answers to these three questions: (See Table #1) The first thing that strikes the eye in this table is the relatively small number of respondents that said yes to the question "do you eat kosher meat only" - 34 against the 177 who said no. (Bottom totals.) The one exception was the foreign-born females of B'nai Khaim who split about 50-50 between yes and no. The second thing to note is that so far as the native-born, both male and female, and their spouses are concerned, the traditional "kosher butcher" may just as well close up shop. Together, these numbered 122, but only three of them still ate kosher meat only. Our questions about eating pork, ham, bacon and shellfish brought answers which are not only discriminating, but also throw light on the "in part" observance of the dietary laws in general. Fewer of our people (50 per cent) eat pork than eat ham (60 per cent) or bacon (72 per cent), or even shellfish (62 per cent). Our B'nai Khaim seem to have a more definite built≠in aversion to eating pork than to eating any of those other trefe foods. Proportionately, between two and one-half and three times as many native-born as foreign-born eat pork, ham and shellfish. The difference is not so great in the case of eating bacon; here the percentages are 88 and 62, respectively. Bacon is becoming a staple in the B'nai Khaim kitchen. As an overall check on the discriminating practices within the Jewish dietary laws, we asked this question: Do you ever eat non-kosher food?: (a) at home (b) in restaurants (c) when traveling (d) at homes of non-observing Jews (e) at homes of gentile friends The answers show that two-thirds eat non-kosher food at home, evidently our bacon-eaters. But not much more than 43 per cent of the foreign-born do so. The percentage for the native-born was nearly twice as high. A greater proportion, as would be expected, ate non-kosher food away from home than at home; again, the native-born in larger proportions than the foreign-born. And all of them indulged about equally in restaurants, when traveling, at homes of non-observing Jews, and at homes of gentile friends. Unaccountably, a greater proportion of the wives of our foreign-born B'nai Khaim males eat non-kosher food away from home than their husbands do. One would expect the opposite to be the case, as men presumably have more occasion to eat non-kosher food in restaurants when at work or when traveling. "Do you eat khometz on Passover?" we asked next. Sixty per cent said yes-50 per cent of the foreign-born and their spouses; 70 per cent of the native-born and their spouses. Again, the remarkable thing is not that 70 per cent of the native-born and their spouses ate khometz on Passover, but that fully one-half of the foreign-born and their spouses did. One native-born male and one native-born female answered, "No, whatever that is"! Next we asked two questions specifically addressed to men and two specifically to women. The questions to the women were: 1. Do you use separate sets of dishes for meat and dairy products? 2. Do you use separate sets of dishes for khometz and Passover? The answers are the same for both questions: 76, "no"; 35, "yes". The B'nai Khaim who do not keep separate sets of milk and meat dishes do not keep separate sets of khometz and Passover dishes either. The degree of this practice, however, differs as between the foreign-born and the native-born. For the foreign-born the ratio is 3 "no" to 2 "yes." For the native-born the ratio is 3 "no" to 1 "yes". The two questions for the men were: 1. Do you say hamotze lekhem? 2. Do you cover your head when eating? Here, too, the answers are practically the same to both questions: 93 "no" to 8 "yes" for the first, and 95 "no" to 6 "yes" for the second. And here, too, the degree of observance differs as between the foreign-born and the native≠born. For the foreign-born the ratio is 7 "no" to 1 "yes". For the native-born the ratio is 59 "no" to 1 "yes". For the native-born, saying hamotze lekhem and covering the head when eating have almost completely vanished as an exercise of Jewishness. It is dying out rapidly among the foreign-born. Notes to Chapter 6: (1) American Judaism, Chicago University Press, 1957, pp. 140-41. (2) As reported in the New York Times, October 28,1965. (3) We did not define these terms. We thought that a prescribed definition might inhibit a free response. Instead, we followed up with several supporting questions of a specific nature.