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HANDOUT 3: Laws of Kashrut

"Kashrut" means "fitness." Food that has been prepared according to the laws of kashrut is kosher—"fit"—for consumption by an observant Jew. Many Reform Jews do not keep kosher; Orthodox Jews eat only kosher food; Conservative Jews usually follow the laws of kashrut but less strictly than their Orthodox counterparts.

NOTE: Sometimes restaurants will call a dish "kosher style" but this is a misnomer. "Kosher" refers to a process—the how, not the what. Any style of food (Chinese, Indian, Mexican, etc.) may be prepared kosher or non-kosher.

Kosher (permitted) Trayf (forbidden)
Animals that chew their cud, have cloven hooves, are not diseased or flawed, and have been ritually slaughtered (e.g., cattle, sheep, goats, deer) Pork (ham, pork bacon, pork sausage, pepperoni), camel, rabbit, rodents, reptiles, any animal that died of natural causes or was killed by another animal
Domesticated fowl: chicken, turkey, quail, geese, ducks Birds of prey and scavengers (eagle, hawk, vulture)
Sea animals with fins and scales, such as salmon, tuna, carp, herring, cod Sea animals lacking either fins or scales (all shellfish: crab, lobster, shrimp, clam, octopus, swordfish, sturgeon)
Meat or dairy, as long as they are eaten several hours apart Meat eaten with dairy (e.g., a cheeseburger, tuna with a glass of milk)
Wine or grape juice made in a kosher facility (under rabbinic supervision) Any other wine or grape juice
Soft cheese and kosher hard cheese Most hard cheese
All fruits, vegetables, and grains are permitted except grape products (see above) Insects


Food Preparation and Eating

Pots, pans, dishes and utensils carry the status of the food last heated in them. Kosher homes have at least two sets of cookware, dishes, and utensils, one set for preparing and eating meat and the other for dairy.

Keeping kosher away from home requires making sure of ingredients as well as kosher preparation.

Foods sold in grocery stores are marked with specific symbols if they have been certified kosher by a rabbi or the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations. Most common of these are a "K" inside a circle (but not a "K" by itself), a "P" inside a circle (meaning fit for Passover), and "pareve" (PAR-uh-vah), meaning "neutral." Pareve foods can be eaten with either meat or milk products.

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Last updated on Wednesday, October 29, 2014.

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