In an op-ed for The Jerusalem Post, Professor Kenneth Lasson poses the question: From whence the wiener?
More to the point, when is a kosher hot dog really kosher?
Simple the matter is not.
In “Holy wars and hot dogs: Religious squabbling in the booming business of kosher sausages” (April 20), Lasson focuses on the Hebrew National brand, the subject of intense controversy in Orthodox Jewish circles.
“It is a subject of some fascination that many Orthodox Jews wouldn’t touch a Hebrew National hot dog with a 10-foot skewer,” wrote Lasson, whose book Sacred Cows, Holy Wars is to be published this spring.
He continues: “The underlying reason for this irony is a hodgepodge of religious rulings and rabbinic infighting – power, profits and politics – much of which is as juicy and spicy as what goes into the common sausage. More than one observant rabbi has frankly suggested that today’s kosher standards are ‘two percent religious rules and 98% ego and money and politics.'”
Lasson says Orthodox dogma maintains that Hebrew National has become too large an operation to be adequately inspected – and that its hot dogs are not “glatt kosher,” a term used to describe a foodstuff made from a ritually slaughtered animal whose lungs are examined under rabbinical supervision to make sure they are perfectly smooth, or glatt.
Many rabbis now believe that “glatt” is more of a marketing ploy than a guarantee of purity, Lasson writes.
Moreover, geography apparently plays a role in what’s glatt and what isn’t.
“What’s glatt in Cleveland might not be glatt in Baltimore,” an Orthodox kosher inspector told Lasson – on the condition of anonymity.
More confusing still, the “glatt” label is now slapped on foods such as pizza, fruits and vegetables.
The Hebrew National mishegoss even wound up in court several years ago, though the case was dismissed.
Wrote Dakota County (Minn.) District Court Judge Jerome Abrams: “It would be unholy, indeed, for this or any other court to substitute its judgment on this purely religious question.”