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Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America's Food Answers to a Higher Authority [Hardcover]

by Sue Fishkoff
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 12, 2010 0805242651 978-0805242652 1
Kosher? That means the rabbi blessed it, right? Not exactly. In this captivating account of a Bible-based practice that has grown into a multibillions-dollar industry, journalist Sue Fishkoff travels throughout America and to Shanghai, China, to find out who eats kosher food, who produces it, who is responsible for its certification, and how this fascinating world continues to evolve. She explains why 86 percent of the 11.2 million Americans who regularly buy kosher food are not observant Jews—they are Muslims, Seventh-day Adventists, vegetarians, people with food allergies, and consumers who pay top dollar for food they believe “answers to a higher authority.”
Fishkoff interviews food manufacturers, rabbinic supervisors, and ritual slaughterers; meets with eco-kosher adherents who go beyond traditional requirements to produce organic chicken and pasture-raised beef; sips boutique kosher wine in Napa Valley; talks to shoppers at an upscale kosher supermarket in Brooklyn; and marches with unemployed workers at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant. She talks to Reform Jews who are rediscovering the spiritual benefits of kashrut, and to Conservative and Orthodox Jews who are demanding that kosher food production adhere to ethical and environmental values. And she chronicles the corruption, price-fixing, and strong arm tactics of early-twentieth-century kosher meat production, against which contemporary kashrut standards pale by comparison.
A revelatory look at the current state of kosher in America, this book will appeal to anyone interested in food, religion, Jewish identity, or big business.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this informative and revealing primer on kosher food, practice, business, and history, Fishkoff delves into the ins and outs of why the kosher industry continues to grow at an astounding rate despite the small number of observant Jews who actually require kosher-certified food. Having spent years researching and following mashgichim (Orthodox Jews who supervise the production of kosher food and ingredients around the world), Fishkoff has an impressive arsenal of firsthand stories and inside information to keep the narrative moving. The volume provides in-depth chapters on what kosher means, what mashgichim do, the growth of the kosher supermarket, kosher winemaking, and going kosher globally, among other related topics. With an obvious zeal for what she writes, Fishkoff will engage readers with both the religious and professional facets of this complex and misunderstood standard as she explains why so many people prefer kosher cuisine despite its higher costs. (Oct. 12) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Why is kosher food so popular in the U.S.? Eighty-five percent of the 11.2 million Americans who buy it are not Jewish. Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, vegetarians, and people with food allergies are among those who are willing to pay more for food that is certified kosher. Fishkoff traveled all over the U.S. and to Shanghai to learn about the consumption and production of kosher food, interviewing food manufacturers, rabbis who oversee the production and service of food, ritual slaughterers, wine makers, and restaurant owners. She also examines the eco-kosher movement and the recent scandal at a kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa, which made Conservative and Orthodox Jews demand higher ethical and environmental values for kosher food production. This informative and entertaining look at the state of Jewish dietary practice in the U.S. will be enjoyed by those interested in food, religion, and/or business. --Barbara Bibel

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; 1 edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805242651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805242652
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #716,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
I'm not only a friend of Sue Fishkoff's (the author) but I am one of those interviewed in the book about why I don't keep kosher. Even though keeping kosher is not for me, I found this book to be a great window onto a world I knew little about. Sue takes you to such places as factories in China, where much of the food products headed for the American market must pass kosher inspection; to a hotel dining room in New Jersey where kosher certifiers work with scalding water to prepare it for a wedding; to an apple juice factory in Washington, where certifiers work the night shift; to a farm where young Jews who care not only about keeping kosher but whether the animals are treated humanely, are slaughtering their own goats.
Sue does a great job of highlighting the many reasons why so many Jews do keep kosher, as well as highlights the corruption that exists in any business. The book is incredibly-well researched, entertaining, and highly informative. Even if you don't think you're really interested in the world of kashrut, you will find something of value in this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richly Researched, Comprehensive, Very Readable December 24, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly agree with the rave reviews given to Sue Fishkoff's new book by the media, including the Forward, Ha'aretz and The New Republic. The many anecdotal reports present" You are There," scenarios, which
richly add to the wealth of information provided by this award-winning Jewish journalist. Fishkoff writes in her usual fluid style, with a touch of gentle humor, when appropriate. And when facts are disturbing, as
they are re: the greed and fraud found in the certification industry and the Postville slaughterhouse incident, Fishkoff lays out the facts in the straight-forward, unbiased manner, for which she is highly regarded as an investigative reporter.
Between the covers of Kosher Nation readers will find anything they ever wanted to know about kosher, as well as facts about which they didn't even think existed. Everyone at all interested in kosher will find this
book supremely informative, useful and fascinating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating food industry tale July 20, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Have you ever noticed on a package of cookies or chips a small circle containing a U or a K? Those are among the most common symbols of kosher certification. In this fascinating book, Sue Fishkoff explains how the kosher food industry works.

About one-half of all processed food products in American supermarkets carry kosher certification, although Jewish consumers constitute only two percent of the population, and a minority of them keep kosher. An increasing variety of non-food products is coming under certification, such as water, scrubbing pads and aluminum foil. All consumers buy kosher products, whether they know it or not. Even products not aimed at Jews, such as Easter bunnies and Christmas candy, may be certified kosher.

So why has the kosher food industry expanded so far beyond Jewish consumers? The main reason, Fishkoff explains, is that kosher food appeals to consumers who have no religious motivation, but who perceive kosher food as better quality and safer than noncertified alternatives. That's why food manufacturers willingly pay fees ranging from a few hundred dollars to $100,000 or more a year. In return, they are authorized to put the symbol on their products.

Some four-fifths of kosher foods and non-food products are certified by the four largest agencies:
* The Orthodox Union, the biggest of the bunch, whose symbol is U in a circle.
* The Star K whose symbol is a star.
* The OK Kosher Certification whose symbol is K in a circle.
* The Kof-K Kosher Supervision whose symbol is a small k inside a sideways U.

Certification indicates that the food processor adheres to regulations that go back to the five books of Moses, known as the Torah, in the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible).
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Readable though Unbalanced View of Kashrut November 6, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an eminently readable book with gobsmacking statistics that made me and, I'm sure, other orthodox Jews also outside of the US dribble with envy. However, Fishkoff's familiarity with the Chabad/Charedi world and her dependence on their representatives, colours her choice of 'expert' advisers, leading the reader to mistakenly accept this view as mainstream orthodoxy, which of course it is not. If Fishkoff was passionate enough to research and devote an entire volume to the subject of kashrut, she should have discovered and highlighted the nuances that separate orthodox Judaism and kashrut from Chabad/Charedi Judaism and kashrut without demeaning the former as being a diluted version of kashrut. While reading, one has to constantly remind oneself that this is the writing of a journalist and not an academic and, as such, Fishkoff does not have to legitimate her views, but for the sake of reliable and honest journalism maybe should have researched the laws of kashrut herself. However, one would expect from such an intimate account of the kosher world that she would have bothered to understand, at the very least, the concept of, for example 'chalav Yisroel' [sic] which is not mandatory today and the use of which does not constitute an affirmation of more stringent kashrut observance, rather the Chabad/Charedi way of doing kosher which is not that of mainstream orthodoxy, likewise with 'glatt kosher' which although demanded by the ever burgeoning Chabad/Charedi market, does not deem non-glatt kosher as inferior in kashrut standards. It is unfortunate that in what really is a remarkably interesting book, Fishkoff seems to have been somewhat 'brainwashed' into presenting a rather lopsided view of Chabad/Charedi kashrut as a superior standard.

Nevertheless, Kosher Nation is an enjoyable read with many lovely snippets of US Jewish history. Four stars for readability and somewhat less for accuracy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought for gift
Bought this for my wife and she absolutely loved the book, she has given it to many friends who also enjoyed the book. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Great info, sort of odd writing style
I really enjoyed this book for the most part. As someone who's considering keeping increasingly more kosher in the future, I found a lot of great information about what heckschers... Read more
Published on September 11, 2011 by J.P.
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's the why and how of the Kosher industry
Here's the how and why of the Kosher food industry, along with some basic instruction on what keeping kosher means (but I wouldn't use this book as a guide to how to keep kosher,... Read more
Published on June 19, 2011 by Michael Brochstein
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the "how" of kashrut mixed with historical data
This isn't a book about why one should eat kosher food. Kosher Nation explains how different types of food are produced the kosher way, and gives a sociological take on the people... Read more
Published on May 14, 2011 by Max's Mama
5.0 out of 5 stars lots of interesting stuff
In addition to explaining Jewish dietary law (or I should say, dietary laws, since there are differences between and even within denominations), this book gets into a lot of issues... Read more
Published on March 26, 2011 by Michael Lewyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Kosher Nation
Kosher Nation is a comprehensive, detailed look at the complete spectrum of kashrut, the restrictions involved in certifying that food is kosher. Read more
Published on February 22, 2011 by Story Circle Book Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews
The supervision and symbols that designate food as "conforming to acceptable standards" for those who keep kosher for religious reasons have become a marketing tool and a symbol... Read more
Published on February 19, 2011 by AJL Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars From the basics of keeping kosher to its commercial production and...
KOSHER NATION: WHY MORE AND MORE OF AMERICA'S FOOD ANSWERS TO A HIGHER AUTHORITY explores the blossoming kosher food industry and those who work in it. Read more
Published on January 22, 2011 by Midwest Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars So That's Why!
I borrowed this book from a friend and am only a little over halfway through reading it. I am enjoying it so much that I've ordered my own copy (and not on Kindle, I want to be... Read more
Published on December 28, 2010 by Marilyn Caplin
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