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"New-Kosher!"

New-Kosher!
Der Israelit, no. 33, July 26, 1934

Even before the introduction of the Nuremberg Laws on September 15, 1935, Jews living in Nazi Germany became the target of regulations designed to reduce their socio-economic power. Anti-Jewish legislation worsened the quality of everyday life; shopping, finding housing, and doing business became more complicated. And even when not defined by law, hostility to Jews amongst shopkeepers, landlords, and public officials created new limitations. Historian Marion A. Kaplan notes that under such conditions, "many [Jews] assessed their situation by how much they suffered while doing daily tasks. They wondered how to sort out the truly menacing from the merely annoying or disappointing [...]"1

Coming less than three months after Hitler's appointment as chancellor, a law issued on April 21, 1933, forbade the slaughter of livestock without first stunning the animals by an electric shock. Though Jewish ritual slaughter (shechita) was not referenced in the law, it sought specifically to make the practice illegal: kosher slaughter had long served as a symbol of "Jewish cruelty" in antisemitic circles, and several German states had already outlawed the practice in preceding years.2

As the law took effect, German Jews confronted escalating prices and shortages of kosher meat. The question of how to respond to this new reality worried religious Jews in particular: orthodox rabbis, committed to upholding Halacha—Jewish law rooted in the Talmud3—feared that condoning the consumption of non-kosher meat would set a dangerous precedent throughout Europe and undermine efforts to retain other kosher practices. Indeed, some claimed that when Jewish traditions were under assault, religious laws should be observed more strictly.

Liberal rabbis, conversely, frequently ruled that meat from an animal that was slaughtered after being stunned could still be considered kosher. These leaders feared that strict adherence to Jewish law would place undue stress upon their congregations, especially for poorer Jews who could not afford pricier imports of kosher meats from neighboring countries.4 They also remained mindful that failure to overcome the crisis would cast the leaders as indifferent to public suffering and incapable of responding to new challenges. In turn, some orthodox leaders fretted that the absence of a unified position on this issue would spark further conflict amongst the already divided sects of German Jewry.

The Orthodox German-Jewish weekly Der Israelit ("The Israelite") waded into this controversy in the summer of 1934, more than a year after the ban. In this editorial, the paper takes a conservative position against a "new-kosher" trend sweeping the country's butcheries and restaurants. The author, in a serious and angry tone, criticizes the "cynicism" and "speculative dealings" involved in the sale and consumption of so-called "new-kosher”products. Rooted in scriptural terms, Der Israelit's denunciation of "new-kosher" speaks to deep disagreement over the implications of the ban, and the best ways to address the challenges of the "contemporary Jewish situation."

Marion A. Kaplan, Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 32.

German occupation authorities also instituted such bans in conquered territories. For the case of the Warsaw ghetto, see: Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak, The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 641.

A religious text describing Jewish ceremonial and civil law.

In defiance of the ban, German-Jewish butchers also continued to perform kosher slaughter in secret. See Kaplan, Between Dignity and Despair, 33.

The central religious text of Judaism, usually referring to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic commentary. 

Religious text describing Jewish ceremonial and civil law.

In Jewish law, one who resolves legal matters.

A term referring to questions about Jewish law and practice sent to rabbis, to which they composed answers advising the writers. 

Hebrew: "Every day should be perceived as a new beginning."

Jewish ritual slaughter.

Hebrew: Literally "prey and carcass," a term denoting non-kosher meat.

Non-kosher.

Hebrew: "One who sins and causes others to sin."

Hebrew: "Belief or faith."

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"New-Kosher"!

Out of the contemporary Jewish situation, which is at once tragic as well as comic, a new Jewish word was born: "New-kosher". But what does it actually mean? Neither the Torah1 nor the Talmud,2 nor the Decisors,3 nor Responsa4 mention it. In scripture, when the term "new" is used in combination with a law, it’s in the sense that Torah teachings and Torah law will always be "new" to us as b'chol yom yihiyu be'einecha ke'chadashim.5

But a Jewish restaurant near a resort in the Black Forest advertised their cuisine as follows: "The meat fare is new-kosher." Every day new reports are coming in about "new-kosher" changes in public businesses, Jewish institutions, and private houses in rural areas.

For our readers who are unfamiliar with the meaning of "new-kosher" and will most likely not find a description in any Jewish encyclopedia, the following definition is offered: "New-kosher" refers to meat of animals which were stunned and then killed, with or without a shechita6 (as it is irrelevant at this point). In other words, it is meat that is not "new-kosher", but in both old and new terms strictly terefah, and no rabbinic power can alter it from being nevelah u’trefah.7 It seems almost cynical when Jewish restaurants use the non-existent term "new-kosher" as advertising to entice ritually observant people. 

In America, recently also in France, legal measures have been taken to prohibit such a dishonest and unscrupulous deception. Law-abiding Jewry will have to find means to put an end to these speculative dealings, which come at the expense of the Jewish conscience. 

But as long as we are without legal recourse, this warning should be emphasized: Everything sold as "new-kosher" is nothing but strictly terefah8 and should be treated the same as meat, which comes as nevelah u’trefah from a non-Jewish butcher shop.

Those who are letting their consciousness be lulled into believing these words are deceiving themselves, and whoever is profiting by spreading these new words is a chote u’machti et harabim9 destined to pile guilt upon his soul, which according to the doctrine of "Father Proverbs" is almost unredeemable.

On such an occasion, it is worth noting the admonition of the Hamburg Restaurant Association in the Townhall section of our latest issue. Beware of using older publications from the association without previous inquiries with Jewish restaurants, as their conditions may have changed entirely. Also due to the recent incidents, it could be possible that the business has come into new hands and is no longer worthy of public trust.

In case of uncertainty, it is advised to contact the relevant authority in Hamburg  to avoid the risk of consuming something "new-kosher" against one's knowledge and will—that is to say, consuming something strictly terefah. Personal errors and the liability of others are not valid excuses, because in the matter of emunah10 everyone is responsible for himself.

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Der Israelit, no. 33, July 26, 1934
Date Created
July 26, 1934
Page(s) 5-6
Language(s)
German
Hebrew
Location
Frankfurt am Main, West Germany
Document Type Newspaper Article
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