Rabbi Allan’s Friday Message — February 10, 2024
A lead editorial last week in Winnipeg’s Jewish newspaper caught me as well as the other
Winnipeg rabbis off guard, as it advocated that our city’s only Jewish care home (the Simkin
Centre) should stop serving only kosher food. There was an odd assortment of reasons that I
struggle to understand, mostly related to kosher food costs and government meal rates
ostensibly leading to poor meals. And there was something about pushing kosher food onto
people who didn’t care one way or the other.
What also caught me by surprise, in a good way, was how all the members of the Winnipeg
Council of Rabbis responded to the editorial, quickly and with one voice: Keeping kosher isn’t
for everyone, but it is a Jewish value, and for many people in our community, it is a core Jewish
value — the only food that they will eat. Moreso, if Jewish organizations don’t support Jewish
values and take care of the unique needs of our own, who will? And so, we fully endorsed the
care home’s current practice of serving kosher food.
Some people were surprised that I, as part of a Reform Jewish community, would advocate for
kosher food, since it is not an essential part of our Jewish practice. But they missed the point: I
love that there are multiple streams in Judaism, each with their own unique philosophies and
ways of expressing their Judaism. So, I will absolutely support those in our community who
need kosher food to ensure they have access to it, just as I hope others will support the unique
requirements of Reform Judaism on other religious matters. This is not horse trading, but rather
about creating a win-win-win world where we all gain and we all thrive.
That is why the rabbis on the Winnipeg Council of Rabbis – representing Orthodox,
Conservative and Reform communities – could come together so quickly. I am humbled to see
how readily my colleagues can go beyond “tolerance” for our religious differences and actually
show outright respect for our parallel paths, that we can see each other as being 100%
legitimately Jewish even if we don’t do it in the same ways.
This is what a real community looks like, a beautiful painting created by unique colours that find
harmony in ways that are pleasing to the eye…and I believe, to the Divine.