Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 28 August 2010 / 17 Elul 5770

Out to Lunch

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From: Barry

Dear Rabbi,

I recently got a new job that requires that I entertain for lunch, dinner or "happy hour" at the company’s expense. Along with this privilege, I also am required to take prospective clients out to lunch (once again company’s treat) in order to "wine and dine." My problem is that I keep kosher (i.e., I only eat in certified restaurants and buy only kosher supervised products as well). Obviously, there arises a great conflict between my religious convictions and the norms of the American corporate world.

My question is: Are there good ways to possibly still keep kosher in non-kosher eating establishments? Are there any good resources for suggestions, etc.?

Dear Barry,

It’s preferable not to enter a non-kosher restaurant, even if you don’t eat anything. Your being there gives the impression to onlookers that the restaurant is kosher. Alternatively, it may cause others to question your observance or that of other Orthodox Jews. They may not realize that you are not eating, or that you have brought your own food.

But if you must attend a non-kosher restaurant, you can manage by eating only fresh, uncooked and uncut fruits and vegetables and kosher drinks. Or bring your own food. But if you do this, you would probably have to clear it with the restaurant beforehand.

Come to think of it, there are kosher caterers, like the ones who supply kosher food on airplanes, who can ship kosher meals almost anywhere overnight. Such pre-cooked meals are also available in kosher markets and even in the kosher section of regular markets. These meals are sealed in a double layer of tin foil and therefore they can be heated in a non-kosher oven. With a little planning ahead, you may be able to arrange with some local restaurants to serve these to you, sealed and on disposable utensils.

In addition, if you choose any of these options, I would suggest you let your guests know beforehand that you keep kosher. I have found that the best way to approach this issue is by being straightforward. Nowadays, people usually are very respectful of someone who adheres faithfully to their religious principles. But if you don’t explain yourself, folks will probably wonder why your eating habits are so odd!

An excellent book which contains a section on the topic of non-kosher restaurants is "After the Return" by Rabbi Mordechai Becher and Rabbi Moshe Newman, Feldheim Publishers.

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