Keeping kosher


Approved by the Board of Directors at its December 21, 2004 Meeting

The following guidelines were developed using the Kehillah’s practice of values-based decision-making, preceded by education around the issue, its history and its spiritual possibilities. The Reconstructionist approach toward kashrut, as with most Jewish ritual, is to acknowledge and evaluate its benefits to the extent that it adds to a richer, more meaningful Jewish life. As a Reconstructionist community, the Chapel Hill Kehillah strives towards holiness and mindfulness through its ritual practices. While individuals will decide for themselves to what extent and how they will go about observing kashrut, collectively we need to set certain guidelines for communal observance.

To develop our kashrut policy, members studied the basic tenets and values of kashrut through an open educational process. We also devoted one of our learning sessions to articulating the personal values we felt applied to our spiritual community. This enabled us to reach consensus and make informed choices that balanced respect for the tradition of kashrut with the values of the community. These values include respect for individual observance level, inclusiveness, tolerance, difference, and communal cohesion. In addition, the Kehillah aims to enact a kashrut policy that members and guests can understand and comply with easily.

A consensus of communal values emerged at the end of the educational process, and these have been incorporated into the following set of Guidelines, reflecting a compromise that allows most of our members to participate in community events while at the same time respecting Jewish tradition. The purpose of these guidelines is to document the specific kashrut-related practices that we, as a community, have adopted together.

The Chapel Hill Kehillah is also concerned with the ecological and physical consequences of consumption and is undertaking actions to minimize the environmental impact of our community events. These activities will be addressed in a separate statement.


The dietary laws of Judaism that define which food is and is not fit to eat. They are cited in the Torah in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 and are expanded in the Talmud and the codes of Jewish Law. The word “kosher” means “fit” or “acceptable.”

All foods that are not fit to eat according to traditional Jewish law, including pork, shellfish, fish without fins and scales, non-kosher meat or poultry, foods that are made from these products and food that contain both dairy and meat.

Foods that consist in whole or in part of milk or products derived from milk. (In traditional practice, dairy products cannot be served with meat products.)

Foods that consist in whole or in part of ingredients derived from the flesh of animals. To be kosher, meat must come either from an animal that has split hooves and chews its cud (e.g. cows), or from poultry that flies and is not a bird of prey (e.g. chickens). For both meat and poultry the animal must be slaughtered and prepared according to the requirements of Kashrut under rabbinic supervision. (In traditional practice, meat products cannot be served with milk products.)

Only fish that has both fins and scales is considered kosher. Shellfish is not kosher. Kosher fish is considered to be pareve (see below). If there is a question about the kashrut of a particular species, please consult the Rabbi of the Chapel Hill Kehillah.

Foods that in their natural state are neither meat nor dairy are considered pareve (neutral). Examples include fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs, pasta, grains, nuts, honey, coffee, and tea. For the purposes of kashrut definitions of the Chapel Hill Kehillah, rennet and gelatin are considered to be pareve. Pareve foods can be served with either dairy or meat.

Any food or beverage made from or containing wheat, oat, rye, spelt, or barley, except packaged foods that are certified kosher for passover. Packaged foods that do not list any of these five ingredients are not considered chametz, regardless of whether they are certified kosher for passover. Contact with utensils does not affect whether a food item is considered chametz. Pure distilled alcohol, as in vanilla extract, is not considered chametz regardless of origin. Beer, whiskey and similar beverages are chametz. Chametz does not include “kitniot” such as rice, beans, peas, soybeans, pure tofu, other legumes, peanuts, corn, and corn starch (in the Ashkenazic tradition, these foods are not acceptable by some on Passover, but are in the Sephardic tradition).

Kosher Certification:
A symbol or status give to food products approved and marked as kosher under rabbinic supervision.

Community Event:
An event that is officially sponsored by the Chapel Hill Kehillah whether in the facility or not.

Private Event:
An event that is sponsored by an individual or group that is not an official event of the Chapel Hill Kehillah. A chavurah event is considered to be a private event. If there is a question as to whether an event is a community event or a private event, ask the Rabbi or the Chair of the Ritual Committee.

An officially sponsored program of the Chapel Hill Kehillah including religious school, pre-school, youth groups, tutoring, and Kehillah related meetings.


All non-catered Kehillah community events or programs, either in the facility, in members’ homes, or off-site and all non-catered private events at the Kehillah are to be dairy or pareve. No meat, poultry, non-kosher foods or foods containing meat, poultry, or non-kosher foods may be served at these events. This includes individual meals brought to these events or programs.

While we limit the foods at non-catered community meals to dairy or pareve, we do not limit the type of kitchens in which they are prepared. Therefore, all containers, appliances and utensils (kashered [ritually purified] or not) may be used to prepare and serve food at non-catered communal functions. When preparing foods at home for Kehillah events, members are expected to make sure that the food contains no non-kosher ingredients (such as lard, etc.).

Use of a Caterer
Different rules apply when an event is professionally catered, and meat may be served at these events under the circumstances that follow. All caterers must be provided with a copy of these Guidelines in advance of the event and must agree to adhere to the Guidelines. All caterers serving meat at the Kehillah must be interviewed by the Kehillah designated representative to make sure that they understand these Guidelines and are willing to abide by them. As caterers are interviewed and approved, the Kehillah will maintain a list of such approved caterers.

Foods with Non-Kosher Ingredients
Foods that contain non-kosher ingredients may not be served at any event or program, regardless of where it is prepared.

Meat and Poultry
Any meat or poultry served an event must be certified as kosher. Any food containing meat or poultry ingredients must be made with certified kosher meat or poultry. An approved caterer must be used when serving meat at an event (see “Use of a Caterer”).

Dairy and Meat Served Together
Dairy foods may not be served at the same event where meat or poultry is served. No dish may be served which contains both dairy products and meat or poultry ingredients.

Use of the Kitchen
The kitchen may not be used by anyone, including a caterer, for meat or poultry products.

Private Events not at the Kehillah
The rules regarding the dairy or pareve restrictions and the restrictions against non-kosher ingredients set forth above for community events and private events at the Kehillah do not apply to private events held in members’ homes or at other facilities. If there is doubt as to what food to bring to such an event, it is encouraged to use the rules set forth in these Guidelines to allow greatest participation among our members with varying degrees of observance. If there is a question as to whether an event is a community event or a private event, ask the Rabbi or the Chair of the Ritual Committee.

All wine and other beverages are permitted for both social and ritual purposes.

All cheeses are permitted unless there is an obvious addition of a non-kosher substance added to the cheese. Rennet is considered to be pareve.

During the week of Passover, in addition to the above-mentioned Guidelines, chametz, and all products containing chametz are not permitted at official Kehillah events or private events in the facility or on the premises.

Individual’s Food at the Kehillah
An individual participating in a Kehillah sponsored event or program or bringing in food for his/her own consumption must abide by the above-mentioned Guidelines; therefore an individual may not bring any meat (kosher or not) to any official event or program that is sponsored by the Kehillah or into the facility. Also an individual may not bring in any food made with non-kosher ingredients to any official event or program that is sponsored by the Kehillah or into the facility.

All questions regarding this policy or about what is or is not kosher should be addressed to the Rabbi and/or the Chair of the Ritual Committee.

Final Suggestions

Members are encouraged to accompany their dishes with a written list of ingredients to accommodate individual dietary restrictions and allergies.

Congregants supplying kiddush for Passover should include some packaged foods specifically marked “Kosher for Passover” for those who do not want to eat the other foods provided.

In the case of a Kehillah-sponsored event at a person’s home, the host should clarify to his or her guests that the Kehillah Kashrut policy applies.

Thank you to Congregations Adat Shalom and Dorshei Emet for the use of their Communal Kashrut Policies from which we lifted lines liberally as models in articulating our own guidelines.