Services & Celebrations


Friday evening Shabbat Services & Celebrations

We offer the following Shabbat services and celebrations:

  • 1st Friday of each month, Shabbat Service at 7:30 p.m.
  • 2nd Friday of each month, T.G.I. Shabbes at 6:15 p.m.;  a wine, cheese, and music celebration.
  • 3rd Friday of each month, Tikkun Olam VaNefesh Service, a service of healing for soul and world, 7:30 p.m.
  • 4th Friday of each month, Shabbes dinner, usually at a member’s home, occasionally at the Temple.
  • 5th Friday in the months in which a 5th Friday occurs is our Leader’s Choice Shabbat Serivce, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday Shabbat Services

Bagel and Bible is the first Saturday of each month, 9:30 a.m., with a new topic each month.  Followed by an abbreviated Shabbat service.  All other Saturday’s, Shabbat service begins at  10:00 a.m.


If you have questions, or to let us know

you’ll be attending an event,

or, if you would like to be added to our email list:

please email:  office@templebnaiisrael.org























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 A New Approach to the Rules Shaping Shabbat Practice

Rabbi Jeremy Schwartz and the Ritual Committee[1] of Temple Bnai Israel, Willimantic CT

 Let’s Talk About Shabbat

 We’ve tackled kashrut. We’ve tackled money. But are Reconstructionist communities ready to tackle Shabbat? As the Temple Bnai Israel Ritual Committee discovered, the “thou-shalt-not”s associated with Shabbat are more angst-provoking than those associated with kashrut.  But the conversation about Shabbat is an essential one. Shabbat is one of the most important and useful gifts of Jewish civilization. Shabbat teaches that life is more than work.  And once life is more than work, it becomes possible to engage in a search for meaning.

The centrality of Shabbat to Jewish practice is leading many Reconstructionist congregations to consider moving some of their children’s learning from Sunday school to Shabbat.  Our congregation is undertaking such a move. But there is a danger in doing so without a well-grounded Shabbat policy.  One Reconstructionist school director recently said about her school’s Shabbat practice, “Generally, our classroom learning is the same as it would be on any other day, but we don’t handle money transactions on Saturday.”[2]  This is problematic.  It teaches the children that on the seventh day, they work, just like on any other day. If Shabbat is to be a liberating pillar of Jewish practice for both children and adults (as it can and should be), it must be distinguished from weekdays.

Our ritual committee’s year-long study of Shabbat practice led to a new communal policy that makes that distinction in a modern, jewishly rooted way.  We hope that the method and content of our study, summarized here, will inspire other serious policy conversations about Shabbat.

Rules and Regulations, Who Needs Them?

Parents of young children have all played games whose rules, in the children’s hands, are ever-changing or non-existent.  Sometimes, it’s a delightful and chaotic romp.  Often, it’s annoying and boring, and it seems to the adult mind that the game is unfair and pointless.  The adult will either try to impose rules or find some way to walk away.

As adults, and even as older children, we enjoy playing games that have rules.  We enjoy playing by rules because they impose a discipline that can lead to interest and accomplishment, they help make the activity meaningful, and they help to create community.

In games and sports, rules can impose a discipline that can lead to interest and accomplishment.  The existence of rules doesn’t imply an absence of creativity or improvisation in a game.  On the contrary, every time one plays is an opportunity for a new accomplishment.  But it is accomplishment within the structure of the rules that makes the game interesting.

The structure provided by rules also allows the play to feel like it “has a point,” that it has meaning.  A core aspect of the creation of meaning is the establishment of connections between people or between events, and especially the connection of activities to a goal.  Games without rules feel pointless because all the actions are random, unconnected to each other or to any goal.  Rules provide those connections.

Finally, rules help to create community because they allow people to know what to do with each other.  They provide a structure of interaction.  That, indeed, is a major purpose of all our Temple’s congregational policies, including our Shabbat policy.  Our policies allow the formation of community.

Rules play similar roles in music, language, and literature to those they play in sports: they allow creativity within a structure that promotes discipline and challenge, leading to interest, accomplishment, meaning, and community.  The same may be said about Judaism.  A set of agreed-upon rules of practice within a Jewish community can promote discipline and challenge, leading to interest, accomplishment, meaning, and community.

 In addition to these generic functions of rules, the rules of Shabbat practice, both the positive (“thou shalt”) and the negative (“thou shalt not”), provide benefits specific to Shabbat. Our committee asked ourselves: “Are there things that you would like to be sure to do at least one day a week?”  We could all think of such things: be grateful for what I have, mindful of what I do, pay attention to now, walk, read Jewish literature…  We also wondered, “Would you like to be sure to have a day without certain things every week?” Some answers included cleaning, ordering, worrying, shopping.  One person asked, “How do I learn to stop?” Shabbat can be a dike against the sometimes chaotic and insistent pressures of life.

But Which Rules? Giving Tradition a Vote, But Not a Veto

 Given the above, we want rules that will facilitate the existence of a community practicing Shabbat together and that will give shape and structure to our search for holiness, blessing and meaning.  But which rules?  There is no single set of rules that we share in our personal practice or to which we all attribute divine authority.  But we do share some principles: We cherish the distinctiveness of Jewish civilization, and we have enormous respect for both the wisdom of previous generations and for our own generation’s wisdom.   We know that life in community means working out our differences and creating shared rules. So we enter into dialogue.  We let ourselves be challenged and enlightened by voices from the past as well as by the voices around our table as we meet in committee.  We seek a solution that is jewishly authentic, giving tradition a vote, and that also addresses our own varied approaches, withholding tradition’s veto.

 Although we studied a wide range of ancient and modern texts[3], the core ideas with which we wrestled, and out of which we developed our approach to Shabbat practice, can be found in a few classic sources: the two statements of the Ten Commandments, the Mishnaic statement of the main categories of forbidden m’lahah, and two additional early rabbinic teachings.

 Here are excerpts from the two versions of the Shabbat commandment (Rav Jeremy’s translation):

Exodus 20:8-11:

Remember the Sabbath day to consecrate it. …  Do not do any production … for in six days YHWH made the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. ….

 Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Be on guard of the Sabbath day to consecrate it …..  Do not do any production …  for the purpose that your male and female servant might rest like you do.  And you shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, but YHWH your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.  ….

 In the version from Exodus, Shabbat is about awe and the acceptance of creation as it is.  The version in Deuteronomy, by contrast, emphasizes the social justice aspect of the day, ensuring rest for workers, and asking us to recall our own slavery and release.

 Neither of those texts, nor anything else in the Torah, is very clear about the exact nature of the m’lahah(translated above as “production,” and often translated “work” or “labor”) that is to be prohibited on Shabbat.  In the Mishnah, the rabbis established the following definition:

Mishnah Shabbat 7:2

The chief categories of m’lahah are forty less one:

one who sows, ploughs, reaps, binds sheaves, threshes, winnows, selects, grinds, sifts, kneads, bakes,

 shears wool, washes it, beats it, dyes it, spins, weaves, makes two loops, weaves two threads, separates two threads, ties, unties, sews two stitches, tears in order to sew two stitches,

 traps a deer, slaughters it, flays it, salts it, cures its hide, scrapes it, and cuts it up, one who writes two letters, erases two letters in order to write two letters

 builds, tears down, puts out a fire, kindles a fire, hits with a hammer,

transports an object from one domain to another.

The above arrangement of the Mishnah makes clear that the “chief categories” themselves can be categorized as all the things involved in baking, sewing, and writing a scroll, plus a few other miscellaneous items.  The above list is consistent with a number of possible definitions of the core meaning of “m’lahah.”  The rabbis of the Talmud claimed that the Mishnah’s list represented all the types of labor involved in the construction of the Mishkan, the holy Dwelling/Santuary in the desert that the rabbis considered to be a symbolic representation of Creation itself.

Our committee considered several possible definitions of m’lahah based on the above text.  These included: creation, production, servitude, the every-day, and the technological (as opposed to natural). Some of these we rejected for not having the clear meaning we might have at first thought they had.  None of the definitions created consensus in the group.

We had come to the “productive impasse” that often appears at some point in our consideration of ritual issues. In this case, it could be described as an impasse between the two versions of the Ten Commandments, between the “don’t create” people and the “rest and enjoy yourself” people.” This disagreement is often illustrated by the examples of traditionally prohibited activities such as knitting, gardening, or painting. The Deuteronomy people say, “I enjoy it, so I should do it on Shabbat.” But the Exodus people think such a position ignores too much of the teaching of Shabbat about letting the world be.  On the other hand, when the Exodus people say these activities should be avoided on Shabbat, the Deuteronomy people think they are ignoring Isaiah’s teaching that “you should call the Sabbath a delight,” and probably suspect them of having an old-fashioned and nostalgic attachment to halachah (rabbinic Jewish law).

 M’lahah as Preparation

 Our solution grew from the following Talmudic statement:   “Whoever took trouble the day before Shabbat will eat on Shabbat.  Whoever didn’t bother the day before Shabbat, what would they eat on Shabbat?” (Talmud. Avodah Zarah 50a.) On weekdays, we prepare for Shabbat; on Shabbat, we don’t prepare for weekdays. According to the Talmudic statement, we don’t even prepare for Shabbat on Shabbat, although our committee did not maintain that stricture in our final policy.  The following mishnah (Shabbat 12:1) also serves as a basis for our solution: “Whoever performs a forbidden act of labor on the Sabbath and [the result of] his act of labor endures is liable.”

Those texts suggested to us a definition of m’lahah as preparation for the future (after Shabbat); the activities to be avoided on Shabbat are those that focus on enduring product as opposed to process. That definition seemed to acknowledge the claims of both the Exodus “don’t-create” people and the Deuteronomy “rest-and-enjoy” people and to challenge each to stretch in the direction of the other.  To come back to the example of gardening, a no-preparation, process-versus-product definition of m’lahah might be applied differently by different individuals in different situations. It allows, even requires, conscious struggle about its application, and we believe that’s a good thing.  Deuteronomy people can’t just say, “I enjoy it.”  They must consider the Exodus claim in a way that we all thought made sense: If it’s for the future, even if it’s enjoyable, there’s something not Shabbat-like about it.  And conversely, the Exodus people can’t be facile in their prohibition: If someone can really garden for the process of gardening, is it really creation?

We also believed that although the definition allows room for individual interpretations in personal application, it could be applied in a fairly clear and consistent way as a communal rule to guide our practice when gathered together.  This definition makes Shabbat a day to simply be in the present.

 We’ve concluded that a definition of m’lahah as the making of a product in preparation for the future authentically reflects our encounter with our source texts, and helps us resolve the contradictions that arose between the texts themselves, as well as the contradictions that arose between the texts and our modern perspectives.

 Employment, Commerce, and Fire

We had a few remaining issues to address.  The first was the question of employment on Shabbat.  We ended up adopting a rule that was quite similar to the traditional halachah[4]  that will allow employment of Jews to do those things that are part of celebrating Shabbat. (It is this halachah that allows for the hiring of rabbis and High Holiday cantors.)  Further, we don’t require anyone – Jew or non-Jew – to work seven days a week. We also maintained the traditional prohibition of commerce on Shabbat.

 With regard to lighting and extinguishing fire, our committee felt that the observance of Shabbat itself was a sufficient reason, and the only sufficient reason, to overturn the Torah’s explicit prohibition.  Here, again, we carefully “listened” to tradition, but did not give it veto power.  Therefore, in line with our conclusions that allow those activities that are for the present, we allow the kindling and extinguishing of fire for the purpose of that Shabbat – for example in order to heat a Shabbat meal.

Reconstructionist Torah Process

 We are excited to share this study and policy with others in our movement because we think it is an interesting and useful piece of torah, and because we think it illustrates a decision-making process (maybe call it “Reconstructionist Torah Process”) that is a little different from the way many congregations use “Values Based Decision Making (VDBM).”  Both processes abstract from the particulars of halachah in order to find enduring principles or values. This opens a space for modernization, while remaining “true” to the source.  The Reconstructionist Torah Process described here, though, makes no use of generic values, such as “Tselem Elohim/Human Dignity” or “Brit/Covenantal Community,” sometimes drawn from a published list, as many VBDM processes in our movement do. Its principles are specific and grow directly from our dialogue with Jewish texts and practices.

Rabbi David Teutsch, the great teacher of VBDM in our movement, is very clear that the VBDM process isn’t useful or valid if the decision-makers aren’t open to being changed and influenced by the confrontation with the Jewish tradition and with each other’s experiences and beliefs.  We think the recourse to ‘generic values’ undermines the process in many of our communities by making it too easy to remain unchallenged and unchanged. By contrast, our committee’s direct confrontation with the traditions of Shabbat led us to wrestle with the very specific issues of rules, delight, creation, technology, servitude, nature, product, process, objectification, and more. It challenged and changed all of us.

A Reconstructionist, Jewish, Holy, and Distinct Shabbat

 Part of our motivation for taking up the topic of Shabbat practice was a concern to delineate what would make Shabbat distinct from the work week for our children.  We’ve created a policy that presents an enormous challenge to our educators to create a program of Torah lishmah – learning for its own sake and activities for the moment.  That challenge is appropriate.  The rules of Shabbat, like any good rules, should be challenging to us. They should create a structure within which we can discipline ourselves and grow, create meaning and create community.

The Temple Bnai Israel Shabbat policy can be found at the Temple’s website: www.templebnaiisrael.org.

[1] Judy Stein, chair; Ken Dardick, Wendy Goldberg, Janet Robertson, Benjamin Sachs, Gaye Tuchman

[2] Quote unattributed to maintain Reconstructionist Education Director listserve confidentiality.

[3] Modern texts included  parts of  Heschel’s “The Sabbath,” Rami Shapiro’s Shabbat chapter in his “Minyan,” a halachic responsum (“tshuvah”)  by Rabbi Amy Eilberg and the Reform guide “Gates of the Seasons” on the Shabbat principles of “menuchah (rest), kedushah (holiness), and oneg (delight).”  We also learned some of Kaplan’s teaching about Shabbat.

[4] The relevant sources include Shulhan Aruh, Oreh Hayim 306:5 and 585:5 and the commentaries to those laws, as well the Talmudic sources: Bava Metzia 58a, Psahim 50b, Nedarim 37a.

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Jewish Traditions of Mourning

This is an article about sitting shiva and especially about visiting a shiva home, and I wanted to wait until a month in which nobody recently experienced a death so no one would think it was particularly about them.  But that month doesn’t seem to come, so here it is:
What is “sitting shiva?”  Who should visit?  What is the role of the mourner? What is the role of the visitor?  What is the role of the community?
Shiva is the traditional Jewish way of dealing with the physical, emotional, and spiritual shock of a loved one’s death, and of beginning to honor the memory of the  deceased. The word “shiva” means “seven” in Hebrew, because that is the number of days it traditionally lasts. (So, technically, those who sit a shortened period of three days, for example, aren’t sitting “shiva,” but “shloshah.”) The first day of the seven is the day of burial, and the last day traditionally ends with morning minyan.
The duty of the mourners sitting shiva is to remember, mourn, pray, contemplate, readjust.  Shiva is intended to prevent the mourners from needing to pretend either to others or to themselves that life goes on as usual and that “everything is ok.” It’s not. The mourner traditionally does this by staying home and just being with their situation as mourner. The duty of the mourner is certainly NOT to host. In fact, the opposite is true. The community traditionally hosts the mourners, although at the mourners’ own home.
The community’s traditional role during shiva includes two main components.
The first is to enable the mourners to sit shiva. This means enabling them to have no responsibilities except those I listed above – remembering, mourning, praying, contemplating, readjusting. In particular, they shouldn’t have to leave their house. Thus, rather than the mourner providing cakes for guests, or the guests providing cakes for each other, the traditional core food mitzvah during shiva is for the community to provide all the mourners’ meals. I note that this hasn’t been the understanding of either mourners or community members in our congregation, but I would encourage us to move in that direction. The other part of enabling the mourner to sit shiva is making sure there is a minyan in which the mourner can pray and say kaddish.
The second main component of the community responsibility during shiva is comforting the mourners, in Hebrew: “nihum avelim.” How does one do this? Most importantly, simply by being there with them. Comforting mourners includes giving them the opportunity to begin to rebuild their relationship with the deceased, to feel the deceased’s presence in memory. We do this by talking or asking about the one who died. We might share memories if we have them, or we might ask the mourner about the person. Often, asking to see pictures is a wonderful way to begin  the mitzvah of comforting mourners. The other way that the community provides comfort is by participating in the miracle that although life doesn’t go on “as usual,” it does go on. It is in this sense that it is also a mitzvah to bring and eat food as a community. (This is where the cakes fit in.) It’s also traditional to comfort mourners with ritual prayers/phrases of comfort when greeting and taking leave. Two such phrases are: “May you receive divine comfort – t’nuhamu min hashamayim” and “May God comfort you among all who mourn Zion and Jerusalem –Hamakom y’nahem et’hem b’toh evlei tsiyon virushalayim.
It’s important to note that anyone can and should do the mitzvah of nihum avelim. You don’t need to know either the mourners or the deceased. Traditionally, it was recommended that those closer to the mourners come during the first three, more difficult days. But in our small community, where getting a minyan is not always easy, please come when you can.
Traditionally, as I explained, mourners don’t do anything except sit shiva during the shiva. So people might come to feed and comfort any time, not just at service times. Obviously, one tries to be respectful and helpful, not intrusive. In our community, where people make various decisions about how to sit shiva, we’ll try to clarify when the mourners would appreciate visitors.
That’s an overview of the community’s traditional role when a member of our community is sitting shiva. Now I’d like to focus on practices that pertain to the mourner.
My understanding of these rituals and customs is that they can help us to adjust to the fact of a death in a psychologically healthy way, with dignity and beauty, and with the support of community and tradition. They constitute both an internal discipline for the benefit of the mourner’s spirit, and a way of honoring the life and death of a loved one. (Of course, Jews with a more traditional theology would also say that they are done primarily because they are commanded by God.) Among the insights that distinguishes Reconstructionism from classical Reform Judaism (and which the Reform have now largely come to share) is that our spirits grow and learn by the physicality and repetition of ritual, and by our connection through custom and ritual to the expansiveness of the Jewish people. While each of us makes our own decisions about these matters, I hope that you will allow yourself to be challenged/drawn in by the traditional practices. When we inevitably find ourselves in the position of a mourner, I hope more of us will choose to teach ourselves and honor our dead through the discipline of some of the traditional practices.
The practices of mourning cover four time periods and three general principles. The four time periods acknowledge the changing intensity of mourning as time passes. They are: The first week after the funeral, the first 30 days, the first year, and the rest of life. The three principles are:
    • a reduced attention to self, particularly to the appearances/masks that we maintain in public.
    • an avoidance of pleasure and celebration that are inconsonant with the experience of death,
    • honoring the life of the deceased and continuing their positive influence in the world.
As I wrote last month, one of the purposes (or effects) of these practices is to discourage denial. The American and Christian cultures in which and next to which we live tend to encourage putting on a happy face as soon as possible after a death, even at the funeral itself, and continuing as if nothing happened. But Judaism values this world and our bodily existence in it, and even with a traditional understanding of the dead going to heaven, acknowledges that the loss of this-worldly life is a true and deep loss both for the dead and for the mourners. (My pluralism requires me to note that while I think this happens to be one of the areas where Judaism starts out at a better point, some Christian churches have done good work in this area, sometimes in response to the “stages of grief” psychological literature. And there are other things where it’s the Jews who have to do the extra work.) Jewish mourning practices help us truly acknowledge that loss, and thereby incorporate it into our own growth.
So what are these practices?
During shiva, the first seven days, the reduced attention to appearances traditionally takes the form of covering mirrors and  avoiding the following: cosmetics, haircutting & shaving, trimming nails except by tearing, and wearing new clothes. The avoidance of pleasure and celebration is extreme: one traditionally doesn’t go out at all, remaining at home or in the shiva house, except on Shabbat. Traditionally, mourners sit on low benches, or remove the cushions from sofas and chairs. Leather shoes were considered a pleasurable luxury and so are avoided traditionally during shiva. Bathing for pleasure, as opposed to hygiene, is considered too pleasurable. Of course, sexual relations are also considered inappropriately celebratory. Even too enjoyable Torah-study was to be avoided. During Shiva, one honors the dead by speaking of them and by saying kaddish during services. Kaddish honors the dead by praising the One that gave them life, and by praying that that One’s sovereignty be manifest in all our lives. In this way it affirms the meaningfulness of their life, and prays that that meaning may continue.
(A note about three-day “shiva”: In the traditional law, there was an exemption available for those for whom missing a week of work would impose an excessive burden. They were allowed to return to work after only three days of shiva. Other mourning practices continued all seven days. This was highly unusual, but it provided the basis, in some modern, Liberal circles, for the practice of a three-day shiva.)
During the first 30 days from burial, although mourners return to their normal work routines, some of the above restrictions and customs remain: Traditionally the reduced attention to self-appearance is maintained in regard to not cutting the hair, shaving, trimming nails, or wearing new clothes. The avoidance of celebration continues during the 30 days, although our tradition includes a disagreement about what kind of celebrations are to be avoided. Some say celebrations of “true joy,” which the tradition understood to be religious celebrations, such as weddings. Others say the opposite: of course you attend religious celebrations, but not celebrations that are just for fun: plain old parties with music and dancing. Most Orthodox will avoid both during the shloshim, the 30 days. To honor the dead, and continue their effect in the world, kaddish continues to be said at services, and special attention might be paid to engaging in Jewish learning, tsedakah, and good deeds.
Ritual mourning for all relatives other than parents traditionally ended with the end of the 30 days (except for annual occasions as explained below). This was in a world where death was more common, and the disruption of full-year mourning for children and spouses would simply have been too great. The distinction, I think, stemmed from the command to honor parents, rather than from any greater level of affection for them.  Nowadays, many people, including Orthodox, I believe, extend their mourning for spouse or children beyond the 30 days.
For those who observe the mourning practices for the full 12 months, one may cut hair after the thirty days as soon as one’s unkempt look seems socially unacceptable. For example, as soon as someone says “Your hair’s getting kind of long,” you were traditionally allowed to cut it.  People would make small changes to remind themselves of their status as mourners. For example, they might change their regular seat at synagogue for daily prayers (though not for Shabbat). The extra attention to learning, tsedakah and mitzvot would continue. Also, the
avoidance of celebrations (with the same disagreement as above). Kaddish is said for 11 months.
After the 12 months (or the 30 days), ritual mourning practices are restricted to five annual occasions. These occasions are: the anniversary of the death (usually observed on the Jewish date, and called in Yiddish “Yahrzeit”), Yom Kippur, Shmini Atzeret (at the end of Sukkot), Passover, and Shavuot. At each of these occasions, one lights a 25-hour candle in the evening, gives tsedakah, and says kaddish at services. (During the festivals, one says kaddish as well as other memorial prayers during the special “Yizkor/memorial” service.) Other traditional ways to honor the dead at the yahrzeit (and at the end of shloshim), are leading services or giving a dvar Torah – doing some Jewish teaching. I would love to have people engage in these traditions, and would be happy to help guide you if you wished. People also will visit the grave as a way of honoring the dead, and learning from their life and death.  One can visit any time, although the days before holidays are particularly appropriate.
That summarizes the traditional practices and their rationale. If you have more questions or are interested in more details, let me know. I can answer questions or point to resources. I do believe that these traditions are appropriate, beautiful and enriching, and I hope more of us will take on more of them. As you make your modern choices of how to mourn, please consider the principles involved: avoiding denial, avoiding attention to self-appearance, acknowledging that respect for the depth of loss implies some limit on celebration, and honoring the dead in public.  Please consider making this a discipline and a way to connect to community, the Jewish heritage, and God. I’d be happy to help think about making choices that are modern yet true to the tradition. Finally, I have to admit that I’ve been quite surprised that so many people do not come to synagogue for yahrzeit and yizkor. It’s a good practice; I hope I’ll see you next time.
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User’s Guide to Kashrut at Temple Bnai Israel


 Basic Summary:

  • All veggie/dairy industrially produced foods are ok whether or not they are certified kosher.
  • All veggie/dairy foods with a hechsher (a registered mark certifying kashrut) are ok.
  • All veggie/dairy foods that are not cooked are ok.
  • Kosher fish (see definition below) is considered “veggie/dairy” for the purpose of Temple Bnai Israel kashrut.
  • These restrictions apply to the utenstils used in preparing home-cooked food:
  1. 1. If a wood, glass, or metal utensil has ever come into contact with burning hot meat (or meat product), it must be washed in scalding water before contacting burning hot food to be brought to the Temple.
  2. 2. If a plastic or ceramic utensil has ever come into contact with burning hot meat (or meat product), it cannot come in contact with burning hot food that is to be brought to the Temple.
  • Blood, including blood spots on eggs, is not kosher at Temple Bnai Israel (see details below.)

These restrictions do require thought and attention, but it is the intent of the ritual committee that food can be relatively easily brought from home.


If bringing a product without a hechsher:

Again, the basic policy is to have everything strictly dairy or parve (neither milk nor meat), and to honor traditional notions about the holiness of the utensils food is prepared with.  Here are the possibilities and things to be aware of:

1. Industrially produced products

When buying industrially produced products, if the listed ingredients are all dairy/parve, the product is ok.  We have no concerns about the utensils used in industrial preparation.  Note the following, though.

1a.  Some ingredients are prohibited that you may not realize aren’t parve:

“Shortening” that is not specified to be “vegetable shortening” is often animal fat and not kosher.

Some “natural flavors.”  Some of these are meat-based.  For example, prepared French fries or pasta sauce may include “natural flavors” that are meat-based and therefore not kosher for Temple Bnai Israel.  Natural flavors found in sweets should be ok.  If unsure, don’t buy the product or look for a hechsher or consult with the rabbi.

“Natural coloring,” and “artificial flavors and colors” are all ok.

“Free-range” eggs.  Because these are often fertilized, and therefore include blood spots, they are not allowed in a kitchen such as ours that maintains the traditional prohibition against eating blood (unless certified as being unfertilized or kosher – which would indicate that the eggs were checked).

1b. Some ingredients that are allowed even though they are animal products

(reasoning is in the full policy:)

Rennet.  Animal rennet does not render cheese unkosher for Temple Bnai Israel.

Gelatin. But please note: While our policy allows gelatin in principle, we ask that you either refrain from using it or label products that contain it, because Rav Jeremy’s family and perhaps others do not eat gelatin in their practice of kashrut.

2. Home-made or small/local shop made

When preparing something at home, or purchasing something produced in a smaller/local shop, there are a few considerations in addition to those listed in (1) and (1a) above.  These are:

Eggs.  We maintain the traditional prohibition of eating blood.  In particular, eggs with blood spots are not traditionally considered kosher and we wish to maintain this restriction at Temple Bnai Israel.  If cooking at home, please use the traditional method of checking each egg for bloodspots in a separate glass before adding to the food being prepared.

Utensils: See the restrictions noted in the “Basic Summary” above.

A word about fish:

Fish are not considered “meat” in our system of kashrut, in accordance with traditional usage.  So they are allowed, but only species of fish which had fins and scales while alive are kosher.  This excludes shellfish and other seafood, as well as shark and catfish, among the more common food fish.

How to eat meat at the synagogue:

Get a certified kosher caterer or consult with the rabbi about ways to make sure that no mixing of meat and milk dishes can occur.

Rules for synagogue events not held at the synagogue:

1.  You are encouraged to observe the above rules for synagogue events held away from the synagogue as well.  At a minimum, please observe the following:

If serving meat, meat with a hechser is preferred and, at a minimum,  please do not serve meat from traditionally unkosher animals (i.e. no pig, rabbit, bear, catfish, or seafood)

2.  Please refrain from mixing meat and milk in a single dish

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