Keeping kosher can be a serious commitment, particularly if you haven’t grown up kosher and then decide to adopt the lifestyle in your young adult years.
This drastic change was undertaken by Oscar Levy, a Melburnian student, who began observing kashrut in his early 20s after living out of home for a couple of years, much to the surprise of his more traditional family.
“While I grew up avoiding pork and seafood, the appeal of kashrut came after I travelled to Israel during my gap year and stayed with different families who upheld those laws,” said Levy.
However the social pressures and fear of missing out among his non-kosher or non-Jewish friends did prove to be an initial challenge.
“It was difficult in the beginning when my non-kosher friends wanted to go out to a non-kosher restaurant or have a barbecue with non-kosher meat. However, I’ve been able to adjust by either bringing my own food to other people’s houses, or taking my friends to kosher restaurants when we’re exploring dining out options,” he said.
Another motivation for embracing kashrut has been to create opportunities to connect with family, as experienced by Sydneysider Jaime Resnik, an events manager at JWave. Resnik grew up in a very secular household in Canada, and had never envisioned herself undertaking a kosher lifestyle until she married her husband, who has religious family.
“After having our son, we were really missing that element of being able to welcome family into our home for a meal. We recently did a full renovation and felt it was the perfect opportunity to create a space that would work for us and make the transition to being kosher easier,” said Resnik.
Ambiguous packaging and limited stock across supermarkets in Sydney did however come as a surprise to Resnik, who was accustomed to Canada’s kosher diversity.
“Since becoming kosher in Sydney, I sometimes find myself running around the city to different grocery stores just to track down an ingredient. It can be really discouraging and probably was the biggest deterrent for us becoming kosher sooner than we did,” explained Resnik.
For Melbourne business coach and author Joel Gerschman, family and cultural connection was also a major driving force in his decision to becoming kosher in his younger years. “In learning more about the spiritual dimension of Judaism, I began to appreciate its meaning, beauty and wisdom, and how its practices enable one to integrate this meaning into their life. Keeping kosher was no exception.
“One day, as I was eating what I thought was a vegetarian tofu stir fry from a popular Malvern Chinese restaurant, I found a piece of pork in my dish. I realised why it’s impossible to truly keep kosher while eating at non-kosher restaurants, no matter how diligent one is. And I haven’t eaten non-kosher food since that day,” said Gerschman.
Thankfully, a growing variety of new kosher restaurants, eateries and supermarket aisles in Melbourne and Sydney has made it easier for people to maintain and enjoy a kosher way of life.
“Some might be surprised to know just how many products at the supermarket are now kosher. There are few product categories that don’t have at least one kosher option,” said Gerschman.
Despite the challenges and slow transition, the rewards young people have found with taking on a kosher lifestyle have upheld the meaning of becoming kosher.
“Of course, there have been some mistakes, but nothing that can’t be fixed with a quick call to friends or family who have been keeping kosher for years,” said Resnik.