Place eating an exclusively kosher diet – no buttered lamb for instance- alongside giving one’s resources – fiscal or talent – towards a worthwhile cause. Then ask, “What measurable impact and value does each, observing kosher and doing good, have on the world?”
Young people are asking this question and concluding that a kosher diet, just one example of observing Judaism, is insignificant compared to doing good. The typical talking points offered as a response are failing to resonate. “Because G-d said so or it connects you to G-d,” elicits a blank look. More importantly they don’t see how observing Judaism makes a difference to the world at large.
A more relatable answer offered is community. Observing kosher offers the social benefit of being part of a Jewish community by allowing others to eat in one’s home and vice versa. However this response fails to offer a tangible impact on the larger world. And in an increasing universalist environment being pigeon holed to a particular community is becoming less attractive.
The truth though is that committing to a kosher diet does in fact have an impact on the world. Sadly Jewish educators have utterly failed to offer a language that communicates that. A new and relatable language emphasizing the universal transformation that observance of Judaism can achieve must be developed and communicated.
This essay is not an attempt to suggest one, only a call that one needs to be developed.
In my recent podcast with an alumnus this fact was starkly highlighted. He has admirably made the value to impact the world a creed in his life. While his authenticity, thoughtfulness, and spirituality drove him to live this way, it has also driven him away from kashrut and other observances of Judaism.
As Jewish educators we must right this wrong, otherwise we are failing our calling.