Sunday, January 01, 2006

Trusting Kashrus

Many American shuls and halls have set caterers. They are the only ones allowed to bring food into the shul. And not just any caterer, but only those who have signed contracts with the shul.

This isn't without controversy. The somewhat cynical attribute this to the caterer's contract. If you can't bring in outside food, they make more money because you *must* use them for the kiddush or meal. The shul gets a kickback, either per affair or a flat fee, for allowing the caterer to operate in the shul.

Nor is this without reason. Some standard must be applied, be it to the caterer or food brought into the shul or yeshiva. So, in our communities (at least for the most part) we take the view that only certain caterers are allowed, only prepackaged foods may be brought into yeshiva for distribution, etc.

"You're not good enough for me" seems to underlie these rules. Notwithstanding that most people don't know the ins and outs of kashrus (an assumption, but I think a reasonable one), we don't want to cause strife because we won't eat if caterer X or friend Y made the affair. In fact, the lack of knowledge pushes towards having standardized rules.

In Israel, at least where I was for Shabbos, the atmosphere couldn't have been more different. The food at the kiddush had been purchased at local stores, by various persons in the shul. What's to stop them from fibbing? Going to a place without a teudah? Nothing. They all trusted one another.

We don't trust our fellows to say that the food came from a package with an OU. Here they don't even ask.