Billboard Judaism, Food, Judaism - General, Travel

Hummus, Random Christian Dude, and the Israeli on his Cell Phone

I was killing some time in the Milwaukee airport today, and I broke a couple personal rules. Well not really rules, but general guidelines.

1. I enjoyed eating airport food.
There’s this little cafe there called Alterra Coffee, that has a phenomenal menu of decent food and great coffees. And the guy working there didn’t look like he wanted to kill himself. I would actually go back there even if it wasn’t in an airport. Highly recommended if you’re passing through MKE.

2. I answered “yes” when asked by a stranger, “Are you Jewish?”
When the big, burly, clearly Midwesterner sitting next to me on the concourse leaned over and asked me this – having seen my kippah – it wasn’t as though I could lie, so I answered “yes.” Not really frightened, but certainly hesitant for what was about to transpire, I engaged in a conversation with Random Christian Dude (RCD).

Random Christian Dude laid the heavy one on me right away, asking me “Are you devout?”

Now devout isn’t really a word most Jews would use to describe their observance or beliefs, but I kind of knew where he was going, so I answered “Sure.” When Jews see my kippah, they often ask “Are you really religious?” Now I know the Christian equivalent is “Are you devout?”

(As an aside – I’ve never been asked this question by an Orthodox Jew, though I imagine most would make their own assumptions about my beliefs and practices. But it’s such a loaded and specious question to begin with anyways).

RCD – who turned out to be a pretty nice, if not awkward, guy – said that he considered himself to be a devout Christian, and assured me that he had the utmost respect for Jews, Judaism, and Israel (three distinct things that, while clearly intimately related, are not one and the same), and that “of course, as you know, Jesus himself was Jewish.” Pretty standard fare for an encounter between a Midwestern Christian and a Canadian-cum-New Yorker Jew.

Then things got interesting.

Random Christian Dude asked me if I was familiar with Genesis 6. Not being able to quote chapter and verse, but being pretty familiar with the beginning of the Torah, I answered “sort of.” RCD then launched into a series of questions about my perception of the nephilim, the story of Noah, why people destroy the earth, and what God’s intentions are for humanity.

I honestly had no idea what to say. I stumbled through some words about humanity’s responsibility for one another, and that Judaism places a huge emphasis on interpersonal ethical living, but pretty much I had no idea where RCD wanted the conversation to go. Plus, I was trying to enjoy my really delicious hummus wrap from Alterra.

Sensing I was a little overwhelmed, RCD backed off as I ate and checked my email. And then he walked away. I sat on the relatively comfortable airport lounge chair for a few minutes, trying to digest what just happened. And also my hummus sandwich.

And that’s when I overheard Hebrew being spoken, and saw the Israeli businessman talking on his cell phone who had watched the entire interaction, a coy smile on his face.

Food, Politics

Unsubstantiated Claims of Freshness

Only one of these food items is guaranteed "fresh"

A current KFC commercial proudly proclaims that you can go to their establishments and get food that is “delivered fresh,” and “prepared fresh… by a real cook!” As if there should be some other way to get food. What, do they think we’re accustomed to eating freeze dried processed food created by a machine?

Oh wait…

When the concept of fresh becomes the exception and not the norm, isn’t something wrong?

The fine print at the bottom of the commercial (thank you DVR) makes this all the more interesting shocking:

Fresh claim applicable to KFC’s drumsticks, thighs, breasts and wings. Not applicable in Alaska, Hawaii or due to supply outages.

According to KFC, not only is the Fresh “claim” the exception, there’s an exception to the exception. You can only get what they claim to be “fresh” in the continental USA, and only if there’s enough meat to go around. And it’s only for some of their food.

The only explanation I can think of for how a restaurant like this can exist and promote itself with a commercial like this is that something is more important to people than freshness. My guess is it’s either convenience, cost, or taste. Or some combination of all three.

If it’s convenience, then something is supremely wrong in America. If it’s cost, then something is supremely wrong in America. And if it’s taste, then something is supremely wrong in America.

Get the point?

Food, Judaism - Pluralism, Judaism - Prayer, Judaism - Reform, Philosophy

Coming out of the Closet: Classical Reform Jews

Oh boy! Just in time for Channukah, JTA has published an article that is sure to stoke some fires. Which is good, cause it’s freezing in New York today. There’s a lot in here that I’ll want to comment on, more than I can do right now. Stay tuned. This will definitely be something I need to reflect on over Shabbas. For now, an excerpt:

“There is a place for reason in religion, and sometimes in Reform Judaism today we don’t give that enough attention…”

That’s by Michael Meyer, of HUC-JIR fame. I agree with him on some levels. A quick example – the URJ’s recent ethical eating initiative is a perfect intersection of reason and religion that’s been lacking attention for far too long. I also think, as I’ve argued a few times before, that there’s a place for irrationality in religion, and more often than not in Reform Judaism today, we don’t give that enough attention.

I would say that if you really want to delve into the intersection between reason and religion, a good start would be Soren Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling.” Some nice, light reading.

More on this tomorrow. Chag Urim Sameach!

Food, Life, The Planet Earth

You should do a few things

A few days ago, I wrote about how I’ve been wondering lately when the real environmental paradigm shift will take place. The post was less of a diatribe and more about emptying some stream-of-consciousness thoughts that have been floating through my head lately, and of course, I don’t imagine to be the only one on the planet thinking about this stuff. But it’s nice to know that I’m in good company:

I remember in college, a professor asked our class to consider what our grandchildren would look back on as being backward behavior or thinking in our generation, the way we are shocked by the kind of misogyny, racism, and sexism we know was commonplace in our grandparents’ world. He urged us to use this principle to examine the behaviors in our lives and our societies that we should be a part of changing. Factory farming of animals will be one of the things we look back on as a relic of a less-evolved age.

Thank you, Natalie Portman. She was writing about her reading of Jonathan Safran Foer’s new book, Eating Animals, which I just finished last night. I’m not normally one to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do. But you should read her article. And you should read his book. And you should be prepared to question yourself. And if you’re not prepared, you should question yourself about that.