Temple Beth Shalom of Cambridge

Food and Kashrut Policy (last updated February 25, 2018)

I. Introduction

Members and visitors to TBS observe kashrut—Jewish dietary laws—in different ways. Within our shul it is important, however, to maintain consistent kashrut practices for all community events, so that all will know what to expect regarding kashrut. We expect our members to follow the standards in this policy whenever they are preparing or providing food at TBS for the community.

This policy reflects current practices at TBS. It is not intended to substitute for a basic knowledge of kashrut, but rather to clarify TBS policy in situations where there may be differences of halachic opinion or practice among our members, and to address certain issues that often arise in practice.

Food which does not comply with these standards may not be served from the TBS kitchen. This applies to Alef-Bet. Parents or staff may bring in food for children or personal consumption subject to the restrictions in section III A.

II. Specific kashrut standards

Except as specified in this document, only certified kosher foods, prepared in kosher establishments under rabbinical supervision, may be brought in for group consumption.

Foods cooked in the TBS kitchen, using kosher ingredients as described in this document, may be served at community events.

Most packaged items must have a rabbinic hechsher (the stamp, mark or signature of an independent rabbinic authority). This may be indicated by a trademarked symbol on the package itself,  by a separate certificate of kashrut issued by the supervising agency, or by a listing of the item in the bulletin or on the web site of a supervising agency. Food served at TBS should have a rabbinic hechsher from the CRC hechsher list (http://www.crcweb.org/agency_list.php), the Vaad Harabonim of Massachusetts (KVH), the New England Kashrus LeMehadrin (Rabbi Aaron Hamaoui), or the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of Greater Boston (Rabbi Nochum Cywiak).

The plain letter “K” does not necessarily represent a hechsher. It may represent only the manufacturers’ assertion without independent rabbinical supervision. The existence of a rabbinic hechsher, if any, must be established by other means.

Plain coffee, plain tea, plain frozen vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, sugar and unflavored honey do not require a hechsher. Raw nuts without additives do not require a hechser. 

Fresh vegetables and fruits do not need a hechsher. They must be visually inspected for insects. Fruits and vegetables which are often infested, e.g., leafy greens, broccoli, and raspberries, require special diligence. Dried fruits and vegetables require a hechsher.

All baked goods must be certified kosher as described above (or baked at TBS). “Pat yisrael” or “pat yashan” certification is not required.

Dairy items, e.g. milk, cream and cheeses, must have a hechsher (as described above). “Chalav yisrael” certification is not required.

Meat products must come sealed with a hechsher (as described above). “Glatt” meat is not required.

Fresh fish (kosher species having fins and scales) does not require rabbinic supervision. However, the fish must be positively identified by the purchaser as having fins and scales before the skin is removed. Because of salmon’s distinctive color, it may be identified by the purchaser even after the skin is removed. If the fish is cut in the store, it should be done with a freshly rinsed knife on a fresh sheet of paper and then rinsed before preparing.

All grape products, including wines, grape juices, raisins and jams need a hechsher.  Wine, grape juice, and wine liquors must also be “mevushal”. Fresh grapes, like all other fresh fruits and vegetables, do not require a hechsher.

Beer and most hard liquors with no flavorings or additives listed on the ingredient label (bourbon, sour mash, rye, rum, gin, or vodka, regular white or "silver" tequila [tequila with a larva (“worm”) is not permitted]) are generally acceptable even without a hechsher. Hard liquor with added flavorings must have kosher certification. Products that are grape-derived (brandy or cognac, sherry or port, vermouth) must be mevushal.  ALL liqueurs must have kosher certification.  Stickers will be made available for labeling bottles which do not bear hechsharim but have been checked against a list such as the CRC’s or KosherLiquorList.com.

III. Rules for Food Prepared outside the TBS Kitchen

A. Food for Personal Consumption

Except during Pesach, food for personal consumption may be brought into TBS subject to the following guidelines:  We allow parents to bring in food for their children.  People with special food needs may bring in items for themselves.  These foods must be dairy or parve. These items are never brought into the TBS kitchen. (Exception: wrapped dairy or parve food in sealed containers may be stored, space permitting, by individuals with special food needs. These should be labelled with the person’s name and expiration date.) They may not be heated or put on plates or counters in the kitchen. No TBS utensils may be used with them, and outside containers may not be washed out in the TBS kitchen sink.

B. Pot-luck meals.

In general, foods cooked at home may not be brought in for group consumption; however, we do on occasion (e.g. Sukkot) have dairy pot-luck meals. Food prepared for these events are subject to the guidelines in section A above. It is made clear to attendees on these occasions that the foods have been prepared in participants’ homes. Water pitchers and hand washing vessels may be used if they are kept separate from the food. 

Homemade food brought to these events must be kosher and prepared in a kosher kitchen. Such food should comply as much as possible with all other TBS kashrut, Shabbat, and kashrut guidelines. It must not be prepared on Shabbat or yom tov in a way that would violate the prohibition against performing work on those days.

Participants who do not maintain a kosher kitchen should bring prepackaged, hechshered items to these events.

Food and supplies for pot-lucks must not be purchased on Shabbat or yom tov. They may be hand-carried to TBS on Shabbat from within the eruv when the eruv is up, or on holidays. On Shabbat when the eruv is down, they must be brought to TBS before Shabbat begins. Information about the North Charles Community Eruv, including boundaries and status, can be found at http://www.nceruv.org/.

C. Off Site Events

TBS events held off site are not necessarily subject to TBS kashrut policy. Organizers must make clear the kashrut status of food served at off site events.  This includes meetings or classes held at private homes.

IV. Shabbat Food Preparation

Food that is to be served on Shabbat or yom tov must be prepared in a way which is consistent with the sanctity of these days and the prohibition against performing work on these days. Shabbat and holiday laws are complicated, and the following guidelines are not intended to substitute for knowledge of the relevant practices.

A. Supplies

All food and supplies for Shabbat or yom tov must be at TBS before Shabbat or yom tov begins. For larger events, a trailer may be placed outside the building and food and supplies may be placed there before Shabbat or yom tov. Catering equipment should not be removed until motzei Shabbat or yom tov.

B. Cooking

Food may not be cooked on Shabbat. “Cooking” includes, but is not limited to, stirring, covering, or placing on the stove or in the oven any food that is not already completely cooked. The oven, stove, and other gas or electric cooking devices may not be turned on or off on Shabbat. Certain other food preparation tasks, including grinding, kneading, and straining, also may not be performed on Shabbat.

Food may be cooked on holidays only if it is intended for use the same day. Our oven and stove are ignited by a pilot light, and so may be turned on on holidays. However, they may not be turned off. They may be adjusted up or down, but only as needed for cooking purposes.

Solid food to be served hot on Shabbat must be cooked (at least edible, ideally fully cooked) before Shabbat begins.  It may be kept warm on warming trays that are turned on before Shabbat or in the oven which has been turned off before Shabbat. If hot food is served on Shabbat,  the stove and oven controls must be taped to avoid the appearance that they were used on Shabbat.

Liquids (hot water, coffee, tea, soups, stews including cholent, etc.) may not be reheated on Shabbat. They may be placed before Shabbat in a coffee urn, “crock pot”, or other heating container that is turned on before Shabbat and keeps the liquid warm for serving during Shabbat (or for making instant coffee or tea). Unheated liquids may not be added to the heating container after Shabbat starts.

Our practice at TBS regarding time clocks (as applied to heating solids) is as follows: A time clock may be used to turn the heating container on or off on Shabbat provided that the time clock is set before Shabbat. Use of the time clock must be disclosed to people in advance.

The range hood is electric and should be turned on before Shabbat or holidays if it will be needed.

C. Other Preparation

Packages (including cardboard packages, bottles, and cans) containing food for use on Shabbat or holidays may be opened on Shabbat and holidays. Cans may be opened on Shabbat and holidays provided that the intent is to throw away the can; they should be completely emptied of their contents and discarded. Plastic bottles may be opened as usual. Packages containing utensils (such as tablecloths, plastic cutlery, cups, and plates) must be opened before Shabbat and holidays.

Aluminum foil, paper towels, waxed paper, etc. must be pre-cut for use on Shabbat or holidays.

Hot water from the sink may be used on holidays, but not Shabbat.

The dishwasher may be loaded on Shabbat. However, it must not be started on Shabbat or holidays.

V. Caterers Cooking Off-Site

Caterers may bring in food prepared off-site provided they have appropriate kosher certification. In this case, they must bring all their own food preparation and serving items. For events on Shabbat, all food and non-food items must be brought into TBS according to the restrictions in section IV(a).

Alternatively, caterers may prepare food in our kitchen, according to the normal provisions of this document, under the supervision of the Kiddush Committee.

VI. Pesach

The Kiddush Committee, in conjunction with Alef Bet, kashers the kitchen for Pesach every year and sells the Shul’s chometz.  The kitchen is usually ready at least one day before Pesach, depending on the calendar.

No one is allowed to bring food into the shul during Pesach, other than the TBS Kiddush Committee team responsible for Pesach, or those specifically authorized by the director of Alef Bet.

Alef Bet provides their students, teachers, and staff with snacks and lunches prepared in the shul kitchen.

TBS and Alef Bet adhere to the Ashkenazi (European Jewry) food traditions for Pesach, i.e. we exclude kitniot (rice, beans, etc) and their derivatives (including peanuts and peanut oil). Quinoa is permitted.

TBS continues to have kiddushim on Pesach and generally has a community Seder on the second night.  Food for these meals remains under the control of the Kiddush Committee.

VII. General Kitchen Rules

There are times when members other than those on the Kiddush Committee come into the kitchen to get food or beverages, such as breakfast after morning minyan, or for a committee meeting etc.  It is important that members follow kitchen protocol:

  1. Leave the kitchen cleaner than you found it.  While TBS has a cleaning service that washes the kitchen floor and wipes out the sink once a week, we do not employ anyone to clean the kitchen on a regular basis.  
  2. Wash dry and put away everything you use, where you found it.  This includes water pitchers.
  3. Keep a strainer in each sink and don’t let food go down the drain.
  4. Clean all debris out of the sink.
  5. The shul dishwasher is dairy only.  It may be used if there is enough for a load.  Only use it if you plan to start it and are available to empty it when it is done.
  6. Wipe all counters of any crumbs or spills.
  7. Clean the stainless kitchen table.
  8. Wipe the stove.
  9. Alef Bet food spaces must be respected. Alef Bet food and supplies should not be used when Alef Bet is not in session.
  10. Those wishing to use the kitchen for events (other than regularly scheduled events such as Sunday minyan breakfast and Saturday kiddush) must check with the shul office and the Alef Bet office, and must make arrangements with the Kiddush Committee for supervision.

VIII. Meat Preparation

The TBS kitchen is primarily a dairy kitchen, although we do have meat equipment and serve several regularly scheduled meat meals a year.  These are currently the 20s&30s barbeques, and Pesach (which has its own separate set of equipment).  We have served meat at community dinners, private Friday dinners, and at rare kiddushim. These events are tightly controlled by the Kiddush Committee.

The ovens are normally set up for dairy use. Meat may be cooked in it only if  the meat is in a closed container or the oven is kashered both before and after use. In the former case, the oven must be kashered after use if there is any spill. Kashering the oven requires that it be thoroughly cleaned with a caustic oven cleaner and then turned on to its highest heat for several hours to burn off any remaining food deposits. Those wishing to use the oven for meat assume responsibility for these steps.

Although the right-side sink is currently labeled "meat", it is NOT to be considered fleishig for regular use. The "meat" sink must be kashered with boiling water BEFORE and AFTER use with meat or meat utensils. Those wishing to use the kitchen for meat preparation also assume responsibility for this step.

The dishwasher is dairy only.

IX. Interfaith Events

Organizers of interfaith events should be aware that while Muslims are permitted to eat kosher food, they may not partake of any alcohol, including wine and liquor ingredients, and may be unwilling to attend activities where alcohol is served.

X. Kashrut Supervision

The TBS Kiddush Committee supervises food preparation in and service from the TBS kitchen.

This Kashrut Policy has been developed by the Ritual Committee in consultation with the Kiddush Committee and is subject to review by the Board of Trustees. Questions about this policy or its implementation can be directed to kashrut@tremontstreetshul.org.