December 2011

In the fall semester  of my senior year in college, I took a French class. It was a lively class. We were constantly moving around, working in groups, conversing in broken French… Lots of fun, and some friendships formed because of it.

The group I had worked with most over the course of the semester was planning a post-last-day-of-class dinner. They were willing to find a kosher place nearby so I could join.

We did some research, because I didn’t know any kosher places around college. I usually brought my lunch with me or got a kosher (overpriced and under-good) sandwich from teh cafeteria. Someone found an Italian place that looked good.

So after class, the six of us headed a few blocks down to this kosher Italian place.

It was a hole-in-the-wall pizza shop.

No one was interested in going in there, including me.

We looked around, and saw a sushi place across the street. Rather than making a fuss, I said “sure, that’s fine, let’s go.”

The hostess seated us, we all got menus, everyone ordered a Sapporo so I did too… My first beer!

I stared at the menu for ages. I had eaten sushi before, but not all sushi is kosher. So I chose from this menu by first looking for kosher fish products (no crab or eel, etc) and then making sure there was no onion in the dish.

At the back of my mind was “but they of course use the same utensils for everything, and the knives they use to make the sushi are definietly not kosher…” I had started realizing a few moths ago, though, that kosher doesn’t matter to me. I was still keeping kosher because I lived at home, and because nominally I was still frum. But this wasn’t such a big step for me to take, after all.

If I have one regret about that incident, it’s that I rationalized and attempted to argue to  myself that I was still technically keeping kosher. According to some religious Jews I know now, non-Orthodox Jews, that is kosher – but not according to the standards I was used to. I kind of wish I had more confidently taken ownership of that decision to disregard kashrus.

Dinner was lovely, I sipped my beer slowly and someone else finished it when we were ready to go and I’d only gotten through three quarters of it.

I vigorously chewed mint gum for the entire train ride home, hoping my mother wouldn’t be able to smell my alcohol breath.

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