Kosher. Who actually knows what it is?

It is an eating lifestyle that some Jews follow, while some do not. As one of those Jews who keeps Kosher, I know: sometimes it is hard, but most of the time it's fine.

bread, pastry, sweet, dough, bun, brioche
Shira Weinberg

I have grown up in NYC all of my life–not in Manhattan NYC, but Queens NYC, where there are a lot of Jews who keep Kosher and therefore a lot of restaurants that cater (no pun intended) towards that crowd of people. Whenever my grandparents came over, they would take us out to Kosher Corner (a place that *sniff* closed down a few years back) or order in from a kosher restaurant. I was always happy with my baked ziti or pierogi, two things I could always rely on.

dumpling, ravioli, gyoza, meat, dough, tortellini, pork, flour, pasta
Wendy You

It was easy to keep kosher when everyone around me–all my family and even my friends from school–kept kosher.

Fast forward: I am in my first year of college (CUNY Macaulay shout out), and I am put into a world that does not have kosher food at every turn.

I joined the CCNY Women’s Basketball team and made new friends who were not necessarily kosher eaters. I was experiencing food on a different cultural level: everyone had their own foods with their own designs, spices, and smells, whether home-cooked, or, more often, restaurant take-out. All the food looked and smelled so freaking good!

Nevertheless, I kept Kosher, and never tried any. I didn't order anything in the restaurants; I was never was close enough to a kosher restaurant to go pick up some food. I politely declined food from people I did not know, saying I was not hungry, and with people whom I knew well I would just say, “Nah, thanks, it’s not kosher.” And they would be okay with it.

I was getting used to the idea of bringing my own food to my away games and trips with the team, or my own lunch to a friend’s luncheon. It wasn’t hard, per se; it was just annoying to always have to pack my own food (shout out to my mom who would send me many shabbat meal leftovers for my basketball outings, knowing I would otherwise starve).

Whenever we traveled for an away game, there was not necessarily any Kosher restaurants that I could enter and order food; I usually took out my plastic container of fish, chicken, or fruit and ate it while my teammates ordered their meals.

mango, pineapple, sweet
Shira Weinberg

It didn’t bother me. I honestly liked having something that strengthened my identity as a person. My teammates knew that I kept kosher and would also say it to other people, as if they were proud (mind you, my readers, I have no idea if they were proud of me, but I took it that way).

Then I started realizing that my friends, my not-kosher friends, started to be conscious of what they were buying, so as to not exclude me. They always asked, “Shira, is this kosher?” and that way, we would be able to eat together. My coach was conscious enough to eat by a CVS or 7-11 so that I could use my meal money towards something kosher in one of those places. My friends constantly say, “Shira, I found a restaurant and it's KOSHER! We have to go!” That made me happy–people noticed and respected my practices.

It isn’t every day that people cater to your needs and accept them without a sigh of frustration or a groan of annoyance. I have been lucky to have made some good friends who care about me and my choices. I am grateful and thankful for those who have made my kosher transition much easier and more comfortable. I can still experience other kinds of food, even if I cannot eat it, and appreciate those who respect my beliefs and choices.