Alaina Haviv, Woodmere, NY: Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, Grade 7

OU Kosher Staff

Dear Josh,

I would like to thank you and your family for inviting me over for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend. Although we’ve been friends for years and my being kosher has never bothered you, I realize you have a hard time understanding it. You’re not the only one. I actually have several reasons for keeping kosher. Perhaps a few of my reasons will actually make sense to you or help you to better understand why I feel the way I do. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll even decide to become kosher yourself. Ha,ha!

I guess my main reason for keeping kosher would have to be that I am continuing a tradition. My parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and millions of Jewish ancestors before them have honored this tradition. Think about it. A lot of our ancestors lost their lives simply because they refused to eat non-kosher food. I feel it’s the least I can do to show that I am identifying with my people and, at the same time, showing my gratitude to G-d for providing me with all the food that I eat.

I also have to admit that my kosher lifestyle has made me into a far more disciplined person. Believe me, it takes a lot of discipline and self control for me to resist pizza with pepperoni, cheese burgers, and a lot of the other tempting non-kosher foods out there. I find that I am also very disciplined in other areas of my life. Now that we’re getting older, there will be a lot of people who will attempt to get us to agree to inappropriate things such as cigarettes and drugs. I am confident that I have the will power to say “no” when it counts.

There is also an important reason that I know you can relate to. Two months ago, when our friends were in the hospital, you had everyone sign a huge card for him and collected money for a nice gift. Also, last year when we were driving, we drove by a wounded bird on the corner of Oak Street. Do you remember how you made us stop the car to help the bird? You wrapped his leg up in your old T-shirt, got it some water and waited for help to arrive. I was so touched by that incident. It made me realize that you are just as sensitive as I am. It’s that compassion for others, including animals, that strengthens my desire to keep kosher. Our Torah forbids cruelty to animals. For meat to be kosher, it must be slaughtered in such a way, with a special sharp knife that causes the least amount of pain to the animal. It is also forbidden to eat birds of prey because they kill other animals for their own food.

Also, I have always believed that keeping kosher certainly has its health benefits. If there’s one thing you know about me, I’m a health mindful person. You’re always making fun of the healthy foods I try to eat, and tease me about never touching “junk” food. I like that when you eat meat and dairy separate, you are decreasing your risk of infection. According to my uncle, who is a doctor, by not eating milk and meat together you are helping your digestive system. I’m sure you realize that blood is a good medium for growing bacteria. However, according to Jewish law, eating blood is forbidden. When kosher meat is prepared, all the blood is completely drained out. Also, Jewish law forbids us to eat animals wither certain health problems such as sores and blisters. I feel very comfortable when I eat meat that has been certified kosher.

Since you know me so well, you know how important hygiene is to me. Cleanliness has always been my number one priority. Since, to me, the word kosher always meant sanitary, I feel good about the food I eat. It is a ritual to cleanse the utensils in such a way as to de-contaminate them. Also, there is a ritual involved before each meal of washing your hands. I’m sure you’ve watched me do just that when you’ve eaten at my house.

I can say so much more about my kosher lifestyle, but perhaps I’ve said enough for now. I can go into more detail next time we speak. I think you probably have an idea, now, why I feel the way I feel. I hope you can understand, no, why it would be uncomfortable for me to spend Thanksgiving away form my home. Please explain it to your family, or perhaps you should let them read my letter. I thank you all again for your invitation.

Sincerely,

Alaina Haviv