A BEEF OVER BACON

I’ve never met Angela Montgomery. I know nothing about her, other than the fact that she recently filed a lawsuit against a Detroit area Denny’s restaurant after she found bacon in her vegetarian omelet and that she is a “practicing Jew.” Far be it from me to say that a “practicing Jew” might just need a little more practice (we all do), but from what little I know, I believe that the Latin “caveat emptor” especially applies to “practicing” Jews who dine at non-kosher establishments. To be even more specific, intending no malice to canines and meaning no disrespect to the same, “If you sleep with dogs, you are going to wake up with fleas.” As one, who by my own admission, knows next to nothing about non-kosher restaurant chains, I was not aware that Denny’s ever claimed to be a vegetarian restaurant. Had Angela Montgomery or anyone for that matter been served bacon mixed in with her vegetarian omelet in a vegetarian eatery… As they say in Yiddish: “Doss heist a lawsuit” – that’s what you call a lawsuit. Excuse me if I am wrong, but I would think that Denny’s serves fowl, beef, pork and mutton along with an assortment of dairy dishes.

Mistakes happen, even at restaurants. Would I swear that it never happened, that a delivery truck delivered treif (non-kosher chickens) to a kosher restaurant and these non-kosher chickens were inadvertently cooked and served to unsuspecting observant Jews who came in for a meal? Not on your life! Would I swear that a vegetarian who orders a tuna salad sandwich at a Denny’s or similar was never mistakenly served a chicken salad sandwich, in that the tuna salad and the chicken salad are stored in identical containers placed side by side in the same refrigerator?  Not on your life! For those of us who maintain kosher kitchens in our homes, has it ever happened that without thinking, we grabbed a dairy bowl and filled it with chili or that without thinking, we grabbed a meat bowl and scooped ice cream into it? Mistakes happen! That’s why the Shulchan Aruch or Code of Jewish law devotes pages upon pages replete with commentary addressing when dairy inadvertently gets mixed in with meat or when forbidden (treif) inadvertently gets mixed in with kosher. Succinctly stated, Judaism regards it as damage control. Angela Montgomery apparently regards it as a lawsuit.

Angela Montgomery claims to be a practicing Jew. It might very well be that when it comes to Yom Kippur, Angela Montgomery is somewhat out of practice. Recall if you will, that the efficacy of Yom Kippur is limited to the sins Jews commit both intentionally and unintentionally against HaShem. It would seem to me that unless one flaunts eating treif in front of observant Jews, consuming a vegetarian omelet containing bacon is what Yom Kippur is all about. As to Angela Montgomery’s claim, “It’s like the most vile, disgusting creature on the planet Earth that’s not supposed to go in your body, and I ate it. To me, that’s poisoning, I was poisoned.” I’m not aware that a Yom Kippur service, or a rabbi or even lawyer could provide Angela Montgomery any assistance in that realm. Perhaps consultation with a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist would be the best route to take for Angela Montgomery.

THE WHITE BAYIT*

With the Presidential race in full swing now that the Iowa caucuses have taken place, it was more than with a modicum of interest that I read about a recent poll revealing that ten percent of Americans were less likely to vote for a Jewish presidential candidate, while eight percent of Americans were more likely to vote for a Jewish presidential candidate. Although my attitude is “polls be damned”, still and all I began thinking about the Jewish factor in presidential elections. Despite the fact that I have absolutely no desire to assess any data, I nevertheless ask that you consider the following three questions, which will hopefully never reach the desk of any pollster:
What is more important to you, a Jew running for president, whose Judaism is purely an accident of birth in every aspect, or a non-Jew running for president who is a staunch supporter of Israel? Whether we like it or not, there exists a Jewish vote in this country, despite the fact that at best, we are a paltry 2% of the population; whether we like it or not, of the Jews who do vote in this country, there are those who select their candidate based solely on that candidate’s attitude (perceived or real) towards Israel. Perhaps neither is a factor for you, in that come Election Day, your sole concern is which candidate is a better choice to lead this country in the direction you feel this country ought to take.
If it makes no difference to you whatsoever whether or not a presidential aspirant is Jewish, does a Jewish presidential aspirant’s level of Jewish observance matter to you? Would you prefer a Jewish president who at best attends synagogue services on the High Holy Days and whose Shabbat observance is limited to Shabbat dinner every Friday night, or would you beam with pride at a Shabbat observant president (who will set Shabbat aside in times of national security) who davens three times a day and eats strictly kosher? Is it safe to say that an Observant Jew as president of this country is perceived to be less of a threat than a devout Catholic or is there no difference? Does the same hold true when comparing an Observant Jew with a pious Protestant?
Are you more troubled by the fact that 10% of voters in this country are less likely to vote for a Jew running for president than you are proud of the fact that 8% of voters in this country are more likely to vote for a Jew running for president? Please understand that among the 10% there are Jews who would prefer not to see a Jewish president because they are concerned or perhaps better stated afraid of any anti-Semitic backlash, should a Jewish president take any unpopular positions, become involved in a scandal, or see the economy tank during his presidency. Alternatively, among the 8% there are bound to be non-Jews who see a Jewish president as being endowed with special qualities by virtue of being a member of HaShem’s chosen. If there are non-Jews in this country who see a Jewish doctor and a Jewish lawyer as possessing fabulous skills, then perhaps they regard a Jewish president much the same way.
Whether or not we will live to see a mezuzah at the front doorpost of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue makes for good discussion. “Do we really care”, is an entirely different question. The very fact that we can even entertain these questions says a great deal about these United States of America. It also says a great deal about us as Jews.

* Bayit is Hebrew for house