Letters to the Editor, week of Nov. 9, 2011

Merged day school’s policy on kashrut

A Nov. 2 letter to the editor asserts that the new Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School has no kashrut policy. We would like to correct this misperception and explain our approach to the merger process.

When a Reform and a Conservative Day School merge, compromises must be made. For example, Saul Mirowitz Day School-Reform Jewish Academy (RJA) families cannot expect non-kosher food to be served as part of the school’s lunch program, and Solomon Schechter Day School (SSDS) families cannot expect every family to adhere to a single definition of Jewish practice. In every decision we make together, we must respect the individual family’s choices. The agreement to merge was made in the spirit of a continued commitment to acceptance of multiple definitions of Jewish practice. It is in that spirit that we will develop our understanding of one another and our traditions and strengthen our diverse St. Louis Jewish community.

Kashrut is one example of the many decisions we face, many of which have not been addressed yet. Just like so many of the other details we have yet to address, the food served at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School will be a combination of both RJA’s and SSDS’s commitment to Jewish values, in this case the holiness of the food we consume.

Like SSDS, all food served as part of the school lunch program will be prepared in a supervised kosher kitchen. Meat and dairy will be served on different days. As at RJA, food served will be locally sourced or organic. Food will be cooked on site from scratch, using healthy ingredients and methods. Milk will be hormone free and antibiotic free. Cheese will be local and made from grass fed cow’s milk. Students will be involved in planting, tending, and harvesting some foods in an organic garden in the schoolyard. They will learn about seasonal foods, cook them in culinary class, and be able to articulate why it is Jewish to eat foods that leave a smaller carbon footprint on this earth.

Families can choose to order lunch from our kosher, healthy lunch service, Bistro Kids, or they will be able to bring their own lunch from home. Beyond that, all family choices will be honored in a dignified way…free of judgment and monitoring, and reflective of our commitment to respecting diverse family definitions of Jewish practice.

Food shared for birthday parties at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School will be store-bought and kosher. No personal food brought into the building is to be shared, not only for reasons of kashrut, but for protection of children with a variety of allergies.

Next fall, students at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School will tell you how eating is holy, for their school has a thoughtful, intelligent and inclusive kashrut policy that embraces both Jewish tradition and modern Jewish practice. As we work to create the policies that will govern the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School, this is our approach to each issue or question we face. Our goal is to bring together the rich traditions of both schools for the benefit of our children and our community.

Transition Committee for the Merged Schools: Marc Blustone, Margie Hartman, Galia Movitz, Milton Movitz, Michael Rubin, Alan Spector and

Bruce Waxman

Cheryl Maayan, Head of School, RJA

Bill Rowe, Interim Head of School, SSDS

In response to the Nov. 2 letter regarding the SMDS-RJA/SSDS Merger and kashrut, I am a parent of an RJA student and I can assure you that the point of the new Kashrut policy is not to be exclusionary to those who do keep kosher, it is to be inclusive to those who don’t.  Our parent community is respectful to everyone-that is the whole point.  If we have a birthday treat or other shared culinary experience in our classroom, we make sure to respect everyone’s dietary needs, including kashrut as well as food allergies.  

This merger is not only a wonderful opportunity for creating unity and a pluralistic school, but also an opportunity to create the same unity in our Jewish community, something that is long overdue. I know many Conservative families who do not keep Kosher, and many Reform families who do.

Let us not make generalizations and assumptions. I would ask that we all put aside our prejudice, our judgment and our fears. Let us move forward together.

Irene Newman

Creve Coeur

Tree planting is meaningful experience

Thanks to all who participated in the Oct. 16 Project Noah Tree Planting, co-sponsored by the Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI) and the St. Louis Chapter of Hadassah. Thirty-three people of all ages attended and 21 trees were planted on the grounds of the Jewish Community Center Staenberg Complex. For some of those who attended, this was their first experience planting a tree – a simple act that helps the environment in many ways.

Since 1998, JEI, a committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) has been planting trees in many sites through St. Louis City and County. While our initial focus was on planting small saplings, with the goal of planting one tree for every Jewish person in St. Louis, in recent years we have gone to a model of planting fewer but larger trees that have a higher survival rate. We look forward to visiting the trees planted this year and watching them grow and thrive.

Planting trees is a Jewish imperative. It is one way that we as Jews can help repair and restore the Earth, tilling it and tending it as commanded in the Torah. We are grateful to those who came to plant the trees at the JCC, and look forward to continuing this important Jewish tradition.

Susan Mlynarczyk, JEI Chair

Gail Wechsler, Director of Domestic Issues/Social Justice, Jewish Community Relations Council