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Rabbi Avrohom Altein

Rabbi Altein: Whose Money? Jewish Organizations Scheduling Their Events at Non-Kosher Facilities

by Rabbi Avrohom Altein, March, 2014

[Reprinted from  Chabad e-blast]

Baron Rothschild was an admirer and supporter of a Viennese Jewish author. Once when this author came to the banker for his annual stipend, Rothschild said to him in a condescending tone, “I see that you’ve come for your money!”


“For my money, Baron?” replied the author. “You mean—for your money!”


A cute story; and it has a lesson most relevant to us. We are blessed with organizations that raise monies in support of prestigious Jewish organizations and with campaign leaders that are dedicated heart and soul to those objectives. Unfortunately, our community presently faces a serious challenge. The Fort Garry Hotel was the choice venue for these organizations to host their major events, but the Fort Garry has recently closed its kosher kitchen because of business reasons.


The proper decision ought to have been, to schedule these events at another location, honouring our Jewish tradition of Kosher. A horrible mistake is being made in that Jewish organizations are now preparing to schedule their events as non-kosher. The idea is that this choice will bring in more dollars.


But it is extremely important to remember that the determining factor in deciding the venue of a Jewish event should never be dollars alone. After all, whose money is it? It is not the money of the campaign organizers. It is money solicited at a Jewish function for the continuity of Jewish life. Serving non-kosher food at a Jewish event is destructive to Jewish life. Undermining Jewish values cannot be productive; it will undo whatever good could have been accomplished with the funds raised.


Here is an instructive lesson to us from the holiday of Purim that we celebrate this Sunday. Ahasuerus, king of the Persian Empire, celebrated his ascent to power with a royal banquet. He invited all citizens to participate and instructed that every guest be provided with food and drink of his choosing. Jewish guests could order special kosher food, if they chose to do so, but few made that choice. They preferred the camaraderie and acceptance of their gentile neighbors—a tragic mistake.


In the end, the Jews were rejected by the Persians. A person that does not respect himself will lose the respect of others. Haman decreed that the entire Jewish People were to be eradicated. The sages explain that the Jewish sin was their having had such pleasure at partaking of the non-kosher banquet of King Ahasuerus.


At the urging of Mordecai and Esther, Jews fasted and prayed and returned to Jewish observance. The return of Jewish pride in Jewish tradition, brought them renewed respect and a miraculous salvation. We celebrate Purim with kosher food, with a Purim Meal and with pies filled with poppy seeds—as a remembrance of the seed-vegetarian diet that Queen Esther ate in her Persian palace so that she could maintain her kosher observance.


Jews and Jewish life will persevere, no matter what challenges we face.

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