From The Portland Phoenix:
I am not so sheltered that I don't know that most Jews don't keep kosher. Hey, it is not easy; I understand that,. I am not going to judge others - we each have our own challenges and all of us fall short in one way or another.
"What really is at the core of kashrut is that G-d makes things holy by separating things," says Saks, of Congregation Bet Ha'am in South Portland. "So I don't say that I keep kosher, but for me there's still an essence of kashrut at play every time I sit down to a meal."
For Saks, and a growing number of progressive Jews, that means he only consumes meat from sustainable sources. This movement catalyzed after the 2008 immigration raid that revealed abhorrent labor practices at the largest US kosher meatpacking plant, in Postville, Iowa. Saks initially ate "kosher-style." But a locally sourced meat entrée became preferable to vegetables shipped in from overseas. Now, Saks will order that pork chop, if it's from a worthy source.
After all, pigs thrive here in Maine. They're more sustainable than cows, devouring all our scraps except coffee grinds and citrus peels. For many (including this reporter), kosher is more about whether the animal lived in a holy way than how it died. Our tribe takes our cues less from the Torah, and more from nature.
Maina Handmaker would agree with that view. She loved pork as a child in Hong Kong, then went vegetarian in high school in Kentucky and for most of her time at Bowdoin College. Apprenticing as a student on Milkweed Farm in Brunswick, she experienced the magic of bacon raised on-site.
"As a Jew and just as a person, I feel more connected to the ethical principles of sustainable agriculture than I ever did to the isolated, ancient rules of kashrut," says Handmaker, who works for Six River Farm in Bowdoinham.
Portland's Jewish leaders are holding a panel on "Different Ways to Observe Jewish Dietary Laws" at Temple Beth El, 400 Deering Ave, Portland, on Tuesday, April 9 @ 7 pm
But I have a big problem with Jews - especially purported rabbis - redefining Judaism to justify their behavior.
It is one thing to say that it is hard for me to do something my religion asks of me but it is a worthy goal somewhere down the line.
It is another thing to say that the religious rules are outdated and were appropriate for their time. . Even that shows a level of respect for the faith.
But to my mind, it is unconscionable to twist the very definition of what it means to be Jewish to fit today's fashions.
Rabbi Saks could easily say that he disagrees with the practices at kosher slaughterhouses and therefore decides to be a vegetarian. But for a "rabbi" to say that pig is kosher if it is ethically raised is perverse. This isn't Judaism; it is a different religion altogether - environmentalism, liberalism, whateverism.
He is cheapening Judaism to become, literally, meaningless. If Judaism is whatever makes you feel good, it isn't a religion - it is a justification to do whatever you feel like.
I feel very, very sorry for his congregants to have a spiritual leader who changes the religion simply because he loves to eat bacon.
And how do we know that?
Because if pig meat tasted terrible, even though raising them were great for the environment, Rabbi Saks wouldn't be forcing them down his throat because of his ethics.