Kosher that's not just for food

Workers at the Pupa and Zehlem Matzoh Bakery on Broadway make Matzoh in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City.

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Kai Ryssdal: Passover starts tomorrow night, which means kosher shopping has already begun. This year though with a twist. Marketplace's Jennifer Collins reports there is a movement in the Jewish community to expand the meaning of kosher.


JENNIFER COLLINS: Morris Allen is a rabbi in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota. Today he is delivering Passover supplies to the neediest in his congregation of 400 families.

MORRIS ALLEN: Let's see I can open up a bag: Matzoh, grape juice, candles.

It's all Kosher, of course. That means the preparation of the food complies with Jewish dietary laws. Allen has started a movement to make sure that Kosher food is ethical as well. It's his response to a scandal at a Kosher meat-packing plant that took advantage of immigrant workers.

ALLEN: When you buy a Kosher product, they should be able to know, that it's really a product that speaks to the best of who we are as a people.

So, for instance, that brisket was produced by a worker who was treated well and by a company that respects the environment. He also wants to give those products a certification, what's being called the "Magen Tzedek" seal. Allen says the seal could help companies during this recession.

ALLEN: People are looking at ways that they can catch up in the market share. And I believe that the Magen Tzedek symbol will become such a vehicle by which we will ultimately elevate food production in this country.

Some in the Jewish community say Kosher law is strict enough. But Randy Fried, the manager of "Got Kosher?" a shop in Los Angeles, says his customers want ethically produced products.

RANDY FRIED: Is it organic? Is it natural? So there's certainly a moment in the Kosher food world of moving toward a more healthy, organic approach.

Fried says he expects business to be brisk when the seal is rolled out later this year, just in time for Rosh Hashanah.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.

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