Kosher Subway

November 27, 2010

Subway is a major fast food corporation that sells deli sandwiches made to order with over 22,000 locations around the world. An article published in the JTA- The Global News Service of the Jewish People declared Subway to be the largest kosher restaurant chain provider in America.  There are 11 branches of Kosher Subways in America, and Mendy’s and Dougie’s have 5 and 6 branches respectively. The headquarters of Subway in Ohio was shocked to find out that they were the highest kosher supplier for the fast food world.

Dunkin Donuts does not serve full meals on their menus but they do have some dairy products in the breakfast options. That being said they cannot be compared to Subway for a kosher provider in fast food meals. However, Dunkin Donuts does have a lot of kosher franchises and most stores are located in New York.

The popularity of these locations primarily depends on the support of the community. For instance, kosher Subways have been brought into Jewish Community Ceneters (JCCs) all over the east coast. This can save money for the JCCs who would regularly have to take a deep financial lost from trying to implement their own kosher food service. Overall, if kosher practices are encouraged by the Jewish religion then it is important for the places where the Jewish community gathers, there is kosher food available.  This way the practice of following kosher food operations can be installed within the congregation.

Besides the establishments in the JCCs, the kosher fast food locations are far and few. Furthermore, some of these stores never become successful in their area and have to shut down. However, it is easy to see why the fast food industry cannot comply with the kosher standards. Fast food franchises primarily receive their meat supply from large Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Regrettably, these operations are not ethical and furthermore would have to invest millions of dollars to honor the kosher law.

Why have kosher fast food stores in the first place? The fast food industry has made their prices so low that eating lunch or dinner at a restaurant or cooking a meal has become expensive. There is also the attractiveness for convenience in meals, and fast food companies provide the highest convenience for its customers. The question is, what are the consequences of making kosher competitive in the fast food industry? If the prices of kosher fast food providers become as low as the regular fast food industries, then the sacredness of the kosher practices could be sacrificed.


I was browsing the internet today when I stumbled across a cool front page article on As the celebration of Hanukkah fast approaches (starts December 1 this year), the coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life asks members of the Jewish community to take 8 simple actions (corresponding with the 8 nights of Hannukah) to increase their sustainability this year.

The first step is called “Let there be sustainable light.” This step asks every family to replace 1 bulb with a CFL bulb which would use ¼ of the energy and produce the same amount of light. This is a great quote from the site “They last ten times as long as standard incandescent bulbs and use only a quarter of the energy to produce the same amount of light? A modern Hanukkah miracle!”

The second day’s step asks each family to turn down the temperature of the hot water heater in their home to the warm setting. Water heaters are a major user of energy in a home, but most of them heat water to a temperature that is generally not used. Turning it down a bit will make it less likely that you’ll burn yourself in the shower or washing your hands, and it will save a lot of energy.

Day 3 calls for a lowering of the thermostat temperature by 3 degrees. Every degree you lower your thermostat in the winter can save 3% of your total energy consumption. 3 degrees = 9% energy use drop. That’s a lot! I think this is one that a lot of us could practice a bit more. Grab a blanket or put on a sweater and save yourself some money!

Day 4 asks for each participant to skip a car trip. On this day of Hanukah, try walking, biking, running, or taking public transportation instead of driving. Driving an SUV or a large truck uses a lot of unnecessary fuel and increases your footprint. Carpooling lowers your per person emissions, but avoiding vehicular travel altogether is the best way to go. Easy enough to do if you’re at school during Hanukah this year.

Day 5 calls for each of us to start a scrap paper pile. Instead of throwing out pieces of paper with printing on one side, try reusing them for taking notes or writing down a phone message. At the very least, make sure you throw your paper in the recycling bins instead of the trash. Recycling of paper is not necessarily cost-effective, but it does lower the amount of wood needed by mills to make some types of paper.

Day 6 is pretty direct, it asks for each person to “give your home a Hanukkah gift from Energy Star”. We’ve learned about energy star and other certification standards this semester. These products are definitely more energy efficient than older versions that may be phantom energy suckers in your home. So there you go, go grab that energy star washer and dryer you’ve been craving on the 6th day of Hanukkah.

The seventh day calls for you to write a letter to the President or Congress. While the first 6 days focus on small changes you can make in your life to lower your energy consumption, we need to lower our consumption as a nation in order to lead the way globally. Write to public officials and let them know how easy it was to make the changes you made the first 6 days.

The last day of Hanukkah, have a candlelight dinner. Instead of using electricity to produce light, use candles. Candles don’t have a 0 carbon footprint, but at least you won’t be buying your electricity from the carbon-emission-heavy grid for this evening. They suggest you light a few extra candles and not use just the Hannukkiah since it is not to be a functional lamp.

I like the ideas here, and the way it is tied in to the religious holiday makes it very relevant to Jewish Environmental Ethics.

Check out the site at

The story of creation describes the process in which God creates the Earth by each day. In Leviticus 25:3-4, the creation of the Earth was done in six days and on the seventh day God rested. Moreover when God rested, he declared the seventh day was to be made holy, ceasing any work being done by anyone. The Sabbath is on the last day out of the week (seventh day) and recognizes God’s command for rest. It is important to try and figure out exactly what is work or what is rest. The common jargon for ‘work’ includes activities like going to work (occupational) or working out (physical activity). The Jewish community however, extends the common concept of ‘work’ to include actions like writing, talking on the phone, turning on a light, or weeding a garden. This may seem extreme to those outside the realm of the Jewish community, but in fact eliminating these actions during one day a week is said to replenish the soul. Moreover by eliminating these actions, Jewish members are consuming less and creating less destruction of the land.  There are many benefits from this rule, one being that when you deliberately try to consume/use less on this particular day of the week, it may become more likely to continue onto other days. By becoming more aware of how much you consume in a day (do not know what you have until its gone theory) you may become more sustainable in your overall lifestyle. Yet consuming less is not the only requirement on the Sabbath, one must remember and appreciate the God’s creations. ‘God blessed the seventh day and made it holy’, therefore the Jewish community takes the Sabbath and makes it a time to have spiritual connections to God’s creations.  God also commanded the people to ‘observe’ the creations. The most literal of translations is walking through a forest or watching the sunset. I think this is an important concept that there can be a connection to God through nature, particularly being within nature.  Lastly, it is important to note, the Sabbath is not a recommendation or suggestion made by God, it is apart of our moral system. Furthermore, not partaking in the Sabbath is on the same ethical level as killing or stealing under the Ten Commandments. Overall, the combination of paying respect to nature’s existence and consuming less of it on the Sabbath makes this Jewish tradition ideal for environmentalists to embrace. In my opinion, the Sabbath inherently allows humanity to have the tools and understanding for an appreciation of nature. If all of humanity practiced this ritual once a week, maybe the movement towards a sustainable society would be more approachable or better understood.

In a word, no. I was recently thinking of the topic thanks to a conversation I overheard among peers. I have the viewpoint that a cross-roads between the two is a cop-out. It is a convenient means to avoid a very touchy issue, and one that will certainly raise staunch opposition.

Science in the purest sense seeks to understand and solve life’s mysteries and grounds its understanding in evidence. If you have the skills one can even replicate the experiment and see if it is true for themselves. When someone in a science class asks the question “What caused the cell to divide?” the instructor responds with X reason. If there is not yet a known explanation, it is not uncommon to hear a professor say “We aren’t really sure how X happens.”

Religion is based on faith and requires that those who follow it believe without proof. Believing in anything without knowing one way or another whether or not it is actually true is problematic for scientists.

When science answers some huge unknown like the relation of our planets, or even a cure for polio religion feels threatened. Looking back in history to the great thinkers and their struggles with the status-quo of religion is one example of this “rivalry” if you will.

Science advances forward, while religion tries desperately to hold its ground. This battle has lasted for 1000s of years and guess which one is “winning”? This failure to adapt is perhaps religion’s biggest flaw in my opinion. The problem is that religion can’t adapt or its very core (usually some sort of scripture) of faith cannot be supported. If faith in X is changed to faith in Y, why even be religious in the first place? Obviously, those members would not accept faith in a religion that was amorphous. Religion NEEDS structure in order to survive.

I am not, despite what you may think by my somewhat harsh argument a religion hater. I think religion can be beautiful, but only in certain frameworks. The framework of religion being about community, learning lessons, getting in touch with one’s self and most importantly fulfilling the fundamental human desire to feel secure and at ease with the universe are all things science cannot truly fulfill.

I am getting away from my point though. I want to focus on this issue of coexistence and how it is a cop-out. It seems a conciliatory way for those belonging to both sides or having friends on the other side to stay, quite simply, friends. It doesn’t look at the interaction both have had over many decades and serves to undermine and insult both religion and science. Science never makes the argument that “God made it that way.” In the same way religion would never concede that “Our hypothesis that God exists, was refuted due to a recent study.”

In other words, what I am trying to say is the two are mutually exclusive and need to be treated as such. Let those who are in both spheres decide for themselves, but please don’t let the public be comforted by such an idea that the two can coexist.

In Judaism, the holiday Sukkot follows five days after Yom Kippur and calls for the celebration of the year’s harvest as well as a remembrance of the way in which Israelites lived in the forty years of wandering. Within our class we discussed the traditions of Sukkot and learning the significance of the ‘four species’ for the holiday’s ceremonies. However, after reading an essay out of Berstein’s book, I saw that the Sukkot exemplifies an even deeper meaning one that shows ethical awareness from the community on the environment.  For instance, Rosh Hashanah marks the end of the dry season and the Sukkot marks beginning of the rains.  A vital value to be learned from the Sukkot is the reflection period, where the community reflects upon the past season’s harvest, and essentially the rain.  Why is this important? Many Jewish texts describe proper agricultural practices and therefore its interpretation can lay out guidelines for how farmers should take of the land. But does this apply to the modern world? Not everyone is directly involved in the agricultural processes of their food. In fact, most of society does not even know what farm their food came from. In a modern society, the care for the land is no longer on an individual level, rather a national level. The Sukkot then gives a designated time for people to rejoice the presence of food and appreciate its existence. This is a vital message for a society that has created limitless seasons where strawberries can be bought all year round. If we do not appreciate the ability to have successful crops, we may not use the best and most ethical methods for its harvest.  However, if a season’s crop yield is unsuccessful the community will reflect upon things like last season’s rainfall.  In Berstein’s essay on rain in the calendar, rain is described as a gift from God and may be given on the basis of whether or not the community/individual has been good.  This is an example of how the environment can be a communication tool between God and the people for behavioral acceptance. The Sukkot provides time to think about the environment through the past season, but it also creates a time to remember. During the forty days wandering, the Israelites lived huts that were described to be made from nature and could still observe nature while inside (i.e. seeing the stars through the roof at night).  During Sukkot, many Jewish members build a sukkah to stay in to bear in mind the past. Although it may seem like residing in the sukkah may be an individual tradition, it actually calls for guests and community openness. It is important to extend arms to the community for this celebration and share with communal food. Overall, there is a strong representation of nature and its resources in the Jewish faith, and the Sukkot is one holiday that exemplifies its importance.

Loss of habitat

November 14, 2010


This past week there was a presentation by a GIS professional from the Nature conservancy. She was presenting her firm’s findings on the anticipated habitat loss from the growth of both Marcellus Shale drilling and Wind Power installments. While some of her methods were questioned by the audience, her findings seem to reflect what will ultimately be the outcome: we will destroy large amounts of uninterrupted natural habitats in the forests of PA to install these new power generation stations. There is a great debate over Marcellus shale, but wind power has not been as heavily contested because it is renewable and sustainable. The fact is that building new infrastructure for any electricity project will cause habitat fragmentation, regardless of the method. Marcellus shale takes up more forest space and often ruins drinking water supplies for rural communities.

The ethical debate on this topic centers around what the cause of this expansion and subsequent habitat destruction might be. We need electricity in order to live our lives with the same quality we’ve become accustomed to. Unless the U.S. Population decides it’s ok to go back to pre-electric technologies and burn oil lamps and wood fires, we will continue to fragment forests to meet the demands of our growing population. Even if we stopped using electricity, the wood/biomass requirement for our current population would require us to cut down huge swaths of forests to meet our wood fire needs. If a sustainable source like wind power is still destroying our environment, then what is our solution?

To decide what to do in situations like this, the importance of the habitats we’re damaging to expand our electricity generation is weighed against the benefits of the new cleaner energy sources. Cost-benefit analysis is one of the main sources used by government agencies to determine whether to allow industry to move into a previously uninterrupted section of forest. Using cost-benefit analysis relies on a “willingness to pay” figure that asks individuals to give a monetary value to the natural resource being destroyed. These models aren’t necessarily accurate, and the question becomes whether we can put a number on something that is irreplaceable. Can nature be given a value? Who are we to place that value? We talk about the intrinsic value of nature, but who decides whether something has intrinsic value? It seems that any man-made valuation of nature is functionally based. I don’t have the solution to our energy needs, but eventually we’ll have to find alternatives to our current lifestyle if we don’t want all of nature to perish.


November 14, 2010


The Sh’ma is a part of the Jewish prayer liturgy, a prayer about rain. In ancient times, the Israelites depended on the falling of the rain in the proper season for their sustenance. Part of my community project has been to investigate the stormwater run-off at the Beth El temple. Beth El is a large building and it is located right next to the Susquehanna river. One of the main sources of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is stormwater runoff. There is already some vegetation planted around the property of Beth El, but the spoutings on the building and the parking lot sewer grates go straight into the river. That means anything from tars and oils to garbage and other pollutants are washed straight into the river. As of now, the temple is not taking advantage of the rain in the ways they might.

The project I’m working on then, is a project to install a rain barrel (or more than one), and collect some of the rain that falls on the building’s roof. This rain will then be used to water a rain garden in which the children from the school will plant vegetables, flowers, whatever they choose to plant. I think there is a good lesson in this for the youth, both about their Jewish heritage and about sustainability. By capturing the rain, pollution that makes it to the river will be reduced. Using the rain for a garden returns to the Jewish tradition of agriculture that relied on “rain in the proper season”. The rain is supposed to reflect God’s pleasure or displeasure with His people. While many no longer believe this directly, there is a secondary lesson to be taken from this. If the Jewish people take care of the earth, God will be pleased and reward them. If they do not, he will be displeased and make their lives harder. This project is part of a learning process. If the youth learn something about sustainability from this, it might carry over to their adult lives and maybe we can regain the sense of stewardship that ancient Judaism required.

The Kove

November 14, 2010

So what does everyone think of the Kove so far?  It’s a new element of the Dickinson cafeteria this year, and I’d say it’s been a great success in its first semester of operation.  I have only eaten the kosher/vegan options offered at the Kove once since the new option was added. The line for this new selection of healthier foods is always longer than the standard entree option.

When the school was toying with the idea of adding a kosher option to the dining hall, I was working as a tour guide in the admissions office. The admissions counselors were all beginning to tell families that there would soon be a kosher option in the dining hall. It became a main selling point when a family showed interest in the Jewish community at Dickinson and I soon found myself describing the new option on my tours.  I didn’t really know what it would entail at the time, but now I think it’s a great option to tell people about.  Dickinson’s decision to add the Kosher/Vegan option came about as a result of several parties trying to improve student life here for different reasons.  The administration (to the best of my knowledge) had requests from Hillel and the Jewish community at Dickinson to add a Kosher option.  The admissions office became quickly aware of competitor schools adding Kosher/vegan options to their dining services when F & M added an entirely kosher dining option.  With Dickinson’s sustainability efforts, adding an improved vegan option was also a good move.  All of these factors created a need for a new option, and the Kove has filled that void fairly well so far (so I’ve gathered in talking to many people who eat the Kove selections more often than I do).

I’d be interested to hear other people’s opinions of the Kove and it’s ability to serve our community’s needs for vegan and kosher foods.  Should it be expanded so that more people can eat these foods daily, or are the foods even of a quality comparable to quality kosher and vegan foods you might find outside a college cafeteria?