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When America Went Kosher

We all answer to a higher authority

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Uncle Sam goes kosher.(YouTube)

In case you missed it over the holiday weekend, check out Sue Fishkoff’s excellent New York Times op-ed on how Hebrew National hot dogs became as American as the Fourth of July. Yes, kosher is now Zeitgeisty—safer and more ethical, and the next best thing to local. But all that began with Hebrew National’s famous 1972 “We answer to a higher authority” ad campaign.

Fishkoff discusses when ballparks began to have exclusively kosher stands (the first, I’m proud to say, was Oriole Park at Camden Yards, in 1993), and explains why Hebrew National isn’t sufficient for many Orthodox Jews. My favorite point of Fishkoff’s, though, concerns the ad campaign’s timing, which

captured a pivotal moment in American Jewish history: a newly confident but still largely immigrant community, basking in Israel’s victory in the June 1967 war, was almost reflexively looking back over its shoulder, not quite sure of its position in the majority-Christian society.

American Jews have always tried to balance their desire to be fully American with an equally strong desire to preserve their Jewish identity. As the social historian [and Tablet Magazine contributor] Jenna Weissman Joselit points out, one way that immigrant groups cement their position in a new society is by appropriating the foods of the dominant culture while simultaneously integrating their own into the mix. What better way for Jews to signal their full acceptance into American society than by stamping their imprimatur—kosher certification—on that most American of food products, the hot dog?

Next: Pesadik cookie dough.

Red, White and Kosher [NYT]
Earlier: Kosher Is Hip
It Oughta Be Kosher

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Ted Merwin says:

It’s a great article, but I’m a little puzzled by the idea that Jews were still a “largely immigrant community” in 1972. The big waves of immigration from Eastern Europe ended in the early 1920s, and while there was certainly immigration that resumed after the Second World War, by the early 1970s the vast majority of Jews had been here for generations.

It also seems to me that Jews, rather that being “not quite sure” of their position in society, were quite comfortable in America by the early 1970s, with most having moved out of working class occupations and into the professional class.


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When America Went Kosher

We all answer to a higher authority

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