Monday, January 19, 2015

Is it still a shul without nuts?

I’m trying to figure out what I want my synagogue to do to keep my son safe given his nut allergy, and to keep other children safe given their food allergies. Many events at the synagogue include food, and people also bring in food of their own. My thoughts on this are very scattered.

The synagogue bans pork and shellfish, so it seems they could also ban nuts.

A Jewish-oriented argument for respecting the health needs of others is at if I need to point someone at the synagogue to such a thing.

The synagogue doesn’t know which members have any particular allergies, or if any members do. It seems sensible to ask on the annual membership form.

Even if no members have allergies, guests might. A welcoming environment is not one in which people are worried for their safety or the safety of their children.

I’d like to see dairy items clearly labeled. Kosher baked goods and kosher bakeries are easy for me to deal with, as someone who is severely lactose-intolerant, since I can check if something is pareve (meaning that it contains neither meat nor dairy ingredients). It surprises me that a Conservative synagogue does not identify dairy vs pareve baked goods, since members who keep kosher may need to avoid dairy for religious reasons. But perhaps there are no members who keep kosher, or perhaps they all assume that everything at shul is dairy for kashrut purposes.

My son is also allergic to mango (which is related to certain tree nuts). How many ingredients does it make sense to ban?

Plenty of schools draw the line at nuts. The reactions are more likely to be serious than with other allergens, the residue from nuts is more problematic (easier to spread, harder to see, harder to eliminate) than from many other allergens, and nut allergies are frighteningly common. If schools can comfortably go nut-free, why can’t a synagogue?

Keeping kosher to many people is about mindful eating. Saying blessings before eating and saying grace after meals is about mindful eating. Mindful eating is a Jewish value. So asking people to be mindful of one more aspect of their food is consistent with what we should already be doing. (Though I’ve not seen anyone saying blessings before eating or saying grace after meals.)

“Processed in a facility which also processes nuts” is a constant on food packaging. So far we haven’t had to worry about that, but some people have to. It becomes much more difficult to be nut-free if you also have to avoid all ingredients and foods that have been processed in a facility which also processes nuts.

As with any policy, I strongly believe that whatever the synagogue’s food policy is, it should be clear, consistent, and communicated frequently so that everyone can know it and follow it. I don’t actually know what the synagogue’s food policy is, despite having been there many dozens of times over the past several years. That seems bizarre.

1 comment:

Michael said...

If I do figure out what I want my synagogue to do, there’s still the problem of figuring out how to make that happen. I have no idea who sets the policies, if anyone, or who could set the policies, or how to convince whoever those people might be to consider changing the policies.