Dear Rabbi, I am doing my best to keep kosher, but I am uncertain as to which rabbinical authority to follow when it comes to what is and what is not kosher. Which heksher (certification) do you accept?
Years ago when I lived in Miami, Florida a friend of mine opened a kosher donut stand and bought donuts from a rabbinically certified manufacturer in Broward County. He was visited by the rabbinic establishment in Miami-Dade county who informed him that his donuts were not in fact kosher at all. True, they were kosher in Broward, but when they crossed the line into Miami-Dade they became trait (unkosher), and would remain so unless and until my friends paid the rabbis of the Miami-Dade kosher police to certify them as such. Kosher is no longer about eating what is fit, but about financially exploiting those who want to do so.
For me the entire kashrut system of heksher and counter-heksher is broken, and I simply ignore it. But my problem with kashrut goes even beyond the business of piety.
For example, I don’t care who sanctions the torture of a calf in the production of kosher veal, to me veal isn’t kosher because it involves the terrible mistreatment of a calf. Jewish tradition makes the just and compassionate treatment of animals, workers, and the environment essential to the kosher status of a product, but this seems to matter less and less to those who claim to be the arbiters of all things kosher.
My kosher standard is simply this: kosher calls me to consume at the highest ethical and environment I can muster. For me that means not eating meat at all. But I’m no saint; as any tuna will confirm. If a product I deem kosher has a heksher of any kind, fine, but having or not having one is basically irrelevant to me. What matters is the moral, ethical, and environmental dimensions of production, and it is to these things that I look when deciding what is kosher for me.