Why I Got Emotional In The Kosher Aisle At Winn-Dixie

Why I Got Emotional In The Kosher Aisle At Winn-Dixie

“You can eat here” means “You belong here.”
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I leaned against my shopping cart, my thumbs tapping out a text to my roommates: “Winn-Dixie is a magical place and I never thought I’d be so happy to see ‘KOSHER’ in huge letters on a wall.”

I then went back to staring at the shelves under those big six letters on the wall. It really was a wall, or at least half of a wall and then another row of free-standing shelves across from it, and everything on those shelves had a little letter U in a circle or other assorted Hebrew letters and words on the package to indicate that yes, it was true, everything in this aisle was kosher food.

Kashrut is the dietary laws followed by Jewish people like me. Kosher food is food prepared according to kashrut. The laws include what animals we can and cannot eat (no seafood, only fish with scales, only certain kinds of birds, only land animals with split hooves and which chew their cud), what foods we can or cannot eat together (dairy products and meat products cannot be mixed), and how the food should be prepared (the animal must be killed in a certain way and have not been mistreated in life, and the utensils used to make the food cannot have come into contact with non-kosher food).

The above paragraph is a very basic look at kashrut. Does it seem like a lot of rules to you? To me, it seems simple. It doesn’t take much effort for me to follow kashrut. I’m used to it. The house I grew up in had separate utensils for milk and meat products, and bacon never entered our kitchen.

But it must seem like a lot of rules to most of the grocery stores I have been to in my life. I grew up in central Illinois, in a town with a relatively small Jewish population, and an even smaller number of Jews who regularly observed kashrut. For me, the kosher section of a grocery store was always a tiny part of an aisle, perhaps a yard long at the most. It would have a few jugs of grape juice, a couple jars of gefilte fish, and some boxes of matzah. My childhood was punctuated by trips up to Chicago with a large cooler in the back of the car, which we would load up with enough frozen kosher chicken and beef to last us for months, because there was nowhere closer to home that sold kosher meat.

The lack of kosher food in my hometown sent me a message throughout my childhood: “Your laws are too difficult for us. We won’t put in the effort to make sure you have access to the food you can eat. You cannot eat here.”

And there is a very short step between “you cannot eat here” and “you do not belong here.”

When I got to Orlando, at my parents’ suggestion, I called the local Jewish federation for advice about where I could find kosher food. I was put in touch with a director who lived near me, and she recommended that I go to a Winn-Dixie a few minutes from my apartment – a very convenient location. There I found those six huge letters on the wall, and an entire aisle of food that I knew I could eat without violating my religion’s laws. There I found a different message than the one the grocery stores of my childhood told me: “We know your laws are important to you. Here, we have found food that you can eat. You can eat here.

“You belong here.”

Cover Image Credit: Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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You Ain’t Waiting For God To Bring You Your Dinner, You Get Up And Go Cook It

My words often get jumbled and don't make sense, so I figured writing it would help me come across clearly.

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Dear guy friends of mine,

I want you to know how grateful I am for your friendship. Having close guy friends has helped me better understand men and learn how the male species operates. I've been able to ask you so many questions and you've responded with thoughtfulness, kindness, grace, and honesty. I appreciate your willingness to talk to me.

I want to encourage you in something, and with some of you I have tried, but I think I came across as a little crazy. From what I've been told by married women, guys are very afraid of actual crazy. You want your girl to have some crazy (because all women have at least a little bit of crazy), but you don't want her to be, like, crazy. I get that and respect that.

I want to encourage you to ask girls out. It's scary. You're afraid of rejection. I know this because several of you have told me so. I recently spoke with a guy who's been married for a few years and has a baby daughter. He told me that you guys are scared, you don't want to put your heart on the line and have it crushed. That's a good reason not to pursue girls: you'll remain safe and free from hurt if you don't put your feelings out there.

But here's the other side of it: You'll never find that girl if you never search for her. Now, I know that all things happen in God's timing and as imperfect humans, we can't force things to happen outside of God's timeline. However, Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas said this in a sermon several years ago:

"But something's happened in evangelical circles where if you're single you're supposed to not want to be married, but be content in a spot and that's somehow more glorifying than following God's wiring of you to want a mate. And so in the end what happens is that you walk around like a liar. I mean, poor young ladies! Almost all of them have been told, "As soon as you're content, God will send you a man." So you've got hundreds of thousands of women running around acting content! "I'm content, where is he?" You've got other guys going, "You know, I'm just gonna wait for God to bring me the right one." Well, you ain't waiting for God to bring you your dinner, alright? You get up and go cook it."

Pastor Chandler goes on to say that he's not telling the guys to go on the hunt and prowl. No! He's telling guys that they have a role to play in pursuing a woman to marry. Girls have a role to play, too. Girls can't just hang out with their girlfriends in hopes that they'll lock eyes with Prince Charming while in the grocery store or walking their dog in the park. No, girls need to build up the guys in their lives and respect them by letting the guys be guys and giving them opportunities to be gentlemen. That's what I appreciate about you guys, my guy friends. You are such gentlemen and I love that. Don't be afraid to ask out the girl that you think is sweet, cute, pretty, funny, kind, silly, honest, loyal, and the right amount of crazy. You've got this!

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