MAILBAG: Kashrus Must Extend Beyond the Food

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It was with no small amount of dismay that I recently witnessed one of the most troubling things I’ve ever encountered in a frum establishment. I was participating in a business meeting at a high-end kosher establishment in New York City when a woman walked over to our table.

We had just sat down and taking one quick look at her, I was appalled. If she hadn’t immediately introduced herself as our waitress, I would have assumed someone had ordered “adult entertainment” for us. I don’t say that as a joke.

Without getting into the gory specifics, the woman was dressed beyond inappropriately. Professional, yes, but with an unbelievable lack of modesty, including tight, revealing, and suggestive outerwear. I couldn’t believe it.

Here we have an ostensibly frum establishment with a kashrus agency certifying it as kosher and okay to eat at, but what is going on inside is a far cry from anything a frum Jew should be near! Is non-Jewish music blaring on the speakers while Frum people sit there something to ignore?

Why is this okay? Why are kashrus agencies content with affixing their certification on a restaurant that isn’t doing the barest minimum to ensure that halacha can be observed when eating there? Why are restaurant owners okay with their employees being a michshol to their patrons?

I fear that the reason this is happening at all is because too many of us are so desperate to be seen like the rest of the U.S. We want a restaurant to be indistinguishable from a non-Jewish establishment, with the only difference being that the food happens to be kosher. And that’s a big problem.

Food being kosher is wonderful. But the establishment itself has to be kosher too. And if they can’t or won’t be, perhaps they shouldn’t be given kashrus certification in the first place.

Yaakov D – Far Rockaway

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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53 COMMENTS

  1. We are living in 2022 not the early 1900’s. There are ramifications for discriminating against outerwear, as long as outerwear is being worn. What’s offensive to you may be alright with the masses. You have the option to eat there or not, but to say an establishment should lose its hechshar because your uncomfortable would be a major lawsuit for the establishment and the hechshar provided

  2. Yaakov D, MAYBE IT’S YOUR SISTER?

    Many Jewish brothers and sisters unfortunately behave this way through no fault of their own.
    I agree that it is inappropriate, but if it were your sister / cousin and you’re the owner of the store and they came in like this, would you tell them ‘get the heck out of here’ as many stupid jewish owners have done and only cause more hurt.
    Hashem put you in this situation, so deal with it like a mature adult – Imagine you needed to be at a high profile meeting in a non Jewish establishment – how would you react?

  3. Why are restaurant owners okay with their employees being a michshol to their patrons?

    That my friend is the question….not the Kashrus orgs. This is at the discretion of the owners, as is sports bar themed establishments and other types.

    Mi K’amcha Yisroel!!!!

  4. “The woman was dressed beyond inappropriately. Professional, yes, but with an unbelievable lack of modesty…”

    The issue here is the absence of an objective (bright line) test for tzinius or modesty. You note the server was dressed “professionally” which would suggest at least a minimal effort on her part to respect her perception of the norms for a restaurant catering to frum customers. Often that translates into assuming that means long sleeves/skirt length to the knees and avoiding cleavage is sufficient but ignores “form fitting” and other items which obviously you found “inappropriate”. Its surprising that the manager/mashgicah on the premises didn’t observe what you observed and perhaps offere this woman a sweater, apron or some other means of allowing her to complete her day of work while counseling her on future dress.

  5. You should IMMEDIATELY call the Kashrus agency certifying that immoral restaurant to let them know. If that doesn’t help, you should bring it to the attention of Gedolei Yisroel.

  6. I have a problem when I go into any of the supermarkets in heavily Jewish neighborhoods. Their hired male workers don’t pull up their pants and if they have to bend over, I can’t even say what I see. It’s not just women.

  7. Many establishments have a dress code. It’s not that hard to implement that as a requirement for certification.

    Personally, I would DAVKA patronize an establishment where you don’t walk out with 20-30 additional issurim d’oraysa in your pocket.

    I’m sure there are many like me, so it would make good business sense as well.

  8. employees represent the establishment….stop with this woke garbage…period….I agree if you are in a Kosher restaurant…dress appropriately, I walk out when goyem come in and dress like sodomites….that is my choice……walking out on society is the next thing

  9. How about this as something hashgochas should get into (but never will): Collusion and price-fixing.

    Former manager of a Monsey pizza shop told me that Monsey pizza shops collectively set prices and quality standards.
    They do this so as to ensure little-to-no competition, neither on price nor quality.
    Prices are set as high as possible and quality as low as they can get away with.
    Agreements are made not only on prices, but how much cheese will be on the pizza and that sushi ingredients be of similar standard (in his words, “garbage.”)

    Simple comparisons show that this extends to supermarkets as well.

    Take-out rotisserie chicken (no side dishes):
    Monsey kosher supermarket: $32.
    Costco price: $4.99 (a loss leader, but not by a lot).
    Stop ‘N Shop: $7.99
    Shoprite: $7.99
    Safeway price: $8.99
    Whole Foods: $10.99 

  10. I agree with the writer 100% but then again, for the same reason you shouldn’t be on YWN because they also have no problem posting pictures or videos with immodestly dressed women.

  11. The point is well taken – restaurant owners of kosher establishments should MOST DEFINITELY have a dress code that employees must comply with. Yes, the kashrus agencies should insist on it, and in Eretz Yisroel, they absolutely do.

    Counterpoint – in every retail industry right now, and especially the food industry, it is EXTREMELY hard to find workers, let alone properly clothed workers. Some establishments have cut their hours of operation, and some have simply closed up shop. Not letting anyone off the hook here, but let’s be דן לכף זכות. Owners are trying their best to survive. I’m sure if you request to speak to the manager, and politely inform him/her about your discomfort with what happened, he/she will immediately address the situation. It is in everyone’s best interest.

  12. This is definitely an issue. The mashgiach may not even know about this as he probably is concentrating more on the food and on the people working in the kitchen than the people serving the food outside the kitchen.
    This is really an issue that needs to get taken up with the manager of the establishment. If someone went up to the mashgiach and told him, he would would probably say to go talk to the manager.

  13. I Agree with the writer. I have had similar issue and Q regarding “kosher” establishments playing non Jewish (and definitely not kosher) music. I asked at 2 different establishments for them to turn down the music or play something Jewish, and was told the owner doesn’t allow. I haven’t gone back to either place again.

  14. I smell a revenue opportunity for kosher authorities: add an additional designation for tznius personnel. So a restaurant could have a kosher food certification, and a tznius certification.

  15. If the kosher restaurant has problems with insects and/or rodents, should it lose its kosher certification? A professional exterminator once told me that EVERY RESTAURANT has these problems, kosher or not.

    If the kosher restaurant’s owners are stealing tips from the waiters, or cheating on their income taxes, should it lose its kosher certification?

    If the kosher restaurant’s owners speak Lashon HaRa or Nivul Peh or Laitzonus, should it lose its kosher certification?

    If the kosher restaurant’s owners do not give anything to tzedakah, should it lose its kosher certification?

    The Mishnah in tractate Pesachim, chapter 1, paragraph 2 says: “Ain LeDavar Sof”.
    The Mishnah in tractate Yoma, chapter 1, paragraph 1 says: “Ain LeDavar Sof”.

  16. One point not made by all the people not worried about the various issurim violated with this gross lack of tznius is:
    Restaurants can and should have a dress code for their servers. It it really that simple. The servers can buy their own clothes that comply with that dress code.

  17. @ujm complain to the restaurant owner, not the kashrus agency or gedolim. It is not the job of our rabbonim to be police. If you don’t like the way a particular employee of a certain “frum” location is dressed, it is incumbent on you and you alone to decide not to go there. You may tell your friends and family and it’s litoeles. You can complain to the owner and ask for a dress code to be enforced.

    By suggesting that the hechsher be tied into dress code etc, you can run into issues. What one deems improper dress or music, for example, can be entirely acceptable to another. If a particular hechsher doesn’t give their stamp of approval due to dress or music, people may say “ach, they only don’t have a hechsher because of the music/dress” and it can completely nullify the value of the hechsher entirely.

  18. This is going to be shocking for many of you, but “Jewish music” doesn’t exist. The melodies are not Jewish in origin and just because you’ve gathered several preteen boys to perform, it does not make it any more Jewish.

  19. Where does one get the idea that its ok to enforce one’s own standards on others? If you have a problem, then don’t find yourself there. The world doesn’t need to adapt to you. A real kanoi would have ripped her clothes off right then and there so I suspect you have other issues to work out before waging jihad

  20. “The mashgiach may not even know about this as he probably is concentrating more on the food and on the people working in the kitchen than the people serving the food outside the kitchen…”

    Well, perhaps that supports the notion that what one yid finds offensive may not be all that problematic to another. If this waitress was dressed so provocatively (“adult entertainer” etc) as Yaakov D suggests, I’d be surprised if the mashgiach and owner was totally clueless. I suspect the issue here at least in part stems from differing perspectives and yardsticks on tzinius. There are also some legitimate legal concerns under city and state laws governing what employers may and may not do to enforce dress codes, if done inconsistently. As the Rebbitzen posted above in relation to male workers in businesses with hashgacha, [they] don’t pull up their pants and if they have to bend over, I can’t even say what I see…”

  21. Its your responsibility not to enter places not torah’dig.

    Stop trying to correct the world. If you have a problem with anything, you should notify the owner/management. Stop posting online. Shame on you

  22. I would assume the place you were eating at was not under a heimeshe hashgocho. I assume it was a local establishment where you live. Their hashgocho caters to the 90% of the people living in your area who are not concerned how the people there dress. Their kashrus standards reflect their dress code standards, as they do in most places.

    If the waitress dresses that way, the kashrus standards in that place are probably the same standard and you shouldn’t be eating there in the first place!

  23. We definitely need Leaders, but what we need more is people should be using seichel. What was unacceptable when I was growing up, became totally acceptable to the most yeshivish chasidish oilam. People lost their sensitivity period. I’m sorry for saying this, but instead of many of the Gedolim (which I have a tremendous respect for), getting up at the Agudah Convention and telling us that what we need is, increasing limud hatorah, maybe they should be discussing using the fifte shulchan aruch, which is knowing what is and what is not appropriate for an ehrliche frum family. You are almost like a loser being ehrlich, living betmimus and being mekayim Kedoshim Tiyuh.

  24. And if they can’t or won’t be, perhaps they shouldn’t be given kashrus certification in the first place. Then there would be even fewer Kosher places around and even more chance of people being despondent & just going to a Treife restaurant,
    Just like in the olden days when Kosher Meat restaurants were open during the 9 days & even on Tischa b’Ov their rational being that the people who come on Tisch b’Ov at least are not eating Treife meat instead.

  25. The same can be said about many “frum” women who wear tight, revealing clothing technically covering all that should be covered but far from tznius. This is not an issue only for restaurant wait staff.

  26. Maybe there should also be a mashgiach to check that hands are properly washed? And shouldn’t every waiter be trained to check that a bracha is said or else he removed the food and takes it back to the kitchen. And what about the background music? Why do they have a Capella playing during sefira? And fleishig siyum during the 9 days without bechinos to check you really learned it? And serving dessert even though you are already overweight, without calling your doctor to check its okay?

  27. @Hocker411 you have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about,

    In general, an employer can impose a dress code to regulate the appearance of employees, as long as it is not discriminatory.
    An employer has the right to require employees to wear a uniform. They can also require employees to fit into a certain weight range and size of uniform, as long as this does not result in gender discrimination. The employer may require employees to wear a uniform that emphasizes the aspect of the job etc..

    If the establishment is owned by frum people its wrong to have their staff dress in a proactive way knowing they have frum diners, but that isn’t always the case, often these establishments are certified kosher but the owners are either not frum or Jewish

  28. You have the right to protest by refusing to patronize any establishment that doesn’t meet your standards, however, the Kashrut agency can’t be responsible for more than the food. You can vote with your feet and your money.

  29. The establishment in question and many others like it are catering to people who nominally keep kosher and prefer a certain atmosphere that is decidedly not “heimish”. It’s the atmosphere they prefer that is providing them kosher food. If it wasn’t available those people might skip the kosher part. If the atmosphere isn’t for you, then you should be eating elsewhere.

  30. The problem is, we can’t cater to every Chumrah or preference. I’ll provide several situations which may be problematic to one person, but acceptable to the other. 1. A restaurant with an Israeli flag hanging by the front. 2. Non-Jewish jazz/Frank Sinatra style music playing. 3. Sports playing on TV. 4. The news playing on TV. 5. Coed seating for high school aged patrons. 6. Cholov Staam 7. Seating in the building during Chol Hamoed Succos. 8. Offering steak during the 9 days. 9. Open for dine-in on fast days (other than Yom Kippur). 10. Having women pictured on their website and in their advertisements. Really, I can keep going on…

  31. Hocker411
    I’m not a lawyer But I think there is a difference between a patron dressing in a certain way and an employee dressing inappropriately. A business is allowed to have a dress code.

  32. Wait staff rely on tips for a large portion of their income and I believe their tips are larger because of the way they dress. If tips are lowered the staff will leave and the restaurant will be out of business The consumer makes a decision where to eat and if they wouldn’t go that restaurant it would close.
    The Kashrus Org. makes money by certifying the food in the kitchen not the dining room. Setting higher standards will result in the restaurant finding another Kashrus Org. that will take over. All that will happen is the higher standard Kashrus Org. would go out of business.

  33. Imho, a kashrus organization is hired and meant to do that – be a kashrus organization to certify kashrus.
    They have more than enough on their hands, to ensure the meat is kosher, the vegetables are checked, etc, and that noone is playing them. Otherwise there will be no end. Demand that the kashrus organization ensure equal rights, that there is peoper pay, etc. That is not their jobs, and demanding it will end up causing more strain on an organization for what is not what they are intended, claim or hired to do.

    I unfortunately deal will Conservative hashgachos, that deal with all that stuff, except if the food is actually kosher.

  34. In todays time every store owner experiencing the problem with getting workers and Restaurants find it much more difficult because Frum girls or Women will NOT be a waitress . So it is very common that you will see some waiters being not so tzinius dressed.
    I worked for many years in a office of many workers from many different religions, race. My boss had ONE lady who we called the Rebbetzen and she was responsible to monitor the tzenius of all workers.
    When any worker finished her interview she had to go to the Rebbetzen and she explained to then the Dress code of this company and she also had a Photo album showing the way they need to come dressed.
    Of course not every company has the PR people to enforce dress codes but the least every store owner can do is discuss with every hired person what the dress code is expected.
    Back to Hashguche they have NO reason to get involved in every stores dress performance.
    In Bnei Brak they can enforce stores to close at a certain time or they loose their hashguche, but i dont think they get involved in workers dressing.

  35. Are you required to eat out?

    I presently don’t have this problem to complain about because I eat at home.

    Are we going to complain about priztkus goyim working in grocery stores next?

    You sure made a lot of notes about how this woman looked I might add, did you make sure to double take just to be sure of what you saw?

  36. Very interesting take by the author. Still, I don’t believe that the kashrus agency should be opining on an establishment’s hashkofa questions. Especially when dealing with a national hashgacha offering certification to communities with varying hashkofic standards. The hashgacha should be laser focused on certifying the food as kosher. That’s it.

  37. KOSHER FOOD IS KOSHER FOOD! A hechsher is a certification of Kashrus. That’s it. Location, political views, music, alchohol, or even dress code, has no bearing on what is or isn’t kosher. Even if a restaurant in Beis Yisroel is open after 11:00pm it doesn’t mean the food is treif. If you don’t like the ambiance, go to another restaurant. To think that a restaurant should not get a Hashgacha because of your distaste in the establishment Yaakov D from Far Rockaway, is nothing short of narcissistic

  38. when i saw the headline, i had high hopes this would be more insightful than the externals clothes and music. the headline is very right, but i can only roll my eyes at the shallowness of the content. kashrus should in fact extend to business practices. it shouldn’t prevent a food hashgacha, but there should be a separate hashgacha that certifies business practices. even non-jews would look for such a hashgacha in order to patronize ethical business. i could write another entry on my thoughts regarding clothes and music.

    but let’s talk about the real issues in business ethics: paying employees fairly, paying overtime, treating them with respect (not making them work overtime in the first place), supporting customers and clients as expected, maintaining rental properties properly and not refusing or delaying even the most minor repairs, paying and not avoiding taxes (ends do not justify the means if you think you’re trying to save it for donations). It could start with a survey of employees, clients and vendors, and include a comparison of salaries/benefits to profit, competitor pay and executive pay – while taking into account company age and size – to arrive at an overall ethics, lifnim meshuras hadin and tzadik score. This is really what is needed. It seems that anything brings in money to support the community is admirable and will bring honors at banquets. I challenge the biggest donors to prove what they really represent.

  39. regarding clothing, if you’re willing to talk into a non-jewish store and shop there regardless of what customer service wears, you should be willing to walk into a Jewish establishment without concern. should a frum owner refuse to hire a jewish person who was raised differently than you? if we don’t look out for our own, that what are we? wait staff aren’t necessarily the top 10% percentile of the class and the most conformist. you hire nice, competent people which isn’t always so easy to come by. it might be easier if they were paid equitably or if customers had more money in their pockets to pay and tip after tuition. do you fire employees on the spot if they violate a policy? do you immediately write up an employee with every little infraction? further, this is the United States. if a business is trying to attract more than just the Jewish community, they will need to cater a bit to other people which may extend to music. But again, you seem to want such businesses to exist, but at the same time you despise those who start the businesses. A kollel bochur isn’t always going to be starting a restaurant. If you want a Jewish business to thrive you have to support them and not try to control them. Maybe be mikarev by being a friendly, decent person. But if you’ll only support Bais Yaakov businesses, you just won’t have kosher [food] restaurants. If you want better, you’ll just have to go to a ‘frummer’ neighborhood. Hashem doesn’t discriminate against against Jews. When He told Avraham his children will be like like the dust of the Earth and the stars of the sky, surely He wasn’t referring to only the Jewish 1% or fraction of a fraction of a percent in kollelim careful of every maan d’amar. Jews are Jews. If we want non-Jews to appreciate, give consideration and respect us, we need to appreciate each other first.

  40. You’re expecting someone else to enforce your standards which is not practical. With hashgachos I’m sure there are some you don’t accept. Do you insist they need to change to accommodate you? They do their part and you either agree or go elsewhere. The restaurant owner has a dress code for the employees. If you object, eat elsewhere.

  41. If she’s dressed professionally, then it’s you who is the problem. Why are you looking at a waitress in such a manner? You seem to have difficulty with the concept of women existing in public. It is inappropriate to demand that your subjective standards be enforced by a hashgacha. Keep in mind that harassing a female employee over aspects of the dress code that are tough to define (tightness, for instance) can rightfully earn the employer a lawsuit. Now, do I think employers should have dress codes for their workers? Absolutely. But that’s not the hashgacha’s problem.

  42. Halachic violations by the business owner or the staff are none of the hechsher’s business. But halachic violations by the customers are. When you give a hechsher on a business you are not telling the public that the owner or the staff are doing what they should; you are telling the public that they can eat there without violating halacha. That means the food must be kosher, but it also means that no other issurim are involved in the experience of patronizing the place.

    So if the waiters are wearing shaatnez, that is none of anyone’s business; but if the chairs in the restaurant are shaatnez that is very much the hechsher’s business, and they may not give a hechsher if that means customers will come in and sit on those chairs while eating their kosher food. Likewise, what the waiters wear when they’re in their break room is none of the hechsher’s business, but when they go out front to serve the customers they must be dressed at least in such a way that the customers will not be violating halacha by seeing them. The uniform can be shaatnez, but it must be at least minimally tzanua.

    Otherwise what the hechsher can and must do is put on the certificate that the restaurant is certified only for take-away and delivery, not for dining in. In other words the kitchen is certified, but the rest of the establishment is not. If you choose to order a meal and then sit there and eat it, that’s on your achrayus, not the hechsher’s.

    (I am aware of one place where this is the arrangement, but it’s not well publicized. The only issur involved is that there is live music and wine is served, without it being a seudas mitzvah; not every hechsher is makpid on this halacha, but the OU is. So at this establishment the OU only certifies the kitchen, not the dining room. Once the food leaves the kitchen it’s no longer the OU’s achrayus.)