Mashgiach = mah-SHKEE-ach

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When an observant Jew eats at a restaurant, or attends a wedding at a hotel, or goes grocery shopping, she wants to be sure that what she is eating or buying is kosher. The job of confirming that kosher quality control, you could call it is the responsibility of a mashgiach. About 20 of them, most part-timers, can be found in Houston working in a handful of restaurants, supermarkets, factories, even on the occasional cruise ship setting sail from Galveston. The word, pronounced mah-SHKEE-ach, means “overseer” in Hebrew and it is surely one of the more unusual occupations in the food industry. As described by a newly minted mashgiach in Houston, the job is to prevent nonkosher hanky-panky. The laws of kosher, or kashrut, stem from the Hebrew Bible and they are much too complicated to explain here. Observant Jews may not eat meat unless it has been slaughtered according to kosher law. They may not mix dairy foods with meat in a single meal or on the same set of dishes (foods categorized as “pareve,” or neutral, go with either). Jews may not eat pork, birds of prey or shellfish. Among mammals, Jews are permitted to eat only those that have cloven hooves and chew their cud. Cows, yes; camels and dogs, no….



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