Kosher USA follows the fascinating and surprising journey of kosher food through the modern industrial food system. Drawing on episodes from the lives of the author’s own family, it traces how iconic products such as Coca-Cola and Jell-O tried to become kosher; the contentious debates among rabbis over the incorporation of modern science into Jewish law; how Manischewitz wine became the first kosher product to win over non-Jewish consumers (principally African Americans); the techniques used by Orthodox rabbinical organizations to embed kosher requirements into food manufacturing; and the difficulties encountered by kosher meat and other kosher foods that fell outside of the American culinary consensus.
With stories about the key figures in this process, Kosher USA presents a tale of great accomplishments and stubborn limitations. Drawing on a range of sources, Roger Horowitz’s history is filled with big personalities, rare archival finds, and surprising influences: the Atlanta rabbi Tobias Geffen, who made Coke kosher; the lay chemist and kosher-certification pioneer Abraham Goldstein; the kosher-meat magnate Harry Kassel; and the animal-rights advocate Temple Grandin, a strong supporter of shechita. By exploring the complex encounter between ancient religious principles and modern industrial methods, this book adds a significant chapter to the story of Judaism’s interaction with non-Jewish cultures and the history of modern Jewish American life, as well as American foodways.