“I Love Bacon”

tentI love bacon!  Well, not me. I don’t eat it, but this slogan appears next to the blue HDS magnet on the bumper of a car that frequents our school parking lot during drop-off.  I hear about this bumper sticker from time to time. One parent even asked me if it offends me.

I must admit that the idea of an “I Love Bacon” sticker positioned right next to the HDS sticker did make me a little squeamish at first. But should it? And what might this mean about who we are as a school community?

As a community Jewish day school we observe Jewish law (Halacha) at school. We are strictly kosher, observe Shabbat, observe the holidays and pray daily. We believe that holding to these standards makes our school more inclusive to a wide range of Jews who observe differently. A Hillel family can belong to Temple Israel, B’nai Israel or Young Israel and find a comfortable place at Hillel.  It doesn’t mean that everything we do, or what our families do, will make everyone comfortable all of the time. That’s what it means to be a pluralistic community Jewish day school. As a pluralistic Jewish day school we strive to create an environment where we actively seek understanding where differences exist.

The most recent Pew study on religions in America reports that 57% of American Jews identify as eating pork products.  You may ask, what do Jews who keep kosher have in common with Jews who eat pork?  As Professor Howard Lupovitch points out, they share a common heritage. They may not eat the same way, but as Jews, both know there are Jewish laws concerning eating pork. One observes, the other does not.  This represents a difference in observance, and not in being Jewish. And while I may observe the mitzvah of Kashrut, I need to recognize and respect that not all Jews engage in the same way.

Judaism is more than the observance of ritual mitzvot.  We are more than a religion; we are a people. In fact, we are a people with a common homeland, common language and common values. We share a common history and a narrative as a people. We share the same Bible. And we share the same mitzvot, whether we consider them obligatory or not.  There are many Jews who believe that we are commanded to observe these mitzvot. There are others who do not.  Many Jews believe that we have an obligation to live by the ethical mitzvot that deal with how we treat others, even if they do not identify them as commandments.

The bumper sticker reminds me of the question of who feels welcomed inside Hillel’s tent. I fear that some Jews get too caught up judging other Jews simply by whether they observe ritual mitzvot.  I believe that striving to observe these ritual mitzvot is an essential expression of our identity as a Jewish people, and for many, a way to become closer to God; and  I believe we are more than just what (and how) we observe.  To focus on ideological frameworks that over-emphasize one dimension of the larger Jewish experience eliminates the starting point for understanding how individuals connect to the Jewish People.

We are a complicated and beautifully diverse and creative people. There are many ways to express our Jewishness and our identity as a people. A family who chooses to send their children to Hillel, supports Israel, travels to Israel, supports the Jewish community, and engages in Jewish rituals in a way that makes sense to them is no less Jewish than the family who is shomer Shabbat. One may be more observant than the other but not more Jewish.

We are a proud and diverse Jewish community at Hillel. We observe mitzvot at school, but we do not intrude on each family’s personal practices in the home.

We are a school where a parent may love bacon, and love that their children are getting a great Jewish education surrounded by different kinds of observing, and less observing, Jews.  We should celebrate that so many Jewish families are engaged Jewishly, and are providing a serious and meaningful Jewish education for their children!

So, I am not going to be uncomfortable that there is a parent with a bumper sticker professing a love for bacon next to our HDS sticker. I am concerned, however, that a recently published study links bacon and other processed foods to cancer. So, keep the sticker – but please stop eating bacon for your health, if not for kashrut!


23 Responses to “I Love Bacon”

  1. David Salama says:

    I share your concern over processed foods – perhaps this can be communicated to FLIK since some of the meats that have been served at lunch at Hillel are in fact processed lunch meats.

    • Chef Kyle says:

      Hello David, this is Kyle, the chef / manager at Hillel. In response to your comment about FLIK serving processed meats, for the first few weeks of school we were serving a processed kosher turkey breast on Meat Day. However, since September 25h we are roasting and slicing our own turkey breast. Thank you for sharing this concern. If you have any questions about the lunch program, please feel free to stop by and we can speak in person.

  2. MAF says:

    It is disappointing that the owner of the “I Love Bacon” car feels the need to poke fun at the Judaism of others. I imagine he must get some sort of adolescent glee from proclaiming his love of treif at a school that keeps kosher as a matter of policy.

    I understand the “big tent” concept. However, there is also an element of derech eretz here. If the parent respected HIllel, he would either lose the Hillel magnet or the bacon magnet. Combining them sends a message of disrespect to the institution and the other parents.

    • Not Kosher, By Choice says:

      With all due respect, I don’t think the person did this to poke fun at Jews or at Hillel. While I am not this person, I would guess that this person really loves bacon, but also really loves Hillel.

      This person may not view these two things as mutually exclusive.

  3. MAF says:

    Also, the tent is not infinitely big. Suppose I was to put a Christian sticker on my car next to my Hillel magnet, and openly profess a belief that J was the moshiach. Would I still be welcome in the tent? I suspect not–that would be a bumper sticker too far.

    • MAF says:

      Or, perhaps more pointedly, suppose I chose to display a “Justice for Palestine / Israeli Apartheid” type sticker. Big tent?

  4. ENG says:

    MAF doesn’t go far enough…how about a sticker that says “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” That would make a fine compliment to a Hillel badge! The point is that there has to be SOMETHING that is too much — something that offends the core of what we are doing here. At the moment, the answer to Steve’s question ” what do Jews who keep kosher have in common with Jews who eat pork?” is obvious: Hillel Day School.

    I think this problem is another sample of something about which I frequently complain — there are a lot of Jews out there (in here?) who are very busy about being inclusive so long as they are the ones who are being included or even if they are doing “kiruv” on people who are less knowledgeable about Judaism than they. When the time comes to include someone who may know or observe more, however, they are not interested.

    It is unspoken but the question is in the air…”if you are so religious, what are you doing at Hillel?” That is a great question, unless you are Steve, who would find it to be a terrible question. Because the school is for everyone and is intended to attract the most religious and the least religious as well. Except, the most religious should have known what they were signing up for: Parents who are unapologetic about their disregard for what we, as a people, hold sacred. Not very inclusive.

  5. A parent says:

    This was a great blog and obviously MAF is offended by the bumper sticker and does not understand the point of the blog. This is a community school and as such, should include all those who choose to educate their children with a jewish as well as academic upbringing. We, as parents should know that in the different branches of Judaism, different adherence to the mitzvot is tolerated. If that offends you, then maybe you are at the wrong school. In my melton class a few years back, we were discussing kashrut. A women, who is reform and keeps kosher stated, “I keep kosher because among other reasons, every time I put food in my mouth, it reminds me that I am jewish”. I thought about her comment, thought about my non kosher eating family, but in my family we have many other ways in which we try to instill the knowledge and love of Judaism and I replied, “we do not keep kosher, but I too believe that every time we eat something, especially something that is not kosher, it reminds me that I am jewish too!” Which I believe is one of the points of keeping kosher. So, don’t be so quick to judge as you don’t know what is going through someone else’s mind. The processed food issue, I might have to agree with…

    • MAF says:

      I’m not demanding the guy keep kosher. I’m asking that he consider that his sticker may be disrespectful to the school, and to the parents who do keep kosher. Steve is right to declare Hillel a Big Tent–but this is not about excluding anyone. It is about being respectful of the beliefs of others.

  6. ENG says:

    You know, you did just say that the school might not include MAF, which is precisely my appoint about how inclusiveness seems to be a one-way street…

    Let me put it another way. We are not from some outlandish new wave religion that abhors wearing red on Wednesdays, who is now telling you to wear something different on Wednesdays to avoid offending us. It is a thousands-year-old concept in Judaism not to eat pork. If you want to eat pork, that is your business — that is the American way and, for better or worse, it is Hillel’s policy that the Hillel police don’t go into your home. But don’t bring that love to the school and flaunt it, and then insist on your right to do so. That is not an inclusive form of Judaism — it is an oppressive one. It just never occurred to many that they could be oppressing someone this way.

    • A parent says:

      I didn’t say Hille did not or should not include MAF, I said that if he is offended by how others practice Judaism, then maybe a community school is not the place to be, since there is more diversity. However, I did not say, nor do I believe, that Hillel itself should not be kosher. It should be inclusive to all, and to be, it should be kosher and uphold halachot. I don’t judge those that keep kosher in their own homes, just as I wouldn’t want to be judged as how jewish I am because I don’t keep a kosher home!

  7. akiva goldman says:

    I think the Blog misses the point in its entirety. ( No offense to Steve Freedman; Even Miguel Cabrera strikes out now and again). And I want it stressed that my comments are in no way intended to insult the “bacon guy” in any way shape or form.

    Nobody is suggesting that this parent doesn’t have the right to love bacon or dictate his own sense of Jewish observance or non-observance. That’s between him and the good lord.

    What offends and expels him from Hillel’s tent in my view is subjecting MY children and the other kosher respecting families of our school, to his love of swine consumption and his advertisement of activity directly antithetical to the the goals of Hillel.

    You’re not ” uncomfortable” as you say in the blog?

    Well, get uncomfortable!!

    Get uncomfortable for the example this sets for our kids and the community at large. How do you think it looks to non Hillel members of our community who see the “I love bacon” sticker juxtaposed to the” Hillel day school” sticker?

    I’ll tell you. It looks like the two concepts are consistent and that one supports the other. Or put another way, are you 100% “comfortable” that it won’t be viewed as such?

    What if the sticker said ” I love Drugs” or “Zionism is racism” would you still be opening up our tent to this person? Or would THAT finally trigger “discomfort” in your view?. And if it would, can you justify discomfort over a social or political expression all the while tolerating an anti Jewish/ anti Hillel one?

    If this person loves bacon, G-d bless him. Let him love it quietly , at his home;, let him put his bumper sticker on his glove box; or let him park in the rear of the lot. If he wants to advertise, let him be inclusive and advertise something appreciated by ALL members of the Hillel community. How about a sticker that says ” I love Torah” or I love Israel” I bet even bacon guy would have to acknowledge that this would be much more appropriate than what he’s got now.

    • A rational thinker says:

      “What offends and expels him from Hillel’s tent in my view is subjecting MY children and the other kosher respecting families of our school, to his love of swine consumption”
      Really? Are your children that sheltered that they cannot even be exposed to a contrary, more moderate, view? You represent a minority view, of a minority religion; even in Israel, most people do not keep kosher. So do you plan to hide the real world from your children?! Your view not only seems intolerant, but potentially an impediment to your children if they expect to live and succeed in the real world.

      • akiva goldman says:

        Yes. They are That sheltered. Sheltered in the protection of Hillel Day School , a Jewish school devoted to Jewish values.

        One such core value is “respect” .Respect for others and respect for the institution. An institution which, by the way went to great difficulty and expense to make its own kitchen strictly kosher. Why?, because that is the EXAMPLE that the institution wants to set for our kids.

        Bacon guy and his followers disrespect that example and work against it, thereby showing disdain for the very place our children are assisted in the development of their sense of Jewish values .

        I appreciate the concern expressed regarding ” impeding” my children’s potential success, but that’s my choice and my business as their farther. If I wanted them otherwise influenced I could send them to public school where there exposure to sex and drugs and antisemitism would certainly give them the “real world” experience you seem to so greatly value.

  8. HDS parent says:

    Hillel needs to grow and appeal to more families. Displaying that you can be a member of the HDS community and still love bacon, might be a terrific way to appeal to more secular Jews and make them feel welcomed.

    Also, Jews as a whole are becoming less observant. More and more eat (and love) bacon, and drive on Shabbat. To resist the attrition of the Jewish population, we should welcome those who express oppositional views along with their Judaism; otherwise more will probably give up Judaism than bacon.

  9. Kosher in the home / vegetarian outside guy says:

    This is a great teaching / teachable moment for our children and community.

    Items in the conversation should include:
    – What are the differences between the public / private domain. Does it matter if we do things differently in either, as a Jew or otherwise?
    – What’s more important — the needs of an individual, the community, or are both equally important. Under what circumstances?
    – Are we what we eat…

    My personal opinion is that the core value of Derech Eretz requires that we be respectful to other members of the community when their basic beliefs are concerned. There is no place in the Big Tent that is Hillel for someone to boast that s(he) eats food that Jews have been forced to eat by anti-Semites for millennia.

  10. Not Kosher, By Choice says:

    Very interesting responses.

    I grew up in a kosher home, and it was a wonderful tradition. The decision to no longer keep kosher was not an easy decision. The real kicker was my realization that even though I had kept kosher, there were many traditions and rules that I wasn’t following. Why do we focus on some traditions, and not others?

    As a reform Jew, I have the choice to live with the traditions that have meaning to me and bring me closer to G-d. Keeping kosher just wasn’t doing that for me.

    Being a mensch is. Being a reliable person is. Helping people without expecting a thing in return is. My sense of humor is.

    So when I see that bumper sticker, I laugh. I laugh at the irony. I think it’s funny. It isn’t on my car, but I wouldn’t think twice sbout getting one.

    What bothers me is when someone acts contrary to our core beliefs and has a Hillel sticker on their car, or a Jewish star around their neck. In the end, I don’t believe that we will not be judged by the foods we eat, but by the content of our character. That is the most important thing to me.

    Much like the false anger over a red cup at Starbucks, I think these people are concentrating on the wrong thing. Being Jewish has absolutely nothing to do with abstinence of bacon or shellfish. It has to do with much more spiritual important things. Jmho.

    • Not Kosher, By Choice says:

      After reading the thoughtful comments, I wouldn’t put the sticker on my car.

      1. my wife would kill me
      2. while i think the irony is comical, it probably sets a tone that I am not comfortable with…and I am not a very good comedian
      3. While I am entitled to my own opinions, it is not an obligation to shout them from my car bumper.

  11. Lisa Klein says:

    I think this is probably one of the BEST blogs I’ve ever read. Thank you!
    Being that I work for a Jewish organization who’s outreach is to the non-observant Jewish community here in Detroit, one of our biggest obstacles is trying to convince people there is no “hidden agenda.” My boss always says, observant Jews don’t have a “monopoly on mitzvot. It’s not an all or nothing thing. EVERYTHING (little or big) counts because we are ALL Jewish” (period.) Each of us is on our own “Jewish Journey” and what each of us chooses to do in regards to our Judaism is amazing because we are, plain and simple all Jewish. Really the most important thing is to be the best person you can be and to always treat others they way you would want to be treated. Thank you Steve Freedman for articulating it so well.

  12. I wrote this blog knowing it would ignite an important conversation and I appreciate the engagement. I agreed with some and disagreed with others, but all were thought-provoking. For those who feel that somehow this bumper sticker symbolizes the school’s lack of equal commitment to those families who are more observant, I would strongly encourage you to sit with me over coffee and have a conversation– because our commitment to you is strong, just balanced with a commitment to diversity. We take great pride that since we have become a community Jewish day school families affiliating with the Orthodox movement have increased as have those families affiliating with the Reform Movement. We are an increasingly diverse community that needs to find greater understanding on how individuals connect to the Jewish people and Jewish experience. Our school is structured around making sure observant families feel comfortable and can fully participate in school related events.

    We can argue all day about which bumper stickers may cross a line that would cause the school to respond. That was really not the point of my post—but I’d also love to sit down over coffee and have that conversation. I see a tremendous difference between the “I Love Bacon” bumper sticker and the “Free Palestine” or “I Love Drugs” bumper stickers.

    There were those who made assumptions about the motivation of the person with the bumper sticker – all of which were negative. He has never demanded or articulated that it is his right. Without knowing him, you are assuming he is poking fun, flaunting, etc… You know nothing about him or his intentions. Derekh eretz goes both ways; we need to be able to have these conversations without immediately jumping to conclusions about people’s intentions.

    Ultimately, while I’m not truly comfortable with the two bumper stickers being side by side—I am comfortable with the dissonance they cause within me. In fact, I welcome this discomfort because I believe that it captures the breadth of the community we have succeeded in creating here at Hillel.

    Finally, while I don’t believe this individual set out to cause anyone angst or discomfort, I do understand how it can be seen as lacking derekh eretz to anyone who cares so passionately for Halakhah and its value to religious Jewish life. I appreciate that point. I didn’t think about it that way because I, personally, wasn’t offended. I had looked at it as a personal choice as it pertains to ritual observance, not seeing it as a challenge or ridicule of the practices of others.

    I agree with the “Kosher in the home/vegetarian outside” guy who says it is a teachable moment. If you see the bumper sticker and your child asks about it, it is a wonderful teachable moment and not one to fear.

    I hope we can continue these conversations in an environment/forum that respects differences while coming to celebrate our similarities.

    Shabbat Shalom!

  13. Anonymous Parent says:

    I Love Bacon, too. And I am looking for other parents who would like to stand with our fellow brother and will place an I ❤️ Bacon sticker on their car to show solidarity. I do not agree with all of the bumper stickers in the lot at Hillel that show support for one political party or another or one politician over another or one viewpoint on abortion or gay rights over another, but I put my foot down over bacon and thus, have to take a stand. Viva la bacon.

    Have a great weekend, all. Life is too short to argue over pork.

  14. ioana ben-ezra says:

    I love all the dialogue on this topic and have to agree with Steve Freedman 100%. I think your blog was very well written and your follow-up even better.

    The one thing that hasn’t been considered is the actual meaning of the “I Love Bacon” bumber sticker. We’re all jumping to the conclusion that it means bacon, as in pork. What if the driver of this vehicle is a female and the bumper sticker is referring to Kevin Bacon? Because I know I certainly love me some bacon, in both pork and Kevin forms:)

    On a lighter note, I want to take this opportunity to stress the appreciation for Hillel’s “open-door” policy. As a non-Jew, I feel welcomed by all members of the school staff and most parents. I am cautious to be respectful to those that are very religious, as not to offend their practices and beliefs. Based solely on my experience, i do often wish that these religious individuals would make more of an attempt to be more respectful to the non-Jews. Lisa Klein couldn’t be any more right – at the end of the day, the thing that is most important is that we’re good people. That we all exercise derech eretz.

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