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Sunday, April 11, 2004

The Good, The Bad and the Frugal, an Easter Tale 

Recently I came across two stories that while not related have a common thread and, if you think about it, a tale to tell.

The first is this story from Sun City Center, Florida. The parishioners of a new congregation named St. John the Divine Episcopal Church found themselves the benefactors of an unusual fund raising event, a “Big Tent Pork Barbeque.” Now, you may say, what is so unusual about a Pork B-B-Q event to raise money to build a new church, happens all the time right! Well, yes and no, it seems this particular barbeque was hosted under a “big tent” on the grounds of neighboring Temple Beth Israel, a Jewish Congregation.

The event is the second cooperative fundraiser staged by the two congregations in two years and is expected to substantially advance the New Episcopal Church’s building fund goal. The Jewish Congregation supports the event and in return receives the option of barbequed chicken if they choose, it seems that Beth Israel and St John the Divine are going to be great neighbors!

The next story in the diptych also has to do with food and funding but, sadly, in a significantly more venal context. Florida State Department of corrections officials recently decided to offer Jewish prisoners a kosher diet and, in the best tradition of public service, elected to adhere to the current budget allowance of $1.87 per day per prisoner, Aramark currently has the contract. Prison authorities say that they have done the research and will provide Kosher meals to prisoners in the context of a “family kitchen” rather than a restaurant; meaning it does not require Rabbinical supervision. Jewish prisoners will be allowed to prepare the meals on site in a separate kitchen with separate equipment and keep kosher.

Rabbinic authorities have raised objections saying that institutional kosher kitchens must be certified, an annual process that attends a fee and which assures patrons that the food venue is kosher. They suggested that prisoners would be better served by buying prepackaged frozen kosher meals at an estimated $7.00 per day per prisoner, care to guess who would be served by that arrangement!

The tale is this, if the good folks of Beth Israel in Sun City can throw a Hog Barbeque for their new Episcopal neighbors, why can’t Florida state prison officials be trusted to provide kosher meals to Jewish prisoners? Hope your Easter was informed.


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