New York Synagogue removes smoked salmon from kiddush citing 'environmental concerns'

The Upper West Side progressive shul raised concerns about overfishing


A New York synagogue has announced it will no longer offer smoked salmon at its weekly kiddush lunches.

The Upper West Side synagogue, B’nai Jeshurun, is removing the beloved fish due to environmental concerns, Rabbi Shuli Passow, the director of community engagement, said.

Rabbi Passow posted an article on the synagogue’s website listing all the changes to Kiddush for the community.

This included telling members of the shul, whose individual membership dues range from $500 to $5000 depending on income, that the popular Ashkenazi delicacy will be “eliminated from the menu so we can do our part to reduce the environmental impact of pollution and overfishing”.

She added: “We know that for some this is a heretical move. We are here to support you as you process this change.”

Rabbi Passow also declared a war on waste. “The amount of food ordered each week will be monitored and adjusted to ensure that the meal is abundant but not wasteful.”

She urged members to “think about the amount of food you actually eat at Kiddush, and fill your plate accordingly”.

In addition, she said, “starting in a few weeks, leftover food will be picked up by Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a food rescue organisation, and donated to those in need.”

Her online article The Return of the Community Kiddush, highlighted the relaunch of the post-services tradition, which was halted during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the piece, Rabbi Passow also explained that, following consultation with synagogue members, other changes are planned, including smaller tables and chairs for younger people and ending the meal with a “song of gratitude.”

The rabbi wrote: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to pause our communal meals - a central part of how we celebrate Shabbat. Painful as it was, this interruption was an opportunity to reimagine these gatherings.

“As we began to bring back kiddush - first with snacks on the 88th Street sidewalk, then with boxed lunches on the terrace, and most recently back on the sidewalk with light fare - we informally asked everyone for their thoughts on the various adaptations. In addition, we held twenty individual conversations, and offered ways for our community to share their thoughts through several technological platforms."

After outcry on social media from some Jews online, the synagogue issued another statement, softening their stance on salmon.

In a piece published earliert today the synagogue said:" The removal of lox from our standard Kiddush menu has led to several misunderstandings we wish to clarify.

"First, we inaccurately stated that consuming lox contributes to the overfishing of salmon. Most lox is, in fact, made from farmed Atlantic salmon. We thank those who brought this error to our attention, giving us the opportunity to correct our mistake.

"Second, some felt that we implied that eating lox is immoral or that BJ is completely boycotting lox or lox providers. These could not be farther from the truth. Moreover, should anyone sponsoring Kiddush wish to include lox in the menu, they are welcome to do so."

B'nai Jeshurun has been reached for comment.

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