Rod Dreher

Lots of press attention to Traif, a new restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, run by a Jewish man and his Gentile partner. Their gimmick is … well, it’s the sort of thing that if a Muslim tried it with a restaurant named Haram, would probably get himself splodey-doped. From the Jewish webzine Tablet’s review:

The last time I was in Williamsburg was for shlugging kaparot, a ritual chicken sacrifice before Yom Kippur. Tuesday night was a little bit different. It was opening night for the restaurant Traif, which is dedicated to serving almost exclusively non-kosher cuisine. Traif (meaning “unkosher” in Yiddish) practically begs to stick in the craw of the nearby Hasidic community with its celebration of pork and shellfish served alongside Jewish staples like potato latkes. (Coulda been worse: The restaurant initially considered opening in a space that once housed a Jewish morgue.)

The Atlantic’s coverage is more straightforward:

Jason Marcus’s connection to the forbidden is far different from some of his ex-Orthodox patrons: a nice Jewish boy from Randolph, New Jersey, he was bar mitzvahed at a reform synagogue. However, his connection still runs deep. “Do you have to call it Traif?” his mother, who grew up in a family that mostly kept kosher inside the house and let the rules slide outside, asked of her son.
Yes, he did. “It represents who I am, [and] I’m proud of who I am,” Marcus says. He also believes it is a different story now in Williamsburg, where many of the customers he is targeting won’t even know what traif means. Moreover, Marcus cannot deny that he loves taboo foods, and as he says, “I don’t see a contradiction between eating bacon and all the other [religious] things I don’t do.”
Marcus is counting on other Jews to hear about his restaurant and think, “Cool, I’m a non-kosher Jew too.”

OK, fine. I get the joke. But even as a non-Jew, this rubs me the wrong way. Call me superstitious, but I have a bad feeling about a restaurant whose concept is based on defying religious law. In the same way, even though I don’t believe The Book of Mormon or the Koran are divinely inspired, I would treat those books with extra respect, just because they are sacred to somebody. Anyway, though I obviously am not Jewish and don’t keep kosher, I wouldn’t eat at Traif simply because even if I don’t believe in a particular religion, and even though I’m pleased that Jason Marcus has the liberty to open this kind of restaurant, I don’t find blasphemy, or quasi-blasphemy, cute.

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