From the Iron Chef to Alice Waters, there is nothing more universal than food. Everyone eats. Everyone needs nourishment. If there is one thing that brings us all together it is the most basic instinct of all, hunger. Hey, what’s more beautiful than imagining everyone breaking bread together?
And yet, Judaism says No, stop right there, you can’t break bread with everyone and anyone you so choose.
Kashrut teaches people that we all have different tastes. Some people like their hot dogs with ketchup, others go for the mustard. OK. maybe its not exactly like that, but the point of kashrut is to let people know that while we all share a great deal in common, it’s critical to remember that it is through difference that identity emerges.
To be sure, kashrut comes with a cost. It can become a magic wand for those who wish to further ghettoize Jews (like those rabbis who have nothing better to do than create more kashrut restrictions).
Does kashrut create a barrier between people and cultures? Sure it does.
Has it created too impenetrable a barrier? Maybe, but at its core, kashrut teaches just how important community is for identity.