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Food Preparation by Non-Jews

The classical rabbis prohibited any item of food that had been consecrated to an idol, or had been used in the service of an idol. Since the Talmud views all non-Jews as potential idolaters, and viewed intermarriage with apprehension, it included within this prohibition any food which has been cooked/prepared completely by non-Jews. (Bread sold by a non-Jewish baker was not included in the prohibition.) Similarly, a number of Jewish writers believed food prepared for Jews by non-Jewish servants would not count as prepared by potential idolaters, although this view was opposed by Jacob ben Asher.

Consequently, modern Orthodox Jews generally believe wine, certain cooked foods, and sometimes even dairy products, should only be prepared by Jews. The prohibition against drinking non-Jewish wine, traditionally called yayin nesekh (literally meaning "wine for offering [to a deity]"), is not absolute. Cooked wine (Hebrew: yayin mevushal), meaning wine which has been heated, is regarded as drinkable on the basis that heated wine was not historically used as a religious libation; thus kosher wine includes mulled wine, and pasteurised wine, regardless of producer, but Orthodox Judaism only regards other forms of wine as kosher if prepared by a Jew.

Some Jews refer to these prohibited foods as akum, an acronym of Obhde Kokhabkim U Mazzaloth (עובדי כוכבים ומזלות), meaning "worshippers of stars and planets". Akum is thus a reference to activities which these Jews view as idolatry, and in many significant works of postclassical Jewish literature, such as the Shulchan Aruch, it has been applied to Christians in particular. However, among the classical rabbis, there were a number who refused to treat Christians as idolaters, and consequently regarded food which had been manufactured by them as being kosher; this detail has been noted and upheld by a number of religious authorities in Conservative Judaism, such as Rabbi Israel Silverman, and Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff.

Conservative Judaism is more lenient; in the 1960s, Rabbi Israel Silverman issued a responsum, officially approved by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, in which he argued that wine manufactured by an automated process was not "manufactured by gentiles", and therefore would be kosher. A later responsum of Conservative Judaism was issued by Rabbi Elliott Dorff, who argued, based on precedents in 15th-19th century responsa, that many foods, such as wheat and oil products, which had once been forbidden when produced by non-Jews were eventually declared kosher. On this basis he concluded wine and grape products produced by non-Jews would be permissible.


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