Skip to main content

Jewish Dietary Laws 

The Torah outlines a number of Jewish Dietary Laws which are aimed at keeping Jews spiritually connected to God. All these laws are combined into a system called kashrut. The Hebrew word kosher describes food that follows the laws of kashrut.

  • What does kashrut mean?

    The Torah (Pentateuch) outlines restrictions regarding food (Leviticus 11:1-2): “These are the living things that you may eat ….” These dietary laws, expanded upon over the centuries, detail what observant Jews are and are not allowed to eat. Combined, all of these laws are called kashrut.

    The Hebrew word “kosher” means “fit” or “proper” and most often describes food that follows the laws of kashrut. Judaism’s goal is to transform basic human drives, such as hunger, from narrowly personal purposes to the service of God (Leviticus 20:26): “You shall be holy, for I, Adonai, am holy ….” Keeping the kosher rituals is one way Jews seek to connect spiritually with God. Indeed, ritual is at the heart of spirituality. In addition to the actual food, the laws of kashrut also apply to the dishes, cutlery, cookware and appliances where food is prepared.

  • What are the dietary restrictions?
    The Torah categorizes kosher animals as follows:
    • Mammals: The animal must chew its cud and have split hooves
    • Water animals: Fish with fins and scales.
    • Fowl: The Torah lists fowl that are not kosher
    In addition, kosher mammals and fowl must be slaughtered and the meat treated in a specific way.
  • What do the designations of meat, dairy and pareve mean?
    The Torah prohibits mixing meat and milk together so every piece of food has a designation of dairy, meat or pareve (neutral; neither meat nor dairy), and there is a waiting period between eating meat and dairy foods.
    • Meat: The meat of mammals and fowl.
    • Dairy: Milk and milk products.
    • Pareve: The meat of fish is pareve; eggs are pareve. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, tea, coffee, water, juices, and legumes are all pareve.
    For processed foods, the hecksher (kosher symbol) will usually indicate whether the product is dairy, meat or pareve.
  • What is the kashrut practice at Baycrest?

    Baycrest strives to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible to all forms of Jewish practice. Jewish kashrut practices vary widely. Jews observe and interpret Jewish law in many ways, and have varying relationships to Jewish practice. With kashrut, however, it is almost impossible to allow for a diversity of practice because one person’s practice can inhibit and even prevent another’s. Thus, kashrut is an area where Baycrest strictly follows Orthodox practices. Baycrest requests compromise and cooperation from all clients, residents, staff and visitors.

  • How does Baycrest keep kashrut?

    Baycrest keeps all client areas kosher, including The Nosh and dining areas, fridges in individual units and common areas. Please do not bring outside food into The Nosh or use any trays, dishes or utensils for eating outside food, even if the outside food seems to be kosher.

    Baycrest is so large that this rule helps ensure the strict level of kashrut. To prevent inadvertent mixing of meat and dairy products, as well as to prevent accidental mixing of kosher and non-kosher items, Baycrest designates certain areas for kosher-only use and other areas for non-kosher usage.

  • Kosher eating areas
    • The Nosh

    • W.A. Café

    • Hospital Dining Rooms (except 6W)

    • Apotex Dining Rooms and Rec Rooms

    • Wortsman Hall

    • Loftus Hall

    • Exton Board Room

    • Centre of Excellence

    • Lederman Board Room

    • Nursing Conference Room

  • Non-kosher eating areas
    • All outdoor areas (including Spiro Garden) except for W.A. courtyard

    • Staff Lunchroom

    • Student Centre lunchroom

    • Foundation Staff lunchroom

    • 6W Dining Room

    • Family Apotex Dining Area

    • Staff lunchrooms in Apotex

    • Private offices

  • The Nosh and dining rooms

    The Nosh and The Terraces Dining Room only serve meat and pareve (neutral) meals. The W.A. Café only serves dairy meals. The Apotex dining rooms as well as the dining areas in the Day Centre for Seniors serve only residents and Day Care members, and have meat and dairy days.

  • Can I bring in food from outside Baycrest?

    Any food that departments or units independently bring in for client use (i.e. not through Baycrest Food and Nutrition Services or Purchasing) as well as food which clients, families or visitors bring in for use in any type of program, meeting, or party function must be approved by the Mashgiah.

    Terraces residents and their family members may bring outside food into the resident’s apartment for personal use.

    Staff and volunteers may bring in food for personal use without the approval of the Mashgiah, provided it’s eaten in the employee lunch room. Food from outside can be stored, prepared and eaten there. Paper plates and cutlery are available and the microwaves are also not kosher. Personal food items may also be eaten in one’s personal office, a designated outdoor eating area; or an approved area within a department. Outside food eaten in these spaces must be out of view from clients, families and visitors.

    Food brought in must never come into contact with any Baycrest dishes, trays or cutlery. Please use only disposable tableware and do not heat food in any microwave or stove or store it in a refrigerator used by clients.

  • Medical instructions and kashrut

    The highest value in Judaism is on the preservation of life. As such, in cases where medical instructions come into conflict with kashrut laws or other forms of observance, the medical instructions prevail. An example of this might be a client who wants to fast on Yom Kippur but is not in the physical condition to do so.

  • Helpful definitions
    • Hecksher – a symbol on processed food that marks the food as kosher

    • Kashrut – Jewish dietary laws

    • Kashering – the process of making dishes and appliances kosher

    • Kosher – food that follows the laws of kashrut

    • Mashgiah – the supervisor of a kosher kitchen who ensures that all food prepared on site is kosher