Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The question "Keeping Kosher at a secular company" asks about food issues on the job in general. This question is focused more narrowly on "unbalanced" situations: situations where there's an imbalance of power.

A junior employee, such as an intern, works at a large company where the senior management sometimes invites junior employees to lunch. Such meetings are primarily of benefit to the invitees, who can gain valuable advice and networking opportunities as they start their careers.

How should the employee in this situation respond if the invitation is to a non-kosher restaurant? On the one hand, the lunch offers an opportunity and it seems impolite to decline a higher-up like a company president. On the other hand, it also seems impolite to sit in the restaurant and not order anything, and this may make a bad impression on those present. I know there may also be the issue of maras ayin from going into and/or eating in the restaurant.

What is the best way to handle this situation?

share|improve this question
3  
duplicate? judaism.stackexchange.com/q/208/759 –  Double AA Jul 23 '12 at 14:10
4  
This is a valuable question, but you should modify it to be more general rather than personal advice - see meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/312/… -- and ask your rav! –  yitznewton Jul 23 '12 at 14:34
    
@DoubleAA, this is more about the practical approach. It sounds familiar anyway, but until I find it I can't vote to close as a dupe. –  Seth J Jul 23 '12 at 15:17
    
Any reason this should not be closed as a duplicate of judaism.stackexchange.com/q/8794? (ping @DoubleAA) –  msh210 Jul 23 '12 at 16:51
1  
@IsaacMoses, hm, good point. Well, it shoulda been closed as too-localized anyway. But once that's cleaned up (it's generalized), I guess you're right that it should be reopened. Perhaps the edited question should emphasize the unique points of this question. –  msh210 Jul 23 '12 at 17:24

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You don't need to jump straight to declining the invitation. There might be things you can eat, and even if not you won't be impolite to the restaurant by joining a paying group. The key is to communicate clearly. You can explain to the person who invited you -- or, more likely, his administrative assistant -- that you would be delighted to come to the lunch but will be unable to eat due to dietary restrictions. Then go anyway; it's the meeting that's important, not the food.

There might be things you can eat and drink there -- cold drinks are usually safe, for instance, and some salads might be. Consult your rabbi for specific advice. The restaurant might also permit you to bring your own food (and dish/cutlery) if you arrange it in advance.

If you have a close connection to the administrative assistant, you might be able to propose a different, kosher restaurant. But that would be more risky in an unbalanced power structure where you don't know the admin either.

You're right to be concerned about marit ayin. There are several factors that could affect this and you should discuss them with your rabbi:

  • The extent to which this is a career-relevant meeting

  • Whether there are easy kosher alternatives (if not it might not be as bad)

  • What the prevailing practices/norms in the community are

  • How visible you'll be (it's even possible that a Jew visibly having only a glass of water is not only not negative but positive, depending on circumstances)

Ohr Somayach's Ask The Rabbi service tackled a related question and points to the book After the Return by Rabbi Mordechai Becher and Rabbi Moshe Newman. (I've read it but don't remember the details of what it said on this question.)

share|improve this answer
2  
For a college intern invited to meet with the president of a big company, I wouldn't recommend trying to find a different opportunity to meet. This invitation is a gift from the latter, with the benefit almost entirely going to the intern, so it would be neither polite nor strategically sound to try to alter it. Also, the president's schedule is likely very full, so it could well be difficult to make time for another meeting before the internship is over. –  Isaac Moses Jul 23 '12 at 15:06
1  
@msh210, I've (heavily) revised both the question and my answer in response to comments. People who previously up-voted this answer should check if they still agree. –  Monica Cellio Jul 23 '12 at 17:52
1  
Thanks! I went and just had water, and it was clear based on the age disparity of the people meeting, the clothes we were wearing, and the time of day that this was a business-related meeting and that I was not eating anything. –  Daniel Jul 26 '12 at 21:05
    
@Daniel, thanks for reporting on what happened. –  Monica Cellio Jul 26 '12 at 21:15

I mostly agree with the Monica Cellio. Marit ayin should never a problem; see my answer to this question. For the sake of kavod haberiyot, you may eat things that are non-kosher rabbinically (but not biblically treyf), if it would please your employers and co-workers. But that is prohibited if they would not get any hana'ah (benefit) from eating together with you, or if you want to be strict personally (but that is beyond what the halakhah requires). This is based on the principle suggested by the Gemara in Perek Gimel (?) of Masechet Brachos that says kavod habriyos is docheh (pushes off) Lo Sasur. However, there is probably food that you can eat that is even kosher rabinically. Either way, you could always order a diet coke, which is the advice suggested by Charlie Harary in this shiur/Q&A entitled Preparing for the Workforce: A Candid Discussion about the Unique Challenges and Opportunities a Committed Jew Encounters in the Workplace.

share|improve this answer
9  
If you're going to suggest that people can eat non-kosher if they can justify it based on something as nebulous as kavod haberiyot, you'd best provide a source that both justifies this position and provides details about when and how it may apply. –  Isaac Moses Jul 23 '12 at 15:14
1  
Who's kavod habriyot is this: yours or your coworkers? –  Double AA Jul 23 '12 at 15:32
3  
Are you saying that maras ayin doesn't exist? –  Daniel Jul 23 '12 at 15:42
5  
@AdamMosheh, in that case, you're disputing centuries of tradition and thousands of pages of literature. If you do so based only on your own reasoning or that of an unidentified contemporary rabbi, you shouldn't be surprised if you get downvotes. –  Isaac Moses Jul 23 '12 at 16:19
5  
Adam, I don't know on what basis you can possibly say that there is no such thing as Marith 'Ayin. It's indisputable that the institution exists, was set up as a fence around the Torah, and has been used in Halachic literature for centuries (if not millennia). –  Seth J Jul 23 '12 at 17:15

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.