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?

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    duplicate? judaism.stackexchange.com/q/208/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 14:10
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    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
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 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
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 15:17
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    @msh210 Are you sure this is a dupe? It seems to me that this question introduces the dimension of a large power difference between the inviter and the invited, which could result in significantly different advice on how to conduct oneself.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 17:22
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    @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
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 17:24

2 Answers 2


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.)

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    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
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 21:05
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    @Daniel, thanks for reporting on what happened. Commented Jul 26, 2012 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.

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    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
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 15:14
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    Who's kavod habriyot is this: yours or your coworkers?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 15:32
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    Are you saying that maras ayin doesn't exist?
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 15:42
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    @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
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 16:19
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    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
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 17:15

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