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Background: I am responsible for religious access in our jail. We have several Jewish inmates who are complaining that by opening the bulk Kosher powdered milk and dividing it into single servings, we are contaminating it and it is no longer Kosher.

Question: Is it true that dividing bulk Kosher powdered milk makes it non-kosher, and if so, which solutions would rectify this problem?

  • do you serve it powdered with water for them to add or do you then mix it with water and reconstitute it? Some foods (specifically meats most obviously) if taken out of sealed packages can be compromised in terms of the kosher status. – rosends Apr 13 '17 at 21:37
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    It is not so much that it is no longer kosher, but there may no longer be a religious allowance for them to trust that it is kosher. Your jail should have a Rabbi or a chaplain that questions like this should be assessed to. – user6591 Apr 13 '17 at 21:41
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    @user6591, from what I've heard, most jails/prisons have non-Orthodox clergy, so they might not be able to pasken halacha. – Noach MiFrankfurt Apr 14 '17 at 0:01
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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya Sergeant! The site is meant for theoretical questions. Individual questions dependent on individual circumstances should be addressed to a competent rabbi. For that reason I edited the question to shift the focus from the particular circumstances. Feel free to reverse this edit, or further edit yourself. Hopefully you can satisfactorily resolve your issue. – mevaqesh Apr 14 '17 at 3:56
  • Make the complaining prisoner divide the servings. – Clint Eastwood Apr 14 '17 at 14:34
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When you open the sealed bulk carton, they can no longer know that it has been certified. It is the same reason that an airline kosher meal must be served to the passenger still sealed. Once it has been unsealed, the certification no longer applies. One way to handle this is to have the Jewish chaplain be there when it is opened and seal the individual trays. It is possible to have one of the Jewish inmates do this if he is sufficiently religious to be trusted in the matter.

As suggested, call the OU (Orthodox Union) or the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America). Besides giving you advice, they might be able to give you the name of a rabbi in your area who can help. Similarly if there is a local Chabad, they can help you.

Note that if you call a local synagogue, you should make sure it is of a denomination that would be trusted by the relevant inmates, which likely in this case means it must be an Orthodox synagogue and rabbi. Heterodox denominations would generally not be trusted in this matter by Orthodox inmates.

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While I can't comment specifically on the issues involved with powdered milk and splitting them into single servings I can make a few suggestions:

  1. Look into kosher single serving packets ( I don't know if that fits the constraints of the jail budget) but there are plenty of companies (e.g. Carnation, etc.) that are certified kosher.

  2. Consult with a Jewish chaplain who services your facility; he may have encountered this issue before and/or provide assurances to your inmates

  3. Consult the Orthodox Union, one of the largest kosher certification agencies in the US. They are fantastic at troubleshooting and at the very least can provide insight and referrals for your needs. Good luck!

4

The answers already given here discuss the loss of the certifying seal, but miss an important part of the general difficulty around the handling of Kosher food -- Kosher food handled with non-Kosher implements can become non-Kosher. As an extreme example, if you scooped out the powdered milk with a scoop that had previously been used to measure shrimp powder for an Asian sauce recipe, the powdered milk would be not only non-Kosher, but dangerous to anyone with a shellfish allergy.

In order to divide bulk Kosher food items without compromising their Kosher status you likely need dedicated utensils for handling Kosher food, separate sets for milk, meat, and neutral ingredients, as well as delegating the task to someone religiously trusted to maintain the purity of the Kosher food.

It would probably be cheaper to buy single-serving containers of Kosher foods than to maintain an entire infrastructure for handling food, washing and storing utensils, etc.

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    That's an oversimplification to say that using treif equipment with kosher produce makes it treif. It depends on any number of variables - yad soledes bo, nosein ta'am leshevach/lefegam, ben yomo, etc. But, the concern is still valid. – DonielF Apr 14 '17 at 3:47
  • DonielF - thanks, I edited my answer. – arp Apr 18 '17 at 20:05
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    In the example you make, any possible residual powder grains from a dry shrimp powder would, at the worst, be nullified as less than 1/60 in proportion to the dry milk powder. In terms of kashrut, it would not be relevant. In a non-kosher commercial kitchen, dry measuring cups would only need to be wiped out. Dedicated vessels for cold, dry measure are not necessary. – Yaacov Deane Apr 20 '17 at 14:19
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Welcome Sgt. Porter and thanks for asking the question.

First of all, the policy of this site is not to provide answers to specific actual halachic (Jewish law) questions. So, you really need to be directing your specific question to the Orthodox Rabbi associated with the Kosher supervision for your institution. I am sure he will give you a quick answer that can be applied to your unique set of circumstances.

If you do not have such a contact at this point, the following link is to an organization connected with the work of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that works with prisons and Jewish prisoners and their particular needs. You can find whatever help you may need there.

Jewish Prisoner

That aside, in terms of kosher supervision for the types of products you are describing, there is a potential issue in terms of dividing portions from a bulk package and it revolves around the idea of chain of custody in terms of evidence. Who can supervise that evidentiary chain according to Jewish law and the particulars of what must be done would be something you could discuss with your supervising Orthodox Rabbi.

It should not be complicated and might even provide another type of work program for one or more of your Jewish inmates.

May G-d bless you to be safe and successful in the work you do. Part of the process of incarceration is the rehabilitation of your inmates. That includes to a large extent their spiritual rehabilitation. Spiritual health is the root to both physical and psychological health.

The Torah teaches that properly supervised Jewish milk has a powerful effect on strengthening and healing the faith of a Jew like is found in Igrot Kodesh of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and also in Igrot Moshe of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. This, in turn, helps them to make the proper choice for life and for true good.

To that end, you are serving a vital role in helping these individuals to return (what is called in the Torah teshuvah, return) to the correct path both with their fellow man and with G-d.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Specific criticisms of this answer have been acknowledged and dismissed by the author, rendering them essentially obsolete, and more general conversation about possible drivers of its vote score, which is better suited to chat than on-site comments, ensued. Feel free to continue the conversation there. – Isaac Moses Apr 20 '17 at 16:12

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