What percent of American Jews keep kosher?

Wiki cites 1/6 but their cite seems hardly authoritative. I am willing to accept any attempt at keeping dietary law at all, even only at home or only no cheese and meat as a definition. Any authoritative sources?

Well, I can definitely swear to 2 families - one bunch are friends of mine in Hartford CT that mrAru and I occasionally play shabbos goy for, and the other is a guy I lived with who married a lovely lady he imported from Haifa after we broke up.

Why the question?

It just came up in conversation. I guessed about 10%, my friend guessed 25%. I’d to know which one of us is less wrong.

American Jewish Population: 5,200,000*
*Some studies like the American Jewish Yearbook by the American Jewish Committee put the number of Jews in the U.S. at more than 6 million.
The number of kosher consumers in the US: 12,100,000
Percentage of Americans who either regularly or occansionally purchase kosher products because they are kosher (i.e. kosher hotdog): 21%
Number of year round Kosher Jewish Consumers: 1,300,000

These industrty marketing (ie inflated) figures are picked up in the Wiki Kashrut entry.

Using rough numbers from the 2000 NJPS survey, 10% of American Jews are Orthodox, and 26% are Conservative. It’s safe to say that virtually 100% of Jews self-identifying as Orthodox keep kosher, especially using your loose definition. Conservative Judaism as a movement includes kashrut as a binding obligation, with some relatively minor difference from the Orthodox interpretation. However, as Wikipedia notes “the majority of Jews affiliated with Conservative synagogues do not observe the Conservative interpretation of halakha”.

A quick google search gives numbers like 20 or 30 percent of Conservative Jews keep kosher according to the Conservative interpretation. If that’s true, there are probably many more who make some “attempt at keeping dietary law at all”. It’s not unreasonable to say that 50% of Conservative Jews pay at least some attention to kashrut, ranging from full observance to not eating pork or shellfish in their homes.
That would give us another 13% of the total, for 26%, about the same as your friend’s guess.

Then you have other denominations like Reform, where a much smaller percentage keep some kosher rules of their own volition, not because the movement mandates it. And what about Jews who are vegetarian out of a religiously-motivated feeling that consuming animal products is unethical?

Yes, I have a friend who is a pisco-vegetarian. He will also not eat shellfish. This began after his wife converted and they go to synagogue regularly. On the other hand he will eat a vegetarian meal in any Indian restaurant without inquiring any too closely. Needless to say, the Indian restaurant serves meat and vegetarian on the same plates. He is keeping kosher under a loose definition, but not under the strictest. My family did belong to a Conservative schul long enough for me to be bar-mitzah there, but by the time my brother came up five years later they were in a Reform synagogue. We made no attempt to keep kosher, having ham and other pork products, not to mention shellfish regularly. Oddly enough my mother would never serve uncured pork. Perhaps she feared trichinosis.

Everything vegetarian is automatically kosher, right? And everything vegan is pareve by definition, IIUC. So while vegetarians and vegans are living totally within the bounds of kashrut, do you count them as keeping kosher if their motivation is to simply avoid meat? Hm, that’s one for the Talmudists.

I’d propose this test: Would they cook out of a pot that had once been used to cook pork but had not been made “kosher” again by whatever the rules are-- can’t remember other than something like burying it in the backyard for x number of months/years.

If all they needed was to give the pot a nice sudsy rinse in the ol’ d/w, then NO KOSHER FOR YOU!

One comment: Welcome to the club of posters with rabbinic questions who post on Shabbos!

:confused: Where on Earth (no pun) did you hear that?

A cooking item can be kashered (that’s the verb) by running a flame over it for some length of time. Not sure if ovens can self-kasher by running at max for a certain time.

I saw a doc on when the White House needs to kasher parts of its kitchen for Israeli receptions. Some Israeli big shots don’t give a damn about Kashrut (the noun), but of course other people in the party will be. Similarly, I think President Shimon Peres doesn’t care about Shabbos in any strict, personal way, but he, like any Israeli delegation will not publicly eat non-Kosher food or conduct diplomatic business on Sabbath. (Shabbos is the way non-Israeli Ashkenazim say it; I typed it above out of habit.)

In what I assume is the same Wikipedia page, it says “38% are members of Reform synagogues, 33% Conservative, 22% Orthodox, 2% Reconstructionist, and 5% other types.”

The Reform will likely not be kosher. The Orthodox will almost certainly keep kosher. I’m not sure where Conservative would go. The only people I knew who I’m sure were Conservative may have kept kosher, but I got the impression it wasn’t as strict as Orthodox, and they wouldn’t have gone as far as to keep separate dishes. The big things like pork, shellfish probably. So basically, Conservative Jews are a wild card.

Now I expect a very devout Jewish doper to respond today or sometime earlier tomorrow… I’ll bet on it.

Yeah, I know, right? I was going to remark on the weirdness of this question being posted on a Friday night—because the really kosher people wouldn’t get a chance to type anything at first— but then looked at the OP and saw it was posted on a Thursday.

Yes, the question was posted Thursday afternoon.

You see what I am looking for is more than a quick google search repeating something unsourced. My personal experience as a member of a Conservative congregation is that among Conservatives less than that 20 to 30% keep Kosher and less than 50% who pay any attention other than sometimes buying a Kosher product, like hot dogs. About half of all Jews intermarry, with varying degrees of identity and observance. Many are unaffiliated, which are apparently not counted in Wiki’s numbers.

I’d say this will vary greatly with time and place. I grew up half a block from an Orthodox synagogue, so the area had a great many Jewish families who settled there so that they wouldn’t have to drive to services. That period was during the great migration to the suburbs with the result that almost all the stores that catered to a kosher crowd closed by the time I went to college.

Most of the families would qualify for “any attempt” to keep Kosher. But as stores got harder to get to and prices increased, the families in this poor working class neighborhood paid more lip service to kosherness than fidelity to it. They had two sets of plates because they always had that. They mostly didn’t mix meat and dairy. But they might get most of their products at the local non-kosher stores. And they would go to restaurants when they could, and all the kosher ones had shut down or moved.

This was Upstate New York. There simply wasn’t the density of Jewish population to support a strict kosher community. Some people remained strict and went to great lengths to do so. The vast majority bent a little to realities. And probably only a tiny percent of their kids stayed Orthodox when they became adults.

I guess nobody wants to hear about the pork roast we had on Wednesday.

If it was eaten with one of the original Biblical bitter herbs (horseradish), does that count as kosher?

Oink vey!