Sunday, March 18, 2007

Gasoline: Not Kosher?

UPDATE: Apparently, I was fooled, and the post below simply reflects my own credulity, and ignorance. In any case, it appears to have no basis in fact. My apologies, and my thanks for the timely correction. The "newspaper article" link was sent to me by a Jewish friend, and I was taken in. Whether RL was likewise taken in, or was having a little fun with me, I do not yet know.(though see update II, below)
Interesting; I had no idea this was a problem.

Kosher for Passover Gasoline
By Danielle Wolfbergand and Henry Lorman

Bergen County Jewish Times
Teaneck, New Jersey, March 1, 2007

Yaniv Ban-Zaken, a local gas station owner, will be selling Kosher for
Passover gasoline during the holiday this year. The move, Ben-Zaken says,
has become necessary due to the increased ethanol content in gasoline
required by the government. The ethanol is typically derived from corn,
which is a forbidden food for Jews on Passover. And, according to Ben-Zaken,
under Jewish law, it is also forbidden to derive any benefit from corn.
"We will be providing a number of services to anyone interested in making
their motor vehicle Kosher for Passover," Ben-Zaken says. Services will
include siphoning off the non-Kosher gasoline and replacing it with the
Kosher gasoline. The entire process will be supervised by Rabbi Yitzchok
Mendelbaum. A special exemption to the EPA rule regarding the plant ethanol
content of gasoline had to be obtained from the government to allow for the
use of this gasoline. The move has created some controversy among local
community leaders. Rabbi Shalom Silver, of Congregation Ohel Emeth in
Teaneck, has recommended to his congregants that they not buy the gasoline.
"Although Jews of Ashkenazi descent are not permitted to eat corn on Pesach,
they are permitted to derive benefit from corn byproducts, such as gasoline
with ethanol additives," he said.
However, Rabbi Mordechai Silver (no relation to Shalom Silver), of Yeshivas
Torah Ohr in nearby Englewood, disagrees, and maintains that while it might
technically be acceptable to use mass-produced gasoline, those who can
afford to purchase the new alternative should. "In Jewish law, we have a
principle of lifnim mshuras hadin--going above and beyond the basic
requirements of the law," he explained in an email. "Thank G-d, many people
in the area can afford to do so in this case."
Some local Jewish leaders have also complained about the high price of the
ethanol-free gas, which Ben-Zaken estimates will be $9.69 per gallon, but
Ben-Zaken insists that it is necessary. "The Kosher gas is made in small
quantities and not mass produced, so the costs are high." In fact,
Ben-Zaken, an immigrant from Israel who is not himself religious, claims
that he will not be making any profit on the sale of the Kosher gas. "I'm
doing this more as a community service. My hope is that people will be more
likely to patronize my station the rest of the year." Julio Sanchez, one of
Ben-Zakens employees, also expressed some concern over the high price,
explaining that it might drive away customers and reduce his income from
tips. Co-worker Naveen Samhari disagreed, because, as he says, "Orthodox
Jews are among the best tippers in the area."
Ben-Zaken also says he will be contracting with a local car rental agency to
provide customers with a Kosher for Passover car if they would prefer not to
use their own. This will also save the time of having to clean chametz from
the car before Pesach--time that many local two-income families do not have.
"Jews use different dishes for Passover. They ought to be able to use a
different car, as well." Ben-Zaken says.

Danielle Wolfberg is a freelance writer and reporter. Henry Lorman has
published several novels and is currently working on a memoir, to be
published by Random House.

(Nod to RL, whose grandmother told him: "Kosher is as kosher does." Or, maybe she didn't tell him that.)


First, RL noted in comments that he had NOT seen it as a hoax. And, it WAS well done. So, I still gratefully acknowledge the assist from RL, though of course I am going to break him in half next time we meet.

Second, a great comment from Elizabeth over on the relevant post on KOSHER BLOG. Here it is:

[The content of the hoax "article" is] not completely absurd though–I have a friend with a biodiesel car. He gets the biodiesel from the discarded cooking oil of a local restaurant. They fry breaded food in that oil, so there is chometz in his engine. Last year, he was worried about whether he would be able to drive the car during Chol HaMoed, as the chometz was sold… (the solution: add regular diesel to the fuel, rendering it no longer food and thus no longer chometz).

I have to admit that I don't understand why non-Jews make fun of dietary laws like this. It is simply a sign of observance. If one's point is to make fun of religious observance of ANY kind....well, I don't admire aggressively evangelical atheists. Let those of us who believe have a little space, and you atheists can all go out and burn question marks on the lawn, and let your kids play with the matches.


Unknown said...

so what happens in states where ethanol additives are mandatory? do Jews become like the raw milk underground?

Anonymous said...

HOAX ALERT -- read here (maybe you already knew it was a joke)

I got this “news report” from a colleague and thought I’d share it with you, about a guy in New Jersey who is selling Kosher-for-Passover gasoline. I’ll confess that it totally fooled me at first. I completely bought into this as one of those “what are those meshuggenah Yiddin going to think up next” until I started researching the rabbis quoted by the authors. They don’t exist, the shul doesn’t exist, the yeshivah does exist, but in Jerusalem not Englewood (hard to tell the difference between the two cities sometimes, I know). The Bergen County Jewish Times doesn’t exist.

Anonymous said...

RL says - I was as taken in as you were. I remain highly amused and thank the blogosphere for doing the fact-checking.

Unknown said...

a plague o' both your hoaxes! i will never believe again.

Anonymous said...

I too was taken in, and wanted to say corn is kitnyot, and not chametz. Sephardi Jews eat kitnyot on Pesah. Ashkenazi Jews do not, but they are pemitted to own it, and if at a Sephardi seder, it may be on their plates, but they may not eat it.