How do you teach the basics of kashrus in a captivating, relevant way? This is a question that the OK education department deals with on a regular basis and was the catalyst for our sponsorship and support of a unique, stimulating kosher education program—The Traveling Kosher Pickle Factory.
The Traveling Kosher Pickle Factory was Rabbi Marcus’ brainchild. Marcus, the Chabad rabbi to Cypress, California would visit an 86-year old former pickle-maker, for a Tefillin prayer and the crunch of homemade Kirby’s (not necessarily in that order). The two came up with an idea. Rabbi Marcus figured that the public school students he taught at Hebrew High would love to learn how to make a kosher pickle. The opportunity would allow him to surreptitiously slip a few kosher lessons in as well – while the rabbi learned about the pickle world, his students and audiences learned about the kosher world.
What he didn’t count on was the interest the eclectic program would engender among the teens’ parents. Over 200 phone calls poured in as adults vied for the opportunity to pickle their own cucumbers. Organizers had to turn people away as the program spread like wildfire across Southern California.
The course’s layout is similar to that of the popular Living Legacy Series, designed to teach about upcoming holidays through the Shofar and Matzah factories and the Olive Oil Press. Unlike the Living Legacy, though, this program is designed for an older audience.
Since it began in 2005, 7,000 people have prepared personalized pickle jars. During the hour-long presentation, participants choose their own spice combinations and tartness. According to Rabbi Marcus, adults prefer the deli pickle, associating it with traditional Judaism, much like a bagel shmeared with cream cheese and lox. Word of its popularity quickly leaked across the country.
Following requests, the Rabbi launched a national tour with shows in Chicago, Miami Beach, Boston, Las Vegas, and recently in New York’s Culinary Institute of America. Since the recent collaboration with the OK, the Traveling Kosher Pickle Factory is expected to reach 30,000 people over the next three years.
One recent stop was at Hofstra University in New York. Rabbi Shmuli Lieberman welcomed the “Pickle Rabbi” and students on a snowy Tuesday night. Although the snowstorm left some in a pickle, the students who braved the weather loved the hands-on approach and the fact that they could make their own jar of kosher pickles to bring home.
Through humor and history, the Rabbi explains that kosher “is not a stylistic choice,” but rather, “something G-d wants us to do.”
One aspect the Rabbis emphasize is that sixty to seventy percent of what is in an average shopper’s cart is already kosher. Rabbi Marcus tells his audience that they are “eating more kosher than they think.” The goal, he says, is for participants to leave more kosher-conscious through a practical demonstration of kosher laws and symbols. In fact, he proudly notes, some participants have been so inspired by the unique approach, they have committed themselves to keeping kosher.
“It’s all about keeping it kosher,” concludes Rabbi Marcus, on the program’s broader goal. With five million pounds of this popular snack consumed daily, there seems no better way to reach an audience and thanks to the support of the OK this program has become a reality.
For more information on the Kosher Pickle Factory or to get a rabbi to give a kosher pickle class in your area, visit www.RabbiPickle.com