September 3, 2021 The Kosherinator
This is a graphic I created for when I used to give a food tour in Boro Park. My Boro Park food tour centered around the many cultural food options that coalesced in Boro Park, forming a story of cultural borrowing from all over the world. We had Middle Eastern pitas, Bukharian tandoori bread, Sephardi burekes, Russian herring with heimish challah, and of course, lots of Hungarian pastries. We also passed all the kosher fare from international origins like Kosher Chinese, Kosher Japanese, Kosher American burgers, etc.
The kosherinator illustrated a fascinating phenomenon: Ultra-Orthodox Jews are never in a bubble entirely isolated from the world, but neither do they simply adapt from the cultures around them. They are constantly importing new ideas, but always with modifications. An endless list of kosher needs makes it impossible to simply adapt. So when a food item becomes the next rage, it is always completely changed to make sure the meat and dairy is kept apart, the ingredients have no pork or shellfish, the process of making is modified to ensure it is absolutely kosher.
The effect of this, as illustrated in the final conveyor belt on the kosherinator, is that the Ultra-Orthodox community retains a very distinct food style. It is rich and colorful and borrows from everywhere, yet at every turn, it remains distinctly kosher.
This is a metaphor for the Ultra-Orthodox community writ-large. This is how they are able to thrive in a modern culture. Because they are not stagnant. They are always adapting, changing, improvising—but with harsh limitations that prevent their total assimilation.