Keeping Kashrut, or kosher, is one of the most central and recognizable pillars of observant Judaism. As a child in a traditional but modern Orthodox community, I was taught the importance of keeping kosher. Even when I was a toddler, I asked my Orthodox uncle if his house was kosher before feeling comfortable eating there. For our family, food products needed kosher symbols. At the grocery store, families like ours all across the country scan products for the “OU” symbol from the Orthodox Union—one of the most widely recognized and trustworthy of the kosher symbols.
The Orthodox Union is an umbrella organization representing Orthodox synagogues and communities across the United States. In addition to telling the community what foods are permissible to eat, the OU runs programs that keeps the organization deeply rooted in Orthodox communities, including youth groups and support on campus. The OU is a significant component of the blood in the veins of the Orthodox communal world.
I didn’t even realize the OU did any political work outside of their communal support until 2014, when I noticed that they had commended the Supreme Court’s decision siding with Hobby Lobby in a notorious case regarding an employer’s responsibility to provide insurance inclusive of contraception, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. They sided with the evangelical Christian plaintiffs in that case, even though President Obama had already ensured that any company that was not comfortable paying for contraception could employ a provision so the government would pay for it instead.