Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I now know what a mumar l'hach'is is

A restaurant named Traif in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. The Atlantic has a whole writeup about this place and its Jewish owner and his non-Jewish girlfriend. The owner writes on his blog, "I am Jewish, although obviously not great at it." An understatement if there ever was one. The last line of this paragraph takes the cake:

"If this was 10 years ago, there's no way his windows would not be broken," said Joshie, who felt the need to support Traif in its opening week when he read negative comments on Traif's blog that he viewed as "thinly veiled" threats from the nearby Orthodox community. Joshie's two friends—one of whom is the son of a prominent rabbi and who ate non-kosher for the first time nearly a year ago in Las Vegas with Penn & Teller—said the food was truly special, far beyond their expectations. Joshie himself said he owes the owners for a touching evening, which he described as "getting off on a psychological level," and he added that he is interested in talking with the owners about hosting a meet-up of similarly disoriented former Orthodox Jews at the restaurant once a week.

Maybe that can cater going-off-the-derech parties or something. I read the blog but am missing the "thinly veiled threats" that Joshie sees; my guess is that they are a product of an attention-starved imagination looking to create a certain rebellious image. I imagine that Joshie and others stuffing their faces with bacon represents a lashing out at religion, particularly if done within view of Hassidic Jews who represent the antithesis of their supposed freedom from the shackles of superstition. Pity is really a more appropriate response than threats. The owner's mother, who tries to keep kosher at home but lets the rules slide when outside according to the article, asked her son whether he really had to name the place Traif. He responded that he did because, "It represents who I am [and] I'm proud of who I am."

I now understand better the gemara's distinction between types of mumrim: to enjoy the bacon is a mumar l'teyavon; to name the restaurant Traif is a mumar l'hach'is.


  1. There's a video from the NY Post about it. The guy's either an idiot, or a performance artist "I envision a place where Hasidim and hipsters can meet on common ground," or truly lehachis, as you say.

  2. Just a sad loser who can't move on from what he's left behind. Really sad. Not unlike the Failed Messiah blog.

  3. This was posted on the "Traif" blog; I give them credit in the first paragraph for calling the proprieter on his insensitivity, even though most don't keep kosher themselves. As far as an offense to Reform Jewry(2nd paragraph), that's a different story...


    Dear Traif,
    We are a group of 8th and 9th graders who take a food in Judaism class at our temple. Our teacher found a post about your restaurant and we decided to check it out. We’ve read many positive comments about your new restaurant however, we have a different opinion. Your title of your restaurant seems inappropriate and offensive to the Jewish community. Although many of us in the class do not keep Kosher, we still felt that your title is mocking what most Jew’s believe in; keeping Kosher is a sacred rule for many Jewish people.

    As you said before, ” I am Jewish, although obviously not great at it” (Mmmm, Bacon). You made it seem that if you do not keep Kosher, you can not be a good Jew. Reform Jew’s are not required to keep Kosher, which is another reason why our class took offense to your post.

    To conclude, you might want to re-think your public view and opinions of keeping Kosher."

  4. Which is worse? To say something's traif and ruefully admit that you like it despite the fact that a good Jew shouldn't eat it, or to say that traif is not that important, and that you can eat traif and be a good Jew?

  5. One quibble - there is no "ruefully" involved here. The guys is proud to eat his tarfus.

  6. Anonymous3:42 PM

    Could be a better name would be Metoraf, modern Hebrew for deranged.