I am glad to announce that the latest edition of the Kosher Cooking Carnival is now available here. Which, with the strange way my mind works, reminded me of one of those things you probably never thought about your rabbi doing: Casket Certification.
About two years ago I was approached by a local casket company, to certify their caskets as kosher. Although the request was logical enough - they wanted to be acceptable for the Orthodox/traditional Jewish market - it still struck me as funny.
My Vaad (LVKC) supervises a bottling company, a couple of supermarket bakeries, a Carvel and a Rita’s, Lang's Chocolates and many events at our local JCC, and over the years I’ve been here we’ve done a nursing home, a caterer, a pizza place and a few other businesses… but caskets? Nope, no experience there.
So I contacted knowledgeable authorities and found out what was involved, and trekked off to the coffin-builders. They were very pleasant, very open and willing to show me everything I asked, and then some. They offered to demonstrate the actual construction of caskets. In a warehouse so large it makes a Home Depot look like a studio apartment, I learned about glues and putties and what goes into them, about dowels, and about the different sizes and shapes and models of caskets (1H01, 1H02, 1H03, 1H04, 1H05, 1H0X) and what’s involved in attaching handles.
I even got a check for it afterwards, which was unexpected and unrequested but nice. I just thought I was helping them out.
Here's an interesting thing: I learned that they give “casket warranties,” which left me wondering about a few things, including whether an unsatisfied customer is required to return the casket … and how long the warranty is good.
On the whole, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to be asked to certify their products; after all, we have halachic requirements for caskets, so why shouldn’t there be certification? And it gave me a fundraising idea:
Perhaps our Vaad haKashrus should make some money by approaching other casket manufacturers (how many are there?) and offering to certify their products. It’s got to be an easier sell than food kashrut; 11% of the local Jewish population says they observe kashrut in their homes, but I’d bet a much higher percentage requests a kosher casket. For many, many American Jews, kosher burial is right up there with a Pesach Seder and Kol Nidrei.
And maybe we could branch out, too… I’m thinking of tachrichin (shrouds) kosher certification, matzeivah (headstone) kosher certification, little-stones-to-put-atop-the-matzeivah kosher certification, water-bottles-for-washing-outside-the-cemetery kosher certification… a whole new industry, indeed.
Think that’s a reach? Well, I’m out of time for blogging today, but remind me to tell you some time about the local branch of an Israeli company who approached me about certifying ornamental casket-inserts made of Israeli earth.
No, I’m not kidding.