Guest Post: Kosher Meals Denied to Messianic Prisoners

Jews in Prison Denied Kosher Meals

Following is a post from guest blogger, Jackie Walker. Visit her Web site at www.religiontranscends.com. And watch for an upcoming post on her site from Rabbi Derek Leman.

Messianic Jews at the Richland Correctional Institution in Mansfield, Ohio, are being denied the kosher meals they’ve requested.

The inmates say they’d like to avoid pork and shellfish as well as the mixing of meat and dairy products, according to The Columbus Dispatch. [link to http://www.columbusdispatch.com] Prisoners point to the Constitution and federal law which states that the government must allow freedom of religious practice, even for prisoners, unless there is compelling governmental interest that would allow for restrictions.

Though the prisoners’ complaints are being investigated, the Ohio government continues to argue that Messianic Jews should receive the same meals as everyone else. Officials cite three main reasons to deny the kosher meals.

Reason #1: Kosher meals are for Jews only
Messianic Jews may not have the exact same belief system as traditional Jews, but many still want to keep kosher. Some say that just because they believe Yeshua (Jesus) was the Messiah doesn’t mean they don’t want to keep some of the tenets and practices of the Jewish religion and lifestyle.

But the Ohio prison system doesn’t label Messianic Jews as Jews at all – it considers them to be Protestants. Protestantism is an umbrella term for all Christian denominations other than Catholics; Protestant churches include Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, and so on. Because both Protestants and Messianic Jews believe Yeshua was the Christ (the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament of the Bible) and because they place their trust in and follow Yeshua and early Christian doctrine, they are considered to be the same. Yet by lumping the two religious groups into the same category, the prison system seems to ignore the fact that unlike Protestants, Messianic Jews follow many Jewish laws and customs – including kosher law.

Reason #2: Kosher meals aren’t necessary
Even if Messianic Jews could make officials understand they are not Protestants by definition or by practice, they would still need to prove that eating kosher meals is a necessary practice for their religion. And so far, Messianic Jewish rabbis who have been called upon by the Ohio government say eating kosher meals is not a law in Messianic Judaism. The courts, then, view the special meals as more of a tradition or a preference.

Reason #3: Kosher meals are, quite frankly, expensive
With tight budgets and a groaning economy, the Ohio prison system has sought, thus far, to keep costs down. And that includes the price of meals for prisoners. According to The Columbus Dispatch, non-kosher meals cost 95 cents, while kosher meals can cost between $5 and $6 each.

To keep from discriminating and denying rights, the Ohio government has allowed all Jews (regardless of belief) to receive kosher meals on Jewish holidays.

What do you think? Should the inmates be allowed to receive kosher meals, even if they aren’t considered necessary to their religious practice?

Jackie Walker is a freelance religion writer in Chicago, Illinois. She is a regular contributor to Relate magazine and has worked for a number of religion publishers in the past, including Guideposts, Relevant Media Group, and World Wisdom.

Religion Transcends is a Web site devoted to providing news about world religions – without prejudice. It includes commentary, reporting, and education to eliminate misconceptions about religions and to give context and meaning to stories in the news. Visit Religion Transcends today at www.religiontranscends.com.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Christian, Jackie Walker - Religion Transcends, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, News. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Guest Post: Kosher Meals Denied to Messianic Prisoners

  1. Pingback: Religion Transcends » Blog Archive » Kosher Meals Denied to Messianic Prisoners

  2. littledovedeb says:

    I believe the Messianic believers should be provided kosher meals as they requested. It is a matter of conscience of the inmates, not of the messianic rabbis who were contacted. Many non Jewish, and even non Messianic believers abstain from pork and shellfish – because our Creator said these things were not FOOD – whether Messianic Jewish or not.

    Just because the prison system wrongly considers them protestants doesn’t rationalize pushing a non-Jewish, non-scriptural diet on the inmates. Messianics practice their beliefs through a Jewish perspective and consider themselves grafted into Israel.

    It is abhorrent to be served something that one cannot eat as this causes waste of food, which would far outweigh any extra cost of just eliminating pork and shellfish off the Messianics Menu.

  3. Messianic RoshNabiy Menilek says:

    I am Messianic T’ru Daniel Menilek, rosh nabiy for Bete Yahuda Mesihawi Aksumawi, the Messianic Jews of Abyssinia. The highest religious courts of Israel have ruled that Messianic Jews are still Jews more than once both among our people when we arrived from Ethiopia as well another ruling regarding all other Messianic Jews around the globe. These are the modern-day equivalent of the Sanhedrin Who can challenge their religious authority, but G*d Himself! And the Abrahamic covenant is NOT canceled by our belief in Yah’shua as our Moshiakh. The only laws that were done away with are the sacrificial laws, because Yah’shua is our once-for-all sacrifice. But it is STILL a sin to break non-sacrificial laws. It is still a sin to murder, steal, commit adultery, homosexuality, abortion, fraud, to work on Shabbat AND to eat that which is not kosher. Even the federal prison system offers parave vegetarian meals (just as Nebiy Daniel ate vegetarian in Babylonian captivity) and it can cost LESS than the unkosher meat meals if you use the right vegetarian means to provide a complete protein in each meal, such as a blend of ground lentils, ground garbanzo beans, ground kidney beans, chopped spinach or dark greens and wholegrain flour all mixed together and extruded from a standard food-service size pasta press into a long macaroni and then formed into burger patties, which are poached in water and served like meat. So the 3 excuses given by the state, above, are wrong and I believe they already knew it, but are just abusing their inmates for the sake of increasing the burden of punishment upon them.

    This constitutes an official ruling on this matter in my capacity as rosh nabiy of Bete Yahuda.

    Sincerely,

    T’ru Daniel Menilek,
    The rosh nabiy for Bete Yahuda (aka Bete Yisrael, the Abyssinian Jews)
    (Also a kosher chef on the side)

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