Mar 25, 2010

A Pig Called Traif. Seriously?

Not that I want to give press to folks dishing out non-kosher foodstuffs, but I can't pass up mentioning this. I'm incredibly amused about this new restaurant opening in New York, and I have to hat tip @MarkSoFla for posting it up on Facebook. I mean, the restaurant is called Traif, and I don't even want to begin the discussion on the transliteration (trayf, trayfe, traife, etc). The chef/co-owner of this establishment is Jason Marcus -- yes, he's Jewish. He admits on his blog that although he's Jewish, he's "obviously not good at it."

I'll say!

No judgments passed on observance or kashrut or anything here, but really? The most ancient attributions that defined Jews, no matter where they were living, consisted of two things: circumcision and not eating pork.

The funny thing is most non-Orthodox Jews I know won't even eat pork as a matter of principal in sticking with ancestral tradition. I don't even know when the world became obsessed with pork, but I think it sucks. Why the obsession with bacon? With pork? It doesn't even taste good and of all your meaty options, it really isn't that great for you.

And from the comments from both frum and non-frum Jews on Facebook from just having posted this link, the reaction is one of disgust. Should this be happening? Why couldn't the guy just call it the Pork House or something. Why integrate the Hebrew word? Why sort of chuck such an integral cultural/halachic no-no in people's faces and on their radars?

I mean, to each his or her own, but it just seems a little ... unnecessary. I wish Marcus all the luck in the world, but I also secretly hope people turn up their noses at his attempt at kitsch in the face of "tradition." Thoughts?


alto artist said...

This reminds me of something that happened years ago. i was visiting a friend in Paris, and hadn't eaten for hours and hours. Of course dinner over there doesn't start until 10... and we were sitting around drinking wine, so didn't actually leave until 1AM... and by then the natural, organic vegetarian restaurant we had planned to go to was closed. The only place open in the neighborhood, in fact, was called "Au Pied de Cochon" ("foot of a pig"). Here I was, starving to death, in the culinary capital in the world, and my only option was... a whole restaurant full of stuff I couldn't eat. It was kind of funny. (I recall that I ended up ordering a potato.)

All by way of saying that I did appreciate that it was essentially called "Pork House." Here in NY, I don't think "Traif" as a restaurant name is any less offensive than, say "Pig Heaven" (Upper E. Side). They are all equally pushing the kitsch boundary into tastelessness. It would NOT go over in Paris, however.


Anonymous said...

So I'm leaving this anonymous because I consider you a good friend, Chavi (and perhaps because I'm a bit of a coward -- I certainly admire you for putting yourself out there in public the way you do, but it's not for everyone), but I find this post an example of the judgmental tone you said you were trying to avoid in this post: In the Orthodox community I was raised in, I was taught not to judge others because only Hashem can do that. I didn't comment on the other post because I felt conflicted between my respect for you and my agreement that yes, you have become too judgmental of your peers. Not eating in non-kosher friends' homes? Obviously that's a fair choice for you to make. But feeling uncomfortable around your friends and family (like your in-laws last weekend) because they're not Jewish enough for you? Because they live their relationship with Hashem in a different way than you do? Saying you're "disgusted" by the comical use of a Hebrew word and hoping for a boycott of a restaurant that caters to a different demographic from you? That seems to cross the line into unnecessary judgment of your peers (though that clearly doesn't make you a "monster," to answer your question in that other post). I keep kosher, and thus I'm not going to eat at Traif. But I also recognize that many (most, in fact) American Jews practice differently than I do (including those who speak enough Hebrew to understand the joke), and that a restaurant catering to them is not a personal insult to me -- in fact, has nothing to do with me at all.

Dovid ben Shalom said...

Anonymous, Chavi opens her feelings to the world yet you trash her, but are too chicken to post your name. Real classy.

TikunOlam said...

No one is trashing, think anon was disagreeing and didn't want it to affect their friendship.

I like Chavi too, but I disagree as well. I am not a religious Jew, but I don't eat pork (or shellfish) out of it being ingrained in my being. But I don't care if someone wants to open a resturant called Traif. I wouldn't have cared if they did when I was religious either.

Its a victimless crime. There are just more important things to put your energies to be disgusted by. Personally, things like the drama on twitter where a couple of the Torah True Jewcrew decided that other less observant of Jewcrew are not Jewish and not included in "kol yisroel" or "raiacha" is way more disgusting to me than what someone is doing with a resturant. It is difficult for me to to understand why *this,* a name of a resturant, is worth a blogpost of outrage.

The resturant owner is not claiming to be frum. And to say he isn't being a good Jew (which he said tongue in cheek), well, you don't know that. You don't know what kind of good he may be adding to this world. God may be smiling down on him and who he is even more than on so many of the frummers that judge him.

It surprises me that you can't see that actually. The assumption that "frum" Jews are the only good Jews, well you got to wonder how many steps away that is from the others who claim "you aren't Jewish bec the Rambam says you don't meet criteria."

I think save the bad Jew outrage for Jews hurting others. The judgmental stance only adds to sinaat chinam. As I recall, Sinaat Chinam had worse consequence than opening up a poorly chosen named resturant.

B. Spinoza said...

now that's what I call chutzpa. i think it's a pretty funny name

Suburban Sweetheart said...

I'm... not that offended by this. At all, really. I'm been sitting here trying to think of an appropriate analogy, but all I can come up with is that it's just a meat-centric restaurant with a quirky, sort of ironic name. I guess I can see how it'd be a little passingly offensive to those who keep kosher, but... as I'm sure you're not surprised to hear, I balk at the insinuation that "good Jews" are Jews who shun pork. The way I see it, rules on what to eat have nothing to do with me or my Judaism. And that guy's restaurant has nothing to do with my Judaism, either.

Eloquent, I know... sorry. I'm sleepy!

Anonymous said...

A few things. First off, the most ancient attribution of Jews is monotheism, and likely it's the only ancient attribution (there is substantial evidence* that others circumcised at the time). The Torah (including the commandments to circumcise and not to eat pig meat) was only given to us many years later. And not eating pigs isn't all that spectacular when you consider that it is just one of many animals that we aren't permitted to eat.

Most Reform Jews that I know love, LOVE, LOVE bacon. They go crazy for it, and eat it whenever possible. They think I am crazy for never having tried it even once (they think the same about lobster). And they kid around about this with me a lot. Doesn't bother me at all because I know that if I ever choose to try them, it will be on my terms, and not because someone enticed me. And that's not very likely as I've already gone through more than half my life without it, I think I can complete the remainder of my life without it. Though to be honest, my biggest taivas are food-related, including those that are forbidden.

As for the restaurant, I think it's a clever name, I think it will attract many Jews that don't observe the kosher dietary laws, perhaps even many of the ones that have abandoned the kosher dietary rules that they kept in their youth. And it is perhaps a little sad, but it doesn't hurt anyone, and it doesn't hurt me (unless you consider the "ick" feeling to be "hurt"; I don't). And since it doesn't hurt anyone, I don't have any concern about it. I do not particularly wish him good luck (nor do I wish most places good luck, unless I know the owner, or unless I will be a patron and want it to succeed), but I also do not wish him any harm. It will also attract many other New Yorkers who over the generations have absorbed many Jewish terms into their lexicon (Yiddishisms such as "Chutzpah", "Oy Vey", "Kosher", "treif", etc) and will also think it to be clever. I also bet that the name garners the restaurant more attention than it would normally get in the media (the news papers, the blogs, etc).

And we are all judgmental on many things. It's not something to be ashamed of, nor to be defensive about, but it is something to keep control over**. It's one of the things I've been "working on" myself for the last few years, with reasonable success.


* See here -
and here -

** Otherwise stated as "knowing when to remain silent" or measuring ones words relative to ones thoughts.

Suburban Sweetheart said...

Ugh, Mark. How many Reform Jews do you know? I work in an office with 20 of them - FOR the Reform Movement, no less - and I am one of only two who eats pork or shellfish. SO MANY of them (us!) abhor it. The Reform Movement serves NO pork, no shellfish, no mixed meat & dairy at any of our events, from our Biennial to our youth group meetings. NONE. Reform Jews struggle, on an individual & communal level, with food choices & beliefs as much as our more "observant" - or wavering, confused, seeking, searching - brethren in other Movements.

So to say that we love & embrace & fawn all over bacon & lobster is essentially to ignore that many of us hold these laws very, very dear, & even many of us who don't put a great deal of thought into our beliefs & what makes sense to us.

While I am not one of those aforementioned holding-the-laws-dear folks, I will defend to the death my fellow Reform Jews' beliefs, practices & views - & really bristle at generalizations that insinuate that we're all pig-eating, lobster-loving, no-thanks-to-the-rules kinda-Jews - even if I myself might be one.

shualah elisheva said...

i will conveniently gloss over the rampant stereotypes running amok in this comment area, currently [i know a lot of observant reform jews, just for the record].

instead i am going to state the obvious: judgment is normal. s'part of forming opinions and making choices - like choosing not to eat certain items when prepared at your future in.laws. like when i choose not to eat vegetables prepared in my home because a ham hock was used to flavor collards. we judge those items or those preparation techniques as below our standard for consumption.

judgment, and the exercise thereof, is an integral part of judaism. we can't use just our animal instincts to devour: we must think and judge our food according to a halachic or personal standard.

that said, i think judgment can be a negative when it is directed unconstructively [that is now an adverb, i made it so!] at things that are not personally hurtful or even personally relevant. you won't eat at traif. i won't eat at traif. the people who will likely think the name is ironic, and hip, and funny.

yes - the world is obsessed with bacon, and ham, and all manner of porcine goodies. does it matter to those of us who avoid treyf/traif/other permutation of spelling?

nope. save that fierce personal energy and passion and judgment for the things that affect or infect your daily life [like observance level at homes where you eat so that you can maintain being shomeret shabbat & shomeret kashrut].

all of this said in love, o'course. k'lal yisrael, y'all. for serious.

Gruven_reuven said...

I wasn't FFB, My Dad even had a non-Kosher seafood restaurant that served Lobster!!

I'm with Chavi.. I think the restaurant name is offensive. Ok, maybe offensive is not the right word. Maybe a better word would be Bad taste.

I'm not offended by Jews eating Traif. I'm not offended by Traif restaurants owned by Jews. To each is own. We are all Jews no matter the level of our Observance. Ahavas Yisrael

What I think is in bad taste, is this appears to be baiting the local Orthodox/Hasidic population. Of all places to open such a restaurant. If it was just another Traif restaurant, who would care. But to call the restaurant "Traif", and to have a logo with a pig and a heart. I don't know... to me that's just baiting, and trying to cause a reaction. And it is certainly not Ahavas Yisrael

Wouldn't a Traif resturant work better outside of Williamsbrug Brooklyn of all places??? But then again it wouldn't be "Funny"

I don't think Chavi was being judgmental. I think Chavi has the right to her opinion, as do folks have the right to disagree. I do think "anon" posts for the sake of "friendship" is not Friendship. I don't think Friends have to agree all the time, but friends should be able to carry on a dialogue.

Have a Happy and Kosher Pesach
Reuven Fischer

puravida26 said...


I appreciate reading your candid post; it failed to clear the humor hurdle, but it's your perspective, your blog, your preference. I likewise appreciate the opportunity to comment, as it opens another door to candor.

This is not a judgment: it's a response from one giyoret to another. Looking back on the early years after conversion I recognize that I experienced a subconscious need to prove to the world -- to Jews and non-Jews alike -- that I was Torah-observant, that I was shomeret negiah, shomeret kashrut, shomeret shabbat, shomeret all of the mitzvot. Dialogue with fellow converts who have and have not experienced the same helped me better understand the psychological process of the major, joyful change in my life, a change I embraced that felt less a conversion than a reversion to who I have always been. Perhaps, to some -- even small measure -- this post is a reflection of the same process in your life. Maybe, maybe not. It's an idea to consider and/or dismiss.

In any event, a pork-centric restaurant called Treif? It's kitschy and business-savvy. The bacon craze continues to grow -- so what? If someone enjoys his/her food, fantastic. Bacon isn't destructive to one's health any more than beef or chicken. Choose the right cut with the right portion size and you're set. If you dig what it tastes like and you don't have dietary restrictions, eat up.

There's a lot to be irritated about the way Jews and Jewish tradition are represented in the greater, non-Jewish world. A restaurant called Treif is at the bottom of my list.

I look forward to reading your blog's archive. I disagree and dislike this post; this doesn't mean I dislike your voice and narrative.

When I converted one of the first things I did was immerse myself in the Hebrew language. To not understand what I hear, read, and recite frustrated me to no end. It saddens me that most Jews simply sound out the consonants and don't have a clue what they're reading or absorb lashon ha-kodesh. So they're missing out, in my mind. But hey, that's not to say they don't internalize the meaning. It's just something I wish would change. Whatever!

As a Hebrew grammar ninja, I feel obligated to note that it's shomeret shabbat, shomeret negiah, shomeret kashrut, etc. Please! Help spread the word! Change begins with you! =)

Shabbat shalom, hamuda. Take time to reflect but push away frustration. After all, it's day to celebrate.

Kol tuv -

Anonymous said...

A lot of Satmarers will probably walk past that place, as the South Side of Billyburg is where the Jews are. I hope none of them riot or start fires like in Israel.

Jewish Ideas Daily said...

How many of the clientele will get the joke?

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