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The Water’s Great, Just Not Kosher

In a metropolis of 8.5 million people contradictions and ironies abound, but this one may take the cake — the city with the second largest Jewish population in the world has water that is not Kosher.  Even stranger, this was fact went unnoticed until 2004. That year, some Brooklyn Rabbis were examining imported Israeli lettuce claiming to be bug-free, but had insects on its leaves (eating insects is against Jewish law). To see if the offending creatures came from the water they were washed with, the rabbis took to the microscope. They found microscopic copepods.

A copepod.

These animals are harmless, and their presence is actually a testament to the cleanliness of NYC’s water source, the city was federally exempt from having to filter its water. Though they are in no way damaging to human health, they are considered crustaceans — such as shrimp and lobster — thus forbidden for consumption under Jewish law. This posed a major problem for the 331,200 Orthodox Jews living in NYC. The ultimate decision lay with the rabbis who are experts in Talmudic law. Some rabbis claim the law refers to animals that can be seen with the naked eye, so if it can’t be seen without a microscope, then there is no problem. Others disagreed. The Orthodox Union, which provides the official rules for what is and not fit under Jewish law decided to play it safe and recommend that all tap water for cooking and drinking be filtered.

This issue of whether this means the tap water is still vegan remains unresolved.

– Mark Gilman, Tour Guide

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