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February 06, 2013

Eat This Endanged Species, Please

Philby’s PartridgePerhaps the only person in the world whose mission is to save these ugly birds, in fact, is Rabbi Chaim Loike, a rabbinic coordinator at the Orthodox Union. And his concern is less ecological than gastronomical: Philby’s Partridge, Loike says, may be kosher—and he wants to make sure the species survives so that future generations of Jews might eat it.

Philby’s Partridge
Philby’s Partridge

Michael Orbach writes in Tablet Magazine:

Philby’s Partridge is an ugly bird. A native of northern Yemen, it looks vaguely like a New York City pigeon, but significantly worse—as if the pigeon had been in a bar fight. Some people worry that the bird, named for British explorer and possible Nazi collaborator Harry St. John Philby, might become endangered due to recent over-hunting and the destruction of its habitat. And yet the conservation movement to save the partridge is like tourism in its natural habitat in the tribal areas of Northern Yemen: It doesn’t exist.

Perhaps the only person in the world whose mission is to save these ugly birds, in fact, is Rabbi Chaim Loike, a rabbinic coordinator at the Orthodox Union. And his concern is less ecological than gastronomical: Philby’s Partridge, Loike says, may be kosher—and he wants to make sure the species survives so that future generations of Jews might eat it.

***

Loike has long had an interest in which birds are kosher. Taped to the door of his office in Manhattan is a hand-signed letter from the O.U.’s lead posek (decider), Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, stating that a wild turkey is the same animal as a domestic turkey and therefore kosher. That letter helped resolve a question over kashrut—although the wild turkey that Loike brought to his office at the O.U. wasn’t so excited to be welcomed by the Jewish community; it flew around and destroyed a computer keyboard. “I don’t know what he had against the keyboard,” Loike explained earnestly.

Loike’s focus is mainly on exotic birds. During his seven-year tenure at the O.U., he has raised Chukar Partridges, White Runner Ducks (which he describes as “bowling balls with legs”), Mallards, and even Laysan Teals—which at the time were considered extinct, although they were later reclassified. He attempted to prove that a greenfinch, a bird mentioned by Rashi, was kosher and used in a sacrifice during the time of the First and Second Temples. He also helped establish that different species of quail are kosher. In gratitude for his efforts, a Hasidic rebbe once gave him his African gray parrot. “You wouldn’t believe how much it talked,” Loike said.

With his unique history, Loike may be the world’s foremost halachic expert on birds.…

…Loike took a course in shechita, ritual slaughtering, when he was a student at Yeshiva University’s ordination program. The next year, Y.U. asked him to teach the course, and he went to a local meat market and realized that he didn’t know which birds were kosher. He called up the O.U., and the organization agreed to help fund his research, which mainly consisted of finding old Eastern European shochtim, ritual slaughterers, and getting them to identify which birds they had slaughtered in the past.…

Continue Reading Here.

[Hat Tip: Yochanan Lavie.]

Comments

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yummy. the taste is a cross between a spotted owl and a California condor, with just a hint of bald eagle.

Eli, what me messiah?-

youre on a roll. (npi)

Several things go through my mind:

1. I don't find it ugly; I think it's rather pretty.

2. How can vegetarianism be a criterion for certifying a bird as kosher, as we know chickens and turkeys eat insects?

3. Do they have to swing it over their heads first?

4. Jews don't have enough birds to eat already? What, is he running a Jewish version of the Fabulous Gourmet Club from The Freshman?

Meanwhile back on Planet Earth.

Somebody needs to send this rabbi to Ari Zivotofsly in Israel.
He and a friend of his have been documenting mesira of kosher birds from all over the world.
They have been interviewing Rabbis and schoctim from all corners of the earth to catalogue which birds were considered kosher in the old world...

Apparently years ago rabbi Tendler ruled that swordfish was not kosher.
Zivo ad his friend do a lot of traveling all over the world and they would frequently ask about the local swordfish. Long story short they have never found anywhere any reason to deem swordfish not kosher.

Periodically they have obscure kosher food tastings including kosher grasshopper and other foods many do not consider kosher.

They had such a tasting in Jerusalem where they gave a lecture on every creature then served the particular creature. This program was in conjunction with I believe the OU. They officially ended the conference lucheon and then served swordfish for those who wanted it.

I accept ai os psak that swordfish is kosher. Looking forward to my first swordfish steak.

Somebody needs to send this rabbi to Ari Zivotofsly in Israel.
He and a friend of his have been documenting mesira of kosher birds from all over the world.
They have been interviewing Rabbis and schoctim from all corners of the earth to catalogue which birds were considered kosher in the old world...

Apparently years ago rabbi Tendler ruled that swordfish was not kosher.
Zivo ad his friend do a lot of traveling all over the world and they would frequently ask about the local swordfish. Long story short they have never found anywhere any reason to deem swordfish not kosher.

Periodically they have obscure kosher food tastings including kosher grasshopper and other foods many do not consider kosher.

They had such a tasting in Jerusalem where they gave a lecture on every creature then served the particular creature. This program was in conjunction with I believe the OU. They officially ended the conference lucheon and then served swordfish for those who wanted it.

I accept ai os psak that swordfish is kosher. Looking forward to my first swordfish steak.

Posted by: Jake | February 06, 2013 at 06:23 PM

If you read the whole article (which you can do by following the links in it) you'll see Zivotofsky and his partner use this guy as their bird expert.

Re: swordfish

Be careful on your swordfish consumption. Although it is generally considered to sustainable, Mediterranean swordfish may not be.

Many avoid it altogether because of mercury levels.

From people who eat crickets and grasshoppers, what else could you expect?

From people who are commanded to eat crickets and grasshoppers over a cheeseburger, what else you expect?

Ain't it spelled 'endangeRed'?

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