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Guidelines for Household Help in a Jewish Home

Guidelines for Household Help in a Jewish Home

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Welcome to my home. Since my family and I are Jewish, our home life may be different from what you are used to. Here is a basic outline of what you can expect to see in a Jewish home:

In the Kitchen

Jewish people follow a special diet called kosher. AlmostMeat and dairy are completely separated all of our products come specially marked as such. Please do not bring your own food or utensils into the kitchen without asking first. If there is something you need, please let me know and I will supply it, but nothing should enter my house without my knowledge.

In the kitchen, you’ll notice that meat and dairy are completely separated. They are not cooked, stored or served together. We have special dishes, pots, silverware and utensils for dairy, and an entirely separate set of everything for meat. The two sets are kept completely separate. They are not even washed together. In some kitchens, there are even separate counters, ovens and sinks for meat and dairy. Please keep the meat and dairy dishes separate.

Everything prepared on meat dishes is considered meat, and everything prepared on dairy dishes is considered dairy.

We also have some dishes that are not used with dairy or meat, but only for “parve” (neutral) foods. These dishes are washed separately and kept away from both dairy and meat.

So, to keep things organized in the kitchen:

  • When you are asked to help cook, please ask before using a utensil or dish, so that it doesn’t get used with the wrong kind of food.
  • If you do make a mistake, please tell me immediately—even before washing off the utensil that was used with the wrong kind of food. I will be grateful that you told me.
  • When you are washing dishes, please do not add a new dish or utensil to the pile of dirty dishes, since you may accidentally add an item of the wrong kind. In homes with two sinks, dairy dishes are to be washed in the dairy sink only, and meat dishes in the meat sink only . If there is only one sink, make sure the dishes never touch the sink. We also use separate sponges and brushes. I’ll show you how to do this.

I will be the only one to turn on the stove and oven. This is not because I don’t trust you. It is part of keeping a kosher kitchen.

On the Calendar

From before sundown on Friday until nightfall on Saturday evening we celebrate a special day called Shabbat (or Shabbos). On Shabbat, Jewish people eat large meals and rest from doing many kinds of work. This “work” includes things like talking on the phone, handling money, writing, cooking or even turning on the lights.

Things to be aware of:

  • Because I will not be checking my phone on Shabbat, I will not see any calls, texts or emails.
  • If you are helping out on Shabbat, you may be asked to perform tasks that we cannot do ourselves, such as adjusting the thermostat. Sometimes, we will not ask you to do it directly, but hint at what needs to be done. So if I say, “It’s so dark in here,” it means that I want you to turn on the lights. Except when you are told to, please do not adjust the lights on Shabbat, since your employers may be left with a brightly-lit bedroom or a dark dining room.
  • I cannot pay you on Shabbat, so I may ask you to come in time to finish the Friday cleaning before the onset of Shabbat. This time will change according to the time of year, since sunset is later in the summer and earlier in the winter.
  • Shabbat is a holy day for us. Please respect the atmosphere of the home and avoid playing music, running the vacuum or similar activities.

Other Jewish Holidays:

There are many Jewish holidays, each with its own set of traditions and foods. Many share the same restrictions as Shabbat: no telephones, lights, etc. However, there are some differences. Here are two that will probably be most significant to you:

Passover (or Pesach) is an eight day holiday in the spring. Its most important feature is that Jewish people have a whole new restriction on the foods we eat: we avoid all bread, crackers, or anything else made of flour that has risen, which is called chametz.

Before Passover, we clean our entire home to make sure that there is no chametz anywhere in the house. This is a very thorough cleaning, and much more intense than normal. It may seem a little obsessive, but this is what we do.

Once we’ve cleaned everything (sometimes even with boiling water or in fire), we will cover many kitchen surfaces and use a whole new set of dishes, cutlery and utensils. In addition to the regular meat and dairy restrictions, we will now be on guard to make sure that no chametz enters our home, Please do not bring any outside food into our home. There may be some chametz items in sealed cabinets as well. Please make sure that those cabinets stay closed.

Sukkot (or Sukkos) is in the fall. During this holiday, the kitchen will remain as is, but we will be dining outdoors in a special branch-covered hut called a sukkah. Don’t worry, it only last a week, and then we move back inside.

More Jewish Home Facts

Yes, that is a wig you see on my dresser. Thank G‑d, I have hair, but married Jewish women cover their hair. In the house, I used a kerchief or a beret, but when I go out, I use the wig.

You see the cup with two handles next to the sink? We use that to wash our hands before we eat. Unless I ask you to, you do not need to wash it along with the rest of the dishes.

We also have cups like that (mostly plastic) that we take to our bedrooms with big bowls so that we can wash our hands when we wake up in the morning. Sometimes the kids do forget to put them away in the morning, so be careful not to step in them.

No, my husband did not forget to close the front door. There is a Jewish law that forbids Jewish men and women to be alone with each other (if they are not family). For this reason, if he is alone with you, he will often leave the door open. You can just leave it as is.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your cooperation.

Please click here for a Spanish translation of this article.

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