My family is observant—we keep kosher in and out of the house—but hasn’t always been this way. Our eight-year-old son has several friends who are either not Jewish or not observant, and he gets invited to their birthday parties, where non-kosher food and cake is served.

What’s the best way to handle this situation? My wife and I have been discussing it for almost two years, but we haven’t come up with an answer.


I’m happy you brought this up. It’s an important question that applies not only to birthday parties, but also to a range of issues our children confront living a Torah life.

I can relate to the question quite well. We are Chabad shluchim in a small community, and many of the birthday parties our children are invited to are also in homes where kosher is not kept.

The short answer is, of course, that our children should never eat food that is not kosher. Keeping kosher isn’t something we try to do, but a part and parcel of our identity as Jews. Our essence does not change based on circumstances, and neither should our commitment to Torah. Whether we’re vacationing in Hawaii or attending a business conference, kosher is kosher.

The greatest gift you can give your children is this clarity about who they are and what their priorities should be.

The question then becomes a practical one: how to deal with the invitations.

In our situation, families know that we eat only kosher, and extending an invitation to our children means they will do what they can to accommodate. (Another advantage of clear identity is that it becomes obvious to others!)

There are stores in our area that sell kosher cupcakes, and most parents are happy to buy them. Other times, we’ll bake a quick Duncan Hines cake and send it along.

If the parents of your son’s friends are not aware that you keep kosher, let them know. There is no reason to be embarrassed. You will find that people are generally happy to accommodate.

One last suggestion: Whenever our kids are at an event where they can’t eat everything that’s being served, we try to treat them to something special afterward, whether it’s an extra dessert that evening or taking them out to a kosher restaurant. They need to the feel the joy, not just the oy, in mitzvahs.

This has to be communicated in words, too. From time to time, talk to your son about the beauty of keeping kosher, and let him know how lucky he is to know about and observe the mitzvahs. G‑d willing, soon others will learn about them as well.