When a Maryland resident goes into a delicatessen and orders a kosher corn beef sandwich, the sandwich ought to be the real thing, and not just kosher-style. On that much the Jewish legislators in the General Assembly are agreed.
But the legislators find themselves in a dispute with the state's various Jewish communities over which group of rabbis should decree what is kosher and what is not.
Del. Theodore Levin (D-B-ALTIMORE County), who has proposed a bill that would expand and toughen the truth-in-advertising laws of kosher foods, thinks the Rabbinate of Orthodox Congregations, a conclave of rabbis from the Baltimore-Washington area, would be an appropriate group.
But some traditional rabbinical scholars in Baltimore's large Jewish community objected to going solely on the word of rabbis with congregations who they thought would be too liberal in setting standards.
So Del. David B. Shapiro (D-Baltimore) decided to amend the bill to make the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, a national group that oversees a number of kosher products, the arbiter of what is or is not kosher in Maryland.
Levin, however, thought that some legislators might object to naming a national group. So now he is thinking of leaving a blank space on the bill where it now designates a group as the official authority on kosher products in Maryland in order to placate all sides and eventually get the bill to the House floor
Del. Arthur S. Alperstein (D-Baltimore County) says he is afraid that the battle between rabbis as to whom should be what Alperstein calls the "top kosher dog" in the state, may kill the billhs chance in the legislature.
The word kosher refers to a particular way of preparing food products according to Jewish law.
The problem is that the code is open to interpretation and there is a virtual "competition of standards" as to how kosher a kosher product needs to be, according to Allen Gibber. chairman of Baltimore's Bureau of Kosher Meat and Food Control.
Levin, whose father owned a kosher pickle business, said his bill originally would have prevented stores from selling foods labeled "kosher-style." But Giant Foods, a powerful lobbying force in Annapolis. refused to suport the bill until that prohibition was taken out.
In its original form. the bill was designed to expand the current law on kosher goods to include milk, milk products. alcoholic beverages and such Jewish goods as the mazuza, a symbol often displayed on front doors of Jewish homes.
It also would require that stores which display a Hebrew kosher symbol in the window also make it clear to customers that it sells some non-kosher products, if that is the case. so that customers are not led to believe any product they buy in the store is kosher.
Levin's bill has passed its first hurdle winning approval in the House Economic Matters Committee. But its success is in no way guaranteed.Levin said.
Gov. Harry R. Hughes has so far expressed no interest in the bill. according to Shapiro. who complained that the governor has been serving crab imperial and ham at the dinner's he has been giving for the delegates. Both foods are banned under kosher law.
Shapiro, who was invited to dine at the governor's mansion Thursday evening, said he had his secretary make him a tuna fish sandwich (kosher, of course) which he took there in a brown paper bag. CAPTION:
Picture,... so how do you know whether or not this sandwich is kosher?