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March 2005
Rabbi Monique Susskind Goldberg


Dear Rabbi,

The cheese issue gets me every time! I am really confused over this. For my own home, I buy hechshered (with a rabbinical supervision) cheeses only, but I am aware of the Conservative ruling that rennet is a "davar chadash" (a new product where the old ingredients are no more recognizable) and thus non-hechshered cheeses are permitted.
Now: is this only for hard cheeses? (Yellow, Dutch cheeses... hey, I'm Dutch! Cheese crazy!) Or does this leniency also apply to soft, French cheeses? (Brie, Camembert etc).
I am also familiar that gelatin likewise has the status of "davar chadash". Is it permissible for me to eat products with gelatin?


Rabbi Isaac Klein in his "Responsa and Halkhic Studies" gives a very detailed answer on cheeses and his conclusion is: "It is our considered opinion that commercial cheeses all of them, including those in which rennet from any animal, kosher or non kosher is used as the curdling agent, should be permitted". The principle is that the chemical process involved in making the rennet (cheese starter) changes so much the nature of the ingredients used, that they are no more recognizable and thus cannot be considered as not kosher.
I do not know what process is involved in soft "French" cheese making, but as far as I understand from Rabbi Klein's study, the basis is the same for every cheese. The difference between them is the processing time.

In the case of gelatin, Rabbi Klein also wrote a lengthy responsum (in the same Studies). Here also he tends to be lenient because of the chemical transformation the bones go through, creating a davar hadash (a new thing). He concludes: "Gelatin that is made from bone or hides is kosher. Though this opinion is not unanimous there are an increasing number of authorities who consider the product permissible. It is therefore recommended that we allow the use of all gelatins". I would say that you can eat products with gelatin.
I hope I answered your question,
All the best.

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