No Lunch for Weinstein
Here's a serious question for you:
My non-Jewish boss has invited my coworkers and I out for lunch. Although I'm friendly with my coworkers, I don't talk to them about my personal life, and my religious habits have never come up. I feel like I can't turn down the invitation without being rude, and I plan to go but am not sure how to go about not ordering, or even ordering just some greens or fruit. What's the best way to broach the kosher issue without making me seem like a backward fundamentalist ?
(Note: I am currently living outside the greater NY region, where orthodox
Jews are relatively rare.)
This is a question I've had to deal with many times myself. I also grew up far from New York where keeping kosher was unheard of. If you are an Orthodox Jew working in an non-Jewish environment matters of religion are bound to come up eventually either because of dietary issues or because of days off required for Shabbos and Jewish holidays. I don't think it's something you will be able to keep secret forever but I think you can show your hand a bit without turning it into a major event. There will probably be a few questions because people are curious but I don't think it will view the way they view you overall or for very long (people have short attention spans and even shorter memories.)
Since you have already decided you will go to lunch with your co-workers you have a few options:
#1 If you live in an area where there are kosher eateries (that are not embarrassing to take co-workers to) see if you can get them to go some place you can eat. I've found most people I've worked with are very open to trying new "ethnic" foods. You can suggest this as something interesting or vaguely hint at your eating preferences.
#2 Go along to the non-kosher restaurant - Once you get there though, things will get tricky. Even eating a salad or fruit in a non-kosher restaurant is very questionable depending on your level of observance (I'd ask your local Rabbi if you don't know where you stand on this issue.)
Most people would agree that having a soda or water would be fine but there will be no hiding the fact that you are not eating anything while your co-workers pack it in. When an explanation is called for be brief but confident, something like "Because of my restrictive diet eating out doesn't work for me" Or "I'm on a kosher diet, but I'm just here for the company" followed by a big smile. Surely there will be follow up questions but keep your answers as short as you like- no one wants a five hour lecture on the laws of kashrut, they just want to know why your plate is empty. These days everyone is on some kind of weird diet, vegan, Atkins, macrobiotic etc.. I'm sure they will at least accept it even if they don't understand. Not having your mouthful is also a good opportunity to be a major player in the tableside conversation, it may not be as bad as you think.
One last bit of advice from personal experience: If you end up tagging along to a non-kosher restaurant I'd advise you to eat your own lunch before you go. Watching your coworkers eating in front of you while you are starving and sipping on a diet coke is no fun no matter how good the company.