“I totally understand why so many Jews want to eat pork. Pork is a symbol of defiance. Secular Israelis eat it to make a statement and resist the religious hegemony of the Israeli government.”
When you ask a modern Jew about her relationship to pork the answer is often complicated. With SMITH Magazine’s “Six Words on the Jewish Life” show approaching (September 21, at 92YTribeca in NYC) we thought we’d check in with Jeffrey Yoskowitz, a Jew who’s made pork his passion and profession as founding editor of the storytelling site Pork Memoirs. As with many life callings, Yoskowitz recalls the moment when he made his mind up about pork once and for all.
“What would you do if Cindy Crawford wanted to kiss you?” a fellow camper asked him at Jewish summer camp. “But she had just gone to town on a huge bacon sandwich, and she still had bacon in her mouth?” Would Yoskowitz man up and kiss Crawford or keep kosher like a good Jew?
“Truth is, at that age if Cindy Crawford had wanted to kiss me, I would have done anything, but my answer was no. I wouldn’t kiss her if she had bacon in her mouth,” says Yoskowitz.
Yoskowitz’s yearning to lock lips with Crawford may have waned since his Jewish camp days, but his fascination with bacon has not. While you won’t find Yoskowitz chowing down at a pig roast, don’t be surprised if he personally raised and slaughtered the main course himself.
Yoskowitz has made a career out of his fascination with pork. In addition to founding Pork Memoirs, he has written extensively about pork in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The New Republic. He earned his stripes by working on a pig farm in Israel, where he spent his days covered in pig excrement, tossing out dead pigs, and collecting boar semen. “It’s called ‘milking’ the boars, and it was a promotion from being an all-around cleaner of pig shit,” says Yoskowitz.
“I have a fascination with pork,” he continues, “but it’s not so much a fascination with the meat itself as it is with the idea of pork and what pork represents. To me the pig is so tied to my Jewish identity, whether it’s cultural or religious, and that identity is always in flux and changing.”