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Couple Offers Cleaning Service for Kosher Environmental Jews

Having trouble finding a cleaning service willing to wash windows? That’s perennial challenge.

How about one eager to help put up a mezuzah or make a kitchen kosher? How about a cleaning service whose worker blesses one’s abode each time he concludes scrubbing the mildew out of the bathtub?

It’s all available through the Eco-Kosher Cleaning Service, based in Berkeley, Calif., which will mop floors and clean the dust-bunnies from under furniture with only environmentally safe cleaning products that are certified kosher.

Founded by Yehudit and Gershon Steinberg-Caudill three years ago — after the couple moved from Boise, Idaho, to be close to Chochmat HaLev Jewish Renewal, an educational and meditation community — it has become so successful that they have a waiting list of potential clients.

Among those currently being served by the Eco-Kosher Cleaning Service are Chochmat HaLev and the homes of some 40 families who run the gamut of Jewish engagement, from Orthodox to unaffiliated.

“We want people to start looking at their homes as sacred space. What we do on Shabbat at our table is linked to the Temple” in Jerusalem and the rituals of blessing and sacrifice that were performed there in ancient times, said Yehudit Steinberg-Caudill. “Each of us is housing the Temple within our home.”

As part of that philosophy, a hechsher, or symbol that it is kosher, just isn’t enough for the couple to use a cleaning product.

Clorox bleach, for example, is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union. But fumes from chlorine, the active ingredient in the bleach, devastate the ozone layer, and so they won’t use it, she said.

Gershon Steinberg-Caudill has long been involved in the sanitation business. For more than two decades he supervised an ice-cream manufacturing plant and one of his tasks was to get rid of the harmful E-coli bacteria.

The ammonia and chlorine the plant used to kill the bacteria were making him sick, said Yehudit, which helped motivate them to look for alternatives once they came to Berkeley.

Eco-Kosher’s spiritual component attracts many of the clients.

They view Gershon Steinberg-Caudill “as their Jewish contact, so he takes a lot of care with all them and brings to them a cup of loving kindness,” said Jody Feld. “If he sees that someone is in pain or suffering, he’ll engage them in conversation and see what they need.”

Feld, a writer and Jewish educator, and her husband, Chanan Feld, who performs ritual circumcisions, hired Steinberg-Caudill to clean their house primarily because of his attitude.

“It’s nice to know their products have a hechsher on them but for cleaning my bathroom it doesn’t really matter,” said Jody Feld.

“He has a very holy attitude toward his work. He comes and cleans our house right before Shabbos and he knows, if I have him clean the stove, that he has to use a new sponge” for reasons of kashrut, she said.

Between cleaning jobs Gershon is studying to be a rabbi.

The couple plans to hire assistants willing to work the way they do, and to raise the consciousness of area synagogues and other Jewish institutions about the importance of cleaning with eco-kosher products.

Eco-Kosher Cleaning Service also sells a home cleaning kit for $49.00. It includes a six-month supply of the cleaning products, a manual for their use and a blessing to recite when the task is complete.

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