OU Banishes Jezebel From Soho


Jezebel is history.

The Queen of Israel who built temples to pagan gods and led her husband, King Ahab, astray will no longer receive tribute in the form of a kosher eatery in downtown Manhattan that bears her sinful name.

That’s because the Orthodox Union won’t certify the upscale restaurant under its current name, and its owners want to attract more traditional kosher diners with the most widely recognized brand of supervision.

As of this month Jezebel will be known under the blander trademark of JSoho. Owners Menachem Sendrowicz and Henry Stimler announced the change in a letter to investors that was later published by the website Kosher Today.

The businessmen said the name change was one of two “concessions” to the OU, the other being a ban on non-mevushal wines, or those that are not cooked in high temperatures to kasher them in case of contact with non-Jews or non-Sabbath observers.

“We felt the name Jezebel does not represent a person who has a positive reputation in the Tanach [Bible] and was not a name we want to promote,” Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the head of the OU’s kashrut division told The Jewish Week.

“This is the name of a rasha, a clearly wicked person.”

Jezebel’s story is told in the Book of Kings, in which she is devoted to the Tyrian deity of Baal, a weather god. Because the New Testament book of Revelations also associates her with sexual immorality, the name has been applied in popular culture to a woman of ill repute.

According to Jewish Virtual Library, Jezebel lived from the end of the first decade of the ninth century B.C.E. and was killed in the insurrection of Jehu in 841.

In choosing the name the restaurant owners may have hoped to associate their establishment with decadence, a tricky prospect in the kosher world.

The restaurant, which has been open for just seven months, did not return a message left on Tuesday in time for publication.

Rabbi Elefant said this was an “atypical” situation because the restaurant was formerly under another certification, that of Rabbi Ahron Mehlman of Lakewood, N.J. Generally, the OU would work with a new restaurant in determining kashrut details prior to its opening.

He said he could not recall a prior incident of objecting to an establishment’s name, but noted that factors such as “ambience” that have no bearing on food are considered in the certification process. For instance, the type of artwork and nature of the entertainment could be grounds for rejection.

“We want to make sure there is a certain environment in the restaurant,” he said.