My former student, Max Sparber of Minneapolis wrote in September 2007:
Kosher wine: If it’s good enough for winos and the prophet Elijah, it’s good enough for you
ARE THERE WINOS ANYMORE? There must be, as most American big cities have one section of town that still serves as a skid row. Even if you were to miss the gangs of drunks, often seen shirtless and sipping from brown paper bags, it would be impossible to miss the broken glass. The sidewalks and gutters are filled with shattered bottles. Among the empty vodka and malt liquor bottle shards, the careful observer will notice a distinctive label: that of MD 20/20, commonly referred to as Mad Dog, a sickly sweet wine fortified with various fruit flavors, including “Pink Grapefruit” and “Hawaiian Blue.” Alcoholics still take to Mad Dog for the same reason they have for decades, and for the same reason they favor other sweet wines. It is inexpensive and it kills your appetite, which is an important consideration when choosing between a meal and a drink.
What most winos don’t realize is that while they’re working on enlarging their livers, they are also obeying strict Jewish dietary law. Mad Dog, you see, is produced by Mogen David, and is manufactured under careful rabbinic supervision. Winos, it seems, have a taste for kosher drinks.
In general, most Americans don’t have a very clear understanding of Jewish dietary laws. A Jewish Studies professor at the University of Minnesota used to tell a story about his frequent experiences aboard airplanes, as the flight attendants would inevitably discover that they had neglected to pack a kosher meal for him. According to the professor, who, as a graduate of Yeshiva University, also held the title of rabbi, could always look forward to the flustered flight attendants bringing a regular meal and offering to find a rabbi to bless it. ..... more