February 08

A Triumphalist Table of In/Compatibility of other Religions with Judaism

Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi

Editors Note:

In the 1960s, Rabbi Zalman Schachter (as he was then called) was one of the few Jewish leaders supportive of young Jews' explorations of other spiritual traditions, especially "Eastern" ones such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Unlike those who saw all "other" religions as equally treif, Schachter's seminal essay, "Some Gurus Not Inimical to Judaism," reprinted in the classic volume Zen and Hasidism, was at pains to distinguish between teachings which presented relatively little problem for Jews, such as Zen, and those which were more problematic, such as devotional Hinduism.

Around the same time, Schachter created a somewhat tongue-in-cheek "table of in/compatibility of other religions with Judaism," playfully placing different religious paths on a spectrum of kosher to treif, analogizing them to different gradations of not-entirely-kosher behavior. It remains a provocative way of thinking about the spiritual search: more accepting than most other rabbis would still be today, yet at the same time not a blanket approval of every other faith tradition. Zeek presents this table now for the first time, somewhat edited, together with Reb Zalman's original introduction:

This chart, a sliding scale, is intended to give the Jewish seeker a sense of distribution of ways in which a Jew involved in other religious paths may see himself in relation to the norm of Jewish life. As long as no disaffiliation with Judaism is demanded, the seeker is able to see himself in tension with that norm. Only the minus factors are shown. The plus factors depend on the level of realization achieved by the Dharmic path. Given that a person achieves full realization on any of them (though how one can expect this to happen on –10 is hard to conceive) he compares if he is a Jew with a Jew who has achieved the same on that minus level. Let us say that a person fully enlightened rates plus 10, then deducting the minus from this he can rate himself vis-à-vis the one who being Jewish in this incarnation reaches enlightenment by the Jewish path. This is not a dogmatic rating system, but it is a sort of comparison chart to understand one’s relationship to normative mainstream Judaism. Only G-d knows the inner secrets of one’s heart.

Kashut equivalent
Religious Movement
Kosher food on Kosher plates on Sabbath or Mitzvah meal Havuroth
Jewish seekers exploring new ways to do tradition
Kosher food on kosher plates for overeating and indulgence Sufism
Hatha Yoga
Advaitin Vedanta
Cold kosher food
vegetarian food on non kosher dishes
Tibetan (Trungpa) and Zen Buddhism
IYO-Satchidananda 3h Kundalini Yoga (Bhajan)
Unitarian Universalism
Mararishi TM
Hot kosher food on non kosher dishes and silverware Nature religions
Native American Church
Jews for Jesus
not affiliated with Christian church
Kosher food cooked in non-kosher dishes
meat and fish mixed
Tibetan Buddhism
Higher forms of Christianity
all affiliations demanding that Judaism be relinquished
Kosher food with some chemical
non-kosher liquid ingredients
Regular affiliation with Christian high church
Bon Tibetan
Nichrien Soshu
Valshnavi and Shalvi Hinduism
Beef and chicken
not kosher slaughtered
Fertility cults
white magic
Druidic iconic worships
Shellfish, pork, blood, meat and milk boiled together Devil worship
black magic
invocation of malevolent agents


Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is one of the founders of the Jewish Renewal movement. He is the author of dozens of books on Jewish spiritual and ethical life, including Wrapped in a Holy Flame: Teachings and Tales of the Hasidic Masters.