Porkless in Pigezhuang
China is now the world's fastest-growing producer of kosher-certified food, with more than 500 Chinese factories producing the approved products. That number is expected to soar, not because this country that is still officially atheist has embraced Judaism, but because it's good for business.
"I used to get this puzzled look, 'What is kosher?' " said Rabbi Martin Grunberg, 54, a field inspector for the New York-based Orthodox Union, which is responsible for certifying more than 300 plants in China. "Now a lot of people know it as a marketing tool to increase their market share, especially in the United States."
That's important in China, which is trying to recover from the recent spate of tainted-food scandals. Eager to regain consumer trust, the "Made in China" label has found an unexpected ally in the once-obscure kosher symbol.
It's hard for Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, 34, to blend in. His black beard is long and bushy, and some Chinese he meets can't resist tugging at it with their fingers.
"They used to call me Santa Claus," said Freundlich, who moved to Beijing with his family in 2001 to start a Jewish community center. Then came the Sept. 11 attacks. "They started calling me Bin Laden, which is unfortunate." Full Story