Jewish advocacy groups were troubled last month when the Department of Defense dropped a request for bids to produce kosher field rations, known as Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).
But after a swell of protest, the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency has reportedly not only reinstated the program, but fast tracked the bidding process.
The lack of kosher MREs was protested by Agudath Israel of America, an ultra-Orthodox umbrella organization. Rabbi Abba Cohen, the group’s Washington director, wrote to Maj. Gen. Donald Rutherford, chief chaplain of the Army, to say “there is essentially nothing available for Jewish members of the Armed Forces who require rations that meet their religious dietary needs.”
Further aggravating annoyance was the fact that bidding for halal meals was not dropped.
The Jewish Week reports that, according to the previous manufacturer of kosher MREs, the military’s last supplies expired last month. The Pentagon responded that the expiration dates could be “extended” with the approval of medical personnel.
But this week, Rabbi Cohen told the Jewish Week that he’d been contacted by the military, who said a contract for kosher MREs would be awarded in four to six weeks.
It’s not known exactly how many Jews currently serve in the military, because not all members list a religious preference. According to a 2009 article, just 4,677 of 1.4 million active duty military personnel listed their religion as Judaism, although a military chaplain said the number was 10,000 to 14,000. It’s unknown how many of those keep kosher.