ATLANTA—Timothy D. Lytton, associate dean for research and faculty development, Distinguished University Professor and professor of law at Georgia State Law, will deliver the annual Robert and Florence Dreben Lecture at Harvard University at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 6.
The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies and the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law at Harvard Law School.
Lytton will discuss how the evolution of kosher certification in the United States demonstrates how American legal and economic institutions have shaped Jewish communal self-governance.
“Religious liberty and free markets in America undermined a thousand-year-old model of kosher regulation, which was based on state-supported centralized communal control over religious standards and economic activity,” Lytton explains. “These same features of American liberalism nurtured the emergence of a highly successful system of competitive private entrepreneurial kosher certification agencies.”
A century ago, kosher certification in the United States was rife with scandals involving price fixing, racketeering and murder-for-hire. Today, a network of more than 300 private certifiers reliably ensures the kosher status of food for more than 12 million Americans (of whom only 8 percent are religious Jews) and is a model of nongovernmental regulation.
Beyond food regulation, Lytton’s lecture will explore how religious communities must accept the core liberal values of religious liberty and market exchange to remain cohesive and preserve their traditions.
Lytton’s 2013 book, Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food, explores the implications of kosher food certification as a model of private regulation for food safety and food labeling. He is completing a manuscript on the evolution of the U.S. food safety system. Lytton is affiliated with the Georgia State Center for Law, Health and Society, and he writes about issues related to health and safety regulation, with a focus on food policy.
The Dreben lecture is free and open to the public.