CRESAPTOWN, Md. (Map, News) - You've heard of kosher salt? Now there's a Christian variety.
Retired barber Joe Godlewski says he was inspired by television chefs who repeatedly recommended kosher salt in recipes.
"I said, 'What the heck's the matter with Christian salt?'" Godlewski said, sipping a beer in the living room of his home in unincorporated Cresaptown, a western Maryland mountain community.
By next week, his trademarked Blessed Christians Salt will be available at http://www.memphi.net
, the Web site of Memphis, Tenn.-based seasonings manufacturer Ingredients Corporation of America.
It's sea salt that's been blessed by an Episcopal priest, ICA President Damon S. Arney said Wednesday. He said the company also hopes to market the salt through Christian bookstores and as a fundraising tool for religious groups.
Arney and Godlewski, 73, said a share of the proceeds will be donated to Christian charities, but neither would specify a percentage.
Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, kosher administrator for the Chicago Rabbinical Council, said marketing Christian salt as an alternative to kosher salt reflects, at best, ignorance about Jewish dietary laws. He said all salt is inherently kosher because it occurs naturally and requires little or no processing.
Certified kosher foods are not blessed by rabbis but examined by them to ensure that the food and its processing conform with Biblical passages regarding food preparation and consumption, Fishbane said.
He said coarse-grained kosher salt is named for the way in which it was traditionally used - to draw blood from freshly butchered meat, because Jewish law prohibits consuming blood. Chefs often favor kosher salt because it's crunchy and easy to pinch.
Godlewski said his salt, packaged in containers bearing bright red crosses, has at least as much flavor and beneficial minerals as kosher salt - and it's for a good cause.
"The fact is, it helps Christians and Christian charities," he said. "This is about keeping Christianity in front of the public so that it doesn't die. I want to keep Christianity on the table, in the household, however I can do it."
A one-time Catholic who now holds Bible studies in his home, Godlewski is a longtime entrepreneur. In 1998, he founded a kielbasa sausage business now run by a nephew. In 2000, he introduced the Stretch & Catch, a fishing gizmo that he says was copied and buried by foreign competitors.
If the salt takes off, Godlewski plans an entire line of Christian-branded foods, including rye bread, bagels and pickles.
Food industry consultant Richard Hohman, of Tampa, Fla., said Christian branding is a clever idea that could do well in the Bible Belt.
But Christine Johnson, managing editor of the trade journal Christian Retailing in Lake Mary, Fla., said marketing channels are limited. Although Christian scripture candy and Christian fortune cookies have won shelf space in some Christian bookstores, "there's a very, very small market for Christian-type foods," she said.
"As far as there being a market for salt, I cannot really see it" in Christian bookstores, Johnson said.
Rabbi Fishbane said he doesn't blame Godlewski for seizing a business opportunity, even one that plays on public misconceptions about kosher products.
However, "if it comes from a lack of knowledge on his end or, even worse, anti-Semitism, then I have an issue with that," Fishbane said. "I can't see anything good coming out of something like that."
Godlewski makes his aim clear: "There's no anti-Semitism. I love Jesus Christ and he was a Jew."