Girl Guide cookies now certified kosher

Members of the Girl Guides unit celebrate the kosher certification of the eponymous fundraiser cookies. Clockwise, from top left, are Chaya Akavi, Angela Du and Hadassah Nauenberg.

TORONTO — For the first time, Girl Guides of Canada’s cookies will be certified kosher, thanks to a shomer Shabbat unit that pushed the organization to become more inclusive.

“The first question the girls asked when we started the unit was, ‘When can we sell cookies?’” said Sara Silverman, who started the unit with her friend, Michelle Nauenberg, three years ago, when they decided they wanted their daughters to experience the Guides program without having to miss out on activities scheduled on Saturdays.

“It is all about fostering positive female experiences to boost self confidence in a totally safe and supportive environment,” Silverman said.

It was easy enough to adapt the activities to fit a Jewish lifestyle, Silverman said. The group of 31 girls meets on Sundays at the Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto synagogue in Thornhill, taking part in regular Girl Guide activities, but following Jewish law, such as only allowing kosher food into the synagogue and avoiding Saturday activities.

But the cookies, which are one of the Guides’ main fundraising tools, weren’t certified kosher, although there was nothing unkosher about the ingredients in the chocolate and vanilla cookies, Silverman said.

“This made the girls very sad, as they really wanted to be able to sell the cookies,” she said, adding that missing out on this fundraiser was difficult financially on the unit. “We tried other fundraisers, but the girls kept asking.”

Around two years ago, the group decided they would try to have the cookies certified. At first, Silverman said she was told it was not financially feasible, but with lots of perseverance, Girl Guides of Canada eventually agreed. Recently, it confirmed that the chocolate and vanilla cookies for the spring fundraiser – but not the mint chocolate ones, and not the cookies from the autumn fundraiser – would be certified under the Orthodox Union’s OU hechsher.

“It feels like our unit has made a difference,” said Avigail Rucker, a 12-year-old participant.

For more information on placing a bulk order, or about the shomer Shabbat Girl Guides unit, contact [email protected].