Thank you for writing.
You will note that this is a question that doesn’t have a completely firm and fixed response when answered from a Halachic (Jewish law) perspective, as is seen in the excellent responses of my colleagues. The answer can vary, depending on the theory with which one approaches the status of gelatin (or some other products that are sometimes manufactured from differing materials).
When giving more weight to the source of the ingredients (animal, vegetable, artificial), the answer may be one thing, while an answer based on giving more weight to the procedures and techniques involved (chemical processes, physical and chemical composition and breakdown, etc.), the answer may be different. That is why it is possible to find some marshmallows that are marked as Kosher for Passover, but they are not all accepted universally by those who follow the rules of Kashrut.
Gelatin conceptually in and of itself is not unkosher.
Traditionally, it is determined to be kosher or not depending on the source.
Gelatin from a pig would not be kosher.
Gelatin from a cow could be kosher – but it would raise the concern about how it was prepared, and if the animal was slaughtered according to kosher standards. It would also raise the further question as to whether it was meat or not for use in various recipes, following the concern of maintaining a separation of meat and dairy products in Kosher observance.
Gelatin from a fish or a plant would also likely be kosher (if it was a kosher fish), and would not be considered meat or dairy, so might be usable with either.
Gelatin manufactured from completely artificial sources (chemically produced in a factory vat from raw materials that are not derived from fish, meat, or plants) would also likely be considered kosher, and would not be considered meat or dairy.
Responding to you from a strictly Reform perspective, the answer once again is not entirely clear.
There are Reform Jews who do not follow the rules of Kashrut at all, or at least, not in this matter, and for them, there is effectively no question to answer – they would find any gelatin from any source acceptable for use.
There are other Reform Jews who do follow the rules of Kashrut, at least to some degree or in some fashion.
Among them, there are Reform Jews who would accept that the processes change the nature of the material to such a degree that the source is irrelevant, and they would accept gelatin from any source as usable for their purposes. Their reasoning is different than the group that does not follow the rules of Kashrut, but the effect may be the same.
Another subset is those Reform Jews who do follow the rules of Kashrut, and who would be concerned with the source of the ingredients. For these people, if it is a non-kosher source, they would not accept it, if it is a kosher source, they would.
So even among the Reform Jews (perhaps it would be better to say ‘among Progressive Jews’), there are some/many who would say yes to your question, but there are still some who would say no.
Thus, you have a very rabbinic answer – ‘It depends.’ :-)
Rabbi Joe Blair
Answered by: Rabbi Joseph Blair