By Cindy Mindell
The advent of a new kosher restaurant would be noteworthy enough in a Jewish community the size of greater Hartford; just under 35,000 were counted by the 2000-01 National Jewish Population Survey, sponsored by the United Jewish Communities. But over the last month, kashrut seems to be thriving in many other ways as well throughout the area.
“It’s a good time for this Jewish community,” says Rabbi Yitzchok Adler, rabbinic administrator of the Hartford Kashrut Commission (HKC), a local supervisory agency. “Keeping kosher here has never been easier.”
By the end of the year, kosher caterer Steve Shuman plans to open the only kosher restaurant in greater Hartford, at 12 Mountain Ave. in Bloomfield. He will also expand his glatt kosher selection at the Mandell JCC’s CafÈ J in West Hartford to include wraps and salads. Shuman, who has provided glatt kosher prepared foods for Waldbaums’ kosher deli at Bishops Corner, will continue to do so when Big Y takes over the store in early November.
“Our intention is to keep everything the way it was when Waldbaums ran the store,” says Claire D’Amour Daley, vice president of corporate communications. “We’ve worked with Rabbi Adler to maintain that level of kosher offerings.” The deli and bakery will receive HKC certification, and the kosher meat department will cut glatt beef and other fresh products Sunday through Friday.
Earlier this month, a new glatt kosher fresh meat department opened at The Crown Market in West Hartford, under HKC supervision. The glatt meat, freshly cut, is kept in a designated cooler. Crown’s popular in-store bakery, which will remain under the supervision of Rabbi Marshall Press, will also be endorsed and certified by the HKC. Crown is expanding its already extensive lines of kosher dairy products and frozen foods, says president Marc Bokoff. The store plans to carry several Cholov Yisroel items, including yogurt, cream cheese, and butter, and Klein’s ice cream, a product usually available only for Passover.
“It’s a very positive thing for the West Hartford Jewish community to have other options and good options for their kosher shopping,” says Bokoff. “We forget that it’s very unusual for a community the size of greater Hartford to have at its disposal the number of Jewish choices. I grew up in a very small Jewish community, and now coming up here, I say that it’s pretty amazing that you don’t have to be in New York or Boston to live a comfortable Jewish life.”
Windsor-based Yosi Kosher Catering is expanding its offerings as well. Since 2008, the company has been supplying kosher “grab and go” Middle Eastern and other items to Whole Foods Market at Bishops Corner, West Hartford Center, and Glastonbury, and plans to expand the selection. The 2,500-square-foot kitchen will be nearly doubled in order to meet the demand. Through FreshPoint Connecticut, Yosi supplies preservative-free kosher prepared foods to supermarkets and university dining halls throughout the Northeast, including University of Hartford, Trinity College, Yale, and Vassar College.
The 15-year-old HKC is recognized by the Rabbinic Fellowship of Greater Hartford, comprised of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform rabbis, and is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. Several rabbis from the fellowship assisted with the negotiations, Adler said. Many lay professionals donated time and expertise to help ensure that the greater Jewish community’s best interests be served as a result.
“All of these efforts really represent a commitment on the part of many, many people,” says Adler. “The HKC will be the supervising agency, but so many people all put in a tremendous amount of time and dedication to the community to make this all happen. When we think about what has transpired over the past six weeks, we’re a long way from Waldbaums announcing that they had sold the Bishops Corner store, to what we are now privileged to enjoy. Keeping kosher in this community has never been easier. The recent developments really do set West Hartford apart as a community its size that has so much to offer in terms of kosher food and Jewish quality of life.”