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Jewel in The Crown – Landmark West Hartford supermarket gets new kosher certification

By Cindy Mindell

WEST HARTFORD – On May 13, the Hartford Kashrut Commission (HKC) issued a statement regarding a new — long-awaited, and much welcome — relationship with The Crown Market in West Hartford.

The announcement reads:

“The Hartford Kashrut Commission is pleased to announce that, effective immediately, its certification at The Crown Market has been expanded to include all prepared food items in the 5 O’Clock Shop and in the catering department. This follows the meat room’s transition several weeks ago to complete HKC supervision. The bakery continues to operate under HKC supervision as non-Pas Yisroel with changes anticipated in the near future.

“The HKC acknowledges the stewardship of Rabbi Yitzchok Adler, Rabbi Tuvia Brander and Rabbi Yosef Wolvovsky in the implementation and maintenance of the HKC certifications at The Crown Market. HKC would like to thank the leadership of The Crown Market for their partnership through this transition and their commitment to making The Crown Market accessible for the entire Greater Hartford Jewish community.”

Led by Rabbinic Administrator Rabbi Yitzchok Adler, the West Hartford-based HKC is recognized by the Rabbinic Fellowship of Greater Hartford, comprised of local Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform rabbis, and is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. In January, the HKC joined the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO), an umbrella of kashrut organizations that share common standards of halachic compliance.

“It’s always been the mission of the Hartford Kashrut Commission to promote the observance of kashrut and also the availability of quality kosher products for the community,” says Adler, who has headed up the HKC for nearly 20 years. “The Crown Market has been a beloved fixture in the landscape of this Jewish community for several generations and the milestone recently accomplished – bringing The Crown Market and the Hartford Kashrut Commission into this partnership – speaks volumes about the mission of both.”

According to Adler, certification of The Crown’s bakery was the first step in welcoming the HKC into the store, several years ago. At the same time, the HKC began providing an on-site mashgiach twice a week to make kosher meat available to the Orthodox community. “The bakery really was the key that demonstrated that The Crown Market and the HKC could work together successfully,” says Adler, who is also spiritual leader of West Hartford’s Beth David Synagogue. “There are many heroes and heroines who deserve credit for what has been achieved. It has been a true partnership of the rabbinic community and lay leaders determined to see this process through to success.”

To be sure, one of the “heroes” of the Crown story is Rabbi David Small, spiritual leader of The Emanuel Synagogue. Specifically, it was The Emanuel Synagogue of West Hartford that stepped in to play host to Crown chefs, providing them with full use of the synagogue’s kitchen for upwards of three months, so that the Bishop’s Corner store could continue to operate at full steam while undergoing an extensive renovation that includes the installation of a completely new state-of-the-art kitchen. In addition, Small volunteered to oversee the store’s kashrut during this transitional period.

Though the new kitchen is complete, the storewide renovation is still underway. When it is completed and all departments are open, says the store’s general manager, Michael Kastner, there will be two mashgichim in attendance, as needed.

Every HKC-certified establishment is assigned a designated supervising rabbi who assures that all kosher standards are adhered to. At The Crown, Rabbi Tuvia Brander of the Young Israel of West Hartford will serve in that role, assisted by Adler and Rabbi Yosef Wolvovsky of the Chabad Jewish Center in Glastonbury. Brander, spiritual leader of the Young Israel of West Hartford and a rabbinic supervisor at HKC, became involved in the process when he arrived in West Hartford last summer. He has served as liaison between The Crown and the HKC rabbis, helping to choreograph some of the operational procedures at the store.

Coming under HKC supervision is a process that requires “changing the way things are done,” explains Brander. That includes “making sure that the separations between meat, dairy, and parve areas stay in place, and we also kashered all the kitchen equipment and the serving utensils and made sure the Five O’Clock Shop conformed.”

Most of the departments of The Crown have gone through substantive changes, according to Wolvovsky, including fresh meat, catering, and deli.

“All ingredients are up to national kosher standards; clear separation is maintained between meat, dairy, and parve; laws of Shabbat are observed; and all kitchen work is done under the supervision of a qualified mashgiach,” says Wolvovsky, who is director of the Benet Rothstein Chabad Jewish Center in Glastonbury.

Brander gives credit to Kastner, who has significant experience in food service, in both kosher and non-kosher settings. Kastner has served as a mashgiach, helping to establish the new kitchen practices before permanent on-site mashgichim are hired.

“Part of why I’m so committed and have put in the time on this project is because I see the desire and incredible goal that the team of investors have put forth: to have The Crown be accessible to the entire Jewish community,” says Brander, whose participation is on a volunteer basis.

“I’m honored to work on this project.”

Several Jewish communal leaders weighed in on the new development.

Ann Pava, one of The Crown’s investors and board members, hails the new certification as one that will strengthen the Greater Hartford Jewish community.

“Moving The Crown to be under HKC supervision has been one of the goals that the investors and board of directors have been committed to since we started,” she says. “Food and eating are so incredibly unifying,” Pava says. “For me, participating in the Jewish community is about all of us being unified and being together and appreciating each other for who and what we are. This is an opportunity to take a Jewish landmark and create a kosher system where every single Jewish person in the community would be able to eat and be together. People love The Crown and it has this wonderful, beautiful, warm feeling when you go in and now it will be expanded so that everybody will be able to go in and have that beautiful, warm, wonderful feeling and experience of breaking bread together.”

Rabbi Yosef Gopin of the Chabad House of Greater Hartford commends the yeoman’s effort behind the new certification. “I appreciate the tremendous efforts of Rabbi Adler, Rabbi Brander and Rabbi Wolvovsky in making this change – long-awaited and a lot of work – and I appreciate very much the investors and board and staff who took upon themselves an unbelievable project, to make The Crown kosher and make it acceptable to everybody,” he says. “It’s a wonderful feeling.

I think it’s a very positive thing and I am confident that our community will shop The Crown.”

“The idea is to build community trust and support,” says Wolvovsky. “While this is still a work in progress, it is truly heartening to see the forward progress that we have made thus far. It is a beautiful thing for the community to have an establishment where everyone feels comfortable to shop and eat. Food is so central to so many of our celebrations, and kosher is such an important mitzvah. The leadership of The Crown — ownership, investors, management, and staff — deserves credit and appreciation for stepping in and working hard to provide a space where all segments of our community feel welcome.”

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