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December 7, 2016 / 7 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Park Slope Food Coop – Stick to Food, Not Politics

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

When the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn was founded in 1973, it had a worthy mission:  to make healthy and affordable food available to everyone who wanted it.  But recently, the Coop appears to have lost its way.  In April, it suspended four loyal, long-time members for a whole year – three of them members from the Coop’s inception.  The reason?  Allegedly, the four disrupted a Coop meeting.  But in reality, they were singled out from among hundreds of Coop members who vociferously objected to a hateful and bigoted anti-Israel presentation at a Coop meeting, which was aimed at getting the Coop to boycott an Israeli company called SodaStream.

This wasn’t the first time that an anti-Israel boycott was proposed at the Coop; the membership had already considered and soundly rejected one in 2012.  But the Israel-bashers were persistent, this time displaying inflammatory anti-Israel photos at a Coop general meeting.  The photos weren’t verified, they had no context, and the boycott proponents did not even establish their connection to SodaStream.  Members at the meeting reported that not only was Israel viciously attacked; Jews were, too, with outrageous and incendiary comments like “Jews are aggressive toward black children.”

The four suspended Coop members were no doubt passionate and vocal about their objection to this anti-Israel boycott effort, and they had good reason to be: A boycott of Israeli products such as SodaStream would violate New York State law and could subject the Coop to liability.

New York’s Human Rights Law prohibits boycotts based on national origin, among several other protected categories.  The law doesn’t require evidence of a formal boycott campaign; it’s enough if there’s a pattern of conduct that commercially disadvantages members of a protected class, which describes the anti-Israel vendetta at the Coop.The four suspended Coop members were no doubt passionate and vocal about their objection to this anti-Israel boycott effort, and they had good reason to be:  A boycott of Israeli products such as SodaStream would violate New York State law and could subject the Coop to liability.

Boycotts that protest unlawful discriminatory practices do not violate the Human Rights Law, but that exception couldn’t possibly apply to a boycott targeting SodaStream, a company that exemplifies fairness and peaceful Jewish-Arab co-existence.  When the SodaStream factory was located near Maale Adumim – an area in Judea (part of the so-called “West Bank”) under Israeli control according to the 1993 Oslo Accords, and an area that would likely be included in Israel in any future peace deal with the Palestinian Arabs – approximately 500 Palestinian Arabs worked at the factory alongside Israeli Jews, receiving equal pay and treatment.  The factory even had a mosque for Muslim employees.  The Coop was targeting SodaStream for one reason only:  It’s an Israeli company and the boycott promoters are hateful and hostile to Israel, which is precisely what the law is aimed at addressing.

Recently, New York State made its prohibitions against anti-Israel boycotts even stronger.  Last June, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order to prevent state agencies and authorities from engaging in or promoting “any investment activity that would further the harmful and discriminatory Palestinian-backed Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in New York State.”  The Coop isn’t a state entity but it does receive both state and federal benefits.  In addition to the federal money it receives from the food stamps that some customers use, the Coop has been authorized by the state to operate as a non-profit tax-exempt organization.  The Coop thus doesn’t have to pay taxes derived from the revenue it collects.  Given these benefits, it is difficult to believe that New York State would indulge a Coop decision to target and discriminate against Israeli companies, including SodaStream.

These kinds of liability concerns prompted the GreenStar Food Coop in Ithaca to reject a boycott of Israeli products.  The coop’s legal counsel wisely concluded that the boycott could render GreenStar liable under the Human Rights Law.

The four members’ vehement rejection of the Park Slope Food Coop’s anti-Israel boycott efforts made sense for a second reason:  Targeting and boycotting the one Jewish state in the world – and the only thriving democracy in the Middle East – flies in the face of the Coop’s own Mission Statement.  The Coop purports to be committed to “oppose discrimination in any form,” to “make the Coop welcoming and accessible to all,” and to “lead by example” and educate about such topics as “cooperation and the environment.”  The four members, together with hundreds of others who also opposed a boycott of the environmentally-friendly SodaStream, strongly reacted so that the Coop would stay out of a complicated political situation and remain an accessible place for everyone.

The absolute injustice of the Coop’s suspension of its four loyal members led the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) to intervene and urge the Coop to first, reinstate the members immediately and second, stop promoting discriminatory and potentially illegal practices targeting the Jewish State.  But the Coop has disgracefully stayed silent, keeping the harsh punishment in place, which is directed against not only the four members, but also all the members of their respective households who have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Everyone in the community – especially our public officials – should be calling on the Coop to stop indulging a group of Israel-bashers who seem obsessed with singling out and discriminating against Israel, in violation of public policy.  Instead, the Coop should stick to its mission to make healthy and affordable food available to everyone who wants it.

Zionist Organization of America

Questions Surround New Kosher Food Booth At New York State Fair

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

SYRACUSE, NY – The Great New York State Fair opened for its 175th year last week and for the first time it features a kosher food booth.

Catering by The Oaks, a Syracuse-based food service run by the Sodexo company, is the vendor serving an all-dairy menu including deep-fried potato knishes ($4), deep-fried apple or cheese blintzes coated with cinnamon and brown sugar or drizzled with strawberry topping and powdered sugar ($4), deep-fried matzah balls ($4), as well as bagel and lox sandwiches ($6).

For those favoring a healthier option, the knishes and blintzes can be ordered as a baked selection, and gluten-free citrus salmon lettuce wraps ($10) and chopped Israeli salad ($2) will be part of the menu as well.

The concessionaire said the pricing is in line with non-kosher fair food.

“What we did was take the cost of the product, the fees and expenses that we pay for being at the fair, and what is in line for what the market is,” said Jarrod Charsky, general manager of Sodexo and The Oaks in Syracuse. “I can tell you our price point is probably lower than our competitors at the New York State Fair. We want to make it where everyone can try the food…. we want to make it exciting, we want to make it where everyone will want to try this. We want to go on the theme of deep-fried fun food for people who are willing to try new things.

“When I designed this menu I wanted to add to the fun and add to the fair theme. Deep-fried is always a great thing at the fair. Everyone always loves deep-fried stuff, kind of like a nice little carnival menu.”

According to people involved with setting up the kosher kiosk, which is shomer Shabbos, the contract apparently was selected by the acting state fair director and the director of the concessions and exhibits office at the fair. But is the size of the contract large enough that it should have been offered for competitive bidding?

Rabbi Aaron Metzger, director of kosher law enforcement for the state, said he could not comment without agency officials providing approval. Agency officials declined to make Rabbi Metzger available to comment for this story.

“I was contacted by a representative from the governor’s office about three or four months ago to see if we could make it happen and I spoke to the caterer that does the catering at Menorah Park, which is Sodexo,” Rabbi Evan Shore, spiritual leader at Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse and mashgiach for the kosher kiosk, told The Jewish Press.

“I asked them if they were interested. We then met with the acting state fair director and after some back and forth they went back to Menorah Park, a senior citizens home, and they contracted out to Sodexo as their caterer.”

Charsky agrees with Rabbi Shore’s recollection. Rabbi Metzger, he said, “approached our rabbi [Evan Shore] and then our rabbi came to us [Sodexo] and he said I think this will be a wonderful thing because we’re the only kosher caterer in Central New York. Rabbi Metzger put us together with [state fair officials].”

One obstacle the concessionaire has to contend with is that the kiosk’s food is chalav stam rather than chalav Yisrael, which means a number of Orthodox fairgoers have to bring their own food.

“The Oaks serves chalav stam at its Menorah Park facility,” said Rabbi Shore. “That is why the fair [is] chalav stam.”

The kosher food booth is not located in the International Food Pavilion but rather in the Horticulture Building on the fair’s 375-acre grounds. This is just feet away from where Chabad-Lubavitch of Central New York has a bustling education booth where Rabbi Yaakov Rapoport and his son put tefillin on fairgoers and hand out pamphlets about Judaism.

Asked by The Jewish Press about the chalav stam situation, Rabbi Rapoport chose not to directly respond.

“I’m not commenting,” he said. “I’m not involved with it and I have no comment to make on it.”

In an effort to determine whether the venue comes under competitive bidding stipulations, we pressed for a Request for Proposal (RFP) and were instructed by state fair officials to file a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request in order to receive the information. (The state fair is run by the Department of Agriculture and Markets.)

We received the following response:

“The Department of Agriculture and Markets acknowledges receipt of your recent Freedom of Information request for the RFP for a kosher vendor, all responses to the RFP and the submitted application, the application by The Oaks@Menorah Park and the acceptance letter by the state fair,” wrote Rick Arnold, the records access officer for Agriculture and Markets. “I am also looking for the financial arrangement between the state fair and The Oaks.

“The Department is in the process of searching for and obtaining these records. Once the records are reviewed, a determination as to the extent to which these records may be released will be made as soon as possible, at which time you will receive copies of the requested records after payment for copying costs, if any, is received. If one or more records will be withheld or withheld in part, a statement explaining the reason(s) for denial of the release will be provided.”

The agency has until September 12 to respond to the FOIL request. The fair runs until September 5, so an answer is likely to be forthcoming after the fair closes.

Other potential vendors that have expressed interest in bidding for the concession include Teaneck, New Jersey-based Five Star Caterers; Jonathan Katz, owner of Queens-based Kosher Sports, which operates the kosher food concession at Citi Field; and Strikly Kosher, Inc., which manages kosher vending operations at several sports venues including Yankee Stadium.

Marc Gronich

Summer Food Fun

Friday, July 1st, 2016

It’s baaaaack!

Yup, summer is here for real, bringing with it that vacation vibe and, even for those of us who still have to report to work every day, there is something in the air that makes you feel like a kid again. County fairs beckon invitingly, the nearest pool seems to be calling your name and it just feels like the right time to pack up a picnic and head for a local park for a few hours of chill time or a night full of fireworks. Somehow, no matter how you choose to spend your down time, food always manages to factor into the equation. Let’s face it: our culture really does revolve around food, so why not stock your kitchen with items that make your life easier?

Eller-070116-SodastreamSeltzer makers have become a hot item in recent years and for good reason. With the ability to make fresh carbonated beverages on the spot and dozens of varieties to choose from for those who prefer flavored sparkling water, Sodastream may forever redefine your beverage consumption. While this nifty appliance’s reusable bottles may draw the environmentally conscious, not having to shlep soda from the store or find a place to store all those bottles has an even more universal appeal. A few things to know about Sodastream: If you want to be able to use it on Shabbos, be sure to get one that doesn’t use electricity and be vigilant about only carbonating plain water and not overfilling the bottle. Trust me when I tell you that not following instructions may result in a very wet and soggy kitchen counter. Sodastream offers a large variety of OU-certified flavors, both sugar-free and sugar-full, with kid-pleasing choices like Kool-Aid Tropical Punch and Fizzy Blue, and more gourmet choices like Stevia Grapefruit Lemongrass, Green Tea Litchi and Eboost Acai Pomegranate. Watch the sales, especially around holiday times, and chances are you will be able to find a good deal on a Sodastream, making it an even more appealing addition to your kitchen.


While hot weather equals barbeque season for many, grill pans give you the ability to capture some of the benefits of outdoor cooking without ever leaving the air-conditioned comfort of your kitchen. Because of their ridged bottoms that catch drips and juices, grill pans allow you to produce nicely-seared, fabulous burgers and so much more (think fish, chicken or succulent steaks) with those mucho-appetizing grill marks. While there is no doubt that cast iron pans offer superior heat distribution and other advantages, I can’t deal with a pan that requires so much TLC, making Cuisinart’s dishwasher safe CastLite series the answer to my dreams. Made out of enamel-coated cast iron with a non-stick interior, it provides the best of all possible worlds, producing great results with easy cleanup. While this pan may be almost 50 percent lighter than a conventional cast iron griddle, I strongly suggest you not drop this one on your toe; weighing in at five pounds, it still packs quite a wallop. What size grill pan to get? That depends on your priorities – a bigger pan will give you more cooking area, but requires more storage space, so choose accordingly. Me? I am loving my 11-inch square griddle, but if space is at a premium, a smaller model may make more sense.

Eller-070116-TrivetSpeaking of storage considerations, it is important to remember that no matter how big your kitchen is, it will quickly become cluttered and disorganized if you fill your drawers and cabinets with stuff you never use. You know what I mean. The pastry blender that hasn’t been used since we last had a Clinton in the White House. The turkey baster that you got as a gift at your bridal shower and is still in its original packaging even though your youngest kid is now 15. Give them away to a friend, donate them to a needy cause or throw them all out and then stock your kitchen with items that work for you. In my case, the last gadget that I thought was practical enough to have earned real estate space in my kitchen was a Joseph Joseph Stretch Expandable Trivet. What makes this silicone-nylon trivet so practical is that while it opens to a generous 21 ½ inches to hold hot pots or pans, it folds down to a surprisingly svelte 3 inches, taking up just a tiny little spot in your drawer. Whether you go with the funky lime green or the more discreet black, this is one product that definitely works for you.


Although the Westbend On Demand Corn Popper does take up a heftier amount of kitchen space than the trivet, you may just find that this machine has slimming possibilities of its own. Pour popcorn kernels into the dispenser of this sleek stainless steel hot air popper and with a press of the lever it pops a single serving of popcorn, a great, low-calorie high-fiber snack. Want to make a bigger batch for the whole family? No problem. Just depress the lever three more times and get ready to enjoy those white, fluffy bits of goodness. Best of all, this popper, which holds 28 ounces of popcorn, does all the measuring on its own, leaving you with nothing harder to do than to grab a bowl and a salt shaker so that you can crunch away.

Eller-070116-Tovolo-KnivesEntire volumes can and probably have been written on the importance of high-quality knives but I can tell you right now that I am not qualified to discuss the merits of one knife over the other or the superiority of a $150 knife. As someone who is not a gourmet chef and likes to keep things uncomplicated, my criteria are fairly simple: give me a knife that feels good in my hand, isn’t too heavy and, most importantly, does a good job cutting. While there are plenty of great candidates out there that are an asset to any kitchen, I am finding myself very impressed with my newly-acquired Tovolo knives. While they may be best known for whimsical items like smiley face spatulas and rubber ducky ice molds, the nice folks at Tovolo have also made a serious line of knives in a full range of sizes that can tackle just about any kitchen job. Made out of high carbon stainless steel with comfort grip handles, these knives get the job done. My favorite? The five-inch prep knife, which is big enough to handle most jobs without being overly cumbersome. Does the fact that these knives come in a rainbow of colors make me love them even more? Yup. Guilty as charged.

Alright, everyone, time for me to say farewell for now. I am going to take my own advice and toss both my pastry blender and the turkey baster, leaving me extra room for more cool kitchen toys!

Sandy Eller

Chabad Rabbi Wins Second in Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Competition

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

One can find a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary almost anywhere in the world — but how many viewers expect to find a rabbinical expert on kosher laws competiting for the top prize on the Food Network’sChopped‘ show?

The irrepressible Rabbi Hanoch Hecht, 31, actually won second place as a contestant on the popular program, in an episode titled “Leap of Faith” in which he competed alongside a priest, a pastor and a nun.

Hecht grew up in Brooklyn, NY as one of 10 children and told Chabad.org that he managed to stay in his mother’s good graces by helping his mother in the kitchen. Those skills came in handy later in life when he began whipping up Sabbath meals at home with his own wife, Tzivie; the two are co-directors of Chabad Dutchess-Rhinebeck Jewish Center in Upstate New York.

The clerics were tasked with preparing an appetizer, entree and dessert using secret basket ingredients revealed at the start of each round, timed in 20, 30 and 30-minute increments.

It was the rabbi’s expertise in kosher laws that he said brought him to the show, which he saw as an opportunity to educate millions about kosher food, and to debunk some myths about it as well.

“The experience was phenomenal,” Hecht said. “The producers were very accommodating and sensitive to my needs and requirements.”

Those requirements were part of the agreement for the rabbi’s participation on the show, which found him due to his role as a guest lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY. It was one of CIA’s professional chefs that nominated him to appear on “Chopped.”

Hecht said he’s “always enjoyed cooking,” so before he appeared on the show, “some of the chefs at CIA coached me and gave me lessons” as a way to reciprocate for his lectures of past years.

The rabbi noted that the experience emphasized for him “how no other religion requires both the ingredients and food preparation to be within certain guidelines. The other contestants didn’t have the same restrictions… [It] helped me to appreciate even more the responsibility and reward of keeping kosher.”

One of the biggest challenges, of course, was the fact that because the studio kitchen was not kosher, the rabbi could not taste any of the food. To compensate, Hecht asked the pastor to sample the condiment levels in his dishes for him.

For those who are wondering what a Chabad rabbi might create as a gourmet chef for the Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ competition, the episode (Season 28, Episode 13) aired on June 21 and is set to be rebroadcast. It is also available on demand.

Rabbi Hecht created a salmon stew for the appetizer that included raw white honey and Ezekiel bread. His entree was a Lebanese-style lamb and rice dish with a jalapeno-based relish he called “the rabbi’s heat.” But his most successful dish was the dessert — a rugelach made with fig, macadamia nut and hamantash filling (the latter was a basket ingredient), alongside a rainbow carrot tzimmes and fresh non-dairy whipped cream (since meat was served in the main dish).

The spirit was congenial among the competitors and the judges, said the rabbi. As Sister Sara Marks noted, “We all have God in common.”

Hana Levi Julian

New Bill Revokes Get-Refusing Inmates’ ‘Mehadrin’ Kosher Food, Boarding Privileges

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

The Knesset on Wednesday debated a bill submitted by Habayit Hayehudi Chair MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli revoking the special privileges of prisoners who refuse to grant their wives a get-religious divorce. The bill singles out Orthodox Jewish prisoners who are entitled while behind bars to stay in the prison’s “religious” section, participate in Jewish studies, and eat a stricter-standard “kosher l’mehadrin” meals. The idea is to use the loss of these privileges to force the prisoner to set his wife free.

To be clear, the law does not deprive the Orthodox inmate of his basic Jewish needs, it merely takes away elements of his “ultra-Religious” lifestyle.

Some Orthodox prisoners are actually sitting in jail for their refusal to grant the get, so that by freeing their wives they can set themselves free. But in the case of these Orthodox men, prison often resembles their normal everyday life, and in some cases may be an improvement — in prison they can sit and learn all day with a group of other Orthodox men, celebrate Shabbat and the holidays, and not have to worry about parnossah (making a living). MK Moalem hopes that removing those prisoners’ ability to live a full Jewish life behind bars and inserting them in the general population might help change their outlook on life in prison.

MK Moalem-Refaeli said, “A man who turns his wife into an aguna and refuses to obey the judges’ order to stop abusing her is not truly a man who values halakha and maintaining a Jewish lifestyle. He tramples the most essential Jewish principle, Love your fellow man as you would yourself, only to make his wife’s life miserable. Therefore he is not worthy of enjoying the plethora of privileges prison affords religious inmates.”


Annals of Obesity: Israeli Kids Drink More Soda than Americans, Arabs More than Jews [video]

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

At least 50% of the world population suffer from overweight and obesity, compared with the situation in the 1980s, when only 10% of the population was obese, according to worldwide management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. If the rate of weight gain remains as it is today, close to half the people on planet Earth will be obese by the year 2030. Israel’s figures are relatively good compared with the rest of the OECD countries, but still, according to the Israeli Health Ministry, 1.7 million Israelis, or 25% of adults and 14% of children, are obese, and out of those 700 thousand are considered pre-diabetic, and 500 thousand already suffer from type 2 diabetes. Also, adding those who are overweight (BMI of 25 and up) to the 25% who are obese, shows that almost half the population in Israel is overweight.

To illustrate, according to The Marker, in one of the meetings of the commission to promote a healthy diet, Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov said ironically, “We fail to understand how come 50% of the population are not overweight, considering the current consumer culture.”

The Health Ministry has recently launched a campaign against the consumption of soda drinks, which are a kind of statewide plague. A survey conducted in local schools has shown that Israeli children are at the top of the world average in their daily consumption of sweetened drinks. The world average for consuming sweet drinks is 25% of girls and 32% of boys. The average in the US is 30% among girls and 37% among boys.

In Israel the average is 41% for girls, 45% for boys — while for Israeli Arab children it is even higher, as 51% of Arab children ages 11 to 15 consume a sweet drink at least once a day.

© JNi.media

© JNi.media

It is well-known today that an overweight child will likely suffer from obesity in adulthood. In Israel every fifth first grader (20%) is overweight, and by the seventh grade 30% — one in three children — are overweight.

Among Arab children the situation is even worse, with close to 40% of Arab seventh graders suffering from overweight.

In Israel, some 70% of the food being consumed is processed, which is why Israeli children and teens consume 12 grams of sodium daily, easily double the recommended amount.

Diabetes in Israel harms the weaker population strata, most notably the Arabs. The rate of diabetes among the poor is three times higher compared with middle and upper class Israelis. An estimated 25.5% of Israeli poor are diabetic, compared with 7.1% Israeli middle and upper class. The rate of the rise of diabetes among the poor in Israel is swift and alarming, jumping in 12 years from 7.8% in 2002 to 25.5% in 2014.

According to the Health Ministry, the cost of obesity is estimated at $1.55 billion annually, with a third of the cost coming from direct care for obese patients and two-thirds from indirect losses, such as reduced earning ability, sick days and nursing care. Israel’s largest HMO, Maccabi Health Services, has submitted to the Health Ministry data suggesting it spends on diabetic patients 53% more than it does on the average insured member.

Israeli Health Ministry’s anti-soda drinking campaign


Jewish Agency Launches Food Co-Op in Druze Village

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israel Venture Network (IVN) this week launched their fourth food co-op in the Druze village of Beit Jann. Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky, IVN cofounder Itsik Danziger, spiritual leader of Israel’s Druze community Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, and leaders from Beit Jann and the Druze community attended the grand opening.

The new chain of food co-ops is a joint venture of the Jewish Agency and IVN, in partnership with UJA-Federation of New York and the United Jewish Endowment Fund of Greater Washington, aimed at lowering the cost of living and strengthening communities across Israel. The first three branches are located in the southern Israeli communities of Sderot, Yeruham, and Arad. The new branch in Beit Jann was launched in partnership with Ofakim LaAtid (“Future Horizons”), a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering young leadership in Israel’s Druze community. The food co-ops operate as social business ventures, offering consumers significantly less expensive groceries and investing profits in local social empowerment initiatives. The chain is expected to reach forty branches across Israel and is based on close cooperation with local communities and various nonprofit organizations.

Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky said: “I first heard about the ‘covenant of blood’ between the Jewish people and the Druze community while I was still in the Soviet Union, fighting for our right to immigrate to Israel. But that bond must also generate a covenant of life, and we must do everything to ensure that that covenant is strong and enduring. I am confident that this new joint venture between The Jewish Agency, Jewish Federations, and Israeli business leaders will enable us to help narrow the socioeconomic gaps within Israeli society and strengthen Israel as a whole.”

IVN cofounder Itsik Danziger said: “This new chain represents a substantial new step by IVN to promote the model of social businesses, an innovative model aimed at correcting market failures in Israel. The launch of the fourth food co-op in Beit Jann demonstrates that social businesses can generate sustainable, socially conscious activity while fortifying their financial viability with independent profits. The new chain helps lower the cost of living in Israel and we look forward to expanding it into additional communities across the country.”

Spiritual leader of Israel’s Druze community Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif said: “The decision by The Jewish Agency, headed by our friend, Natan Sharansky, and IVN to launch a branch of their new food co-op chain in Beit Jann is more than a statement – it is a fitting act, because Druze communities are worthy of investment and constitute an integral part of the State of Israel.”


Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-agency-launches-food-co-op-in-druze-village/2016/06/08/

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