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Washington - D.C. Gets A Bunch Of New Kosher Restaurants

Published on: April 15, 2018 11:30 AM
By: JTA
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Maharat Ruth Friedman with the manager of Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar, a vegan restaurant she and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld recently certified kosher. (Courtesy of Friedman)Maharat Ruth Friedman with the manager of Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar, a vegan restaurant she and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld recently certified kosher. (Courtesy of Friedman)

Washington - For years, the nation’s capital had only one full-fledged kosher restaurant. But as of this week, that changed.

The clergy at Ohev Shalom-The National Synagogue, a Washington D.C. Modern Orthodox congregation, have given kosher certification to three vegan restaurants in the District (along with two others in the suburbs). Leading the effort is Maharat Ruth Friedman, a member of the synagogue clergy, along with synagogue Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld.

“We have never seen such a positive response to anything we’ve done in our life,” said Herzfeld. “People are clamoring for more opportunities and ways to eat kosher. Basically, the job of the religious leaders of synagogues is to help our congregants keep Jewish law, so we felt this is something we could do for the community.”

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For more than a decade, D.C. had only one kosher restaurant. Eli’s, a meat deli that opened in 2003, shut its doors a decade later. The same owner opened Char Bar, also with a meat-centric menu, at the beginning of the following year.

Along the way, there have been other kosher ventures. Sixth and Rye, a food truck launched by the historic Sixth and I synagogue, ran for several months in 2011. Another kosher food truck, Brooklyn Sandwich Co., opened in 2016 and still parks around town. Nosh, a kosher deli option at George Washington University, closed in 2012.  Soupergirl, serving — you guessed it — soup, salad and sides but not entrees, has two locations in the city. D.C.’s suburbs also boast a selection of kosher restaurants.

But now, the number of kosher restaurants in the District where you can sit down and order a full meal has tripled. Evolve and Vegaritos are within a couple miles of Ohev Shalom in northern D.C. Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar is close to the National Mall.

Two more are over the border in Maryland:  Sweet and Natural, and Everlasting Life.

“The most significant reason [to become kosher] was because of the number of people requiring or asking whether we were kosher,” said Baruch Ben-Yehudah, who owns Evolve and Everlasting Life, and affiliates as a Hebrew Israelite. “As a vegan and as a restaurant with a reputation for serving healthy food and doing what we can to elevate the eating experience, this is consistent with what we set out to do.”

This is Friedman’s first time heading a kosher certification operation. Beyond the expanded kosher options, she appreciates the new offerings as a longtime vegetarian.

“I think it’s a really interesting process,” said Friedman, who was ordained at Yeshivat Maharat, the first institution to ordain Orthodox women as clergy. “I’ve been a vegetarian for 23 years, and it’s very important to me personally that were making food that is healthy and that doesn’t mistreat animals more available to me.”

Vegan restaurants are a natural fit for kosher certification because they don’t serve — and therefore don’t mix — meat and dairy products. They also do not serve non-kosher dishes like pork and shellfish, or meat and chicken that wasn’t slaughtered under kosher supervision. And because some vegans take their dietary restrictions as seriously as kosher-keeping Jews, the restaurants are already used to being sticklers for the rules.

But Herzfeld said there are still plenty of ways for a vegan restaurant to not be kosher. Evolve had to change its wine menu to only serve kosher-certified wines. Some vegan restaurants also use unkosher varieties of wine or vinegar while cooking. Jewish law also prohibits some foods cooked by a non-Jew — a restriction restaurants can circumvent, for example, by having a Jewish person light the pilot light on a stove. And kosher laws demand a closer inspection for bugs in produce than many typical restaurants are used to.

“Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean there aren’t issues involved in it,” Herzfeld said. “We looked at other restaurants, and some were difficult to deal with.”

The kosher supervisor at Char Bar, who asked to remain anonymous as he is not the restaurant’s manager, told JTA he’s not worried about the increased competition. He said the vegan restaurants largely serve a different market.

“This is a fleishig place,” he said, using the Yiddish word for “meat.” “Vegan is vegan. Fleishig is fleishig. People who want vegan can have vegan. I seriously doubt it would affect Char Bar at all.”

Friedman’s role, however, has led one industry expert to reject the kosher certifications. Rabbi Yosef Wikler, publisher of the monthly Kashrus Magazine, which covers kosher food and cooking practices, objects to Friedman, a woman, being in charge of kosher certification.

Unless she steps down, Wikler plans to remove Herzfeld and Friedman’s local rabbinic organization, the Beltway Vaad, from his annual list of kosher-certifying agencies. Both clergy are members of the Beltway Vaad, but their certification of the vegan restaurants is not occurring under the Vaad’s auspices. (Char Bar is certified by a different authority, the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington.)

“A kashrus agency has to abide by traditional Orthodox procedures,” Wikler told JTA, using the Hebrew noun form of the word “kosher.” “[In] the Orthodox world, until today, the only people who certify traditional kosher certification are men rabbis ordained as rabbis, and no one else. Being in charge of a kosher organization, you have to make Jewish legal decisions which only a rabbi is entitled to make.”

But Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the kosher certification department at the Orthodox Union, the largest kosher certifier in the country, said there’s no problem with a woman running a kosher certification operation.

“The one that takes care of the kashrut in the kitchen is my wife as well,” he said. Elefant added that he questioned the sustainability of using volunteer, unpaid kosher supervisors — which Friedman and Herzfeld are doing — but stressed that he was not commenting on the kosher certification itself.

Friedman and her colleagues have already had to contend with challenges to their qualifications: The Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America, two large umbrella Orthodox groups, both issued bans on Orthodox women clergy in recent years. But she doesn’t focus on the criticism.

And she and Herzfeld both emphasized that they are doing this as a service to their congregants and local community. If someone doesn’t want to eat at the restaurants, they said, they don’t have to.

“These are not the types of things that bother me,” Friedman said. “Ultimately, folks are going to choose whether they want to rely on it.”



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Read Comments (18)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Apr 15, 2018 at 11:48 AM Anonymous Says:

JARED AND IVANKA (alias Jarvanka), should be informed of this good news.

2

 Apr 15, 2018 at 11:52 AM Lodzker Says:

I lived In DC area and am familiar with herzfeld. I wouldn't rely on anything Herzfeld said is kosher. At least it's a start though for non religious people. Perhaps better than nothing I guess. But I don't predict any frum people from silver spring ever going there.

3

 Apr 15, 2018 at 11:59 AM RobertS Says:

Why are there two Vaads in DC? Because the Beltway Vaad comprises people, including women, whose semicha is not currently recognized by the long standing Capitol K / Vaad Haranbanim and women. Herzfeld and Friedman are members of the “Open Orthodox” Beltway Vaad. So why are they bypassing their own Vaad to create they yet another supervising authority?

4

 Apr 15, 2018 at 12:04 PM RobertS Says:

This story also lists restaurants that are not in DC proper but never mentions long established and new restaurants in the suburbs of DC that are under Capitiol K supervision, representing the real Vaad Harabbanim of DC. This story smacks of an agenda to undermine the recognized Orthodox authority in DC.

5

 Apr 15, 2018 at 12:13 PM poyt63 Says:

Is this really what you support ? Lady reform rabbis giving kosher certification. What a chilul Hashem

6

 Apr 15, 2018 at 12:20 PM Anonymous Says:

So VIN which calls itself the voice of the Orthodox Jewish Communtiy proudly proclaims that one can rely on the certification of kofrim? On Shmuel Herzfeld who believes that the appropriate way to celebrate the YT of Shavuos is at a gay bar?

And falsely says that the issue with the Maharat is because you can have a woman certifying. What a misrepresentation of the facts. I am sure Rabbi Elefant would also tell you that this fake certification is completely unreliable. R Wikler has no problem with the the Star K where there are women as mashgichim. And R Elefant was not talking about these מסיתים ומדיחים at Temple Ohel Shalom

7

 Apr 15, 2018 at 02:12 PM Anonymous Says:

Giard your soul. Herzfeld is more Open Orthodox than Modern Orthodox.

I live in the Washington, DC area, and wouldn't trust this rebel clergyman, his female sidekick, nor his "vaad."

The only reliable karshrus in Washington DC is the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington. Period.

8

 Apr 15, 2018 at 02:29 PM adar29 Says:

Sure everything vegetable doesn't need supervision? What about kinyot and the 5 grains during pesach. What about produce from Israel?

9

 Apr 15, 2018 at 03:00 PM ber Says:

its not chilli hashem .its nothing. as good as 5th ave cathideral giving 'hecsher', was already paskened OO is not beklall believers in torah misini etc

10

 Apr 15, 2018 at 03:14 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
poyt63 Says:

Is this really what you support ? Lady reform rabbis giving kosher certification. What a chilul Hashem

You should try to be respectful to people that you don't agree with. When you denigrate them it shows that can't voice your opinion respectfully and your just an ignoramus and you think your better then other people.

11

 Apr 15, 2018 at 04:31 PM Ppppp Says:

Maharat is certifying? The headline should read, “No new kosher Restaurants in Wash.”

12

 Apr 15, 2018 at 04:40 PM kofer betoras moshe misini Says:

of what interest is this hechsher for shomrei torah. suppose cardinal jooene would learn yorah dayeh ans will give hechsher to' boers head' would that interest us?

13

 Apr 15, 2018 at 06:57 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

You should try to be respectful to people that you don't agree with. When you denigrate them it shows that can't voice your opinion respectfully and your just an ignoramus and you think your better then other people.

Sorry, no. People like the clergyman and clergywoman in the article require our disdain. Or do you not know Hallachah?

14

 Apr 15, 2018 at 08:23 PM favish Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

Sorry, no. People like the clergyman and clergywoman in the article require our disdain. Or do you not know Hallachah?

hes from them, now you understand why his comment?

15

 Apr 16, 2018 at 12:02 AM lazy-boy Says:

Reply to #5  
poyt63 Says:

Is this really what you support ? Lady reform rabbis giving kosher certification. What a chilul Hashem

my feelings too.

16

 Apr 16, 2018 at 10:05 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

Sorry, no. People like the clergyman and clergywoman in the article require our disdain. Or do you not know Hallachah?

You should try to embrace people and try to voice your opinion respectfully rather then with such vitriol.

17

 Apr 16, 2018 at 01:49 PM favish Says:

Reply to #16  
Anonymous Says:

You should try to embrace people and try to voice your opinion respectfully rather then with such vitriol.

you should firt learn hilchos' mumrim' which u seem to be one yourself...on which the halacha is 'lo sachmol vlo sechse....'

18

 Apr 17, 2018 at 07:50 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

Sorry, no. People like the clergyman and clergywoman in the article require our disdain. Or do you not know Hallachah?

You deserve disdain for not being tolerant of others. It's people like you that are responsible for open orthodoxy. Rather then being respectful of others you try to turn them away from Judaism.

19

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