Sherry Glickstein and her husband have eaten less meat over the past several yearsAnd the But it has nothing to do with a modern, new diet.
Much to their dismay, quality kosher meat is simply difficult to find in central Ohio.
Glickstein, who had grown up in New York, was able to walk a few blocks to a kosher butcher there. But since moving to New Albany in 2003, access to meat prepared according to the laws of the Jewish diet has become increasingly difficult.
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Glickstein said there were more selections at local chain grocery stores — and even a kosher market and bakery — but the selection has dwindled.
“It became so challenging that it didn’t force us to go vegan, but we only did it because it was easier,” she said.
It’s a problem many local Jews who adhere to the religion’s diet laws have faced since Kruger announced on Broad Street in Whitehall that he was redesigning the store in November and closing the kosher deli—the only supervised kosher deli in Central Ohio.
Other Ohio cities with Jewish residents, such as Cincinnati and Cleveland, have amenities like a kosher butcher, grocery store, and restaurant.
Although Kroger in Whitehall still carries a selection of halal groceries and packaged goods, the deli is no longer kosher, and Matt’s Bakery, which used to make fresh kosher baked goods, has also been moved.
The local nonprofit Jewish Columbus, area rabbis and members of the Jewish community have been working together since November to find a solution to the local kosher food shortage, with little success.
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This is especially important in this season, with the high Jewish holidays and families and friends gathering together for festive meals.
The Jewish New Year and day of prayer begins at sunset on Sunday. It marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, the holiest period in the Jewish calendar, during which Jews meditate and reconcile with people who may have wronged them.
Beginning on the evening of October 4, Jews will recognize Yom Kippur, the day of fasting and atonement. It is followed in October by Sukkot, a harvest festival.
Glickstein cooks for her two adult sons and her husband on holidays, and at Rosh Hashana this year, she asked some friends to buy her kosher meat during a trip to Cleveland expressly for the purpose. I provided them with a cooler so they could come back with some wings, a kosher piece of meat that looks like a short rib.
Other locals travel to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, or Chicago in search of kosher meat. They also use delivery services or online wholesalers who periodically come to town.
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“If you keep to the kosher principle, you do what you need (you do) to get what you need,” Glickstein said.
An estimated 25,500 Jews live in Columbus, according to JewishColumbus, and CEO Joel Markovich said an estimated 3,000 local Jews keep kosher. He said that the community is growing, especially the Orthodox population.
Eating kosher is based on the Torah, which states that certain foods are allowed and certain foods are not, explained Rabbi Avi Goldstein, chief rabbi of the Beth Jacob Synagogue in Berwick, a modern Orthodox synagogue.
“It’s about spirituality,” he said. “Some foods are good for the human spirit and some are considered harmful.”
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Markovitch said that preparing food to be kosher — with the required oversight by accompanying local rabbis — comes with additional costs that are passed on to consumers.
However, the lack of certain kosher foods — and general diversity — in central Ohio is a problem that some local Jewish leaders say is causing the city to lose out on more families and professionals moving here. Markovitch said that other elements of Jewish life exist, such as Jewish schools, synagogues and even eruv, which are limits that allow religious Jews to carry things in public on Shabbat.
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“Having kosher options that are sustainable in our community, that are easy to use and accessible, is part of a growth strategy to boost the Jewish population of Central Ohio,” Markowitz said. “It’s something we really need.”
There may be hope, as Matt’s Bakery has purchased a new location at 39 South Yearling Road in Whitehall and plans to open a kosher grocery, bakery, and café. Matt Cooper, the owner, said he wasn’t sure when the bakery and café would open, but the grocer was able to open Thursday before Rosh Hashanah.
He noted that the store will feature a wide range of kosher grocery items, including dry goods, refrigerated and frozen foods. You won’t start out serving fresh meat, but there are plans to offer a meat and deli counter sometime in the more than 4,500-square-foot space.
“We wanted to make sure the community had all the different things it needed,” Cooper said. “I certainly hope it will at least fill a huge void in society.”