Observant fressers, rejoice: There’s a new source of fresh kosher breads, uncut bagels, cakes, muffins, pastries, and more in the neighborhood.
Rabbi Joshua Hess of Congregation Anshe Chesed in Linden has given his stamp of approval to the bakery at ShopRite in Clark.
While the premises were closed on Christmas Eve, Hess and volunteers from the congregation rendered the equipment ready for the production of kosher baked goods. From 5 p.m. on Dec. 24 until 2:30 the next morning, they scrubbed and scraped and cleaned.
They were assisted throughout by the manager of Clark Bagels — which provides kosher bagels to ShopRite — Ahmed Saleh, who is Muslim. Hess reported that Saleh declared himself “so excited, as a religious Muslim, to help out the Jewish community.”
While observant Jews in Union County have had access to kosher products brought in from elsewhere, and places like the One Stop Kosher and Dunkin’ Donuts on Elmora Avenue in Elizabeth have offered kosher baked fare for years, Hess said he felt they should have treats fresh out the oven.
“As far as I know, this is the only source of locally made kosher baked goods in the county,” he said. “It’s a huge step for the community, and I’m really excited about it. I don’t charge to do this, because I believe it’s an important extension of the possibilities offered for Orthodox people in the area. And I think there are Conservative Jews who keep kosher who will welcome it too because they keep kosher.”
The process started about two years ago. The Clark ShopRite is part of Wakefern Food Corporation, and the transition required approval from the head of the Wakefern bakeries department. Given the go-ahead, Hess — with assistance from the KOF-K kosher supervision organization — went through every ingredient used in the bakery, finding kosher sources for all those that weren’t already approved.
The undertaking was part of Hess’s efforts to make his community more attractive to Orthodox families. A few years ago, he organized the kashering of the Dairy Queen in Linden, and Anshe Chesed is currently in the process of constructing a mikva, or ritual bath.
Congregant Jodie Lynn Schachter-Lochak of Hillside told NJ Jewish News in a Facebook message, “Kudos to Rabbi Joshua Hess of Linden! His vision and perseverance fulfilled yet another community need. We won’t mention that it’s a cruel plot to sabotage the efforts of all dieters in neighboring cities, lol! — Seriously, though, a job very well done.”
Linden resident Sender Gross, the president of the congregation and one of the volunteers who helped with the kashering, said, “My wife and I watch TLC’s The Cake Boss and I’ve always wanted to try a cannoli and lobster tail pastry. Now that this bakery is kosher, those two are my first choices!”
(For the uninitiated, a “lobster tail” is a custard-filled pastry shaped like — well, you know.)
Shari Bates, who grew up in Linden and now lives in Fanwood, said, “I am very excited to be able to buy all kinds of baked goods — such as birthday cakes, bread, cookies, Shabbat treats, and anything else that I would like, available under a reputable Orthodox hashgaha — at the drop of a hat on my normal grocery shopping trip.”