Just in time for summer vacation, Orthodox families in and around Linden have a cool new treat.
Rabbi Joshua Hess, the leader of Congregation Anshe Chesed, has granted kosher certification to almost everything served at the local Dairy Queen restaurant.
The bright orange business — housed in a former gas station at the corner of Wood Avenue and Elm Street — has been feeding cold treats to local customers for about 40 years, but was out of bounds for those who take their guidance from the rabbinate. The closest kashrut-approved venue was the Carvel store in Elizabeth, which has a kosher certification from Rabbi Elazar Teitz, who heads the local va’ad, or rabbinical council.
Different Jewish groups recognize the hechsher, or kosher authorization, of different authorities. In his e-mail to congregants, Hess announced that the Linden DQ was now “under the supervision of the Vaad Hakashrus of Linden” — i.e., him.
Hess, who took over the Linden pulpit two years ago, told NJ Jewish News he kept noticing the long lines of customers at the Dairy Queen. “Growing up in Los Angeles, we went to Baskin-Robbins or Haagen-Dazs restaurants and we knew there were some things we could eat and some that we couldn’t,” he said.
Hess said that some authorities will not certify as kosher a venue that dispenses both kosher and non-kosher products. “As the mora d’asra [halachic authority] of our community, I don’t feel that it is necessary for our community to adopt this more stringent standard,” he said.
Hess said he consulted with Rabbi Daniel Cohen of the Vaad HaKashrus of Fairfield County in Connecticut, which certifies the Dairy Queen in Stamford, the only other kosher DQ in the region that Hess knows of.
Everything the Linden DQ serves “is cold, so there isn’t much of a problem,” Hess said. “If they served hamburgers and hot dogs like some of the stores, I wouldn’t have even considered it, but they don’t, so it was just a matter of checking their ingredients to see if they had kosher stamps.”
He approached the DQ’s owners, Paula and Ralph Horsch, who run it with the help of their four children. Ralph, a former policeman who has lived in the town all his life, and Paula, a stay-at-home mom until they took over the store five years ago, were perfectly happy to work with the rabbi. The process took about two weeks.
“We have no choice about the supplies we use,” Paula said. They are all provided or approved by DQ headquarters. “But if they’re ok, that’s great. If this makes it possible for more members of the community to enjoy what we serve, we’re really glad.”
A sign in the store explains which items are OK, and which are not.
The rabbi visited the store with NJJN the day after finalizing his approval.
Paula insisted on giving him a Blizzard, a soft-serve ice cream mixed with all kinds of candy and nut toppings. Grinning broadly, he said, “I’ve never had one before. It’s really good.”