Observant Jews in Springfield are engaged in a letter-writing campaign urging ShopRite to expand its kosher offerings at a new store scheduled to open in Union next year.
The petitioners, led by a congregant at Springfield’s Orthodox Congregation Israel, are asking ShopRite to include a Kosher Experience, an expanded kosher aisle and butcher shop found at ShopRite stores in Livingston and West Orange.
So far, ShopRite has said that no kosher butcher shop is planned in the Union store, although it will feature “extended kosher offering[s].” Organizers of the letter-writing drive say they are satisfied with the response, although they wouldn’t mind if the company reconsidered.
“What we really want is an extended kosher aisle similar to what they have in Livingston,” said Ben Hoffer, a Congregation Israel member who has led the advocacy effort with his wife, Daniella. “If we can have all of those products, with the refrigerators and freezers, I’ll be very happy.”
The Kosher Experience effort is part of a larger initiative to increase the infrastructure for observant Jewish life in Springfield, led in part by Hoffer with guidance from Rabbi Chaim Marcus, Congregation Israel’s religious leader.
Over the last few years, Hoffer has worked to encourage kosher restaurants and bakeries to open in the area. Tokyo Hibachi, a kosher Asian restaurant under the auspices of the Vaad of MetroWest, opened in November 2011, while the already existing Ice Hut received kosher certification from the Vaad around the same time. More recently, Delicious Cake Kreations, which opened in December 2012, received kosher certification from Rabbi Mark Mallach. The town has long supported a kosher bagel shop.
In addition, the synagogue has been providing incentives to entice young Orthodox families to buy homes in Springfield, including rental and down payment subsidies. Hoffer sees the new ShopRite as a “once-a-decade opportunity,” he said.
The new ShopRite is scheduled to open on Route 22 at Springfield Road in Union, in a space formerly occupied by Pathmark, in late March or early April 2014.
“This is a great location for a Kosher Experience because the store has a large footprint, and it’s located on Route 22, a main traffic corridor, so anyone passing by would have access, in addition to the Jews living in Union County,” said Hoffer.
Hoffer told NJJN that he and Marcus have reached out to ShopRite “many times” in the past few years about adding a Kosher Experience there, only to be told that the store’s space is too limited.
The nearest ShopRite to the Springfield community is also in Union, at the intersection of Morris Avenue and Liberty Avenue; it has kosher products but not a full Kosher Experience.
Hoffer began circulating a letter, addressed to ShopRite employee Amanda Fischer, a liaison with the community, in late August. Since then, she said, she has received just shy of 100 letters and/or e-mails.
Santina Stankevich, a spokesperson for Wakefern, ShopRite’s corporate parent, could only promise an extended kosher aisle in the new store.
“The new store in Union will have an extended kosher offering of both ShopRite and national branded products,” she told NJJN. “As of right now, there is no plan for a full Kosher Experience, which would include a kosher butcher.”
Hoffer appreciated the response, but if indeed there will be no in-store butcher, he has suggested a system whereby the Livingston store could deliver kosher meat orders to the new store.
“If I have all of that, I have everything I need,” he said.