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Workaday avenue becomes a kosher mecca
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Workaday avenue becomes a kosher mecca

Elizabeth’s Jews find what they crave, from donuts to Chinese food

Elmora Avenue isn’t exactly picturesque. With its ragtag lineup of convenience stores and clothing shops, beauty salons and drug stores, there isn’t much to attract outsiders. But for those who keep kosher and want a break from home cooking, it’s become a destination district.

Observant noshers can get everything from pizza and Chinese food to doughnuts and more. For a little while you could also get a diner-style breakfast and Tex-Mex tacos. Those ventures didn’t last long — to the great regret of those who rapidly became regulars — but other places have deep and thriving roots in the community.

Most are under the kosher supervision of Rabbi Elazar M. Teitz, head of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Elizabeth, and dean of the Jewish Educational Center, with its network of schools and synagogues. The JEC community provides a stable customer base of observant eaters, but people come from farther afield as well.

Approaching from the Morris Avenue end, you can turn off Elmora onto West Grand Street and head to the ShopRite, which has a large kosher section, with meat and fish and takeout, but those in search of kosher restaurant fare stay on Elmora.

The first option is Dunkin Donuts, kosher since 1987. The corporation had initially rejected Teitz’s requests that it go kosher, but when they saw how much their profits increased — even with closing on Saturdays, and taking bacon off the menu — they applauded the change.

A young mother of four who said she was too shy to have her name in the paper said, “I can’t give my kids cheeseburgers but I can give them doughnuts. There are so many things the people around them have and they can’t, it’s nice to be able to say ‘yes’ to this — even if it’s not exactly health food.”

Jerusalem Restaurant, with its cafeteria-style layout, offers, in addition to pizza, a smorgasbord — or the Jewish equivalent — of meat-free Eastern European dishes, with kugel and latkes and roasted vegetables, as well as Israeli salads, soups, falafel, and pita. Students from the JEC come in for lunch; housewives and office workers — Jewish and many non-Jewish — crowd around its Formica-topped tables, or order take-out.

Across the street is the New Kosher Special Chinese restaurant. Don’t expect haute cuisine or the poshest decor, but it features an almost traditional Chinese menu — minus the usual pork and shellfish dishes.

A little further along is Glatt Star, which was renovated a couple of years ago and offers the closest thing to a formal dining experience in the area. The restaurant’s menu includes Middle Eastern fare like kabobs and shwarma, and deli sandwiches. Adjoining it is the One Stop Kosher Market.

‘Nothing lacking’

Adina Abramov, who moved to the area six years ago from Toronto with her husband, Uri, and two children, is a regular customer at Elizabeth’s kosher establishments.

“We have been pleasantly surprised,” she said. “There is nothing lacking here at all. On the contrary; we are recognized the world over for our institutions, and our restaurants are sought out by travelers passing through. It has been my experience that if there is something I want that I don’t see on the shelves at Pinchas Kasirer’s One Stop Kosher, all I have to do is ask him and within a day or two he’ll have it. It’s that simple. Even my sister from Teaneck comes here to shop sometimes. Need I say more?”

Down the street there is the kosher Carvel Ice Cream and Bakery, and then comes something for the grown-ups: Bayway World of Liquor. The store includes an extensive array of kosher wines and other products from Israel and elsewhere. According to one Hillside resident and regular customer who also chose not to be named, “The manager is very knowledgeable in kashrut. The prices are said to be the cheapest in the tristate area, even better than duty-free, and people come from all over.”

The options don’t end with the avenue. Five minutes away in Union, the YM-YWHA of Union County on Green Lane has a snack bar that offers kosher sandwiches and treats. Local residents are also doing their part to expand the possibilities of kosher cuisine in the area, like caterer Charlotte Rakovsky, who does bake-it-yourself hallah and seasonal dishes (See NJJN, July 19), and Deborah Kivelevitz, who makes gourmet-quality kosher chocolates.

Rabbi Joshua Hess of Congregation Anshe Chesed, the Orthodox synagogue in Linden, has been part of the kosher certification process in the region. He worked with the short-lived taco restaurant, and in 2010 gave approval to most of what’s offered in the local Dairy Queen. This summer he took on the task of certifying Rita’s Ices in Roselle, and he is also in talks with ShopRite in Clark (where you can also find kosher delicatessen products) to provide a hechsher for its baked goods.

He doesn’t charge for the process. “It is purely a community service,” Hess said. “I do this because I feel that it is my responsibility as rabbi to make kosher eating more accessible for my community in Linden and for the greater community as well. A community needs a strong foundation to be able to grow and thrive. Accessible kosher food is one of the pieces of that puzzle.”

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