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Help Me Bring the Right Thing to a Shiva.
September 25, 2008 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Heading to a shiva this weekend. Need to bring something that is a) edible and b) has a big sign that says "kosher."

As anyone who clicked on this probably knows, shiva is a Jewish mourning ritual for the dead. Mourners sit and receive visitors, and its traditional to bring some food for the mourners and guests to eat.

I'd like to bring a full-on dish or sandwiches, since the mourners are going to be too overwhelmed to cook. But the mourners are very religious and whatever I bring can't just be kosher in the sense of not mixing milk and meat- it needs to have an actual kosher certification.

So in other words, help. Do you know of anywhere in Manhattan I can order some dishes or a sandwich platter that's not totally bland and disgusting (which describes most kosher catered food) but that the mourners can feel comfortable eating?

Thank you so much.
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Religion & Philosophy (25 answers total)
 
Don't have an answer for you, but you could probably get good advice on the Chowhound Kosher board. (It's not NY-specific, but I think a lot of the people who read and post are NYers.)
posted by neroli at 2:42 PM on September 25, 2008


Zabar's is the way to go.
posted by kimdog at 2:44 PM on September 25, 2008


Seconding Zabar's. It's always the way to go IMO.
posted by zazerr at 2:51 PM on September 25, 2008


Zabar's is NOT kosher and no one who keeps strict kosher would ever eat anything from there unless it was a sealed package with a K or OU and even that is problematic because IIRC they open on the Sabbath. So it's not the way to go. You need to bring a food that has the Hechsher Mehadrin on it - either K - or OU - unopened and from a reliable source. Even prepared food from a deli or bakery can be problematic unless it's absolutely 100% under supervision. Best bet is probably to contact Chabad and ask them. If anyone would know - it would be them.
posted by watercarrier at 3:02 PM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think that Zabar's has a kashrut certificate for catering: they sell kosher products in the store, but kosher catering is pretty specialized.

If you want traditional shiva catering then Ben's Kosher Deli may be your go-to place.

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest something a bit different: food from Zen Palate. All the kosher-eating folks I know love Zen Palate. It's an all-vegetarian restaurant, and I'm 99% certain you can order a vegan selection from the catering folks, which sidesteps the whole issue.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:05 PM on September 25, 2008


Zabar's sells pork products. There is NO kashrut certification whatsoever.
posted by watercarrier at 3:11 PM on September 25, 2008


Regarding Ben's - they have certificates - but unless there's a Mashgiach - it's still not 100% and I didn't see on the site that there was one on premises. How these certifications are issued, if they're up to date and what the criteria are for giving them are all very complicated and can be reviewed at the Orthodox Union site.
posted by watercarrier at 3:16 PM on September 25, 2008


Okay... I retract Zabar's (the word tasty blurred my thought process re: certified kosher) and will suggest Circa. My boss was Orthodox and this was one of the few places in she would eat at or cater from in Midtown. I've eaten there a few times and they have pretty good sandwiches.
posted by kimdog at 3:27 PM on September 25, 2008


Zen Palate isn't kosher certified. People need to understand that if you adhere to strict kashrut - this matters. A lot. Basically, without the certification, someone Orthodox keeping those laws would never eat there. It's actually the first thing people look for - that piece of paper. And even though they don't serve anything but vegan - there are issues that have to do with bugs (major kosher issue that requires special inspection of the vegetables - especially leafy ones), being open on the Sabbath, using vegan ingredients that have some kind of questionable item (coloring, flavoring, derivatives) and other issues that may come up in the preparation of the food itself.
posted by watercarrier at 3:28 PM on September 25, 2008


Oh... here's the official Circa website.
posted by kimdog at 3:29 PM on September 25, 2008


When I worked at the Jewish Community Center, I never brought food unless it was sealed and had a Kosher stamp. I knew that I was unlikely to find Kosher without the seals. (Since my name is Christine, people guessed that I wasn't Jewish.)

In your situation, I'd bring candy. Not the meal you're looking to bring, but also something that you can get which is reliably Kosher. Here's a blog with some Kosher options.
posted by 26.2 at 3:31 PM on September 25, 2008


Candy isn't appropriate to give to a family sitting shiva. Cooked for is brought because the family itself cannot do this for themselves for a period of 7 days. For more info on this - read the customs.
posted by watercarrier at 3:40 PM on September 25, 2008


Fine and Schapiro
posted by spec80 at 3:46 PM on September 25, 2008


Zen Palate isn't kosher certified. People need to understand that if you adhere to strict kashrut - this matters. A lot.

This is a very good point, and I'm glad you showed up to clarify all of this stuff for the OP.

Basically, without the certification, someone Orthodox keeping those laws would never eat there.

And yet I have eaten at Zen Palate with Orthodox people, and with Modern Orthodox and Conservative people who are very strict about kosher in their homes--hence my suggestion.

That said, since the OP doesn't know how much risk vis-a-vis kosher the folks he's visiting are willing to take, I think your suggestion about getting references from Chabad is exactly the right thing.

As you suggest, it never hurts to be more scrupulous about this stuff than the people sitting shiva might be on their own, but being less scrupulous would be A Bad Thing, because the last thing the bereaved family needs at this time is any more stress.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:53 PM on September 25, 2008



And yet I have eaten at Zen Palate with Orthodox people, and with Modern Orthodox and Conservative people who are very strict about kosher in their homes--hence my suggestion.


People do seem to set their own limits and rules about such things but usually they do so in ignorance. They see *vegan* and think it's fine - but there's a whole lof of factors that go into preparation of the food and just for the record - eating a bug, worm - what have you - unintentional as it may be - is considered treif. An absolutely forbidden food that is as unkosher as you can possibly get. Doing so unintentionally - there is some leniency in the law - but once you know, the law applies with all of its implications.
posted by watercarrier at 4:06 PM on September 25, 2008


Part of the difference between eating out and eating in is that when you eat less-strictly at a restaurant, you do not affect the status of your own kitchen. However, if you bring something non-kosher from a restaurant into your home, you do. So I would err on the side of strictness and getting a meal that's certified.
posted by expialidocious at 4:07 PM on September 25, 2008


Candy isn't appropriate to give to a family sitting shiva. Cooked for is brought because the family itself cannot do this for themselves for a period of 7 days. For more info on this - read the customs.

Okay, then ignore me. My apologies.
posted by 26.2 at 4:08 PM on September 25, 2008


Hi everyone. Thanks for all of the suggestions and information. I should have clarified in the OP that I need whatever food I bring to have what is called a "hechscher"- a stamp or certificate that says the food was prepared under kosher supervision- for the mourners to feel comfortable eating it, and that it's traditional to bring meals precisely because the family members can't cook.


As you suggest, it never hurts to be more scrupulous about this stuff than the people sitting shiva might be on their own

This is the one rule of Kosher that always applies! I hope this thread will be helpful to others in this situation. Keep 'em coming...
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:32 PM on September 25, 2008


I don't know where to get the food from, but if you want the family to love you, bring things that aren't sandwiches. At the shiva we held for my grandfather, we had sandwiches, more sandwiches, pasta, more sandwiches, some nice fruit, depressing veggies, more sandwiches, and cookies. I would have loved some excellent salads, or anything low on the carbs.

Now, granted we weren't keeping kosher, but even people who do have complained about the overreliance on breads. If you have any chance to bring non-sandwiches, do so.
posted by jeather at 5:15 PM on September 25, 2008


You could try Dougie's BBQ and see if they do platters (or just takeout.) I haven't eaten there but the kosher-keeping meat-eaters I know like their food and it's unlikely to be bland. Their website strangely doesn't mention it but I believe they have OU certification. (I suggest calling to confirm.)

I also found a really recent list of kosher establishments in Manhattan (link to pdf file). The certifying agencies are listed there; you're likely to be fine with OK, OU, Star-K, KAJ, CRC, Kof-K. I would stay away from places certified by ARalbag because that agency has some controversial standards. I'm not familiar enough with the others to comment on them.

I think takeout food from any kosher establishment (not just delis that make platters) would be okay if you ask the place to seal it and put some sort of sticker on it. They should be able to do that.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:32 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


make a trip out to pomegranate in brooklyn. it's an upscale kosher grocery store in midwood. the article said they were planning to offer prepared foods, too, so that might be a nice option.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:34 PM on September 25, 2008


Don't know if it's any good, but Galil, a Moroccan/Middle Eastern place on the upper east side might be convenient and a change from the standard stuff. It's expensive, but I think all Kosher places are. Certification looks reliable.
posted by neroli at 5:42 PM on September 25, 2008


jusy call Chabad, really
posted by matteo at 6:28 PM on September 25, 2008


It may come across as tacky, but fresh, uncooked fruit does not require a hechsher, and may be a welcome addition to a shiva home that's gotten its share of catered and pre-packaged meals already. When I was sitting shiva for my father, we got tons of cookies, candy, and processed foods, but virtually nothing fresh and healthy.

I'd bet that if you show up with a basket of beautiful fresh apples or peaches (or whatever's in season), it would be greatly appreciated.
posted by AngerBoy at 7:23 PM on September 25, 2008


I will tell you straight up that with all the *hechshers* and certificates out there in NYC - I would only implicitly trust Boro Park and Midwood for the highest of stringencies. So maybe it's worth your while to make the trip, buy from a reputable source, bring the beautiful food to these mourning people, have them enjoy it fully and you doing the mitzvah in feeding a family who has lost a loved one. It's only half an hour each way.
posted by watercarrier at 12:26 AM on September 26, 2008


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