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July 22, 2014 By:
Boulevard ShopRite’s Kosher Conundrum
Debbie Weiss drove 30 minutes from Dresher to the “Kosher on the Boulevard” department at the ShopRite in Northeast Philadelphia on Sunday for her monthly shopping trip. Her 91-year-old father likes the store’s salmon and tuna.
When she saw that the kosher deli counter was closed, she thought, “their refrigerators must be down.” But then she learned that both the deli and kosher bakery were closed indefinitely.
“It’s closed until further notice. Supervisional procedures are being reviewed,” said the person who answered the phone at the store on Roosevelt Boulevard. A request for comment from management was not returned.
Rabbi Dov Brisman, who is on the committee of the Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia, which supervises the store, declined comment, saying only, “We’re in the middle of something. There is nothing to talk about.”
Rabbis and others in the Orthodox community suggested that the reason for the closing was because the mashgiach discovered something non-kosher in the preparation area behind the kosher deli.
According to several sources familiar with the situation, the problem was a mistake and not an instance of treif being incorrectly marked or sold as kosher.
The ShopRite is one of the only remaining sources for fresh kosher meat in the Northeast. When Rich McMenamin, whose family still owns the grocery store, opened the department in 2002, there were five kosher butchers in the vicinity.
Several of those business owners expressed concern at that time about the chain grocer cutting into their business. Simon’s Kosher and Glendale Kosher Meats & Poultry are now the only butchers in the area still open.*
The ShopRite, meanwhile, has become an integral part of the Jewish community, said Weiss, who keeps a kosher home and attends the Chabad of Montgomery County.
“It’s going to be a blow to the kosher community, especially for the people who can't travel far,” said Weiss.
The store management must now work with the kosher authority to ensure that their supervision is “more careful,” said Rabbi Jean Claude Klein of Congregations of Shaare Shamayim in the Northeast.
“My take on this is that it will be worked out in a cooperative manner,” said Klein.
Barry Stucker, the vice president of the traditional Temple Beth Ami synagogue, said going to “Kosher on the Boulevard” is “a part of Yiddishkeit.”
“You would meet rabbis, cantors and people from the Jewish community there. It was almost like an event going there. You would discuss the latest thing, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.”
The department attracts not only the Orthodox community but also Jews and non-Jews who liked the quality of the meat, said Myles Gordon, who belongs to Congregations of Shaare Shamayim, which has both traditional and egalitarian services.
“If they don’t reopen,” he said, “this is going to be a devastating blow for many people.”
* Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Simon's Kosher was the only kosher butcher shop in the Northeast that is still open today.