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First Kosher Foods Expo Attracts Thousands to Taste and Browse

They came, they saw, they collected coupons and they noshed.

Thousands of traditional Jews pushed their way through five long and crowded aisles of booths to sample a smorgasbord of certified-kosher fare Saturday night at the opening of the first Kosher Foods and Jewish Life Expo, held at the Javits Convention Center here through March 10.

The purpose of the first-of-its-kind show was to provide a public forum for the growing selection of kosher products and to be a “celebration of Jewish life with food as its central focus,” according to Expo impresario Irving Silverman of Roslyn, N.Y.

Silverman said 16,000 kosher products are now available, up from 1,000 only 10 years ago. The dozens of kosher products handy to taste at the Expo ranged from natural whole grains to sweets and frozen Italian dishes to rather synthetic pizza-flavored crunchies.

The 194 booths also featured kosher-living products–such as custom-designed kitchens and a new line of plastic containers labelled meat, milk or parve — as well as information about well known and obscure Jewish organizations and items for sale such as religious articles from Israel, some kitsch and new videos and books.

A BOLD NEW CONCEPT

About 6 million Americans buy kosher products. Of them up to 1.5 million are Jewish, with the remainder being vegetarian, Moslem or Seventh Day Adventist, Silverman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Yet he said he has noticed an absence of kosher foods in the grocery stores, even in this city of 1.7 million Jews.

To remedy this situation, he introduced and hoped to distribute one million of what he called “a bold new concept in food marketing”–forms on which consumers could request kosher products at their local grocery stores.

Silverman is a small, intense and talkative man who is a former president of the local region of United Synagogue of America, the Conservative congregational organization, and a national trade show manager.

He said the Expo was developed through four years of his own work with the cooperation of 37 Jewish organizations and kashrut supervision agencies. It is a private venture.

The expo also highlighted other aspects of traditional Jewish life, such as styling wigs and cooking the kosher food.

The Andy Statman Klezmer Orchestra performed following the ceremonies Saturday night, at first for a few of Silverman’s invited guests who at one time numbered one couple and Statman’s manager. Later, hundreds heard the show.

TO ENSURE A GLATT KOSHER KITCHEN

One of them was Michael Goldman, chef and owner of Goldman’s Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. He told JTA that he came halfway around the world in search of parve cheese substitutes to enhance the meat menu at his continental-style, three-year-old restaurant–the only kosher restaurant in Australia, he added.

His credo, he said, was to ensure a glatt kosher kitchen, and then to let his chefs, who aren’t Jewish, “do as much as they can.” He admitted they sometimes found it difficult to prepare fine cuisine without dairy products. Speaking as a chef, he, too, missed adding real cream to sauces.

Exhibitor Louis Petralia of Ronzoni Foods Corp. here came to sell pasta. He said the kosher market was an important opportunity that his company finally recognized two years ago. He has recommended that the company consider making their frozen Italian dinners kosher, he added.

The food exhibitors were scurrying just to have enough samples ready. Visitors said they enjoyed the food, although little of it was new to those who kept kosher. One man said he missed the Sephardic food he grew up with. Many people wished for some elbow room as they attempted to stroll in the aisles.

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