Poland’s First Kosher Restaurant in Three Decades Opens in Warsaw

Kosher roast beef, gefilte fish, chopped liver and cookies shaped like Jewish stars were available Tuesday evening in Warsaw, at the opening of the first kosher restaurant in Poland in some 30 years.

The Menora restaurant, located at Plac Grzybowski 2, opposite Warsaw’s Nozyck Synagogue and the Yiddish Theater, was inaugurated “in the belief that it would be very beneficial both to the local Jewish community and Jewish tourists coming to Poland,” Rabbi Michael Schudrich of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation said in a telephone call from Warsaw.

The restaurant “can also be a cultural bridge to those Poles who want to taste authentic Jewish food,” he added.

The Lauder Foundation, which has wanted to see a kosher restaurant opened in Poland for the last three years, enabled its dream to come to fruition through a grant it made to the Warsaw Jewish community.

But the enterprise was actually opened by a Polish gourmet specialty cooperative that owns a chain of more than a dozen ethnic restaurants in Warsaw, Schudrich said.

The glatt kosher facility, which seats about 100, operates under the hashgachah, or kosher certification, of Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Joskowicz, a Polish native who returned to that country from his longtime home in Israel to serve as the Polish Jewish community’s chief rabbi.

The resident shochet, or ritual slaughterer, also came back to his country of birth from a distance. Simon Heistein, a Holocaust survivor who moved there from South Carolina, is officially employed by the Association of Jewish Congregations as shochet and mashgiach.

ABLE TO KEEP KOSHER AT LAST

The opening reception Tuesday evening was attended by representatives of the Jewish community, including guests from the synagogue, the Jewish Historical Institute and the Warsaw Jewish Youth Club, as well as representatives from the Israeli, American and Canadian embassies.

“It was well covered by the Polish press and television, as well as foreign press,” Schudrich said.

“We are working on it to be profitable and viable for the local community. The one thing we definitely want to work out are Shabbat meals on a regular basis for the youth of Warsaw. We are hopeful to institute not only a place to eat kosher but a place to be Jewish,” he said.

One of those youths, Mateusz Kos, 19, whose Bar Mitzvah six years ago was a main event in a community wanting for young observant Jews, said by telephone: “It is fantastic there is at last the possibility to keep kosher, especially glatt kosher.”

He added realistically: “I would be glad to visit it more often if I can afford it.”

The price of a meal will be about $8 for tourists, Schudrich estimated.

Schudrich went to Warsaw from Prague, where last weekend he attended the Bar Mitzvah of an American boy, Simon Hanft of Port Washington, N.Y., who celebrated his coming of age at the Altneuschul, “in an expression of solidarity with those communities that have far too few simchas,” said Schudrich.

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