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The Kosher side of Sin City

LAS VEGAS, June 4 (JTA) — You can find every known sin on Las Vegas’ famous strip, five miles of neon-lit casino hotels, cheesy souvenir shops and purveyors of “adult entertainment.” But, heaven forbid you’d have to eat treif, too. The Las Vegas Kosher Deli and Internet Cafe serves kosher hot dogs and sandwiches from a modest restaurant across the street from the Treasure Island casino hotel. “We are the only kosher dinner show in Vegas,” quips proprietor Amir Odents, pointing to Treasure Island’s outdoor buccaneer scene. “The customers can see the pirate show from here.” As one of three kosher restaurants in Las Vegas, the deli has attracted Jewish visitors from Scotland, Australia, Russia, Israel, Mexico and throughout the United States. Customers tell him that “to see a kosher deli on the strip reminds them of the old neighborhood,” Odents says. Tourism to Las Vegas slowed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Still, business generally has been good, and Odents is hopeful. “The summer is a good season for us,” he says. Many people come to Las Vegas hoping to find their fortunes at the roulette tables, but Odents found something else. The long-bearded Israeli came to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas 17 years ago to study hotel management. He became religiously observant under the tutelage of Rabbi Shea Harlig, director of Chabad of Southern Nevada. “I came from Israel to Las Vegas to become a ba’al teshuvah,” or newly observant Jew, he says, aware of the irony. Odents dispenses more than food: He provides Shabbat candles with pre-packaged kosher meals that he delivers to hotels for Sabbath-observant guests. “I even have a pair of tefillin in the deli,” he adds. “As a good old Lubavitcher, I have them put the tefillin on” if they are interested.