(JTA) — After more than three decades, an annual trade show of kosher foods that saw the evolution of the cuisine in America grow from gefilte fish and pastrami to “facon,” gluten-free cookies and CBD gum is no more.
“Exhibitors feel Kosherfest has run its course,” the company that organized the two-day event, Diversified Business Communications, announced on Wednesday.
The company’s statement attributed the decision to shifts in the supermarket industry and in how stores display and purchase kosher products. Buyers for supermarkets, it said, are increasingly likely to buy kosher products at general trade shows rather than events specific to kosher food.
“As this buyer is responsible for sourcing and purchasing a wide array of products, they are more likely to attend food events displaying items not just exclusive to kosher,” the company said. “A certified kosher only food show such as Kosherfest is too niche for their attendance.”
The decision to cancel Kosherfest — which has included more than 325 exhibitors displaying their products and has drawn as many as 6,000 attendees each fall — comes as kosher food has gone mainstream. As of 2018, according to the Boston Globe, some 40% of packaged food and drink sold in the United States was certified kosher. Last year, Rabbi Eli Lando, the executive manager of OK Kosher, a certification agency, said Jews make up just 20% of kosher products’ consumer base, according to the publication Food Dive.
At the same time, supermarkets and other pillars of the kosher marketplace have been joined by social media influencers in promoting new food products to Jews who keep kosher. That shift was accelerated during the pandemic, when Kosherfest was suspended for a year before returning to muted crowds in 2021. Recently, it had been showing signs of strain. Last year, the fair was still recruiting vendors just days before its opening. Vendors who had reserved booths for this year will have their payments refunded, the company said.
Some longstanding Kosherfest attendees thought the show had shifted to cater too much to influencers, while some influencers said the show never felt totally accessible to them.
“The food industry has evolved and social media influencers definitely have a voice and a presence and they get products in front of consumers,” said Chanie Apfelbaum, a kosher cookbook author and social media personality under the moniker “Busy in Brooklyn.” “So, it’s definitely something that was necessary that they weren’t really ready to bring to the table.”
Apfelbaum, who said she had been introduced to Korean cuisine after meeting a chef at Kosherfest, will be hosting a cooking competition at Kosher-Palooza, a new event that will take place later this month at the same New Jersey convention center that previously hosted Kosherfest.
Kosher-Palooza is geared to individual consumers, according to its website, with wine tastings, blind taste tests and cooking demonstrations taking place alongside displays of new products.
“You (and your appetite) are invited to a massive celebration of all things kosher with hundreds of food brands, cookbook authors, influencers, and experts, all under one roof,” announced a press release for the event distributed last month.
Among the companies highlighted on Kosher-Palooza’s website is KosherCatch, a New England-based fresh fish company. Its founder, Jeffrey Ingber, said he had been a longtime Kosherfest attendee but thought the show had waned recently.
“Over the past 10 years there was nothing new to see, which is a surprise because there are emerging products and new products and creative products coming out every year by manufacturers,” he said.
Apfelbaum said she had seen the same thing. “Definitely Kosherfest in the last couple of years has been very disappointing for anyone that’s in the industry,” she said. “I just found there weren’t that many vendors anymore. It really had slowed down.”
The demise coincided with a rapid explosion of accessible kosher products — in some ways making the show a victim of the success of its field.
“This year we’re celebrating the centennial of American kosher certification, and efforts by certifiers during that century have left the kosher industry in an excellent position,” said David Zvi Kalman, a scholar at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America who studies trends in Jewish life.
“The fact that there are kosher products up and down the supply chain means that manufacturers can easily source kosher ingredients, and ingredient manufacturers have an incentive to certify to stay competitive,” Kalman added. “While effective marketing has been important to the industry’s growth — it saved the [Orthodox Union] from a period of stagnation in the 1950s — there are now strong network effects that encourage companies to certify even without the help of events like Kosherfest.”
In a statement commenting on the end of Kosherfest, its founder, Menachem Lubinsky, said he was proud of the show’s 33-year run. Lubinsky sold the show to Diversified Business Communications in 2004 but remained involved in its production.
“Looking back, I can proudly say that the show was an amazing run and the impetus for a glorious chapter in the growth of kosher and the Jewish community,” Lubinsky wrote.
“The last three plus decades of the show was a period when tens of thousands of products became kosher, dozens of huge modern kosher independent supermarkets were launched, there was an explosion of kosher restaurants of diverse themes, dozens of new kosher cookbooks published, and we witnessed the advent of a new era in social media and the Internet to name but a few of these gigantic accomplishments,” he added. Kosher became popular in every area of life.”
With kosher products readily available in many places, observers said kosher-keeping consumers are increasingly looking for unique or boundary-pushing food experiences — a niche promoted by Fleishigs Magazine, a lead sponsor of Kosher-Palooza. “More than just the authority on kosher cooking, Fleishigs serves up kosher like never before,” the magazine, whose name is a Jewish term for meat dishes, promises.
“Kosher consumers are demanding fresh, new products that we want to see on the market and that’s what we want,” Apfelbaum said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
One convener of discussion about new frontiers in kosher dining is Elan Kornblum, publisher and president of the Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine and the creator of the Great Kosher Restaurant Foodies Facebook group, which boasts more than 82,000 members. Kornblum will be hosting a meet-and-greet at Kosher-Palooza but this week took a moment to lament Kosherfest’s end in his Facebook group.
“In the 20 years I went, I certainly have had great memories, met some great people from all over the world and did a lot of business here,” he posted about Kosherfest. “Sad to see it end.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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