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The high price of kosher food takes a bite out of these NYC teens’ budgets



This article was produced as part of JTA’s Teen Journalism Fellowship, a program that works with Jewish teens around the world to report on issues that affect their lives.

(JTA) — On a recent Tuesday before his basketball team’s evening practice, sophomore Gabe R. and several of his friends headed to Grill Point NYC, a kosher Mediterranean restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Looking at the menu, Gabe was stunned by the prices: $26.50 for a bowl of schnitzel over rice, quinoa or salad. With no other kosher options open in the neighborhood, Gabe passed on dinner, practicing his ball-handling and shooting and ignoring his growling stomach.

Usually, though, he tries to find something he can afford. “I don’t like missing out. When all my friends go out for lunch, I don’t want to be the only one absent,” said Gabe. “I just look for less expensive items.” Most frequently this means ordering “a drink, dessert, or a side of fries,” said Gabe, who asked that his full name not to be used for fear of bullying over his financial situation at his Jewish high school.

Kosher food is hardly immune from the trend of rising inflation. In March 2022, inflation in the U.S. hit a 40-year high at an annual rate of 8.5%. Since then, the Federal Reserve has been aggressively raising interest rates to lower inflation, which, in January 2023, was 6.4% higher than January 2022. Although many Americans are struggling with food inflation, observant Jews bear an additional burden, as kosher meat already costs approximately 20% more than non-kosher meat, according to Slate Magazine.

Faced with high prices, many Jewish teens who keep kosher are limiting the frequency in which they patronize kosher restaurants. Some teens, primarily those who regard eating out as a key aspect of their social lives, have committed to ordering cheaper menu items when meeting friends. Others have eliminated eating out entirely. Such sacrifices have tangible effects on the relationship of kosher teens to Judaism. In addition to the crimp on their social lives, some teens say it is affecting their relationship with Judaism.

Yonatan Benichou, a junior at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, said that he has recently stopped going out to eat at kosher restaurants with friends. “As a student with no income, I have no control over how much money I can spend. Kosher restaurants are very expensive,” he said. 

Being kosher during a period of high inflation impacts Benichou’s social life. “Some of my non-kosher friends can eat a Big Mac [Combo] Meal at McDonalds” or a burger, fries and a drink for about $12 in New York City. “There is no such option for me. It’s frustrating,” said Benichou. At Burgers and Grill, a popular kosher eatery on the Upper West Side, a similar combination meal starts at $18.

This new reality has altered Benichou’s relationship to Judaism. “I didn’t choose my denomination. The truth is that I can’t get a cheaper lunch with my [non-kosher] friends because of some random laws in the Torah,” he said. “This makes me more resentful of Orthodox Judaism.” Primarily, the prohibitive cost of a kosher restaurant meal has led Benichou to question the validity of mitzvot for which the Torah does not give a specific reason, called “chukim.” Traditional sources include the rules of kosher food among these “non-rational” regulations.

There are few cheap, kosher fast-food options, in large part because of the wholesale price of kosher food. While a pound of chicken drumsticks at Park East Kosher Butcher in NYC costs $9.98 — $9.30 a year ago — a pound of non-kosher Springer Mountain Farms Chicken Drumsticks, sold on FreshDirect, is $2.79. The kosher fast food restaurant Holy Schnitzel offers a regular chicken sandwich, coined the “Holy Toasty,” for $15.99 at its Upper West Side location. Chick-fil-A’s classic chicken sandwich is $6.29 at their Upper East Side location.

But the higher cost of kosher meat is not the sole reason for the lack of kosher fast food restaurants, said Dani Klein, founder of YeahThatsKosher, a guide to kosher restaurants and travel. Since fast food restaurants need to sell a high volume to turn a profit, the pandemic — which “killed the volume game,” according to Klein — meant that kosher restaurants could succeed only if they had high profit margins. “Every restaurant will choose the best way to maximize its profits,” said Klein. “Fancy restaurants can charge a lot more than the cost of their products by virtue of the fact that they are offering an upscale experience.” 

Hunter Bernhardt, also a junior at the Heschel High School, said that he rarely goes out to eat with his friends due to inflation. Living in Riverdale in the Bronx, getting to school in Manhattan is often costly. “Everything, from gas prices to Uber fares, have increased with inflation. I can’t spend too much on expensive food when transportation is my priority,” Bernhardt said. 

Although inflation has altered his spending, Bernhardt said that his relationship to Judaism has not been affected. “I am grateful to live in a place and attend a Jewish day school where kosher foods are accessible to me.” Indeed, students at the Heschel School, which gave three times more financial aid in the 2022-23 school year than a decade prior, have access to kosher breakfast and lunch every school day for no additional fee on top of tuition. Bernhardt also said that going out to eat isn’t that important to his social life. “Many of my friends aren’t kosher anyways. We do other things, like play basketball in Central Park and chill at a friend’s house.”

The post The high price of kosher food takes a bite out of these NYC teens’ budgets appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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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.

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Local News

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.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

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.)

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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.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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