Malcha Mall – The Kosher Scene Parts I-IV

Malcha Mall – The Kosher Scene Part I
This is the first installment in what will be at least a two-part series, providing a bit of a look at the eateries at Jerusalem’s premier mall, Malcha Mall.

All the information is accurate as of Monday, February 11, 2008, when I conducted my visit. All the information was obtained by me, first hand, and I spoke with the mashgichim (supervising rabbis) mentioned in the article.

In this first installment I will provide a listing of the major eating establishments and their kosher supervisions. I DID NOT list all the stands that appear throughout the three floors of the mall, but I did notice they do not all have kosher certificates and there are many imported items for sale that demand the kosher consumer scrutinize each product prior to making a purchase as one would outside of Israel.

For example, I did not see any kosher supervision at the Max Brenner chocolate stand, which also sells many other items. The same holds true for some of the candy stands selling an enticing array of sweets and specialty items from around the world. There was also a wide assortment of heart-shaped candies and chocolates – apparently coinciding with the non-Jewish holiday of St. Valentines Day.

The Kiddy Land sweets shop on the first floor, which is a store full of loose candies from floor-to-ceiling, did not have any kosher certificate. There were a number of good business awards and certificates of appreciation in the area of the cashier that could easily be confused for kosher certificates if one did not take a second glance or perhaps unable to comprehend the Hebrew text.

TOP FLOOR OF THE MALL

1. HaPetilah (meat restaurant) – Jerusalem Rabbinate not mehadrin and Badatz Nezer Hidur

2. Korisin (meat) – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin and a sign stating all poultry and meats are under the supervision of the Star-K in Israel. (The Star-K in America informs me that it cannot attest to the reliability of the sign. I did not contact Star-K in Israel. Star-K in America, the parent agency, also told me there are NO restaurants in Israel under the Star-K so beware, the sign outside might lead one to believe the restaurant is under Star-K if one did not read the Hebrew but relied on the well-know symbol of the supervising agency).

3. Burger King – Jerusalem Rabbinate

4. Yutvata (dairy) – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin

5. Aroma Café – Jerusalem Rabbinate

6. Café Hillel – Jerusalem Rabbinate and Badatz Keter Kashrut Mehadrin

SECOND (MIDDLE) FLOOR – FOOD COURT
Right Side – dairy
1.    Falafel Chen – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin
2.     Chen HaTeyavon – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin
3.    Juice Land – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin
4.    Pizza Home – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin
5.    Ice Cream – Jerusalem Rabbinate
6.    Sbarro – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin

Left Side – Meat
1.    Falafel and Shwarma M’Kol HaLev – Jerusalem Rabbinate and Badatz Nezer Hidur
2.    Burger’s Bar – Badatz Keter Kashrut
3.    Burger Ranch – Jerusalem Rabbinate
4.    Crispy – Badatz Keter Kashrut
5.    Pinati –  Jerusalem Rabbinate and Badatz Keter Kashrut
6.    Korisin – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin
7.    Burger King – Jerusalem Rabbinate
8.    Thai Noodles –  Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin

FIRST (MAIN) FLOOR
1.    Beersheba Ice Cream – Jerusalem Rabbinate
2.    Pizza Hut – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin
3.    Kentucky Fried Chicken – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin
4.    Kiddy Land Candies – no supervision
5.    Ne’eman Bakery – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin
6.    SamBooki – Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin

The “Thumbs-Down Award” goes to the mall’s movie theater. I explained to the ticket seller that I am a journalist doing a story on kosher eateries in the mall. The manager permitted me to enter after showing my press card, and I asked the operator of the snack stand if there is a kosher certificate for his operation.

“Sure, I will be happy to show it to you,” he responded enthusiastically.

The certificate was stored in a drawer under the cash register, inside a folder. It was a photocopy, not an original, issued by the Hod HaSharon Rabbinate – expiring in Elul 5767, about 18 months ago. Buyer beware!

Unfortunately, many of our children who go to the movies do not even think to ask prior to buying popcorn or other snacks from such a stand. The children must be educated as well.

The next posting will contain some in-depth information pertaining to some of the stores resulting from interviews conducted with a number of the mashgichim.

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Malcha Mall – The Kosher Scene Part II

Correction from Part I:  Pinati meat humus restaurant in the Food Court should read “under the supervision of the Jerusalem Rabbinate and  Badatz Keter Kashrut” and not just “Keter Kashrut” as it appeared.

Please refer to The Kosher Scene Part I for an overview and explanation of this report.

All the information is accurate as of Monday, February 11, 2008, when I conducted my visit. All the information was obtained by me, first hand, and I spoke with the mashgichim (supervising rabbis) mentioned in the article.

DISCLAIMER: Once again, the information is being reported as accurately as I can, based on my notes, but does not in any way represent an endorsement or otherwise regarding any of the establishments mentioned in the article.

Permit me to open with a short introduction as is my habit. The overwhelming number of store managers and owners were most cooperative. My custom is to enter a store, introduce myself, display my press credentials, and explain I am doing a story for the English speaking public in Israel and North America regarding mehadrin eateries.

The mention of any mashgiach’s (supervising rabbi) name or store manager’s name is with their consent, as is my custom as well. I am very candid as to my mission, open and above board, and do not accept any free food or drink to avoid arousing any suspicions as to the integrity of the reports [and perhaps the kashrut of a specific place].

I will begin with the first floor of the mall, the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut just because the management and rabbis were absolutely wonderful, pleasant and most accommodating. I left with a feeling of genuine cooperation as well as a sincere effort to provide the public with a kosher standard that meets or exceeds the demands of Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin.

I learned that both places are under the same ownership, which explains why they share a common building, albeit with two entrances, but one in theory could cross over inside. There are two polls and a maroon belt, like one sees on a bank line, blocking one from crossing over without exiting and entering the other restaurant from the authorized entrance.

The manager of KFC is a friendly and professional young Israeli woman, Meirav Malul, who was more than willing to permit me to interview the mashgiach, Rabbi Hillel Albert, who proudly told me his family has been in Israel for 80 plus years. He seemed to be a seasoned mashgiach, offering much information before I even had a chance to pose questions. He was quick to get his file folder containing bills of lading, wishing to confirm his statements with documents bearing kosher certifications and letterheads from prominent food wholesale agencies.

Before I forget, the store is open from 11:00am – 10:30pm. Sorry, I forgot to inquire regarding Fridays and Saturday nights.

All the poultry is from the Of Yehud factory in Beit Shemesh, with Rav Hillel explaining the slaughterers are the same used by the prominent badatz agencies. I told him however readers will want to know “what schita” the chickens are under, to which he replied Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin, backing it up with bills of lading. He added that at times, certain chicken parts are not obtainable from this factory, and then they use Barkai Chicken as a fill-in, which is well-known, under the supervision of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Landau, Chief Rabbi of Bnei Brak.

Rav Hillel explained that while whole chickens come with plumbers (kosher tags) attached, this is not the case with parts. Therefore he expounded, they are packed in a thick nylon bag with seals on the bags, numbered to match shipping statements so he can and does trace bag shipments from the store to the trucker and to the slaughter house.

He told me in one case, he noticed the seal was signed by hand, noticing there was a change from the norm, so he telephoned Beit Shemesh and easily traced down the order by its number, spoke to the ritual slaughterer and supervising rabbi and was reassured the package was indeed authentic.

The bread, rolls and buns are under the supervision of the Eida Hareidit.

The greens are all “Gush Katif” under Jerusalem Rabbinate or Badatz Eida Hareidit supervision and the remainder of the vegetables shmitah mehadrin or sixth year produce, which is the case at times with potatoes and onions.

The cakes served are under the supervision of Jerusalem Eida Hareidit or Belz Machzikei Hadas and their newest dessert item, chocolate cake with hot chocolate sauce is also mehadrin, with the chocolate sauce being under the supervision of Chatam Sofer. He was very proud telling me how they toiled to find an acceptable sauce, both taste and kosher certification.

My curiosity got the best of me so I asked the rabbi is he knows the meaning of the conspicuously placed Arabic sign in the front window. My question prompted him to smile as he proudly told me that for reasons he does not quite understand, many of the store’s clients are Arabs. Therefore, Meirav saw fit to post the sign telling them they may not bring any food or drink into the store. He told me the same holds true for Jewish or other patrons, and he is very strict regarding enforcement, as are the other mashgichim. There are three different shifts of mashgichim every day.

Pizza Hut
I met with mashgiach on duty, Rabbi Nissim Banharut. He told me they have two different rabbis a day, with the store operating from 10:30am – 10:30pm. Sorry, forgot Fridays and Saturday nights again.

Anyway, he explained that since Pizza Hut is such a large chain, they have a special run of cheese manufactured under the supervision of Rabbi Rubin. The milk is under the supervision of Rabbi Landau he added. Vegetables and Greens are Gush Katif and shmitah mehadrin too.

He excitedly showed me that the menus inform patrons in bold letters that all pizza requires the bracha HaMotzei so they do not mistakenly make a mezonot.

Rabbi Nissim told me that he supervises the taking of challah from the dough prior to baking, and he also oversees the sifting of all flour.

Overview – I sat with both rabbis at one point, in the Pizza Hut. I learned that they appear to take their positions with more than a modicum of responsibility, checking all grains, taking challah, sifting flour, and making certain only Jews light the gas and deal with cooking to ensure the food is acceptable to not only Ashkenazim, but to Sephardim alike, who in accordance to the Beit Yosef are bound by a higher standard regarding the matter of Bishul Yisrael.

I also learned that KFC uses only disposable dishes and utensils while Pizza Hut uses regular dishes and silverware. This they explained was implemented to avoid any mix up of dishes since the two stores operate side-by-side.

They told me that while they may step out for a moment to “take a breath”, the stores operate with a mashgiach present at all times, with Rabbi Hillel of KFC telling me he often conducts surprise inspections, entering the Pizza Hut and observing from behind the kitchen where workers do not see him. He proudly announced that the staff is most reliable and he has never found them intentionally ignoring any of the rules and regulations pertaining to the restaurants high kosher standard.

By the way, both restaurants offer free WiFi 

More in Malcha Mall – The Kosher Scene Part III

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Malcha Mall – The Kosher Scene Part III

Please refer to The Kosher Scene Part I for an overview and explanation of this report.

All the information is accurate as of Monday, February 11, 2008, when I conducted my visit. All the information was obtained by me, first hand, and I spoke with the mashgichim (supervising rabbis) mentioned in the article.

DISCLAIMER
: Once again, the information is being reported as accurately as I can, based on my notes, but does not in any way represent an endorsement or otherwise regarding any of the establishments mentioned in the article.

Well we shared pizza and KFC so onward to my next stop, SamBooki, on the main floor of the mall.

When I arrived, store owner Eren Alfassi greeted me with curiosity, but was most cooperative when I explained who I am and my mission. He told me the mashgiach, Rabbi Shlomo Weinless stepped out for a moment, and the rabbi did indeed return in about 6-7 minutes. By the way, store operates from 7:00am – midnight. Oops, forgot Fridays and Saturday nights again.

Once again, the rabbi was most cooperative, exhibiting a familiarity with his responsibilities, and in a monologue informed me regarding the raw ingredients and the operation of the restaurant without my prompting him for information.

He told me the cheeses and milk are Tnuva mehadrin, which have the supervision of Machzikei Hadas-Belz or Eida Hareidit, under the supervision of Tnuva’s mashgiach, Rabbi Whitman.

Produce and greens are all “Gush Katif” and shmitah mehadrin, with potatoes and onions at times being sixth year produce.

The rabbi told me that as far as Bishul Yisrael, the restaurant only satisfies the requirements of the Rama, for Ashkenazim and Sephardim who hold by the stringencies of the Beit Yosef may not eat there.

He added that foods do arrive with packaging and other signs attesting to their point of origin and manufacture but those patrons who insist on a mashgiach accompanying shipments and other requirements are best not eating in this establishment.

It was refreshing to see Rabbi Shlomo offer so much unsolicited information in the interest of serving the public with a genuine level of kosher, providing the facts and permitting the client to decide if he or she wishes to partake.

More in Malcha Mall – The Kosher Scene Part IV

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Malcha Mall – The Kosher Scene Part IV

Please refer to The Kosher Scene Part I for an overview and explanation of this report.

All the information is accurate as of Monday, February 11, 2008, when I conducted my visit. All the information was obtained by me, first hand, and I spoke with the mashgichim (supervising rabbis) mentioned in the article.

DISCLAIMER: Once again, the information is being reported as accurately as I can, based on my notes, but does not in any way represent an endorsement or otherwise regarding any of the establishments mentioned in the article.

I visited the Yutvata Dairy Restaurant located on the mall’s top floor, under the supervision of Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin. I spoke with mashgiach Rabbi Ephraim Gottlieb, a young man sporting a large knitted kippa. Store operates from 8:00am – midnight, no information on Fridays and Saturdays. Must be a mental block.

Once again, he was helpful as were the others, but did not seem as seasoned as the other rabbis, who appeared to have much experience under their belts. Nevertheless, he did respond to my questions, without hesitation, but did not offer any additional information.

All the cheeses and milk are chalav yisrael, with the milk coming from Kibbutz Yutvata, one of the nation’s larger dairy operations. The greens and produce “Gush Katif” and shmitah mehadrin, and Bishul yisrael for both Ashkenazim and Sephardim.

Rabbi Ephraim told me all grains are inspected for bugs and he is present during the day and supervises. I did not ask and he did not mention if there are any other mashgichim working in the store during different shifts.

I went to the HaPetilah (meat restaurant) – Jerusalem Rabbinate not mehadrin and Badatz Nezer Hidur, asking to speak with the mashgiach.

The man identifying himself as the manager was most friendly and cooperative, telling the rabbi supervises other stores in the mall as well and was in the area, offering me his name and phone number.

Rabbi David (no last name) 054-637-5437. Anyone wishing to call and submit a report is welcome and encouraged to do so. I did not phone since to date, I have not reached any of the mashgichim of Nezer Hidur and since I was in a good mood, I did not wish to risk the call.

Rabbi Nissim and Rabbi Hillel explained that from what they understand, the law demands that a restaurant gets a supervision from the rabbinate, so they sometimes take a regular (less expensive/less demanding – my comment not theirs) and then one of the newcomer badatz certificates. They added they believe in many cases, the badatz agency relies on the regular rabbinate mashgiach, which in essence would mean the store has two signs, but the supervising rabbi is not responsible for a mehadrin standard since he is empowered by the rabbinate, not the badatz. (Hope this makes sense to you – it does to me)

I will say that my friend Rabbi Hillel from KFC (see Malcha Kosher Scene Part II) and I did discuss Badatz Nezer Hidur and some of the other newcomers in the Jerusalem badatz world, and he cautiously told me he cannot vouch for their legitimacy, and indicated the more stringent patrons seem to stay away. He was careful not to say anything negative, which is the norm, since these organizations seem to operate in a veil of mystery.

To date, despite numerous visits to eateries in downtown Jerusalem to stores under this agency and others, including Nahal Yitzchak and Kashrut L’Mehadrin, I have yet to meet a mashgiach or successfully reach one on the phone.

I sincerely encourage readers to call Rabbi David and ask the questions that need to be asked and please submit a report to the group.

Before I forget, a last note on the Pinati meat humus restaurant in the Food Court, under the supervision of the Jerusalem Rabbinate and Badatz Keter Kashrut.

Rabbi Hillel, the very same from KFC also checks in on them from time-to-time as he put it, telling me that overall, the staff is quite reliable and they usually bring glatt meat, but not always. This he made extremely clear. The greens are Gush Katif and the chickpeas are checked by him. The rice he explained is checked by the bag. If it appears clean in a quick inspection it is approved and if not, a more stringent look is taken. He checks the restaurant for the Jerusalem Rabbinate and not Keter Kashrut. Remember, the rabbinate certificate is “regular” and not “mehadrin”.

That means, according to Rabbi Hillel’s statements, the restaurant bearing a sign Badatz Keter Kashrut mehadrin, stating specifically “glatt meats, in accordance with the demands of both the Beit Yosef and Rama” does not always serve Beit Yosef, and does not always serve glatt (chalak) meats.

Food for thought to say the least.

Will see where my next stop takes me. I suspect the next series of reports will cover the Jerusalem Central Bus Station Food Court and the center’s other eateries.

Stay tuned folks.

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