The VAAD Hakashrus of Tidewater mission is to make kosher meals available to Jews in homes, at stores, and parties—and in prison.

January 20, 2022

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The word kosher is associated with dietary provisions one chooses to follow in support of deeply held religious beliefs. The role of the VAAD (Hampton Roads’ kosher supervisory resource) is instinctively tethered to Jews’ freedom to enjoy kosher meals in restaurants, homes, and enrichment camps. But what about prisons? ‘Jews in jail’ doesn’t feel intuitive. Kosher prison food doesn’t just roll off the tongue.

However, the state of Virginia puts sizable resources into meeting the needs of Jewish prisoners who chose to keep kosher. “People make mistakes,” says Rabbi Sholom Mostofsky. “I think it’s inspiring that Jews in prisons who are doing their time, still want to keep kosher and not give up the practices that mean so much to them.”

As VAAD Kashrus supervisor, Mostofsky oversees kosher meals and food products and projects for several Virginia working prisons. “It’s remarkable how much effort goes into providing for the prisoners’ needs.”

Outside of prison, sprinkled around Hampton Roads, the VAAD oversees kosher bagels at Yorgo’s on Colonial Avenue, Krispy Kreme donuts in Newport News, Skinny Dip on Colley Avenue; Cold Stone ice cream in Ghent, BJ’s bakeries in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, and the Sandler Family Campus.

The Jewish kosher community was joined by falafel lovers of all faiths in support of Mr. Shawarma when it was a kosher eatery. No longer kosher, its magic is not lost. “It wasn’t just for Jews,” says Mostofsky. “We have a large military presence who traveled overseas and enjoyed mid-eastern food. It was a meeting place for everyone. And it showed us what a kosher restaurant can be for an entire region.”

Mr. Shawarma was once a pizza place, and the transition from kosher dairy to kosher meat was complicated and intensive. “That’s the kind of thing the VAAD does for the community.”

Most people know there are different levels of kosher. In Hampton Roads, the VAAD is the highest level. That means all meat is certified Glatt kosher and all ingredients have reliable and approved kosher symbols.

“VAAD has been around a very long time,” says Mostofsky. “We’re here for anyone in the community, at any religious level, and in any way we can help.”

This is part of a series of articles spotlighting local and overseas partner agencies that are beneficiaries of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s annual Community Campaign.

-Lisa Richmon
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