Baltimore, MD—November 16, 2016 - I arrived at Kosherfest--the world's largest B2B trade show for the kosher industry held in Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey--at noon, yesterday, just in time for lunch. If you have ever been to what has been dubbed “The World’s Largest Kiddush”, you know the drill—milchigs first, then fleishigs, and a variety of pareve delights in between, during, and after.

As I entered the hall, I made my way past throngs of people gathering around the draped-off room where a culinary demonstration by kosher cooking guru, Jamie Geller, was taking place. I carefully calculated how much time I should devote to sampling each gender, considering my five-hour length of stay and my personal gastronomic preferences.

My first stop at Kosherfest is always my home base, the STAR-K Kosher Certification booth. I said hello to my coworkers before fueling up for my exciting trek through the rows and rows of the 80,000 square-foot exhibit hall. I knew I had to work fast to pack everything in during my short stay.

I love Italian food; that, I decided, would be my first hit. After filling up with some mouth-watering Cholev Yisroel Bruno Ravioli, and tasting the company’s new pareve counterpart, I moved on to find the latest kosher products on the market, some of the more unusual products, as well as fellow Baltimoreans and long-lost friends.

One of the highlights of my Kosherfest experience was the hashgacha (no pun intended!) at the A & B Famous Gefilte Fish booth. I “happened” to speak with the company’s national sales director, Mordechai Fogel. When I told him I was writing an article for, he very excitedly told me that he grew up in Baltimore. He had moved here with his Holocaust survivor parents, from Hungary, in 1969, to be close to their maternal relatives, who included the Ellenbogens and Margaretens.

As a student in the Shearis Hapleita cheder, he was a Talmuical Academy of Baltimore (T.A.) English studies classmate of’s Jeff Cohn [back in the day, before Torah Institute offered English studies, students walked a few blocks away to T.A., on Cottage Avenue, to take shared limudei chol classes.]

When I asked Mr. Fogel if there was an interesting story behind A & B, he was more than happy to share the story of its humble beginnings.

“More than 30 years ago, A & B opened up as a neighborhood fish store in Monsey by baalei batim, Avrohom Koth and Binyomin Berger. These Belzer chasidim came over [to the States]; they have large families and worked hard. Monsey, back then, was not what it is today. They thought they “hit the jackpot”, one day, when they got a very big order of fresh fish for a chasanah, so they ordered a large quantity of fish to accommodate it. At the time, they were not selling gefilte fish—back then, there was no concept of frozen gefilte and there was none for sale in the freezer section of stores. They had already started filleting the fish when the order was cancelled. They couldn’t give it back and they couldn’t keep it—you can’t freeze fresh fish! They had no choice but make it into gefilte fish. They made a mixture and put it into the freezer, since unlike fresh fish, it can be frozen. Their basic ambition at the time was just to retrieve their large investment since they were stuck with it. But, one after another person bought it and before you know it, everyone was telling their friend. It caught on and about 1-1/2 years afterwards, they moved into a larger facility with more machinery, because they couldn’t keep up with the demand. Years later, they had to move into an even bigger facility, where we are now, in Patterson, New Jersey; we have to rent an additional facility for cold storage.

“Today, founders Avrohom Koth and Binyomin Berger, are semi-retired and learn in kollel almost the entire day,” adds Mr. Fogel. “During the month of Elul, from Selichos to Simchas Torah, they learn in Belz in Israel. The company is now run by their children, Motti Koth and Motti Berger—and I call them M & M!”

I heard another interesting story behind the opening of Gevinni Cheesecake Shoppe, at Booth #751, as I savored my favorite dessert. It was nice meeting Miriam Rubinfeld, a native Australian who was manning (actually, “womanning”) this booth.

“My daughter, Devoiry Green, who lives in Lakewood, decided with her domestic skills, to make cheesecakes,” says Miriam. “She decided she would do it from home because she has a large family. She started a cottage industry in her basement and there it mushroomed into a large business which became commercial-- after she took her cake to a simcha and everyone said, ‘this is so good, you should sell it!’ She figured, why not, and the rest is history. Her husband, Baruch, has taken it over and we now have a large facility in Lakewood with a large staff and marketing and sales teams. It has taken six years, but we have come a long way, thank G-d.”

After leaving Miriam, I practically bumped into a couple of uniformed Army soldiers who were there as part of Koshertroops--a wonderful volunteer organization which has sent holiday care packages to American soldiers since 2008, wherever they are, so they can celebrate the Jewish holidays and Shabbos and feel connected to the Jewish community while away. When I returned home from Kosherfest, I looked up to learn more about this organization, founded by two women in Monsey--Sara Fuerst and Ava Hamburger. They have even delivered kosher food to soldiers in Udairi, Kuwait, among other locales.

At Booth #700, it was great to have a mini-reunion with Rabbi Rafael Franklin, the owner of the Bethel Livestock Farm in Swan Lake, New York, where my son, Zev (who joined me on my trip to Kosherfest, with his wife, Ayala) enjoyed spending a summer, as a teenager, in Rabbi Franklin’s farming camp. That camp no longer exists; Rabbi Franklin now owns Bethel Creamery—a family owned and operated artisanal-quality organic milk and dairy product business--in addition to Pelleh Poultry. I enjoyed seeing Bethel Creamery’s very creative booth, which featured a large round bale of hay as the base of a glass tabletop.

As I continued to enjoy several chometzdik delights, the Matzot Charlap and Yum Tov Passover Yummies booths, among others with Kosher for Passover products, reminded me that Pesach is only less than five months away!

I marveled, along with the crowd gathered at the Yom Tov Passover Yummies booth, over their shehakol offerings which included Checkerboard Cookies, Brownies, Chocolate Mousse Bar, and an assortment of Cakes and Jelly Rolls. Last year was the first year that these chometz-tasting goodies were packaged for the retail market, and they sold out all over.

As company spokesperson, Joel Lissauer, said, “Our biggest problem is that people don’t believe that it’s Kosher for Passover; they are sure it is chometz. I have to show them the kosher symbol so they believe it is Kosher for Passover. Everybody complains why we don’t make it the whole year.”

Yaakov Charlap took the time to explain to me how Matzot Charlop partnered with Matzot Chaburah Beit Shemesh in Israel, to produce their 18-minute Shmura matzos that became available, last year, in the U.S. These exclusive Shmura Matzos—available in Whole Wheat, Oat, and Spelt, in both Hand and Machine--are under the strict hashgocha of Badatz Shearis Yisroel and are used by Gedolei Yisroel throughout Israel. They are baked in small batches close to Pesach.

One of my last stops I made, before returning to Baltimore, was the PS Kosher Food Works booth, where I spoke to its president, Joel Weinberger, of Los Angeles. As the PR person at STAR-K, it was gratifying for me to see the flyer given out at his booth. It advertised a 12-day, 11 night High Holidays 2017 program in Cochin, India, with Glatt Kosher meals provided and prepared by the kitchens at STAR-K India offices in Cochin.

How fortunate are we that there is reliable kosher certification on such an interesting, wide, and delicious array of products produced worldwide and available in the most far-flung places—several of which are showcased at Kosherfest!


The 2016 New Product Award Winners, the best of the best new certified-kosher products, were awarded in 17 different categories. The Best in Show award went to Parvella Chocolate Spreads (Parvella International), in the Dips and Spreads category. The winners in other categories include: Frozen Foods-Crab Flavor Surimi Cakes (Seafood Imports, Inc.); Savory Snacks: Slim & Highland Pop (Highland Pop, Ltd.); Beverages: Squeez’R Classic (North Shore Bottling Co.); Wine: Even Zahav-GOLDSTONE (Doyna Ltd.); Pastas: Cal Delight Instant Noodle Meals (DS International Traders, LLC); Baked Goods: Gevinni Cheesecakes (Gevinni Cheesecake Shoppe); Candy: Fruit Stipz Strawberry (Paskesz Candy Co.); Baking Aisle: Dairy Nougat and Chocolate Cream (Bakers Choice); Giftware & Novelties: Chanukah Dreidel Ladle (Shulsinger Judaica); Kosher for Passover: Matzo S’mores (The Manischewitz Co.); Spices, Oils and Vinegars: KOKO Gochujang (KOKO Food); Packaged Meats: Dried Beef Sausage (Usine Amsellem); Condiments, Sauces, and Marinades: MIKEE Asian Sauces (Exotic Sauce Packaging, Inc.); Sweet Snacks and Cookies: T-CHOC (Shneider’s); “On the Go”: 2C Chocolate & Cereal Bar (Shneider’s); Cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano (Shneider’s).

Photo Credit: Margie Pensak