Atara Foods: Preserving the ‘Crown’ of Meat

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Community Spotlights

It was quite a timely experience to visit Atara Foods, a meat plant located in Baltimore, Maryland, right before Pesach, a holiday when we celebrate our exodus from Egypt with a commemoration of the korban Pesach (Pesach offering). According to one of its owners, Atara’s mission is to become a dominant player in the glatt kosher meat industry: to provide high-end premium forequarter meat to Jewish consumers along with hindquarter meat that Yaakov Levi, processing manager of Atara Foods, is able to procure with his skill set, passion, and sense of tradition.

During the visit, Yaakov skillfully demonstrated his expertise in the art of traiboring, a Yiddish term (nikkur in Hebrew) to describe an age-old process from Biblical times that involves removing items from the animal that are forbidden to eat according to Jewish law. These forbidden parts may include certain large blood vessels, chailev (prohibited fats known as tallow or suet; see Vayikra 7:25 for examples), and the gid hanasheh (the sciatic nerve, part of the thigh).

Love Letters to Chocolate

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Community Spotlights

Chocolate. It’s one of life’s greatest pleasures, according to Bethesda, Maryland, chocolatier Rachelle Ferneau.

The self-taught pastry chef

and multi-award-winning

chocolatier spends her days, alongside a small team, with gloved hands coated in chocolate: dipping, shaping, decorating and packaging all natural artisan confections for Dear Coco Chocolate, the boutique vegan, dairy/gluten free and kosher-certified business she founded in 2012.

Bikur Cholim Takes Community Care to a Whole New Level

Written by Barbara Trainin Blank on . Posted in Community Spotlights

Bikur Cholim literally means “visiting the sick” in Hebrew, but some organizations with the name go well beyond that mission. Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington (BCGW) is one of them.

Debi Wildman founded BCGW, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, in 1997 in memory of her late husband, Howie. During Howie’s illness, the family was lucky enough to have a support system–– people visited, made meals–– but Debi knew not everyone had the same good fortune.

Over the years, Bikur Cholim has evolved to do much more than just send friendly visitors to the ill and elderly, itself a laudable activity.

Volunteers with the organization’s J. Peter and Shoshana Lunzer Food Program deliver store-bought and home-cooked meals to hospital patients and their families, the ill and homebound, and caregivers as well. During the past year, the organization provided close to 3,000 meals as well as 800 rides for medical appointments. It also lends out medical equipment and helps pay medical bills for those who qualify.

There is also the Meir L’Olam Fund, dedicated to the memory of Mel Rishe, which runs kosher pantries at Children’s National Medical Center in DC, The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Maryland.

On May 18, Bikur Cholim will hold its annual “My Brother’s Keeper” workshop, geared for hospital staff and others who want to understand the special religious needs of Jewish patients in their care. BCGW offers educational programs for the Jewish community at large as well, often related to elder care, women’s wellness–– and most recently a health and halacha series in coordination with Young Israel Shomrai Emunah and many local synagogue chesed communities.

And thanks to BCGW’s brand-new SmileMakers program, dedicated in memory of Rabbi Yosef Samberg N'E, a child who had undergone brain surgery and longed to see a basketball game between the Wizards and the New York Knicks was not only able to attend but received VIP treatment as well.

Northern Virginia: Gesher Jewish Day School & Chalav Yisrael Milk

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Community Spotlights

Did you know that Northern Virginia has an expansive Jewish community with over 90,000 Jews? On a trip to Fairfax, one could get more exposure to Jewish life than in New York!

Gesher Jewish Day School was the first stop on my trip, and the experience made me wish I was in school again (which isn’t supposed to happen). Director of Development Jennifer Scher gave me the grand tour, which included separate wings for the elementary school and middle school. Built 10 years ago after the school moved from the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (JCCNV), the building has many windows to allow in natural light; in some instances, it feels like you are in a greenhouse.