Can Jezebel Succeed as Kosher Hot Spot?

Restaurant Stakes Claim With High-End Menu, SoHo Address

Elegant Fare: A perfectly seared piece of Arctic char sits atop corn and fava beans in a dish that’s far from expected at a kosher restaurant.
Melissa Horn
Elegant Fare: A perfectly seared piece of Arctic char sits atop corn and fava beans in a dish that’s far from expected at a kosher restaurant.

By Rebecca Flint Marx

Published September 06, 2012, issue of September 14, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Their existence, says Sue Fishkoff, is thanks in part to baalei teshuva chefs and diners — those raised in observant households who left and later returned to religious life or those who were secular and later became religious. “The clientele is younger and mixed because people, especially younger Jews, move in and out of observance,” explains Fishkoff, the author of “Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority.” “There’s a great chance some friends will keep kosher and some won’t. And people know great food.”

Behind Closed Doors: The decor at Jezebel balances a hip elegance with humor. Woody Allen poses as Jesus in a rendition of the last supper.
Melissa Horn
Behind Closed Doors: The decor at Jezebel balances a hip elegance with humor. Woody Allen poses as Jesus in a rendition of the last supper.

Itta Werdiger Roth, a professional chef and the founder of the Hester, an underground kosher supper club in New York, echoes Fishkoff’s sentiment. “The same way that the foodie revolution has been taking over America for the last bunch of years, the kosher community, which is often a few steps behind, is experiencing a hunger for new takes on food and cooking,” says Werdiger Roth, who, as a Hasidic Jew, has patronized her fair share of kosher restaurants.

But while self-identified foodies can now be found nibbling around the country, kosher communities aren’t quite as abundant. And so in order to survive, Fishkoff says, upscale kosher restaurants “can only exist in areas that have a critical mass of observant Jews as well as foodies” — and those willing to pay for the added costs kosher food entails. Without that convergence, you end up like the Kitchen Table, the Mountain View restaurant that was, Fishkoff says, “the only gourmet kosher restaurant in the entire Bay Area, [which] has between 400,000 and 500,000 Jews. The fact that it closed proved there aren’t enough Jews who care about kosher food enough to maintain a high-quality kosher-style restaurant.”

So will Jezebel’s kale chips and biblically named cocktails — like Samson and Delilah — seduce enough kosher Jews to keep the two-month-old restaurant’s doors open? Though the place was respectably busy on a Monday night in August, its future remains uncertain. For that reason, Jezebel’s owners are wise to play down their kosher credentials and play up the “fun, hip” part of the equation. Because it’s not located in a kosher community, Werdiger Roth points out, “they probably need to appeal to a wider audience just to survive.”

That’s certainly part of Stimler and Senderowicz’s plan. Despite the gold-plated shofar that serves as Jezebel’s door handle, it’s opulence, not orthodoxy, that’s being peddled here. In that, Jezebel is no different from its neighbors. Even if it does succeed in attracting a clientele that is neither Jewish nor remotely concerned about the intermarriage of meat and dairy, that success will rest upon the arguably greater accomplishment of raising the bar for kosher food. Ultimately, though, Jezebel is no different from any non-kosher restaurant in New York in that its survival faces some fairly spectacular odds. If it succeeds, it won’t be because its food is coincidentally kosher, but simply because it’s great.

Rebecca Flint Marx lives on the Lower East Side and writes frequently about food.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.