WORCESTER — Rabbi Mendel Fogelman and his wife, Chani, have found a way to reach out to the community that exemplifies their love for food, fellowship and Jewish education.
For over a year now, the couple has spearheaded an effort to make Kosher food — ready to reheat and serve — available for purchase to the public each Thursday evening.
Using Central Mass Chabad — a Worcester institution since 1942 when Rabbi Fogelman’s father, Hershel, established the Worcester branch of the worldwide organization — as home base, the pair oversee a small kitchen staff each Thursday as they lovingly prepare soups, stews, falafel and much more; all Kosher, all from scratch, and judging from the program’s success — all delicious.
Mrs. Fogelman even hand-makes the 70-80 loaves of challah — in traditional, cinnamon, olive and chocolate varieties — from fresh ingredients.
During the sub-zero temperature snowstorm last week, which fell inconveniently during the Thursday pick-up time slot, Rabbi Fogelman himself suited up and made 14 deliveries. The drive was slippery and slow, but he made it to every single house.
“It was worth it when I saw the look on their faces — here I am in the middle of a snowstorm bringing hot matzah ball soup right to their door,” he said.
Chabad is a Hebrew acronym for the three intellectual faculties of chochmah (wisdom), binah (comprehension) and da’at (knowledge), and the chefs for Mrs. Fogelman's Kosher Take-Out work hard in the kitchen so that those principles can be shared with children throughout Worcester County each summer during the Chabad’s day camp. All funds raised go to support the camp’s scholarship program.
“We would never turn a child away,” Rabbi Fogelman said. “Money or not.”
Until now, local to-go options for people who maintain a Kosher lifestyle are limited to the special section of the grocery store, where they can find kosher ingredients with which to cook. A trip to Boston is an option, but not necessarily an appealing one for a parent just looking to get a night off from the demands of cooking for the family.
Much like the popular and lively Shabbat services at Chabad each Friday night and high holidays at Chabad, where Mrs. Fogelman’s cooking has long taken center stage and provided the catalyst for conversations about the collective faith and experience shared by diners, the Kosher take-out effort has provided another way for people to congregate and converse.
The pick-up time on Thursday nights, said Mrs. Fogelman, who also serves as Chabad’s program director and has a deep commitment to providing education and enrichment to the children in the Chabad community, has itself become a small celebratory gathering.
Perhaps her love for this experience is driven by her childhood and early days in Israel, when her large family and other people of her village embraced what is now known as a “farm-to-table” style of eating, but was simply the way food was enjoyed for her early life.
“Israel and food go together,” she laughed.
For the Rabbi, the experience of cooking for the community has been an innovative way to meet new people and create new connections and friendships within the bustling Chabad community.
“Our mission is not to start a business — our mission is to educate and encourage the Jewish people about keeping Kosher,” he said. “And this is just another way we do that.”
For more information on Mrs. Fogelman’s Kosher Take-Out, or to place an online order, visit centralmasschabad.com.