Visiting Springfield, Illinois: The Land of Lincoln and other Americana


People have preconceived notions and prejudices that prevent them from seeing cool places and interesting things in life. I grew up in Illinois. Back in the day, at least, all the public schools brought their students around 8th grade to Springfield, Illinois – the place where Abraham Lincoln lived in the only home he ever bought, practiced law, ran for office and eventually was buried. But I went to a private school that was more concerned with us reciting La Marseilles in perfect French, than seeing a Presidential library and museum in our own state. Later, when I moved south of the Mason-Dixon Line, I saw many battlefields of the Civil War. They’re extremely popular. But for some reason, people don’t talk about visiting Springfield . . . and they’re really missing out.

Getting there: I took a very modestly priced Amtrak from Chicago’s Union Station. Chicago is a big train hub, so you’re likely to be at the beginning of a long haul trip, with classic sleeper cars, full service dining cars with freshly made food, observation decks, ladies’ lounges. Along the way, you see what others ignorantly refer to as “flyover country,” including the funny stadium for the Frontier League Joliet Slammers. Another way you can go: drive or ride. The famous Route 66 goes right through the center of town.

Where to stay: High atop “Aristocracy Hill” sits an inn — Inn at 835 — that used to serve as apartments for movers and shakers and indeed, still features long-term residences for them. After all, Springfield is Illinois’ capital; legislators from here have gone far up the political ladder. The place was conceived and designed over 100 years ago by a high-society florist. It’s still very grand! Rooms are very spacious, some with a butler’s pantry filled with books, Jacuzzi with heat lamp, four-poster bed, gorgeous antiques. Wine and cheese is left out for guests downstairs, but they bring cookies in a basket to your door at night. They provide a free shuttle from the Amtrak station until 8:30 pm.

What to do: See how Lincoln and his family actually lived at the Lincoln Home, a national historic site. He expanded the premises as his success and prosperity grew. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is simply outstanding! I started out at its fantastic gift shop. The museum’s permanent exhibit takes you through life-sized recreations of his log cabin home, his law office, and political ascent. Walk through the whispering gallery of political sniping from both ends of the spectrum – just like elections today! – and nasty gossip against Mary Todd Lincoln. Feel yourself attending the play at Ford’s Theater. We all know how it ends . . . but I wasn’t prepared for the stunning majesty of the darkened recreation of the closed casket in the Representatives Hall in Springfield’s Old State Capitol. Today, we are reminded that Lincoln’s catafalque was lent by Congress for Justice Scalia’s funeral.

Of course, there’s no substitute for the real thing. President Lincoln is buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery. Also in town is his law office, which had a business-friendly location by the courthouse and right on what is now Route 66.

Edwards Place is the oldest remaining structure in Springfield. The Edwards were Illinois’ most powerful political family, with one serving as the first Governor when Illinois became a state after serving as Kentucky’s Chief Justice on the Court of Appeals. Illinois was originally settled mostly by Kentuckians and this family crossed the Ohio River with their slaves. Another Edwards was the first person born in Illinois to graduate from Yale. Their home is beautifully restored, with many interesting archeological finds.

Art and architecture enthusiasts will be fascinated with the Dana-Thomas house, an early example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design. At the time, Wright was young and not as well known enough to totally impose his will upon homeowners, but he managed to ink some covenants. The lady of the house had enough money and social clout to include some of her Art Nouveau era preferences, so the fusion here is one-of-a-kind.

Springfield has a cute, thriving main street. There are several quality antique stores; Abe’s Old Hat has several rooms, each with its own specialty and vibe. Check out such Americana finds like feed sacks upcycled into men’s ties and cornbread scented candles.

A small town has got to consider itself sweet with two independently owned candy stores, both with Depression-era origins. Pease’s is older by a tad; their specialty is chocolates made to look like actual designer shoes! Del’s Popcorn Shop is now located next to the Lincoln-Herndon law office, with a real old-timey feel inside. They have all kinds of flavors of freshly popped corn, which feels like the perfect snack to crunch on in Illinois, plus it makes an inexpensive souvenir gift.

Where to eat: Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery is located in a rehabbed historic home, owned by direct descendants of neighbors of Abraham Lincoln. They brew the freshest beer in town and also have excellent locally made, fruit forward cider. Their growlers are so cute, with tributes to Lincoln and Route 66, I happily paid for plastic boxes and checked luggage to bring some cider home. They’ve got a real gastropub thing going, with highly flavorful offerings like spicy cheesy soup, an old family recipe for 15 spice chili and Scotch eggs.

D’Arcy’s Pint is an Irish pub that’s enormously popular. They serve bar food as well as the famous Springfield Horseshoe. Lots of cities have a beloved big sandwich, this is theirs. It’s generally slices of thick Texas toast, topped with meat, French fries and cheese sauce. You can get veggies or hotdogs on it . . . even Midwestern walleye!

American Harvest Eatery is a new restaurant little bit up the road from the state capital building, so it’s not quite run over by lobbyists yet. While still finding its footing when I was there, they have an admirable concept: using the foodstuffs of Illinois to re-create comfort food favorites.

I saw a Quonset in the middle of nowhere and wondered how it could be a restaurant. Well, Charlie Parker’s Diner is world-famous and has been featured on the Food Network many times! It’s a fun, 50’s party atmosphere with that kind of classic menu.

Anecdotally, I wondered in the land of farms if things like heirloom tomatoes, etc., were popular. It turns out, not so much: commercial agriculture earnings are so crucial, people aren’t playing around with specialized, small-yield crops here.

Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln life-like figures at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Photo by Tamar Alexia Fleishman, Esq.

Figures of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debate at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Photo by Tamar Alexia Fleishman, Esq.

Recreation of the scene at Ford’s Theater at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Photo by Tamar Alexia Fleishman, Esq.

President Abraham Lincoln’s tomb Photo by Tamar Alexia Fleishman, Esq.

 

Jeremy Cowan is the founder of Shmaltz Brewing Co. Photo courtesy of Shmaltz Brewing Company.

Ale to the chief: ‘He’brewery’ wins fans — and awards


On the eve of Chanukah 1996, Jeremy Cowan began experimenting with squeezing pomegranate juice into a batch of his freshly brewed beer. Working out of a small Bay Area brewery, Cowan hand-bottled and hand-labeled 100 cases of what he dubbed He’brew Beer’s Genesis Ale.

The upstart brewer and recent Stanford graduate peddled his product from his grandmother’s Volvo to local retailers in and around San Francisco’s suburbs. His mother helped deliver some cases, too.

“It was a very organic, hands-on beginning,” Cowan, 47, who now lives in Troy, N.Y., told the Journal in a recent phone interview.

Two decades later, Cowan, 47, still is making his Genesis Ale — but that’s not all.

He’s also making beers with names such as “Chanukah, Hanukkah … Pass the Beer,” a dark ale brewed with eight malts and eight hops with 8 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), and “Genesis 20:20,” a barrel-aged, tart barleywine with 16.7 percent ABV. (Before you run to your Torah, don’t worry, Genesis Chapter 20 has only 18 verses.) There’s also “Jewbelation 20th Anniversary Ale,” brewed with 10 malts and 10 hops with 16.8 percent ABV, and “Shtick in a Box,” a holiday variety 12-pack featuring items like “Messiah Nut Brown Ale.”

The brand is known for the Jewish, shtick-laden names gracing its labels.

“Every year, we have to keep trying to be creative, be imaginative and keep putting out quality products, and keep having fun along the way. One of the things we definitely focus on is a whimsy, creativity and sense of shtick,” the craft beer veteran explained.

The “we” refers to Cowan’s team of more than 30 employees helping to produce, promote and sell what his Shmaltz Brewing Co. proudly terms “the chosen beer.” His company operates out of its own 40,000-square-foot, 50-barrel brewhouse — opened in 2013 — in Clifton, N.Y.

For its first 17 years of existence, Shmaltz was a contract brewer, meaning it had to outsource production of its beer to bigger brewers. Now, its upstate New York facility has an annual capacity of 20,000 barrels and boasts a tasting room open to the public. The space frequently hosts events such as weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and even brit milah ceremonies.

Shmaltz sells its beer across 35 states in nearly 5,000 retailers, including Vons, BevMo and Cost Plus World Market locations. In 2016, Shmaltz did $4 million in gross sales — a far cry from the back of the Volvo.

“It’s really astounding,” Cowan said of Shmaltz’s rise to Jewish beer prominence.

Shmaltz recently combined two of Cowan’s eternal loves — pastrami and beer — to create “Pastrami Pils,” a 5.5 percent ABV pilsner brewed with caraway, cracked black pepper and kosher salt, and dry hopped with horseradish and rye blend.

Also a lifelong “Star Trek” fan, Cowan secured an exclusive agreement to create the only officially licensed “Star Trek” beers in the country: “Golden Anniversary Ale: Voyage to the Northeast Quadrant” and “Golden Anniversary Ale: The Trouble With Tribbles.”

Shmaltz isn’t just a success story and it isn’t just Jewish. It’s also high-quality craft beer.  RateBeer.com ranked Shmaltz as one of the “Top 100 Brewers in the World” in 2013. The company has amassed 40 awards, including 10 gold medals and six silver medals combined at the past several World Beer Championships.

Born in Los Angeles, Cowan spent his early childhood in Beverlywood. His father taught special education and English at nearby Beverly Hills High School.

After college and before his prophetic pomegranate episode, Cowan spent time in New Orleans, soaking up the diverse culture and working at one of the oldest breweries in Louisiana.

“I didn’t think about what I wanted to do,” Cowan said of that time. “I just wanted to read, write music and eat good food.” In the Big Easy, he first developed an appreciation for beer, particularly European styles.

When he returned home to the Bay Area, Cowan set out to find his own calling within that region’s bustling beer culture. He sensed his Jewish identity had a part to play. Many beers conjure up a homeland or constitute a point of pride for drinkers — Heineken, for instance, is as Dutch as windmills or wooden clogs. Cowan wanted to forge a place for Jews in the realm of great beers and to dispel what he saw as a myth that Jews don’t enjoy beer.

“When I started, there was no Jewish celebration beer,” he said. “Every group had some beers they could call their own. I wanted to create something that would combine a sense of history, referencing pop culture, literature, traditions and holidays and, of course, a beer that can stand with the most innovative, creative delicious beers in the world. Then putting a bunch of shtick on the beer labels. I thought people would feel a meaningful connection.”

The craft beer industry is cutthroat, particularly because it comprises so many small businesses clawing to stand out. According to Cowan, the field has seen more growth in the past three years than at any point in history, ballooning to more than 5,000 craft brewers operating in the country.

“This is the single greatest time in history to enjoy great beer and to make craft beer,” he said.

The Jewish branding of Shmaltz is unique, Cowan said. Iconic kosher wine companies such as Kedem and Manischewitz — the names most Jews attune to when playing word association with “Jewish” and “alcohol” — are owned by bigger companies. Cowan hopes drinkers of his beer relish Shmaltz’s ascendancy in the highly competitive beer marketplace as a Jewish independent business going on 20 years.

“I hope the Jewish community feels proud,” he said. “We do feel the support at events and on social media. It’s very difficult to maintain a for-profit consumer Jewish business, and I’m very proud that we’ve accomplished that and hope we can for many years to come.” 

Shepherds’ Beer taps Palestinian market


Brewed by brothers for friends” is the slogan of Shepherds Beer, the new hand-crafted local brew that was introduced to the Palestinian market recently. A family business based in Birzeit in the West Bank, the brand-new business is overseen by 27-year old Alaa Sayej, oldest of three brothers, CEO of the company, and tour guide for The Media Line’s visit.

In mid-June, after many months of delay due to logistic and licensing issues, the Sayej brothers finally bottled the first batch of 2,000 bottles of their Blonde Pilsner Lager recipe. A week later, two additional flavors, the Amber Ale and the Stout, invaded bars and restaurants in Christian cities across the West Bank.

“It was a fastidious and challenging launch, but the results after only five weeks are really positive and encouraging. We received many orders from bars, restaurants and retailers,” Alaa, who previously studied business and spent time working in a bank before moving into beverages, told The Media Line. “Last Friday, a bar ordered a box of each type and a day later they were asking for more,” he said proudly.

Moreover, the company offers innovations new to its Palestinian customers such as a draught machine that can be ordered for an event, installed by a brewery worker who delivers the kegs along with plastic cups, leaving it ready for to pour a tall one. “Since the first bottling, we’ve had more than fifteen events from weddings and graduations to engagements and baptisms. People are really enthusiastic about the idea of having fresh beer served to them immediately,” the brewer said.

In addition to the three basic recipes, Birzeit Brewery will produce limited editions of one-off brews every season. The Summer Ale 2015 was launched on July 7, and a Christmas edition is being prepared for the coming winter. A non-alcoholic version should be out by the end of the year.

“We target anyone who is (old enough) to drink because we want everyone to enjoy the real taste of a beer. We offer different recipes to fit people's tastes,” brother Khalid explained to The Media Line.

Birzeit Brewery also aims to introduce Palestinian connoisseurs to a positive beer drinking culture by educating people, both adults and children, about the traditions of brewing. The factory is open for visits on Mondays and Saturdays from 9 am to 6 pm; and Sundays from 12 to 6 pm.

“We want to explain how to differentiate beers, not only from their color but also from the yeast strain, the CO² content, the type of malt, and the fermentation process,” said Khalid. “There are many summer camps around Birzeit, and most of them came to visit the brewery — the kids were very curious. We believe it is our social responsibility to explain to younger generations how to drink responsibly,” Alaa added.

The ambitious CEO is already thinking of producing and selling home brewing kits based on his own recipes. “If you love my beers and you want to brew your own, just learn the way I did. It is every man's dream to have his own brewery and beer,” joked Alaa.

The idea originated in England where Alaa spent time studying for a Master’s degree in finance and investment management. He made his first home-brewed beer with an Irish friend in the dormitory's kitchen. Although work opportunities existed abroad, Alaa was set on returning home after completing his studies and did just that. But unsatisfied by the job options available in the Palestinian Territories, he decided it was time to open his own business and fulfill his dream. “I wanted to do something for my country, to boost our economy.”

His two brothers joined the venture. Aziz, 25, is responsible for bottling and maintenance, and Khalid, 23, is head brew master responsible for the daily quality control. Their younger sister, Norma, 20, is also assisting with marketing while continuing with her studies.

Currently, four workers and a secretary complete the team, assisted by a number of external subcontractors. There are no intermediaries between the producers and the brewery. The different kinds of malts are high-quality, directly imported by the brewery from the Czech Republic, and the hops come from England, Czech Republic and New Zealand.

The system and machines in the factory were designed by Alaa and a German brewing engineer specifically to fit the low-ceiling warehouse; all were imported from abroad.

But the entire brewing system, six containers in all, were held at the Israeli port for three months during the Gaza war last summer. In addition, the foreign engineer who was supposed to install the filling line did not get the required visa to enter the country, delaying bottling by another two months.

Importing goods and staff was not the only challenge. The Palestinian Authority imposed constraints, deliberate impediments due to restrictions regarding alcohol consumption observed by many Muslims. “Some workers (in the ministries) refused to deal with my application because it is a brewery. Or some drivers would not deliver my malt because it is for an alcoholic drink,” explained Alaa. Special authorization from officials was required and Alaa estimates that due to the permits and delays of licensing, his investment spiraled to more than a million dollars.

For the product logo, the Sayej brothers chose a picture of a shepherd with a star overhead. “This is to honor our ancestors,” as all Palestinians were once farmers or shepherds, Alaa explained. But the Ministry of Commerce did not look so kindly on the symbolism and at first rejected the logo, stating that it appeared too similar to Jesus Christ and was therefore a religious icon. But once again, the Sayej's efforts and tenacity succeeded and after a three month-long battle, the label design was approved.

“It is an excellent initiative; I wish more and more Palestinians would open such businesses,” said Saleh Totah, owner of the upscale La Vie café in Ramallah. “It is a positive cultural attack in Palestine to start a brewery or winery project, the society needs it,” the restauranteur said.

Even though wine has been produced in the region for centuries, alcohol consumption remains a taboo among some sections of Palestinian society. Only Christians are allowed to produce and sell alcoholic beverages; Muslims are discouraged from drinking.

But Alaa admits that Palestinian Christians alone – who constitute only 1.8% of the population – could not make up the entirety of his market. “Everyone is allowed to drink… there’s no policemen standing in front of liquor stores. But we can’t sell in supermarkets in the Islamic cities (like) Nablus (and) Hebron,” he explained. Christian majority cities like Bethlehem and Ramallah are where the majority of their sales are made. Some foreigners account for trade as well but it’s hardly a secret that some Muslims drink, Alaa said, “It’s like Jews who eat pork.”

Women also enjoy Shepherd’s, with the stout beer having flavors of chocolate and espresso particularly popular among them.  

Saleh confirmed that the new Shepherd beers were the number one selling brand in his café since they were launched, and he expects the limited edition, Summer Ale, to break the records. “I am glad to see new Palestinian products on the market. I have four beers on tap here, and finally in a few weeks I will have a Palestinian draft beer available.”

Alaa admitted that a desire to see more local brands consumed by Palestinians had been one of his motivations for opening. The Birzeit Brewery is only the second Palestinian beer producer to open in the West Bank and is possibly inspired by a wave of micro-breweries in neighboring Israel and in the wider world. Previously, beer drinkers had only the option of 14 foreign brands and 5 others from Israel, not including the very successful local brand, Taybeh.

Jimmy, a 26 year-old American Palestinian, said that the new beers have great taste and offer a good local alternative to foreign beers. “I am a whiskey drinker but a nice cool beer always hits the spot. After trying it a couple of times, I place the Blonde Pilsner lager number one on my chart,” Jimmy told The Media Line.

The Sayej brothers want their beers to win over the Palestinian market, but they hope by next spring to turn their gaze outwards to European countries, such as the Czech Republic or England, and closer to home in Jordan where their products are labeled with Jordanian bar codes.

Calendar: January 18-24


SAT | JAN 18

PINCHAS ZUKERMAN

The acclaimed violinist conducts one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious orchestras through some Bach, Schoenberg and Brahms. Born in Tel Aviv, Zukerman trained at Juilliard before playing with the London Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. After a successful career in recording, he began conducting in 1970. Since then, he has been a global musical leader, player and teacher. Forget the sounds of silence — bring on Zukerman! Sat. 8 p.m. $40-$65. Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. (818) 677-3000. ” target=”_blank”>elephanttheatre.org.

“HOLD ME, HEAL ME”

A little kindness goes a long way. The Jewish Women’s Theatre has an all-new salon show that will remind you how kindness can heal even our most broken moments. With poems, stories, music and plays, the evening offers laughter and reflection. Eve Brandstein directs Annie Korzen, Lisa Cirincione, Kate Zentall and Michele Brourman in this touching and honest acknowledgement of the lives we lead. Sat. 7:30-9:30 p.m. $30 (door). Through Jan. 31 (locations vary). National Council of Jewish Women, 543 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. ” target=”_blank”>jewishwomenstheater.org.


SUN | JAN 19

“A RADICAL FRIENDSHIP”

It’s a friendship that can inspire us all. Ed Asner (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Lou Grant”) and Jason George (“Grey’s Anatomy”) play Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., respectively. Jane Marla Robbins’ play explores the personal side of historic events, looking at how a Polish-born rabbi and a black Baptist minister formed an unlikely friendship and marched arm in arm together in their quest for social justice. San Pedro’s Temple Beth El presents this staged reading in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Sun. 7:30 p.m. $36, $54. Harlyne J. Norris Pavilion, 501 Indian Peak Road, Rolling Hill Estates. (310) 544-0403. MON | JAN 20

“THE SEVEN HABITS OF DE-STRESSED PEOPLE”

L.A. rush hour got ya down? Are people bringing 15 items into the 12-item express lane? Don’t sweat the small stuff — a de-stressed life is in your future. Rabbi Laibl Wolf is a psychologist and best-selling author who uses ancient Jewish wisdom and positive psychology to get people feeling better. Retrain your brain with mindful living and reclaim your life. Mon. 8 p.m. $15 (advance), $20 (door). Laemmle Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. (424) 333-0006. TUE | JAN 21

“SALINGER”

PBS’ “American Masters” kicks off its 28th season with a special director’s cut of Shane Salerno’s documentary. Maybe the most intimate and comprehensive investigation into the author yet, Salerno spent 10 years exploring the “why” and the “who” of J.D. Salinger, the man who brought us “The Catcher in the Rye.” From his experiences in World War II, to his love affairs, to his retreat from the public eye, “Salinger” follows the mysteries of an American master. Tue. 9 p.m. (check local listing). Free. PBS. WED | JAN 22

“WHAT’S SO JEWISH ABOUT CHANGING THE WORLD?”

Maybe the better question is what isn’t Jewish about changing the world? Panelists Rabbi Ed Feinstein, David Myers, Julie Platt, Adlai Wertman and Journal writer Danielle Berrin take part in a TED-style discussion and debate on religious, historical, philanthropic, civic and cultural responses Jews have had to making change. Drinks and appetizers will be provided, as will a post-debate Q-and-A. Sponsored by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, YALA and PresenTenseLA. Wed. 7 p.m. $10. Jewish Federation, 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8161. THU | JAN 23

HOUSE OF JEWS AND ISRAELI BREWS

Leave your mittens at home! With heat lamps, Israeli beers and soulful tunes, the Temple Beth Am Pilch Rooftop is gettin’ hot. Grab a cozy couch spot and listen to some organic pop from singer-songwriter Adam Stern. The acoustic evening will also feature musician Josh Warshawsky, Temple Beth Am artist-in-residence, and mixed-media painter Ilan Laks. RSVP encouraged. Thu. 8 p.m. Free. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7354.

The brew that’s fit for a Jew


Manischewitz has its role, but now and then a Jew needs a good cold beer.

Shmaltz Brewing Co., with headquarters in San Francisco and a brewery in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., has been producing beers worthy of the Chosen People for 15 years and counting.

“Completely shocking,” says proprietor Jeremy Cowan, when asked about his brand’s longevity. In fact, Cowan says he is still not sure how it’s even possible that the first 100 cases of Shmaltz—handcrafted as an experiment for Hanukkah in 1996—have grown into the production of over 10,000 barrels a year internationally.

In celebration of the 15th year, a series of new and repackaged brews are being released, including the appropriately named Jewbelation 15 and Genesis 15:15. There is even a new book that chronicles the company’s first 13 years called Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah, which includes a list of suggested beers to accompany each chapter.

“When I started Shmaltz, it was really just an experiment,” Cowan says. “I just thought it would be fun and funny to make this country’s first and only Jewish celebration beer.”

With the help of a small brewery in Northern California, the former English major pitched a business idea (despite not knowing a dram from a dreidel), and Shmaltz was born. Hand-brewed, hand-labeled and hand-delivered, the first bottles of Shmaltz quickly caught on, even outside the Jewish community.

“Once I got into the project,” Cowan recalls, “I realized this was my opportunity to create my own brand of a Jewish community organization. [It] allowed me to celebrate my culture and to tie it into Jewish text, holidays, and traditions in a meaningful contemporary way most relevant to my own sensibility.”

While he is happy with his creation’s cache in the Christian and Catholic worlds, Cowan is especially proud of the impact he has had in Jewish homes. Most of his beers are certified by the Kosher Supervision of America (KSA), which is accepted by the Orthodox Union (OU) worldwide.

When it comes to kosher dietary law, beer isn’t subject to the same level of rabbinic and Talmudic scrutiny as wine is, Cowan notes. However, he says it “was important to get the [Shmaltz] beers kosher certified so the whole community, regardless of their level of observance, would feel confident bringing our products into their homes and into their lives.”

Cowan says the name of Shmaltz’s first offering—“He’Brew”—was a “fun shtick my pals came up with when we were just slightly underage in Northern California.” Though his product has been the subject of “lots of funny looks and questions,” Cowan emphasizes that the most important judge—his mother—approves.

“She even helped me deliver cases of the first batch,” he says, noting that she is “relieved that the business is doing well enough that I don’t need to sleep on her fold-out couch nearly as often as I used to.”

Once people get past the name, Cowan suggests, they often find that Shmaltz products are more than just a Jewish joke. “When people read the story and taste…the beer,” he says, “[they] realize…that I was very serious about this fun and delicious project that honestly celebrates Jewish tradition, text, and sensibility, [and] they love it.”

For its 10th anniversary, Shmaltz expanded by adding a new line of East Coast-inspired beers. Approached by “a nice Jewish boy from Manhattan” who had become a fan and who wanted Cowan to help celebrate New York’s most famous playground—Coney Island—Cowan decided to kick off a “sideshow” beer line to raise money for the famous fun park.

Today, Shmaltz’s Coney Island line includes such Boardwalk-inspired flavors as Albino Python, Sword Swallower, Human Blockhead, and Freaktoberfest.

“For over 125 years, Coney Island has been America’s Playground,” Cowan suggests. “Shmaltz Brewing is ecstatic to celebrate that flavor and spirit through this exceptional line of unique craft lagers.”

Looking to the future, Shmaltz continues to expand while keeping its roots firmly in mind.

“One of my favorite parts of my craft beer business is to play with stereotypes and add unique angles and create additional layers of meaning and flavor,” Cowan says, “to tickle people’s expectations and increase their delight with our offerings.”

U.S. entrepreneurs brewing something special in Israel


It would be almost impossible to believe that an inventive Washington, D.C., caterer who created culinary events for Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush, an NYU-trained lawyer cum high-tech maven, and a successful New Jersey accountant would actually chuck their lucrative careers in order to serve up hand-crafted boutique beers to thirsty Israelis and curious tourists in metro Tel Aviv. However, Jeremy (“Jem”) Welfeld, Daniel Alon and David Cohen all admit that they are “living the Zionist dream” by reinventing themselves as adventurous American entrepreneurs who’ve fired up Israel’s fledgling microbrew industry.

In terms of chronology, Cohen opened Dancing Camel, the first Israeli microbrewery and pub, in Tel Aviv in 2006. Soon after, Welfeld and Alon partnered to create the first kosher microbrewery, pub and restaurant in Israel, which is located in the bustling Petach Tikva commercial district (home to dozens of high-tech and low-tech companies), just outside of Tel Aviv.

Up until the arrival of microbreweries in the Holy Land, most Israelis and tourists alike appeared to be content with sampling the mass-produced local beers (Goldstar and Maccabee) and some of the well-known European imports. A true beer culture had yet to take root in the Jewish state. Welfeld, who received his master brewer’s certificate from the prestigious Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, and Cohen, a former CPA who apprenticed at a microbrewery in New Jersey, decided that the time had come to change the way Israelis relate to their suds.

Five years later, Welfeld, Alon and Cohen had spurred a true American-style revolution in Israel. “What was a novelty [microbreweries], is now verging on a national phenomenon,” Israeli beer blogger Harley Zipori wrote.

Welfeld, Alon and Cohen will all tell you that while failure was not an option, having a cogent business plan, sufficient capital and quality brewing experience weren’t the only ingredients needed for success.

“We spent plenty of time searching for the right place to launch this venture,” recalled Welfeld, who catered events at the White House and State Department in the mid-1990s. “We needed to find a place large enough to install brewing equipment, as well as design a pub/restaurant that could fulfill our conceptualization. When we discovered an abandoned warehouse, which was a real mess, Danny and I knew we had found the perfect place for this venture.”

Welfeld and Alon also both knew that the warehouse was located in an area of Petach Tikva that was on the verge of a high-tech and real estate boom. “Besides which, it would have been almost impossible to develop our concept in Tel Aviv, because of the strict city zoning laws. Yes, some people thought we were out of our minds to do this in Petach Tikva, but the timing fit perfectly,” added Alon, the former New York legal eagle and high-tech impresario.

Jem’s Beer Factory serves six genuine lager beers including Pils, Dark Lager, Amber Ale, Wheat, 8.8 and Stout,  which are produced on the premises using the freshest ingredients. And, yes, Welfeld is only too happy to offer a quick behind-the-scenes tour of his brewing area to guests upon request. Jem’s also bottles tens of thousands of beers a month, some of which are sold on the premises and the rest available in select liquor stores throughout Israel.

Some of Dancing Camel’s unique beers

What separates Jem’s from the rest of the pub pack is the funky kosher restaurant that is an integral part of the experience. In fact, Jem’s is jam-packed with secular and religious singles, couples and business tourists during weekday evenings. On Sunday evenings, Jem’s is transformed into a SoHo-style pub/restaurant/nightclub where well-known Israeli singers entertain the throngs until the wee hours of the morning. The restaurant menu offers a variety of tasty dishes, including charbroiled steaks and homemade sausages.

“You won’t find a kosher microbrewery and restaurant anywhere …  New York, London, Singapore, etc. It’s hard to find ‘kosher and cool,’ which defines Jem’s,” Welfeld kvelled. “We’re not exclusive but inclusive, meaning that Jem’s is a microcosm of Israeli society, where both religious and secular Jews can enjoy a fun and relaxing experience together.”

Alon revealed that Jem’s also hosts hundreds of business tourists each week. “The business people come from the nearby offices of Teva, IBM, Intel and Amdocs … on their way back to their hotels in Tel Aviv or to the airport, which is only about 15 minutes away,” he added.

Cohen originally wanted to set up his Dancing Camel microbrewery in the mystical city of Safed (Tzfat) in northern Israel. But when he and his wife realized that living and working in bustling central Israel made more sense, Cohen decided to pursue his dream in Tel Aviv.

“We settled on Tel Aviv after visiting and looking at almost every industrial park across Israel,” Cohen said. “Eventually, I found a place in a gentrified neighborhood not far from the city’s busy office buildings. It’s a great neighborhood pub where we brew 13 different ales, five of which we brew year-round. Our most popular beers are American Pale Ale, made with distinctive hops from the United States; Eve, which is a light blond ale; India Pale Ale, which is brewed with date honey; and Leche Del Diablo, a wheat beer that contains chili peppers.”

Dancing Camel’s bottled beers, which are available at select liquor stores throughout Israel, are also kosher (with certification from a rabbi in Monsey, N.Y.).

As for his customer base, Cohen pointed out, “That’s hard to define since we are a local pub, but we do know that we get regular customers from as far away as Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba. The nearby Azrieli Towers complex is a major transportation hub so it’s not difficult for lovers of beer culture to hop aboard a bus or train and enjoy Dancing Camel’s unique atmosphere.”

The success of Jem’s and Dancing Camel has fueled talk of future expansion, but Welfeld, Alon and Cohen maintain that they are constantly working to perfect their existing business model.

Added Alon, “Jem’s is a successful Zionist story that is based on 20 years of vision, energy and persistence. Right now, we like where we are.”

Jem’s Beer Factory, Hamagshimim 15, Kiryat Matalon, Petach Tikva. (03) 919-5367. jems.co.il. Sunday-Thursday, noon-last customer. Saturdays, opens one hour after sunset.

Dancing Camel, Hataasiya 12, Tel Aviv. (03) 624-2783. dancingcamel.com. Sunday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-last customer, Friday, noon-one hour before Shabbat. Saturday, opens one hour after Shabbat.

Dos Equis’ pitchman is Jewish actor living in Marina del Rey


“He once had an awkward moment just to see how it feels. He lives vicariously through himself,” a disembodied voice states.

“He is the Most Interesting Man in the World.”

Seated at a table, surrounded by beautiful women, a bearded man with salt-and-pepper hair looks into the camera: “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis. Stay thirsty, my friends.”

At a time when many viewers use DVRs to skip over TV commercials, Dos Equis gets people to stop and watch its ads for their potent blend of machismo and absurdist humor. The debonair Latin pitchman, a creation of Euro RSCG, appears one part Earnest Hemingway, one part Baron Munchausen. We learn his “beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man’s entire body.”

But the actor who portrays the Most Interesting Man in the World is more likely to attend a bar mitzvah than a Quinceañera. Jonathan Goldsmith, 72, whose face and voice are now inexorably linked with one of Mexico’s top-selling beers, is a New York-born Jew who lives with his wife on a 50-foot Beneteau sailboat in Marina del Rey.

“It’s 47.3 feet,” he corrected during a recent phone interview. “It had a bris … it was 53 feet.”

Story continues after the jump.

Goldsmith says he had a nice career as a character actor before his Dos Equis stint, which began in 2007. He appeared in films, like “Go Tell the Spartans,” and television shows such as “The A-Team,” “Knight Rider” and “MacGyver.” “But I’ve never gotten the accolades that I’ve gotten since this wonderful campaign started,” he said. 

Given the campaign’s popularity, Goldsmith says he can’t venture outside without being recognized.

“I was sitting with my wife in a little Mexican restaurant that we love to go to for breakfast. A fellow came over and said … ‘I was speaking with my little boy yesterday, who is 7, and I asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. Unhesitatingly, he said, “I want to be the Most Interesting Man in the World.” ’ And on the other end of the spectrum, we were on a bus, and an elderly gentleman on a cane came over and said, ‘When I come back, I want to be like you.’ ”

When he auditioned for the Dos Equis role, Goldsmith said he drew inspiration from a renowned Argentine actor.

“I immediately thought of my friend, Fernando Lamas, who was a great raconteur and a sailing buddy of mine. … That was the first thing that came to my mind, and it stuck with me after that,” Goldsmith said.

Despite the grandiosity of the Dos Equis character, separating the actor from his Latin alter ego is not as easy as it might seem. Goldsmith has yet to arm-wrestle Fidel Castro, but he has led an interesting life that includes saving two people from certain death and rescuing tigers.

Born in New York to a gym teacher father and a mother who modeled, Goldsmith was brought up in a family with religious grandparents and a great-grandfather who founded a Brooklyn yeshiva. He attended Hebrew school and became bar mitzvah, but these days he keeps his observance to High Holy Day services.

“Wherever the tickets are less than flying to Paris, we’ll drop by,” he said.

Goldsmith is a vocal proponent for the S.A.B.R.E. Foundation, a tiger rescue organization in Nevada. He traces his love for the animal to a toy tiger he carried around during his early childhood.

“I just fell absolutely in love with it,” he said. “My zayde used to take me to The Central Park Zoo to [visit] the lions and tigers. Those were wonderful, wonderful days.”

Goldsmith met Peter Renzo of S.A.B.R.E. while living in Nevada City, Calif. At the time, he was introduced to two 30-pound tiger cubs. Several years later, after S.A.B.R.E. moved outside of Fernley, Nev., Goldsmith paid a return visit and found the cuddly cubs had become 700-pound adults. Renzo invited Goldsmith to step into the cage to feed one of the tigers by hand, and Goldsmith said the big cat wasn’t exactly intimidated by the Most Interesting Man in the World.

“He handled it very well,” Goldsmith joked. “I was a little bit nervous, but he looked like a Landsman, so it was alright.”

Among Goldsmith’s other charitable causes are Free Arts for Abused Children, which pairs artists with children in protective custody, and the Stella Link Foundation, a group calling attention to child sex trafficking in Cambodia.

In addition to helping children and animals in need, Goldsmith has rescued people from deadly situations on two separate occasions. Once, while hiking during a snowstorm, he found a man stricken with hypothermia and cared for him overnight until help could arrive the next morning.

The second incident occurred at Malibu Lagoon. 

“I noticed one girl who was in trouble right in front of everybody. I got her just as she went down. If I wasn’t there, she would have drowned 10 feet from her parents. It was just fortunate,” he said.

And while the Most Interesting Man in the World is portrayed with a Superman-like invulnerability, Goldsmith says he knows a thing or two about dying in front of the camera. During a career that spans more than 50 years, he has been drawn-and-quartered, shot, electrocuted and drowned, and Marshal Matt Dylan killed him on five separate occasions on the TV show “Gunsmoke.” But Goldsmith’s favorite death sequence was a public hanging in a movie of the week—the 1969 Western “Cutter’s Trail.”

“It was dawn in Kanab, Utah, and there were hundreds of extras. There was a long drum roll and a pronouncement. I had this long walk to the gallows, and then made some last-minute speech of defiance,” he said. “That was one of my favorite ways that I passed on.”

Boys to men


It was by far my hardest speaking gig ever.

Rabbi Stewart Vogel at Temple Aliyah invited me many months ago, to speak to the synagogue men’s group at 7 p.m. on June 12. Of course I said yes — it was one of those gracious invitations with so much advance notice that the day seemed as far off as Saturn and as wide open.

What we couldn’t have guessed was the Los Angeles Lakers would be playing Game 3 of the NBA Championship that night.

The rabbi hosted the event in his backyard. I walked through the gate at 7. The guys were eating barbeque, drinking beers and Cokes, watching a big-screen TV set up on the patio. Fifty pairs of eyes shifted to me like I was the mom, they were 10 and it was time to go to bed.

Rabbi Vogel leaped up and flicked the TV off. He introduced me, and the guys were more than welcoming. I decided to speak about the election. I figured what could possibly compete in excitement with the Lakers vs. Celtics? Obama vs. McCain. By the end, we got into it pretty good. Phil Jackson had his strategy; I had mine.

What I decided not to tell the men’s group was my dark, dirty little secret: I couldn’t care less about the game.

Yep: Lakers, shmaykers. Pro sports bore me.

How’s that for coming out of the closet? I would rather watch a rerun of the “Mad Men” episode when Peggy finds out she’s pregnant than the last pass in the closest Super Bowl ever.

I love tennis, but as many men have reminded me over the years, that doesn’t count. In tennis, nobody checks anybody, no one loses his teeth and girls can beat you.

In general, I’m just not supermacho. And I’ve been wondering lately if that accounts for my deep involvement in Jewish life.

It turns out, see, that I am endangered: I am a non-Orthodox Jewish man engaged in Jewish life.

According to a new Brandeis University study, men are becoming less and less active in every aspect of Jewish life, from the home to the synagogue to communal organizations.

“American Jewish boys and men have fewer connections to Jews and Judaism than girls and women in almost every venue at almost every age,” begins the report, titled, “Matrilineal Ascent, Patrilineal Descent: The Gender Imbalance in American Jewish Life.”

Anecdotally, we all know boys and men in Jewish schools, camps, shuls and organizations. But the study, headed by Sylvia Barack Fishman and Daniel Parmer, used hundreds of interviews Fishman conducted for the American Jewish Committee and for two of her previous books, as well as data from the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Study. What they found is that non-Orthodox Judaism has undergone a long process of feminization.

As Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist seminaries turn out more female rabbis and cantors, fewer boys than girls join non-Orthodox youth groups, attend religious schools or summer camps, and fewer men serve on synagogue or federation committees.

“Over the ages, men felt very involved in Judaism,” Fishman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “It was their responsibility. This is gone today, except in the Orthodox world. We need to look at how we are raising our Jewish sons.”

Fishman believes the “Boy Crisis” is serious because as Jewish boys and men turn off to Judaism, they tend to marry non-Jewish spouses, and their children are less likely to be raised Jewish.

That women have entered Jewish life en masse is not just good, it’s great. But one theory is that in breaking down the gender barriers of Orthodoxy, the liberal movements have neglected something men need: Time with men.

Outside the liberal Jewish movements, Jewish men have the minyan, where 10 can gather for a shot of prayer and a glass of schnapps. “For all except the old and the rigid, the minyan is gone — an opportunity lost,” Rabbi Steven Leder wrote several years ago in — natch — Playboy. “But in the process men lost the opportunity to create something they need and have always lacked, times and places to talk and to be with each other.”

The advent of men’s groups is a direct response to this phenomenon. Leder pioneered one at Wilshire Boulevard Temple almost a decade ago; I’ve spoken to groups from Encino to Palos Verdes. They don’t just talk politics and watch (yawn) ball games; they also bring in relationship experts, talk over feelings, fatherhood — the big stuff. The idea, as Leder wrote, is “to create something the minyan could have provided if men were better at talking to each other.”

I like the men’s group concept, but I’m not certain it alone will reverse the trend. I have a different theory for the Boy Crisis: The problem isn’t that Jewish life treats men like women, it’s that it treats them like children.

At 13, we’re told we are men. From then on, as boys really do grow into men in the secular world, they get treated more and more like children in synagogue. Rabbis guide them through the service; they’re told the rules and expected to go along, and every life cycle from marriage to their kids’ bar or bat mitzvah is as deep a transaction as an allowance.

I once asked a world-famous doctor why he walked away from Judaism. “Because I couldn’t stand being infantilized,” he said. “I was 40; I was at the top of my field, and they talked to me like I’m an idiot.”

The weakness of Orthodoxy is that it doesn’t (yet) fully include women. Its strength is it pushes men to step up to the plate and become active in meaningful, mature ways in their spiritual life: not just as members of a minyan but as teachers of their own children, as Torah readers, as prayer leaders, as the Jewish leader in their own home.

That’s a long-term strategy for male Jewish involvement.

Though beers and barbeque aren’t a bad start.

Shocktoberfest


The plan was innocuous enough: Meet up with some Jewish Journal colleagues for Oktoberfest at The Phoenix Club, a German cultural center in Anaheim that features a banquet hall, a restaurant and bar, as well as country club-like grounds. We were looking for something truly authentic — a slice of Munich in the Southland.

I guess we should have been careful what we wished for.

It was a Saturday evening and there were 10 of us sitting together on the edge of the biergarten, which held about 2,000 people. An opulent, modern white tent covered a patio area lined with picnic tables, which were getting snatched up quickly around us. With the heat on to find a place to sit, an older couple and their adult child with Down’s syndrome joined us at our table.

Oktoberfest is a two-week celebration held in Munich, Germany, during late September and early October. Beer, food and music are the cornerstones of what is the world’s largest festival, drawing 6 million tourists to the city annually. Cities around the world hold their own Oktoberfests, typically modeled after the Munich event.

We’d hoped for more colleagues from The Journal, but the distance put off some, and others seemed disinclined because Jews and plans based on Munich and beer historically don’t mix well.

At the Phoenix Club in Anaheim, men were walking around in lederhosen and liking it. (However, the only dirndln — full-skirted dresses with gathered waists and closefitting bodices — were ultrashort and being sported by women carrying trays of Jagger shots.) Young families with children mixed with a predominantly senior crowd. The food was mostly authentic — weisswurst, bratwurst, porkshanks — so most of The Journal’s crowd stuck with the potato pancakes and Bavarian pretzels.

After a second round of the chicken dance, the bandleader from Munich held up his stein to lead a beer chant. We shot back with our own Yiddishly tweaked version: “zicke zacke, zicke zacke, oy oy oy.”

And then it happened. We saw a dozen skinheads gathering at the edge of the biergarten, looking for a table.

One of them wore a T-shirt that read: “My boss is an Austrian painter.” I doubted it was a reference to Gustav Klimt.

Orange County is known for having a few enclaves of neo-Nazis, and, I suppose, we shouldn’t have been surprised that they, too, would seek out an Oktoberfest.

And there we were: a table full of Jews; a Catholic of mixed German, Irish and Mexican heritage, and someone with a visible handicap.

As the skinheads approached our table, they stopped to eye its lack of Aryan homogeneity and then moved on. While the skinheads didn’t hang around to intimidate us, their actively growing numbers on the sidelines left some of us with the distinct feeling that safety could become an issue. We joked that we should have worn our Jewish Journal T-shirts, but we were just looking to cover up our discomfort.

We cleared our table and left shortly thereafter. One couple from our group stayed behind, but even the couple with the Down’s syndrome child decided it was time to leave, even though it was only 9 p.m., which is usually when Oktoberfest is just starting to come to life.

Despite the fact that there was a security presence, I couldn’t shake the feeling that no one would come to help us if were attacked. There was that moment of doubt, that feeling of being alone in a sea of thousands.

Joyce Greenspan, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Orange County, said that neo-Nazis showing up at Oktoberfests has been a problem for some time, but that organizers can take steps to limit their entrance if they wanted to.

“It’s not a public event. They can certainly control who can come into their event,” she said.

Phoenix Club Vice President Hans Holste told me later that the board and the membership don’t want skinheads anywhere near their 45-year-old facility.

“If we would disallow them to come in, there may be more problems than we wish for,” he said.

Instead, the Phoenix’s approach has been to kick them out only of they’re being disruptive. A T-shirt extolling Adolph Hitler, apparently, does not cross that subjective line.

The Phoenix Club wants to keep a safe, family-friendly environment. But how can a family possibly feel safe with neo-Nazis milling about almost every weekend of the festival?

Following The Journal’s inquiry, Holste said The Phoenix Club was bringing off-duty police officers onto their security team during Sunday nights and would post rules of conduct at entrances.

Still, ignoring hate groups and hoping they’ll behave or go away may send the wrong message. For one thing, it suggests that tolerance applies foremost to the intolerant, such as neo-Nazis, at the expense of the victims of their hate speech or worse.

Thus far the club has addressed the problems in-house. They have not consulted with organizations such as the ADL or the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which are adept in dealing with such situations. That’s a shame because the accumulated knowledge and experience of Jewish organizations has much to offer a local German group that wants to show that it, too, believes in “never again.”

 

Kosher Dog Days of Summer


A sunny day at Dodger Stadium; Shawn Green at bat. What could be more enjoyable than a cold beer and a kosher hot dog?

Sound like a dream? Think again. Through the efforts of a former Hamilton High baseball player and current rabbi, glatt kosher hot dogs are a reality at several games each season.

For the last four years Rabbi Aaron Parry, Jews for Judaism’s education director, has set up a kosher stand on the blue reserve deck at Dodger Stadium a few days each season, such as when Jewish summer campers show up en masse.

Parry supervises the stand’s kashering the night before. (Since the stadium’s kitchen area is not kosher, all cooking takes place off site and the hot dogs — made by Jeff’s Gourmet in Pico-Robertson — are brought in on the day of the game.) Observant fans gladly support Parry’s annual effort and want to see the Dodgers make a commitment to providing kosher food throughout the season.

“A hot dog and a beer at a baseball game is Americana at its best,” said Dr. Seymour Silverstein of Woodland Hills, an observant Jew and 25-year season ticketholder.

Parry thinks so too: “There is talk about having a permanent booth,” he said.

Ballparks in cities around the country — from New York to Chicago to San Francisco to Seattle — serve either glatt kosher or Hebrew National hot dogs. But the fight over kosher hot dogs at Dodger Stadium is either about logistics and financial viability or retaining market share — depending on which side you believe.

Kosher hot dogs could become a regular item if stadium food concessionaire Aramark develops a plan that would help it work around a longstanding problem: the Dodgers’ food preparation and storage area is contained within one large room.

Since the Dodgers’ official hot dog — Farmer John’s Dodger Dog — is made from pork, Aramark wants to make sure that kosher food and anything used in its preparation will not come into contact with anything treif (nonkosher) from storage to preparation to sales.

However, fans that support the inclusion of kosher food service at the park believe that questions of financial viability on Aramark’s part — and a contract between Farmer John and the Dodgers — might also be hampering the process of getting a glatt kosher hot dog added to the stadium’s menu.

Lon Rosenberg, director of stadium operations for Aramark, said that the company’s primary concern is the ballpark’s food storage and preparation area, which was built 40 years ago and stores the entire stadium’s perishable products. To have proper kosher preparation, he said the Dodgers would likely need to create a separate area.

Rosenberg has listened to a variety of proposals and toured ballparks with kosher facilities, but he said he hasn’t found a solution that would work for the Dodgers.

“We’ve looked to design the infrastructure in such a way as to make this work, but we have not been able to do that,” he said.

Parry thinks Aramark can at least work around the kosher storage issue with their current facility as is.

“Having been inside the freezer, it seems that it’s not too hard to do,” he said, adding that as long as packages of hot dogs or other products are sealed, it’s possible to set aside an area in the freezer where kosher food could be locked away. The only people to have access to it would be the mashgiach or the rav hamachshir (people ensuring that it’s kosher).

Unlike other ballparks, Dodger Stadium cannot simply turn to kosher hot dog carts.

“There are specific regulations with the County of Los Angeles regarding what you can do on a cart,” Rosenberg said, pointing out that cooking isn’t one of them.

Ultimately, Aramark would need to coordinate with the Dodgers to set aside space specifically for the preparation of kosher food or find a way to effectively contract the service with a secondary company.

Parry said that Aramark is somewhat leery about devoting its resources to a venture that could ultimately fail, especially since its past attempts to introduce Hebrew National hot dogs — which observant Jews don’t consider kosher — at the ballpark didn’t take.

“The powers that be are dragging their feet because they’re not convinced that this is financially viable,” Parry said.

Parry sets up shop on special days when there will be a guaranteed Jewish turnout, so he knows that the stand will turn a profit.

“The first time we did this, we sold 1,500,” said Parry, who estimates that he averages sales of about 750 hot dogs. “Even when Dodger Stadium is sold out, a stand never sells more than 800 or 900 [Dodger Dogs].”

Rosenberg said that Parry’s stand has done “pretty well” when it comes to hot dog sales. But Aramark wants to know that there will still be enough interest in a kosher hot dog that it remains profitable throughout the season.

Regarding sales, the only relevant financial information Aramark was willing to share with The Journal is that the price of Dodger Dogs is $3.50, while kosher dogs are $4.25. Parry also declined to share any costs or profits associated with his stand.

Parry and other religious fans express concern that the regular availability of kosher hot dogs might be perceived as a potential threat to stalwart Dodger sponsor Farmer John. Despite the fact that Orthodox Jews wouldn’t eat Farmer John’s products, there is both hope and worry that a kosher hot dog at Dodger Stadium might appeal to the nonobservant public. Supporters hope that a kosher dog appeals to more than just the Jewish community, which would help bolster arguments with Aramark that sales wouldn’t be a concern. But if it’s too successful, they worry that Farmer John might feel threatened and oppose the regular inclusion of kosher dogs at the stadium.

Farmer John may have a right to be concerned: During the 2002 season, Best’s Kosher hot dogs outsold regular hot dogs nearly 3-1 at the White Sox’s U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

Rosenberg said he supports the inclusion of the hot dog and doesn’t think that their main advertiser would be too offended.

“Farmer John would not stand in our way if we choose to do so,” he said.

Farmer John would not directly answer The Journal’s questions as to whether the company is supportive of Aramark’s future addition of a kosher hot dog.

As part of a prepared statement, Ron Smith, head of customer relations at Farmer John, wrote: “Over the years, this business decision [contract with the Dodgers] has allowed Farmer John to carve out an advantageous niche in Southern California. We are a household word due to years of advertising decisions and honored contracts.”

According to one consultant, Farmer John is very influential in how competing hot dogs or sausages are brought in and marketed at the ballpark.

Johanna McCloy, founder of the vegetarian consumer advocacy group Soy Happy, claims that Farmer John initially resisted the introduction of a Yves Veggie Cuisine hot dog (which is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union) at Dodger Stadium in 2001.

Aramark eventually added the item, but Rosenberg said it hasn’t performed well.

“We sell very few of them,” he said.

McCloy told The Journal that it was difficult to get a competing hot dog added to the menu and that the process involved a bit of diplomacy. She said that due to Farmer John’s contract with the Dodgers, Yves is unable to advertise its brand name at the park, and its hot dogs are only sold at the park’s specialty stand — Go Ahead And Make Your Dog — at the highest possible price.

“Fans are not going to know [it’s available],” she said. “I went through the media to get the word out.”

However, if Aramark can find a way around its current facilities problem, Rosenberg said that Dodger fans could expect regular kosher hot dog service. The addition would make Dodger Stadium the 12th major league ballpark in the United States to offer kosher food.

“I think there’s a market, and I’m open to proposals,” he said. “We are looking at opportunities that are viable, fan-friendly, but still maintains kosher [standards].”