Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Kosher in the Burg: The Harrisburg area’s options expand to fill a growing need.


Judith Schulder

Keeping kosher can be a challenge.

In addition to the foods that are forbidden outright—think ham and shellfish—other foods that could be kosher, like chicken, need to be prepared a certain way. Except for fresh fruits and vegetables, most require rabbinic certification.

Food isn’t kosher because it’s been blessed by a rabbi, which is a common belief. But, yes, dairy and meat foods must be consumed separately and have their own dishes, pots and utensils.

Judith and Dan Schulder know the complexities of observing kashruth—Jewish dietary laws. But it was only recently that the couple realized a truly trouble-free kosher kitchen, in the process getting the kitchen of their dreams. 

They now have two dishwashers, two sinks and a double stove, and all appliances are on “Shabbat mode.” In recent decades, manufacturers of electrical appliances have inserted a fire-prevention safety feature that automatically shuts off the heat after a number of hours, which renders the appliances useless under certain religious laws. “Shabbat mode” allows an override of the feature.

Since Judith Schulder is an accomplished cook and the couple entertains often, they added a peninsula for a “better working environment,” she said.

The remodeling was “something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” she said. “Having more space is more accommodating for kashruth.”

Excel Interior Concepts and Construction in Lemoyne did the remodel.

“This was not our first kosher kitchen, but it’s not something we do every day,” said Jim Mirando Jr, president of Excel. “Working with the Schulder family involved a deeper understanding of the kosher laws for food handling.”

This included keeping all meat and dairy separate, as well as understanding how these requirements affect the materials, the appliances and design layout of the kitchen.

“Together, we created a design that was beautiful and functional, while honoring their sacred commitment to maintain a kosher kitchen,” Mirando said.

The Market, the Park

For those who enjoy eating out, there are further challenges.

Harrisburg has no full-fledged kosher restaurant or even pizzeria. But the resourceful Jewish community has increasingly found ways to get around the limitations.

A few local grocery chains, like Giant and Weis, carry many kosher products. That number has grown as more and more food companies seek kosher certification.  

“It makes more sense to be kosher if you’re a national brand,” said Rabbi Elisha Friedman of Congregation Kesher Israel, Harrisburg’s modern Orthodox synagogue.

“The bakery of the Linglestown Road Giant is entirely kosher dairy, except for the pareve (neither dairy nor meat) breads,” he added. “The Weis Market on Linglestown Road has a lot of kosher meat. I’ve found products from David Elliot (kosher poultry farm), I hadn’t seen elsewhere.”

You can even keep kosher during that annual family trip to Hersheypark. Aside from the Hershey’s candies you can sample or buy at Chocolate World, most of which are already kosher, the amusement park has a kosher stand right in front.

Founded in 1995 and run by Sally Gerstein, the stand was a response to “numerous requests” from groups inquiring about kosher catering, she said.

Under Star-K (kosher certification) supervision, the stand has three kitchens—meat, pareve vegetarian and dairy, as well as a catering area for private events. Among the available favorites are chicken on baguettes, pizza and, of course, falafel. 

The stand is open during the regular park season, but Gerstein also initiated the annual Sukkot private-park event—complete with the traditional sukkah booths and food.

“On average, we attract 8,500 people from the tri-state area,” she said.

Young & Old

People throughout the greater Harrisburg area desiring kosher meals for special events and celebrations often turn to Norman Gras, an independent caterer who also supplies food services to the Jewish Community Center.

“Many times, clients request our services because they like what they had at a previous event we catered, or they specifically ask for kosher food because they or their guests want it,” said Gras. “We have also collaborated with many caterers and venues to bring our kosher food services to clients throughout central Pennsylvania.”

On the college front, Dickinson and Franklin and Marshall both now have kosher dining facilities.

The Dickinson Kove, station, within the larger dining hall, serves kosher and vegan lunches and dinners six days a week. Louise Powers and Ricki Gold of Harrisburg serve as mashgichot (kashruth supervisors), but certification is under the Star-K.

“The Kove opened in 2010 and is busier than ever,” said Gold. “The kids love us. We’re also sustainable—plates and utensils are combustible or recyclable—which is important to many people.”

The latest kid on the block is the Jewish Home Café, off the lobby of the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg.

The café serves staff at the home but is also open to the public, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks and drinks, Monday to Thursday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Rabbi Chaim Schertz, rabbi emeritus of Kesher Israel, is the kashruth authority for the café. Niema Schertz is the onsite kosher supervisor, called a mashgicha.

“The café is doing well,” Niema Schertz said. “People are happy to have a kosher option to eat out. A group of people from the community uses it almost daily.”

To learn more about eating kosher in the Harrisburg area, visit the Kesher Israel website,, then click on the “Welcome to Harrisburg” section, which includes a section listing kosher resources.

Author: Barbara Trainin Blank

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