This post first appeared on the Huffington Post Religion page.
Kosher certification in the nation’s capital has become much like everything else in D.C.: political and divisive. The Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington has long had a monopoly on kosher certification and it doesn’t want to give up its stronghold anytime soon.
Over the past several decades, reports have surfaced of the Vaad refusing to certify sit-down restaurants as kosher because it will lead to socializing between single Jewish men and women (which could in turn violate strict Jewish law). The Vaad even insists on charging for its own certification on top of already established certifications. As Jay Lehman recently wrote to the editor of the Washington Post, “The Vaad has made it clear that other kosher-certifying authorities are not welcome in the area to supervise these establishments. In addition, all kosher meat and poultry wholesale suppliers who wish to sell to kosher establishments are expected to submit to Vaad supervision, even if they are already certified by another nationally recognized kosher certifier.”
Updated May 6, 12:50pm EST
Let’s face it, the deli is simply not Washington D.C.’s forte. The city, which is increasingly gaining attention for its emphasis on thoughtfully minded food, has always seemed happy to let New York and Montreal have that honor.
But that may change on May 20, when a kosher deli on wheels backed by some serious star power rolls out onto city streets. The food truck, Sixth & Rye, is a project of the non-denominational Sixth & I synagogue. Former “Top Chef”-testant Spike Mendelsohn and personal chef Chef Malcolm Mitchell will be serving up nouveau deli fare to customers around the district on Friday afternoons this summer and into the fall.
The truck’s signature dish will be a smoked corned beef sandwich with mustard on rye. “It’ll be an old school Montreal smoked meat sandwich,” said Mendelsohn, who grew up in Montreal, but made with “slightly different pickling juices and spices.” While the menu is not finalized, Mendelsohn said diners can also expect latkes and matzo ball soup. He plans to serve up a slight riff on the classics, “I’ll put my take on it, it’ll be with a twist, but not too far from the norm,” he commented.