Brighton, N.Y. – Rochester’s only Jewish senior living community is about to do something it’s never done before – serve nonkosher food.
The Summit, an independent and assisted living facility, will continue to offer kosher dining, but the decision set off a debate among residents and the larger Jewish community.
“Some people were very upset,” said resident Gerry Fine.
“I think it’s wonderful to have a choice,” said resident Ilse Stern. “I think many of us will take advantage of it, but many of us won’t.”
The Summit polled residents, who were split. Community surveys showed fewer Jewish homes keeping kosher, so management wanted to prepare for the future. The Summit involved Orthodox leaders, who feared a loss of Jewish identity and worried all residents wouldn’t be able to dine together.
“We’re moving forward today in society,” said Jackie Stone, a marketing and housing official with The Summit. “Baby boomers are coming down the pike for some of our senior living communities and they’re not stand for not having a choice.”
Jewish dietary laws forbid the mixing of meat and dairy in preparation areas. Dishes must be kept separate. So the decision to offer nonkosher food means The Summit has to build an entirely separate kitchen and dining area. There will be different dishware and ventilation systems. Staff will not be able to work in kosher and nonkosher kitchens or serve residents kosher and nonkosher foods in the same day. They will wear different uniforms. The Summit will hire a mashgiach, someone who enforces kosher rules.
“We even have signage coming in so every cooler every freezer every doorway is labeled as to whether it’s a josher or nonkosher storage area,” said Stone.
“I think the whole thing here is choice. Those that want kosher can have it. Those that don’t can also have it,” said Fine. “It’s a place that’s thought of as being Jewish and kosher is part of being Jewish. But that’s a question of choice too.”
“Some felt maybe it would help attract people of all religions and all backgrounds to come and live here as well, make it more ecumenical,” said Stern. “I personally was hoping for that too.”
The Summit hopes to open its nonkosher dining room on October 1. The Jewish Home will continue to serve only kosher food.