Jewish Community Center café changes menu, management

By Repps Hudson, Special to the Jewish Light

Herky’s J Café at the Jewish Community Center is about to undergo a remake of menu and management. The reason: not enough demand for kosher sandwiches and salads approved by the Vaad Hoeir.

The café, located in the JCC’s Staenberg Family Complex in Creve Coeur, will unveil its new menu Sept. 4, featuring deli sandwiches — with kosher meat from Kohn’s Kosher Deli — as well as hot dogs, soups and a salad bar.

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Until then, the menu will be limited, said Robin Rickerman, the new manager. 

For two years, the café has operated as a Vaad-supervised kosher dairy facility next to the check-in desk and overlooking the indoor swimming pool at the Staenberg Family Center. The café has been managed by Lenny Kohn, owner of Kohn’s Kosher Deli. 

The Vaad will oversee the café’s transition from a kosher dairy to a kosher meat facility, said Lynn Wittels, JCC president and CEO. However, after the Vaad kashers the café to transition it from a dairy to a meat facility, the cafe will not be under the ongoing supervision of the Vaad. 

While the café will operate in the spirit of kashrut, with no mixing of meat and dairy, and with kosher meats and hot dogs, the café will no longer be certified kosher.

Customers seeking Vaad-certified kosher products will be able to purchase pre-packaged sandwiches and salads prepared at Kohn’s and marked with the Vaad’s hechsher, or seal of rabbinic certification that an item is kosher, said Rabbi Zvi Zuravin, head of the Vaad. The Vaad charges a fee for its inspection, which will be covered in the retail price of the wrapped sandwiches and salads.

Wittels said the changes were prompted by low sales at the café. 

“Lenny (Kohn) said he was not selling enough to make a go of it. He was losing money on us,” Wittels said.

The changes are part of an ongoing review of operations at the JCC, she said. The JCC sent out a survey regarding Herky’s J Café to all of its members and got 400 responses, Wittels said. The majority wanted kosher meats and sandwiches made at the café, she said. However, fewer than 5 percent of the café’s customers wanted Vaad-approved food, Wittels said. 

“It’s very important that we accommodate all parts of the Jewish community,” she said. 

Wittels said some JCCs in the United States no longer provide a café on their premises. 

This week, the café will begin operating with a limited menu with no salad bar and no hot dogs. The hours will change Aug. 13 to 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Friday hours will be 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The café will be open weekends. 

On Sept. 4, café hours will be 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Friday through Sunday, hours will be 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A full menu of deli sandwiches, soups, salad bar and hot dogs will be available, as will Vaad-approved items, on Sept. 4.