“If we build it, they will come.” So said proprietor Eli Gold when discussing his newest venture, Café B’nai at B’nai Shalom in West Orange. Borrowing the phrase from Kevin Costner in 1989’s “Field of Dreams,” Gold was happy to relate how the newest addition to the township’s kosher offerings came about.
Café B’nai opened on May 16 after only two months of planning. It is the brainchild of B’nai Shalom’s director of synagogue operations, Gary Rothschild, and was launched in an effort to enhance the meeting space at the synagogue.
“We have about a dozen or so meetings in our building each week,” said Rothschild, “both synagogue meetings and outside meetings. Having a place on the premises that offers food will benefit everyone.”
Gold, owner of the catering and event planning company E Gold Events, was already on location at B’nai Shalom as an in-house caterer, and was immediately on board when Rothschild broached the idea back in March. The synagogue already had a perfect space adjacent both to its dairy kitchen and beautiful outdoor patio, so once the suggestion was made, the café was as good as ready.
“Start to finish, we basically had it up in a week,” commented Rabbi Robert Tobin, spiritual leader of B’nai Shalom.
Besides the construction, the first order of business was finding a mashgiach but, for Gold, that was a no-brainer. E Gold Events originated in Monsey, where Gold lives, and the well-known mashgiach Rabbi Zushe Yosef Blech is based in Monsey.
“I have worked with Rabbi Blech for years,” said Gold. “Everyone I had worked for before this was under Rabbi Blech. I’m comfortable with him, and he knows me.”
Regarding kashrut, Gold emphasized that when the café is closed it is completely locked up, like a kiosk, and there are specific safeguards in place to ensure that the café’s kashrut remains intact.
“Rabbi Blech has a very specific list of what must be done. He trusts me, and my kashrut, and also the mashgiachs that we hire,” stated Gold. “There are systems in place and we are always ready for spot checks.”
The café sells various types of coffee, including espresso, cappuccino, caramel macchiato—hot or iced—and its version of the frappucino, the B’naichino. In addition, patrons can enjoy breakfast burritos, tuna melts, veggie burgers, salads, quesadillas, knishes and, of course, pizza. There are also cold cereal packs, cookies and other items available for those who want to grab and go.
At this point, the café is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. However, according to Rothschild, “The township has approved that B’nai Shalom will be a stop on the jitney beginning in July, so we will be open starting at 7 a.m. at that point.” Sunday hours are being planned as well.
To ensure the building’s security, Rothschild noted that it is always locked and, in addition, all rooms that are not in use are also locked at all times. Gold and the café workers have access to the front door’s security camera, and the ability to buzz people into the building.
Although the café’s original intention was to service patrons of the synagogue’s conference space, it is open to the community as well, with tables available for those who wish to eat in, providing a welcome addition to the community.
Despite the official 3 p.m. closing time, “If someone wants the café open or wants pizza for dinner and I am going to be here late, I’ll make sure they have it,” concluded Gold.
For questions or advance orders, please call 845-821-1364 or email [email protected] B’nai Shalom is located at 300 Pleasant Valley Way in West Orange.
By Jill Kirsch