JAA’s new dining plan met with skepticism from some community members
Kosher solution?Community not sold on JAA's new compromise

JAA’s new dining plan met with skepticism from some community members

“The Jewish community are the ones that gave money in the first place because Weinberg Terrace was a kosher place. … Why do I have to go to Cleveland or New York or Florida?”

Karen Gusky and other Pittsburgh Jewish community members have concerns about the JAA's new kosher policy. (Photo provided by Karen Gusky)
Karen Gusky and other Pittsburgh Jewish community members have concerns about the JAA's new kosher policy. (Photo provided by Karen Gusky)

Not everyone is on board with the Jewish Association on Aging’s new dietary policy.

In August, the JAA announced that it would no longer have a kosher kitchen in Weinberg Terrace, its personal care facility on Bartlett Street in Squirrel Hill. Instead, residents could request kosher meals, but they would be prepared off-site at the JAA’s main campus, then sealed and double-wrapped. After weeks of public comments concerning this plan, the JAA revised it.

The JAA announced last week that fresh kosher food, prepared under the watch of a VAAD mashgiach at its main campus, would be served on regular plates under the supervision of a volunteer mashgiach at Weinberg Terrace.

Karen Gusky, a community organizer who has spoken out about the JAA’s decision to offer non-kosher food, said she isn’t satisfied with the new plan. She is particularly worried that the VAAD may not be able to find and train enough volunteers.
She said that the JAA, in citing financial concerns as the main reason for converting the kitchen at Weinberg Terrace to non-kosher, wasn’t transparent with the community.

“We didn’t know there were financial difficulties,” she said. “They should have told us this. We could have set up a GoFundMe page.”

Gusky is also concerned about non-kosher residents eating alongside kosher residents. She’s worried there’s a danger presented by something as simple as sharing a roll.

“You don’t know if there’s milk in that roll and you’re eating meat,” she said. “This is not a solution.”

Gusky said that more than 530 people signed a petition urging the JAA to reconsider maintaining Weinberg Terrace as an all-kosher facility. There is also a new Facebook group, Unity Pittsburgh Voices, dedicated to the cause.

“This is a big deal,” she noted, saying that she hears from people regularly who are concerned about the situation.

Gusky is worried about the options for local kosher seniors going forward.

“What’s going to happen to me? I don’t want to leave Pittsburgh. Where am I going to go for kosher food?” she said. “The Jewish community are the ones that gave money in the first place because Weinberg Terrace was a kosher place. … Why do I have to go to Cleveland or New York or Florida?”

Former Weinberg Terrace Executive Director Rena Becker said she believes the JAA’s new plan won’t satisfy many community members, who will continue to voice their displeasure.

The group plans another public meeting, she said, but that the date has not yet been set.

Rabbi Shimon Silver, who is a member of the VAAD, said that it is in the process of finding volunteers to supervise meal service at Weinberg Terrace.

Those interested in volunteering “should apply to the VAAD with the recommendation of their rabbi,” he said.

Silver said that the work isn’t difficult, but that the volunteers will need to get state clearances, which could take some time to be approved. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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