Team Kosher are Marat Dreyshner and Barbi Braude. (photos from Dreyshner and Braude, respectively)
Within three months of its launch, more than 700 people in the Greater Vancouver area had signed up to receive Team Kosher Vancouver’s weekly e-publication. The people behind the initiative, Barbi Braude and Marat Dreyshner, say they’re just getting started.
The weekly newsletter primarily features information on kosher products available at the Marine Drive location of Real Canadian Superstore. It highlights specials and new products, and includes community announcements and recipes.
“This is a community-based service,” said Braude. “We would like to use our newsletter to inform the community of events as well as using it as an educational tool about kashrut.”
Braude maintains that people think keeping kosher is difficult and expensive and Team Kosher wishes to change people’s minds by showing them the plentiful, affordable and healthy options available at Superstore. “It’s easy to know what’s in the store with this weekly newsletter,” she said.
Before the e-initiative, Dreyshner – who works at the Marine Drive location – said he spent hours every week answering individual inquiries via text, phone and email. “I wanted a way to reach the community as a whole rather than answering individual questions and, after several conversations with Barbi, Team Kosher was born.”
Dreyshner has been the bakery and grocery supervisor for kosher products at Superstore for several years. He orders the products, acts as mashgiach (kashrut supervisor) and produces a line of freshly baked goods – “I’m very proud of my hand-rolled sourdough bagels that have been at Superstore for a number of years now,” he said.
Ensuring that the kosher section – which is, coincidentally, in Aisle 18 – is stocked with the products people want is a complicated task. Dreyshner collaborates with several vendors in Eastern Canada, New York and Israel to get the products in and personally stocks the shelves. He said the support of former store manager Remo Mastropieri and current store manager Carlo Fierro has enabled the kosher program at the Marine Drive Superstore to grow and thrive.
The number and variety of products continues to increase, especially around the holidays. Braude said the store devotes a section right at the entrance to special holiday food. At Purim, there was a selection of hamantashen and she is anticipating more than 200 products for Passover.
To reach more Jews, Dreyshner advises other Loblaws-owned stores in Metro Vancouver on what kosher products to carry. But the local Jewish community is not the only target for this team.
“We have reached out to the Seventh Day Adventists and are looking at vegan associations. We provide a service to kosher visitors and others with dietary challenges,” explained Braude.
She said that, because kashrut supervision is an extra level of oversight, many people feel kosher food is safer, healthier and of higher quality. Many of the products that come from Israel meet the needs of vegans and, she said, when products are labeled parve, those with dairy issues can rest assured the item is dairy-free.
As Team Kosher continues to grow its database and reaches more people, Dreyshner and Braude want feedback from the community.
“I stress to people that they can reach out to me to make sure we have products at the store they want instead of making an unnecessary trip to find their favourite products out of stock,” said Dreyshner.
“We care about the Jewish community and wanted to work to get the word out that Superstore is making a huge effort to bring our community high-quality, specialty kosher products,” said Braude. “Superstore is very involved with a variety of events in our community and the whole community needs to appreciate that because we all benefit.”
With Passover approaching, Dreyshner added, “We look forward to continuing to provide the best resource for kosher food and holiday specialties.”
For more information or to sign up for the Team Kosher weekly newsletter, contact [email protected], follow them on Instagram or sign up with Kosher Chef on Facebook.
Michelle Dodek is a freelance writer living in Vancouver.