Rabbi Sholom Deitsch recalls a time when he had to travel to Maryland for basic necessities. The director of Chabad Lubavitch of Northern Virginia says that when it came to kosher food options, the supermarket shelves in Fairfax were bare.
But with Shoppers Food Warehouse in Fair City Mall leading the way and other grocery stores starting to follow, the number of kosher items is increasing. Now Deitsch only needs to drive a few blocks west on Route 236 and Shoppers has everything an observant Jew needs.
“I think it’s laudable that the…Jewish community feels that they want to support kosher food in Northern Virginia and it brings more for everybody and it brings more of a presence, a Jewish presence to Northern Virginia that way,” Deitsch says.
Shoppers includes sections for dairy products, chicken and fresh meat as well an entire kosher aisle in the international foods area.
The Fairfax-area locations of Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Giant are also increasing their kosher food options, according to Deitsch.
“It’s really awesome because now we don’t have to schlep to Maryland to buy some of those regular items that we enjoy,” says Erica Statman, a chiropractor and teacher at Chabad in Fairfax, whose family keeps kosher.
She generally goes to Shoppers because they have the biggest selection, but she says that Trader Joe’s, while containing a smaller selection than Shoppers, sells kosher wines and provides a list of hechshered, or kosher-certified, products.
While Statman says she is impressed with the increase in kosher food options at area supermarkets, especially Shoppers, she bemoans the fact that there are no kosher restaurants in Northern Virginia.
However, that too could change, according to Michael Medina, president and CEO of the Kosher Kitchen Catering Co., formerly located in Tysons Corner and now based in Potomac.
He says the four Chabads – Fairfax, Arlington-Alexandria, Reston-Herndon and Tysons Corner – as well as other Jewish organizations building a presence in Northern Virginia – are helping to create more of a demand for kosher food.
“If someone were to tell me, ‘I’m exploring opening up a kosher restaurant in Northern Virginia,’ I’d be more likely to support that idea than I would five years ago,” Medina says. “Even if the Jewish population in Northern Virginia is not strictly kosher, I think they would support a kosher establishment. More than they would five or 10 years ago.”