Radical and kosher: Documentary on Silver Spring restaurant serves up ideals

The staff of The Kosher Kitchen sometime in the 1970s. (Photo courtesy of JxJ)

In 1975, a group of young, radical Jews came together to start a kosher restaurant in Silver Spring. The Kosher Kitchen was anti-profit and run as a collective. Its four-year existence was captured in the documentary “We Made Matzah Balls for the Revolution,” which the JxJ festival will post on its website from May 23-30.

It’s the first time the documentary will be shown. For $11, viewers will be able to watch the 39-minute film, plus a recorded discussion between the film’s director Kellie Wellborn, producer Ira Kerem and Gerald Serotta, executive director emeritus of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.

Kerem came up with the idea for the Kosher Kitchen after he ate at a similar restaurant while backpacking through communist Romania. About 35 people worked at the Kosher Kitchen during the four years it was open. At the time it was the only kosher restaurant in the Washington area. The restaurant had no owner or manager. The staff made decisions as a group, were paid the same and rotated between jobs.

Those involved met at reunions from time to time. And it was at one of these gatherings in 2015 that someone broached the idea of a movie.


“I thought this was a ridiculous idea because who would be interested?” Kerem told WJW. “And we kept talking. What’s really interesting is that the experience affected all of us. And it just struck me as, wait, yeah, this is a story that people can learn about. Not just what happened in the past. Not just the nice story, but also that for people my age, that they never had to lose their ideals.”

The film cost $50,000 to make, which Kerem and other Kosher Kitchen alumni raised from friends and family. This included about $9,000 from a crowdfunding campaign. The funds were used to hire a director to conduct interviews — most took place in 2016 —and edit the footage. Alumni collected photos and newspaper clippings to use in the documentary, and even obtained footage from a bat mitzvah that was held at the restaurant.

A 73-minute first cut was rejected by a few festivals due to “too many talking heads” and not enough action, Kerem said. A trimmed down 39-minutes version will be screened at JxJ.

Kerem said he prefers the longer version as it’s “more in depth.” But he’s happy that more people will learn of the restaurant’s story. He hopes the film shows people that “idealism is something very positive. And that with a spirit of idealism, people could accomplish a lot.

“We were able to create something and stick to our ideals,” he added. “And we want to tell people, especially young people, they can change things. That’s the real message.”

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