How to Survive Your Vacation When Keeping Kosher
You’re packing to go on vacation, and you’re headed for the Caribbean. In your mind’s eye you see yourself relaxing under the soul-warming sun, taking in all that beautiful blue sky with the crystal clear water, and dining - hey! Where do we factor kosher food into the perfect Caribbean experience?
So you’ve got two choices: you can pack your own, enough to last you for the duration of your stay, or you can see what’s available on the particular island you’ll be visiting. Hmm, what is available, you ask?
We had the same question, and furthermore, we wondered: what about people who live on the Caribbean islands all year long? What do they do about kosher food for themselves? And what is available for tourists?
We turned to some Chabad families who live on the various islands of the Caribbean.
Rabbi Levi Stein of Puerto Rico and Mrs. Simcha Nemni of Martinique were kind enough to give us a glimpse.
“In Puerto Rico there is no meat, chicken, or Cholov Yisroel dairy products to be found in any stores. We ship it all in from Miami, and offer it to the community to purchase through the Chabad shipment,” Rabbi Stein tells us. National products bearing a kosher symbol such as ketchup and mayonnaise are available in all the large supermarkets.
Rabbi Stein works in conjunction with Rabbi Mendel Zarchi who is the founder and spiritual leader to Chabad of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands since 1999, and together they provide for all the kosher needs for tourists.
They have a kosher takeout system where visitors can place their orders in advance online (www.chabadpr. com/kosherfood) and can either choose to pick it up or have the food delivered directly to their hotel.
They also run a really nice kosher eatery in Old San Juan, aptly named Kosher in Paradise, where locals and visitors come for lunch or dinner, order their food on the spot, and eat it there or take out. This eatery is 100% vegetarian, strictly kosher and serves mostly Israeli- style foods, along with tostones (fried plantain), a Puerto Rican favorite. You can view the mouth- watering menu at www. chabadpr.com/kip.
There’s so much to do in Puerto Rico, visit www.chabadpr.com/59960 for a list of suggested activities, and be sure to take advantage of the Chabad rate!
Some ways you can make use of Chabad’s services:
- They can deliver kosher food to any location on the island.
- They offer a villa kashering service so a visitor will arrive to an already kosher hotel room and kitchen.
Martinique is an overseas region of France, located in the eastern Caribbean Sea.
Mrs. Simcha Nemni lives with her family as Chabad emissaries to the French Caribbean Islands. Aside from the fruit, vegetables, fish and eggs that are naturally available, there is the Makolette – a kosher store which stocks most of their needs, and as of late includes glatt kosher meat.
Cholov Yisroel dairy products, however, are hard to come by since there is not much demand for it on the tiny island. When they hear of someone coming from France (which has the only direct flights to and from the island) they put in requests for yogurts and cheeses for their children. They are already accustomed to doing without milk.
Many ingredients that you likely use in your kitchen for baking such as cinnamon, vanilla, and rum are grown in Martinique, and you can even visit a rum distillery to watch it in action.
There is no kosher catering service, so when there is a simcha in the community, whether for a Bris, Bar Mitzva, or even a wedding, everyone pitches in to help with the cooking.
If you are planning a trip to Martinique, you can count on the Makolette, the community’s grocery, and a restaurant in shul every noon. Tourists are always advised to bring their own kosher food as well because life in Martinique is costly and kosher products
are inevitably pricey.
If you are in need of any assistance, don’t hesitate to contact them at +596696710770 or Habad.fr
Chabad of the Cayman Islands has an online kosher food service option similar to the one offered in Puerto Rico where food can be ordered and delivered to your hotel. Visit ChabadCaymanIslands. com to view their delectable menu and to place an order. There is also a section that includes a list of hotels that are within walking distance to the shul for Shabbat.
Chabad of St. Maarten (an island belonging to the Netherlands) has information for tourists on their website Jewishsxm.com. They offer a “Wine and Dine” Shabbat meal free of charge (donations are welcome). There is a supermarket on the island “Le Grand Marche” that carries a variety of kosher products – many of them certified by the OU, as well as chicken, wine, and meats. They welcome you to email them a week prior to your arrival and they will find out for you what the store currently has in stock so you can know what additional items you may want to bring with you (there are no customs restrictions on the food you bring in).
Chabad of the Dominican Republic also provides a catering service where kosher food and Shabbat meals are provided to locals and tourists. You can also purchase freshly baked goods at the Chabad House, where they occasionally offer frozen poultry as well. The local supermarkets carry basic kosher products such as pasta, sauces, ketchup and mayo. Be sure to visit their website (chabadominican. com) for valuable tourist and visitor information.
The local supermarkets in St. Thomas on the Virgin Islands carry quite a variety of kosher food products. Anything available stateside is generally available there as well. Due to the nature of the island, many of the items are seasonal and not available consistently so it is advisable to call the supermarkets to see what they have in stock. Frozen kosher meats, kosher wines, Cholov Yisrael dairy products and Pas Yisrael breads can be ordered through Chabad of the Virgin Islands for timeshare owners and vacationers 6 weeks prior to one’s arrival. In addition, you can have them kosher your kitchen before you come. Chabad offers Shabbat meals as well. Visit JewishVirginIslands.com to see more detailed visitor information, including local attractions and hotel recommendations within walking distance of the shul.