Suffolk County's Kosher Butcher Closes
03/11/14
Staff Writer
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When the owner of Suffolk County’s only kosher butcher successfully challenged New York State’s kosher law in 2000, Brian Yarmeisch won a victory for non-Orthodox Jews. The law, he claimed, had been tailored to Orthodox standards of kashrut, and Yarmeisch’s kosher certifier was a local Conservative rabbi.

It was his 15 minutes of fame — but it cost him dearly.

On Friday, his shop, Commack Kosher Caterers Deli & Market, unexpectedly closed its doors for good. 

Yarmeisch told The Jewish Week Friday that he had “no comment” when asked about the closing.

But he told several shoppers that he did not have enough customers to sustain his business.

“I didn’t fail the community, the community failed me,” he told one customer.

Robert Dinerstein, Yarmeisch’s longtime attorney, said Commack Kosher was started by Yarmeisch’s father in the 1950s. But he said it quickly lost customers after it was slapped with a “baseless violation” in 1993 by a state kosher law enforcement inspector.

“They got a delivery of boneless turkey thighs and the receipt contained the OU label and said the product had been soaked and salted,” Dinerstein said. “The kosher inspector said [each individual] package had to have the same OU/soaked and salted label — even though this is the way the packages had been [routinely] shipped to all their customers — and gave the store a citation for more than $10,000.

“The citation was right before Pesach [Passover] and it cost the store a substantial portion of its business,” Dinerstein added. “A local rabbi pronounced the store unreliable and it never really recovered.”

In recent years, Commack Kosher moved just a few doors away to a store that was half the size. When the store still did not do enough business to sustain the families of both Brian and his brother, Jeffrey, Jeffrey left to pursue other work.

In one final attempt to save the business, Yarmeisch kept part of the store open on Saturdays but closed the butcher/meat section in deference to the Sabbath.

Dinerstein said that until a week before he closed the store, Yarmeisch was attempting to sell the business to no avail.

stewart@jewishweek.org

Last Update:

04/04/2014 - 10:41

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What a shock!
I just found out today 4/3/14 that the store closed, after googling the name of the store online.
I tried to place an order on the phone today unsuccessfully, the line was busy all day which seemed so odd.
We were very good customers!
However, we live 40 miles round trip, and getting to the store was not as frequent .
Yet,we bought enough meat for 6 weeks at a time, and have done so for at the last 30 years.
Our daughters left for college, and less food was consumed at home.
It's unfortunate that other members of the community did not do their share to sustain the store.
The meant, poultry, and deli were of excellent quality.
The service was superb!
Thank you Brian and Jeff!
We are certain that your decision to close shop was not an easy one.
Good luck to you and your family.
Happy Passover!

Commack Kosher will be sorely (and sadly) missed. They had WONDERFUL meat and chicken and gave you great customer service. It was always a pleasure shopping there.. so friendly and nice.
Entertaining on family holidays was always a breeze. My go to meal was their 6 foot hero.. always received nothing but compliments.
Thank you to the Yarmeisch family for many years of fine service. You were an asset to our community and you will be missed.

The orthodox rabbis are not cognizant of the needs of Suffolk county"s diverse Jewish population. My temple Beth Shalom in Smithtown is closing due to a reduced membership. Many Jews today due not care to be affiliated with a synagogue. The same thing is true about being Kosher. You have to think it is important and you have to want to do it!
Brian and Jeff have always been wonderful, highly skilled and caring butchers serving our diverse Jewish community well.
The orthodox rabbi's refusal to recognize the conservative and reform movements in the State of Israel, is similar to their refusal to recognize conservative endorsement of a butcher's kashrut.
By doing this Commack Butchers were denied the orthodox customers who once came to them and in truth, there are not that many Jewish people in Suffolk.
Our family will really miss Brian and Jeff, who were our butchers for over forty years, and who our grandchildren also love to visit! We want to thank them for The Commack Kosher Butcher and Deli! We will miss them!

My family has been buying meat from this butcher since the 80's. The quality of their meat was always subpar, cuts were hard to find there, and the prepared food was always dry and tasted as if it sat around for a while. It was always me and maybe 1-2 other people in the store...that had nothing to do with weather or not they were kosher enough. Sadly, my family and many others I know would rather travel to Queens to Maizers for better food, selections and service. I will miss that chicken egg toy machine they had. I loved that thing from the time I was a little kid.

Everybody knows that there is no market for so-called "Conservative Kosher" anywhere, and Commack is just a local example. This is why the emphasis in the very small and inconsequential "Conservative Hashgacha" enterprise is working conditions, cruelty to animals and other contemporary liberal concerns, and not Kashrus. Say what you want about Orthodox supervision, nevertheless, it is and always has been the gold standard and the Commack Kosher owners failed in attempting to sell a second-rate product.

What about the Rabbi's who murdered a mans livelyhood?

Isn't it possible that less and less people living in Suffolk County are interested in kosher food?

Unfortunately, the "Kosher game" has become highly profitable for a small group of Orthodox rabbis at the expense of those who would otherwise keep kosher. The huge differential between kosher and nonkosher meat is so great that more and more Jews have turned away from Kashrut. This in turn leads to Jews de-emphasizing Jewish law to their children.

Putting it bluntly, the Mafia could learn a few things from the Orthodox rabbis who control the Kosher racket.

In response to your comment: "The huge differential between kosher and nonkosher meat is so great that more and more Jews have turned away from Kashrut." I have never heard of a Jew who stopped keeping kosher because of the financial cost. Most of the food in your local supermarket is kosher and is not marked up as a result. I have heard of impoverished people who cut down on their meat consumption, or only ate meat when they ate chicken on the Sabbath, but I think that if someone can afford to live in Suffolk, they can afford to throw in a few extra dollars for chicken every week. If they can't, then keeping kosher must be very low on their list of priorities.

Kosher delis are converting to non-kosher as well. The problem is the Conservative Movement which once "conserved" is no longer conserving. From kosher, to minyanim, to basic laws and customs.

It is sad to note the withering of Jewish religious life in Commack. However, two observations should be made. One is that the community failed Yarmeisch, as he says, but the reason for that is that the number of people who keep Conservative kosher in Commack and e0nvirons is not sufficient to sustain a butcher. To be sure, there are many Orthodox Jews in Huntington who keep kosher, but not by Yarmeisch's rules. They instead adhere to traditional Jewish law, which, given the nature of the supervision at this store, may not have been followed there. Of course, the number of non-Orthodox Jews keeping some type of kosher in the Commack area is vanishingly small.

Second, the blame placed on a overturned $10,000 fine and bad press in 1993 for a business failure in 2014 is specious, to say the least. In fact, Yarmeisch became a crusader against kosher laws even years after the fine. The law was revised in 2004, and Yarmeisch sued to try to get the new law overturned, as reported in the Jewish Week (http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new-york-news/li-butchers-take-another-bite-kosher-law). The new law is merely a group of labeling requirements, meaning that Yarmeisch didn't even want to have to comply with transparency and record-keeping rules.

It should be noted that establishments located in Orthodox communities that adhere to traditional requirements are doing well, save for the occasional problem of over-competition.

Seriously?

They are blaming a fine that they received 21(!) years ago for their failure? And they are blaming the community as well? Unbelievable.

Maybe, just maybe, the decision to use a Conservative rabbi's certification did them in? Is it perhaps possible that people who really observe kashrut dietary laws don't believe that Conservative standards for kashrut are legitimate, while Conservative Jews (and by extension, the Reform and unaffiliated Jews) sadly don't generally keep kosher anyways, and therefore, by successfully challenging the NYS law and bringing in Conservative supervision, they won a Pyrrhic victory? They basically told their actual kashrut observing customers to shop elsewhere by challenging Orthodox kashrut standards, and then they turn around and blame those customers for their failure?

Like I said before- unbelievable!

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