The Year Ahead: Hipping Up Ashkenazi Food
Tue, 12/31/2013
Gefilteria's Jeffrey Yoskowitz.
Gefilteria's Jeffrey Yoskowitz.

Jeffrey Yoskowitz is definitely a young Jewish leader to watch; it’s just sometimes hard to figure out exactly which Yoskowitz you’re watching. Recently returned home from Sweden, where he spoke at the Limmud Jewish education conference, Yoskowitz is a polymath in the Brooklyn mold. He’s a writer, researcher, pickler and social entrepreneur, a kosher foodie educated at Solomon Schechter schools in New Jersey who has never tasted pork — yet is writing a book about the pork industry in Israel. Yes, it’s non-fiction. Yoskowitz, 29, has been studying the industry since 2007, when he received a fellowship to do so after graduating from Brown University.

The business he co-founded is The Gefilteria, a “boutique purveyor of Old World Jewish foods.” Yoskowitz already had some experience in the Jewish food business. So when he felt the call to rehabilitate his own Ashkenazi culinary heritage and add it to the broader conversation about Jewish values and food, he also realized he had the kernel of a business plan.

“Everyone was talking about CSAs, and kale and pasture-raised sustainably sourced meat, but nobody was talking about pasture-raised sustainably sourced brisket,” he said. “We wanted to make gefilte fish relevant again. It started as a joke, and then people said it would be great to try that gefilte fish.”

He found a partner, Elizabeth Alpern, and together they launched the business in 2012. It makes that gefilte fish, horseradish and a beet drink called kvas under OU supervision and sells its products in 32 stores, according to its website, most in the Northeast but some in Ohio and California.

Gefilteria is growing by adding more retail outlets, but Yoskowitz and Alpern want to grow slowly. “We initially felt the pressure to grow faster; now we feel that less,” he said. “We need to be thoughtful.”

Helen Chernikoff