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by Jason Edelman

Back during WWII, Katz’s Deli, the epitome of Jewish (if not kosher) cuisine had a campaign Send a Salami To Your Boy in the Army. The initiative started in honor of the owners’ children who were in fact fighting in the war. And yes, Katz would really send care packages featuring their famous salami to the Jewish soldiers at war abroad. It’s difficult not to think of that slogan while we fight a war at home. This one against an enemy neither foreign nor domestic but rather viral. The soldiers no longer carrying M1s and Thompsons but N95s, and respirators. 

   Many of those on the frontlines of this conflict are kosher keeping Jews, who after working tirelessly, while understaffed and under-equipped would just love a good meal or snack to keep them going. A quick bite, before pulling their mask back on and diving headfirst into their jobs. These are nurses, doctors, therapists, and others who may say they are “just doing their jobs” but we know better, that many are going above and beyond the call of duty. None of this is lost on many restaurant owners and patrons who have been donating food to the hospitals over the last few weeks.

The kosher restaurant industry, part of quite possibly one of the most impacted businesses in this ordeal, knows a mitzvah when they see one and many have been sending their food to units that they know have kosher keeping staff members.

For Queens kosher restaurant Ganey Orly, this is a personal issue. Ganey Orly, a Bukharian restaurant known for their hearty meat dishes like Plov and kebabs located in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens is a family business. First opened in 2006, the restaurant has stayed in the family and is now part owned by Eytan Israelov, son of the original owner. Eytan is also in his last semester at Nursing School, a period where students spend significant time at the hospital training under more senior staff. The Coronavirus had other plans obviously, and the program was closed. There were some other options on the table but with a pregnant wife at home, those were not tenable for the father/nurse to be. Despite that Eytan was not content to sit on the sidelines.

“I have to give back,” Eytan told me over the phone. While he couldn’t be right there in the thick of it  with some of his peers, he could use what was available to him. “I brought up to my dad that it's something we should do,” feed all the hospital staff working tirelessly through this ordeal. They started with some small orders to a few kosher keeping staff, but soon expanded to feeding full floors of tired and hungry hospital employees. Ganey Orly is not currently open to the public in the weeks leading up to Passover, but is around purely to fulfill orders to feed the hospitals. While Israelov may not be able to be there in person, he is doing his part to help his fellow nurses during this crisis. 

Albert Bijou, the Chef/Manager of Perizia Pizza in Brooklyn is also making a major effort to help satiate hospital staff hunger. Bijou was in conversation with his business partner about what to do for the healthcare workers. “We should give something back to them,” he said. Only moments after hanging up with his business partner did the wife of a doctor at a Brooklyn hospital call him hoping to send some pizzas to her husband's unit. Bijou insisted the order, which was for over 100 staff members, was on him. Since then, it has been an “epidemic of charity,” with many people calling to donate food to their local medical staff. With no end to the epidemic in sight, Bijou is looking into the possibility of sending food to those who have lost family members, but that idea is still in development. 

Pizza seems to be a constant in hospital staff rooms these days, just ask Ruthie Frohlinger, a Registered Nurse at New York City’s Weill Cornell Hospital. Frohlinger is a pediatric nurse whose unit has been turned into an adult COVID-19 floor like many other pediatric wards throughout the state. Many people have been sending food both kosher and not to support her and her co-workers. “There’s a lot of pizza, I’ll tell you that.” Frohlinger joked. While most of the food that comes in for staff is not kosher, a few friends banded together and sent her and other nurses kosher food. “It shows us we do matter, and that we are important.” Frohlinger said. While the food is very much appreciated, Frohlinger did want to note that efforts to get the healthcare workers additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gowns, gloves, and masks would be immensely helpful, especially with the current shortages plaguing the system.

It can feel as if there is no end in sight sometimes to the current epidemic ravaging the globe. For the nurses and doctors there everyday trying to keep people alive it can be especially difficult. To pick up the spirits of those right there on the frontlines of this conflict with an invisible enemy, it’s always kind to send them a meal as a pick me up. There are many organizations such as Fountain of Kindness and Feeding the Frontlines that you can donate to in order to help this cause. 

Stay safe everyone, we will get through this together. One slice of delivery pizza at a time. 

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