The Orthodox Jewish community in Portland may well become the model for other growing Orthodox communities that seek to satisfy their need for kosher food. With 150 Orthodox families and over 40,000 Jews, Portland is a rapidly thriving Jewish community. A centerpiece of the community is the Portland Kollel where young married Orthodox Jews continue Torah study while building an infrastructure of religious life in the community. They recently took a bold step in founding Superior Kosher Foods, LLC, selling chalav yisrael dairy products including milk, cream, ice cream, and yogurt in five flavors (sold under the Wholesome Creamery label).
“We used to have to ship all our chalav yisrael dairy products to Portland, which was very expensive and sometimes not so fresh,” explained Rabbi Chanan Spivak, the Kollel Director of Outreach, originally from Brooklyn, NY. “It’s hard to get used to paying $5 for a cup of yogurt.”
Together with the kollel’s director, Rabbi Tzvi Fischer, Rabbi Spivak helped found Superior Kosher Foods just a couple of months ago, though neither rabbi has formal experience with the kosher food industry, “besides for eating kosher,” they joke. “We are using consultants who are industry professionals to help us throughout the process,” explained Rabbi Fischer, “and we’re also looking to expand into other dairy products like cream cheese, butter, and sour cream.”
They are already a success story as their products are available in supermarkets in cities throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle and Los Angeles at such stores as Albertson’s, QFC, and Food Front.
“Interestingly, there’s big demand not just from the kosher market but also from those who are dedicated to locally-made products,” commented Rabbi Fischer. “The Northwest, especially Portland, is very ecologically-conscious, and very committed to buying food products from local vendors. Therefore, the segment of our market that is increasing exponentially is not even necessarily Jewish, but loyal to buying food that is made locally.”
Another unique aspect of the company is that 100 percent of the profits go towards community outreach and building Jewish communities in the Pacific Northwest. The rabbis/food company CEOs hope that as Superior Kosher Foods expands, so will the job opportunities, a big boon for families looking to find employment in a small-town Jewish community outside of the big Jewish enclaves. Portland also recently established a community eruv and has a vibrant Orthodox shul, Kesser Israel.