“To deal with Jews, you need to be drunk,” explains one Jewish vendor to a gentile compatriot as I walk past. It’s as good an introduction as any to the colorful chaos of Kosherfest, the country’s biggest kiddush that also doubles as a national conference for the kosher industry. This year, the sprawling display filled the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Seacaucus, N.J., showcasing hundreds of booths featuring everything from seltzer to sushi bars.

I attended last week—and it was everything you would expect. There was all-you-can-eat potato kugel, a “kosher supervisor of the year” competition, and, inexplicably, a mini-golf area. Attendees could feast on samples of sausages, kosher beef jerky, and an impressive array of ice cream. And needless to say, you probably never saw more ways to smoke a salmon in one place.

The convention attracts kosher food producers and service professionals from across the country, and sometimes beyond, each hoping to hawk their latest concoctions for potential distributors. Some are not Jewish, like Ayat Masoud, a young Palestinian woman who runs a halal supermarket in Brooklyn and came for the giant selection of permissible foods for Muslims available at Kosherfest.

To keep out moochers, attendance is limited to industry professionals and the media, with strict ID requirements. As a very serious journalist, I was admitted, and proceeded to ask hard-hitting questions like “how many of these mini pizza bagels can I eat in one sitting?” and “why did you discontinue my favorite flavor of your kosher cheese brand?”

I palled around with the new mascot of Streit’s Matza:

And had a go at kosher Wheel of Fortune:

I also found out why some of your favorite mainstream brands are kosher in the first place. “Because my house is kosher, and my son who created this whole company and created the ice cream in my kitchen is the grandson of a mashgiach [kosher supervisor],” laughed Carol Ann Finkelstein, president of Beyond Better Foods, which produces Enlightened, a popular line of low calorie ice cream flavors.

Other origin stories were even more entertaining. One of the stars of the show, for instance, was a new line of custom-printed monogrammed matzas, produced by no less than the former two-term mayor of Beverly Hills, California. “We’re a 75-year-old ink manufacturer, we make edible inks as well as kosher inks, and I came up with the idea about a year and a half ago because we have this equipment that will print on uneven surfaces like matza,” said Barry Brucker, the former politician and current CEO of Independent Ink. “I thought, what a great idea for my synagogue.” And so Brucker printed up monogrammed matzas for the second seder of his Reform Temple in Beverly Hills. They were a huge hit. “Literally people were walking out with the matzas to take them home.” The next test run sold out in four days. Fast forward to last week, and Brucker won one of the Best New Product Awards at Kosherfest.

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Brucker is ordering over a million matza pieces from his Israeli provider in anticipation of high demand this Passover season. They go on sale at Matzohgram.com on December 1. (Just think: Individualized matza place-cards for the seder. A camouflage Afikoman. A matza with an image of Jesus planted at a local diner. The possibilities are indeed endless.)

Whether I pick up one of those matzas or not, one thing is for sure—I will absolutely be back for more at next year’s Kosherfest.





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