The new Goldbergs' Jewish deli in Factoria serves bacon and ham. The year-old Tree of Life Judaica & Books six miles away in downtown...
The new Goldbergs’ Jewish deli in Factoria serves bacon and ham. The year-old Tree of Life Judaica & Books six miles away in downtown Bellevue draws a number of customers from a nearby Christian bookstore.
What’s that about?
As pop star Madonna and others in Hollywood have brought notoriety to a new form of the ancient Jewish teachings of mysticism called Kabbalah, interest in all things Jewish has increased, said Julie Ellenhorn, manager of Tree of Life.
“There’s a lot of curiosity and acceptance,” she said. “It’s very much a cool thing now to be Jewish.”
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Jewish businesses on the Eastside say that also catering to non-Jews is just good for business.
Goldbergs’ Famous Delicatessen is one of the latest to arrive, opening in May with crowds lining the sidewalk. It followed Tree of Life’s opening last August, and the opening of Kafe Kineret — a small kosher deli, cafe and grocery — at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island in early 2005.
Magneev, featuring “Fresh Artisan Judaica,” led the charge when it became the first Jewish retail establishment to open at the Jewish Community Center in fall 2003.
Deborah Simonds, who owns Magneev with Judy Willson, said they opened the store to bring to Seattle the artistic Judaica found in Simonds’ native Brookline, Mass.
The store features artwork from about 100 artists, including 50 from Israel. Shoppers can find everything from paintings and traditional Jewish ritual items to vinyl lunchboxes made from Israeli newspapers.
“I was looking for things I couldn’t find and I wanted to add more of an artistic flair to Judaica,” Simonds said.
Goldbergs’ opened for a similar reason: to give people who moved from the Midwest or East Coast a Jewish deli experience similar to those from back home.
The deli, at Factoria Mall, seats 200. From the outside, one wonders what a nice Jewish deli is doing in a strip mall.
But walk inside, and customers are instantly transported to New York or Detroit, where 3-foot-long salami hang over a deli counter that features lox, pickled herring, knishes and fresh corned beef.
Steve Goldberg, managing partner of Goldbergs’ deli, said his friend Bill Goldberg had long wanted him to open a Jewish deli so that he could stop importing his deli goods from Michigan.
“He felt there was a strong unfilled need for this style food, and he thought the Factoria location would be a good one because it was at a crossroads, easily accessible from a lot of areas,” Steve Goldberg said.
A 2000 study by the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle indicates there is a significant Jewish population on the Eastside (about 11,200), but that more Jews live in Seattle — some 12,600 in North Seattle alone.
Steve Goldberg said he never thought about opening a kosher deli, which adheres to the strict dietary laws followed by some Jews.
“It’s not a kosher restaurant,” he said. “We don’t limit our clientele to any particular ethnic group. We don’t try to make any cultural statements.
“It’s hard to make a good quality club [sandwich] without bacon,” he said. “Our most popular sandwich is corned beef, coleslaw, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. Anyone who observes Jewish dietary laws wouldn’t have that sandwich [because it mixes milk and meat products].”
Goldberg, who is not related to his partner with the same last name, said he hasn’t received any requests from the community to make his restaurant kosher.
Ellenhorn and saleswoman Judy Weiser said they consider their store to be “the Jewish store for everyone.” Many of their customers wander over from the LifeWay Christian store looking for religious texts, in-home Jewish ritual items and books on Hebrew for travels to Israel.
Some seek information about Kabbalah. Some have Jewish relatives and want to learn more or buy for them.
Some customers are mothers who home-school their children and want to teach them about Jewish holidays. Others come to buy bar or bat mitzvah gifts, or wedding gifts for Jewish families.
Even Messianics — those who consider themselves Jewish but believe Jesus is the Messiah — stop by for ritual items.
The biggest interest is in hamsas — good-luck charms that look like hands and are popular in Middle Eastern countries — and mezuzzot, small prayer holders that contain sections of Biblical text and are placed on door frames.
“This is something you will not see only in a Jewish home,” Weiser said. “People see it as a source of protection for their home.”
Ellenhorn said she welcomes a diverse community interested in shopping at the store.
“Shofars are popular,” Ellenhorn said of the ram’s horn that is blown on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. “I sold one to an Asian man who was going to Korea for a ceremony, and he promised to bring one for his family.”
The managers of Tree of Life, whose sister store in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood opened in 1997, see the store as a community gathering place. It has sponsored singles events, kosher wine tastings, children’s entertainment, an Israeli art show and educational programs featuring local rabbis.
“People are legitimately thrilled to find out that we exist,” Weiser said.
Kafe Kineret is still working on establishing itself and its clientele, said Yale Cohen, who owns and runs the cafe with his wife, Miri. The couple hope to sell bagels, challah breads and other Jewish baked goods and takeout dinner items. But it’s not there yet.
Right now, it offers Miri’s homemade Mediterranean-style soups, salads, sandwiches and traditional Israeli appetizers like hummus, pita and falafel, in addition to espresso and Israeli grocery items. Most clients are Israelis, and others are from the Jewish community.
“The business isn’t where we want to be yet,” Yale Cohen said.
Even so, on any given day, locals and those from outside the Jewish Community Center can be found there, having a latte or one of Miri’s snacks.
“The Eastside Jewish population is definitely growing,” said Barry Goren, president and chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. “So it’s great to see Jewish businesses thriving to serve that population as well as the rest of the Eastside.”
Cynthia Flash: firstname.lastname@example.org