Barack and Michelle Obama host Hanukkah party
Photo: AFP

Obama's kitchen kashered for Hanukkah

White House's festive holiday reception for 550 guests preceded by fastidious frenzy to ensure kitchen would be in compliance with Jewish dietary laws

A festive reception for 550 guests was held at the White House ahead of Hanukkah (two weeks before the Jewish holiday's actual date, but that too is a small miracle), including a candle lighting ceremony by US President Barack Obama and a meal comprised of potato pancakes and other traditional dishes.


According to the New York Times, the party was preceded by fastidious frenzy to make the White House’s kitchen kosher in a nearly four-hour drill.


Rigorous koshering ensured that the kitchen would be in compliance with Jewish dietary laws. Guests could eat without qualms, knowing their religious commitment had been respected.


“We do the basic cleaning,” said White House’s executive sous-chef, Tommy Kurpradit, as he directed five workers. “Then the rabbis do the super-cleaning.”



A Lubavitch SWAT team of three rabbis and an intern, wearing aprons and industrial-strength rubber gloves, took on the ovens and burners. The supervisor-in-chief, in a suit and a black hat, was Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of the American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad).


Strict approach

For a kitchen to be prepared for kosher cooking, any taste or aroma of non-kosher food has to be expunged, Rabbi Shemtov explained. Utensils for cooking, serving and eating must be set aside for 24 hours before being cleansed by dipping them in boiling water.


The day before, he had overseen the sealing of flatware, utensils and the brazier, where they would be dipped.


Rabbi Shemtov told the New York Times his approach was so strict that no one could take issue. “We are very careful, we are meticulous but we are not O.C.D.,” he said. “Otherwise, no one would ever get to eat.”


There were at least a dozen people in the kitchen. Rabbi Shemtov continued his inspection while talking to Chef Tommy and working his iPhone and a BlackBerry.


Bulging black plastic bags, sealed with masking tape marked with Rabbi Shemtov’s Hebrew signature, were lugged in. Their contents included rented platters and flatware.


In assembly-line rhythm, workers unwrapped a platter, handed it to Binyamin Steinmetz, who dipped it three times and then handed it to Rabbi Hillel Baron, who dipped it into cold water and handed it to workers, who dried it off and stacked.


There were at least 90 platters, some 1,000 pieces of flatware (placed in baskets for dipping), plus dozens of silver White House appetizer and pastry stands that had been stored away.


So if you observe kashrut and are invited to the White House, we recommend that you order Rabbi Shemtov's services again. Kashrut, as we all know, is a sensitive issue – especially when the kosher potato pancakes were replaced the next day with a menu that included oysters and ham.



פרסום ראשון: 12.25.11, 14:08
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