December 09, 2022
The lead story in the Living section of today’s local newspaper was about making bagel sandwiches for Jewish fans at the World Cup in Qatar. The sandwiches are being made by Rabbi Eli Chitrik and sold out of his hotel room. The kosher kitchen used is making more than 100 sandwiches a day. Discussion to allow the kosher kitchen went on for five years prior to opening of the World Cup and included allowing Israelis in attendance at the Cup and direct flights from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Doha, Qatar. Qatar has a history of public support for Palestinians and insisted this was merely to comply with FIFA hosting requirements and not a step toward normalizing relations with Israel, as happened in 2020 with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. When Chitrik walks the streets of Doha he wears his religious garb, including a black hat and fringed undergarment (tzitzit). Chitrik wants to show you can go anywhere in the world and live openly as a Jew, in the same way you should be able to live openly as a Muslim or a Christian.
When I looked online, I found to function as a kosher kitchen there must be room to prepare meat and dairy products separately. In modern kitchens this means separate counter space and some even have separate sinks, dishwashers, and ovens. While prep space can theoretically be shared, it is essential to have separate sets of utensils, since the same pot or utensils cannot be used for both meat and dairy. Before a kitchen can be used for kosher foods, all traces of non-kosher must be purged and utensils must be designated for meat, dairy, and parve (neither meat nor dairy). A rule of thumb is that any non-kosher items must be removed in the same way it was absorbed. A drinking glass can be rinsed thoroughly, but a cooking pot needs to be purged. This requires waiting 24 hours and then being cleansed with boiling water (known as hagalah). A skillet would need to be heated directly on the fire (known as libun) or run through a cleaning cycle in a self-cleaning oven. Substances like pottery cannot be properly purged. A porcelain sink cannot be made kosher, and the kosher user would need to not wash their dishes directly in a sink that had been used for milk and meat or parve. Finally, any glass and metal utensils purchased from non-Jewish sources must be immersed in a mikvah (ritual bath). The kosher kitchen in Qatar was also inspected by a rabbi prior to use.
The kosher kitchen makes challah on Fridays. Challah is a special bread of Ashkenazi Jewish origin, usually braided and typically eaten on ceremonial occasions such as Shabbat (Sabbath) and major Jewish holidays (other than Passover). Kosher challah is made of dough that has a small portion set aside as an offering, and the term challah also refers to the dough offering. The word is biblical in origin, though originally referred only to the dough offering. Similar braided, egg-enriched breads are made in other traditions. The Polish chałka is similar, though sweeter than challah. The Czech and Slovak vánočka is very similar and traditionally eaten at Christmas. In Bulgarian and Romanian cuisine there is a similar bread called cozonac, while tsoureki bread is popular in Armenian, Greek, and Turkish cuisines. Brioche is another egg-enriched bread, but it is not braided. Unlike challah, which by convention is parve, many of these breads also contain butter and milk. One article commented that if you add more sugar, challah becomes cake. Regardless, it appears Qatar is letting the kosher fans eat it.
THOUGHTS: Rabbi Mendy Chitrik (Chitrik’s father), who inspected the kosher kitchen prior to its use, said, “Religious rights and freedoms of Jews, as well as any other religious group, are very, very important to be safeguarded. Football and food bring people together.” This is an important lesson in acceptance that goes beyond the World Cup. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.