May 1, 2012

The Passing of a Kosher Butcher

Back in the 1950’s, almost every Jewish woman was connected in some way to a kosher butcher. According to Gil Marks, author of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, there were nearly 3500 kosher butchers in New York City at that time. The kosher butcher had no kosher supervision and the integrity of the kashrus very much relied on the reputation of the butcher. Most would never pass muster in today’s kosher world, but several became the trendsetters for today’s burgeoning glatt kosher market. One of those “reliable” butchers was Joseph (“Yosel”) Chaimowitz who passed away last week. Shortly after his arrival in 1949, the holocaust survivor opened a butcher shop in the Bronx. Then it was on to Crown Heights where he became known for his quality meats and high standards of kashrus. The butcher back in the ‘60’s enjoyed a very personal relationship much like women have with their hairdresser, dentist or doctor. The butcher knew precisely what his customer wanted. From Crown Heights, Mr. Chaimowitz moved his business to Flatbush where the business grew, especially when his sons joined and expanded the business into wholesale and even to a full supermarket when super stores began to take hold. 

Not too far from Chaimowitz’s store was Larry Weinstock’s Meal Mart, one of the original kosher takeout stores, part of the Meal Mart chain that his two brothers were developing, which eventually became Alle Processing, the largest glatt kosher purveyor in the US. Some in the kosher industry remembered both Yosel and Larry, who passed away a few months ago. “Yosel was pure and simply a pious Jew who you could trust implicitly,” said a local rabbi. “He and Larry were old school, straight out of the shtetl.” Today, son Yanki continues to practice the traits that made his father a household name in many kosher homes. He heads International Glatt, a major purveyor of kosher meats and foods. The passing of Yosel Chaimowitz is indeed the end of an era as the last of a very special breed of kosher butchers passes on.