March 15, 2022

Special to Kosher Today: Turkey A Growing Hub for Kosher


Istanbul…For nearly 1 million kosher travelers who pass through the city, most to and from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, wholesome kosher meals come from La Casa Caterers, a community owned kosher facility. In fact, as a not-for-profit, the income goes to poor Jews and other community causes. The kashrus is overseen by Rabbi Mendel Chitrik, who has been the rabbi of the Ashkenazi Jewish community of Turkey since 2003. “Prior to Covid,” said the rabbi, “La Casa produced more than 600,000 kosher meals a year.” La Casa also supplies the kosher meals for Turkish Air. In 2019, Rabbi Chitrik was elected the Chairman of ARIS (Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States), an organization of rabbis living in the Muslim world. Rabbi Chitrik revealed that some 400 food manufacturers in the country are kosher supervised by such agencies as the Orthodox Union, OK Kosher and Star-K Kosher. As part of his responsibilities in the Jewish community of Turkey, Rabbi Chitrik leads the KTR, Turkey's Chief Rabbinate’s Kashrut department for exports (Denet Gida). The rabbi successfully introduced kosher food to Istanbul’s magnificent airport with a vending machine in the main lounge used by many with the Priority Pass. The kosher offerings include an assortment of sandwiches. “To the right of the entrance to the lounge is even a small shul,” the rabbi revealed. Turkish Air has more than a dozen flights daily to and from Tel Aviv, but many travelers have layovers of several hours at the Istanbul airport, particularly those that continue to US destinations.