(January 8, 2020 / JNS) The first kosher-certified bar in the former Soviet Union recently opened in Odessa, Ukraine, and is trying to stay true to its Jewish roots.
Kosher Bar blares from its speakers “eclectic, but Jewish” music that ranges from Israeli dance songs to “rhythmic lamentations” of the classic Chassidic singer Avraham Fried,” according to the publication.
On Wednesday nights, the bar hosts an informal weekly Torah-study group led in Russian by Eliyahu Hussid, a local rabbi and stand-up performer. On Thursday nights, they serve homemade kugel. The establishment is closed on Shabbat and observes the Jewish holidays.
The bar also offers patrons cocktails named after Jews with connections to Odessa or Ukraine, such as the “Sholem Aleichem,” a tequila-based drink that is a tribute to the famed Yiddish writer, and “Meir Dizengoff,” a fruity drink named after the first mayor of Tel Aviv.
The former Soviet Union is home to approximately 500,000 Jews.
“This is not just a bar, but a community institution. A wholesome place you and your friends can bring your kids after a simcha [celebration],” Kosher Bar co-owner David Roitman told JTA. “I think it can really make a difference.”
Roitman immigrated as a child to Israel from Odessa, but said he believes that it’s his responsibility to help rebuild his birthplace.
“After the Holocaust, and after communism, I was the last living person carrying my family’s name,” he said. “If I hadn’t made a Jewish family, it would have been lost to the Jewish people. Some were murdered by the Nazis. Others died as Red Army soldiers. So my coming and opening a bar for the community means a lot.”
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