St. Louis area restaurant goes kosher for a day in Israel fundrasier

In the Novellus restaurant dining room are (from left): Rabbi Chaim Landa, Joe Ancmon, Bob Affholder and Brett Affholder, October 2023. Photo by Bill Motchan.

by Bill Motchan

(JNS) — A local restaurant will change its entire menu and kosher its kitchen for one day in support of Israel. Novellus, at 201 N. Main St. in St. Charles, a suburb of St. Louis, announced that all proceeds from dinner service on Oct. 25 will go to support the people of Israel. In addition, all donations will be matched by the owner of Novellus, up to $50,000.

Bob Affholder, owner of Novellus, has been working to transform the eatery into a completely kosher restaurant for 24 hours. Affholder, who is not Jewish, said that he was motivated to act after watching news coverage from Israel.

“When I saw the images and videos on TV, I knew I couldn’t sit idly by — I had to do something,” he said. “I want to be there for the people of Israel and show my support to Jewish people everywhere, now, in their time of need.”

Funds raised during the kosher night will go to Colel Chabad, a longtime Israeli charity with St. Charles connections. Colel Chabad provides food, medical care, and other types of support to widows and orphans. It also helps Israeli families in shelters.

Affholder came up with the idea for the fundraiser and contacted Rabbi Chaim Landa, co-director of Chabad Jewish Center of St. Charles County.

“What Novellus is doing is beyond touching and we want the place packed — wall to wall — and let the world know that St. Charles stands with Israel,” Landa said. “The process of kosherizing a restaurant is extremely involved and it’s very unusual for a business to do it just for a day, which makes this all the more heartwarming and meaningful.”

The logistics of making a full-size restaurant kosher are far from simple. It’s similar to scrubbing a home of chametz prior to Passover but on a much larger scale.

The process is essentially a deep cleaning of every area where food has been prepared and served. Surfaces must be scrubbed with hot water, and in some cases, a blowtorch. That is followed by what is known as “kashering.” That means bringing every surface up to the highest temperature. For example, a stainless-steel counter will have boiling hot water poured over it. After all those steps, there is a 24-hour wait period.

According to Landa, the Vaad Hoeir of St. Louis has been involved with the plans for the kosher night at Novellus. The time involved in kosherizing a restaurant means at a minimum the entire establishment must be shut down for a day and a half prior to dinner service. So Novellus will forego all business on Oct. 24. The prep doesn’t end with kosherizing the kitchen and dining area; there must also be careful planning when sourcing the ingredients of dishes to be served.

Novellus declined to provide a cost estimate for the modifications.