Ahavath Torah begins new chapter, celebrates its past

Ahavath Torah begins new chapter, celebrates its past

Caterer returns to roots

The dedication of Ahavath Torah’s new complex marks a homecoming of sorts for Foremost-Ram Caterers, the synagogue’s new exclusive caterer.

“It’s exciting times for the shul and we want to be part of the excitement,” said Foremost-Ram co-owner Jeffrey Becker.

Randy Zablo, co-owner of the Moonachie-based company, began his catering career at Ahavath Torah. As Foremost expanded, it grew beyond Ahavath Torah, taking on clients around the tri-state area. The catering company is featured at 23 synagogues and hotels around New Jersey, and more than 50 synagogues, hotels, and museums in New York.

Randy Zablo of Foremost-Ram shows off the new banquet hall at Ahavath Torah. Jerry Szubin

Zablo “cut his teeth” at Ahavath Torah, Becker said, but since then Foremost-Ram has focused on catering gigs at hotels, museums, and the like. Ahavath Torah’s expansion gives the catering company an opportunity to “re-establish” itself.

“This particular shul is appealing to us because many of the congregants know our name, our company, our food,” Becker said, “and now they’ve got a brand new, beautiful building. We thought the time was right to go back to our roots….”

Saul Turtelbaub became a bar mitzvah at an early incarnation of Ahavath Torah on May 5, 1945, three days before the end of the war. As at most bar mitzvahs of his boyhood, “shul was over about 11:30 to 12, and you went downstairs” to what was called the vestry. The adults made a bracha over schnapps, the well-known television producer recalled in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, “and everyone had something to drink and a piece of chopped herring, which nobody liked. [Then] you kibitzed and everybody went home. Nobody had money, and the Orthodox that I knew didn’t have big parties.”

Times have changed and so has the kosher palate. The trend in kosher catering is now for fresh, healthful foods, Becker said. Meat-carving stations are a staple at big events, and there’s always a following for kugels and meat-and-potato dishes, he said, but people typically want health-conscious menus that center around organic food, local products, and fresh herbs.

“That’s what people are looking for today and they’re looking for it without compromise to kashrus,” he said. “People want great contemporary food, whether it be a fabulous veal dish or a lamb dish or an Asian fish dish. Very few people come to me and ask for kasha varnishkes.”

Foremost-Ram does have kasha varnishkes in its repertoire, though, as well as other traditional Ashkenazi fare, such as cholent and matzoh ball soup. These classics, Becker said, will always be part of the menu for certain types of events – such as Shabbat kiddush lunches.

Ahavath Torah’s membership approved the exclusivity deal with Foremost-Ram in December, according to the shul’s president, Drew Parker. The synagogue is host to the full gamut of lifecycle events, and Parker looks forward to Foremost-Ram making its mark.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “We can’t imagine having a better partner than Foremost. We think they’re going to do a great job serving the community.”

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