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Chabad of Korea Prepares 5-Star Kosher Meals for G20

By , Seoul Korea

( While the finance leaders of the 20 countries ruminate over the future of the world economy, 50 summit participants will be dining on cuisine prepared by Chabad representatives.

G20 organizers called Rabbi Osher Litzman to ask if Chabad of Korea could obtain kosher meat for participants, mostly from Argentina, who requested kosher food. Rabbi Litzman explained that kosher involved much more than roasting kosher beef. Once informed, the G20 committee turned to Chabad to cater the meals, with specifications that the dinners mirror the quality and style offered to the other guests.

As a result, half of Rabbi Osher and Mussy Litzman’s two-story Chabad center and residence was filled with boxes for the event. Summit organizers purchased new glasses, flatware and dishes, enough for the five-course, five-star dinner.

“There are five glasses and five separate boxes of food and plates for each person,” said Mussy, who cooked the meals in her modest Chabad kitchen.

This is not the first time Chabad has been called upon to serve kosher food at official events. During last year’s Foreign Business Exhibition, Chabad arranged kosher meals for Jewish businessmen, earning them the thanks of Prime Minister Han Seung-soo. Kosher travelers and deal-makers pass through S. Korea regularly, and Chabad has been preparing meals for anywhere from 20 to 100 travelers on a given week since opening there in 2008.

The G20 summit spans a weekend, and the Litzmans are expecting an international group of guests for Shabbat.

“We are still receiving emails and phone calls today,” said Rabbi Litzman. Despite the number of power-brokers dining together, the meals will be apolitical.

“We have a rule that we don’t speak politics on Shabbat at all. People understand why and appreciate it. It’s a much better environment.”

Finding kosher food in Korea is a stretch. The Litzmans count vegetables and pasta as their staples. When they want milk, they go to a farm. This year, they imported a container full of kosher food from Israel, which they sell at subsidized prices. Korea’s Costco stocks some kosher food, but prices are high. Visitors help out by filling their baggage allotment with frozen meat, cheese and other essentials unavailable in Korea. On Rabbi Litzman’s recent visit to the United States for the International Convention of Chabad Representatives, he stuffed his five suitcases with food. He saved room to buy low-fat cheese and frozen turkey, a special request from a community member who recently turned kosher.

“We are very happy to stand up to these challenges,” said Rabbi Litzman.

Since arriving in 2008, the Litzmans have seen more people strengthen their connection with their Jewish roots. Mrs. Litzman runs the only Jewish kindergarten in Korea. Their 1000-volume Jewish library sees frequent use. Throughout the week, the Litzmans engage individuals in Torah study through  one-on-one sessions.

With the G20 meals packed up and ready, Chabad of Korea is moving onto Chanukah, a season that drives Jews in Korea to come out in the open to obtain holiday items. Besides business people, Jews come to Korea to teach English, often in remote areas of the country. Rabbi Litzman has sent menorahs to tiny Korean islands.

“Every Chanukah the number of people we know increases by a good percentage,” he said.


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