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Olympics 2004: Kosher Served Here


Massive sports arenas starring Hercules-like heroes are not new to Athens, but the kosher restaurant being installed this summer will be a first for the ancient Greek city, home to some 3,000 Jews. Nearly 3,000 years since their inception here, the Olympic Games return to Athens this August for the 2004 summer season, where close to 5 million people are expected. The figure includes more than 20,000 Jews arriving from Israel alone, and in recent months Chabad Rabbi Mendel Hendel has been fielding calls from Jews from around the globe, inquiring about kosher and Shabbat accommodations during the festivities.

Rabbi Hendel, only recently arrived here as the country’s first Chabad representative, is up to the challenge. Hendel rented facilities in a central location to serve as Athens’ Jewish information center during the Olympics and house the new restaurant, Kol Tuv Glatt Kosher which will offer the finest in Mediterranean cuisine prepared by a professional Greek chef. For extra convenience, boxed meals will be available for visitors to take along to the games, as will Shabbat meals at the restaurant with advance reservations.

A project of vast proportions, especially for a city that has likely never seen this number of Jews at any given time, the center is aimed at creating a genuine Jewish oasis in an environment that is otherwise removed from Judaism. “Keeping kosher is not just about the foods one does or does not eat,” says Hendel “but about a disciplined way of life that creates community, strengthens identity, and ultimately lends itself to richer involvement in the greater experience of living Jewish.” When people are away from friends, family, and the community that serve to affirm their identity, it’s keeping kosher, says Hendel, that helps them maintain a Jewish identity, no matter their surroundings.

For more on keeping kosher and other relevant Jewish information at this year’s Olympic Games log onto


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