Boro Park Snapshot: Zion Kosher Market
Rows of every conceivable type of nut line the walls, with
woolen bags next to them to take them home. Huge steel bowls filled with a
variety of olives and pickles greet customers. A selection of Moroccan, Yemeni
and Israeli food fills the air with its pungent smell.
Walking into the Zion Kosher Market, you could mistake its 13th Ave. location for the Machane Yehuda shuk on Rechov Yaffo. And that is exactly the intentions of the owners, Nir Melamed and Gavriel Kindel. The store was opened by their father, who has since moved back to his native Israel, to provide Israeli expatriates with a taste of home, to give the Sephardic palate a stimulating and reminiscent spice of life.
“We came into the business,” Mr. Melamed told boropark24.com’s Heshy Rubinstein in an interview, “and we saw that there were not enough stores here selling Israeli products like spices and bakery items. My mother started making them, salads and things like that. We are a specialty store for all Israeli products. We also have all the Israeli newspapers.”
The store, located at 3802 13th Ave., opened 35 years ago three blocks away. It moved to the current location 15 years ago when the old building was demolished. The store’s ethos is based on health, Mr. Melamed said.
“My grandfather Shalom was very much into health,” Mr. Melamed noted. “The chicken that he ate on Friday night was made from a chicken that he raised. He ate very basic foods — no food coloring — and boruch Hashem my grandfather lived a very long life. My father saw how my grandfather used to live and my father tried to stress and keep everything as homemade as possible.”
The storeowner’s father, Ovadia Melamed, was born in Yemen and immigrated to Israel where his son was born. He would research the health of every spice before allowing it to be used. Eventually, he published his findings in a book that has since been distributed in both Hebrew and English.
“He looked through the Talmud,” his son recalled. “He researched articles that big doctors wrote about their research over many years. He took all this and put it into one book and he published it. My father said that for every disease in the world there’s got to be a cure for it. Hashem created a cure for it, we just don’t know where it is. So he looked for it.”
Everything in the store is made on site, with no added sugar or preservatives. Behind the shopkeeper lay jars of cardamom, turmeric, cumin, sweet paprika, hot paprika, curry, cinnamon and hilba seeds — all the result of Ovadia Melamed’s research into healthy eating.
Ovadia also published a sefer explaining the minhagim and mesorah of the Sephardic Adat Yeshurun, comparing them to the Ashkenazi minhagim. The elder Mr. Melamed has since moved back to Israel, though he comes to visit every year. His son Nir and son-in-law Gavriel Kindel took over management of the store.
The busiest time of the week is Thursday and Friday when people shop for Shabbos. The store sells every exotic taste known to the Israeli tongue. Laffa bread, Moroccan fish, dips, six different types of olives and pickles, Yemeni dishes such as schug, hilbah and jachnun, nuts, candies and beans sold in woolen sacks as in the shuk.
Indeed, Nir says that customers tell him that when they come into his shop they very well may be in the Shuk Machane Yehuda.
“A lot of Israelis living in Boro Park in the ‘80s used to come here,” he recalled. “Today we have grandparents and their grandchildren coming to shop here. An entire generation of Boro Park has grown up with our tastes.”