Sunday, October 5, 2003

Tradition begins at Bilkers

Blue Ash deli picks up as Yom Kippur ends

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

BLUE ASH - Wilbur and Mary Jean Cohen of Middletown came into Bilkers Fine Foods in search of enough food to feed 30.

Their family will be breaking the traditional Yom Kippur fast at sundown Monday in honor of the second of the Jewish High Holy Days.

For the couple, shopping at Bilkers for their holiday foods, which includes many dairy items, is a family tradition for more than 60 years.

"You just have to come here for the holiday shopping. Their products are fantastic," Wilbur said.

For many, the store, founded in 1908, is like family. Ellen Fettner of Montgomery took a few minutes Friday to hug and catch up with owner Gladys Blatt.

"I try to come once a week," she said, picking up kugel, a noodle pudding made from the same recipe Blatt serves at home, and chopped liver, Blatt's mother's recipe. "It's soul food."

For the Fettners, the meal is a chance to reflect on the holiest of the Jewish holidays.

"We tell stories to our grandchildren about traditions when we were children," Fettner said.

"We talk about the importance of family and reflect on people who are not as fortunate."

The Blatts have owned the store for 15 years and think it meets an important need in the community.

"Because it is a specialized store, it meets the needs of the Jewish community as well as people who are looking for gourmet items," Blatt said. "Being Jewish, we can relate to the customers and know what products they're looking for."

The store moved from Roselawn about six years ago. The Blatts have developed a deli that attracts a strong lunch crowd, and created a "low-carb" section with breads, pasta and brownies. They also boast imported food from all over the world, including breads from the Angel Bakery, the largest bakery in Israel.

Gila Naveh from Blue Ash comes to the store whenever she's homesick to find olives and pickles from Israel.

The Judaic Studies professor at the University of Cincinnati is from Ramat-Gan, Israel.

"There are a lot of items you wouldn't find elsewhere," said Naveh, who will serve 12 in a traditional meal Monday.

"I want to do it the way my mother did. In particular, after 9-11, everybody in the U.S. in all ethnicities seems to be going back to traditions."


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