For decades, Jewish travelers to Jamaica have bemoaned the fact that the island’s signature “jerk” cuisine was off limits due to a lack of kosher supervision. Thanks to the Chabad of Jamaica, which opened the doors of the first-ever kosher restaurant in Jamaica last week, the classic Caribbean culinary experience is now within reach for the thousands of strictly-kosher tourists who visit the island every year.
Known as “Chabad’s Kosher Hot Spot,” the kosher eatery is the newest addition to the “Hip Strip” in Montego Bay, an expansive array of restaurants and shops that runs the length Gloucester Avenue. Chabad of Jamaica announced the grand opening via its dedicated Facebook page, inviting international tourists and longtime residents of Jamaica to join them at the Kosher Hot Spot to enjoy traditional Jamaican jerk dishes, Red Stripe beer and stunning views of Montego Bay’s white sand beaches.
“Chabad’s Kosher Hot Spot was made possible by sponsors locally and internationally, and we are so thankful to them all. This is a place where you can taste delicious Israeli and Jamaican falafel, and also purchase Judaica and all kinds of Jewish Jamaican souvenirs. We encourage everyone to come visit—we will feed your body and soul,” said Rabbi Yaakov Raskin, co-director of Chabad of Jamaica.
The arrival of Rabbi Raskin and his wife, Mushkee, to Montego Bay in 2014 signaled the beginning of a new chapter for Jamaican Jewry. Located in the tourist hub of the island, and only a 90-minute drive from Kingston, Chabad’s “Jewish Welcome Centre” has quickly become a haven of religious life in Jamaica, maintaining a unique Jewish Jamaican flavor and transforming the island into a fully-accessible Jewish travel destination — a tropical escape for even the most observant.
In addition to facilitating Shabbat services, holiday parties, and Jewish children’s programming for locals and tourists alike, the Raskins run a professional kosher kitchen that prepares a wide selection of strictly kosher meals for delivery to any hotel in Jamaica. The Kosher Hot Spot, which is located right next door to the Jewish Welcome Centre, was a natural outgrowth of their mission.
“We are determined to reinvigorate Jewish life on the island and help Jewish tourists embrace the traditional Jamaican ‘worry-free’ attitude by providing Kosher food and prayer services and taking all of the guesswork out of Shabbat observance,” added Rabbi Raskin.
To find out more about Chabad’s Kosher Hot Spot or order kosher meals for weekday and Shabbat, visit the Chabad of Jamaica website at www.jewishjamaica.com.
By Elie Klein