Hosting a group of young adults for Shabbat dinner, Rabbi Yisroel Bernath and his wife, Sara, noticed something odd: salads and kugels were disappearing quickly, but the chicken went largely untouched.
When a little post-dinner sleuthing revealed many of their guests were vegetarian, it was all the incentive the Chabad rabbi needed to take his storefront center vegan.
For the 28-year-old Chicago native, whose friends at yeshiva called him “alfalfa sprouts” and ribbed the health-conscious bocher for his blender-buzzed vitamin shakes, the idea of a vegan/organic Chabad house was hardly a stretch.
“The students think it’s really different,” says Bernath, who arrived in Montreal with his family two years ago, quickly establishing a Chabad presence at Concordia University’s west-end campus, and in the nearby neighborhood.
So with pasta replacing pastrami, kamut giving kishka the boot, and typical kiddush food of roast root vegetables and tofu schnitzel, this Chabad is the only one Bernath knows of that’s taken a vegan route.
Even cholent, that soporific hotpot of beans, meat and potatoes traditional for Shabbat lunch, gets a makeover at the Chabad house. The version served here swaps cubes of beef for chewy porcini and shitake mushrooms, with an (unsuspecting) assist from dried slices of mango and papaya.