Noahs shift to non-kosher is a loss for all

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A tale of an underdog has come to an end.

Nearly a decade ago, an Orthodox Jew in Berkeley named Noah Alper opened a tiny, kosher bagel shop on College Avenue.

His bagels were so popular that dozens of shops opened across Northern California, making kosher food more accessible than ever.

Noah's New York Bagels stores were unusual for two reasons. The bagels were steamed, not boiled. And the stores weren't just quietly kosher; they were loudly and proudly Jewish.

Photos of Golda Meir and men in kippot. Shmears, instead of spreads. Challah on Fridays. Pamphlets on kosher laws. Closed-for-business signs at Passover. Hamantaschen. Primers on Yiddish phrases. Stars of David.

His creations were such a hit that in 1996 his company merged with a corporation in Colorado, and Alper became a vice chairman over hundreds of Einstein Bros. and Noah's shops across the country.

His doughy delights were so successful that he sold off his share of the business in late 1996 for enough money to study full time in Jerusalem.

Then the corporation decided that kosher laws were holding back expansion into new menu items and thus potential sales.

So last fall, nearly all of the Noah's stores outside of Northern California went non-kosher.

As of today, the vast majority of the Noah's stores — including those in Northern California — will go non-kosher as well.

The change is not only a loss for observant Jews in the Bay Area, for remote Jewish communities where Noah's was the only kosher eatery, or for Jewish organizations that finally found it convenient to order kosher.

It's a loss for all of us. Noah's is not only no longer kosher. It's no longer Jewish. Sure, Noah's will still look Jewish. But it's no longer authentic. It's just an image without substance.

So we say goodbye to nearly a decade of an odd but significant form of Jewish pride.

Noah's bagels — at least the kosher ones — were too good to last.