Emily Winston, founder and CEO of Boichik Bagels, shows off a new mixer at a pre-opening party at Boichik's factory and cafe in Berkeley, March 2023. (Photo/Courtesy Boichik Bagels)
Emily Winston, founder and CEO of Boichik Bagels, shows off a new mixer at a pre-opening party at Boichik's factory and cafe in Berkeley, March 2023. (Photo/Courtesy Boichik Bagels)

With opening of Boichik Bagels’ new Berkeley factory comes change in kosher status

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Updated March 27 at 12:28 p.m. to better reflect details of Boichik Bagels’ kosher supervision.

Days before the March 24 grand opening of its 18,000-square-foot plant in North Berkeley, Boichik Bagels announced a change to its kosher status.

The bagels, bialys and challah that are baked and packaged at the new Sixth Street plant remain kosher when sold directly from the plant. Bags of frozen Boichik Bagels sold in supermarkets also remain kosher. But Boichik’s retail stores are no longer supervised, and the sandwiches and spreads sold there are no longer certified as kosher.

Another change is in the company’s kosher supervision. Boichik Bagels is now using Sunrise Kosher, otherwise known as the Vaad of Northern California.

East Bay Kosher, which is run by Rabbi Yonatan Cohen of Berkeley’s Congregation Beth Israel and Rabbi Gershon Albert of Oakland’s Beth Jacob Congregation, had certified Boichik Bagels since the first store opened in 2019 on Berkeley’s College Avenue. But the expansion to Palo Alto last year and plans for more stores brought complications.

“I am very excited to be working with the Vaad to get a more regional and nationally recognized kosher supervision in place for my bagels,” Boichik founder Emily Winston said.  “It was not a trivial thing to make it happen.”

All of the dough is being made at the massive plant, and robots are in charge of shaping the bagels. At that point, they are delivered to the individual stores, which bake them on site and sell them without kosher certification. The kosher bagels are baked and packaged at the plant. Caterers who want kosher bagels can order them from the plant and pick them up there.

Rabbi Yitzchok Feldman, chairman of the executive board of Sunrise Kosher, said the Vaad agreed to supervise the plant and the wholesale business using what is known as a “Shabbos contract” in which the business is sold symbolically to a non-Jew every Shabbat.

According to Feldman, this is common practice. “The big agencies do it for wholesale businesses,” he said.

Boichik’s three retail stores, also open on Shabbat, are excluded from the kosher certification. (The Vaad has long certified the single retail store of another kosher bagel business open on Shabbat, Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels in Palo Alto, using the Shabbos contract.)

Winston grew up Reform and didn’t know the intricacies of kashrut when she started out. She has since learned about the many kosher symbols and certification agencies around the country. While she knows that most of her customers don’t care about kosher status, she has remained stalwart in her desire to provide kosher bagels.

In addition to the packaged bagels, the sealed packages of lox remain kosher because Winston gets them from a kosher supplier.

“For the rest of the menu, there’s nothing changing except for the lack of supervision,” she said. “I’m not going to be dumping bacon into anything, you won’t be seeing bacon cream cheese on the menu next week,” she joked. “That’s all staying the same.”

One exception: Winston has had trouble finding kosher shredded cheddar cheese for the store’s horseradish cheddar scallion cream cheese, so she’s switching to one that isn’t kosher.

Feldman has yet to try a Boichik bagel himself but dismissed that as an issue.

“I’m sure, for consumers, the possibility of variety can be a big deal,” he said. “There’s been an amazing bagel from Izzy’s all these years and now there’s a second one.”

While Winston has plans to continue expanding her business, she is relieved she didn’t have to let go of the kosher status entirely to do so.

“I just want everyone to be able to enjoy a Boichik bagel,” she said. “I want to pitch a big tent.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."