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Published December 7th, 2022
Chabad of Lamorinda opens Bay Kosher grocery store
Photo Sora O'Doherty

Rabbi Israel and Tzipora Labkowski have opened a kosher grocery store in Lafayette in the building they acquired for the Chabad Center. Located at 3477 Golden Gate Way, formerly home to the Henderson Nut Factory, the entire front of the building will be devoted to the grocery. Labkowski plans to start small but hopes to expand to more prepared foods in the future. Bay Kosher is now open for business.
The grocery, located behind the Lafayette Library, is a nonprofit endeavor. Labkowski set an initial fundraising goal of $200,000, and by mid-September had raised more than half that amount. Donations went from modest amounts to at least one donation of $10,000. There was also a matching program by generous donors who pledged to match up to $100,000. In his fundraising effort, the rabbi quoted Maimonides, who said every good deed, no matter how small, tips the scale of humanity toward goodness.
Labkowski has two goals for his new store. First, he wants to make kosher food more available in the area, as it is currently very difficult to find kosher items, he says. The most important thing to him is pricing. He says that any stores that carry anything kosher are more expensive, over double the price than the same item in, say, New York, where kosher foods are more prevalent. "Keeping kosher shouldn't be a luxury," he believes.
Secondly, with the COVID pandemic and inflation, the rabbi says that a lot of families need the help of the community. He wants to adopt the idea of some New York kosher grocers who allow low-income families to have an account with the store so that they can shop in the store but when they check out, they are charged reduced prices based on their needs. Labkowski says that this is an easier and more dignified way of doing things. "We will be introducing a special program that will allow for lower income families to receive food at greater discounts and at times, free of charge depending on the families need," Labkowski said. "This is a revolutionary program that will help feed the poor and low-income families."
Although the discount plan will be available to all, the rabbi notes that kosher food will still cost more than ordinary supermarket prices, so will probably only be attractive to those who wish to keep kosher.
The grocery has a complete range of foods, including, milk, meat, bakery, dairy, and dry goods. Everything is kosher, either meat, dairy or parve (foods that can be served with either meat or dairy). Over time and with the proper approvals, they hope to prepare food and have a deli section. The hours have not been finalized yet, but Labkowski says that the store will be open a good part of every day and will have full-time staff. He says that other Chabads don't have groceries here, but some do in other parts of the world.
Labkowski noticed that in the Bay Area, Jewish style foods and kosher foods in particular can be challenging to come across. "Whether it's kosher meat, brisket, steaks, lamb, turkey, etc., or fresh challah, bourekas, kugel, cheese, deli sandwiches,?or ready Shabbat and Holiday food packages," and, he added, "that's not to mention the high price that tends to go with it if you could find it."
With the opening of this nonprofit market, the Labkowski's goal is to provide the Jewish community with a large variety of Jewish style and kosher foods of the highest quality and freshness at low affordable prices as well as helping the less fortunate within the community.

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