Diane Zipay needed wonton wrappers, and not just any wonton wrappers.
They had to be glatt kosher wonton wrappers. Her chef planned to serve homemade egg rolls as part of a kosher dinner for about 1,200 people to kick off the Maccabi Games in Omaha.
And only glatt kosher — food that meets the highest standard of being kosher — would do.
So Zipay, nutrition services director at the Westside Community Schools, fired up her computer, tracked down product names and called suppliers.
It was a quest she undertook dozens of times as Access 66 Catering, Westside’s catering arm, prepared for the Olympic-style competition this week in Omaha.
Sponsored by the Jewish Community Center, the games have brought about 1,000 young Jewish athletes to the city. They’ve come from across the United States and from Israel, Mexico, Canada and Hungary.
Accommodating all the athletes, plus parents, coaches and others, means keeping kosher, or following Jewish dietary laws. So Zipay and her staff tracked down not only the wonton wrappers but also some 300 other kosher food items over the past several months.
Rabbi Jonathan Gross of Beth Israel Synagogue briefed the catering staff last week, explaining the dietary laws and why they are important to Jews.
He told the staff that the athletes, parents and others partaking of the meals would be trusting them with their most cherished traditions.
“If you imagine your most sacred and meaningful family tradition,” he said, “that’s really what it is to eat kosher food. It’s a tradition that goes back 3,500 years.”
A number of organizations certify kosher food. Packages are labeled with their symbols. The Orthodox Union, for example, uses a circle with a U inside.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been challenges, Zipay said. The laws prohibit mixing meat and dairy products, even in preparation areas.
To avoid that complication, organizers nixed dairy. That meant finding dairy-free baked goods — cookies, cakes and breads. They found some and decided to bake the rest on their own, she said.
When the food prepared at Paddock Road is ready to be sent out, it is loaded into kashered carts. The carts are closed, taped and initialed or signed by a mashgiach, she said. A mashgiach also opens them when they arrive at their destination.
Zipay also bought new knives, which cannot be made kosher, and new grills for a cookout at the zoo. The grill purchases were timed to coincide with the regular replacement schedule for such items.
Zipay, who is Jewish but does not keep kosher, received compliments from Jewish families who were glad to see their traditions reflected and from Christian parents who appreciated the teachable moment.
( Billy’s Thoughts>>>Read more how some souls were taught how important keeping Kosher is to some Jews, Athletes’ meals strictly kosher.)