Kitzel’s Deli in Olympia Brings Conversation (and Knish) to Downtown
Standing in front of Hava Aviv I can sense that I am in the presence of a very bold, ambitious woman. Hava is co-founder of Kitzel’s Deli in Olympia, a Jewish restaurant set to open its doors on Capitol Way next month. Their mission is simple and refreshing. Bring quality food from local sources to your plate while creating an environmentally responsible, employee-empowering atmosphere.
Hava describes herself as an agent of social change. Earning a Masters degree in Environment & Community from Antioch University in Seattle, she is very conscious of the impact a business can have on both the environment and the community they serve. She believes that choices like whether or not to compost, how to treat employees, or where to buy supplies from can not be made from a traditional cost analysis where profits are the only consideration. Taking a big picture approach to cost analysis, she says that even if a program such as composting requires more time or a higher financial cost doesn’t mean it should be tossed out, because the cost to the environment and to the community will be higher as a result.
It is this big picture perspective and the desire to be a positive influence on the world that has driven Hava to tackle some even more challenging social issues.
As Hava delicately explains to me, Kitzel’s Deli was born out of a desire to promote a healthy, positive conversation. Citing the Olympia Food Co-op Board of Directors’ decision to join the BDS movement to boycott Israeli goods, she explains that she saw the local Jewish community being forced into an unenviable corner. “Lines began to be drawn. The conflicts became very black and white in town. You were either for BDS’s stated mission of being pro-Palestinian and pro-humanitarian or you were not. And there was no room for: ‘I love Israel, but I am highly critical of their government and their military actions’, which represents a large percentage of Jews in Olympia,” she says. She describes the resulting feelings as very reactionary. It was those feelings that drove her to facilitate the Jewish community in coming together to develop a dialogue around the issues. “I don’t want to be that person that is always standing up against something. It’s just too much darkness in one’s being. At some point you have to take an internal inventory and say okay, I’m anti all these things, so that means I’m pro…what?”
Hava and her business partner, Irina Gendelman, worked hard to promote an open conversation but found that non-Jews interested in learning more about the issues were reluctant to participate because the only location around town willing and able to accommodate meetings was the local Jewish temple. “We began to look around and noticed there was nowhere around Olympia where there is a sense of Jewish pride outside of religion. There is not a Jewish bookstore, there is not a Jewish cafe, there is nothing that says we are a Jewish something, where the average Joe or Jane feels like they can just walk in and participate.”
Kitzel’s Deli in Olympia is poised to change that. Through food they hope to showcase a proud piece of Jewish culture to the public and remove some of the barriers to understanding and awareness. “Who doesn’t love a good knish?” Hava jokes. I sheepishly admit that aside from bagels I have never experienced traditional Jewish foods. Hava quickly counters with “Best bagels in town, hands down. Come on in. See what the rest is about later.” And I think I will take her up on that.
Kitzel’s Deli in Olympia is located downtown at 514 Capitol Way. They plan on opening for business sometime during the month of December 2011. Until then you can catch up with them on Facebook or Twitter or follow their blog: http://kitzels.com/