Going Kosher in Malta

Participants disembarking the boat to visit Birmu, Malta.

Over 120 Jewish young professionals from 16 countries descended on Malta last week for the inaugural event of Jewish European Professionals (JEP). The attendees came from Gibraltar, Italy, Monaco, the Netherlands, Russia, Serbia and Switzerland, to engage in four days of lectures, workshops, tours, Shabbat worship and more.

They also enjoyed a scenic bicycle tour with views from the Maltese hills and cliffs, a cruise of the Grand Harbor and Marsamxetto Harbor, and a walking tour through Birgu. The day trip “Treasures of Malta” included tours through the historical cities of Valetta and Mdina as well as a stop at the impressive Blue Grotto.

Shabbat services were held with a blend of Sefardi and Ashkenazi tunes. Comical competitive games, singing, interesting conversation and thoughts on the Torah portion all added to the Shabbat atmosphere. A sushi workshop led by a Japanese chef on Shabbat afternoon turned some participants from novices into experts, while others laughed at their original concoctions.

Yet in Malta iteself, JEP was faced with both an interesting challenge and an opportunity – providing large quantities of Kosher food for the participants and guests.

As the Jewish population in the European countries does not approach the size of today’s American or Israeli communities, the impact on kashrut has been profound. The lack of demand has resulted in less kosher products being available in general, more so on the small island republic of Malta.

With an active, young adult group of participants, a variety of food was needed for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as for an around-the-clock coffee break. And having it delivered to Malta turned into no small feat. Deliveries came by air and also via a 7 ton truck that traveled from Brussels to Italy and then ferry to Sicily. In Sicily the road journey continued to a second ferry and then to its final destination – Malta. In total a journey of approximately 3300 km. All of the imported food had to be calculated perfectly as no additional kosher could be purchased during the program.

The organizers spent many hours preparing the documents needed to transport the various food types, including the kosher wine. The caterer, traveled with his Mashgiach, chefs and staff for 3 days prior to the event in order to supervise preparations. The hotel purchased some new dishes for the use of the JEP group, but the majority also came from Brussels by truck.

As to the event, a good time was had by all, and we heard no-one left hungry.

About: JEP, is a sister organization of ECJS (European Center of Jewish Students), an international, non-profit organization based in Brussels, Belgium which provides young professionals, aged 27-39, personal and professional networking opportunities. It is designed to create a vibrant young Jewish community focused on making a positive contribution to the world. JEP creates quality and innovative programs in close-knit settings that include interactive group activities, self-development and business ethics workshops, and inspiring cultural experiences. The organization holds three major European events each year.