The Cross-Border Stealth Hasid!

In one of my blog articles last month, I set out my theory of the Stealth Hasidim.

Since then, I have been developing and expanding this theory with the help of my dear friend and fellow stealth hasid, SB.

Well, it was time to put theory into an even more extended practice and see just how stealthy and hasidish I could be!

The perfect opportunity provided itself the other day when my friends, D&RB, were in short supply of kosher baby food. Apparently, in Toronto, there is now a dearth of baby food with an acceptable hechsher (kosher certification mark). Baby food brands such as Gerber and Heinz don’t make the grade. They have either cut or lost their COR kosher certification in Canada. [1]

(A small sample of various kosher certification symbols)

Bottom line… the only brand of baby food that my friends would accept were those produced under the name Beech-Nut, manufactured under strict rabbinical supervision and bearing the ‘Circle-U’ hechsher of the Orthodox Union.

Now while many kosher food retailers do carry the Beach-Nut brand, the selection of flavours in Toronto is somewhat limited. My dear friends were, in a word, distraught. Running low on supplies, their options limited, D&RB were in a tight spot, and no mistake.

(Note the ‘Circle-U hechsher’ to the right of the word ‘Bananas’)

This looked like a job for… The Stealth Hasid!

Living, as I do, a mere hop and a skip from the Canada-U.S. border, I hatched a plan whereby I, with the assistance of my not-so-stealthy hasidic cohort (i.e. the local Chabad rabbi), would slip across the border, infiltrate a certain supermarket in a largish western New York State city (which store carries a wide variety of kosher foods including Beech-Nut baby food), obtain about 50 jars in a variety of flavours, make our way back across the river to The Great White North whereupon I would personally transport the goods to my dear friends in Toronto in time for Shabbes.

I arranged a rendezvous in scenic Niagara-Falls. My cohort suggested I meet him across the street from the Jewish cemetery at 5:45 yesterday morning, which totally appealed to my Orthodox Goth (OrthoGoth?) side!. Now while I am usually an early riser, the thought of me standing in the snow in the pre-dawn hours waiting for my cohort to arrive did not help me leap to the task with my usual alacrity.

(Looks nice, eh? Try standing in this kind of weather at 5:45 am and see how much you like it!)

However, a stealth hasid must be made of stern stuff. “Suck it up, princess!” I said to myself, peering into the night as I held my Tim Hortons coffee cup in both hands. “A baby’s health and nutrition is at stake! And you are helping fellow frummies in their hour of need. Stealth Hasid to the rescue!”

OK, so… I drove up to the Canada-U.S. border by 6:00 am. The process was uneventful. While my cohort was an old hand at crossing into the States and back, I was a bit nervous as this was my first foray into the U.S. since the Passover before 9-11. A lot’s happened since then, homeland-security-wise. Notwithstanding the fact that I had my brand-new spiffy enhanced drivers licence which permits me to drive into the U.S. without a passport, I didn’t know what to expect. I need not have worried. Things went smoothly with the border guard asking only a few questions. Before I knew it, we were in The Great Republic to the South. [1]  A quick in-and-out and we’d be back in the land of Mounties and maple syrup, beavers and butter tarts before you could say, “How’s it goin’ eh?”

Did I mention that my cohort goes into the States every day? No? Well, he does. Why? He attends morning services at the holy Young Israel of Greater Buffalo orthodox congregation. I had never been there before and I must say, it was quite enjoyable. As it was Rosh Chodesh, we had a Torah reading and, after services, my cohort did a little one-on-one learning with an extremely UN-stealth hasid. Not exactly the quick in-and-out I originally imagined but you have to learn to roll with the proverbial punches in this line of work.

(Young Israel of Greater Buffalo orthodox congregation)

Eventually, we made it to the supermarket. I stocked up on Beech-Nut sweet carrots, sweet peas, squash and sweet potato, getting about a dozen of each. I found out, to my chagrin, that not all Beech-Nut flavours were kosher. We cleared the shelves of all kosher flavours D&RB needed but we fell a bit short of the 50 jars I was hoping to get and there was no time to drive to the other supermarket around the corner (my cohort was already late for a meeting on the Canadian side). I cashed out and before long, we were heading back home. Crossing into Canada was smooth. All went according to plan.

All Stealth. All Hasidic. No Sweat!

Sadly, a snow storm in Toronto today and tomorrow has prevented me from coming in this weekend. Luckily, D&RB have enough food to last them until next weekend.

This coming Friday, I hope to arrive in Toronto on the eve of the Sabbath and deliver the much-needed supplies to my dear friends. D&RB will, I am sure, be quite relieved and happy. As far as baby food is concerned, they will be flush until my next foray into the wilds of western New York.

Yesterday morning’s jaunt taught me several things. Crossing the border at 6:00 am isn’t all that rough, really. I enjoy the Young Israel of Greater Buffalo congregation and intend to continue going there at least twice a week (tentatively Tuesdays and Thursdays) when I am not either in court or in Toronto. Food prices, even kosher food prices, are much lower in the States. Aside from pain in the tush of getting up so early (4:00 am!!), it is nice to share a couple of hours chatting with my cohort, the local Chabad rabbi.

Tentatively, our next cross-border raid is this coming Tuesday. Time permitting, I am hoping to hit that other supermarket in search of more Beech-Nut baby food and maybe even a few provisions for myself.

UPDATE: (As of 9:40 am Friday Feb. 24/12)

It turns out that the bad weather has been averted! The snowfall anticipated for this weekend is not nearly as bad as originally predicted and that I am indeed heading off to Toronto after all. I will be leaving as soon as possible, dropping off the baby food for D&RB, picking up some provisions for dinner tonight and enjoying the Sabbath with friends and loved ones! Yay! The Stealth Hasid scores again!

A good, restful, peaceful and spirit-filled Sabbath to all.


[1] COR is the kosher certification trademark used by the Kashruth Council of Canada, the largest kosher certification agency in Canada.  COR has been servicing the Canadian food industry for over 65 years and now certifies over 45,000 products at over 1000 facilities across Canada and around the world.

[2] Technically, where I live, The Great Republic is to the East… but that’s another story.


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