A long-running Maryland bagel battle is heating up again between Goldberg’s Bagels in Pikesville and three Goldberg’s bagel shops in Montgomery County.
The two bagel companies have been running ads in the free Jewish monthly Kol Habirah, and the newspaper has been placing one above the other. The ad for Goldberg’s in Montgomery County states that its products are kosher. The ad for Goldberg’s in Pikesville announces it is “now delivering in Silver Spring” and that it is a “shomer Shabbos-owned” company.
Asked why he chose the wording, which means that the owner is Sabbath observant, Stanley Drebin, owner of the Pikesville Goldberg’s said, “I’m not going to talk about that because you’re trying to make me a racist and I’m not a racist. It’s important that people know that a place is shomer Shabbos. Some people like buying from black-owned businesses. Some people like buying from Asian-owned businesses. Orthodox Jews like buying from shomer Shabbos-owned businesses.”
In May, ownership of the three Montgomery County Goldberg’s stores changed from Daniel Keleman, who is Jewish, to Eun (Vincent) Nam.
Drebin also implied that because he is Sabbath-observant, his bagels have a higher kashrut standard than the three Montgomery County Goldberg’s stores. The Pikesville Goldberg’s is certified by Star-K kosher certification in Baltimore.
“Study at yeshiva for three years and you’ll know the difference,” he said, declining to explain what that difference is.
But Rabbi Moshe Walter of the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington (or Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington), which certified the Montgomery County Goldberg’s locations as kosher under both owners, said that one business can’t be more kosher than another.
“Absolutely false. Any establishment under the Vaad is equally kosher, there’s no sliding scale,” Walter said.
The Pikesville Goldberg’s had been running a nearly-identical ad in Kol HaBirah since March 16, but the “Shomer Shabbos-owned” wording appeared in the June 8 issue, soon after the sale of the Montgomery County Goldberg’s chain. The ad for the Pikesville Goldberg’s has appeared below the ad for Montgomery County Goldberg’s since Aug. 24.
Kol HaBirah Publisher Hillel Goldschein declined to say why the competitors’ advertisements are appearing next to each other or what the significance is of a bagel shop being “shomer Shabbos- owned.” Goldschein said he is a customer at both businesses.
“Both options are certified by reputable certification agencies, and that is more than enough for me to feel comfortable eating by both,” he wrote in an email. “The background/religious orientation, etc. of their owners makes no difference to me.”
Nam declined to comment for this article.
Walter said that the religion or ethnicity of a business owner has nothing to do with the business’ kosher status.
“We have owners who are Jewish, not Jewish, men, or women, more observant or less observant,” he said, noting that the certification process begins anew upon an ownership change.
Drebin and Keleman — who, through his attorney, declined to comment — have a long and fractious business history. According to a 2010 article in Washington City Paper, the two were partners in the Pikesville Goldberg’s until 2005, when Keleman opened the Rockville location. The partnership ended shortly after that. Keleman went on to open two more Goldberg’s bagel locations, in Silver Spring and Potomac.
Drebin said the two don’t speak anymore. Last December, he told the JT that he lost 15 percent of his business after he expressed his support for then-candidate Donald Trump.