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Crunch Cafe offers all-kosher options to College Avenue campus

Crunch Cafe on the College Avenue campus increases access to kosher items by providing dine-in eating and catering options such as desserts, sandwiches and salads. – Photo by Jeffrey Gomez

In the Fall 2023 semester, two siblings affiliated with Rutgers opened a cafe to serve kosher foods in the Eva and Arie Halpern Hillel House on the College Avenue campus.

Buzzy Brickman, a Rutgers Business School senior, co-owns Crunch Cafe with his sister, Miriam Brickman, a Rutgers—Newark Business School alum.

"My sister and I … had a lot of dreaming, a lot of planning to get to the point where we are today to figure out and finalize how we wanted to operate the cafe," he said. 

Initially, Buzzy Brickman said he envisioned the cafe providing students with ready-made menu options. After noticing the popularity of customers who were choosing to dine in, though, he said the menu was altered to reflect more filling meals. 

The cafe currently offers a variety of kosher soups, sandwiches, pasta and pizza. Buzzy Brickman said the avocado toast and grilled cheese are the cafe's best-selling dishes.

He said he was motivated to create the cafe due to his own experiences with the limited availability of kosher foods on campus, despite the campus housing more than 6,000 Jewish students. The University has the biggest undergraduate Jewish student population in the U.S., according to Rutgers Hillel

"Growing up, I went to a Jewish private school, so everything they served in that school was certified kosher," Buzzy Brickman said. "But coming to Rutgers was really one of the first times I … found it difficult to find kosher food."

This is not the first time he has engaged in initiatives to increase kosher food offerings on campus. Previously, he helped introduce kosher sandwiches at retail cafes across the New Brunswick campuses, as previously reported by The Daily Targum. 

Given this experience, he said he was equipped to navigate the process of opening a cafe of his own, which included gaining approval from Rutgers Hillel and the city of New Brunswick.

Buzzy Brickman said that, since its opening, approximately 50 people have visited Crunch Cafe daily. He typically manages aspects of the business like sales tax and payroll, and his sister takes the lead on food preparation. But the two usually collaborate when managing large catering orders for on-campus organizations and events. 

In the few months that the cafe has been running, Buzzy Brickman said he has faced challenges like determining the daily frequency and surges in visitors, along with having enough inventory. 

Nevertheless, he said that the experience has been rewarding. He said the role has taught him to remain resilient in the face of difficulties and that joy associated with his work can trump the fatigue it brings.

In the future, Buzzy Brickman hopes to increase the amount of catering orders and the cafe's overall presence on campus.

"It's such a small, tight-knit cafe that we really put our effort and our heart … into all the food we're making," he said. "If (the cafe) is a really huge success, we'd love to open more locations. That would be a dream."

Additionally, Crunch Cafe has received support from the Jewish community at the University, Buzzy Brickman said.

Moshe Golubtchik, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and part-time employee at Crunch Cafe, heard about the cafe's opening after frequenting the Hillel building.

Similar to Brickman, Golubtchik said he followed a kosher diet throughout his upbringing and was challenged in finding kosher-inclusive dining options when he came to Rutgers. With the introduction of Crunch Cafe, he said students have the opportunity to access kosher food with ease.

"(Students) can come get a quick bite to eat and not have to worry about what's kosher," he said. "It's nice to be able to get a fresh, handmade meal."

Rachel Rostan, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, said she visits the cafe nearly every day. She was raised in a secular household, but she adopted a kosher lifestyle in the Fall 2023 semester on her journey to deepen her connections with the Jewish faith.

Prior to the opening of the cafe, she often resorted to driving to Highland Park to find kosher food at the grocery store or Dunkin'.

She said not only is the cafe more convenient, affordable and healthy than her previous options, but also the rotating flavors of menu items help avoid the repetitiveness she had experienced before.

While the cafe is predominantly visited by Jewish students, Rostan said the area is open to students of all backgrounds. 

"I think it's a … nice little … opportunity to introduce someone to the aura of Jewish life on campus," she said. "I would like (the cafe) to be something that consistently stays on campus, so I think it's really important that people support Crunch Cafe."

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