- The Washington Times - Friday, January 12, 2007

NEWPORT, R.I. — A practicing Catholic who attends church each Sunday, Mary Ellen Newbury hardly seems a sure bet to know the ins and outs of keeping a kosher diet.

However, as innkeeper of the Admiral Weaver Inn, believed to offer the only kosher bed-and-breakfast accommodations in Rhode Island, Miss Newbury needs to ensure that her guests’ religious needs are satisfied — whether by making sure that meat and dairy meals are kept separate or by keeping bacon and sausage far away from the house.

Upholding the strict standards of a religion, albeit one different from her own, is a responsibility she takes seriously.

“I respect their beliefs, and they in turn respect mine,” says Miss Newbury, a lifelong Newport resident and retired schoolteacher. “That’s how it has worked out.”

The six-bedroom inn, which opened as a kosher B&B; more than five years ago, was the brainchild of a Ukrainian immigrant looking to give something back to the Jewish community. The 1860s home, which has standard trappings such as TVs and personal refrigerators, also has unique features that showcase its commitment to Jewish tradition.

Hebrew prayer books are stacked in the living room near the magazine rack and the spread of fruit, coffee and tea. Mezuzahs — small parchment scrolls bearing passages from the Torah that many Jews affix to their door posts — hang outside rooms.

Basic kosher dietary rules are observed, such as a prohibition against eating shellfish, and the inn is careful to make sure no errors are made.

The B&B; has separate ovens and microwaves for warming up meat and dairy dishes, so milk and meat don’t mix, and food brought into the house from the outside requires the approval of the Orthodox rabbi at the nearby Touro Synagogue.

Hot food that guests plan to eat over the weekend must be placed in the oven before sundown on Friday because traditional Judaism prohibits the use of electricity on the Sabbath.

“The challenge is to make sure that no mistakes occur in the kitchen, that the kosher standard is sufficient for everyone who would stay there,” says Rabbi Mordechai Eskovitz of the Touro Synagogue.

Observant Jews make up most, though not all, of the clientele. The Touro, the oldest synagogue building in America, benefits from its connection to the inn because many guests include it on their itinerary, Rabbi Eskovitz says. He adds that the inn isn’t interested in catering only to Jews or converting non-Jews.

“Be who you are and enjoy your experience,” he says. However, some guests who have booked rooms without realizing that the inn is kosher have complained on online review sites, especially about the lack of a hot, cooked breakfast on Saturday morning and about the location. Although it is near the synagogue, the inn is not on the waterfront or next to other major city landmarks.

A few other kosher inns are scattered around the country, including the Farbreng Inn in Richmond; Midwood Suites in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and the Broad Street Guest House in Charleston, S.C.

The Admiral Weaver Inn is owned by Eugene Twersky, 47, who immigrated to Rhode Island from Kiev, Ukraine and says he was prohibited in his own country from practicing his religion. Though not Orthodox himself, Mr. Twersky says he wanted to make it easier for observant Jews to travel.

“They bring their own food and everything — people couldn’t relax,” Mr. Twersky says. “I wanted to do something so people could come and relax and not think about anything.”

He placed an ad seeking an innkeeper, and Miss Newbury responded, unaware that the inn was intended to be kosher — or even what that meant. When Mr. Twersky told her his plans, she was game for the challenge, and they approached Rabbi Eskovitz for help.

“We were like two peas in a pod. We didn’t know a thing about anything, and I’m not kidding you,” Miss Newbury says. “We were like little sponges.”

The two studied for months alongside Rabbi Eskovitz, learning how to identify kosher labels on food packaging and other rules of the diet. Finally, the rabbi said they were ready to go shopping for the house.

Out of respect for her Jewish guests, Miss Newbury says, she refrains from turning on her television at the inn on the Sabbath. In keeping with her own faith, she leaves the inn Sunday mornings to attend Mass.

She answers questions about the inn’s kosher observances but doesn’t consider herself an expert on all things Jewish, especially when talk turns to theology.

“Anything about religion goes right to Rabbi,” she says. “I don’t even touch that. That’s not my area, that’s his area.”

Admiral Weaver Inn, 28 Weaver Ave., Newport, R.I.; visit www.kosherbedandbreakfast.com or phone 401/849-0051. Through May 20, rates for a standard room that accommodates two are $69 to $98; for a two-bedroom suite that accommodates four, $139 to $180. Rates are higher in summer and fall.

Touro Synagogue, 85 Touro St., Newport; www.tourosynagogue.org or 401/847-4794. The tour schedule varies by season. Through April 17, tours are offered from 1 to 1:30 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 19. Tour fee is $5; free for children under 13.

Other kosher inns:

Broad Street Guest House, Charleston, S.C.; www.charlestonkosherbedandbreakfast.com; 843/577-5965.

Farbreng Inn, Richmond; www.farbrenginn.com; 804/740-2000, Ext. 6.

Midwood Suites, Brooklyn, N.Y.; www.midwoodsuites.com; 718/253-9535.

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