Jewish Event Planning 101 – Kosher Caterers Under the Microscope of Jewish Event Planners

Jewish Event Planning 101 – Kosher Caterers Under the Microscope of Jewish Event Planners


The Ups and Downs of Morrell CaterersThe ups and downs for Morrell Caterers: Below you’ll find The Jewish Week article and further below, you’ll find the Vaad of Flatbush letter about Morrell Caterers current standing after the Vaad’s investigation.


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Home > Nassau DA Opens Criminal Probe In Kosher Catering Case

Nassau DA Opens Criminal Probe In Kosher Catering Case

Morrell Caterer’s former general manager Thomas Cataldo, left, and former executive chef Michael Savitsky.

Morrell Caterer’s former general manager Thomas Cataldo, left, and former executive chef Michael Savitsky.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Stewart Ain
Staff Writer

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice has opened a criminal investigation into allegations that Morrell Caterers of Woodbury, L.I., prepared shrimp, lobster, pork and other non-kosher food in the same kitchen as kosher food.

Chris Munzing, a spokesman for Rice, said the investigation started this week after it was reported that two of Morrell’s former employees filed a civil suit alleging that Morrell started a non-kosher business in the kitchen of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, L.I. They said it was begun in September 2010 in conjunction with a high-end event planning company, Pat Glenn Productions.

Munzing declined to characterize the nature of the investigation except to say that prosecutors are exploring “possible criminal activity.”

Included in the court suit was an affidavit from Pat Casarona, a co-founder of Pat Glenn Productions, who stated that Scott Morrell, president of the company that bears his name, “explained that the non-kosher food required for events produced by Pat Glenn could be prepared discreetly in the kitchen of Temple Beth Torah, which as a Reform synagogue did not impose the same stringent rabbinical supervision as Morrell Caterers’ other synagogue venues in Woodbury and Lawrence.”

Casarona added that Morrell brushed aside suggestions that a separate kitchen be used for the non-kosher operation “until it could be determined whether the venture was becoming sufficiently profitable to make investing in a separate facility cost-effective. Mr. Morrell did express great concern during these meetings that, as he put it, ‘there can be no way to trace it back to me.’ ”

At a press conference Wednesday, Morrell angrily denied the allegations, saying: “I stand here with my integrity intact. I never broke any kosher rules, ever.”

Asked specifically about the allegations, Morrell, with his mother, RoseLee, standing behind him, said: “I have no knowledge of that.”

Morrell Caterers has its offices at the Woodbury Jewish Center, where it operates a glatt kosher catering facility whose kosher supervision is provided by the Vaad Harabonim of Flatbush. Rabbi Raphael Adler, the congregation’s spiritual leader, called the allegations “troubling, of great concern and deeply offensive.”

“We have been flooded with calls from families that have booked parties,” he said. “There is angst and concern from families, who are paying top dollar [for a party]. These allegations have shaken the trust of myself, my congregation and the greater community because hundreds of thousands of people have patronized [this caterer] expecting the highest level of kashrut. We hope these allegations will be proven false.”

In the meantime, Rabbi Adler said, synagogue leaders have “been in close consultation with our legal counsel.”

Randy Zornberg, president of Temple Beth Torah, said that within hours after the news broke about the civil suit he had received “over 50 phone calls from people who have parties in the near future and in a couple of years.”

“If the facts of this case are true and he violated kosher laws, he would be in violation of their contracts,” he said. “But these are two disgruntled employees who have left. What their game could be I don’t know. … If [Morrell] has broken our trust by violating his contract, the contract will be terminated.”

Zornberg added that his congregation’s executive board would be meeting Sunday to further discuss the situation.

Rabbi Marc Gellman, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Torah, said told The Jewish Week: “If these allegations are true, it is a violation not only of the legal trust but also of a sacred trust.”

At the press conference, Morrell said he would “consult with my rabbinical supervisor” to decide what to do about the silverware, pots, dishes and cooking utensils that were allegedly used for both kosher and non-kosher affairs.

“I regard kosher supervision with the highest priority,” Morrell said.

The kosher supervisor, Rabbi Steven Moss, said he was “surprised” to learn of the allegations because “to the best of my knowledge everything they used for parties booked at Temple Beth Torah was used only for kosher items. I will look into this as soon as I can.”

“We have to make an assessment to determine the next step,” he added. “If there are utensils that have become ‘infected,’ they either have to get new ones or kasher them.”

Rabbi Moss, spiritual leader of B’nai Israel Reform Temple in Oakdale, L.I., stressed that he made regular spot inspections of the kitchens of Temple Beth Torah and Temple Israel in Lawrence, L.I., but was not employed to be there full-time.

Morrell’s lawyers, Steven Schlesinger and Ronald Rosenberg, claimed that the civil suit brought by the two former employees was part of a failed shakedown attempt to get Morrell to drop a $500,000 suit against Morrell’s former lawyer. They said the two former employees, Thomas Cataldo, the former general manager, and Michael Savitsky, the former executive chef, were paid by the former lawyer to make the allegations. Both men denied it.

Rosenberg insisted that Morrell never directed his staff to prepare non-kosher food in the kitchen of Temple Beth Torah. He said photos Cataldo and Savitsky showed of shrimp and other non-kosher food in the kitchen were “fabricated.”

And Rosenberg questioned why it took so long for the two men to come forward.

“Why did they find God now?” he asked. “There are some orders you don’t follow.”

Both Cataldo and Savitsky said they had complied with Morrell’s orders because they feared for their livelihood.

“He told me in no uncertain terms that this would continue,” Cataldo said when he protested what was happening.

He said that food for between 25 and 30 off-site non-kosher parties costing at least $200,000 were prepared in the Temple Beth Torah kitchen. He said that although the bills were processed through Morrell Caterers, they were concealed from the synagogue to avoid paying synagogue fees.

Savitsky said he recalled that on at least one occasion his staff was ordered to prepare both kosher and non-kosher food in the kitchen at the same time.

They said they acted to blow the whistle now because they could no longer stand the “guilt” of what they were doing.

“I finally decided I couldn’t do it anymore,” said Savitsky, who came to the press conference wearing a white chef’s shirt. “I just finally gave up.”

Cataldo said in an affidavit filed with the court that he and Savitsky each owned a 5 percent share of the business. And in a court affidavit, he said Morrell Caterers “has no cash, is struggling to make payroll” and owes a key supplier more than $250,000.

Cataldo said that although all of the non-kosher food preparation was done at Temple Beth Torah, utensils, pots and pans, plates, glassware, display pieces and other items were routinely taken to Temple Israel in Lawrence for use there.

“A white platter that was used to pass kosher Hors d’oeuvres there was also used to pass coconut shrimp,” he said. “And sometimes we would bring food back and forth.”


Vaad of Flatbush Letter about Morrell Caterers

Vaad of Flatbush Letter about Morrell Caterers

Jewish Event Planning Tip – Hiring A Professional Event Planner

Jewish Event Planning Tip – Hiring A Professional Event Planner

Jewish Event Planning

High Style Events | Stylish Event Planners for the Jewish Event

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Hiring a Professional Event Planer: The Benefits

(Reposted from

Despite automation and technology, our days seem shorter than ever. Between work, school, family obligations, and social activity, the hours fly by. Are we going to find time to coordinate our wedding? Our son or daughters bar or bat mitzvah?

Well – help is here in the form of event planners. Professionals who do what they do best to make your celebration the most wonderful, memorable and as stress-free as possible.

What are the benefits to hiring a party planner professional?

Time, time, time… just think of the hours you WILL NOT have to invest in coordinating your affair. Not only will you save precious time by letting experts do your leg work, but good party planners are already knowledgeable about the best services out there. All you have to to is show up for appointments, approve designs, locations, menus, etc.
• Experienced and competent professionals have a portfolio of vendors that they have worked with in the past, and know to be competent and reliable.
• Party coordinators often get better rates, as they are in a stronger position to negotiate price.
• When you find the coordinator that is to your liking, you will find that he or she serves not only in contracting, overseeing, and coordinating your affair, but comes up with creative ideas to enhance yours.

Practical Advice – Questions You Want Answered – Check Lis
When hiring an Event Planner – you will be asked many questions about your preferences, budget, expectations, etc. But please remember, you are hiring and thus, you have the privilege and the obligation to determine whether the Event Planner is the right match for you. Be sure to consider the following:

• Are you and your planner on the same “wave length?” If you feel pushed, or coerced – this union is not for you.
• Make sure your coordinator understands your budget and sticks with it.
• Verify the Event Planners experience, contacts in the industry, negotiating power, ability understand contracts (so you are protected from hidden charges, or in case of default).
• Determine the extent of involvement of the Event Planner: In addition to basic coordination of location, catering, photography, music, which other services are included. i.e. – invitations, wedding attire, hands-on coordination at the event, thank you notes, honeymoon plans, etc. To avoid misunderstanding, your contract should DETAIL the services are included
• Discuss compensation in detail, and verify if there any hidden or extra charges, such as travel expenses, telephone, etc.
• Have everything documented in WRITING.

Henry Isaacs

We’d Love To Plan The Bris (Circumcision) For Natalie Portman’s Baby Boy!

We’d Love To Plan The Bris (Circumcision) For Natalie Portman’s Baby Boy!

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Jewish Marketing 101 – Modest Wedding Dresses Becoming In Style

Jewish Marketing 101 – Modest Wedding Dresses Becoming In Style

Modest Wedding Dress

Wedding fashion: Dare not to bare

By now, there’s little doubt that Kate Middleton‘s wedding gown was nothing short of a bridal fashion-quake — a long-sleeved, full-skirted rush of satin and lace that’s likely to sweep away the ubiquitous strapless silhouette in the same way that Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s unfettered slip dress made everyone forget those ’80s mega-poufs and faux tiaras.

But look more closely and you’ll see that the rise of the regal began well before Catherine ever set foot in Westminster Abbey in her fine-boned gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. Coincidence? Prescience? Whatever you call it, a classic-but-modern sensibility is everywhere this spring, from Hollywood‘s red carpets (where stars likeMandy Moore and Scarlett Johansson looked wonderfully fresh at this year’s Academy Awards covering up their shoulders) to New York’s party scene (where sleeves-down-to-there abounded at last month’sCostume Institute gala honoring McQueen’s career) to the recent New York bridal runway shows (which offered a more-than-passing nod toGrace Kelly‘s 1956 Helen Rose gown, still the ultimate in wedding chic).

The first hint that designers were tiring of the strapless silhouette came nearly two years ago, when businesswoman and social princess Ivanka Trump chose a Vera Wang confection with illusion top and elbow-length sleeves that owed both its delicacy and its modesty to Kelly. In December, Nicole Richie‘s wedding dress was another homage to Grace, this one a stunning Marchesa with the sort of long sleeves that haven’t reigned since Priscilla married Elvis. This spring, Trump’s custom-made gown inspired the first White by Vera Wang collection, the designer’s new lower-priced line for David’s Bridal.

But it’s not just Hollywood — or British — royalty looking to cover up. Vassa Halatas, of WeddingDresser Couture by Vassa in Woodmere, noticed the bridal tide shifting last year. “They’re tired of the No. 1 most worn silhouette and are asking for higher, more creative necklines and sleeves — for the fashion statement, if nothing more,” says Halatas.

Where to begin your search? Yes, you can buy a surefire copy of Kate‘s proper princess. Even before William and Catherine said their I do’s, copyists, from ABS’ Allen B. Schwartz to Kleinfeld designers Michelle and Henry Roth, were working overtime to duplicate the dress. But, let’s be honest. Kate‘s look belongs to Kate. Why not let her have it, and make your very own princess statement. One of the most glamorous gowns of the season is Carolina Herrera‘s duchesse silk satin piece, with elbow-length sleeves and side panels. The dress evokes ’50s fashion priestessBabe Paley, who lived the theory that you can never be too rich or too thin. Oscar de la Renta‘s more embellished creations recall both princess brides and hippie brides, underscoring that there’s a covered-shouldered look for everyone.For those still eager to show off the fruits of their workouts, White by Vera Wang‘s detachable illusion top offers the option of a modest ceremony dress and a strapless silhouette for the party. (Come to think of it, isn’t that what Kate did?)

And, no, the new modesty doesn’t mean you have to forgo sexiness. “When you cover up one part of the body, you can reveal another,” says Modern Trousseau designer Callie Tien. Her solution: a dress with high neckline, long lace sleeves and super-short hemline. No doubt, your very own prince will approve.


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Jewish Event Planning 101 – Online matchmaker for couples and caterers

Jewish Event Planning 101 – Online matchmaker for couples and caterers

Jewish Matchmaking Online

Reposted from Newsday

Caterer Rhona Silver evokes more than a little of Joan Rivers — blond, brassy and more-than-a-bit biting. And like the legendary comedian, Silver, 59, is something of a trailblazer, as the quintessential party-giver (her last gig was running the behemoth Huntingtown Townhouse) and entrepreneur (her newest venture,, aims to marry the oldest of rituals with the newest technology).

With more than four decades as a caterer, her web-biz should hardly come as a surprise. Silver likes to say she learned the business “back of the house forward” — her parents were Bronx caterers who were too poor to afford a baby-sitter for their daughter. Her breakthrough, though, came in the late ’80s when, as a divorced single mother, she shrugged off her teaching background and law degree and went back to her roots. “I lived in the Five Towns and saw the demographic changing. It was becoming very Orthodox. These Orthodox ladies had the most gorgeous clothes and jewelry, but there were no options for their parties except for a piece of chicken thrown on a plate with the right rabbinical supervision.”

Silver spent a year finding the right rabbi, chefs and garde- manger and then jumped. Soon, as she likes to joke, she was bringing La Côte Basque to Glatt Kosher catering, not just at Five Towns temples, but hotels from The Plaza to the Pierre to Palm Beach.

In 1997, she snapped up the sprawling Huntingtown Townhouse. With six kitchens, 12 ballrooms and 20 acres of land, it was the largest catering facility in the United States — and, with the rival Leonard’s of Great Neck, for the next decade the very definition of The Long Island Wedding. Wretched excess? Bang-for-the-buck? However you defined it, Silver’s hall was a mecca (and when she closed up in 2007, she sold the land to Lowe’s for a cool $35 million).

Is there such a thing as a third catering act? Silver is betting on it. Seeing an opening to become the Priceline of the parties, she and her children last year launched The philosophy is simple: Couples post their wedding info — date, area, party size, budget — and an army of 3,000 big and small venues, which pay to be on Caterbid, are notified of the event. Those who can meet those needs respond, and, with any luck, Silver makes a match.

Recently, Silver chatted about her new venture and some secrets of pulling together a fabulous party:


Our entire world is becoming computerized — we’re a society that doesn’t have time, we’re always looking to have everything at our fingertips. Well, shopping for a wedding is the same. You might know areas and caterers, but imagine being able to sit on the couch with your fiancee at 1 a.m., post your event, date, time, the approximate number of people, and by time you wake up, caterers have bid for your business. It’s like Priceline is to airlines: Whoever thought you would go online and, with a touch of button, airlines would come to you?


Are you aiming to streamline choices, or open couples to venues they haven’t thought about?

Both. There are venues that you like that might be very high-priced, and you might not be able to afford them. But when you post on Caterbid, it might turn out the caterer had a cancellation or it’s his third party of the weekend. As a caterer, I know if it’s a third party or you’ve had a cancellation, you’re already paying overhead, the chefs, the insurance. So they have opportunity to fill that empty date, and the bride might not know to shop there because it might be out of her realm of reality.


How have weddings changed in recent years? Are we seeing fewer over-the-top affairs?

Clearly, with the change in the economy, there’s less of a sense of people going for the over-the-top party. Still, there are mothers who dream from the day their daughter is born to make her a royal wedding, and they’re still around and they’re going to have every last personalized matchbook. Different parts of the country dictate that kind of party. If you’re in Palm Beach, you have that fabulous kind of wedding. However, there are also girls who won’t spend that kind of money.


What’s the most important thing couples should come armed with when they sit down with a caterer? Budget? Guest count? Menu needs?

It’s a combination. Don’t overspend what you don’t have. Couples don’t have experience. For example, they might not realize the cost is price per person plus service charges. A wedding isn’t something you do all the time — it’s not like buying a dress — so you need to know your budget and what is and is not included. You’re venturing to start a life together, and this is your celebration, so you want your special day to be beautiful, but you don’t want it to break the bank.


Is there so much wedding insanity because there are there too many choices out there?

This is America, where we always have lots of choices. The bridal industry is $150 billion a year, just for the parties. Everyone is trying to jump on the bandwagon, so there are always new and creative ideas. I’ve been in the party business for over 40 years, and you can see the natural progression, even with something as simple as table linens. There used to be basic tablecloths. Now there are websites just for linens — organdy, shiny, Mylar, damask. I have parties with three cloths on the table. And chair covers! There weren’t any years ago, but it creates a fabulous look.

In your Huntington Townhouse days, what was the wildest thing anyone ever asked for?

I had a bride and groom literally come into the ballroom on a horse and buggy. There was a party in Manhattan where they had a 40-piece orchestra, and 20 of the pieces were on a platform built into the smorgasbord, so when you came to the buffet you were serenaded. I’ve even had brides ask for trumpeters as they were getting out of the car, as if they were a prince and princess.


What are the most important elements of a great reception — the things you should put your resources into?

It’s the people that make the party. You want the food to be beautifully presented and delicious, you want fabulous service, but the truth is it’s the music that makes the party. You want people to have fun, so it’s important to choose the right band or DJ. If money is no object, there are things that set the mood, like a harpist for an elegant look. Don’t use the same color in the cocktail room as in the ballroom and ceremony area. I tell brides they don’t need the same centerpiece on every table. You can have one with hydrangeas and orchids, another with roses and peonies. And you don’t need the same color scheme. It’s the element of surprise that people like. Be creative. You don’t need a sit-down dinner; do a buffet or hors d’oeuvres. And have fabulous touches. When I did a party in Palm Beach, the invitation was in a Tiffany box. No one said no — they felt that if the invitation was so fabulous, what would the party be like? From the beginning, get your thoughts together. Go through different websites and print out [ideas for] flowers, cloths, food items, and set out what you’re looking for, what will bring a special touch to your day.


How do you get couples to just take a breath and relax?

Ha! You can’t. But hopefully with our help and party planning, we’re trying to do that. My favorite expression is, “I’m your human Valium.”


Henry Isaacs | Jewish Marketing & Communications Consultants

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Jewish Event Tip – The One Thing NOT To Skimp On

Jewish Event Tip – The One Thing NOT To Skimp On

Jewish Event Planning & Kosher CateringThe Jewish event can be an extremely lavish one or a cost effective basic one. Depending on the event, the location, the geographical region, or the target audience, the Jewish event ranges from a Bar/Bat Mitzvah featuring the Black Eyed Peas to a small Synagogue dinner for congregants. Most of us will probably deal with events basically in between those types – mainly average sized weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, organizational fundraisers, and even School Journal dinners.

But there’s one commonality in every type of Jewish event that determines the success and “must return” factor for the people attending (by success, I’m referring to whether or not people spread the word positively or negatively). And its the one thing never to skimp on. It’s the food. From the hor dourves to the dessert. Above all, the food is the main thing that will be discussed, critiqued, praised, and remembered at any Jewish event.

And in some cases, the food goes beyond just taste and abundance. Food becomes a social requirement. For certain social events, the Jewish market will go to many lengths to ensure Jewish foods, such as Israeli, Bukharian, Persian, Moroccan, etc, are able to be provided by their Kosher caterers. Once a Jewish ethnic group finds a caterer that provides their brand of food and great quality, they stick with it for ALL their special events. For organizational functions, having glatt kosher food, as opposed to simply kosher, attract a different crowd of people and thus a different type of donor.

Let’s face it – the Jewish demographic loves to have great Kosher food. We think the food fascination comes from a tradition rich in long holiday seasons, lifecycle celebrations that closely mingle joy and food, and even the Jewish family’s revolvement around the kosher kitchen. So certainly for the Jewish market’s special events they attend, after inquiring about the type of event, their second question is “So what’d they have?” The food is the main focus for the Jewish event. The venue could be glorious, the flowers magnificent, the orchestra toe-tappingly good; if the food isn’t up to the standards they’re anticipating, you’re event may not get the high marks you’re aiming for.

Now, for the occasional wedding, social event and one-shot event, that desirable word of mouth and buzz factor may not really matter, but for the organizational, non-profit, or corporate event that happens year after year, word of mouth/buzz is a driving force behind increased fundraising, attendance, sales and return customers. As frequent travelers can attest, free breakfasts at hotels is a great draw to get new reservations, but the quality of the food at these hotels has to be top notch for repeat business. Same for the Jewish event. The food doesn’t need to be innovative nor particularly creative – the food simply needs to be great and available in relative abundance. With this in mind, the one place you may be able to cut corners could be dessert, but ONLY because the rest of the meal was fantastic.

Overall, when planning an event, the food will make the difference between a good event and a great memorable event!

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