During the 2020-2021 school year, with full COVID protocols still in place, Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School was already planning for what has now become “the new normal.” In an effort to demonstrate “respect and appreciation to the student body,” school leadership worked with parent volunteers and the school’s in-house caterer, Shimon Nissel of Shimtal Catering, to create the Cobra Cafe, according to RKYHS Head of School Rabbi Eliezer Rubin.
“We wanted to provide an environment of dignity, decorum and respect for student learning, while offering a variety of beautifully prepared and delicious foods to help them maintain their focus during the day,” he said.
The space was “thoughtfully designed by a parent volunteer,” and the result is “an open space which is easily accessible to students, with a sophisticated decor, giving the appearance of a high-end cafe,” Rabbi Rubin added. “We are planning to put in a few high tables with stools for seating as well.”
The cafe’s menu varies daily, with offerings including tuna melts, schnitzel subs, paninis, pizza and wraps at lunchtime, and omelets, muffins and more available in the mornings. Fresh coffee and snacks are served throughout the day. Sushi is offered every day, and outsourced Chinese food is served on Thursdays. Dairy is served at breakfast time, and the lunch menu offers dairy or meat, matching the school cafeteria menu for the day.
One high school student commented, “It’s like eating in a restaurant. The food is fresh and really good.”
“We presented Shimon with this idea,” said Rabbi Rubin, “and he came back with a hot and cold menu of freshly prepared foods. He created the menu ideas, with different things from what can be offered in the cafeteria.”
Currently, the cafe is only open after Shacharit davening and during lunchtime, but the students are already asking for expanded hours, which Rabbi Rubin said they hope to accommodate in the near future.
The cafe is open to high school students and faculty only, with one middle schooler who tried to make a purchase being told, “That’s something to look forward to when you get to high school.”
Cash is not accepted; all payment comes from the purchaser’s school lunch account.
“Students very much appreciate the Cobra Cafe,” Rabbi Rubin remarked. “We are always looking for ways to improve the student experience at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School.”
By Jill Kirsch