In March 2015, a fire broke out in a Brooklyn home that has since become notorious as a tragedy that not only destroyed a family, but also shook the confidence of Shabbat-observant Jews everywhere. Though the New York Times, quoting New York City’s fire commissioner, found that there were likely inadequate safety precautions, it was not smoke detectors that became the piece of technology discussed at every kiddush, but the previously innocent-seeming hotplate, or blech.
Used by many households to heat food for Shabbat, many questioned the safety of the devices going forward. BenTzion Davis believes he can put these concerns to rest.
An electrical engineer by training, Davis was consulted by friends and family on which hotplates were safe to use. He found, however, that many were simply inadequate to the needs of a religious household. Left on for around 24 hours, the hotplates he inspected had flimsy construction, minimal ceramic insulation and could easily overheat. In response, Davis invented a new, improved blech, designed explicitly with Jewish needs in mind.
With its durable (and easy to kasher for Pesach) stainless steel housing, circuit breaker and internal amperage regulator, Davis’ blech consumes half the electricity of comparable hotplates. Drawing on his technical background, Davis promises a safer and more efficient product. In order to fund production costs he has created a Kickstarter campaign, which can be found at the following URL: http://tinyurl.com/pcnyxnt
David Hammerschlag is a New York-area writer, editor and cultural omnivore, and a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College.
By David Hammerschlag