Kosher Travel In Alaska
Where Should I Spend Shabbat?
Anchorage is a key stop for both cruises and land tours--and it's also home to Alaska's only orthodox synagogue. Juneau and Fairbanks have reform synagogues, but no temple or full-time Rabbi. If you're spending more than one Sabbath in Alaska, or don't mind being away from temple, spend one Shabbat in Anchorage and the other at a lodge that offers hiking and other non-driving nature experiences. Great choices:
- Talkeetna Alaska Lodge: This roadside lodge, two-plus hours from Anchorage, has picturesque grounds and hiking trails, and is just a 20-minute walk from quaint Talkeetna.
- Ultima Thule Lodge: This high-end, fly-in wilderness lodge offers private cabins in the heart of Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Go for a hike or find an area to relax on the beautifully landscaped grounds. They are also happy to accommodate Kosher preparations.
When Does Shabbat Start & End?
Shabbat does not start until late Friday evening in summer, and it doesn’t get over until the early morning hours Sunday. If you want to observe Shabbat, you can’t book a red eye or cruise that departs Saturday night. You have to leave after 2am Sunday morning.
So what does this mean for travel planning? It means you can plan a full day of activities on Friday, even a trip to nearby towns such as Whittier, Seward, or Talkeetna, and still be back to Anchorage before Shabbat begins. For example, on June 21, the longest day of the year, the sun sets at 11:40 in Anchorage. The earliest you can begin Shabbat is 9:40pm and the latest is 11:22pm (18 minutes before sunset). On the flip side, because you can’t get on your computer or begin your week Saturday night, you’ll feel like Shabbat is two days long. It's not only relaxing, but a great opportunity to meet the local Jewish community.
Shabbat Services In Anchorage
Anchorage has both a reform and orthodox synagogue. Check out the reform synagogue at www.frozenchosen.org. Anchorage's orthodox synagogue--the Chabad-Lubavitch House, on the Esformes Campus of Jewish Life in Alaska--is located in midtown, at the corner of 36th Street & LaTouche St. You're welcome at Shabbat services any Friday night (see times below) or Shabbat morning at 10:30 a.m.. Also know that services are low-key, and everyone is welcome, even if you're not that observant.
Feel free to explore the campus during the day. If you have at least five in your group, Rabbi Greenberg can arrange a presentation on Jewish Life in Alaska.
Shabbat Meals In Anchorage
Joining Shabbat meals is a great way to get to know the community; some visitors say it was a highlight of their Alaska trip! During summer, sometimes as many as a dozen visitors from far-flung origins go around the table at Chabad-Lubavitch to introduce themselves and swap travel stories.
- You'll need to arrange Shabbat meals in advance. Call 907-279-1200 or email [email protected]. Adult dinners are $75, and kids (12 and under) and $50. Lunches are $60 for adult, and child lunches are $45.
Midnight Sun Candle-Lighting
Late-night sunsets here mean that you can plan a full Friday of activities and still have a relaxed Shabbat. On the flip side, don't arrange a flight home Saturday night in the peak of summer--darkness doesn't fall until 2 a.m., after red-eye flights have departed.
- Summer candle-lighting times in Anchorage occur 9-11 p.m.
- Find candle-lighting times for most Alaska locations here or call Rabbi Mordechai Premock in New York at 718-851-1314.
- Chabad-Lubavitch services start 90 minutes before sunset during most summer weeks, and 2 hours beforehand in June, when the sun sets as late as 11:40 p.m. Anchorage time.
Can I Find A Mikvah?
Yes you can! There's one in Anchorage, built a few years ago.
- It's located at 1701 E 36th Ave., a 5-minute walk from the campus, the Residence Inn and the Best Western Golden Lion Hotel.
- Make appointments 2 days in advance with Esty 907-279-1200.
- Consider a contribution of at least double Chai ($36) for use of the Mikvah, but the community appreciates any contribution you can make (which goes towards the mortgage).
Anchorage Shabbat Hotels
You have two good hotel alternatives to choose from: either a downtown hotel or one near the synagogue. (Note: Most Alaskan hotels use electronic keys, but staffers are typically friendly and will accommodate you on Shabbat.)
The Residence Inn is only a 2-minute walk from the synagogue:
- Conveniently located for Shabbat services, dining and getting acquainted with the community.
- Easy walking distance to the Natural Pantry supermarket, which features kosher food and dairy products.
- Rooms come with a kitchen.
- The staff is well-versed in serving orthodox Jewish guests.
- Other nearby hotels include the Best Western Golden Lion Hotel (a 4-minute walk) and SpringHill Suites (a 10-minute walk).
Are a pleasant, 50-minute walk from the synagogue, along a beautiful wooded trail.
- The upside: Easy access to a bevy of non-driving downtown activities.
- The downside: You're too far from the synagogue to return to your hotel between Shabbat services and meals.
- The most convenient downtown hotel to the synagogue is the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel. The Ramada Anchorage Downtown is economical and also well-located.
Anchorage Shabbat Activities
- Anchorage Hiking and Wildlife Watching. The wooded Chester Creek Trail makes for an hour-or-less walk between downtown and the Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue. You'll breathe fresh air, enjoy the beautiful river scenery and perhaps spot beavers or even a moose.
- Anchorage Museum. You could easily spend hours at this multi-galleried museum of history, art, culture and photography. Plus, at the corner of 7th and A, it's just a five-minute walk from downtown hotels. Call to arrange payment in advance (907-343-4326).
- Ship Creek Salmon: Walk 5 to 10 minutes down the hill from downtown and you'll see anglers reeling salmon. Walk another 5 to 10 minutes upstream and you'll spot them jumping the falls.
- (Unfortunately, two other popular Anchorage attractions--the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum--aren't within easy walking distance.)
Kosher Food and Dairy In Alaska
Natural Pantry Store In Anchorage
Natural Pantry is an excellent natural-foods supermarket in Anchorage with a kosher foods section, and just a 15-minute walk from the synagogue and Residence Inn. (3680 Barrow St, Anchorage, just off of 36th).
Natural Pantry provides a great kosher service: You can pick up microwavable, frozen kosher dinners and a disposable Styrofoam cooler to take to Denali or other spots where it's easy to warm up meals. Call ahead (907-770-1444) to speak with Vicki, Natural Pantry's owner. She'll tell you what's available, and set things aside for you. In addition to frozen dinners, Natural Pantry usually carries:
- Empire cold cuts, frankfurters, turkey, chicken, chicken and turkey pot pies, Meal Mart frozen meals, J2 frozen pizzas, Tillamook cheddar cheese, blintzes, cream cheese, smoked mozzarella cheese, puddings and snacks, frozen whole grain Pas Yisrael bread.
- Frozen unbaked Kineret brand Challah (check availability).
- Kedem Grape Juice.
Brand-Name Supermarkets In Anchorage, Fairbanks & Juneau
Our large supermarkets (Carr's, Safeway, Fred Meyer) carry the same variety of Kosher OU-OI-CK foods that you'd find in large, non-Kosher supermarkets in the Lower 48, including:
- Bagels, tuna, smoked Alaska salmon, sardines, pickles and potato chips.
- Manischewitz products such as matzah, gefilte fish and chicken soup.
- Kosher wine--particularly at Carr's Oaken Keg liquor stores.
Kosher delis and restaurants don't really exist around Alaska, but you can order vegetables, fruits and pastas at nearly all restaurants. Grocery stores outside of Anchorage, even in smaller towns such as Nome or Ketchikan, carry regular items that also happen to be kosher--tuna, pickles, wine--but there is no chalav Israel.
Alaskan Jewish Souvenirs & Shopping
Jewish Americans helped establish Alaska, and you can meet some of today's community members in Anchorage:
- One of Alaska's founding families is also one of the world's best furriers: David Green Master Furrier, which has been in business for nearly a century ("If you don't know furs, know your furrier.") Visit their downtown Anchorage store to pick up a fine fur that would cost twice as much outside Alaska, or call ahead to meet Shani or David. Located at the corner on 4th Ave. between A and B Streets (907-277-9595).
- Jay and Stacia Green own Polar Bear Gifts, Anchorage's largest gift store with the best prices. Prices are low enough that you can feel generous without spending a fortune. Visit them downtown at the corner of 5th and E (907-274-4387).
- Jewish community member Cindy Berger is part-owner of the Bear Tooth Theatre Pub. It's probably the most festive casual dining scene in Anchorage, with two restaurants plus movies. Located at 1230 West 27th off of Spenard Ave. (907-276-4200).
- Dana Manning is part-owner of Skinny Raven Sports, downtown's best outfitter for Alaskan adventures. You'll find a huge selection of footwear, casual apparel and outdoor clothing. Located at the corner of 8th and H. (907-274-7222).