Steven Senne  /  AP
Innkeeper and former schoolteacher Mary Ellen Newbury, of Newport, R.I., displays a room at the Admiral Weaver Inn, in Newport. Newbury, a practicing Catholic who attends church each Sunday, underwent a months-long course on kosher regulations from an Orthodox rabbi to operate Rhode Island's only kosher bed and breakfast.
updated 1/9/2007 6:52:08 PM ET 2007-01-09T23:52:08

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.

But as innkeeper of the Admiral Weaver Inn, the only kosher bed-and-breakfast in Rhode Island, Newbury's job is to ensure her guest's 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 than her own, is a responsibility she takes seriously.

"I respect their beliefs and they in turn respect mine," said Newbury, a lifelong Newport resident and retired school teacher. "That's how it's worked out."

The six-bedroom inn, which opened as a kosher bed-and-breakfast more than five years ago, was the brainchild of a Ukranian immigrant looking to give something back to the Jewish community. The 1860s home, which boasts standard trappings like 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 doorposts - 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 bed-and-breakfast 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 since 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," said 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 since many guests include it on their itinerary, Eskovitz said. But he added that the inn isn't about catering only to Jews or converting non-Jews.

"Be who you are and enjoy your experience," he said.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

However, some guests who booked rooms without knowing that the inn is kosher have complained on online review sites, especially about the lack of a hot, cooked breakfast on Saturday morning. Some also complained about the inn's location is in a working-class residential neighborhood, off the beaten path for most Newport tourists despite being near Touro.

There are a few other kosher inns scattered around the country, including The Farbreng Inn in Richmond, Va., 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 and said he had been prohibited in his own country from practicing religion. Though not Orthodox himself, Twersky said he wanted to make it easier for observant Jews to travel.

"They bring their own food and everything - people couldn't relax," Twersky said. "I wanted to do something so people could come and relax and not think about anything."

He placed an ad seeking an innkeeper and Newbury responded, unaware that the inn was intended to be kosher, or even what that meant. But when Twersky told her his plans, she was game for the challenge and they approached 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," Newbury said. "We were like little sponges."

The two studied for months alongside 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, Newbury said, she refrains from turning on her television at the inn on the Sabbath. But in keeping with her own faith, she said 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 said. "I don't even touch that. That's not my area, that's his area."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments