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Casting a Kosher Net By Gloria Deutsch
Jerusalem Post Good Food Guide, Winter 2003

If you are in a quandary as to where to go for a good kosher meal in this country, there is a website that can help.

The lively Internet site has a wide listing of kosher restaurants in Israel classified by location. There is also a variety of goods and services for its subscribers - all in English. The site also offers auctions for meals, gift certificates and sections on wine, travel opportunities, books, kosher products for the home, and information on making smachot - from venues and entertainment to simcha songs and party planners.

The brains behind the site is Debbie Lampert. Born in New York and raised in Chicago, she has worked for 20 years as a technical writer before launching the idea. "When I think back, I wonder where I got the nerve to do it," admits the Raanana resident.

By a mixture of tenacity and hard work, Lampert designed a site which now has 25,000 visitors [a month], close to 300 restaurants, and a series of inventive ideas to combat the slump in tourism which has hit the eating-out industry so badly.

"Instead of trying to be like Amazon and Yahoo, casting my net very wide, my concept was to target a small group, in this case the kosher Anglo community," says Lampert. Everyone has had the experience of not knowing where to go for a kosher night out. And Anglos are a good target audience - they love to eat out, and they love a discount!"

The restaurants listed all give a 10% discount to the subscribers. This can be quite a substantial savings when a whole family is going out to dinner. But the coupon itself can be easily overlooked in the excitement of organizing everyone to set off for the restaurant. Many people report being on the way to the restaurant, remember that they hadn't downloaded the coupon and rushing home to print out from the website.

Lampert is especially proud of of the meals for soldiers program that she initiated. Because of security and the economic situation, many restaurants are in trouble. So she initiated a plan whereby Jewish communities outside Israel can sponsor meals for the front-line soldiers. The first to do this was a congregation in Miami, which adopted the 51st Golani Brigade. They raised $10,000 to be used to treat soldiers and their significant other to a luxury meal out. Other congregations abroad have followed suit. Everyone benefits - the donors who are looking for a way to help Israel, the soldiers, the restaurants - and eLuna.

Says the eLuna founder and CEO, "I receive many letters of appreciation for our service as well as spontaneous review from people who've used the site to find a good place to eat. There's a lot of satisfaction in doing something good and worthwhile," says Lampert.