When Naftali Hanau told his family that he had decided to go into the kosher meat business, his parents were happy for him — his grandmother, not so much.
“She was mortified, because we come from very illustrious chasidim in Poland. She said: A boy who can’t be a scholar becomes a slaughterer. Then, when I told her I was starting a business, she was very proud,” he said.
Although Hanau’s roots are in related businesses — leather and furs — his father is an anesthesiologist and his mother a commercial property manager. While majoring in economics at NYU, Hanau was planning to become a lawyer, but changed his mind after starting a landscaping business with a friend. “I really enjoyed that kind of work, working outdoors, working with plants.”
He spent a summer as a fellow with Adamah, a program that combines organic agriculture with Jewish learning.
“I was working outside and growing food. I said this is what I want to do, I want to feed people,” he said.
He and his then-wife-to-be, Anna Hanau, would have become farmers, if not for one glitch: “You can’t farm in America and walk to shul,” he said.
Instead, Hanau became a poultry shochet, a ritual slaughterer, apprenticing under a Lubavitch shochet.
At the Hanaus’ wedding, their friends came up early to help skin the three goats and eight lambs that were served at the event. (The menu also included 100 chickens, but they were processed off-site.)
After the Hanaus moved to Brooklyn, they became active at Congregation Kol Israel on the western border of Crown Heights.
“We moved around the corner from the shul, and we didn’t know it was there,” he said. One day, “I looked in and said, “Wait a minute, this is my shul” — Ashkenasic, multigenerational — “it’s the same kind of shul I grew up in. … I walked in and got involved,” said Hanau, who did a stint as shul president.
In 2010 Naftali and Anna started their business, Grow and Behold Foods. The meat is glatt kosher from livestock pastured on small family farms where the animals and the employees are treated ethically.
“I love what I do. … It’s a tough business but it’s rewarding. It’s fun to be a part of moving the kosher world forward and improving what’s available.”
Full house: In addition to three children, the Hanaus have 17 chickens in their backyard, which, Naftali says, provide “eggs and entertainment.”