When Rabbi Laibel Berkowitz received a call one morning from the Raytheon Company, he was a bit taken aback. What would the defense contractor want to talk about with the director of Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Center of North Alabama?

Berkowitz was surprised when the caller, far from discussing the latest advances in missile technology, inquired about the possibility of providing a kosher meal for five Israelis who would be attending the company’s formal dinner that evening.

Hosted at the 801 Franklin, a premier non-kosher restaurant in Huntsville, the dinner had been planned for weeks. The dietary needs of the visiting Israelis, though, were made known to Raytheon and the restaurant just hours before the meeting.

After assessing the situation, Berkowitz – who opened the Jewish center just last year – stepped up to the plate. He had an informational meeting with the kitchen staff explaining the Jewish dietary laws, and then koshered a section of the restaurant’s kitchen.

Chef Gina Morgan prepared a menu and Berkowitz hauled a convection oven from his house. After quickly purchasing some frozen fish from a local price club, as well as new pots and pans, the rabbi returned to the kitchen to supervise all of the dinner’s preparations and serving.

“They really produced a masterpiece of a meal,” said Berkowitz, who moved to the area in August. “This was the first time they had ever done something like this. It was very impressive to watch professionals work in this way, with such limited materials. They were very eager to learn and do whatever it takes to make it possible.”

For Morgan, a kosher menu wasn’t too challenging.

“Once we got everything finally set up, it wasn’t that difficult to do,” she said. “We try to accommodate a lot of different dietary needs. The main thing was that I found myself asking a lot of questions to make sure I didn’t mess anything up. I really enjoyed the whole thing thoroughly.”

According to Jenny Morris, 801 Franklin’s manager, the restaurant wants to arrange a meeting to discuss further kosher meals in the future.

“We saved all of the pots and pans from the dinner and the rabbi put a special seal on them so that we can use them again in the future,” said Morris. “We are discussing with the rabbi the possibility of putting on a kosher banquet here and even doing something like ‘Kosher 101 at 801.’ Jewish people are part of our community, so we’re happy to help them in any way possible.”

For Berkowitz, the meal was an opportunity to get his community excited about kosher eating.

“It’s very exciting for people in this community, because it shows that eating kosher is a possibility even in a place as remote as this,” said Berkowitz, whose community is home to about 1,000 Jewish families. “It brought out tremendous Jewish pride in the fact that wherever Jews are, we can be recognized and [accommodated].

“It’s not as exciting as koshering the White House,” he continued, “but in a small, far-flung Jewish community like this, it shows that everything is possible, and great things can happen.”