Muslim men keep N.Y. bagel shop kosher

Zafaryab Ali works at Coney Island Bialys and Bagels on Nov. 4, 2011.
WCBS

Coney Island Bialys and Bagels is the oldest Jewish bagel shop in New York City. Founded in 1920, ownership of the Brooklyn, New York establishment has been passed down from one Rosenzweig family member to another.

According to NPR, at its peak the sotre had to be open 24 hours a day on the weekends to keep up with the demand.

By the time the keys came to Steve Ross, Rosenzweig's grandson, the customers had moved to the suburbs. Ross, who had three back surgeries stemming from an injury from his firefighter job, had a hard time commuting from New Jersey to keep doors open. However, no one was interested in the bagel landmark.

That's when Zafaryab Ali, a former Muslim employee who had worked at the bakery for 11 years before leaving to become a cab driver, began to inquire. According to CBS station WCBS New York, Ali contacted his former roommate Peerzada Shah, a man who had attended culinary school in Manhattan and made a living in his native Pakistan repairing bakery equipment, and asked him to join him in the business venture.

Video: Bagels and bialys go beyond any religion

All that remained was to get Ross to sign off. Even some customers balked at the fact that a traditional Jewish establishment would be passed to other hands.

"It's a Jewish-owned place for years. And now you're going to sell it to Muslims? Thats odd," customer Tom Smith told WCBS.

But Ross said since Ali had been reliable when he worked at the establishment. The new owners kept using the traditional family recipes and kept the same employees onboard. And they're keeping the storek kosher.

Ali told NPR it's not that hard to do. The two are looking for a rabbi to bless and supervise the business, and want to get their official kosher supervision and certification.

"Kosher and halal is very, very close, like brother and sister, maybe twins," Ali explained to NPR.

Ross still chats with the new owners several times a week to give advice. "I gave them all the phone numbers," Ross told NPR. "If you need this. this is who you are going to get it from, and they stayed with all that."

Business is starting to pick up, and people say they don't even taste the difference. "I love it, I'm here all the time, they take good care of me," one woman said to WCBS.