Each year on Simchat Torah, our family sponsors the refreshments at our shul — Adas Israel Congregation in Washington — in honor of Steve’s mother z”l, whose yartzheit typically falls on this day. It’s a nice way to honor her memory — apples and Hershey’s chocolate bars — a time honored favorite and crowd-pleaser. So it was a no-brainer for us to try and sponsor the kiddush at Shira Hadasha, our adopted minyan for the time we’re in Jerusalem. But as we have found with so many things, Israelis have their own ways of celebrating and so we adapted our custom slightly this year.
While we’re accustomed to the larger Simchat Torah celebration and kiddush reception happening on the evening the holiday starts (rather than the subsequent morning), that is not really the tradition at Shira Hadasha. The morning celebration is really what counts here and for the first time, the kehilla was holding a pot-luck kiddush as part of the festivities. So after spending time consulting with minyan kiddush “guru” Marc Luria — we determined the best items to bring as our contributions.
Single Malt scotch topped the list. Scotch is apparently a universal language in a shul and Auchentoshan, Bowmore, and Glenlivet were clearly welcome guests. And while we didn’t really see so many flasks around, we did do our part to make up for it. Didn’t take long to down those bottles.
Alongside the scotch, we brought Yerushalmi kugel. A lot of it. This is a bonafide Israeli culinary treat. I’ve made Yerushulmi kugel before; in fact many times. You take oil & sugar and make them into a caramel, add cooked pasta, eggs, more sugar then salt and pepper, and bake. It’s always good but this version is something completely unique. We’ve found it in various take-aways or bakeries around town but the easiest place to find it in is Mahane Yehuda — where several vendors sell it. It’s hard to describe so I’ve included a picture below, but it’s close to a foot tall and has been cooked in a round pot. Once removed it almost resembles a wheel from something out of The Flintstones. Because it’s cooked slowly at a low temperature (so that it can be left in the oven overnight and served on Shabbat) the color turns a deep caramel. It’s then sliced horizontally into thin layers and then again into big wedges. It’s sold by the kilo and we bought at least ½ an entire kugel (or about five wedges) to bring to kiddush, which fed nearly 75 people. It’s sweet, creamy, rich, and a little peppery. A perfect accompaniment to a shot of scotch.
Stay tuned as I’m determined to find someone to teach me the proper technique. We rounded out our offering with ice cream cones for the kids — hard to go wrong on yet another hot Jerusalem day. We got a gracious shout-out from Shira Hadasha for our contributions, but mostly we were happy to continue our tradition of sponsoring Simchat Torah kiddush and to continue honoring Steve’s mother in this special way.