by Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
One of the most common questions people ask me about the Jewish New Year is, why does the date change every year?
In reality, it does not.
Yes, the secular New Year always falls on Dec. 31, but the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah, which this year starts at sundown Sunday, Oct. 2, always stays the same on the Jewish lunar calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar used by the rest of the world. It is usually in September or early October. On the Jewish calendar it is the first and second days of Tishri. Rosh Hashanah means the “head of the year,” or “first of the year.” To be honest, even Jews search every year for when the holiday will start. This year we will be celebrating 5777.
There are many similarities between the Jewish New Year and secular. Both holidays offer the opportunity for a new beginning and the chance to transform ourselves into better human beings. So it is no wonder that resolutions are common to both. On Rosh Hashanah it is usually less about diet and exercise and more about asking God and others for forgiveness, forgiving others who have hurt us and reflecting on our own personal growth. The mood of the holidays is different. Rosh Hashanah ushers in what are called the Jewish Days of Awe: a period of prayer and reflections that ends 10 days later with Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement. No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah and much of the day is spent in the synagogue. Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, completes the annual period known in Judaism as the High Holy Days that commences with Rosh Hashanah. Jewish people traditionally observe Yom Kippur with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. The evening “break the fast” for Yom Kippur is often a light meal of dairy foods such as sweet noodle kugel, cheesy blintzes, eggs, salads, bagels and fish such as herring, whitefish and lox.
Jewish New Year also has hats and horns. For Rosh Hashanah the hat for men is the skullcap or kippah donned for worship in the synagogue. The horn is the shofar or rams horn that traditionally ushers in the Jewish New Year. The shofar has a rich tradition and was sounded on Mount Sinai when the Jewish people received the Ten Commandments. At Temple Israel, Barry Seidman is the official shofar blower and I’m confident he would say that the paper ones are much easier to blow. For some, the blasts of the shofar are wake up calls: a time to shake out of our spiritual slumber and reconnect.
Food of course is important for both holidays. Jewish families symbolically incorporate something sweet into the holiday to signify a sweet new year; round sweet raisin challahs to represent the circle of life. Incredibly Delicious in Springfield is famous for their challahs baked fresh every Friday and for the New Year they will prepare round ones if ordered in advance. Many families enjoy pomegranates as traditional fruit for it is said to have 613 seeds, corresponding with the same number of commandments (mitzvoth) in the Bible. Also enjoyed are apples dipped into honey, honey cake for dessert and of course chicken soup, roasted chicken, brisket and sweet noodle kugel. Apples are new fruits of the season at Rosh Hashanah and that is why they are served. For the same reason, pomegranates and many other seasonal vegetables and fruits are used.
Rosh Hashanah is very much a family holiday, and Carol and I are very fortunate that our family will once again be joining us. In closing, my family wishes everyone a Shana Tova – Hebrew for a “good year.”
My thanks to Nancy Sage and Gloria Schwartz for providing traditional New Year recipes. Nancy is the Executive Director of the Springfield Jewish Federation. Gloria is a well-known Springfield “foodie” and from time to time offers wonderful cooking classes.
*1 lb extra wide noodles
*3 whole eggs
*2 egg whites
*6 Tablespoons sugar
*12 oz. can pineapple chunks (not in heavy syrup), drained
*¾ stick unsalted margarine
*½ box golden raisins
*½ tsp. cinnamon + more for top
Preheat oven to 350F.
Boil the noodles in a large pot, undercooking them by a few minutes because they will be baked.
Melt margarine in a large aluminum pan.
When noodles are cooked, drain them well and return them to their pot.
Beat the eggs well then add the sugar and pineapple to the noodles. Pour the melted margarine into the noodles, leaving a thin film on the bottom of the aluminum pan.
Mix well. Add the raisins, cinnamon and mix again. Add some cinnamon on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until done. Remove the kugel and let it stand for a 5-7 minutes before serving. . Good reheated the next day.
Parave—means neutral, can be eaten with either a milk or meat meal.
Recipe collected by Gloria Schwartz
Serves 8 – 10 people.
*3 ½ Tablespoons olive oil
*1 whole beef brisket, about 5 pounds
*Salt and freshly ground pepper
*2 cups minced onion (food processor)
*3+ Tablespoons tomato paste
*1 teaspoon minced garlic
*3 cups beef broth
Use a roasting pan that has a cover. The brisket is first seared uncovered on the stove and then cooked covered in the oven at 325 degrees.
On the stove at medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the roasting pan to sear (brown) the brisket on both sides. When browned, remove the brisket from the roasting pan, then salt and pepper. Use paper towels to wipe the grease from roasting pan. Reduce the heat to medium and return the roasting pan to the stovetop. Heat the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the minced onions, stir occasionally until the onions are soft and a bit brown. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and stir. Remove the pan from the stove and add the brisket and then the beef broth.
Cook in a preheated 325 degree oven. Turn the brisket every 30 minutes. The brisket is done when it tears easily with a fork. (It takes anywhere from 2 ½ to 4 ½ hours depending on when you remove the brisket from the refrigerator, which cut of brisket, etc.)
Return brisket to refrigerator overnight. Carve in thin slices against the grain. Brisket can be made weeks ahead and frozen in its sauce, thawed again in the refrigerator and reheated. Add a bit of broth if needed for the sauce.