By Jean Graubart, Director of the Center for Jewish Living and Learning
Along with the songs we remember from childhood and enjoy hearing in the sweet little voices of children everywhere, we also remember what we eat during every Jewish holiday.
“And on the 25th day of Kislev….The sanctuary of G-d was dedicated anew with song and music…moreover, Judah the Maccabean and his brethren, with the whole congregation of Israel, ordained that the day of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated from year to year for eight days in gladness and thanksgiving.”
APOCRYPHA- I MACCABEES 4:52-59
Chanukah known to us as the festival of lights, is a joyous holiday that celebrates an ancient victory for freedom and peace. It is still marked by the lighting of candles on the menorah, traditional fried foods, singing and a (hopefully) “lighthearted” exchange of gifts.
In my family of origin, my mother always had a few extra little gifts wrapped (all of our gifts were little, just a token of giving) in case and in hopes that we would bring a friend or two home for dinner and candle lighting. Gifts were socks for the winter (prettier ones than we would normally buy), knit gloves or a scarf (in other words, things we were going to need), and, for extra pleasure, a book. I remember opening the next volume of a Trixie Belden mystery book and could hardly wait to get into my bed and read. Chanukah was a family time, fun because all the cousins got together, each aunt handed us a $5 bill, and we sang and played dreidel, knowing that the Sunday during Chanukah was our gathering.
My Sephardic grandmother never heard of latkas and always said the Yiddish food is not authentic. We were treated to BIMUELOS, a fritter fried and sweetened. Latkes were eaten in the privacy of our home, so nona didn’t know that we had a taste for the Eshkanazi. She was proud of her culture and history, and made that clear every time we were with her.
1 1/3 cup warm water
2 envelopes of yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable, canola or corn oil
3 cups flour
cinnamon for sprinkling
oil to deep fry
1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar, boiled and stirred
Mix 1 24-ounce jar of honey and 1/4 cup of water heated (My nona said honey was not authentic, just as she made a syrup of sugar/water for her baklava because honey was too expensive and not the way it was done by “mama.”)
Combine sugar and water or honey and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water
Add beaten egg, salt and oil to mixture
Add flour all at once and stir
Take remaining water and add gradually, mixing thoroughly
Allow to rise at least an hour, covered with clean towel in warm place
Heat oil in deep frying pan or saucepan to 375 degrees (test to see if ready by dropping a tiny bit of dough and seeing if it puffs up)
Drop dough into the hot oil from a tablespoon dipped in oil
Bimuelos puff up and need to be turned over until golden all over
Drain on paper toweling, removing with a slotted spoon
Dip into warm syrup immediately and sprinkle with cinnamon
If not serving right away, dip and sprinkle when serving
Makes about four dozen. Everyone will eat 2-3, except those on diets or gluten free. It is a different world from my nona’s.
Enjoy as you read a lovely Chanukah story with friends or family. Stop at the DCJCC gift shop to buy a book you will all enjoy and have for years to come!
Chanukah brings light into our home as the menorah glows, brighter each night. It is my sincere hope that these lights will bring lightness to your lives and to the world we live in, sometimes seeming so very dark. And may Israel celebrate with the light of peace and hope.