(New York Jewish Week) — For many, the highlight of the Passover seder is haroset — the nutty, fruity, sweet and crunchy paste spread on matzah and meant to symbolize the mortar slung by enslaved Israelites.
Such was the case for Michael Rubel. His mother’s haroset — made with “chopped apples, Manischewitz, raisins and lots of cinnamon,” as he describes it — was something he looked forward to all year. It was delicious, rare and one of the few distinctly uncommon Jewish foods he remembered from growing up in Kansas City, Kansas.
In fact, Rubel, 26, wondered why such a treat would be confined to Passover. “I can’t tell you how many Jews have said to me, ‘Yes, I’ve always asked why we only eat this once a year,’” Rubel told the New York Jewish Week. “It feels almost universal.”
So the Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn resident, decided to do something about this sad state of affairs: Last week he launched the food brand Schmutz, which makes a haroset that is meant to be eaten all year round.
Rubel launched his brand online and at a party at East Williamburg’s Tchotchke Gallery on April 1. Within 48 hours, that first drop — which consisted of a traditional Ashkenazi apple and walnut haroset, as well as a fig and pistachio haroset inspired by a 15th-century Italian recipe — sold out. According to Schmutz’s Instagram, they sold 249 pounds of the stuff, or around 500 jars.
Schmutz haroset is not kosher for Passover; as for the brand’s name, which means “dirt or unpleasant substance” in Yiddish, Rubel says it is meant to be ironic — haroset may be delicious but it “is not a pretty food,” he concedes.
The nine-ounce jars retail for $18, which Rubel acknowledges is expensive. “It’s small-batch crafted and definitely a specialty product,” he said, “but I’m excited to make this product even more accessible going forward.”
Rubel believes that haroset can evolve into something like a jam or a condiment, a shelf-stable food that’s readily available in restaurants, synagogue gift shops and specialty food stores. The opportunities are endless — as the brand’s website says, “schwirl it in oatmeal and schpread it on cheese and schmear it on toast and schlep it to a picnic and schling it on leftovers and schpoon it from a jar.”
Though Rubel works a day job in product development at a software startup, he had previously worked in restaurant kitchens and in product development for a snack company. This, he said, gave him insight into both the production side and the business side of developing a new snack food.
Then again, haroset is more than a delicious snack or topping, according to Rubel: It also epitomizes the Jewish food experience, providing a unique opportunity to highlight the diversity of Jewish cultures. Each unique haroset recipe, he said, serves as a window into different Jewish experiences all around the world.
“One Passover during Covid, I fell down a rabbit hole of global haroset recipes, and fell so deeply in love with this food as a prism into the diaspora. It’s emblematic of a central Jewish tradition; we carry some shared instructions around the world and do different things with it,” he told the New York Jewish Week. “You’ve got a history of French folks making haroset with chestnuts, Italian communities using pine nuts. There’s tropical cherries in Suriname; dates in places like Iraq and India; peanuts, bananas, rose petals, pear and more elsewhere. Even within those communities, you see it done very differently, with different tastes, textures and beyond.”
Rubel wants Schmutz haroset to be part of the movement exposing Jews and non-Jews to the diversity of Jewish food. Though the first drop consisted of just two varieties, he promises more are around the corner for later this spring. “I love Ashkenazi foods so deeply, and yet, Jewish food is more than that,” Rubel said. “It feels especially important in this moment, when Jews are getting a lot of public attention, to share the depth of global Jewish cuisine, and to show that there’s no one type of Jew.”
Liz Alpern, a co-owner of Gefilteria — a brand, launched in 2012, that took another Passover staple, gefilte fish, mainstream — told the New York Jewish Week via email that she is “excited about Schmutz because it’s offering the wider world the opportunity to enjoy one of the most beloved foods from the Jewish canon.”
“Michael is thoughtful and knowledgeable about the countless global variations on charoset and he’s introduced me to many flavors I hadn’t heard of before,” Alpern added. (Gefilteria helped sponsor and cater Schmutz’s launch party last weekend.)
Having lived in New York for four years now, Rubel said he is realizing just how much Jewish food is available here — and how little is available elsewhere. That’s something he aspires to change. “I’m excited to bring a new Jewish energy not just to the kosher aisle but beyond it,” he said.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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