(JTA) — It seemed like the last keg had been tapped for Shmaltz Brewing Company, until a rabbi-in-training stepped in for a Jewish renewal project.
The Jewish craft beer label, best known for its He’Brew: The Chosen Beer line of drinks, shut down last year after 25 years when its founder, Jeremy Cowan, said he wanted to focus on his other businesses. But now it’s been sold to a new owner: Jesse Epstein, a 26-year-old Reform rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College who first got into home brewing during the COVID-19 pandemic and began looking for ways to work his love for beer into his rabbinical pursuits.
“I started forming in the back of my mind this idea for a Jewish brewery: how to combine these two big passions,” Epstein told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
When he heard that Cowan was winding down Shmaltz, Epstein jumped at the chance to acquire the closest thing the beer world had to a storied Jewish brand — even though he has two-and-a-half years left of school and is currently a rabbinic intern at Temple Sinai of Saratoga Springs, New York.
“I could have waited to do this until after I was ordained and then I’d have more time on my hands, but I didn’t want to lose the opportunity,” Epstein said, declining to say how much he paid for the brand. Cowan agreed to the proposal, and remains at the company as a minority owner and consultant.
Founded in San Francisco in 1996 but now based in Clifton Park, New York, Shmaltz spent 25 years as the king of Jewish craft beer, with shtick-y brews like David’s Slingshot Hoppy Summer Lager, a jelly donut-flavored Hanukkah ale, and a Babka Loves Rugelach stout (brewed with chocolate, cinnamon and raisins). During its run it attained some level of notoriety and robust sales, with Cowan releasing a memoir, “Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah,” in 2010. Last year, after announcing he would close up shop, Cowan released an Exodus Ale as a swan song.
Epstein’s aims are different. As a rabbinical student wrestling with surveys showing a shrinking interest in Reform and Conservative affiliations among American Jews, he says his goal with Shmaltz is to use beer as a vehicle for rethinking the idea of a synagogue, and of Jewish communal gathering spaces.
“What about our Jewish values can be used to inform our food practices?” he asks. “How, through beer, can we embrace the values of welcoming in the stranger, freeing the captive, opening the eyes of the blind?”
The revamped Shmaltz, working for now with an all-volunteer staff, is making Jewish practice and ritual as much a part of its brand as the shtick. Its first year under Epstein’s ownership will consist of a series of pop-up events in partnership with various Jewish groups, starting with a Dec. 17 Hanukkah launch party with Brooklyn Jews. (The events will mostly take place in New York, though Epstein may expand into other Northeast locations.)
At these gatherings, Epstein says, attendees will do the kinds of activities they might normally come to synagogue for: “Build community, do justice, look at a text, but over a pint of beer.” He sees Shmaltz as a peer of Jewish young-adult gathering projects such as Moishe House, OneTable and Base. But he says it will rely on a for-profit business model rather than institutional Jewish support.
Initially Epstein will draw from Shmaltz’s leftover inventory for the actual beers on hand at the pop-ups, and he is holding off on new products and distribution. But he hopes eventually to start brewing his own selections, which are decidedly more Talmudic in inspiration than the label’s previous offerings: He envisions a Purim-themed beer named “Shushan Beer-a” (a play on the first line of the Megillah, the scroll Jews read from on the holiday) and, ultimately, beers inspired by each of the weekly Torah portions. The brand’s labels will now include a Jewish blessing for beer, in Hebrew and English.
Ultimately, Epstein says, he would love to run Shmaltz full-time: “I can really foresee it becoming my rabbinate.”
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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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