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Meet the bartender behind New York’s new Hanukkah-themed cocktail bar



(New York Jewish Week) — During the so-called “winter holiday season,” Christmas cheer takes center stage, while Hanukkah gets relegated to hobbled-together end caps at grocery stores (if that).

This is something that’s long irked Naomi Levy, a 36-year-old Jewish bartender who lives in Boston. There, as in New York, Christmas-themed pop-up bars appear all over the city — leaving Levy feeling like a “tourist,” she said, in her hometown. 

But instead of bah-humbugging the situation, Levy took action: In 2018, she opened the Maccabee Bar, a Hanukkah-themed pop-up in Boston. Now in its fifth year, the cocktail bar, open only in December, serves drinks like the Latke Sour (apple brandy, potato, lemon, egg white, bitters) and an Everything Bagel Martini (“everything” spiced gin, tomato water, dill, vermouth), as well Jewish- and Hanukkah-adjacent small bites, such as latkes, sufganiyot and Bamba.

And now, for the first time, the Maccabee Bar is expanding to New York, where it will be hosted by Ollie, a bar in the West Village, from Dec. 13 through 31. 

Levy had hoped to bring the Maccabee Bar to New York in 2020 but that was delayed. “I honestly cannot believe that nobody has done this before me in New York,” Levy told the New York Jewish Week.

To become the Maccabee Bar, Ollie will be covered in blue and white Hanukkah lights and decor. “It’s going to be crazy,” Levy said. “I’ve mentally prepared. I definitely encourage reservations.” 

Ahead of the Manhattan Maccabee Bar opening, the New York Jewish Week caught up with Levy to talk about what inspired her, how she expanded and what, exactly, creating a Hanukkah-themed cocktail entails. 

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Levy was named “Best Bartender” by Boston Magazine in 2019. (Ezra Pollard)

New York Jewish Week: What was the inspiration behind starting a Hanukkah-themed bar?

Naomi Levy: I really love the holiday season and for many, many years I ran a bar called Eastern Standard in Boston. We were open all the time, so I worked every Christmas. I always really loved the holiday spirit and started seeing a lot more of these Christmas-themed bars popping up. But as much as I love all of the festivities this time of year, I also feel very much like a tourist because I don’t celebrate Christmas. I wondered what would happen if I created a pop-up bar that was completely dedicated to Hanukkah. Luckily, I had just opened at a new bar and the ownership was amenable to trying stuff out. We gave it a go and it was absolutely incredible. The turnout was amazing. People were so excited — I’ve never been called a “mensch” for making a cocktail before. I realized, “Oh my gosh, it’s not just me that had that feeling this time this year.” There’s a group of people that are underrepresented and would love to really feel like they get to get into this festive time of year just as much as everyone else. It’s been really exciting to watch it grow and just to be able to bring my culture and bring something fun to the community.

After four years in Boston, what was the process of opening a pop-up in New York and how did you make the leap?

 I had reached out to a couple friends in New York. What was really exciting to me about Ollie is that I have a former staff member from Boston who moved to New York, and he works at Ollie now. He has worked at a couple of the Maccabee Bars in Boston. It’s good to have someone who works there who’s been through it and understands what they’re getting into and things like that. He connected me with the owner and they were really excited about it. It’s just that much more helpful that I have someone there that knows what’s about to happen.

What are you most excited about in bringing the energy of Maccabee Bar to New York?

I just really hope to provide a place where people get to celebrate and not in the same way that they already have access to.

We’re starting with one location in New York, but in Boston we have two locations because the demand has just been that high. We now have Maccabee regulars [in Boston]. Last year, I had a customer who said, “My mom told me to come to this!” I just thought, how cool is it that we’re a bar that your mom’s telling you to go to?

Tell me a little bit about the cocktails and how you make them Hanukkah-themed.

My cocktail style in general tends to be pretty culinary. I tend to get inspiration from food and food flavors, which is perfect for a Hanukkah menu since there are so many delicious foods that we eat. The Latke Sour is obviously inspired by latkes. Then we have the Hebrew Hammer, which is inspired by sufganiyot. We make a leavened sugar, which is basically a yeasted simple syrup, to give you that kind of yeasty sensation of a doughnut, but it’s actually a really nice dry, sour cocktail.

To me, it’s also really important to showcase flavors from different aspects of the Jewish diaspora as well. I am Ashkenazi, but it’s really important to me to also showcase Sephardic flavors. So we have a drink that is called Ocho Candelika, which is actually the name of a song in Ladino that is all about the celebration of oil. So we do an olive oil-infused gin with a little honey, almond, apricot and lemon for some of those more classic Spanish and Sephardic flavors.There’s a drink this year that’s inspired by Ethiopian Sanbat Wat [a spicy chicken stew typically made on Shabbat] with berbere spice in it. 

Then there will be all sorts of fun things, ranging from a hot drink that has a syrup in it that is kind of tzimmes-inspired and a flip that’s rugelach-inspired. So it will be both very, very Hanukkah-associated things but also just some wider Jewish flavors.

The Maccabee Bar will be at Ollie, 64 Downing Street, beginning Tuesday Dec. 13 through Saturday, Dec. 31. Find details and reservations on Maccabee Bar’s website.

The post Meet the bartender behind New York’s new Hanukkah-themed cocktail bar appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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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.

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Local News

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.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

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.)

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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.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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