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The ‘iconic’ Jewish foods that make New York New York



(New York Jewish Week) — In 2004, June Hersh and her family sold the Bronx-based lighting business that her father founded almost 50 years earlier. Hersh, along with her mother, sister and their husbands, all worked there. The day of the sale, her sister, Andrea Greene, turned to Hersh and said: “We did well! Now, let’s do good.” 

Greene, a breast cancer survivor, became a volunteer for the Israel Cancer Research Fund. Hersh, who was 48 at the time, asked herself what her “good” would be — she loved to cook, and she loved to write. 

A couple of years later, she approached David Marwell, then the director of The Museum of Jewish Heritage–A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, offering to write a cookbook to benefit the museum. In it, she would tell the stories and recreate the recipes of museum members who were Holocaust survivors. The book, “Recipes Remembered, A Celebration of Survival” was published in 2011. To date, 25,000 copies of the book have been sold to benefit the museum as well as other Jewish organizations.

Since then, Hersh has written several other books with a philanthropic component, including “The Kosher Carnivore: The Ultimate Meat and Poultry Cookbook, which benefited Mazon, a Jewish nonprofit working to combat hunger, and “Still Here: Inspiration from Survivors and Liberators of the Holocaust” with proceeds donated to Selfhelp, a social services agency aiding Holocaust survivors and the elderly in the New York metropolitan area. 

This month, her fifth book, “Iconic New York Jewish Food,” was published, benefitting Met Council, a New York-based Jewish charity serving more than 315,000 needy people each year. As Met Council CEO David Greenfield writes in the book’s foreword, the organization operates “the largest emergency food system in America, focused on helping individuals and families who maintain kosher diets, as well as other religiously informed dietary practices.” 

Hersh said was moved by Met Council’s inclusivity. “I don’t think Jewish organizations ever help only Jewish people,” she told the New York Jewish Week. “They always have a broad reach, and I am proud of that.”

In “Iconic New York Jewish Foods,” Hersh writes about Jewish foods that have, over time, become New York foods: bagels, egg creams, cheesecake, hot dogs and much more. The book combines humor (one chapter is titled: “Doesn’t That Look Appetizing: The Birth of a New York Phenomenon”), history (the evolution of the hot dog bun, for example) and recipes (like “Mash Up Hash Up Latkes,” potato pancakes made with corned beef and pastrami).

Hersh spoke with the New York Jewish Week about her book, what makes a Jewish food iconic, and what’s special about New York City.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

New York Jewish Week: What inspired you to write a book about iconic New York Jewish foods?

June Hersh: In the world of food, I have two passions. One is to tell the history of food. What is its lineage? How did it come to be? Who first ate it? Why is it important? My second passion is preserving the food memory of the Jewish people. I don’t think anything binds us together like food. It is the connective thread in the Jewish story. 

What makes a food Jewish?

Most Jewish food is not easy to define. For Ruth Kohn, a Jewish refugee from Germany, arroz con pollo became a Jewish food that she made in her new home in Sosua, Dominican Republic. If you are looking for Jewish food, throw a dart on a map. Wherever it lands, you will find someone making Jewish food. It might not be the Jewish food we identify with, but it is Jewish food. It is informed by something in one’s heritage and culture — where the makers of it left or where they landed.

My grandmother was from the island of Rhodes. Her family came from Spain, and she spoke Ladino. Her food was informed by the Spanish techniques of her family and the Greek influences of the country where they landed after their expulsion from Spain.

Given your Sephardic background, why is the focus of the book on Ashkenazi foods?

Ashkenazi, Eastern European food is what informed the Jewish foodways of New York. The only iconic Sephardic food [in New York] is Turkish taffy which was introduced here by Herman Herer from Austria and Albert Bonomo, from Turkey.

What makes a Jewish food iconic?

A Jewish food becomes iconic when it is prevalent on menus, and not just in Jewish restaurants.  Iconic food is something that has become part of everyone’s food culture.

An example would be New York cheesecake, a food you see on mainstream menus. Cheesecake, according to Alan Rosen, a third-generation proprietor of Junior’s, a Brooklyn restaurant known for it, is one of the most ordered desserts in any restaurant anywhere. And cheesecake didn’t exist in the same form in which it exists now until you had Jewish immigrants

People eat hot dogs on rolls all the time. You didn’t have hot dogs on rolls until you had Jewish immigrants; that was born out of ingenuity, which is part of what I admire and respect and celebrate in Jewish food. 

Can you give some examples of how Jewish food is embraced in NYC at large?

One of the best New York City bagel shops, Absolute Bagels, is run by a Thai baker. One of the best examples of old-school brisket comes from David’s Brisket House, owned by non-Jewish Yemenites. The beauty of the Jewish food of New York is how it is embraced by so many cultures who then give their spin and interpretation.

The post The ‘iconic’ Jewish foods that make New York New York 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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