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21st Annual Jewish Food Festival on Sunday, July 8th

2018 Jewish Food Festival

Once again, the event to attend this summer is the 21st Annual Jewish Food Festival at Temple B’nai Israel in Laconia on Sunday, July 8th, from 11:00-2:00. People will be coming together from all over New Hampshire and beyond to enjoy the memories of the tastes and smells from the kitchens of Jewish mothers and Bubbes (grandmothers) through the ages…from traditional Jewish cooking to delicatessen delights to amazing desserts and more!

In addition to the tasty array of homemade products, the Food Festival features corned beef, pastrami and tongue “imported” from Evan’s Deli in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Evan hand cooks his meats in the deli kitchen and food critics and patrons alike declare, “This meat is out of this world.” Treat yourself and your family to a fresh Evan’s Deli meat sandwich or any of the other homemade Jewish delicacies including deli meats or TBI’s homemade beef brisket with pickle and coleslaw on rye or roll, knishes (meat & potato), blintzes, chopped herring, and chopped chicken liver. Available for takeout, all frozen and ready to heat at home – while supplies last – deli meats and brisket, matzo ball soup, potato latkes, noodle kugel, stuffed cabbage, rugelach and strudel. And don’t forget the half sour pickles as well as the fabulous assortment of homemade desserts.

The Jewish Food Festival in Laconia ranks with the best due to TBI’s talented cooking crew of women and men who have been gathering before Festival Day for planning and recipe selection as well as participating in dozens of cooking and baking sessions in the temple kitchen. Per Committee Chair Stu Needleman, “Our cooking teams have prepared hundreds of servings of the most delectable foods. We have purchased, cooked and hand sliced nearly 200 pounds of everyone’s favorite meats and baked dozens of varieties of cakes, cookies and other desserts. But no matter how much we have, everything goes quickly. So don’t be late and risk having your favorite item sold out!” Food Festival attendees from years past attest to the great food and festive atmosphere:

  • The best day of the year. This is an epic annual event in Laconia; a valuable cultural event for our community.
  • Absolutely incredible. Out first time here, but not our last! Wonderful people!
  • The highlight of our weekend. We were warmly welcomed, greeted and cared for.
  • We’ll be back next year with our friends!

However, this Festival is about more than food. You will find many assorted treasures at the Nearly New Boutique on the front lawn as well as new Judaica items inside. Attendees meet old and new friends from the community at large, both Jewish Food connoisseurs and rookies.

The Jewish Food Festival takes place under the tent on July 8th at Temple B’nai Israel, 210 Court Street in Laconia, rain or shine. Credit cards are accepted. Questions should be directed to foodfestival@tbinh.org

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The Quixote Principle: A Sermon for Hanukkah

By Rabbi Boaz D. Heilman

But Don Quixote, the man, is far from mad. Yes, he is a figment of his creator’s feverish imagination, but his sense of fairness, equality and justice are far from wrong. Aldonza, the woman who, in his fantasy, transforms into the fair Lady Dulcinea, is taken, abused, and demeaned by men who are attracted to her beauty and gender. Is rescuing her from her tormentors such a mad thing to do?

And perhaps he did see giants that he felt needed to be felled. Does that make him mad? I’m not even speaking of modern-day, giant corporations that prey on human frailties—for example, the food and beverage industries that tell us that sugar is yummy, that Coke is “the real thing,” and that you, too, can turn from a common geek into a sexy hunk if you just quaff the right beer. And I am not referring to supersized ego politicians who would have you believe that, if only you voted for them—no matter how bad or even criminal their past and present behavior might be—the world would be a better place. But aside from them, there are other, real, giants in the world—disease, ignorance, prejudice and terrorism to name a few. Does it make a person mad to fight these giants and defeat them once and for all?

Maybe Don Quixote was mad. Maybe all the evil he saw around him did affect his brain. No matter how many times he fell, he rose and rose again—“To right the unrightable wrong,” until he could rise no more. Maybe that is a kind of madness.

Cynics would have us believe that reality cannot be changed. Things have always been bad. There is, and always was, immeasurable cruelty in the world. And there has never been, anywhere, a time of peace longer than a decade or two, and that only due to one side having superior military strength.

You might as well be tilting at windmills if you think otherwise.

In Greek mythology, heroes fall because it is their preordained, unavoidable, fate to fall. Trying to change anything is useless. One of the most famous myths tells that, at his birth, Oedipus was abandoned to die on a barren cliff. Why? Because a soothsayer foretold that he would one day kill his father and marry his mother. I know—gross. But that’s exactly what happened, at least according to the myth. The message of Greek mythology is that defying fate and the will of the gods can only lead to misery and pain. We might as well give in right from the start.

But in another land, at just about the same time, other stories were told. These taught that there can be change; that justice should be—must be—pursued; and that all people deserve the benefit of dignity, equality and respect. The stories that we the Jews told were about freeing slaves and feeding the hungry. The Bible—the written record of that vision—is all about people who do argue with powerful men—the Pharaohs and emperors of the world; it’s about simple men and women who defy fate, who confront evil, who demand justice even from God, the almighty Creator of the Universe.

That the two cultures were headed toward a violent clash is therefore no surprise. The clash took place in the second century BCE, in the form of the Maccabees’ Rebellion. More than it was about control of Israel—then called Judea—this revolt was actually about two opposing world views: On one side, the Greek system, which demanded unquestioning submission to gods and kings. On the other, the Jewish view, which upheld that freedom is an inalienable human right. More than the Maccabees fought for a piece of land, they took up arms to fight for religious freedom, for freedom of thought, for the freedom to question, to doubt, and to make real once-impossible dreams.

The Maccabees accomplished their mission. They defeated the mightiest army of the day. Under Judah the Maccabee, freedom was restored; and the Temple in Jerusalem—the temple that the Greeks had defiled by placing a golden statue of Zeus in it—was rededicated. The Maccabees then instituted an annual celebration to commemorate the amazing victory of the few against the many, and they called it Hanukkah—the Hebrew word for “dedication.”

Two hundred years later, it was the Romans’ turn. The Romans went even farther than the Greeks: They destroyed Jerusalem and burned the Temple that stood in its heart. Forbidding the Jews to ever rebuild, they tried to make us forget our national roots and our history.

But like Don Quixote, we rose, and we rose again. For two thousand years, nation after nation tried to destroy us, but without success. And a mere three years after the Holocaust, which saw one half of the world’s Jews annihilated, we rose yet again, and we established a new state in the land of Judea, the State of Israel. And even though the Temple has not been rebuilt—there is a Moslem mosque standing on its ruins today—the city of Jerusalem is once again Israel’s capital, the seat of its government and the center of Israel’s spiritual, political and cultural life.

I can see the appeal that Cervantes’s novel, Don Quixote, had for my father. From a letter that he received at the end of the Holocaust, my father learned about the tragic loss of his entire family. Though he never quite recovered, like Don Quixote he never abandoned hope. Dedicating his life to rebuild that which the Nazis destroyed, he started a family, built his own home, and became an educator for hundreds if not thousands of pupils—me among them—teaching Jewish history and literature, Hebrew and The Bible. Throughout his life, my father kept before his eyes the vision of the frail old man of La Mancha, a man who truly believed that, “To fight for the right/Without question or pause/To be willing to march into Hell/For a heavenly cause” was a mission well worth dedicating your life to.

So tonight, on the very day that my father would have turned 101, I want to say, Happy birthday, Abba; I hope you know that I have not given up the quest, that I have dedicated my life to the same ideals you held high: freedom, justice and the undying love for our people; that Hanukkah for me is more than about a miracle that happened two thousand years ago. Like you, tonight I celebrate a long string of miracles, the wondrous miracle of our People’s survival against all odds, despite all our oppressors.

And truly, I believe that the world is better for this.

May the lights of Hanukkah continue to shine brightly throughout the long, dark nights of this season; may they inspire us never to lose hope, to continue to dream, to carry on our noble quest for what is right, fair and just, and, hopefully, in our own day or in the days of our children, “To reach the unreachable star.”

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November 29: A Day to Remember

By Rabbi Boaz D. Heilman

They called themselves Nasza Groupa—“Our Group”—a simple name that belies the complexity and greatness of who they were and what they did.

Three other members of this group were Emil Brigg, Danuta Firstenberg and Olek Gutman. They were higher up in the group, and their mission was to contact members of the Haganah—the organization that later became the Israel Defense Force. By then, the Haganah had set up a cell in Budapest, and from that secret location its members were coordinating rescue and resistance operations throughout Eastern Europe.

Along the way, however, the three comrades, Emil, Danuta and Olek, were given another assignment, with fateful consequences.

There was a man by the name of Victor Janikowski, a Jew who, along with another Jewish kapo—or Nazi collaborator—tricked Jewish refugees into giving him as much as $2000 a person (!) to lead them to safety. Janikowski, however, pocketed the money and secretly delivered the refugees to the German police. Soon his actions became known to members of the Groupa. Emil, Olek and Danuta (with assumed Aryan names and forged papers), were assigned to find and kill Janikowski.

It was a dangerous mission, and though they ultimately succeeded, the three were soon discovered and arrested by the Gestapo. They were brutally tortured for twenty-one days, but did not break and did not give away what they knew about the Haganah cell in Budapest and about their other contacts. Had they betrayed their friends in the Groupa, there is no doubt that only a very few would have survived. Only three weeks later, when they were sure that everyone else had managed to escape, did the three finally give up the information sought by the Nazis.

“You will all die tomorrow,” a Nazi officer informed them. They were even shown chalk marks drawn along a brick wall, where they would be made to stand and be shot the next morning, the morning of November 29, 1944.

But that was not to happen. Around midnight, these Jewish heroes of the Nasza Groupa heard the rumble of tanks driving past the prison. A few hours later, more tanks, going in the other direction. Then a complete silence, broken sporadically by scattered machine gun fire. As morning broke, still more tanks arrived. Looking through a window set high up in the cell, Emil saw that these were Russian tanks. They were saved. It was November 29, and it also happened to be Danuta’s birthday.

A day designated for sorrow had turned instead into a day of liberation and celebration.

But the story of this date does not end here.

Exactly three years later, a vote was held in the United Nations. On 29 November 1947 (70 years ago almost to the day), the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into two states: A Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jewish government accepted the decision; the Arabs rejected it, but the State of Israel was now on legal footing, and half a year later David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, would declare its independence, reestablishing for the first time in 2000 years a Jewish homeland, in its historical birthplace, for the dispersed and dispossessed Jewish People.

Perhaps—as some believe—certain days were designated by some higher power to be special days. If so, then November 29 must be one of them.

On the political stage, the Partition vote is still source of debate and contention, perhaps even more so now than it was then. But the date is also marked annually by survivors of the Nasza Groupa and their descendants, who for several decades now have been gathering every year on or around November 29th to celebrate and retell the miracle of their survival.

There is an epilogue to this story: After making his way to Israel, Emil Brigg joined the Israel Defense Force and, following the 1948 War of Independence, was awarded the army’s highest award, Gibbor Yisrael, “A Hero of Israel.” He passed away in 2002. May his memory be a blessing.

For two years, Olek Gutman, who changed his name to Alex Gatmon, conducted revenge operations against SS officers. Later, after serving in the Israeli Air Force, he joined Israel’s fabled secret service, the Mossad, and helped capture Adolf Eichmann, the mastermind of the Nazi Holocaust. He also was instrumental in the clandestine rescue of 35,000 Jewish refugees from Morocco, bringing them to safe harbor in Israel. He died in 1981. May his memory be a blessing.

Dina Gilboa—the Hebrew name Danuta Firstenberg adopted in Israel—lived a long life and established a thriving family. She died last year. At this year’s Nasza Groupa reunion and commemoration, held just earlier today in Tel Aviv, Israel, Dina’s daughter, Shuvit, spoke about her mother. May her memory be a blessing.

L’havdil—to make a thousand separations— with God’s help we will celebrating my mother’s 95th birthday this coming January 1. Last month, her eldest great-granddaughter, Opal, now 17 years old, went on a school-sponsored trip to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. The airport she landed in was—of all places—Katowice, my mother’s hometown. Way to close a circle!!! She—fourth generation survivor—also spoke at the commemoration today, relating her experiences and reactions to what she saw, heard and learned.

And so it was that a day, the 29th of November, had turned from sorrow to celebration, from devastation to renewal. It could have ended otherwise, but instead it became the beginning of a new life—not only for me, but also for the State of Israel and for the entire Jewish People.

On Purim we hail Esther as the great hero who saved our people from imminent destruction. The truth, however, is that we are here today because of so many heroes, so many who gave their lives so that we could be here; so many men, women and children who endured untold torture and suffering to ensure the survival of our people. May their lives and deeds become a testament to human endurance in the face of devastation, and may we be worthy and deserving to carry forward the great responsibility they passed on to us: the continuity of the Jewish People and its epic legacy.