Our own chinese chef, Rabbi Cohen with the assistance of Teri and Michael Thorz and expert chopping of Mike Beckerman, cooked up a fabulous meal for the congregation on Christmas day, along with a movie to complete the perfect way to spend time with your congregational family.
Memories of a Jewish Christmas Day: Past and Present
by Dr. Teri Nadler-Thorz
As a young girl in Brooklyn, I remember Christmas Day being quite thrilling because it was that rare occasion my Father was home from work.
The night before Christmas Day, it was Dad’s loving tradition to take down and un-box our Lionel train set that was safely hidden at the back of the closet in our extremely small apartment. He meticulously managed, without making a sound, to reattach all the trains and various parts to recreate this amazing world of miniature trees, people and pretend snow. At first light, we awoke to the first sound of the chugging of the sleepy trains on their newly awoken tracks. Our screams of delight far surpassed the sound of the first train whistle.
Later that day, in spite of our passionate protests, we were unhappily pulled away from our pretend world to have a Jewish Christmas Day Dinner with our extended family of 30. I will always remember the first moment I opened the door to my Aunt Sara’s huge apartment and was met with that familiar aroma of old world Jewish nourishment. That cell memory will forever be known as love, family, happiness and security.
At 13 we moved to Long Island and our extended family seemed very far away. We joined a synagogue and it was the first time we were exposed to what was called a Jewish Christmas. Their sisterhood rented out an entire movie theater for our congregants, and even secured the huge back room of one of our favorite Chinese restaurants with a fixed menu. I remember thinking it was like a Bar Mitzvah.
It is now Christmas Day, Dec 25th, 2013 and we are living and loving Hendersonville, NC. I will be approaching 63 this July 2nd and Mikey will be approaching 71 on July 3rd. Agudas Israel has become a very important part of our present extended family and we are enjoying all the new and wonderful memories that we are making here.
For a second year in a row Mikey and I have had the pleasure of helping Rabbi Phil make a full Chinese Dinner for our congregation as part of his Christmas Day of Chinese Food and a Movie.
If you have not had the pleasure of his culinary Chinese delights, you are truly missing a fabulous experience. Like any good restaurant, the personality of the Chef is obvious and on Dec. 25th at Agudas Israel there was no exception.
While most Rabbis take a two week vacation with their family to the Bahamas during this down time, our Rabbi Phil does quite the opposite. He and Mikey spent the day prior shopping at various stores to secure unique and delicious spices and foods to prepare this amazing feast.
The night before, Mike Beckerman, Mikey and I chopped the vegetables to great music well into evening.
The next morning, under Rabbi Phil’s tutelage, Mikey and I made fresh home made egg drop soup, stir fry chicken with vegetables, Mongolian steak stir fry with vegetables, fried rice, and this year we made “sushi rolls” They were amazing!
Ask Harry Paly who tasted them for the first time: “just show me how to eat them and I only want one to start with.” After his first bite, his eyes lit up and I proceeded to give him four more. He thanked me on the way out again and wanted to know when the next time was! He loved them!!
After lunch, we watched “Blazing Saddles” and laughed again as if we were watching it for the first time. It was such a wonderful afternoon, that Mikey and I promised Rabbi Phil that we will be his partners in this project with him for as long as he wishes.
For 2014, we do not need to rent a move theater or the back room of a Chinese restaurant because we have it all here at Agudas Israel: a caring Rabbi who is also an amazing chef, congregants who love cooking with him and a congregation who are invited to share in this special and unique tradition (and love to eat!) And we are very proud that each year’s profit (this year was around $125.00) will be donated to the Interfaith Assistance Ministry…….so it is a win/win for everyone!
So circle the date and come join us later this year ……….And while we are eating, we can share our fondest memories of how we spent Christmas Day growing up.
I look forward to hearing all your endearing stories.