A delicious addition to the monthly gathering of Cafe Europa, where many Holocaust survivors from the Atlanta area meet, talk and enjoy entertainment, has been a big hit: Nearly 80 volunteers have baked treats for the survivors to match the Jewish holidays.
As part of my work as the chair of the Holocaust Survivor Support Fund, an initiative convened by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, I developed the idea with chef Howard Schreiber of the Hirsch Culinary Arts Studio at the Marcus Jewish Community Center to create a cooking outreach program that engages community members and Holocaust survivors in Jewish tradition.
We’ve met four times, with approximately 20 volunteers at a time, to cook holiday and dessert items that follow the Jewish calendar and are distributed to survivors at Cafe Europa and in their homes.
We made 100 apple pies for Rosh Hashanah, 900 cookies for Chanukah, 300 salted tahini chocolate-chip cookies for Tu B’Shevat and over 400 blue-and-white cookies to celebrate Israeli Independence Day this month.
One of our more festive events was the Chanukah lunch for survivors who speak at the Breman Museum and their guests, a total of 35 people, prepared with help from more than 20 volunteer cooks. Between 10 a.m. and noon, cooks cracked eggs, shredded potatoes and zucchini, and huddled over frying pans to make three types of latkes — zucchini, sweet potato and waffle potato — and composed a cranberry salad. Guests joined the group at noon and had good times with the meal.
Marcus JCC preschoolers sang Chanukah songs at the luncheon, which brought together volunteers, survivors and youths to celebrate community and Jewish tradition.
HSSF is a multifaceted initiative. Its primary mission is to raise money to care for Holocaust survivors. In a related effort, I have found many opportunities to perform community outreach. Examples include the Frank Leadership Mission Alumni group, which made fleece blankets to distribute to survivors during the winter months. We also hosted a Shabbat luncheon program in collaboration with the Weber School.
With the addition of the cooking outreach program, we find more members of our community participating in activities that support survivors. We hope to expand this engaging program and to bake treats for more holidays. This article includes recipes from our cooking sessions (for after Passover), courtesy of Chef Howard.
HSSF strives not just to help survivors live better lives with dignity, but also to make survivors feel like a special part of the community. Through community engagement such as the cooking events, we create awareness and keep the connections to survivors alive.
HSSF is truly having an impact. To learn more about HSSF or get involved, call Federation at 404-873-1661, or visit JewishAtlanta.org/holocaustsurvivorsupportfund.
Sweet Potato & Parsnip Latkes
Makes about 12 latkes
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
½ pound parsnips, peeled
Kosher salt, to taste
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil for frying
On a box grater, grate the sweet potatoes and the parsnips. Combine them in a large bowl. Season with salt. Toss to combine. Add the flour and stir to distribute evenly. Add the eggs and stir well.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of oil, and fry the latkes until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate. Season with additional salt. Repeat with all the latke mixture, adding more oil to the pan as necessary.
Serve with applesauce, sour cream and green onions.
Tomato and Pomegranate Salad
2 pints mixed small or cherry tomatoes of varying colors
2 teaspoons za’atar
3½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
½ yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ small red onion, peeled and very thinly sliced
⅓ cup loosely packed, fresh basil leaves, sliced as chiffonade
Freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon
3½ ounces feta cheese (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
Halve or quarter the tomatoes so that they are all roughly the same size, and place them in a bowl. Mix 2 teaspoons za’atar with 1½ tablespoons olive oil and set aside.
To the bowl with the tomatoes, add the pomegranate seeds, sliced pepper and onion, herbs, lemon juice, cheese, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and salt. Gently mix the salad. Drizzle the za’atar mixture over the salad and serve.
Salted Tahini Chocolate-Chip Cookies
From the recipe box of Debbie Lewis, adapted from Danielle Oron
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
½ cup tahini, well stirred
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1¾ cups bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
Flaky sea salt for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, tahini and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla and continue mixing at medium speed for another 5 minutes.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and kosher salt into a large bowl and mix with a fork. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture at low speed until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the chocolate chips. The dough will be soft, not stiff.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Use a large ice cream scoop or spoon to form the dough into 12 to 18 balls. Place the balls on the baking sheet at least 3 inches apart to allow them to spread. Bake 13 to 16 minutes until just golden brown around the edges but still pale in the middle to make thick, soft cookies.
As the cookies come out of the oven, sprinkle them sparsely with sea salt. Let cool at least 20 minutes on a rack.
Oma’s Sugar Cookies
¾ cup softened, unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat thoroughly.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix that combination into the butter mixture. The dough will be stiff. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out ½ the dough on a floured surface to approximately one-eighth-inch thickness. Cut out shapes with a floured cookie cutter. Bake the cookies on ungreased cookie sheets for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden. Cool 1 to 2 minutes on the cookie sheets, then transfer to cooling rack.
When completely cool, frost the cookies with buttercream frosting and decorate as desired.
Daisy’s Buttercream Frosting
1 stick softened, unsalted butter
3 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
Food coloring as desired
Mix the butter, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Add the milk slowly until the frosting is thick but spreadable. You might not need all the milk.
If adding food coloring, frosting may be divided into smaller portions, each dyed a different color. Decorate as desired.