Jewish Food Festival offers a tasty treat

November 24, 1996


Staff Writer

Anita Bearinger remembers the time she tried to make cabbage rolls.

It was a lot of work and they ended up falling apart, said the Hagerstown resident, who decided then she'd leave that time-consuming dish to the experts.

On Sunday, the smell of sweet and sour cabbage rolls teased Bearinger and the dozens of others waiting to dig into the stuffed cabbage and other homemade Jewish dishes available at the annual Jewish Food Festival in Hagerstown.

"I just want to get a taste of the food, the stuffed cabbage mostly and some desserts," said Bearinger, who wasn't expecting the long line she found outside the door. "I've heard how good it is."


Sponsored by the sisterhood of Congregation B'Nai Abraham in Hagerstown for the past 16 years, the event attracts hundreds of people every year, said co-chairperson Jeanne Jacobs.

There is usually a line, Jacobs said, because the synagogue social hall seats only about 100 people.

"The response is always very good," Jacobs said. "The churches are very helpful. It's a good time to come after church is out."

Most of the people who come are not Jewish, Jacobs said. But many seem to get addicted to the Jewish favorites and come year after year, knowing they can expect the dishes they like to be there.

"We pretty much have the same food every year," said Jacobs, dishing out beef brisket that she and friend Janet Emral Shaool prepared.

In addition to beef brisket and cabbage rolls, there's always chicken soup with matzo balls, kosher hot dogs, noodle pudding, cheese blintzes, Jewish breads and pastry, and other favorites, Jacobs said.

The variety comes in the different cooks who prepare the dishes, since recipes vary from member to member, she said.

And there's usually something completely new as well, she said. This year, it was chicken couscous.

Each item is sold separately, with proceeds used to enrich the religious school program, which has about 70 children in it, Jacobs said.

While turnout is always in the hundreds, it's a guessing game as to how many hundred people will come, she said.

Some years, as many as 350 to 400 people have come through the cafeteria-style line, she said. Other years - like last year - the number is much lower.

A lot depends on the weather and if any other events are competing for the crowds, Jacobs said.

"It's very difficult to figure out how much to prepare," she said. "Sometimes we run out of food before the workers are able to eat."

By 2 p.m., a better-than-average turnout had the matzo ball soup running low, said Shaool, who estimated about 300 people had been served by that point.

The crowd generally thins after 2 p.m., with the event wrapping up by 3 p.m., she said.

While the sisterhood sponsors the event, it couldn't pull it off without help from the brotherhood, youth group and other members of Congregation B'Nai Abraham, Shaool said.

"It's a nice sense of community we get working together," said Jacobs.

The event is also an opportunity for the Jewish community to share its culture and history with the larger community, Shaool said.

Curiosity brought Kathy and Jerry Kelley of Smithsburg to the event.

"I thought it would be interesting to come and see," Kathy Kelley said.

"It's a cultural thing, just to see what various food is like," Jerry Kelley said. "I think this is a nice thing they do to allow the community to come in. This is the way to get people out - through the stomach - food."

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