At sundown on Sunday, Dec. 6, Carol Offenbach and her husband, Stefan, will celebrate the first night of Hanukkah and enjoy the lightheartedness of the “Festival of Lights.”
They live in Overland Park, and she is a community volunteer and active member of Congregation Ohev Sholom.
For Jews, the eight nights of Hanukkah recount the miraculous ancient victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians in reclaiming the Temple in Jerusalem.
Q: What does the season of Hanukkah mean to you?
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A: As Jews we must never forget what happened in the second century B.C.E., when Judah the Maccabee led a fighting band of Jews to reclaim the Temple in Jerusalem from the Syrians.
One of the first tasks of the Jews was to rededicate the temple after it had been desecrated. The Jews lit the holy menorah but found only enough holy oil to last one day. We remember the miracle of the oil, as the flames of the menorah burned steadily for eight days.
As people of Jewish faith, we are proud of our heritage, that we are openly free to practice Judaism, and we let the light shine from our own Hanukkah menorahs in remembrance of the miracle.
Q: Do you traditionally eat hamantash (more than one is hamantashen) during Hanukkah?
A: We are hosting a good-natured great debate over the merits of the hamantash and latke this Sunday. Foods eaten during Hanukkah are fried to symbolize the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days. Sufganiyot are round jelly doughnuts that people eat during Hanukkah, because they are fried in oil. And, of course, we eat latkes, which are potato pancakes fried in oil and served with applesauce or sour cream.
Q: So when do you traditionally enjoy the hamantash?
A: A hamantash is made during the feast of Purim in the spring to commemorate the defeat of Haman’s plot to massacre the Jews as recorded in the book of Esther. Although today fillings can vary from apple, apricot, cherry, chocolate, nut, prune, raspberry and strawberry, the traditional filling is poppy seed, which is always Ohev Sholom Sisterhood’s biggest seller for their annual fundraiser.
The word “haman” refers to the wicked Haman. The Yiddish word “tash” means pocket, so the hamantash is a tri-cornered pastry that depicts Haman’s pocket.
Q: Why do you think food is integral to the way you practice your faith?
A: The food we eat on Jewish holidays has a deeper meaning and is meant to remind us of what we are celebrating. At Ohev Sholom, we follow kosher rules that dictate which foods can be eaten together, particularly that meat and dairy cannot be mixed in a meal. We prepare foods in a way so there is no contamination between one kitchen designated for meat and the other one for milk. These dietary laws are designed as a call to holiness, in that we are conscious of the food we eat and how we eat it.
Our meals are about being thankful for food and being mindful of where it came from and the way it is prepared. We always say prayers before and after meals, which again shows gratitude and an awareness of the foods we eat. Everyone has to eat, but when you pay attention to the details of the foods put in your body, it can bring sanctity to the most basic act of sharing a meal.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Send email to her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Kansas City’s third annual debate is sponsored by Congregation Ohev Sholom.
When: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6
Where: Jewish Community Campus White Theatre, 5801 W. 115th St. in Overland Park
Cost: $5, plus a canned good that will be donated to the Jewish Family Services community food pantry. Children 12 and younger are free. 913-642-6460.
Congregation Ohev Sholom Sisterhood Hamantash
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (12-ounce) can apricot or prune plum cake and pastry filling
For the topping:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.
In separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until light in color, using an electric mixer fixed with a paddle attachment. Slowly incorporate oil and vanilla, and mix until well incorporated.
Slowly add dry ingredients until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out into a plastic bowl, fitted with a lid, and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Level a 1 1/2 -inch scoop with cold dough and roll out onto a lightly flour surface into a 3- to 4-inch circle.
Place a rounded teaspoon of apricot or prune plum cake and pastry filling into the center of the dough circle and pinch 3 sides of circle together to cover some of filling and form a triangle.
Place on prepared baking sheet.
To make the topping: In a small bowl, make an egg wash by whisking eggs, water and optional sugar together, and brush lightly over formed triangles before baking for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.
Note: Cans of pastry filling can be found in local grocery stores.
Per serving: 135 calories (38 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 20 milligrams cholesterol, 19 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 66 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.