So, I’ve always wanted to be invited to a Jewish Meal, as I’ve heard it’s customary to invite a Gentile (non-Jew) to join as part of the tradition, but I had never been asked. That is, until this year, when I was invited to Rosh Hashanah by my sister Kelley Schild, aka anewjew on Instagram. While I did crave an invite to a Jewish Holiday, I never would have dreamed (channeling my grandmother’s expression) that it would be my sister doing the asking. That is, until recently.
As children, we grew up Catholic, went to Catholic Grade and High School. Kelley was a more devote Catholic than I, volunteering to administer the Eucharist and teaching Sunday School at her home parish. Her husband, however, wasn’t Catholic and was never fully comfortable going to Mass, so when they moved to Tallahassee, they became members of the Methodist Church; it was a better fit for the whole family.
When they moved back to Miami, Kelley remained active in their local Methodist Church, attending Sunday services and teaching Sunday school. As their children grew older and started their own lives, her participation dwindled and eventually, ceased. During the Pandemic, Kelley (who’s always been interested in the Jewish faith) decided to explore her curiosity and take a class called “Intro to Judaism.” There are many tenants of the Jewish religion that ring true for her and, at this point in time, she is seriously considering converting to Judaism.
I have to say this information, at first, caught me by surprise and I didn’t quite understand it. Of course, it isn’t my place to understand, and I am supportive of Kelley’s religious journey, wherever it made lead. I suppose it has to do with the fact that I’ve never felt compelled to follow any particular religion. I was baptized and raised Catholic, but there was much about that religion (such as the fact that women can’t be priests) I never agreed with. If I would explore any religion, it would probably be Buddhism. I don’t know much about it but some of their ideas- non-attachment to material things, karma and practicing meditation- ring true for me.
But, I digress.
Zeke and I arrived, wine and cookies in hand, for Rosh Hashanah dinner last Monday. It was absolutely delicious, quite a special meal and I felt honored to be included; Kelley had been cooking for days. Gracie (Kelley’s five-year-old granddaughter) rushed to greet us at the front door. She couldn’t wait to show us our favors (little honey pots), the Gingerbread Cookies she helped decorate and the table runner she helped color, with Rosh Hashanah symbols.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and one of Judaism’s holiest days. It marks the creation of the world and begins a ten day period of Introspection and Repentance. It’s a time for prayer, good deeds, reflecting on past mistakes and making amends. This seemed timely for me, since lately I’ve been going through a lot of things in my house to get rid of. Now that all of the children have left the house, there’s lots of stuff left behind to go through; this seems to be a time of purging and cleaning up, which always feels cathartic. A new beginning, out with the old…
Our meal Monday night was really a feast for the books. Appetizers were Fish Spread (to represent the Fish Head) on beet chips and Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates (that Allison made), served with Prosecco and Pomegranate Juice as our pre-dinner cocktail. We then sat down at the beautifully decorated table for dinner, with lots of crystal, a pomegranate (for sweetness) and candles. As Kelley read The Blessings, we ate a first course of Matzo Ball soup, followed by Brisket in Red Wine, Mushroom and Leek Kugel, Roasted Vegetables with honey and Challah Bread. She blessed the candles, wine and bread and Gracie lit the candles.
Despite the title of this post (my attempt at humor), I am a Challah Bread girl. It’s typically baked into a circle for Rosh Hashanah, to replicate the circle of life. The brisket Kelley made was so juicy and tender, you could cut it with a fork and went perfectly with the kugel and lovely veggies, sprinkled with fresh rosemary. We had an abundance of sweets with four desserts! An Apple Honey Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce, Gingerbread Cookies, Chocolate Tahini Pie and Cardamon Cherry Rugelach cookies I made (NYT’s Food Section).
Can I eat?I asked before dessert.
“Yes,” Kelley said. “There is no blessing of desserts.”
But, who knew because it was my first Rosh Hashanah Meal!
If I had one comment about Rosh Hashanah Dinner, it would be that there was lots of apples, honey and bread. We, in fact, dipped both the apples and the Challah into the honey, in hope that the new year will be sweet. I do like the idea of taking a period of time to reflect and re-evaluate one’s life from time-to-time. As such, I admire Kelley’s determination to not just stick with the status quo and grow complacent, but to constantly seek and explore new ways to better her, and her family’s, life.
At home, in the garden, I’m clearing out an area in the back to make a meditation, rock garden, inspired by a book I recently read (The Samurai’s Garden) for my Book Club. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I can finally see it taking shape. As I clear out one part of the garden, it becomes apparent what needs to be done next- a plant moved, a bush cut back, a bamboo screen secured. It’s taken me a while, but the time has given me the luxury to really study the garden and decide how I want it to look.
While I was in the cleaning-out mode, I removed all the Bromeliads from my fountain by the front door. I’d planned on taking them out, cleaning them up and putting them back in the fountain, but my housekeeper Isa saw the cleaned-out fountain and said:
Nice. I like it.Isa
This made me look at the fountain in a new way and I realized, I too, liked it better empty. So I moved the bromeliads to another part of the yard and now my fountain is back to it’s original state. Sometimes, we need to remove items in order to see things more clearly.
So, wishing you a L’Shaha tova (Happy New Year) if you’re Jewish and a Happy Start to Fall (September 22), coming up, if you’re not. Clean out, clear out, reflect, forgive and make room for all the good things coming your way. I will publish the recipes for the Matzo Ball Soup and Brisket in a future Foodie In Miami.
Up Next: Brisket in Red Wine Recipe.