Submitted by Lyssa Kligman Harvey
Traditional Jewish Recipes for a Sweet & Happy New Year
For as long as I can remember, celebrating the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah has been a joyous occasion. It celebrates the birth of the world! It brings family and friends together to eat traditional foods passed down by our grandmothers; as well as new recipes created by new generations of Southern Jewish cooks.
The first day of Rosh Hashanah this year is Thursday, September 21st in the Hebrew Year 5778. My husband, Jonathan, and I host about 40 guests in our home in the Forest Acres neighborhood in Columbia, SC, at a seated luncheon after synagogue services. The traditional menu has been planned and assigned, my mother’s linens, china and crystal have been taken out, and the special table extensions are in place. The table décor will be fall flowers and ancient symbols of the Jewish New Year. Pomegranates are often used for table decorations as well as to eat, because it is referenced in the Old Testament, and it is a symbol of fertility. There are 613 seeds in a pomegranate, which is referred to the number of good deeds that are commanded by God. The menu is a combination of traditional Eastern European recipes handed down from grandmothers, aunts and family friends, several of which are featured below, along with newly created recipes from the four corners of the diaspora. For example, I have included hummus in our meal, which originates from the Middle East and is served as an appetizer. My special recipes are Chopped Liver and my mother’s Sweet and Sour Stuffed Cabbage. You will notice that the contemporary recipes use short cuts and ingredients that our ancestors didn’t use, such as the Savory Brisket made by Sandra Poliakoff. Rosh Hashanah is a festive and happy holiday that brings together our family and friends to initiate another year of a sweet and good life. Rosh Hashanah is my favorite holiday of the year that savors the traditions and happy memories of my family.
My parents, Helene & Melton Kligman, hosted many guests for the Jewish New Year in their beautiful home at 1618 Graeme Drive in Forest Acres neighborhood beginning around 1965. When I was growing up we celebrated two days of Rosh Hashanah, and had different sets of guests each day. The dining room table had special extensions that were created for these large family holiday meals at Rosh Hashanah & Passover. With the extensions in place, the table reached into the sunroom and into the living room so that every adult had a seat at the table. Of course, there was a children’s table. There were plenty of children, including the five Kligman children, and cousins. The table was always set with exquisite linens, special Yantaff (a yiddish word for holiday) china and crystal, and place cards. My mother was a Bulaboosta (yiddish word for kitchen maven) and seemed to pull hosting this big holiday meal off effortlessly. I now understand, she planned and organized everything to a T. She was a wonderful cook but did have special help in the kitchen for that day. Some of the guests contributed their specialty dish, but it was my mother that really set the tone for the year by hosting an elaborate and memorable meal. Prayers and holiday blessings were said over the children, candles, wine, a special round challah, and apples and honey. My father always made a toast and welcomed all the guests. I still remember his happy smile having everyone in his home.
The foods were delicious heavy European recipes: Chopped Liver, Kugel, Brisket, Sweet and Sour Cabbage, Kasha Varnishkes, Yantaff (Holiday) Chicken and Rice and for dessert Honey cake. Everyone left very full and happy. Click the links above for Rosh Hashanah recipes and memories provided by Pat Lovit, Mindy Kligman Odle, Shirley Levine, myself and my mother, Helene Firetag Kligman.
After 40 years of hosting, my mother blew the whistle and changed the game…it was our turn as adults to take on the responsibility of hosting the Jewish Holidays. Being one of five children, my sisters and I took on the role of sharing the holidays. I knew I wanted to host Rosh Hashanah, but honestly, I was overwhelmed at the thought of hosting this important holiday meal and pulling it off as smoothly as my mother did all those years. I now realize how much our present Rosh Hashanah luncheons have replicated the ones I experienced growing up. Of course, my mother was the perfect role model and created the feeling of warmth and love that comes from sharing a special meal together. Today we open our home to family and close friends, as well as newcomers to the Jewish community, students from USC and military at Fort Jackson. My hope is that this tradition will continue to transcend and the recipes new and old will be passed to the next generations. La Shana Tovah! (Hebrew New Year’s Greeting “To a Good Year!”)
Dedicated to the blessed memory of Helene Firetag Kligman, who passed away only a day before Erev Rosh Hashanah. -Rachel Barnett, co-creator of Kugels & Collards