Beth Shalom Synagogue Celebrates Ten-Year Anniversary of Bubbie’s Brisket and Bakery Extravaganza!

An interview with Randy Stark by Lyssa Harvey

Randy and Cindy Stark with their children.  Image courtesy Randy Stark

Randy and Cindy Stark with their children. Image courtesy Randy Stark

It was 10 years ago when Columbian Randy Stark had an idea—a Jewish brisket cooking contest! Randy’s vision was for this to be the premiere Fall Jewish Food Festival.  He presented this to the Beth Shalom Synagogue Board, and just like that “Bubbie’s Brisket Bakeoff” was born.  Bubbie is the Yiddish word for grandmother, or great grandmother.  The first event was held on September 13, 2009 and cleared $100.00. Today, this popular Fall Jewish Food Festival has morphed into “Bubbie’s Brisket and Bakery Extravaganza,” sometime referred to simply as “Bubbie’s.” It is the only kosher food festival in South Carolina, and last year it clearly proved to be a successful fundraising event for Beth Shalom after selling out its most popular dishes. Randy, the founder and creator of this festival, says it is bigger and better than ever. The festival features all-kosher items: Chicken Soup, Brisket, Corned Beef Sandwiches, Stuffed Cabbage and Meatballs and Challah, as well as some Israeli foods. It also features a bakery of homemade cakes and cookies. Rugelach is a favorite. (See below for Randy’s mother, Suzi Stark’s, recipe.) 

Randy and his original crew of volunteers, Dan Matzner, Amy Berger, and Terri Hodges, organized the first year of the Jewish cookoff. Randy remembers staying up all night with excitement and nervous energy the night before. He wanted to make sure everything was in place for the next morning.  And when the decision to do this again came along—their family and friends wouldn’t let them not do it. Randy’s parents, Scrappy and Suzi Stark, Dan’s parents, Gad and Bobbie Matzner, Terri’s parents, Ben and Arlene Perlstine, along with many other Beth Shalom volunteers, pitched in to make the second year work! It transitioned from a cookoff into a food festival. It took hours of hard work . According to Randy, “it was a labor of love. Our parents and children and friends joined in to make it a fun community event.”

Randy’s original goal for a premiere Jewish Food Festival has come true, but he says that his favorite aspect of the festival is “the spirit de corps.” He really enjoys working together with new and old Beth Shalom members, who volunteer both in and out of the kitchen to get the festival ready!  It brings the synagogue community together for a common goal. According to Randy, the festival is a different kind of spirituality. It’s one of connections and joy that he personally cherishes as a Jewish value.

Three generations of the Stark family, including Suzi and Scrappy Stark (at far right).  Image courtesy Randy Stark

Three generations of the Stark family, including Suzi and Scrappy Stark (at far right). Image courtesy Randy Stark

The Stark family have long been an integral part of Columbia’s Jewish community. Randy Stark is the youngest son of Suzi and Scrappy Stark. His older brother, Andy, lives in Memphis. He was born in Norfolk, Virginia, his parent’s hometown. The family moved to Columbia in 1971 when Randy was 1 ½ years old, and he considers himself a native Columbian. His father retired after a career as an admissions officer at USC, and his mother served on the at Benedict College for 20 years. After graduating from the University of Alabama, Randy interned at Disney in Orlando, where he met his wife, Cindy. They both attended the University of Florida where he received his MBA and Cindy her nursing credentials. Since returning, they have always lived in close proximity to the Jewish Community Center and the synagogue, where their sons have gone to Sunday school and their oldest two have celebrated their Bar Mitzvahs. As a child, Randy grew up at the old Jewish Community Center on Trenholm Road and remembers his days of playing interfaith basketball. Now, Randy serves as a basketball coach for the interfaith league and also on the Beth Shalom Synagogue Board. Randy and Cindy are both “doers,” and he credits the strong, positive feelings of growing up in a close Jewish community for his strong Jewish activism today. He is proud that his parents are receiving this year’s Beth Shalom synagogue’s highest award, called “The Magen David Award,” for their service to the synagogue and community.

Cindy and Suzi Stark at Bubbie’s Brisket, 2017.  Image courtesy Randy Stark

Cindy and Suzi Stark at Bubbie’s Brisket, 2017. Image courtesy Randy Stark

Randy shared a fond memory from the first 5 years of Bubbie’s  when he gathered a team of his buddies to prep the festival’s chicken soup. Picture a gaggle of guys, listening to music, drinking a few cold ones, and cutting up carrots, celery, and onions while just plain cutting up. He still remembers the laughter of those long evenings. The recipe is one contributed by his wife, Cindy Stankiewicz Stark. She was given a Passover cookbook by her mother-in-law, Suzi Stark, when she and Randy married over 22 years ago. Cindy has tweaked it over the years to make it the award-winning and best-selling chicken soup for the festival. Cooking the chicken soup for the festival entails three 20-gallon pots of chicken broth, 12 chickens, 9 pounds of carrots, celery, and 12 onions. The cooking crew does this twice! 

Randy admits that his favorite thing at the Food Festival is the big corned beef sandwich. “It’s kosher meat brought in from Griller’s Pride in Atlanta and it’s just delicious. I think it’s hands down the best corned beef sandwich in the South! Better than Carnegie or Katz deli in New York.” Ten years ago, Randy’s idea of the Brisket Bakeoff was a winner, and Bubbie’s Brisket and Bakery Extravaganza carries on the tradition today. As for Randy and Cindy, they entered their Matzo Ball (chicken soup) recipe in that first year’s cookoff, and it won! They proudly display their bronze engraved award for the chicken soup in their kitchen. 

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Rugelach

By Suzi Stark

  • 1/2 cup butter ( I use Breakstone's unsalted whipped butter) 

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 3 cups flour

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1 package dry yeast

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (if desired)

Mix creamed butter, sugar, sour cream, and vanilla. Add yeast and flour and salt. Divide into 6 parts and refrigerate overnight. Roll out each ball into a 9-inch circle. Spread cinnamon, nut, sugar, and/or preserves. (I add some unsalted butter.) Cut into pie-shaped wedges and roll into rugelach shapes. Place on buttered cookie sheets. Bake approximately 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Three Bubbie’s classics: corned beef, matzo ball soup, and brisket.  Image courtesy Randy Stark

Three Bubbie’s classics: corned beef, matzo ball soup, and brisket. Image courtesy Randy Stark

Award-Winning Matzo Ball Soup

By Cindy Stankiewicz Stark

Soup:

  • 1 chicken, 3-5 pounds

  • 1 large onion diced

  • 1-2 carrots, sliced or diced

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 5-6 peppercorns

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon marjoram

  • 1 tablespoon thyme

Wash chicken, removing fat and skin. Place in large (at least 6-quart) pot. Add water, one quart per pound of chicken. Bring to a boil, skimming as needed. Simmer for 30 minutes, then add vegetables and seasonings. Simmer covered for 1 ½ - 2 hours until chicken is tender. Remove chicken (which can be used for other meals). If desired, strain soup. Add matzo balls.

Matzo balls (yields 16-18):

  • 4 tablespoons oil or fat

  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten

  • 1 cup matzo meal

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 4 tablespoons soup stock or water

Mix fat or oil and eggs together. Mix together matzo meal and salt and all fat or oil and eggs. When well blended, add soup stock or water. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Bring to boil 2-3 quarts of water. Form balls about the size of walnuts from the matzo meal mixture and drop them into the boiling water. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove matzo balls and add to warm chicken soup.

The Soup Lady: The Amazing Talents of Jadzia Sklarz Stern

Submitted by Lilly Filler

Jadzia and Ben Stern, late-1950s. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Jadzia and Ben Stern, late-1950s. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Creplach or Kneidelach that was the question! 

My mom, Jadzia Sklarz Stern, was the ultimate cook and homemaker. She was the 4th of 8 children of Hadassah and Zev Sklarz of Poland and learned by watching her mother care for the family of 10. How and why my mother learned to cook remains a mystery to us all today since she was separated from her parents at age 13 never to see them again. She was a Holocaust Survivor and lost the formative years with her parents. However, not only did she survive, she thrived. Although she never had any formal education, she was a home executive and excelled in cooking, sewing, flower arranging and caring for her family. Her culinary skills were known throughout the community. 

Ben and Jadzia Szklarz Stern with their children, from left, Herbert Joel, Helena, Lilly, and William Harry, mid-1960s. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Ben and Jadzia Szklarz Stern with their children, from left, Herbert Joel, Helena, Lilly, and William Harry, mid-1960s. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Her specialties were many, but no one could make a soup like my mom.  She was The Soup Lady. When one of her 4 children (Lilly, Helena, Bill or Herb) would bring home an unexpected guest, there was always plenty of soup to go around. Without recipes, she made split pea, barley, vegetable. etc. and of course chicken soup. Her “recipe” was tasting, smelling and touching the food. She was amazing!! Yadzia’s chicken soup was renowned and continues to be made by her daughters, Lilly (me) and Helena, and her daughter-in-law Linda Cherry Stern. It was our good fortune that mom provided Linda with a recipe for her glorious Creplach, the king of all soup inclusions.  

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Creplach is a meat dumpling. A laborious long process is needed to make these delectable delicacies. As children, we often crowded around mom to watch and to count the number of Creplach that were made.  We made mathematical calculations of how many we each could eat, and we made sure no one “overstepped” that number. When my youngest brother Herb was about 10 years old, he was intently watching the Creplach making and began pacing around the room. My mom noticed his obvious “concern” and questioned what was wrong. He sheepishly asked, “Do one of my sisters have the recipe for the kreplach, so that just in case you (mom) was not around, could they make them?” We laughed for years about that story, so it was fitting that Linda (married to my brother Bill) went to help Mom in the late 80’s, right before the High Holidays and before brother Herb was to be married. Jadzia had undergone foot surgery and needed some assistance.  Thus, began a cherished tradition of one of the girls working with mom to prepare the delicious dumplings. 

Rosh Hashanah in Filler home, 1988. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Rosh Hashanah in Filler home, 1988. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Recipe of Creplach (makes about 70-75): As recited by Jadzia Stern during High Holy Days and typed by Linda Cherry Stern

  • 5lbs all purpose flour

  • 4lbs hamburger meat

  • 2lbs onion

Water has to be boiling so they don't stick to the bottom. You will need to change water after boiling around 20-30 creplach because they will start to stick.

Dough

  • 1 egg

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 2 tbsp. water

  • 1 cup flour

Beat egg, add salt and water. Add flour gradually and knead to a smooth loaf until it does not stick to the hand. Cut in half and roll out into a round or square. Cut into 4 strips down and across.

Filling

Use chopped meat - any leftover cooked roast that has been chopped very finely. For about 1.5-2 pounds of meant, add: 1-2 eggs to hold hold together, 1.5 tsp. salt, .5 tsp. pepper.

Saute the onions in schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) until clear before mixing with the meat

Fill squares and fold 3 cornered. Pinch together and close. Bring point up together to form like a cup. Boil large pot of water with a little salt added to water and drop creplach in and cook for 15 minutes or until they float to the top. This makes 30 and will fit into a large white enamel soup pot. To bake - 350 degrees, brush with chicken fat until light brown.

Recipe of Kneidalach (Matzo Balls)

Because of the enormous time spent making the Creplach, occasionally Kneidalach (matzo balls) were made.  The discussion among many (not the Stern family) was “what is the correct texture of Kneidalach”?  Were they to be soft or hard, fluffy or firm, small or large, from a box or “homemade”?  The debate continues today.  Jadzia’s matzo balls were homemade, firm and large, no debate there!! 

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  • 4 tbls. vegetable oil

  • 3-4 large eggs, slightly beaten (more eggs make a “harder matzo ball”)

  • 1 cup Matzo meal

  • 4 tbls. chicken soup (can add club soda if you prefer “lighter. fluffier balls)

  • 1-2 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients before adding matzo meal.  Mix well and place covered in bowl in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  Then boil 3-4 quarts of salted water and form the chilled matzo balls with a teaspoon and your hands about 1 inch, and drop in the boiling water. Then cover for 1 hour.  Once cooked (they will double in size when cooked) they can be frozen on a cookie sheet or placed in the warm soup.  If you warm the soup, wait to put the Kneidalach in or they will get “mushy” if warmed too long. Makes about 16 Kneidalach. 

Recipe of Chicken Soup

  • Baking hen (NOT a chicken or roaster)

  • Leeks (1 large)

  • Carrots (6-8 large)

  • Celery (4-6 stalks)

  • Fresh Parsley and or Dill

  • Osem Consomme, seasoning mix 3-4 tbls.

  • 1-2 tbls. of salt, pepper to taste

Clean hen and salt well.  Boil 2-3 quarts of water and then add the hen.  Bring to boil again and skim the fat and such off the top.  Cover and boil for about 1-2 hours depending on size of hen. Clean and chop the leeks, carrots, and celery.  

Before adding the vegetables, add 3-4 tablespoons of Osem seasoning mix and salt and pepper to taste. (may add more or less to taste) Slowly add all vegetables to soup, put on low and simmer for another 2 hours, covered.  After cooking, cool soup and then refrigerate.  Best if made at least 1 day prior to eating.  Skim fat off the top of the soup and remove the hen before rewarming.  If your family likes the chicken in the soup, take if off the bone or cut the cooked chicken into small serving sizes and leave it in the soup.    

I fondly remember sitting around the holiday table with 2-4 soldiers from Fort Jackson, 2-4 students from USC and the family.  After the soup was served, most were finished with the meal, despite the fact that mom had made gefilte fish, brisket, potato kugel, vegetables, and apple cake.  There was no debate, the soup was the best whether we had Creplach or Kneidalach, it was delicious. 

Sylvia Fisher’s Passover Matzo Ball Soup

Submitted by Suzi Fields

Main Ingredient: Love

In this post, Suzi Fields recounts how one recipe, her mother’s Passover Matzo Ball Soup,  has connected multiple generations of her family. Although her mother, Sylvia Fisher, did not keep kosher, her grandmother did, and Sylvia was raised to prepare foods according to Jewish tradition, including on holidays, festivals and the Sabbath. After spending their careers in Detroit, Michigan, Sylvia and her husband, George, retired to Spartanburg in 1982 to be near Suzi, her son-in-law, Dr. Sander Fields, and grandchildren. 

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Suzi on the relationship between her mother and her son: 

Our, son, Andy, at the age of twelve in 1983, nominated my mother, Sylvia Fisher, to be The Spartanburg Herald Journal’s, “Cook of the Month.” He wrote that his grandmother was the best cook in the whole world and that she was an expert on making traditional Jewish food. One of his favorite dishes was a combination of her chicken and matzo ball soup. He said the main ingredient that goes into all of her recipes is an enormous amount of love!' 

…and on Sylvia’s great-grandson keeping the family tradition alive: 

Unbelievable as it may seem, her great-grandson, Parker Jordan Fields, at the age of ten, entered my mother’s chicken and matzo ball soup recipe in “The Healthy Comfort Food Contest” at Polo Road Elementary School in Columbia. Low and behold, he won first place, which entitled him to participate in the Richland County School District 2 school-wide contest on March 16th, 2017

Parker Fields. Image courtesy Suzi Fields

Parker Fields. Image courtesy Suzi Fields

Sander and Suzi Fields with their grandson, Parker. Image courtesy Suzi Fields

Sander and Suzi Fields with their grandson, Parker. Image courtesy Suzi Fields

Parker Fields. Image courtesy Suzi Fields

Parker Fields. Image courtesy Suzi Fields

Chicken Soup

  • 4 or 5 chicken breasts, or small chicken

  • 1 large onion

  • 5 carrots, sliced

  • ½ green pepper

  • 4 sticks celery

  • 1 chicken bouillon cube

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Boil water, add chicken, add vegetables. Cook about 1 hour. To serve clear, remove chicken and vegetables, or serve with carrots. 

Matzo Balls  

  • 2 tablespoons chicken fat or oil

  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten

  • ½ cup Matzo meal

  • ½ teaspoon salt, if desired

  • 2 tablespoons soup stock or water

Mix fat and eggs together. Combine Matzo meal and salt; add to egg mixture. When well blended, add soup stock or water.  Cover mixing bowl and place in refrigeration for at least 20 minutes. When chilled, form into balls.  

Using a 2 or 3 quart pot, bring salted water to a brisk boil. Reduce flame and drop balls into slightly bubbling water. Cover pot and cook 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from pot and put balls into chicken soup pot.  

Memories of the Fair, Florida and Flanken Soup

Submitted by Jackie Dickman

Florida Boyd

Florida Boyd

These are my childhood memories of the State Fair in the early 60’s. That was when the fairgrounds were covered in saw dust, there were girlie and freak shows, live mice in the lucky numbers game, and fairgoers often were loud and rowdy after sundown. That did not keep me with my sisters and friends from having free rein at the fair—meeting at the rocket if we got separated. 

The B’nai B’rith Women’s fair booth with homemade Jewish food was a major operation and a real Jewish community affair. This was their big fund-raiser for the year. It was a favorite among fairgoers who enjoyed sitting down to a good corned beef or pastrami sandwich or a Kosher hot dog. For the carnival workers who travelled with the fair, the B’nai B’rith Women’s booth was a place to get a good hot home cooked meal on a cold fair night. I remember the experience of watching these men who led hard lives. It was not what I was used to seeing.

Since my dad Max Dickman was a great cook, who happened to own a scrap metals business next to the fair, and my mother Selma Dickman was very active in B’nai B’rith Women, serving as President and chair of the BBW booth for several years, fair week was a very busy time in our family. But it was Florida who was the outstanding member of the fair booth preparation task force. Florida Boyd was my family’s long time house keeper, cook, extra mama, friend and family member. If you grew up Jewish in Columbia in our day, you knew Florida. She prepared amazing Jewish and Southern dishes. Florida “catered” many Passover and Break the Fast meals at the Tree of Life Temple and was the “go to” for brit milah celebrations. That is a story for another day. 

Florida was a mainstay at the fair.   One of the dishes especially enjoyed by the traveling carnival workers was Florida’s flanken (beef short ribs) and barley soup. It was thick and hot and delicious. I do not have her recipe. In fact, Florida would not have had a recipe. We do have the pots!

Soup pot used by the Dickman family at the fair in 1960s.

Soup pot used by the Dickman family at the fair in 1960s.

Although I do not have her recipe, I know this hearty soup was made with cellophane tubes of Manischewitz soup mix to start, with added carrots, celery, onions, maybe potatoes and powdered garlic, and of course short ribs.  So I have scoured the internet and combined several entries to come up with an approximation of Florida’s delicious flanken soup. And now I am motivated to prepare this soup for a cold winter night and think of the fair, my parents and Florida.  Dad and Florida also made pots of whole cow tongues for the fair, but I’ll try not to think about that.

FLANKEN and BARLEY SOUP (8 servings)

  • In a large pot, cover 8 pieces (about 3 lbs.) of flanken (beef short ribs with bone in) with water; bring to boil for 2 minutes; then change water to the full amount (4 quarts).

  • Bring water with flanken to a boil then simmer covered for 1 hour.

  • Add Manischewitz soup mixes (not the enclosed season packets)-one tube lima beans & barley and one tube split pea & barley.

  • Add chopped carrots, celery and onions, potatoes (at least 1 cup each).

  • Simmer covered another hour.

  • Mix in contents of seasoning packets, a few bay leaves, and garlic powder, salt or pepper if needed—simmer covered for 15 minutes.

  • As cooking, stir occasionally and thoroughly, and add water if needed. And may need more or less cooking time.

  • These are typical Florida instructions. If you want a more specific recipe, consult the internet or a traditional Jewish Cookbook.

PS. The end of the B’nai B’rith Women’s fair booth was due in part to an improved life style of carnival employees, and in large part due to stricter regulation of off-premises preparation of foods served at fairs and festivals.