The Hippo


Jun 4, 2020








Knishes hot out of the oven. Courtesy photo.

18th annual Jewish Food Festival

When: Sunday, July 12, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Temple B’nai Israel, 210 Court St., Laconia
Free admission. Food priced per item.

Lots of latkes
Laconia temple brings authentic Jewish cuisine to NH

By Allie Ginwala

What started out as a fundraiser on the grounds of Temple B’Nai Israel in Laconia has grown into a festival of blintzes, corned beef sandwiches and rugelach, attracting hundreds of people from across the state and beyond, ready to get their fill of authentic Jewish cuisine at the annual Jewish Food Festival.

“This whole thing really began with a yard sale in front of the temple,” food festival committee member Barbara Morgenstern said. “And there were literally only a few people at the beginning.” 
Once the temple decided to add a food component, the event started to grow. Morgenstern and the other members of the food festival committee started preparations for this year’s festival right after last year’s.
“We gather up and take a look at what happened and determine what we can do better to enhance the customer experience, the food quantities,” Stu Needleman, head of the food festival committee, said in a phone interview.
For the past couple of years, the committee has had to increase the amount of food. Last year saw over 500 people, and Sue Needleman, head of food preparation, said they’ll up the ante again this year.
“In that short spell that the food festival runs, from 11 to 2, in that time an enormous number of people come through and by the last half hour we’re heading into the kitchen [to see if anything is left over],” Morgenstern said. “It really goes that fast.”
Weeks before the festival, the cooking team was already at work making authentic Jewish dishes from family recipes that have been passed down for generations.
“We’ve made over 400 pieces of stuffed cabbage, which we serve with rice, and that particular recipe is from an aunt of one of the temple members,” Sue Needleman said.
They’ve also made 20 gallons of matzo ball soup, 60 10-inch strudels, 816 latkes (potato pancakes), 1,200 rugelach cookies, 580 potato knishes and 700 meat knishes. 
“We’ve handmade the dough in a pretty traditional way,” she said. “The meat filling for the meat knishes comes from a recipe that my husband Stu’s aunt would make and she was somebody who came over from eastern Europe in the early 1900s.” 
With enough meat to make over 600 sandwiches, Stu Needleman said they’ll have pastrami, corned beef and tongue, all cut and cooked by hand at the temple the day of the festival.
Some of the most popular items each year are cheese blintzes, made with farmer’s cheese and cream cheese and fried in butter right in front of the guests on festival day. They’ll be served with sour cream and fresh strawberries, and they’ve already got 1,100 ready to go.
While many of the ingredients can be found locally, some of the items require a bit of travel to obtain. A trip to Portsmouth is in order for rye bread, and to Boston for four or five barrels of half sour pickles that aren’t readily available in New Hampshire.
“We search around for unique things,” Stu Needleman said. “Anything that’s unique, like corned beef or pickles, we have to go as far as we have to go to get them.”
Due to its outreach into the community and reputation for authentic food, Jewish and non-Jewish families alike come together to enjoy the festival.
“Once people eat this food it takes them back,” Morgenstern said. “It takes them back to the memories of the old days and wonderful nostalgia that emerges.”
“This food comes from the eastern European region and so it appeals to many people,” said Karen Lukeman, who’s in charge of fundraising marketing. 
Nearly everyone at Temple B’nai Israel gets involved.
“The temple is relatively small in terms of membership,” Stu Needleman said. “We will use 65 or so people that day to be serving, [providing] customer service, all kinds of different functions. Virtually the entire congregation is out there serving the community.”
The original temple yard sale, now the Nearly New Boutique, will be set up as well, with items contributed by members of Temple B’nai Israel.
As seen in the July 9, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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