who's in the kitchen

Rosh Hashana nigonim, recalling Jerry’s dad


This year, two days before Rosh Hashona, it will be my dear dad’s 15th yahrzeit. Hard to believe it has been that long already.

My dad was a member of the Young Israel-Beth El of Boro Park and served as president and as gabbai. He took his duties very seriously. He had a box full of index cards, all the member’s names (about 1,400) along with their family yahrzeits, so that every member was sure to get an aliyah without having to ask. He loved the Yom Tovim davening, world renowned Chazzan Moshe Kusevitsky and the chazanim who followed and the choirs that accompanied them. I have wonderful memories sitting next to my dad in shul when I was a little girl. I loved watching him take his gabbai duties very seriously, almost as much as I loved that my dad sat right near the candy man.

I was talking about this with my husband Jerry, as he too loved davening with his dad. As far back as he can remember, Jerry has vivid memories of davening with his dad on Rosh Hashana.

Jerry’s parents davened at rabbi Landau’s shteible on Avenue L and East 9th Street in Brooklyn. The davening in the Veretzkier Rav’s shul was beautiful and his father loved to sing, always joyfully with a heartfelt radiant smile pervading his face. Jerry loved watching and singing along with him. Often during the year, Jerry’s family, led by his dad, would sing portions of the Yom Tov davening at their Shabbat table.

When jerry moved to Teaneck, several of his friends launched the Young Israel of Teaneck in Jerry’s neighborhood. His parents often came to spend Shabbat and Yom Tov, as they loved the davening led by Jerry’s close friend David Shapiro. David davened beautifully and was often joined on the bimah with another close friend, Mitch Merlis a’h, singing the Yom Tov davening together. David, Mitch, David Horowitz (the erstwhile gabbai) and Lior Hod, Jerry’s close friend, would often visit his parents during Yom tov to sing with Jerry’s father.

Unfortunately, Jerry’s father became very ill. His parents continued to visit spend Yom tov in Teaneck but his father’s radiant indelible smile began to fade as his illness progressed. He would come to shul for shorter intervals and would only occasionally join in singing the davening he loved so profoundly. Everyone in shul was heartbroken.

Finally, his dad’s illness appeared to have defeated him when he came to Teaneck for what turned out to be his last Rosh Hashana in shul. He now had difficulty walking and his smile and his capacity to sing the Yom tov davening had been vanquished by his inexorable illness. David Horowitz decided to have Jerry’s dad open the Aron for the part of the davening which had always been his favorite and which his friends had sung with his father over the years. Jerry walked him to the Aron and helped him open it, then moved aside. David led the shul singing the beautiful nigonim, when Jerry’s father unexpectedly turned around and faced the  congregation. His beautiful smile suddenly returned. He sang his favorite part of the davening with passion and joy, for all to witness.

Paradoxically, he sang as he would never sing again.

As he walked back from the Aron to his seat, everyone in shul greeted him with hugs and profound emotion as tears of joy streaming down everyone’s faces. His father’s love for the Yom Tov davening had apparently humbled his illness, for the briefest of indelible moments, reflecting the inexplicable power which a kehila sincerely davening together in heart and soul can achieve.

Now, when Jerry davens in our shul during Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, he often roams from minyan to minyan searching for a sheliach tzibur who sings melodic nigonim which he imagines his father would have loved. He closes his eyes and strives to recapture the music of his father’s voice still resonating within him.

May you all have a Shana Tova, or a “Git G’benched Yur” as my grandparents used to “vinch me “oon” wish upon me. 

Potato Leek Soup

Parve, Dairy or Meat

Among the many symbolic foods we eat on Rosh Hashana for a sweet new year, are leaks. My friend Smadar Meer shared this wonderful recipe with me. It can be made as a meat, dairy or pareve. I chose to make it dairy. If you choose to use real chicken stock then substitute coconut milk for the heavy cream. If you want to make it dairy use pareve chicken stock and heavy cream. Should you want to make it pareve, use the coconut milk and pareve chicken stock.

For those of you, that use soy or almond milk, they tend to break up when it’s rewarmed, therefore coconut milk is better and has a closer consistency to heavy cream than other substitutes.

From Once Upon a Chef, by Jennifer Segal

Six servings


3 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 leeks, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

7 cups pareve chicken or vegetable broth 

2 bay leaves

1 sprig fresh thyme, plus more for garnish if desired

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

Chives, finely chopped (optional)


Melt the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until soft and wilted, about 10 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary so as not to brown.

Add the potatoes, stock, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper to pot and bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are very soft.

Fish out the thyme sprig and bay leaves, then purée the soup with a hand-held immersion blender until smooth. (Alternatively, use a standard blender to purée the soup in batches; see note below.) Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. If soup is too thin, simmer until thickened. If it’s too thick, add water or stock to thin it out. Garnish with fresh herbs if desired.

Note: If using a standard blender to purée the soup: be sure not to fill the jar more than halfway; leave the hole in the lid open and cover loosely with a dishtowel to allow the heat to escape, and pour blended soup into a clean pot.