Hamantaschen Reflections From Past and Present

By Gillian Jackson and Carol Lessure

Spending time in the kitchen making food together is one of those particular situations that no matter who you are with, good conversation and connection are surely to come. Some of my fondest memories are of time spent in the kitchen with loved ones. Last weekend’s Hamantaschen workshop did not disappoint! Etta Heisler and Laurie White provided some invaluable tips and techniques to help their fellow bakers perfect their Hamantaschen craft. In addition to their priceless anecdotes, members were given the opportunity to simply spend time together in the kitchen, and what a privilege this seems to be during this time of isolation!

Carol Lessure wrote a lovely reflection on the community that is built around times in the kitchen in ‘normal times.’ Enjoy!

AARC has always enjoyed silly, fun times during Purim. We have had many a Megillah reading, and lots of spiels, tons of costumes and of course yummy food enjoyed together.  Last year, we had two face to face celebrations – crazy right?  

When Gillian reached out to me about a Hamantaschen-baking workshop online, it reminded me of the many years that the Lessure Engelbert family hosted Hav families and friends to bake cookies in our home. 

It all started with a call for homemade Hamantaschen for dessert at a catered luncheon followed by a Purim spiel a decade ago. Then, the Beit Sefer requested some to fill Mishloach Manot. I thought it would be more fun to tackle the big baking task together. What followed was a 7-year tradition of baking cookies at our home. At first, the little ones needed lots of supervision and quickly tired of the task; a few years later and the tweens took over and the adults could visit over coffee and snacks. Then families with younger ones came over and the teenagers showed them how to do it.  

We figured out that people just liked hanging out – so we started popping pizzas into the oven after the cookies baked. Each family would bring a side dish to share for dinner. Our boys were happy to host and soon the tweens and teens would gravitate downstairs for Wii games while adults hung out on the main floor.

One year, I woke up with a fever and chills. I kept to our bedroom and the cookie-baking went on without me. It is truly a testament to our community spirit that not only did the cookies get made, but our guests left the main floor and kitchen cleaner and tidier than they found it! Not only that, but no one came down with whatever I had.  Obviously, this happened long before we’d heard of COVID-19. 

We thought it would be fun to share these memories and some vintage photos – may we be together again next year!

Carol’s “Best Hamantachen” (recipe is from Leva Lessure – aka Carol’s mom). Published in “Nobody Cooks Like Jewish Women” – NCJW National Capitol Area Section, 1992:

1 cup shortening (butter, margarine)

3 eggs (or make flax “eggs” with 1 tablespoon of fresh ground flax with 3 tablespoons of water for each egg you are substituting)

1 cup sugar

           Cream sugar and butter together, add eggs one at a time

1 tsp of vanilla

3 tablespoons of honey (or agave for the vegans)

2 tablespoons of orange juice

              Add these ingredients and mix well

4 cups flour

3 tsp of baking powder

½ tsp of salt

              Sift the dry ingredients together – esp. baking powder so it doesn’t clump

              Slowly add in dry ingredients into the blended wet ones

Once all the ingredients are well blended, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Take out only a small amount at a time and keep dough refrigerated – it will become very sticky when warm and difficult to roll and cut.

Cut two inch circles with a juice glass or cookie cutter, add a small spoonful of filling in the center and pinch the sides to form a triangle – leave a hole in the middle so that filling can be seen.

Baked on greased cookie sheets at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes until edges begin to brown. Cool for 5-10 minutes because filling stays hot longer than the cookies.

We prefer Solo brand fillings: Poppyseed, Prune and Apricot are traditional in our family. Cherry, chocolate and sweet cream cheese are good too!

AARC Bands Together for Comfort and Comradery on Election Day

As most of America settled in for a night of watching poll numbers roll in, a pensive bunch of AARC members opened a night of song with ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E. King. As the numbers trickled in, comfort was found in classic Jewish songs such as ‘Oseh Shalom’ and ‘Olam Chesed,’ as well as old favorites such as ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ and ‘If I had a Hammer.’ Old friends and new shared thoughts, checked in about what support they might need, and found solace in community.

On the day after the election, the community was welcomed to the weekly Wednesday check-in to discuss how they are doing and what they would like from the community going forward. It is such a blessing to have a community of people invested in providing care for each other during this challenging time! Some ideas for future programming were Jewish learning groups, explorations of Judaism and social justice, interfaith work, and opportunities for personal growth and connection. If you have ideas for programming during the winter months of the pandemic, please email us!

See below for some of the music we enjoyed on Tuesday night.

Bring a Friend Shabbat!

AARC hosts ‘Bring a Friend’ Shabbat on March 27th at the JCC of Ann Arbor.

Being together in holy community is an integral part of Judaism. The community, or kehilla, is the crucial element that has sustained us as a people over years of diaspora. It is such an important part of our religious practice, that we are not even allowed to study Torah without a minyan, or ten people of the community.

AARC is blessed with a warm, loving, and intellectually vibrant membership. Nothing beats welcoming Shabbat in a room filled with friendship, prayer, and joyful song!

Your friends and acquaintances might well be waiting for an opportunity to explore a congregation like ours. ‘Bring a Friend’ Shabbat provides an event just for them. They may feel more comfortable knowing there will be others there who are unfamiliar with the congregation attending along with them. Or perhaps you have been talking to a friend about AARC, but haven’t found the opportunity to bring them to services – this is your chance!

Members will benefit from meeting one another’s friends from outside AARC. We may in fact discover that even more connections within the Ann Arbor Jewish world than we imagine!

I look forward to seeing everyone and their new friends and loved ones on March 27th at the JCC of Ann Arbor. If your friends have young ones, please encourage them to attend Tot Shabbat at 5:45pm. Regular Shabbat services will begin at 6:30pm, followed by our usual potluck. (It wouldn’t be a bad idea to double our recipes for this potluck!)