Chapel Hill families from Kehillah Synagogue celebrate Purim and Passover with food, festivities and fellowship
By Allison Darcy | Photo by James Stefiuk
Spring holidays are a time of food and festivity for Jewish families in Chapel Hill. Just ask Mary Ann Freedman and Darryl Freedman, who are well-known at Chapel Hill’s Kehillah Synagogue for writing the yearly Purim spiel, a celebratory dramatization of the Book of Esther. At Kehillah, Mary Ann explains, their spiels include “funny skits and songs … about both the holiday of Purim and about things that were happening in the synagogue that we thought we could spoof.”
This is just one of the playful ways Kehillah congregants mark the holiday. “The rabbi dresses up in a very funny costume,” says past synagogue president Linda Frankel about the annual costume contest. “She’s always very creative.” Miriam Ornstein and her husband, David Luks, remember winning one year with their two daughters, Adina Ornstein-Luks and Sivan Ornstein-Luks, each dressed as one of the four seasons. Miriam also recounts another holiday when she wore a skirt her mother had made for her back when she was in the musical “Oklahoma!” at Guy B. Phillips Middle School. “That was certainly embarrassing to the kids,” she says. “We did not win that year.”
Miriam and David’s girls, now adults, always enjoyed making hamantaschen, a three-pointed cookie with various fillings. “The girls would make random concoctions, like, ‘Let’s put three chocolate chips in with a little bit of apricot jelly and maybe some raspberries.’” Their recipe is Miriam’s great-grandmother’s, and it’s perfect for those who keep kosher. “They don’t have dairy by design so that you can serve them after meat meals,” David explains. “A lot of her recipes used orange juice.” When Sivan was in eighth grade, she did a project on Jewish cooking in the South and found a recipe using sweet tea. “But it was actually nothing special,” Miriam says.
Since becoming vegetarians, Linda and her husband, Lewis Margolis, came up with their own variations on Jewish recipes. For Passover – a holiday commemorating the exodus from slavery in Egypt that typically begins with a ritual meal called the Seder – Lewis makes a matzo ball soup that incorporates lemongrass and other atypical flavors. “Traditional,” Linda calls their meal, “but also not traditional.” This is fairly representative of her entire Seder, which she describes as multicultural and multigenerational. Before he retired, Lewis was on the faculty at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and the pair would invite a few students each year. “We always had a lot of interesting conversations based on people’s different viewpoints,” Linda says, recalling guests from Australia, Iraq and India.
Mary Ann and Darryl’s Haggadah, the book containing the story read at the Seder, is particularly special – her mother and aunt created it together. These days, their Seders include their three grown children and eight grandchildren, who range in age from 12-26, “and usually a few friends as well.” Miriam and David do two Seders – one with Miriam’s parents, who also live in Chapel Hill, and one with friends who they’ve celebrated with for 20 years now. “Our kids are about the same age,” David says of their friends. Miriam says it’s something she believes has given their children fond memories of the holiday. Seder at her parents’ is unique, with the story being told in the context of the theme of slavery on a global level. “It’s become a major sort of benchmark for us,” David says. “Having a forum to talk about social justice with their children and their grandchildren is a huge deal.”
Aunt Miriam’s ‘Kosher for Passover’ Egg Noodles
“This recipe may not seem fancy, but since most noodles are not kosher for Passover (and the kosher for Passover ones from the grocery store are pretty dreadful), these are a real treat,” says Rabbi Jen Feldman, who has led Kehillah Synagogue since 2002. When adapting Jacques Pépin’s vegetable soup recipe (found on washingtonpost.com) for Passover, she says she skips the garlic pistou and adds her aunt’s egg noodles (plus matzo balls). “I remember standing beside my aunt (z”l, zichronah livrachah, may her memory be for a blessing) and cousins as my aunt fried the crepes and my cousins rolled and chopped the noodles before the Seder,” Rabbi Jen says. “Even though there were so many delicious dishes being prepared (homemade gefilte fish, matzo kugel, tzimmes), it was the humble egg noodle that I looked forward to every year.”
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 1 Tbsp. Passover cake meal
- Neutral oil
Whisk eggs and water. Sprinkle cake meal on top of the mixture and whisk in until as lump-free as possible. Place a nonstick pan (a crepe pan would be ideal, but a small pan works fine) over medium heat and grease lightly with neutral oil.
Pour in a little batter and swirl around until the batter coats the pan (like you would for a blintz or a crepe). Cook 1 minute. Remove and place on a paper towel to cool. Repeat until all are done.
Make a stack, and roll them up together to form a log. Slice log of egg crepes thinly.
Separate noodles and at time of serving, place in bottom of bowls and pour matzo ball soup on top. Noodles can also be made a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge.