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June 13, 2014

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 13, 2014 Barbara Briggs, University Press of New England. The cover of Laura Silver's new book, "Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food." By Robert Gluck When she started her knish book project, Silver had no plans for an intercontinental The history of the knish journey, though she did plan represents more than just the to go to Vineland, N.J., home lineage of a fried, dumpling- of the Pasta Factory, the like food. It demonstrates company that purchased the the often-central role of food famous knish recipes of the in communities and cultural Mrs. Stahl's bakery. legacies. As a young girl from the Laura Silver knows that all New York borough of Queens, too well. She has consumed Silver vividly remembers knishesonthreedifferentcon- heading to Mrs. Stahl's in tinents, and her exhaustive the Brighton Beach section research on the iconic potato of Brooklyn for knishes. The treat has resulted in her new book follows her as she traces book,"Knish: In Search of the her roots from New York to Jewish Soul Food,"which was the town of Knyszyn, Poland. released in early May. "Mrs. Stahl's was our go-to place, but there were certainly knishes in other places," she told "When I grew up in Queens there were many Jewish delis around. Mrs. Fanny Stahl was born with the Yiddish name of Feige. She was an immigrant who supported her five children by doing many jobs, including cook- ing. She started the knish shop and ran it until her death. She was very active in the Brooklyn chapter of Hadassah (the women's Zionist organization) and she knitted sweaters for the people of Palestine before Israel was a state. She was an entrepreneur par excellence. She worked very hard." Silver is considered the world's foremost expert on the knish. But can she definitively saywhere the first knish came from? "I don't think it's possible to know exactly who made the first knish," she said. "It cer- tainly happened in a different time but itwas before 1614, the first recorded history of the knish, which is in a poem in the Polish language. It comes from a town called Krakow- iec, which is in modern-day Ukraine in what would be the Pale of Settlement." The knish undoubtedly has links to Knyszyn, said Silver. But before setting out on her quest, she had no idea that she might be related to direct descendants of the knish's pioneers from tha very town. "I didn't realize I was on a quest until I was in Poland with my family andwe learned that our great aunt was from Knyszyn," she said. "That's what tipped me off that I might be a direct descendant of the knish, which I am in fact. It was bashert. According to David Sax, author of "Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen," Silver's knish book is a lovingly re- searched volume that elevates the knish--arguably the humblest of Jewish foods-- into a weighty symbol of history, identity, and family. "Knishes haven't met any- thing this good for them since the invention of mustard," Sax told, referring to Silver's book. "The knish is ripe for the spotlight Laura has shone upon it. Just look at the lineup for Black Seed, the new Montreal bagel place in New York, and you'll see that the revived interest in Jewish soul food is only growing. I bet we'll see some amazing knishes in the years to come." Arthur Schwartz, author of"Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Reci- pes Revisited," said the knish "has never been put to better use" than it is in Silver's book. "Laura Silver's at-times poetic meditation on knishes is not only a cultural history of this filled lump of dough, as meticulously researched as any doctoral thesis, but also a Proustian personal memoir that hints of James Joyce, no less, in the way Silver intones and uses the rhythms of Aramaic Jewish liturgy, Yid- dishkeit, and Yiddisl~ humor to tell her story," Schwartz said on the book's website. During her research, Silver discovered that the knish has connections to sources as sur- prising as Eleanor Roosevelt and rap music. One of her favorite stories in the book is about Gussie Schwebel, a for- mer knish maker on Houston Street in New York. Schwebel wrote to Roosevelt to ask her to sample her knishes. "They turned her away because there was too much press," SilVer told "Mrs. Roosevelt's secretary thought it was a public rela- tions stunt. I say hats off to Mrs. Schwebel, because she had the chutzpah to write to Roosevelt. She wanted to help her adopted country so she asked to cook knishes for the armed forces. She used what she had, a knish, a food, and she ramped it up. That was in the 1940s. Later on she was quoted again in the Washington Post saying that knishes are going to bring about world peace and put an end to the Cold War. She saw food as an instrument for political maneuvering. Good for her." Where are Silver's favorite places to buy a knish? "The best knish you can get is one you make yourself," she said. "Barring that, I like the one at Gottlieb's in [the Brooklyn neighborhood of] Williamsburg because they speak Yiddish behind the counter. I also like the ones at Pastrami Queen uptown [in Manhattan], and if you have a hankering walking down the street there's Gabila's. Knish Nosh also has some good knish shops in Queens, and there's Yonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery on Houston Street." Every culture does seem to have its wrapped pastries, and Silver calls them"knishin' cousins." "Food is never just about Barbara Briggs, University Press of New England Knish expert Laura Silver food," she said. "It was about identity, otherness, sameness. I never thought of the knish as anything unusual. The more I talk about it the more I realize everyone doesn't know what a knish is. It's a great moment for knish literacy." Silver was recently hired to teach a course at the Brook- lyn Greenery, "Improve Your Knish IQ," to give people a chance to expand their knowl- edge of the food. "The knish is a simple food and it is accessible," Silver said. "It is one that people yearn for even when they don't need to eat simple food because it reminds them of connections that may be dif- ficult to maintain, or obtain." The author is also set to appear at New York's Museum of Jewish Heritage on June 15 to discuss her book with food writer Gabriella Gershensonl Gabriel Sanders, director~ of public programs at the mu- seum told JNS,org that what "King Arthur is to the knight, Laura Silver is to the knish." "Never before has the po- tato pocket had such a devoted champion," Sanders said. F By June Glazer mostrecentdonationofanad- to Israel to celebrate my ditional 1,000 trees, together 50th birthday," said Werner, Most people who donate to with his partner, Jim Hering, a Denver and Palm Springs Jewish National Fund (JNF) may be a rare instance when resident who co-owns with for tree planting in Israel do thoselovedonesarecanine.In Hering the Colorado-based so in honor or in memory of late May, Werner and Hering homefurnishings retailer and loved ones. So, too, with Ron donated a grove in remem- design source HWHome, Inc. Werner, board president of brance of their three beloved "IwassittinginaJNFmeeting JNF'sMountainStates region, rescue dogs, Shimshon (Sam), where we were talking about who, on his own and with Zacharaya (Zach) and Lucy. trees and it got me thinking." his family, has planted more "The idea came to me "The more I thought about than 1,500 trees. However, his while I was planning a trip it, the more I realizedIwanted the trees to memorialize our dogs, who were like family members to Jim and me," said Werner, who hopes his and Hering's gift sets an example for others who have beloved animals. "Animals are great companions. They're loyal and they love unconditionally. Ours gave us great joy. Why not have people remember their pets in this way?" Frequent visitors to Is- rael, he and Hering planned a 2-week birthday trip bringing with them four friends. One of the activities was a tree-plant- ing ceremony at the Harvey Hertz-JNF Ceremonial Tree Planting Center, located in the biblical nature reserve Neot Kedumim, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In a ceremonial planting, saplings--in Werner's case six baby oak trees--were planted by the group. After about a week, they'll be transplanted to American Independence Park where JNF, in partner- ship with its Israeli counter- part Keren Kayemet LeIsrael, maintains its groves. Said Werner: "I wanted our friends to also connect with the land by planting trees with their own hands. I think that for peoplewho experience Israel for the firsttime,as our friends did, Ron Werner (third from left) and Jim Hering (in white shirt) with friends at the Hertz JNF Ceremonial Tree Plant- ing Center in Neot Kedumim. thisissomethingverypowerful Israel, it's like going from and important to do." death to renewal." The planting ceremony, on Werner and H.ering's a day when Israel also hosted friends were deeply moved. Pope Francis, came on the "Understanding that the Ho-" heels of a stop by the group locaust happened so recently at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, in history was shocking to theworldcenterforHolocaust me," said Vance Bray of Den- remembrance, documenta- ver, who is not Jewish. "That tion, research and education, something of this magnitude The juxtaposition of genocide could have taken place with withplantingandrebirthwas the knowledge of the world, no coincidence, Werner said. including that of my own "It's not by accident that country, is hard to accept." we left Yad VaShem and went "The tree planting was a to plant trees. To learn about perfect example of why Ron the death and tragedy that and Jim love Israel so much," befell the Jewish people, then said Joel Milliken of Los An- to walk out of that [museum] geles. "It all tracks back to building and look out over a the connection they feel with thriving, flourishing Jerusa- the history, the landand the lem--itreallydriveshomethe people there. It was a huge importance ofIsrael. Then, to learning experience for me. physically plant a tree in the I definitely plan on visiting ground and be part of that Israel again."