Posts Tagged ‘kosher’

Healthy Shabbat Meals

When I lived in Israel, there was an elderly man who supplied the Shabbat cholent (a long-cooking stew similar to cassoulet) whenever there was a simcha (celebratory event) in our little town.  It was absolutely delicious:  glistening stew meat amongst beans, barley, potatoes and onions, spiced heavily with garlic, salt and pepper.  The ingredients were really not that different from typical Ashkenazi cholent, but there was that je nais se quoi secret ingredient that really packed a savory punch.

In honor of my youngest daughter’s birth, we held a kiddush in our home following prayers at the synagogue, and I hired Mr. G to make me a batch of his amazing cholent.  Because he was an older gentleman he simply couldn’t carry the heavy pots of cholent from his house to mine, so he asked if it would be okay if he assembled and cooked the ingredients in my kitchen.  “Great!” I thought to myself, “now I will get to find out what the secret ingredient is to his fabulous cholent!”

Mr. G. started peeling potatoes and cutting up onions.  He added lots of beans, barley, and meat, layering the ingredients with the usual pepper, salt and garllic, adding water to within an inch of the top of the pot.  Nothing different so far.  But then!  Mr. G. reached into his bag and brought out . . . a 500g. (1 lb) stick of margarine.  He placed the entire stick of margarine into the pot and so the cholent began cooking.

I was completely grossed out!

One of the advantages of being a Baalas Tshuva (“BT”, or someone who becomes an Orthodox Jew later in life) is that I have few preconceived notions about how things “should” be.  It’s not that I don’t respect tradition.  But in most cases, like most assimilated or barely observant American Jews, I simply wasn’t raised with any concept of doing things the way my forefathers did it.  That’s because when my grandparents came to this country from Europe in the early 1900’s, they were trying to escape their former identities as Jews, which had only gotten them into trouble back in anti-Semitic Poland and czarist Russia, and instead hoped to start a new life as Americans who happened to be Jewish by birth.

Having grown up with lots of processed food (aka “real” American cooking: remember those canned mushroom soup noodle casseroles, and jello molds from the 1960s?) as well as Chinese and Mexican take-out food, it took me years to get used to Orthodox, American Ashkenazi (Jews who originally came from Europe)de rigeuer Sabbath foods such as gefillte fish and potato kugel and luxshen kugel, kishke, chicken soup with globules of fat floating on the top, sweet egg challah made with white flour, and several types of cookies and cakes for dessert.  It seems like the DNA of Jewish cooking is fat, sugar, and white flour, with a little soul mixed in.  But healthy, it is not.

The surge of BTs has really shaken up the FFB (Frum From Birth, aka Orthodox Jews from birth) world of Jewish comfort food.  First, our numbers are so large, that by population count alone our different cooking style was bound to have gravitas.  And BTs were media-savvy way before FFBs got into the act, so the appearance of lavishly produced, graphically gorgeous gourmet cookbooks whose emphasis is on more healthful eating could not be ignored even by the frummest (most religious) of the frum balabustas (female heads of households).

No, I don’t use sickly-sweet, Robitussin-like concord grape wine for kiddush; it is more likely to be a kosher cabernet from California or Israel.  Our Sabbath tablecloth is not pure white, but rather a taupe and silver weave that matches our dishes.  And our Friday night and Saturday day meals probably don’t seem very Sabbath-like to a Jew in Boro Park, Brooklyn.  Even our cholent (overnight cassoulet) is fat-free.  Or, instead of cholent, we may have a curried stew or chili.

But before you sugar, fat and white flour traditionalists turn up your nose in disgust, let me take you on a tour of a typical Sabbath meal that won’t leave you reaching for the Alka-Seltzer.

The truth is, we ba’alei tshuva – Jews who have discovered their Orthodox Jewish roots and become religiously observant later in life  – – have both a blessing and a curse.  The “curse” of years of assimilation and non-observance is that we lack the continuity and transmission of many religious family customs (besides Chanuka and Passover, which seem to be universally celebrated by religious and non-religious Jews alike).  At times this ignorance of Jewish tradition is not just inconvenient; it’s sad and tragic and forces us to look outside our own family elders for a frame of reference.

Ironically, the “blessing” is that we lack the transmission of many religious family customs.  And by that I mean, we don’t feel we have to have certain foods prepared certain ways; the Shabbat tablecloth doesn’t have to be white; we can wear certain clothing that, even while modest, a Frum-From-Birth (born into a religious family) person would never dream of wearing lest they be thought of as “eccentric” or worse (hiking boots and a denim skirt – ahem).  Another example:  BTs grew up listening to many different styles of secular music that have influenced the more traditional religious music scene, which until recently was limited to the cantorial “ay-yay-yay oy-yoy-yoy” range; now, for better or worse, there is Yiddish hip-hop (okay, maybe for worse).

If there is a “nouveau” kosher cuisine in the U.S., it’s because of the tremendous amount of ba’alei tshuva whose more modern take on ancient culture has captivated and intimidated FFB’s into being a little daring about experimenting with new ways to celebrate tradition within the bounds of Jewish Law.  Okay, for some FFBs, their extent of “daring” translates into going from sickly sweet concord grape wine to 6% Moscato.  But imho, the explosion of truly fine wine that happens to be kosher, instead of the formerly standard syrupy stuff that was akin to Robitussin, could not have happened without the BT phenomenon.  There is also an explosion of gorgeously graphic kosher cookbooks, authored mostly by . . . BTs.  The other reason that new Jewish cuisine has exploded is due to Israel.  The quality and availability of a very wide range of produce in Israel are phenomenal; and because Israel is such a small country with a large number of Jews from different world cultures, the populace has been exposed to a huge range of dishes and cooking styles.  Besides Jewish holidays (which always involve a lot of eating besides the praying), Israelis love to eat “out,” visible on the street and in sidewalk cafes.

As much as I love the stunning pictures of elegant cuisine, I’m not one to potchke.  (If you do not know what potchke means, you are probably from Maine.).   Traditional Jewish Shabbat foods you will not find at my table include potato kugel; lukshen kugel; chicken soup (unless someone is sick); very well done brisket; braised chicken that is greasy and overcooked and underspiced;  kishke and gefilte fish.  Partly it’s the potchke (it’s labor-intensive) but also, the high concentration and obscene amounts of fat, carbs, white flour, sugar, and few spices are just not exciting nor – – if I must be honest – –  healthy, especially week after week after week.  Do FFBs keep eating these bland, acid-reflux-producing foods every Shabbat out of obligation to tradition?  Do they never tire of the same old, same old – – is it out of anticipation or loyalty to tradition that they remain steadfast?  I understand the origin of many of these foods – – Ashkenazi Jews in the shtetl were desperately poor and they had little to eat other than root vegetables in the colder months.  But must we continue to “suffer” for the sake of tradition?  And can alternative choices – – ones that are healthier, to boot – – still make for a delicious Shabbat meal?

I am enclosing pictures of foods I made for our Shabbat meals over the past few weeks.  I make whole-wheat challah, and while I know how to do the fancy shmancy braiding on large challah loaves, I usually only make individual rolls unless I’m having a large crowd.  That is our way of doing portion control (otherwise my husband and I can finish off an entire loaf of homemade challah and then we hate ourselves afterwards!)   There is also no waste this way like there is with leftover bread (additional whole rolls can be stored in the freezer in zip-lock bags for the following week)  I do make traditional cholent, but I am just as likely to make a curried stew, or chili instead.  I also love quinoa because it’s great plain or mixed with a variety of fruits of vegetables, herbs and spices, and can be served hot or cold.  I also commonly serve “Israeli salad” which is finely diced cucumbers, tomatoes, green onion and garlic with a touch of olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice.

As you can see, there is nothing fancy here, just good, basic food with a lot of flavor, spice and color.

roasted brussells sprouts, zucchini, and eggplant brushed lightly with olive oil and seasoned with basil, rosemary, garlic, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper

roasted brussells sprouts, zucchini, and eggplant brushed lightly with olive oil and seasoned with basil, rosemary, garlic, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper

Thick yellow split pea soup. We have a wide variety of different soups, including lentil, barley mushroom, vegetable, potato, carrot ginger, butternut squash, spinach lemon, bean, or Chinese hot and sour soup, but rarely plain chicken soup.

3-potato roasted combo:  sweet potatoes, yams, and white sweet potato

3-potato roasted combo: sweet potatoes, yams, and white sweet potato

brown basmati rice with hand-picked organic Maine cranberries, toasted walnuts, and kale, seasoned with thyme, parsley, sage, and rosemary, salt and pepper

brown basmati rice with hand-picked organic Maine cranberries, toasted walnuts, and kale, seasoned with thyme, parsley, sage, and rosemary, salt and pepper

Kale chips:  separate kale leaves from stems.  Combine leaves, small amount of olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, bit of rice vinegar, and dash of maple syrup; mix; and dry on cookie sheet in oven for several hours at 170 degrees until crispy.

Crunchy kale chips: separate kale leaves from stems. Combine leaves, small amount of olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, bit of rice vinegar, and dash of maple syrup; mix; and dry on cookie sheet in oven for several hours at 170 degrees until crispy.

Roasted sweet potatoes, version 2:  cut peeled sweet potatoes into small pieces, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon and rosemary, roast uncovered at  375 F til edges are brown.

Roasted sweet potatoes, version 2: cut peeled sweet potatoes into small pieces, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon and rosemary, roast uncovered at 375 F til edges are brown.

Scalloped potatoes:  slice very thin and place in pan. Sautee onions till caramelized; add 1 tsp flour, stir, add 1 cup soy or almond milk and stir til thickened, add seasoning and herbs and pour over potatoes, bake til brown on top.

Scalloped potatoes: slice very thin and place in pan. Sautee onions till caramelized; add 1 tsp flour, stir, add 1 cup soy or almond milk and stir til thickened, add seasoning and herbs and pour over potatoes, bake til brown on top.

spinach salad version 1 - tomatoes, cukes, mushrooms, colored peppers, sunflower seeds

spinach salad version 1- tomatoes, cukes, mushrooms, colored peppers, avocado, sunflower seeds

spinach salad version 2.  I love spinach salad.  The organic baby spinach is exceptionally clean right out of the package, even if you like to go over it with an eagle eye.  The great thing about spinach salad is it goes with anything and everything.  Suggested add-ons include:  hard boiled egg, Persian cucumbers, red pepper, kiwi, toasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, mushrooms.  A great dressing is olive oil with a touch of apple cider vinegar, rosemary, salt, pepper, fresh garlic, scallions, oregano, thyme, and a tsp. of honey mixed together briskly and then tossed into salad.

spinach salad version 2. I love spinach salad. The organic baby spinach is exceptionally clean right out of the package, even if you like to go over it with an eagle eye. The great thing about spinach salad is it goes with anything and everything. Suggested add-ons include: hard boiled egg, Persian cucumbers, red pepper, kiwi, toasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, sugar snap peas, mushrooms. A great dressing is olive oil with a touch of apple cider vinegar, rosemary, salt, pepper, fresh garlic, scallions, oregano, thyme, and a tsp. of honey mixed together briskly and then tossed into salad.

This is a must-have for your kitchen!  It's a cast iron grill pan and cover (sold separately) made by Lodge Logic (they've been around for decades, and their products will last 100 years if well cared for).  If you very lightly spray the pan with oil, you can add skinless boneless chicken to a hot pan; cover with the gril cover and within moments the bottom will be ready for turning.  After turning, replace grill cover for a few more minutes of grilling.  Voila!  You have amazing grilled chicken that even has a real-grill flavor, minus the mess and fuss, and the fat goes into the indentations away from the meat.  It's super juicy, too.  And it works for any kind of meat, from hamburgers, steaks, chicken, turkey chops, etc.

This is a must-have for your kitchen! It’s a cast iron grill pan and cover (sold separately) made by Lodge Logic (they’ve been around for decades, and their products will last 100 years if well cared for). If you very lightly spray the pan with oil, you can add skinless boneless chicken (I like to season it with shwarma or mixed-grill or kabob seasoning from Israel) to a hot pan; cover with the grill cover and within moments the bottom will be ready for turning. After turning the chicken to its other side, replace grill cover for a few more minutes of grilling. Voila! You have amazing grilled chicken that even has a real-grill flavor, minus the mess and fuss, and the fat goes into the indentations away from the meat. It’s super juicy, too. And it works for any kind of meat, from hamburgers, steaks, chicken, turkey chops, etc. I love Lodge Logic cast iron pots and pans, and am slowly replacing my old Farberware with all Lodge Logic cast iron.

This shows chicken being grilled on top of my propane gas range.

This shows chicken being grilled on top of my propane gas range.

Kosher Trader Joe’s

Here is a panoramic shot I took at the Portland, Maine Trader Joe’s store.  Notice that every hipster shopper there just looks so darn happy!

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Trader Joe’s in Portland Maine

Just for fun, at the behest of my daughter, I recently joined a national Facebook group called “Kosher Trader Joe’s.” Anyone from the group who has tried a product from there that is kosher will post online, letting members know not only what kosher products they can find in the store, but how they taste.  In only a few weeks, the group already has 2000 members.

The closest Trader Joe’s to my house in rural Maine is in Portland (1.5 hour drive) and Portsmouth New Hampshire (2 hours drive).  Whenever I have an errand in Portland (which fortunately is not often), or need to pick up someone from the airport who has come to visit us, or if we go to the synagogues in Portland or Old Orchard Beach for a mid-week event, I always make sure to stock up at Trader Joe’s.

There aren’t a whole lot of people who keep strictly kosher in Maine, and certain items can be hard to locate, so with its extensive inventory of kosher foods, TJ’s is a true blessing.  The Portland branch is actually one of TJ’s biggest and busiest in the East, and it is really well stocked.  The problem with the Kosher Trader Joe’s Facebook group is that once a New Yorker waxes poetic about a TJ’s product, the entire herd of New York Jews reading the post stampedes down to the Brooklyn store, wiping products off the shelf in one fell swoop, and stock cannot keep up with the demand.  I’ll take Portland any day of the week by comparison!

For a guide to all kosher products available at Trader Joe’s (availability varies depending on region), click here.

For a guide to all the different kosher certifications on Trader Joe’s products, click here.  

Is Maple Syrup Always Kosher?

Have you noticed  that being Jewish is complicated?

Maine Maple Syrup Sunday takes place annually, the fourth Sunday in March.  All the maple sugar houses throughout Maine are open to the public.  Informal tours are conducted of “sugar bushes” – the maple trees – with attached taps and buckets, which collect the sap that starts to run once the days get warm and the nights remain frozen.  The sticky liquid sap is brought to sugar houses – also known as “sugar shacks” – – and boiled down for hours and hours until it’s just the right consistency for maple syrup.  An average tree produces 40 quarts of sap, and it takes 40 quarts of sap to make just one quart of syrup!

I thought it would be fun to learn about the process first-hand, sample some syrup, and perhaps buy a jugful for my pancakes.

But first I called my home town’s kosher hotline and asked, “Does maple syrup need a hechsher (kosher certification)?”

“It’s not absolutely necessary, but it’s better if it does,” was the answer I received from the hotline helper.

I was not satisfied with this answer, because I know that syrup producers add a small amount of fat to the boiling sap, which prevents it from boiling over.  Could they possibly use lard? Vegetable oil? Cream? Butter? And does the butter make it milchig? Chalav stam?  Is the amount of fat so minute that it is considered to be batul ba’shishim, the halacha that states that if an ingredient is 1/60th or less of the total ingredients, it is null and void and is considered to “not exist” in the list of ingredients?  I know the 1/60th rule works in accidental cases (let’s say a drop of milk dripped into a huge pot of chicken soup – the soup would still be kosher).  But that’s in accidental cases – not l’hatchila (planning the 1/60th to begin with, on purpose).

I asked to speak with the rabbi in charge.

He told me that  butter can be used without a hechsher only if it is made from 100% cream – that certain chemical additives or dyes may not be kosher and so butter requires a hechsher otherwise.  But as to the rest – he excused himself and admitted that he simply didn’t know much about the process, and mirthfully added that he was appointing me as his “delegate” to check out maple syrup production first hand, and report my findings.

Like I said, it’s complicated being Jewish.

Maine is a very large state, and the sugar shacks are widespread throughout the state.  Fortunately for me, the Maine Maple Producers Association put together an interactive map, so it was easy to choose which sugar houses to visit.  Three are within 10 miles of my home.

I started making a few calls to the heimish syrup producers (though truthfully, I doubt there is any sugar producer in Maine who has heard of the word “heimish”). It turns out that very few people use lard as an anti-foaming agent.  One fellow uses butter, but he couldn’t tell me which brand of butter.  Another guy told me he uses only organic butter, but he didn’t know for sure if it was free of additives.  The last place I contacted was most interesting, though until I get there and try it for myself, I can’t tell you if it is the most tasty.

Balsam Ridge started, as most of these places do, as a hobby for its husband-and-wife team.  They started by tapping only a few trees, and boiling whatever they got in a large metal pot in their wood shed, producing enough for one or two jugs of syrup for themselves.  They started giving away small vials to their friends, whose enthusiasm led them to increase production.  They bought a big wood-fired evaporator and started cranking out enough syrup so that they could sell a few jugs to passersby.  The downside was that the larger evaporator took hours and hours to boil the sap, and it’s not like you can walk away from a giant vat of boiling syrup. The wood fire needed constant tending and stoking.  The syrup had to be constantly supervised so that it wouldn’t boil over, and a small amount of fat was added to prevent this – – until it got to just the right point (7 degrees above the boiling point of water) and the right thickness and consistency.   It then needed to be immediately filtered and bottled in sterilized containers.  Many nights they would finish past midnight and they were just plain exhausted.

So a couple of years ago, they bought a giant evaporator that is oil-fired, and can boil 50 gallons of sap an hour.  No more midnight sap boils for them!  Because the 2′ x 8′ evaporator is so large, and completely enclosed,  there is little fear of the sap boiling over; they no longer add any fat or anti-foaming agent to the syrup.  So while they don’t have kosher certification, this is one example of a syrup product that is not only kosher, but pareve and truly pure syrup.  But how does all this automation and modernization affect the taste?  Hopefully your Faithful Reporter will let you know after Maine Maple Syrup Sunday!

P.S. I also submitted a query to the OU’s “Webbe Rebbe” online, and got a reply from Rabbi Gold, who I spoke with on the phone to discuss syrup production. He says there are some (including the Nodah BYehuda) that allow for leniency in regards to batul ba’shishim l’hatchila, so it could be that all syrups, even those with questionable fats, could be considered not only kosher, but maybe even pareve.  However, the OU’s official policy is to not give a hechsher on those using the 1/60th l’hatchila leniency.

The Kitchen

The original kitchen plan

It’s always a challenge to get maximum efficiency out of a small kosher kitchen, especially at a minimum price.  Our kitchen is L-shaped, with only 9′ at one end and 10′ at the other.  I could have designed a U-shaped kitchen with more cabinets in the same space, but it would have been very confining.  I preferred to keep intact the open, airy look that defines the rest of the house.   The ceilings are high, which gives me plenty of wall space to store surplus food and emergency supplies.  Since there are only two of us living at the house most of the time, a dishwasher seemed like overkill, although I chose instead a 24″ cabinet size next to the sink so that any future owner of the house could easily have a dishwasher installed.  I bought a high quality, deep double stainless steel sink for a song from a plumbing supply company that was going out of business.  I bought a name-brand faucet via the internet at the cheapest possible price, shipping included.  The fridge, which consumes less energy than any other brand or model of its size, I bought from Costco, which offered not only free delivery, but an extended 2-year warranty free of charge.  I bought a small 24″ gas range converted for propane use, because I wanted more room for cabinets than a standard size 30″ range would allow; and because I rarely cook for a crowd in Maine, I really don’t need a larger oven. The range is unique in that it doesn’t use a “glow bar” to ignite the propane-fed oven as do other stoves.  Glow bars create electricity surges that would have been too demanding of our limited solar/battery power supply.  Otherwise the range is nothing special – – no self cleaning or other features. I can’t say I love it, but it works, and it was many hundreds of dollars less than other ranges out there.

The biggest savings was in the cabinets, and the biggest splurge was in my counters.  I knew the look I was going for – no fuss, smooth, sleek and contemporary.  But no matter where I priced them, the cheapest cabinets I could find were $7K, although some vendors went as high as $20K.  Although many people (especially contractors) find IKEA cabinets junky, their hardware and warranty is superior (European quality hinges and drawer mechanisms, and a 25 year guarantee).  Not only were their prices terrific, the particular cabinet door I wanted was being discontinued and was offered at a further 30% discount.

Due to the style being discontinued, I bought a few extra doors in case of problems down the road, but one of the great things about IKEA kitchens is that if you want to change the style of your kitchen in the future, it’s a relatively simple and inexpensive venture to simply change out the door style for a whole new look.  The other major advantage for us is that we could fit all the disassembled IKEA cabinets in our vehicle and drive it all up to Maine.  Putting the kitchen together was a full-day project that was actually kind of fun.  The total cost was only $1300.

That said, we know our limitations.  Not being handy types,  we paid our carpenter to attach them to the wall.  It took him 1.5 days and he charged us by the hour, so the cost was extremely reasonable.

The money we saved on cabinets and fixtures allowed me a little more leeway to splurge on the countertops, which are stainless steel, and still come in way under budget.  I hired a metalworker who fabricated them by first coming out to the house to measure and  create a paper and then plywood template.

Using the template the same way you would use a pattern to cut fabric before sewing a dress, he fabricated and welded the counters.  Because I am a messy cook that spills a lot, I had him create a “drip edge” so that liquids wouldn’t spill onto the cabinet doors or the floor.  Alan, the fabricator, was a true craftsman who worked with precision and enthusiasm, and I was fortunate to find him.  I must have made 20 calls to various fabricators before settling on this individual.  It really was a shot in the dark – I basically used yellow pages and google searches of all the metal fabricators within 75 miles of my zip code, and then conducted interviews by phone before choosing the one that sounded like he knew what he was doing, at a price I could afford.  I really lucked out!

Overall my kitchen turned out quite nicely, especially since the entire kitchen including installation cost less than the cheapest original estimate for just the cabinets alone!

My only disappointment is a slide-out cabinet I allotted for a hidden trash can. I find that by enclosing the trash, it cannot “breathe” and despite air fresheners, the smell of decay is nasty.  I will be converting that cabinet for more storage and will revert instead to storing our kitchen garbage can out in the open.

Tools of the trade: drill and paint swatches

 

The unassembled kitchen in boxes

Trying to organize the boxes before assembly

Somehow the outside view made the inside mess into a pleasant place to work (click to enlarge)

If we can do this, ANYONE can!

It looks like we actually know what we're doing. Don't be fooled!

Now we need to place the assembled cabinets along the wall . . .

Those spots in the picture are dust particles that we lived, ate and breathed for months on end!

Travis Fox, our primary builder, carpenter and craftsman. His family's roots to our town go back to the Revolutionary War.

Our carpenter did a stellar job mounting the cabinets

Alan, the metal fabricator, measures and creates the plywood template.

Now Alan will take the plywood template back to his shop, where he'll fabricate the stainless countertops to precise dimensions

The refrigerator hadn't been delivered yet when this photo was taken, but you can see the "hole" where it goes. We love to eat and read on the screened porch that is off the kitchen. (click to enlarge)

The slide-out cabinet on the right was supposed to hold the trash can...

(click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides the missing fridge, we also added a tile backsplash behind the sink and stove, but it hadn't been installed yet when this photo was taken (click to enlarge)

I thought I was the only one…

The White Mountains are not exactly a hotspot of Jewish life.  But the “P’s” told us, “You’d be surprised- there are definitely Jews hiding in these woods.”  Indeed there are, though the numbers are certainly small and many have married “out.”

Twenty years ago the “W’s” moved to New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington Valley from Pittsburgh.  Mrs. W, who worked for a radio station, was feeling particularly isolated, so she paid for a radio ad at the station where she worked that said something like, “Are you tired of being the only one on your street without Xmas lights?  Do you consider bagels and lox to be comfort foods?  If the answer is “yes” and you’d like to go to a Shabbat dinner, call this number.”

Forty Jews showed up that Friday night at the W’s home.

The evening was such a success, that the group decided to have a potluck Shabbat dinner in a different home each month.  It’s been 20 years, and 30 people still get together for Shabbat dinner on the last Friday night of every month.

Here’s the real kicker:  at that very first Shabbat dinner, as the night came to an end, the delighted guests began taking their leave.  Each and every one said the same thing to the Ws:

“I thought I was the only one.”

The truth is, there are Jews “hiding” everywhere, whether in big cities or way out in the woods in the middle of nowhere.  To their credit, this man and his wife reached out:  look at the result!  They are not frum, they don’t even keep kosher, yet once a month on Friday nights for the past 20 years, they have 25 – 30 Jews from remote areas of the White Mts. connecting and interacting, singing a few Shabbat songs, sharing a Shabbat meal.

Imagine all the Jews who think, “I thought I was the only one. . .”