The Jew And The Carrot

Shabbat Meals: An Oneg in Utah

By Naomi Zeveloff

  • Print
  • Share Share
iStock

Growing up as Jew in Ogden, Utah, I attended a synagogue the size of a small house called Brith Sholem. When I was in kindergarten, Brith Sholem was the target of an arson attack that nearly gutted the entire building. The police never found the perpetrators, who lit two American flags on fire but left the Torah scrolls untouched.

Two months after the fire, a group of Mormon dignitaries pulled up to the synagogue in white Lincoln luxury vehicles and delivered shoeboxes full of cash to the temple leadership, all told, about $45,000 from Mormon church goers all over the state. This was enough to cover the amount the synagogue had to pay out of pocket for renovations after its fire insurance kicked in.

The Brith Sholem fire, I remember, was the first time that I grappled with the idea that growing up Jewish in Utah might be a tumultuous thing. The Mormons in Ogden, who made up nearly half of the town’s population, seemed to consider my faith with fascination and confusion, and I felt largely the same way about Brith Sholem, a synagogue of great unpredictability.

Built in 1917, the synagogue supported no more than six rabbis before its leaders decided during the Great Depression that a rabbi was an unnecessary expense. Since then, the members of the synagogue — there are about 50 families in total — have taken turns conducting Shabbat services, sometimes with the help of a visiting student rabbi from Los Angeles. You never knew what you were going to get on a Friday night at Brith Sholem.

Some synagogue members led the Friday prayers in a spirit of immense solemnity, lingering over the Mourner’s Kaddish. Others conducted services focused on women’s empowerment. My own father typically sped through the prayers, interspersing wisecracks along the way. One Friday night one of the congregants yelled out: “He forgot the Hatzi Kaddish!” and my father had to backtrack to include it. Another time, my father let my best friend and me lead the congregation in a rap rendition of Adon Olam, which elicited pained grimaces from the temple elders.

If there was one point of predictability in Shabbat at Brith Sholem, it was the oneg, or small celebration after the service. My family typically attended services only when my mother was tasked with bringing dessert, which was always brownies or cookies. My mother had an unusual knack for making desserts that retained their chewiness for days after they left the oven. Her graham cracker brownies in particular were a perpetual favorite at Brith Sholem. Made with just three ingredients — sweet and condensed milk, graham cracker crumbs, and chocolate chips — they tasted richly complex, winning out over the box of Entenmann’s donuts that someone invariably placed on the oneg table, the only “Jewish” treat available in Ogden’s grocery stores.

After the temple president made his Shabbat announcements, I would walk at a fast clip toward the foldout table in the front hall of Brith Sholem and scoop two or three of my mother’s brownies onto a paper napkin before my peers could get to them. I would wait in desperation for the blessing over the Challah to finish and then stuff a brownie into my mouth and chew vigorously, small deposits of caramelized cream collecting in the crevices of my molars.

This was the taste that filled my mouth as I walked out of Brith Sholem on many a Friday night of my childhood, passing through the synagogue’s heavy wood doors and into the starlit Ogden streets.

Graham Cracker Brownies
Serves 12

2 cups Graham Cracker crumbs
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
16 oz. bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 - 350 degrees.

1) Grease and flour 8 inch square cake pan.

2) Combine all ingredients, turn into pan and bake until golden, 15 - 20 minutes. Leave to cool 20 minutes.

3) Slice into squares. Cool another 30 minutes. Remove immediately from pan, before they harden.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shabbat Meals, Shabbat Dinner, Chocolate, Brownies

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.