NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Jewish holiday of Chanukah begins Thursday night. It’s also known as the Festival of Lights and lasts for eight days.
While many families can’t physically be together because of the pandemic, that’s not stopping them from honoring old traditions.
Thousands of doughnuts, also known as sufganiyot, filled with jam or custard are coming out of the Breads Bakery kitchen in Union Square for every day of Chanukah. They’re transformed from a slab of dough to soft gooey goodness.
“We have people getting the dough ready from two in the morning. We don’t start frying until people come here,” owner Gadi Peleg told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.
Fried foods are eaten to celebrate the miracle of Chanukah: oil that kept the menorah lit in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem for eight days instead of the one night it was supposed to last. This was after the temple was retaken by the Maccabees from the Greeks in the second century B.C.E.
Today, fried doughnut flavors include caramel and cardamom coffee, but Peleg says, “Strawberry is always the crowd favorite.”
And just like grandma does it, he says.
Potatoes are being drained, spliced and fried.
A similar and smaller operation is underway in the Klein household in Cedarhurst, Long Island, ending with a masterful latkes platter.
“We have our stunning beet-cured gravlax,” Shifra Klein said.
These doughnuts simmering in coconut oil signify the start of the holiday, but this is Cuban-inspired, incorporating rum, lime and guava.
The family is cooking around the world each night. Friday, it’s Canadian beaver tails, which Shifra and Shlomo Klein share in their gourmet kosher magazine “Fleishigs.”
“Dust them with a nice sprinkling of powdered sugar,” Shifra Klein said.
This year, instead of extended family tasting those creations firsthand, the idea is they’ll be replicating them in their own homes and also sharing art projects for kids.
“We’re doing the spinning dreidel art activity where we dip dreidels into paint and spin them and create different works of art,” Shifra Klein said.
And then virtually with cousins, she says, “All the kids will look at each other’s paintings and compare them.”
Back in New York City, Chanukah 2020 will feature a historic menorah lighting Monday at the East End Temple. Rabbi Joshua Stanton will be joined by the Consul Generals of Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
“The United Arab Emirates and Israel signed a peace treaty this past year. It is one of the great points of light in our whole world that two countries can be at peace,” Stanton said.
He says the light that we kindle enables us to see more clearly the good that has been around us all along, like the front line heroes of the coronavirus pandemic.
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