A shmaltzy Saturday night
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A shmaltzy Saturday night

Something fishy is happening at Congregation Netivot Shalom on Saturday night: The 2011 Bergen County Herring Festival.

The Modern Orthodox Teaneck synagogue is hosting its second celebration for connoisseurs of the herring, an oily fish that makes its homes in shallow, temperate ocean waters, and on the table of Shabbat morning kiddush collations.

“On a typical Shabbes, you might have just one or two types of herring out,” says Jonathan Shore, one of the event’s organizers. The Herring Festival offers much more.

The event grew out of the typical Shabbat kiddush, which Shore helps set up each week (a chore he follows up with “a quick l’chaim.”)

“I work on the Lower East Side. I started bringing in different herrings because I like herring,” he says. Then one of his kiddush colleagues printed out a New Yorker article about an upscale herring tasting event held by the Lower East Side appetizing icon Russ and Daughters that was being held in a Manhattan penthouse.

The rest was history, and two years ago the first Bergen County Herring Festival attracted a hundred people.

“This is nothing like what you would see at a kiddush. This is for hard core people who want to experience herring the way it was meant to be served. Or even for the curious,” he says.

Herring varieties will include matjes, schmaltz, honey mustard, spicy matjes, and sweet-and-sour. “You get a better chance to taste the differentiation between the different herrings,” says Shore of the festival experience. “If you’re a little bit of the foodie, you’ll appreciate the differences.”

Among the three vendors is Teaneck’s Ma’adan, whose Stuart Kahn came to the first festival and was inspired to start offering a broader selection of herring, says Shore.

Shore’s favorite: “Spicy matjes, which is almost like getting a Romanian pastrami type of herring. It has a little bit of zing, and is complemented perfectly by a shot of your favorite alcohol,” he said.

Strict traditionalists will want to stick to the Polish and Russian vodkas, but fine Scotch will be available, too.

The 2011 Bergen County Herring Festival begins at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Teaneck. Admission is $55. Ten percent of all profits will be donated to the Teaneck mikvah.

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