Congregation Sons of Israel in Upper Nyack has a unique group of people who gather to prepare the sponsored kiddushes that follow Shabbat services on Saturday afternoons. They are lovingly known as the “men who cook.”
Most Friday mornings the group gathers to start its work. So far, it includes Ira Oustatcher, Paul Bloch, Warren Gould, Amos Dodi, Randy Glucksman, Alex Freuman, Jon Broz, Barry Zuckerman, Josh Dunn, Michael Berkowitz, and David Spokony. Last year, the me were honored at the CSI dinner dance, where they received a chef’s apron and cap.
The group started when the shul’s sisterhood reached out for help in preparing the weekly kiddush luncheons. Ira Oustatcher, who then was recently retired and now is its executive chef, met with the sisterhood president, Sharon Mitchel, the kitchen master, to launch the Men Who Cook experiment. The original group of men, who all were retirees, have been joined by others, who still go to work.
When congregants wish to sponsor a kiddush, they let the group know — and then the process begins. The shul’s brochures illustrate deluxe and premier kiddush choices; the information also is on the shul’s website. Choices include healthy salads; dips; breads and bagels; herring; egg, tuna, and whitefish salads; pizza bagels; cheeses; cakes; cookies; ice cream; seasonal fruits, and drinks. Premier add-ons include gefilte fish, lox, spanakopita, blintzes, mac and cheese, lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and baked salmon.
Men Who Cook also help decorate the social hall.
Behind the scenes on Thursdays, the men shop at Costco, Shop-Rite, Evergreen, Rockland Bakery, Amazing Savings, and Restaurant Depot, and then drop off everything at the shul. On Friday mornings, the men cook, combine, chop, cut, display, wash, and clean up from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Sometimes they even follow a recipe. There’s a healthy dose of camaraderie as well.
According to the shul’s rabbi, Ariel Russo, “the kiddush luncheons have been warmly greeted by our congregants, and special guests. They also make some money for the synagogue, and the friendships within the group are special.”
And there’s more, Rabbi Russo said. “Laughter and smells of delicious food fill the synagogue hallways on Friday morning. The Men Who Cook build community in the kitchen on Fridays, and in the social hall on Shabbat, where congregants gather long after services have ended to share food and so much more.”
The shul’s sisterhood still caters the non-sponsored kiddush luncheons.
Above is a recipe the group shared with our readers. It can feed many people, so it would work great for a large dairy holiday gathering or Shabbat luncheon at home.
12 hard boiled eggs*
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley or capers or chives
Peel the eggs, cut them in half lengthwise, and carefully remove the yolks. Put the yolks in a small bowl. Mash well. Add mayonnaise, mustard, and pepper. Mix well. Add parsley or capers or chives. Mix well. Carefully spoon or pipe them into the halved eggs whites.
*Suggestion for boiling eggs: Cover eggs with cold water and a tablespoon of salt. Cook until the water boils. Remove from heat. Cover pot and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain and fill with cold water and ice cubes. Drain when the eggs are cold.