Residents at the Weinberg Village Celebrating Hanukkah in 2019
By Brianna Horan, Manager of Tourism & Visitor Experience
Cultural Heritage Recipe Box: Jewish
Hanukkah celebrations began last night at sundown, marking the start of the eight-day Jewish festival that commemorates the triumph of Maccabean Jews in reclaiming the Jewish Temple to God, and the miracle of their one night’s worth of oil burning bright for eight full days. Not being a High Holiday, Hanukkah is typically marked by modest celebrations in Jewish communities around the world. The holiday, always celebrated in December, became more of a focal point in the United States after the Civil War when social, economic and cultural changes reshaped the way that holidays in general were celebrated. The arrival of more than two million Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe between 1880 and 1920 also invigorated the holiday as a way to establish Jewish identity in America. (Read more here about the way that Hanukkah celebrations developed in the U.S.)
There are many traditions that are part of Hanukkah festivities, including lighting a candle on the menorah each night, playing games with a dreidel spinning top, giving children foil-wrapped chocolate coins called gelt, singing songs and exchanging gifts. The foods usually associated with Hanukkah celebrations—like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts)—are fried in oil as a representation of the fuel that stayed lit for eight nights. But perhaps more special than the food that’s prepared are the people who gather to enjoy it together. Hanukkah is primarily celebrated at home with family members and guests, rather than through synagogue rituals.
The health risks inherent to gatherings during the pandemic will make memories of past in-person celebrations even more special this year. The Jewish recipe shared below was chosen particularly because of the sense of community and care associated with it. Faye S. is a resident at The Jewish Association on Aging’s Residence at Weinberg Village who is known for her baking talents. The former English teacher, who is also the new Vice President of the Village’s Resident Council, was a bit sheepish to admit that her favorite Jewish recipe isn’t actually from her own kitchen! This recipe for honey cake with orange marmalade inside is a special sweet treat made for residents by Dr. Carol Congedo, who volunteers at Weinberg Village and helps with Shabbat services there. Honey cake is also a traditional dessert that’s part of Rosh Hashanah celebrations of the Jewish New Year each autumn in hopes of a sweet year ahead. “It was sooo good!” Faye says, going so far as to declare it to be the best she’s ever had. Faye added that although she hasn’t had a chance to tell Carol how much she enjoyed it, she will always remember the special dessert that Carol made.
The Jewish Association on Aging (JAA) is a mission-driven, faith-based nonprofit specializing in senior care that honors and enhances the lives of older adults by keeping them safe, independent, and connected to the community. The organization’s origins in serving the needs of aging seniors and their families go back more than one hundred years, when in 1906 the Jewish Home for the Aged was opened in the residence of Rabbi Aaron Mordechai Ashinsky on Breckenridge Street in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Over more than a century, JAA has continued to expand its residential and care offerings to encompass personal care and independent living residences, home health, meal delivery, hospice care, physical therapy, and the AHAVA Memory Care Center of Excellence. Today the Squirrel Hill-based organization offers a broad array of services to seniors of all faiths, providing support that is consistent with Jewish values and traditions.
Learn more about the Jewish Association on Aging at www.jaapgh.org or call 412-420-4000. Follow the organization on social media: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube. Find ways to volunteer by clicking here, or donate by clicking here.
From the kitchen of Dr. Carol Congedo
There are many staff members and volunteers who work to provide physical, social and spiritual care for the seniors and families supported by the Jewish Association on Aging. Sharyn Rubin, director of resident & community services, shared appreciation for all of the ways that volunteer Dr. Carol Congedo serves the residents at Weinberg Village—above and beyond her cake baking!
“Our friend, Dr. Carol Congedo, is very modest and quiet about her remarkable deeds. She is a physician, an amazing vocalist, a very spiritual and committed Jew, and an incredibly kind and wonderful volunteer. She is so giving and thoughtful, always thinking of others instead of herself. Her bedside manner is truly endearing and our Weinberg Village folks are drawn to her for so many reasons. The delicious cake she describes here is that much tastier because she makes it, as she does everything, with love and compassion (ingredients not listed but baked in to every one of Carol’s recipes!)” –Sharyn Rubin
Marmalade and Spice Honey Cake
Dr. Carol Congedo ‘s recipe
(From High Holiday Recipes from Temple David)
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup orange marmalade
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1 cup brewed tea (I like to use strong black tea) just warm
- 1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease bottom only of a 9 or 10-inch angel food cake pan or tube pan.
Cut a circle of parchment paper and line the pan bottom.
In a medium bowl, combine the oil, honey sugars and marmalade.
Blend well then add eggs.
In a larger bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
Slowly add the dry ingredients alternating with the tea to the wet ingredients.
Blend well with an electric mixer to make a smooth loose batter.
Pour into the prepared pan.
Sprinkle the top with the almonds.
Place the pan on 2 cookie sheets to prevent the bottom from browning too fast.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes until the cake springs back when pressed lightly with your fingers.
Cool in the pan for 15 minutes then remove and cool on a baking rack.
Dust with confectioner’s sugar when cool, can sprinkle on some grated orange zest.