Anatevka on Fifth Avenue

Main Sanctuary at Temple Emanu-El

Last Friday night I went to services at Temple Emanu-El, drawn because a much more observant friend told me that the cast of the Yiddish version of Fiddler on the Roof would be performing.

Indeed they did and indeed they were wonderful. They sang Matchmaker, Sunrise, Sunset and Do You Love Me? Since I’m intimately familiar with the show and words to every song, following was easy. This is a link to highlights from the Yiddish performance directed by Joel Grey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7yryjpzUv8

Cast of YIddish Fiddler

What surprised me was how easy it was to follow the service. Emanu-El has always been ultra-Reform, in fact, when I was a kid, Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s didn’t happen there –my recollection is that boys and girls were confirmed. It was a pretty starchy place. Nevertheless, when I married the first time, my mother arranged for the then-Senior Rabbi, Nate Perilman, to perform the ceremony. (I never knew why she did this as religion wasn’t important to her but maybe she was accommodating my husband’s grandmother who more observant; John’s Nana was also delighted that I wore a veil!) Rabbi Perilman performed two more weddings the same afternoon so we always joked about him roller skating along Fifth Avenue to get to all his gigs.

Regardless, the Friday night service was fabulous. The cantor and a woman from the choir (chorus?) have truly gorgeous voices and, at one point, held hands to dance a few steps together, something I’m pretty sure doesn’t happen at many other synagogues. The senior rabbi from Temple Israel also presided and the warm relationship between the leaders was evident. I hadn’t anticipated such harmonious music as every other Jewish service I’ve been to has included far more somber music all in a minor key. This music was positively bubbling, perhaps the underlying note of today’s Emanu-El.

Afterwards, friends and I had dinner at the nearby Serafina’s. My pizza was terrific but the overall experience wasn’t great: overcooked pasta, long wait times and excuses like “the kitchen is very busy.” Isn’t it supposed to be busy on a Friday night at dinnertime?

However, Fiddler and Emanu-El did their thing to the nth degree and for that I’m thankful. Although I probably won’t attend every Friday night, if and when I return I know it will be a wonderful experience. Since the place was packed the usual post-service food was curtailed. Instead, outside the front doors, packages containing a mini-challah and package of grape juice were passed out

This recipe for noodle kugel is the one Jewish recipe I’ve ever made, as I recollect, as part of a long-ago family seder. This recipe comes from that doyenne of Jewish cooking, LOL,  Martha Stewart. 

Noodle Kugel–Martha’s way

Noodle Pudding Martha Stewart

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for dish

Kosher salt

12 oz wide egg noodles

8 oz cream cheese at room temperature

1 and ½ cups sour cream

1 and ½ cups cottage cheese

1 and ½ cups milk

1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain, and cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, milk, sugar, and eggs until smooth. Toss mixture with noodles, coating evenly. Season with salt. Transfer noodle mixture to prepared dish; dot with butter. Bake until golden, 45 to 50 minutes.

Of course you could pass the grape juice. A nice Merlot or Malbec would be good (or even better.) L’chaim!

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3 Responses to Anatevka on Fifth Avenue

  1. Ellen Giusti says:

    You are right about Emanuel–my brothers and I were confirmed and Bar Mitzvahs did not happen there.

    A note about marriage ceremony: Paolo and I were married by a judge. My parents were friends with the Perelmans (my mother grew up friends with Betsy Perelman) and they were guests at our wedding. During the ceremony my mother said to Rabbi Perelman, “Nate, I wish you would have married them (Paolo did not want a Jewish ceremony)” to which he replied, “I couldn’t have married them.” That’s how much my mother knew about Jewish restrictions and how hypocritically “liberal” Emanuel rabbis were!

    • marigold says:

      According to message from Peggy T he spelled it Perilman although your version looks more correct. Why he married us beats me; my mother called Betsy and worked it out. We went to meet him. John asked if there had to be much Hebrew in the ceremony to which he replied “three words” and then they discussed China. I didn’t participate. How typical for 1962.

  2. Jessica Clerk says:

    The ways of the lord, mothers, and noodle puddings are mysterious.

    Glad the music and peeps were fabulous and heartwarming. Much needed in our interesting times.
    Sounds a lot better than haggis.