Much More than Cholent

Posted by mwallach on April 8, 2011 in New To You |

Dear That’s Life,

How is it possible that I enjoyed the annual YU Cholent Cook-Off without having tasted a thing? I am not sure but I know for a fact that it’s true. I was mocked for eating a tangerine while everyone else was devouring plates of cholent, but it was no less of an experience for me than for those who left Weissburg Commons to take a nap. 

Something about walking into a room and being hit with the wafting smell of sixteen pots of cholent is either comforting or nauseating. Regardless, it seemed that every man who entered the space took a deep breath and smiled widely. A quasi-‘Jewish aromatherapy,’ the smell of cholent seemed to permeate everything and I grew concerned that I’d have to burn my clothing out of a fear that it would never come clean. Cholent as perfume is not the smell I am going for – eau de cholent? I don’t think so. 

Everyone smiled yesterday and it was not just about the food. The concept of people getting together to take part in a cholent competition is both fun and funny. When I told someone Mayer and I were doing a ‘live remote’ show from the annual cholent-cook off, the puzzled response I got was, “The what?!” After explaining what it was however, and that it is a fund raiser for Students Helping Students, a student run organization that helps raise funds for other students in need, it made more sense. Then, the idea that reputable chefs and notable names were coming to judge the competition, made this person actually smile – and then want to be a part of it next year.

A couple of hundred guests quickly filled the space, all eager for samples and to see who would win. They were, however, part of something more than just a food fest. There is a sense of community that exists in YU, built around a culture that stems from everyone being Jewish but is actively cultivated by members of the administration, starting with President Joel who serves both as a ‘father at large’ and the face of the University. It comes from more than being members of a tribe, as we have seen that simply being Jewish does not guarantee we are all going to get along. Or, that we all want to be together. Or, that even if we are together, we’ll actually enjoy it. One cannot assume that being Jewish is enough to unify a group. Like children in a family, it is foolhardy for parents to assume that that everyone will ‘get along’ or ‘enjoy being together’ simply because they are related. The relationship needs to be fostered, the notion that ‘doing this will be enjoyable – and, will bring us together’ stemming from the center. If you can get people to believe in that and to want to be a part of it, then you have more than just a group of people with something in common: you have a community. At YU, they have figured that out.

We learned that other organizations have copied this event, starting cholent cook-offs of their own. If we are building and bridging our differences one cholent pot at a time, I think that is pretty remarkable. Stranger things have happened.

It only takes a spark to light a fire.


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1 Comment

  • Rebeka - Maria Toth says:

    “The gardener plan a garden with multiple perennial flowers, to return and beautify the place, even the gardener unavailable to return and taking care of the garden! She/He enters the seeds into a fertile soil, and the plant get root, grow, and blooms.
    Next year, after winter snow melts, the perennial plant returns with multiple onion roots.
    The gardener separates them into multiple plants. They growing and blooming.
    Third year again after winter they return with tripled, root-onions. If they are not separated they grow into bushes and beautify the whole area like never before.
    If they are separated the whole garden will be filled with the same flowers and makes every person who just pass by happy.
    In the Cholent case “The media” as the gardener motivates others to follow the YU way of growing community.
    So if the Cholent slow-cooking remain inside the Yeshivah University walls is a victory, because every student will take the knowledge with themselves to the community where Hashem sends them to spread the word, and knowledge.
    But never forget the spark starts from the neighborhood Chabad of Valley Stream, Long Island, NY; respectively Rabbi Isaac Goldshmith. Hashem give Him and his family, long, healthy and prosperous life.
    For all of you Mazol Tove.
    (the Cholent Lady)

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