Deli Days: 'It Involves Our Entire Congregation' 

click to enlarge Baked challah - AMY RUSSELL
  • Amy Russell
  • Baked challah
Rows of sweets line the kitchen table of Gretchen Hecht’s house as she, Betsy Russell and Abby McLean bake the final rounds of pastries for Deli Days. The three baking volunteers each took bites out of the various assortments of baked goods remarking about the taste and smell.

“The smell in the kitchens during baking is torturous to anyone else in the building,” McLean said. “I feel sorry for them because they can’t stay out of the kitchen.”

Deli Days is an annual celebration and fundraiser put on by the Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel Synagogue. During Deli Days an assortment of Jewish cuisine is sold while the synagogue is open to members of the community to come and enjoy. Deli Days will be taking place Thursday and Friday, June 18 and 19, at the Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel Synagogue from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Because of this year’s increase in demand, volunteer bakers needed to start earlier than normal to be able to supply the estimated number of goods. According to McLean, Passover falling later than usual created a problem with the logistical planning involved in getting all the baking done on time.

click to enlarge Shira Kronenberg, member of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel - AMY RUSSELL
  • Amy Russell
  • Shira Kronenberg, member of Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel
“During Passover, traditional Jewish families will clear out their bread and flour and not have them in the kitchen,” McLean said. “These New York cheesecakes we were making didn’t have any of the things that are forbidden during Passover so we decided ‘We’re just going to bake on through!’”

The push for foods that didn’t have flour, like the New York cheesecake provided an opportunity to focus on making pastries that were naturally gluten-free.

Even with the early start, McLean points out that the majority of the baking has been taking place in large groups once a week with roughly ten to twelve volunteer bakers.

“In maybe 4 hours we’ll produce several hundred of whatever pastry we’re doing,” McLean said. “That’s why a home baker would be hard put to do this kind of production. It just creates such a great spirit of camaraderie as we’ve done more and more. ”

click to enlarge More baked challah - AMY RUSSELL
  • Amy Russell
  • More baked challah
During Deli Days, attendees will be able to enjoy a newly added children’s show with Elena Salzman and puppeteer Len Levitt and as well as several musical artists including Gayle Chapman, Boise Cello Collection, Moody Jews, Blaze and Kelly and several others.

“One thing that has really added to Deli Days is the music,” Russell said. “We have musicians from within our congregation and musicians from the outside community playing music from Jewish composers.”
Russell wants to remind citizens that a lot of specialty foods sell out by Friday morning. She suggests ordering ahead of time.

“Deli Days involves our entire congregation,” Russell said. “We’ve got the little kids who are the runners who take the orders to the cooks, teenagers run the soda pop stand, the adults are the cashiers and in the kitchen. It’s a very large group effort.”

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