December sees one of the most entertaining events in the Jewish calendar. Hanukkah is a chance for families to get together, play traditional games, and feast on luscious jam donuts and latkes. Hanukkah is celebrated from Nov 27 - Dec 5, 2013.
Hanukkah or Chanuka (the spelling varies) is a special event in the Jewish calendar, which usually falls around early to mid-December. The word means "dedication and light" and, in fact, the Festival is also known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev in the Jewish calendar and marks a miracle which occurred in 167 BC, when the Jews regained control of the Temple in Jerusalem, overthrowing the Syrian king Antiochus. The oil for the lamps in the Temple had been defiled by intruders and only one jar was found intact. Although it was only enough to burn for one day, it burned for eight.
To commemorate the event, families light a menorah or hanukiah – a candlestick holding eight candles, one lit each night of the festival. There are special Hanukkah songs and foods.
The association with oil is celebrated by the consumption of fried foods, such as sufganiyot – donuts and livivot, or potato pancakes, also known as latkes.
In Perth’s Jewish community, most people buy their donuts at the Kosher Food Centre, run by former five-star chef Bernard Bettane.
Jewish studies teacher from Carmel Primary School Hazel Hadassin has donuts from Bernard. Her daughter Melissa and her grandmother Esther grate potatoes and onion for latkes, then mix in eggs, flour and salt, and fry the pancakes in vegetable oil.
In the evening, the family gets together with other relatives and friends, the candle is lit and donuts and latkes are eaten, along with other food. Children play with a dreidel – a special Hanukkah spinning top – and bet chocolate money (gelt in Yiddish) on the outcome! Although the Torah forbids gambling, this activity has been associated with the non-religious aspects of the festival – in memory of the Maccabees, a Jewish clan forbidden by their Syrian ruler to practise their religion. So when they met to discuss religious matters, they would spin a top to pretend they were merely playing a game of chance – should the authorities catch them.
The Jewish calendar has many festivals throughout the year, often associated with special foods.
"Kosher" or "kashrut" means pure, which is the principle dominating the dietary rules of religious Jews or those who "keep kosher". The rules of kashrut are strict but relatively simple. Dairy and meat cannot be eaten together, but "pareve" foods, such as vegetables, fruit and soy products, can be eaten with either milk or meat products.
Kosher animals include certain ones with cloven hooves, such as cattle, sheep and goat. Pork and rabbit are not kosher and may not be eaten by observant Jews. Poultry is kosher. Fish must have scales and fins to be kosher; shellfish is not kosher. But all animals must be slaughtered by a certified kosher butcher, salted or "koshered" to remove as much blood as possible; kosher salt is usually used for this process.
When it comes to cheese, the use of natural rennet to form the cheese curd is forbidden, as rennet is an animal product. Likewise, dairy products that contain gelatin, made from animal bones, including most yoghurt and ice-cream, are not kosher. Thus, substitutes have been created to make kosher cheese, ice-cream and other dairy products.
The utensils and pots used for preparing kosher food must also be pure and should not ever be used for both meat and dairy.
Each state in Australia has a Kashrut Authority in charge of certifying food businesses and answering any questions Jewish families might have.
This shop was originally set up by the Perth synagogue and is located next door to service the local community. It has been run since 1989 by Bernard Bettane.
In the market, he has a Butchery, Bakery + Patissierie, Deli, and Dry Good Groceries. The shop is famous for its bagels (handmade!), which are sold through the shop and also in upmarket cafes around the Perth metro area (they are a softer version of the more traditional ones). The Patissierie has some great cakes and pastries (don’t miss the chocolate rugelach – they are delicious).
The Grocery products are basically American, Israeli and South African, with a few local products. The Bettanes make some deli products like dips, fried fish, felafel and soups (chicken soup + kneidl). It is like a mini, mini mart.
Sufganiot or donuts are only made for the Hanukkah period. The bakers sometimes make a "bagel donut", ie a donut in the shape of a bagel.