Making Matzah, riding camels and dining on homemade chicken soup was just part of the cultural experience on Sunday, March 27.
Matzah making, Moses and Biblical friends meandering amidst the festivities and a 6-year old camel named Peanut giving rides to the crowd, were a sampling of the cultural experiences offered at the Jewish Heritage Festival on Sunday, March 27 at The Casements.
The inaugural festival was held in March 2008 with approximately 10,000 people in attendance. It became a biennial event with 2020 being postponed due to COVID-19. This year’s festival was dedicated to three individuals who were involved extensively in the Jewish community and died during the event’s hiatus—Lynn Goldovitz, Gloria Max and Marta Heller.
Rabbi S. David Kane led everyone in a prayer of gratitude—a reflection of the festival’s theme.
“Holy Creator, thank you for today,” he said. “Thank you for the ability to join together to honor the heritage of Judaism and American Judaism.”
Festival president Jeffrey Bigman brought Shofar blowers Murray Steinberg and Roberto Mendez to the Jerusalem stage to kick off the celebration. A Shofar is a musical instrument traditionally made from a ram’s horn and used for religious or significant Jewish occasions. Mendez used to play trombone with a Latin salsa band in Puerto Rico which made it easy for him to transition to the Shofar.
“When you hear the Shofar being blasted, it’s God’s voice,” he said. “My ancestors are Sephardic Jews from Spain. They came from Israel so when I saw the Shofar, I knew God led me to it.”
“We are teaching the children the traditions. The kids get to experience the heritage. They get to experience the Judaism. It’s not just something of the past but something of the present. By giving our children a positive experience with their religion, it helps them and encourages them to pass it on to their children. It’s all about education.”
Rabbi Asher Farkash, Chabad of Greater Daytona program director
Contemporary and traditional Jewish music played throughout the day as revelers enjoyed the tastes of Kosher, Israeli and Jewish food. People were lined up at My Homeys’ tent where they could purchase gourmet hamantaschen — a folded, triangular shaped cookies, traditionally filled with fruit. Owner Sharon Goldish started the business about five years ago following a career as a surgeon. She noticed how cupcakes had evolved to include a wide array of flavors and decided to experiment with her cookies.
“I spent a year in my kitchen,” she said. “I took classes, experimented with recipes and came up with about 20 different flavors — different combinations of doughs and fillings. Then I launched the business.”
Kids also got a chance to have fun in the kitchen at the festival. Rabbi Asher Farkash, the program director at the Chabad of greater Daytona, led the children’s Matzah Bakery Workshop for two sessions during which he taught them how to make matzah.
“We are teaching the children the traditions,” he said. “Giving them the love of the holiday, the love of the festivals, a love for Judaism. It is a beautiful thing. The kids get to experience the heritage. They get to experience the Judaism. It’s not just something of the past but something of the present. By giving our children a positive experience with their religion, it helps them and encourages them to pass it on to their children. It’s all about education.”