A little recap of the first Shabbat in April, Spring semester 2014 at UAlbany, plus the Cholent Cookoff on Saturday:

Friday Night was the first Hillel dinner in a while, and will be a while until the next one, too. Due to a quirk of the calendar, with Spring Break behind us and Passover ahead, there won’t be another Hillel Shabbat dinner in the Campus Center until late April and close to the end of the semester. But there will be Shabbat at Shabbos House, and lots of Passover meals. See Passover Schedule 2014 for details.

Highlights at Hillel Dinner? Rabbi Nomi of Hillel spoke about good and bad language in connection with the weekly Torah portion about negative speech, Rabbi Mendel told the Sukkot story about his grandfather’s belt and the Passover connection. Avi S. made Kiddush in honor of his 20th birthday. The pineapple chicken was really good and the rice had slivered almonds and cranberries. Keshet of Hillel had everyone get up on their chairs depending on when and how recently they visited Israel. There were a bunch of prospective students visiting this week, mostly from NJ and one from MA.

Special guest this weekend was alumnus Mike S. who spent six years at UAlbany between his undergrad (2010) and masters (2012) degrees, and was very active in various aspects of Jewish life here, as well as with UAlbany Res-Life and also at area Hebrew schools and youth groups. He continues that dedication to the Jewish community in a midwestern/southern mid-size city, working at the JCC, leading youth groups, teen activities and day-camp. One really meaningful insight he shared was part of Rabbi Mendel’s Shabbat lunch message about “Three Passover Words.”

Friday Night was rainy and cold but Shabbat Day was beautiful out. We had a tight start to Minyan, but eventually a great group. Rabbi Mendel read most of the Torah Reading, and some of it was read by a visiting Canadian college student from Montreal (whose bus home from the Model UN in NYC would not get there in time for Shabbos).

Lunch began with a Chef’s Salad (and a vegetarian option), plus a bunch of side salads and dips, too.


This year’s 3 entries were: “Asian Fusion” (by Zach G.) “Hungarian Vegetarian” (by Ben I.) and “Happy Family Cholent” (by Eliot H). The winner was Happy Family, but all were delicious and well-prepared. Since we had 3 Cholent entries instead of last year’s five, we gave each person at lunch only one ticket (instead of 2 last year) to use as their vote for their favorite Cholent.

Here’s a food critic’s review:

Happy Family was the most traditional and familiar, very rich and hearty, made with flanken-meat and store-bought meat Kishka. The texture was incredible, and it was very full of flavor. Considering we did 3 18qt cholent pots, it was quite the testament that almost none of this Cholent was left by the end of lunch.

Asian-Fusion was an atypical, gourmet surprise cholent, superbly spiced and seasoned, more on the soy-sauce and Teriyaki side but not overly salty, the meat was well seasoned, but the overall cholent was a little more liquidy and not as full of texture. It would have been even better over a bed of rice. People kept “fishing” in that Cholent for the last drop of that savory meat.

Hungarian Vegetarian was a thick, hearty, very sweet mix with slight BBQ taste, with sabrett onions, baked beans and chopped cabbage among a bunch of other ingredients. Everything mixed together really well, as a good Cholent should. Unlike most Cholents it was easily edible later in the day, as indeed quite a few enjoyed it later on as well during the long Shabbos afternoon.