P.S.: Local people, places, travels and simchas

Jewish Patagonia

Joan Elder (left) and Esta Goldstein on the bus to Patagonia.
Joan Elder (left) and Esta Goldstein on the bus to Patagonia.

Patagonia, Ariz., that is, not Argentina/Chile.

On Tuesday, March 29, a busload of 54 Tucsonans traveled to Patagonia. The trip was co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Northwest Division and the Hadassah Southern Arizona chapter.

The tour group learned that there are between 8 and 12 Jewish Patagonians who meet for nature services on the High Holidays and gather for Passover worship. Four of them met with the group. Paula Wittner, a painter and musician; Saul Lieberman, a stage set designer and builder; and Adrienne Halpert, owner of the Global Arts Gallery, told of their art connections and why they chose to live in this small Southern Arizona town. Patagonia’s librarian, Abbie Zeltzer, originally from Brooklyn and a Patagonia resident for over 40 years, shared her story. The travelers visited Wittner and Lieberman’s studios and shopped in Halpert’s store for treasures from the Southwest and around the world. In addition, they perused the natural foods at the locally owned Red Mountain store.

The bus continued on for a delicious lunch at Wisdom’s Café in Tumacacori where some small world Jewish geography took place. Beatrice Lewis connected with former fellow Londoners Alan and Susan Kendal, who were also on the trip. The day trippers enjoyed a one hour shopping stopover in Tubac before returning to Tucson. Some others on the bus included Vida Barron, Audrey Brooks, Jan Linn, Donna Moser, Judy Norris, Cathy Olswing, Richard Pincus, Ken Sandock (trip photographer), and Leonard and Sarah Schultz.

Passover prep

Chef Amelia Saltsman with her charoset
Chef Amelia Saltsman with her charoset

Through a partnership between the Tucson Jewish Community Center and the Tucson Festival of Books, on March 11, chef, teacher and author Amelia Saltsman gave a cooking demonstration and tasting at the Tucson J. Don Luria and Donna Nordin, former co-owners of Café Terra Cotta, were on hand for this inaugural special event in the J’s new demonstration kitchen. Don, head of the festival’s culinary committee for the past five years, recruited Saltsman, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., to speak at this year’s festival. Donna prepped and assisted Saltsman in the kitchen.

The recipes included green garlic and leek matzah brei with smoked salmon and horseradish cream, salted almond and chocolate meringue with matzah shards, and Iraqi charoset. The chef said that over the millennia, Jews have developed traditions based on the foods of the regions in which they lived. Her ingredients included foods grown locally and seasonally.

Safta Rachel’s Iraqi Charoset

Reprinted with permission from “The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen” copyright 2015 by Amelia Saltsman, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.

Makes about 1 cup (330 g), about 12 servings


3/4 cup (75 g) pecans, toasted

3/4 cup (255 g) silan (date syrup)

Chop the nuts into about 1/4-inch (6mm) pieces, chopping some almost to “dust.” Put the silan in a small bowl and stir in the nuts and dust. You should have a thick honey-like spread. It can be made 1 day ahead and stored, covered, at room temperature.

The charoset was sweet and crunchy and can be spread on matzah or, after Passover, on challah or toast. The silan can be purchased at Middle Eastern or other specialty markets.

Experiential Passover

Four generations of Peppers at Passover 2015 in Santa Barbara — Vicki is in the front row with the white hat and Phil is behind her left shoulder, in the light baseball cap.
Four generations of Peppers at Passover 2015 in Santa Barbara — Vicki is in the front row with the white hat and Phil is behind her left shoulder, in the light baseball cap.

Vicki and Phil Pepper will partake in what has become an annual Passover tradition, going on 16 years. Their family seder has morphed into a quasi-cousins club, with the next generation beginning to take over the responsibilities associated with the holiday planning and preparation.

The families take turns convening in different cities. This year, attendees will travel to Fort Myers, Fla., from Tucson; Denver; Kendall Park, N.J; Long Beach, Calif., Pompano Beach; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City; Santa Barbara; and Washington, D.C. for this springtime festival of freedom. Each year, the host family sends out a letter stating the theme and designs the T-shirt (or hat or backpack). Each family is assigned a portion of the Passover story to present in multimedia fashion. The letter also contains thought-provoking questions to ponder in advance. Questions have included: Who do you trust? (i.e. Moses leading his people from Egypt); What enslaves you?; What sets you free? Attendees share their answers, which tend to inspire personal awareness.

The hosts provide the main dish while others fill in the rest of the meal. The Four Questions get passed down to the youngest of the next generation. Through skits, songs, costumes, props and the use of their own Pepper-Morgan Family Passover Haggadah, the group’s collective creativity adds to the ambiance of the re-telling of the Passover story.

Time to share

Happy Pesach and keep me posted — 319-1112. L’shalom.