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Mrs. Grimm’s High Holidays Honey Cake

(Published Aug 25, 2021)

Beth Grimm (aka “Mrs. Grimm”) is part of the fabric of the JCC – she’s been coming to the facility since she was 10 years old and has worked in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program for over 40 years. “It’s always been a sense of community and family,” she said. “Going through life’s journeys, the J has always been a sense of support for me and my family, and that’s meant a lot to me. I want to thank everyone for embracing me all these years; it’s been an honor to serve our community.”

One of Beth’s favorite ways to interact with the ECE students is to cook and bake for them. Not only does it teach math and science by using precise measurements and mixing things together, but there’s always a delicious treat at the end. Her French toast, for example, is the stuff of legend (people she had in class 35 years ago have reached out for the recipe).

A gray-haired woman holding trays of hamantaschen
Beth with trays of her famous hamantaschen

Food is also a great way to teach the students about Jewish culture. Beth is particularly famous for her hamantaschen, a triangle-shaped filled cookie eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim – she bakes over 8,000 every year for an ECE fundraiser – but she makes traditional Jewish foods throughout the year. For Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, she makes a honey cake, because eating honey (often with apples dipped in) is symbolic of a sweet new year. That recipe is below and in the ECE cookbook (another fundraiser).

A family with their arms around each other, smiling at the camera, between the kitchen and dining room table
Beth with her daughter Michelle and grandkids Brayden, Mecca, Cameron, Malik, Malia and Alyssa (not pictured: Beth’s daughter Jessica)

Beth’s students aren’t the only ones who benefit from her expertise in the kitchen. Her grandchildren, she said, “especially associate the holidays with the kind of food we have.” As they’ve gotten older they’ve become more interested in learning how to make the foods, but until now, “they’ve been very content just eating it.” These days, family holiday gatherings are much smaller than the 40- or 50-person events Beth grew up with, but her nuclear family still makes an effort to celebrate together. Beth is particularly proud that four of her grandchildren can blow the shofar, or ram’s horn, that she got in Israel (she herself can’t make a sound out of it). “Hopefully they will carry on some of these traditions when I’m no longer here,” she said.

More About Beth

  • Beth loves animals and nature (especially hiking at Eagle Creek). She was the first person to put a community garden on JCC property and tend it with ECE students – that summer, they all called her “Mother Nature.”
  • Favorite band: The Beatles
  • Role model: Maya Angelou
  • Favorite word: Hope. “There’s always hope. Even though life is challenging at times, it’s a beautiful thing, and you need to strive to live each day to the fullest.”

Honey Cake Recipe

Ingredients:
• 1½ Tbsp margarine
• 1½ cups honey
• 1 cup strong coffee
• 3½ cups all-purpose flour
• Pinch of salt
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 4 eggs
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 tsp cinnamon
• ½ tsp ground nutmeg
• ¼ tsp ground cloves
• ⅛ tsp ground ginger

Directions:
1. Grease loaf pans with margarine. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. In a saucepan, add honey on medium heat. Cook until honey comes to a boil and remove from the stove immediately.
3. Measure 1 cup of strong coffee and stir honey into it. Set it aside.
4. Sift flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder into a medium bowl.
5. Crack eggs and add them to a large mixing bowl. Add oil and sugar and beat well. Then add cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Beat again.
6. Pour about 2 tablespoons of flour mixture into egg mixture and beat well. Then pour in ¼ cup of the coffee mixture and beat again. Finally, add all the remaining flour and coffee mixture alternately, about ¼ cup at a time.
7. Spoon or pour batter into greased loaf pans, about ⅔ full.
8. Place pans in the oven for about 1 hour. Cakes are done when tester stick comes out clean.
9. Let cake stand until cold and then flip them over onto a platter, ready to serve.

Beginner’s Guide to the High Holidays

Rosh Hashana

This holiday is the Jewish New Year, which marks the beginning of the 10-day period of prayer, self-reflection, and repentance. It is celebrated on the first (sometimes second) day of the Hebrew month Tishrei (in September). Rosh Hashana marks the first of the Jewish High Holidays. A tradition of the Jewish faith is to eat apples with honey at this time, representing hopes for a sweet new year. Another common food eaten on this holiday are pomegranates, symbolizing to be fruitful as it has many seeds.

A common greeting used for this time of year is the Hebrew phrase “L’shanah tova”, meaning “a good year”

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, as known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the Jewish year. It is celebrated on the tenth day of Tishrei, concluding the High Holidays. This is a time for Jews to atone and repent for the past year. Jews will traditionally observe this holiday over a twenty-five hour period of fasting (if they are able) and refraining from work, spending a majority of the day in synagogue services. They will ask God for forgiveness of their sins to secure their fate and cleanse their souls of bad intentions and wrong doings.

The best greeting to say to someone observing this holiday is “have a meaningful fast.” If the person is not fasting, you can say “Good Yuntif” or “Yom Tov”, Yiddish and Hebrew respectively for “have a good holy day”.

Sukkot

Sukkot is celebrated on the fifteenth month of Tishri (varies from late September to late October). It is the only festival associated with an explicit commandment of rejoice. It represents a time to give thanks for the bounty of the earth during the fall harvest. At this time, Jews will build “sukkahs”, an outdoor structure with walls that are typically covered in some sort of plant overgrowth, such as palm leaves. Jews will spend much of their time in these huts in order to feel more connected with the earth and give thanks for what the earth has offered them.

To wish a happy Sukkot (or any other holiday), say “Chag sameach” (“Happy Holiday” in Hebrew).

Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah mark the end of Sukkot and the completion of the annual Torah reading for the Jews. These holidays celebrate the love for God that the Jews have and it is a time to rejoice. On Simchat Torah, after reading the final chapter of the Torah, Jews will then immediately start again at the beginning, reminding us that the Torah is a circle; it always continues even when it is over.

Following the completion of Torah readings, there is a celebration where Jews will lift up the Torah scrolls, singing and dancing with them around the synagogue.

Learn more about these and other Jewish holidays at JCCindy.org/holidays.

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