As a writer concentrating on Jewish food, I always get letters and e-mail asking for old recipes from Hungary. Most of what I know about these foods I have read in books. Some are still made in Hungary, and I’ve come across Americans who make noodles and cabbage with poppy seeds or who remember shlishkes. But with assimilation, shortcuts, the passage of time and the passing of old cooks, many of these recipes may soon be lost.
So I was thrilled to find these famous dishes in this village about 45 miles north of the George Washington Bridge. The women of the Satmar Hasidic community here have preserved delkelekh and shlishkes, and many other staples of the Hungarian Jewish kitchen.
One of the world’s largest groups of Hasidic Jews, the Satmar originated in Szatmarnemeti, Hungary (now Satu Mare, Romania). There are communities in Williamsburg and Borough Park, Brooklyn; Monsey in Rockland County; and here in Orange County.
The founder of the Satmar Hasidim, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, was saved when more than 12,000 Jews from Szatmarnemeti were deported to Auschwitz. With the remnants of his sect, he settled in Williamsburg in 1946.
Concerned about assimilation, Rabbi Teitelbaum wanted a modern shtetl in America. In 1977 he bought a tract here and settled 14 families. Now there are 3,000 families, most of Hungarian descent, in Kiryas Joel.
“Oftentimes what we think of as an old-world shtetl is in fact a community where Jews and non-Jews lived alongside,” said David N. Myers, a professor of Jewish history at U.C.L.A., who is co-writing a book about the Satmar Hasids here. “That is what is so interesting about Kiryas Joel. Ironically, in America, it turns out to be possible to create a shtetl that is exclusively Jewish.”
A typical marriage may produce 10 children or more, giving the village the fastest growth rate in the state. The large families, I was told, are to help “replace the 6 million” lost in the Holocaust. Partly because most households have so many children, 62 percent of the villagers live below the poverty level, according to the 2000 census. Because of its rapid expansion and insular way of life, Kiryas Joel has come into conflict with neighboring towns over schooling, sewage, water use, taxation and voting.
Rabbi among the rabble-rousers
Among the throng applauding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel tirade in Tehran yesterday was a Brooklyn-born Orthodox Jewish rabbi whose grandparents were exterminated at Auschwitz. As the head of the Neturei Karta sect in Monsey, Rockland County, Weiss proudly calls himself an anti-Zionist, and regularly burns the Israeli flag at demonstrations.
Yesterday, he was front and center at a conference denying the Holocaust took place. He applauded Ahmadinejad's keynote address urging Israel be "wiped off the map."
While Ahmadinejad has also called the Holocaust a "myth," Weiss has stopped short of agreeing with him.
"We don't want to deny the killing of Jews in World War II, but Zionists have given much higher figures for how many people were killed," Weiss said yesterday. "They have used the Holocaust as a device to justify their oppression."
"Judaism is a religion of spirituality, to serve God. ... Zionism is an apostasy, it is a rebellion against God, and a rebellion against the Torah, it is blasphemous," Weiss said in a 2003 interview.
On its Web site, Weiss' Neturei Karta boasts having thousands of followers and temples in Brooklyn and upstate. But Orthodox Jews in Borough Park said Weiss was off his rocker.
"He's acting like a non-Jew," said Simon Akerman, 19, of the large Bobov Hasidic community.
Another Bobov, Mark Berkowitz, 29, added, "I've heard of people like that but not around here. Someone should really explain to him that you don't join the enemy."
and Jameel has a picture.