Feature Stories Jewish Holidays

Happy Purim!!

Hold the jam: Creative Hamantaschen from ‘Queen of Kosher’ Jamie Geller

By JNS.org

We all recognize that poppy seed or jam taste when we bite into Hamantaschen on Purim every year. But given the right filling, or dough, the traditional pastry has a lot more to offer.

Hailed as the “Queen of Kosher” and the “Jewish Rachael Ray,” best-selling author Jamie Geller is the founder of the Kosher Media Network, publisher of Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller magazine and JoyofKosher.com. Geller’s online cooking videos have garnered more than 1 million views.

The following recipes, edited by JNS.org, were recommended by Geller and have appeared on JoyofKosher.com and in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller magazine. The stuffed Hamantaschen challah recipe is based on Geller’s own challah recipe, as it appeared in her cookbook Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes (William Morrow/Harper Collins).

Cardamom Scented Hamantaschen with Pear & Goat Cheese Filling

By Pessy Haskelevich, writer for Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

For a pareve version, simply replace the butter with canola oil and omit the goat cheese.

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Servings: 2 dozen


For the pastry:

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 stick butter, or 1/4 cup canola oil

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1-2 teaspoons cardamom or hawayij

Pinch of salt


For the filling:

1/2 cup water

1/8 cup sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon fresh ginger,

peeled and minced

1 lb firm but ripe pears, peeled,

cored and cut into 1/4 inch diced pieces

3/4 cup apricot jam

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

8 oz soft goat cheese (optional)


Preparing the pastry:

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  3. Divide the dough in half and chill in plastic wrap for half an hour.

Preparing the filling:

  1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and simmer over low heat until sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add the lemon juice, ginger and pears and simmer for an additional 10 minutes, or until pears are tender. Set aside to cool.

To assemble and bake:

  1. On a generously floured surface, preferably on baking paper, roll out the dough to a quarter-inch thickness. Roll once, then pick up the flattened dough and turn it 90 degrees. Sprinkle with more flour if necessary and roll it out again. Repeat until dough is of sufficient thickness (This procedure helps prevent the dough from sticking). Use a round cookie cutter or glass with a 2-3 inch diameter to cut out circles of dough.
  2. Smear a very thin layer of apricot preserves in the center of each circle.
  3. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon walnuts and a small piece of crumbled goat cheese.
  4. Top with 1 teaspoon of pear jam.
  5. Lift up the edges of the circle to form a triangle. Pinch the corners securely so that they don’t open in the oven.
  6. Line a cookie sheet with baking paper and place the assembled hamantaschen on the cookie sheet. Chill the hamantaschen in the freezer for about half an hour.
  7. Repeat with second half of dough.
  8. Bake the hamantaschen in the oven at 375° F for 20-24 minutes or until golden. Cool on rack.


Stuffed Hamantaschen Challah 

By Shifra Klein, editor-in-chief, Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine

Based on the challah recipe from Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes.

Prep Time for challah: 1 hour

Cook Time for challah: 45-55 minutes

Serving for challah: 4 challahs


Ingredients for challah dough:

2 ounces active dry yeast

+ 3 tablespoons sugar

6 cups warm water, divided

4 tablespoons kosher salt

1 (6-pound) bag high-gluten flour

2 cups sugar

4 egg yolks

1 1/4 cups canola oil, divided

2 whole eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1/2 cup poppy seeds

Directions to make challah dough:

  1. In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and 3 tablespoons of sugar in 2 cups of warm water, cover loosely with a towel and set aside.
  2. Place salt in a huge plastic bowl.
  3. Add flour to bowl.
  4. Add sugar and egg yolks.
  5. Yeast should now have bubbled/foamed and doubled in size; if yeast has not bubbled or does not seem active, repeat the process again.
  6. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and slowly pour yeast and sugar water mixture into the well. Then add the remaining 4 cups of warm water into the well. Make sure the water is not too hot. It should be no warmer than you would use for a baby’s bath.
  7. Start kneading ingredients together and add a 1/2 cup of oil.
  8. For the next 10 minutes, knead, adding another 1/2 cup of oil slowly during that time as needed to create a workable dough. Dough shouldn’t be too sticky and also should not be dry. It should become one cohesive mass.
  9. Loosely cover dough with a large kitchen towel and place in a warm spot in your kitchen for 15 minutes.
  10. After 15 minutes, lightly oil your hand and knead again for another 5 minutes, adding a touch more oil to the dough if necessary. The dough should now be easier to work with and will become smooth and satiny.
  11. Rub a little oil over the top and around the dough. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel. Place covered bowl in a medium plastic garbage bag and place open ends of the bag loosely underneath the bowl, trapping in air.
  12. Place in a warm spot and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  13. Punch dough down and knead (lightly oil your hands if necessary), flipping it and releasing any air bubbles. Cover again, using the towel and the bag, and let rise 1 more hour.
  14. Lightly oil your hands, and punch down again. With a sharp knife divide dough into 4 equal parts.
  15. Liberally spray four 9-inch round baking pans with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  16. Preheat oven to 375° F. Bake for 10 minutes and then lower your oven temperature to 350° F and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes, until challah top is dark golden brown.


Directions for the hamantaschen:

Fillings of choice: pesto, sundried tomato dip, or olive dip.

Prep Time for the Hamantaschen: 15 minutes

Cook Time for the Hamantaschen: 15 minutes

Roll out desired size of dough into a rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut dough into a diamond shape.

  1. Cut out a small triangle from the center of one of the halves of the diamond.
  2. Place filling directly opposite the triangle, on the other half of the dough.
  3. Fold over to form a triangle/hamantaschen shape, and seal edges.
  4. Brush with egg wash.
  5. Bake until golden.


Credit: “Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes by Jamie Geller.”


Members Holyoke synagogues encouraged

to bring food items to Purim celebrations

HOLYOKE – The Rachel’s Table Teen Board partners with the Holyoke Public Schools to provide string backpacks filled with nutritious food each Friday to homeless children who attend the public schools and who have little or no access to food during the weekends.  Currently, the backpack program serves 160 kids at a cost of approximately $3.65 a week for each backpack and $10,000 is needed to finish the year. The group currently has only $3,000.

“Since Purim is approaching and matanot l’evyonim (gifts for the poor) is one of the commandments, you could make a donation to Rachel’s Table that would specifically and 100 percent go to this program,” said Debbie Rubenstein, executive director of Rachel’s Table.

Rachel’s Table is collaborating with the two synagogues in Holyoke, Congregation Sons of Zion and Congregation Rodphey Sholom, asking them to bring food items for these homeless children when they go to shul to hear the Megillah.

“Because mishloach manot (gift bags of food) is another commandment for Purim, perhaps you could make one of your mishloach manot a bag or string backpack filled with food for one of these children,” Rubenstein added.

Rachel’s Table will pick the bags up following Purim.  Those not attending the Megillah reading can drop off the bag prior to Purim.

“The string backpacks are used so that the children have something special to take home with them and are not ashamed of taking a shopping bag filled with food home from school. This program directly serves Holyoke,” Rubenstein said. “It offers you the opportunity to play an important role in helping to ensure that these children will continue to get food each weekend.”


Food items that are needed are individually packed items such as:

Tuna cans or packets

High protein soups

Beef ravioli or spaghetti and meatballs in cans

Individual Mac and Cheese packages such as Easy Mac

Peanut butter or cheese and cracker packets

Small boxes of cereal or packets of oatmeal

Fruit cups

Chocolate milk boxes

Other canned meals such as chili, meat, chicken, etc.

(No expired food items, glass containers or family size boxes, i.e. no pasta boxes or tomato sauce).

Donations to Rachel’s Table to help financially support this program are encouraged. Identify your donations for the

“Food for Holyoke’s Homeless Schoolchildren Program.”



Springfield JCC Purim Carnival March 1

SPRINGFIELD – The Springfield JCC Purim Carnival will be held Sunday, March 1, from 12:30 – 3 p.m.

Dress in royalty or as your favorite Purim character and attend the carnival, featuring games in the auditorium, inflatables in the gym ($12 all day pass), prizes, photo opportunities with King Ahasuerus and Queen Esther, food for sale, Megillah reading, magician and wood-working project.

For more information, contact Louis Lasko at (413) 739-4715.


PJ Pals Purim Program at LGA

NORTHAMPTON – Make hamentashen and masks for Purim on Sunday, March 1 at 10 a.m. at Lander-Grinspoon Academy, 257 Prospect St. Get ready for Purim with a baking and mask-decorating celebration for

3-5 year-olds and their grownups. Tumble and Play will be held from from 11-11:30 a.m. The program is free and all are welcome.

It’s PJ Purim in Worcester

WORCESTER – Join the PJ Library for hamantashen baking and Purim Story Time on Sunday, March 1 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Worcester JCC, 633 Salisbury St., in the senior lounge and kitchen. The event is for kids and their parents, but all are welcome. 

Bring your favorite filling if you wish and create your own take on this classic treat for the holiday. 

Dough and cooking materials will be provided. For information and to RSVP: contact Cari-Lynn Gershman Fisher at fishercl@gmail.com or email Mindy  at mhall@jfcm.org.

YAD Jewish Baking Day

WORCESTER – The Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass. will hold a Jewish Baking Day on March 1 from 1 – 3 p.m. Make challah and hamantashen. Call for location and to RSVP: (508) 756-1543.

Purim at Sons of Zion

HOLYOKE – On Wednesday, March 4, Congregation Sons of Zion, 378 Maple St. Holyoke, will host its annual Purim Festival.  All are welcome to attend. From 4-6 p.m., the congregation and Hebrew school will be baking hamantaschen; at 6 p.m. the Megillah will be read (Groggers and costumes encouraged); and at 7 p.m. will be a dairy potluck dinner. (Last names starting with A-L bring side dishes, salad, veggie dishes. Letters M- Z dairy or pareve entrées.  Please use kosher, dairy ingredients and disposable serving containers.) For more information call Joan Rosner at (413) 536-5669 or email:sonsofzion@verizon.net

 ‘Bibliodrama: Improv at the Shushan Palace’

GREENFIELD – Temple Israel, 27 Pierce St., will begin the raucous holiday Purim on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. with “Bibliodrama: Improv at the Shushan Palace” for adults and teens. The congregation will study Megillat Esther in an interactive setting. No theatrical background or Hebrew language skills are necessary. Costumes and masks are optional.  This event is appropriate for teens and adults and not for children under 12.  On Sunday morning, the congregation will hold a Purim program for families with children in preschool through 6th grade from 10 a.m. – noon. Parents will join the rabbi for discussion, kids will go in age-appropriate groups to do art, music, and story. There will be a special program for preschoolers. Child care for children under 2 will be provided. Refreshments will be served. For more information, contact Shirin Morris shirinmorris@gmail.com or (413) 625-9855.

Community Purim at TBE

SPRINGFIELD – A Community Purim Celebration will be held at Temple Beth El, 979 Dickinson St. on March 4. TBE will be joined by members of Congregation B’nai Torah and Heritage Academy.

The evening service and Megillah reading will begin at 6:30 p.m. followed by the community Purim celebration with the theme “Around the World.” The event will have food from a variety of countries to sample. This event is free of charge, and no reservations are necessary.

Beit Ahavah presents Queen Esther’s Drag Ball

NORTHAMPTON – Beit Ahavah, the Reform Synagogue of Greater Northampton, celebrates Purim with the Seventh Annual Queen Esther’s Drag Ball and Karaoke Dance Party on Saturday, March 7 from 7 – 11 p.m., at Diva’s, 492 Pleasant St. The party is open to the public, ages 21+ and includes a full cash bar. Teens, 13+ are welcome from 7 – 8:30 p.m.

Beit Ahavah will present this year’s Queen Esther Social Justice Award to Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian, the senior pastor of the Haydenville Congregational Church.Guests are encouraged to come dressed in drag, come in costume, or come as they are. The suggested donation is $9 or $18. To pre-purchase tickets, contact Beit Ahavah at info@beitahavah.org or (413) 587- 3770.

Wild West Purim

LENOX – “Wild West in the Berkshires will be held on Thursday, March 5 at 4 p.m., at the Lenox Community Center, 65 Walker St. This Purim party is a community-wide program and open to all.

The event will include a wild western dinner, Purim costume parade in western-themed costumes (or any of your choice), music, and western-themed tricks. Participants are encouraged to come in costume and compete for award prizes to contestants with the most innovative or funny costumes.

$18/adults; $10/children; $5/discount for all in costume. No fee for children under 12. To register or for more information call (413) 499-9899 or visit www.jewishberkshires.com.

The Whole Megillah at JCA

AMHERST – The Jewish Community of Amherst will hold its Purim celebration on Wednesday, March 4. At 4:30 p.m., there will be activity stations to prepare costume, grogger or shpeil for Megillah reading. At 5:30 p.m., a community “Crazy” Potluck dinner will take place. Bring a side dish or salad; pizza and hamentaschen will be provided. At 6:20 p.m. there will be a costume parade in the main sanctuary followed by a reading of the Megillah with skits and songs by JCA adults and kids. On Thursday, March 5 at 11 a.m., JCA will hold an English Megillah reading, an adult study session with brunch provided by the Black Sheep in Amherst in the social hall.

 Esther Goes Mardi Gras at Sinai

SPRINGFIELD – Sinai Temple, 1100 Dickinson St., will hold a Purim party, “Esther Goes Mardi Gras,” on Saturday, March 7 at 7 p.m. The party is for adults only, but all are welcome. For more information, call (413) 736-3619. $36 per person.

Celebrate Moroccan Purim at LYA

On Thursday, March 5, LYA will host a Moroccan Purim at 5:30 p.m., with music and dinner. On Wednesday, March 4, a Megillah reading will be at LYA at 6:45 p.m., followed by a Purim party. On Thursday, March 5 at 9 a.m., there will be a Megillah reading and Purim carnival. Reservations for the Thursday dinner by March 2: (413) 567-8665. $12/adults; $6/children; $36/family rate

Purim at the Iron Horse

NORTHAMPTON – Chabad Northampton presents Purim at The Iron Horse with the Brooklyn Jazz Warriors, on Thursday, March 5, at 4:30 p.m. Featuring live band, kosher cash bar with wine and drinks, sushi, prizes and hamantaschen. Megillah reading at 5 p.m. Tickets: www.nbotickets.com or at the door; $10 Adults – $5 Children (3-11)


HHNE to honor Lazowskis
A son comes home
Play Ball! The Jewish Boys of Summer take the field

Comments are closed.