Wind­sor ‘Man’s Lunch’ cel­e­brates the Jewish deli

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - News - RON STANG

It was a cel­e­bra­tion of the tra­di­tional deli when more than 100 mem­bers of Wind­sor Ont.’s lo­cal Jewish com­mu­nity, many who hadn’t seen each other in years, gath­ered for an old-school “Man’s Lunch” to “fress, kib­b­itz and kvetch” over steam­ing hot kosher corned beef and pas­trami.

The lunch, held Jan. 18 in Shaar Hashomayim Con­gre­ga­tion’s so­cial hall, was an ef­fort not just to strengthen the bonds of the city’s Jewish com­mu­nity, but to raise money to re­ha­bil­i­tate its He­brew school, which hasn’t been re­fur­bished since it opened in 1963.

Ac­cord­ingly, a silent auc­tion was held to bid on large-scale, ready-for-fram­ing repli­cas of menus from some of North Amer­ica’s most iconic Jewish del­i­catessens, from New York’s Carnegie to Wolfie Co­hen’s Ras­cal House in Mi­ami Beach to Schwartz’s in Montreal. A copy of New York’s Sec­ond Av­enue Deli Cook­book was also up for bids.

Be­ing screened in the back­ground was the 2015 film Deli Man by di­rec­tor Erik An­jou, which lov­ingly doc­u­mented the de­cline of the tra­di­tional Jewish deli and ef­forts to re­vi­tal­ize it.

“There are fewer and fewer kosher delis,” said Bill Me­chanic, a lo­cal busi­ness­man and or­ga­nizer of the lunch, which he paid for en­tirely out of his own pocket and hopes to make it a twice-a-year event. “It’s part of our fab­ric as Jews. It’s what we eat and it’s dis­ap­pear­ing.”

Me­chanic played up the male club as­pect of the event. “My grand­fa­ther – my zaide – he was a fresser. My dad he was a fresser. I’m a fresser.”

Later, he jok­ingly told the gath­er­ing that the rea­son the event was ad­ver­tised for men only was be­cause “if we let the women in here, they wouldn’t let us eat this stuff.”

Con­sid­er­able or­ga­niz­ing went into plan­ning the kosher feast. Me­chanic said 82 pounds of brisket was or­dered from Hamil­ton Kosher in Hamil­ton.

“They gave us all the in­struc­tions. Ev­ery sin­gle thing we had to do the guys in Hamil­ton walked us through it,” Me­chanic said. He also se­cured 20 “beau­ti­ful rye breads” from The Bake Sta­tion in South­field, Mich., a kosher bak­ery across the river in sub­ur­ban Detroit.

Cole slaw, pick­les, and desserts – in­clud­ing seven-layer cake and kichel –rounded out the meal.

A slicer was set up in the shul’s kitchen, and well-known city lawyer Sam Moss­man, the “maven,” did the hon­ours of cut­ting the meat, ar­riv­ing a few hours ahead of time on the mid-week morn­ing.

Moss­man is the son of Dave Moss­man, who ran Wind­sor’s iconic Moss­man’s Del­i­catessen, which op­er­ated be­tween 1948 and 1979. He was wear­ing a Moss­man’s Del­i­catessen T-shirt, as were other vol­un­teer staff, which were spe­cially made for the lunch.

“It was an in­te­gral part of our fam­ily,” Moss­man said of the deli. “We even had our own dill pickle fac­tory in our garage.”

In fact, some­one re­cently gave Sam the deli’s orig­i­nal slicer, dat­ing to the 1930s.

“It’s all seized up, miss­ing parts, com­pletely use­less, but I couldn’t not have it,” he said.

He joked that he was con­sid­ered part of the city’s “deli roy­alty.”

Moss­man also said he, like many oth­ers at­tend­ing, hadn’t been in the syn­a­gogue, where he went to He­brew school, in “many, many” years.

“And it’s a won­der­ful thing to bring the com­mu­nity back to­gether,” he said. “Be­cause, you know, we live our sep­a­rate lives. And the more sec­u­lar we be­come, even the High Hol­i­days don’t nec­es­sar­ily bring ev­ery­one to­gether any­more.”

RON STANG PHOTO

The Wind­sor Man’s Lunch kitchen crew sport­ing famed Moss­man’s Del­i­catessen T-shirts, from left, Sam Moss­man, Mark Abra­ham, Bill Me­chanic and Steve Meretsky.

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