Bread for the body and soul at Tem­ple Si­nai

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Francine D. Grin­nell fgrin­[email protected]­tu­ry­ @d_­grin­nell on Twit­ter

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. >> The fol­low­ing con­ver­sa­tions took place on a re­cent Fri­day morning at the bak­ery at Tem­ple Si­nai.

The scent of bread bak­ing wafted down Broad­way, lead­ing di­rectly into the open kitchen where Rabbi Jonathan Ruben­stein feeds, teaches and builds com­mu­nity cen­tered around the bak­ing of bread, cook­ies bagels, gra­nola and a va­ri­ety of gluten-free baked goods.

Rabbi Ruben­stein’s con­tri­bu­tions to the Bread and To­rah Project that he shares with his wife, Rabbi Linda Motzkin, called Slice of Heaven Breads, are cre­ated in a new kitchen built with the help of a grant from the Al­fred Z. Solomon Char­i­ta­ble Trust. ••• The con­ver­sa­tion in­volved Rabbi Jonathan, sev­eral vol­un­teers and con­gre­gants from Tem­ple Si­nai, as well as par­tic­i­pants in a Liv­ing Re­sources Day Pro­gram and was as or­ganic and free flow­ing as the in­gre­di­ents that go into the baked goods and gra­nola pro­duced here.

Rabbi Jonathan: “All of the prof­its from our bak­ing go to food pro­grams, or to help in­di­vid­u­als who need help with food, hous­ing or trans­porta­tion.We keep a stack of Price Chopper and Ste­wart’s cards, we’ll help folks who need gas or a bus pass. Usu­ally we don’t give cash, but most of the folks

who are here to­day are re­cip­i­ents of these things.

“We’ve found what needs to be done, and it works. It’s a beau­ti­ful thing.

“I started the bak­ery in 2005. I in­cu­bated it at Four Sea­sons; the owner, Rich Frank, in­vited me to come in. I was in­ter­ested in start­ing a line of breads. Then Steve Sul­li­van, the owner of Longfel­lows Restau­rant in­vited me to come in to bake in about 2006. I was bak­ing Mon­day af­ter­noon at Four Sea­sons (health food re­tailer) and very early Fri­day morn­ings at Longfel­lows. I would have to leave, with the prod­ucts cool­ing in my car.

“Then I would bag them up and sell them out of Put­nam Mar­ket and Four Sea­sons. Fromthere, it be­came a project of the Tem­ple. A year or so later, the kitchen was ren­o­vated and I started invit­ing these groups in. Some have come through the men­tal health sys­tem, also. We work with youth at risk and peo­ple with spe­cial chal­lenges. Part of our mis­sion is to bring them in.”

“Some are home­less and com­ing from Code Blue to­day. What Linda and I do to­gether is about com­mu­nity build­ing, not just here but in the places we’ve vis­ited.”

“Here’s Max; he’s been com­ing to bake bread in this kitchen since he was knee high to the dough mixer.”

Max Will­ner-Gi­w­erc: “I came with a friend when I was in sec­ond grade and baked with him. We also learned about bread and To­rah when we were in Sun­day school through Tem­ple Si­nai’s re­li­gious school, and then I started com­ing dur­ing mid­dle school, over sum­mer va­ca­tion so I could come ev­ery week and then over school va­ca­tions. Now that I’m in col­lege, I like to bake when I’m home on sum­mer or school breaks.” ••• Where are you study­ing, Max?

Will­ner-Gi­w­erc: “I came to help bake dur­ing my win­ter va­ca­tion from North­east­ern Uni­ver­sity, where he stud­ies pol­i­tics, phi­los­o­phy and eco­nomics. “I’m the pop­u­lar one at home be­cause I usu­ally bring some­thing for all my fam­ily mem­bers.” ••• What is it about bread that drew you to keep com­ing back to Rabbi Jonathan’s kitchen?

Will­ner-Gi­w­erc: “Of course, bread tastes and smells great. But it is a process where ev­ery­one can come to­gether. We have a great crew of peo­ple and there’s a lot of ca­ma­raderie when you work to­gether to­ward this goal to make a prod­uct. We also have peo­ple with spe­cial needs come in to help us out.

“Be­cause bread has so many steps, we can break it down for them. It’s nice to get to­gether with all dif­fer­ent peo­ple from the com­mu­nity to bake bread to­gether.” ••• Max­ine Laut­en­berg was in­stru­men­tal in or­ga­niz­ing the kitchen space at Tem­ple Si­nai.

Max­ine, how did you get in­volved in the bread as­pect of the Bread and To­rah Project?

Laut­en­berg:”I was look­ing for a new place to put my en­ergy and the Rabbi had re­ceived a grant from the Al­fred Z. Solomon Char­i­ta­ble Trust, to redo the kitchen, but he didn’t have any­one to spear­head it. I thought,”That sounds in­ter­est­ing.

“I did my re­search, gut­ted the kitchen and when I de­signed it, I tried to re­spect that it was an older build­ing by tak­ing pulls off some of the cup­boards to use on the new cab­i­netry, there was a but­ler’s pantry over here, and shifted things around to make room for the re­frig­er­a­tor.

“I worked with a lot of peo­ple in the Tem­ple who had ideas on what it should be, so I in­cor­po­rated some­thing from ev­ery sin­gle per­son’s per­spec­tive. It needed to be highly func­tional be­cause of the groups that come in. We only had a four foot counter be­fore; now we have this lovely seven foot baker’s bench in the mid­dle of the kitchen.” ••• This is quite a vol­ume of bread, cook­ies, gra­nola and muffins you’re mak­ing on a Fri­day morning . How much bread are you bak­ing?

Laut­en­berg: “It varies. One thing I be­came very in­spired by was in the kitchen, after it was built, and re­done, is I re­ally see it as a place of heal­ing and I also had that in mind.” ••• How so? Laut­en­berg: “No mat­ter where they are, kids re­turn­ing from col­lege, re­cov­er­ing peo­ple strug­gling with an ad­dic­tion, or just vol­un­teer­ing, they can come here and work and laugh to­gether and we braid bread. It’s very heal­ing to work with the dough and one with other peo­ple.” ••• It would seem a built - in com­mu­nity builder.

Laut­en­berg: “Yes. Even the phys­i­cal act of the braid­ing and the dough; yeast is a liv­ing thing. It’s re­ally been a beau­ti­ful project and I’m glad the kitchen is serv­ing the com­mu­nity in the way that it is. ••• Do you come ev­ery week? Brian Cole: “My girl­friend’s doc­tor, who knows Rabbi, sug­gested that she com­ing, so she brought me along with her and then she never came back, and I never stopped com­ing.”

Brian Cole: “I made the choco­late chip cookie dough yes­ter­day and some gluten free ones from Jerome’s recipe and cleaned the kitchen so it was ready. You could eat too many of these and not feel sick af­ter­wards. Many of the in­gre­di­ents are or­ganic; it’s like medicine,almost.” ••• I see you’re mak­ing gra­nola.

Rabbi Jonathan: “We make it ev­ery Fri­day. And these are mini bagels. For hol­i­day and shab­bat ser­vices ev­ery Fri­day evening and Satur­day morning, there is al­ways fel­low­ship and re­fresh­ments called oneg, which is a He­brew word mean­ing “en­joy­ment. It’s a re­cep­tion.” •• • I no­tice you’re us­ing bot­tled water in the bak­ing.

Rabbi Jonathan: “It comes from the State Seal spring in the Spa State Park.” ••• Dur­ing the morning, par­tic­i­pants in the Liv­ing Re­sources Day Pro­gram ar­rive to bake bread and to be a part of the bread bak­ing com­mu­nity as­sem­bled.

Rabbi Jonathan: “Par­tic­i­pants in the Day Pro­gram come ev­ery week. They re­ally en­joy it. They say it’s their fa­vorite ac­tiv­ity, be­cause they get to take some­thing home.” ••• How long has the group been com­ing to bake?

Hol­lie Willsey, Liv­ing Re­sources Coach: “Two years. Dur­ing my first two weeks on the job, we came here to help Rabbi make bread.” ••• What’s the re­sponse from the par­tic­i­pants?

Willsey: “They love it. We’re from the Glen Falls area. There is also Saratoga north and south groups that come. They can’t wait when they see it on their sched­ules. They’re ex­cited from the mo­ment I pick them up un­til we walk in the door. They wash their hands and get down to work. Some have been com­ing for ten years. One was do­ing a happy dance all the way here.

“Those who have been com­ing longer love to show those who need help how to braid.” ••• The bread as­pect of the Bread and To­rah Project is not just a group ac­tiv­ity. From the van­tage of the sa­cred, it is about feed­ing peo­ple phys­i­cally and com­ing to­gether over the bak­ing of phys­i­cal bread in con­junc­tion with their be­ing fed spir­i­tu­ally with the Word of God in com­mu­nity.

Gen­er­ally at the be­gin­ning of the morning, Rabbi Jonathan asks ev­ery­one to gather around the work sur­face to of­fer a prayer back to God for what He pro­vides.

Rabbi Jonathan (tak­ing a piece of bread dough and, rolling it into a ball, holds it out as an of­fer­ing): “The les­son is that we’re not just tak­ing all these things from the Earth; we’re also giving back to the Earth. We make food for our­selves and to nour­ish oth­ers. When we eat food that we’ve re­ceived, we do so know­ing we have to care for the source.

Group joins hands (if com­fort­able), a chime is struck and res­onates, and Rabbi Jonathan asks those present to think about what ev­ery­one present feels grate­ful for at this mo­ment. A bless­ing is read first in He­brew and then in English:

Rabbi Jonathan: “Blessed are you, eter­nal God, source of all of our sus­te­nance, source of good­ness in the uni­verse, who gives us these prac­tices to put us in mind of the ho­li­ness that sur­rounds us at ev­ery mo­ment that we pay at­ten­tion and for this par­tic­u­lar prac­tice of set­ting aside a piece of our dough as an of­fer­ing back to you. Amen.

(He then tells the group that while they are hold­ing hands, they will be a heal­ing cir­cle and say a heal­ing prayer. He in­vites those gath­ered to re­mem­ber any­one that needs phys­i­cal heal­ing or has had surgery, or is fac­ing ill­ness of any kind and prays:

Rabbi Jonathan: “The one who sent heal­ing to those who came be­fore us, send bless­ing and heal­ing to those we now think of.”

(Names of fam­ily mem­bers and friends who need prayer are called out.)

For more in­for­ma­tion on the Bread and To­rah Project, visit www.BreadandTo­

The doc­u­ment at­tached pro­vides in­for­ma­tion on both Rabbi Linda Motzkin and Rabbi Jonathan Ruben­stein’s ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram, the prod­ucts and pro­grams avail­able through both min­istries, a recipe for chal­lah bread and in­for­ma­tion on the mitz­vah of chal­lah.


Rabbi Jonathan Ruben­stein at work on a loaf of chal­lah bread made es­pe­cially full of raisins for his wife, Rabbi Linda Motzkin.


The scent of bread bak­ing wafted down Broad­way, lead­ing di­rectly into the open kitchen where Rabbi Jonathan Ruben­stein feeds, teaches and builds com­mu­nity cen­tered around the bak­ing of bread, cook­ies bagels, gra­nola and a va­ri­ety of gluten-free baked goods.


Chal­lah bread, tra­di­tional, whole wheat and ve­gan, here with sesame seeds ready for the oven at the syn­a­gogue­based com­mu­nity bak­ery at Tem­ple Si­nai in Saratoga Springs.

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