What to know about the Jewish Food Festival, which returns to Mequon for its fourth year with new recipes – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Posted By on August 10, 2022

Summer in Milwaukee is synonymous with festivals.

From Summerfest to Bastille Days to Mexican Fiesta, there isno shortage of live music, food and fun for families and friends to enjoy.

A few years ago, Rabbi Moshe Luchinsand his wife, Sheina, questioned why there was no festival celebrating southeastern Wisconsin'sJewish community.

"There are festivals for everyone," Sheina said."There's Polish Fest and Irish Fest and German Fest. We were like, 'Where is the Jewish fest?'"

The Luchinses had no doubt people in the area were interested in Jewish food.

That winter,at various local grocery stores, they'd hosted "Taste of Kosher" tables, where shoppers could try free samples ofmatzah ball soup, challah, kugeland other traditional Jewish dishes.

"People really liked it and were asking where they could get more of this," Sheina recalled.

She and her husband realized a food festival could be the answer.

In 2019, they launched Mequon'sfirst Jewish Food Festival. It offered a diverse, all-kosher menu, featuringtraditional favorites like cabbage rolls, chicken schnitzel, potato knish and more. Children and families could enjoy face-painting and an inflatable zone and even make their own kosher dill pickles.

The event,held in Mequon's Virmond Park,attracted more than 3,500 people.Rabbi Luchins,whose goal had been to fill the park'sparking lot, said he was blown away to meet people who had parked 15 to 20 minutes away to walk to and attend the festival.

Now in its fourth year, the Jewish Food Festival has outgrown its original venue.

Thetwo-day celebration of Jewish food and culture takes place Sunday, Aug. 14, and Monday, Aug. 15, at Rotary Park, 4100 W. Highland Road, Mequon.

Made possible by community corporate sponsors, thefestival is put on by the Peltz Center for Jewish Life,a division of Lubavitch of Wisconsin. Admission is free. Proceeds from food sales benefit the Peltz Center's community outreach programs.

Festival-goers can purchase a wide range of dishes including pastrami, corned beef and turkey deli sandwiches;sweet noodle kugel;matzah ball soup; and kosher hot dogs. A complete menu with pricesis availableatjewishfoodmequon.com.

All foodis certified kosher and prepared by a team of more than100community volunteers.

The festival also offers a selection of Israeli and Middle Eastern options includingchicken shawarma, falafel and fresh-baked pita bread, Rabbi Luchins said, an homage to Jewish history and heritage.

Luchins said Jewish food is unique because it has been influenced by such a wide range of cultures and peoples throughout history.

"Jewish food came about because the Jewish nation has been traveling and always on the move," he said. "Living in Europe, Russia, Italy, Spain, we picked up different foods and called them 'Jewish food,' but a lot of different nationalities can relate to our food."

Examples, he said, includestuffed cabbage, a Polish dish, and corned beef, a dish from Ireland.

New this year, the festival will serve a dinner special both evenings from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday night's special is a slow-cooked meat dishcalled cholent, which Sheina Luchins described as a cross betweena stew and a chili.

Rabbi Luchins said Jews have been eating cholent for over two millennia. Traditionally, the dish is served forShabbat lunch on Saturday afternoons.

Jewish law prohibits cooking on the Sabbath, so many Jews throughout history have refrained fromcooking on Fridays after sunset and on Saturdays. Nowadays, Sheina said, many people put something in the crockpot Friday afternoon so it's warm and ready the next day.

"Cholent evolved because, back in the day when they only had coal ovens, they needed something that could slow-cook …and would be ready 24 hours later," she said.

Families would bring their pot ofuncooked but assembled cholent mixture to the local bakerFriday before sundown. Thenthey'd come pick up the cooked cholent Saturday morning.

There will be live music performances throughout the festival, including a concert by Jewish folk singer Josh Engleson and his band Cedars of Lebanonon Sunday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

For $4 each, children can unlock unlimited access to the festival's Expanded Fun Zone, which includes a giant slide, inflatable obstacle course, basketball and more.

Festival-goers also can visit a kosher petting zoo, which also teaches Jewish and non-Jewish visitors which animals are kosher and which aren't, Rabbi Luchins said.

Other activities include a hands-on challah braiding demonstration and educational shows on kosher laws and the shofar horn a trumpet typically made from a ram's horn and blown on Rosh Hashanah.

Rabbi Luchins said he hopes the festival helps the community learn more about Jewish culture and traditions and connect with one another.

"Every year, people reconnect with people they haven't seen for like 25 years. Maybe they went to school together, and they finally get to see each other again because (the festival) brings a lot of the community together," the rabbi said. "That's the goal creating a fun community atmosphere with a Jewish educational component to it so people can understand us more."

What:Jewish Food Festival

Where:Rotary Park,4100 W. Highland Road,Mequon

When:Sunday, Aug. 14, and Monday, Aug. 15, from noon to 7 p.m.

Prices:Admission and parking are free. An expanded Fun Zone admission is $4 per child.Food prices range from $3 to$29.

Info (including a full menu): jewishfoodmequon.com.

All the food at the Jewish Food Festival is kosher, meaning certain rules are followed in its preparation and consumption.What does it mean to be kosher?

Here are some basics:

Fun fact:Rabbi Luchins said that Coca-Cola keeps its recipe a closely-guarded secret. Only a small group of the company's employees know the complete recipe for the soft drink. However, since Coca-Cola is certified kosher, that meansat least two rabbis knowa portion of the recipe.

"My understanding is they each know half the recipe, and they can't share it," Rabbi Luchins said. "(Coca-Cola) is willing to give out their secrets, so to say, to ensure that their product is kosher."

To learn more about Jewish food and keeping kosher, visitchabad.org.

More: A Tropical Smoothie Cafe is coming to the Mequon Pavilions shopping center this fall

More: Festivals, Odd Duck events, Chef Paz at 10 and more in Milwaukee food and drink news

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What to know about the Jewish Food Festival, which returns to Mequon for its fourth year with new recipes - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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