Merkos Shlichus: Cooking Croation-Style

By Yisroel Karasik & Rafi Andrusier

From Glasgow to Sydney, from Cape town to Vancouver, we meet Jews from across the globe in the historic 350-year-old synagogue of Dubrovnik, “the Pearl of the Adriatic.” This little city on the tip of Croatia is a major stop for the hundreds of cruises that sail through the Adriatic each summer, sending swarms of curious people through the narrow cobblestone streets of Grad Dubrovnik. On one of those fine streets stands a synagogue dating back to the time of the Jewish expulsion from Spain. Naturally, all Jewish visitors flock here. Yisroel and I, both veteran Roving Rabbis, have learned the tricks of the trade through the years.

People who enter the synagogue empty-handed, leave with something. Men may leave with marks on their arms and foreheads where they just wore tefillin, women may leave with a nice package of Shabbat candles, and all leave with the words of the Shema on their lips. We basically have this down pat.

Until Friday. Two young men are supposed to cook a Shabbat meal for 40 people.

Now we enter the big leagues.

As opposed to the offerings of the supermarkets back in the US, the only kosher options we have here are canned corn, jam and soy milk. Those just don’t cut it for a traditional Friday night meal, and rabbinic training doesn’t exactly include a course on challah braiding.

After a package a band-aids, some minor burns, and a sprinkling of trial and error, we basically got it. From meeting the bus at early in the a.m. to retrieve raw chickens (shout-out to Rabbi Zaklos of Chabad in Zagreb), to schlepping a 35-pound boiling pot of soup through the streets to the Hilton, Friday is Erev Shabbat in its fullest sense.

And when we host a meal, we mean business: challah, four salads, chicken soup with matzo balls, and chicken with two sides. Our guests all ask, “Who made this challah? it’s delicious!” You should see the look on the faces of the Jewish bubbies, who have been baking challah for more years than we have been alive, when they hear that two rabbinical students pulled it off.

“So, is it tasty?” you ask. The old maxim goes, “The proof is in the pudding.” We like to give ourselves a pat on the back when the guests are scraping out the last drops of golden broth from our cauldron of matzo-ball soup.

Although Shabbat was beautiful, we are still looking for volunteers to wash the dishes…

I always knew Roving Rabbis is a preparation for life…but a life in the kitchen?!

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