Annual Shalom Fest celebrates Jewish culture, food, traditions
SARATOGA SPRINGS The word “shalom” may mean peace, but the weather was not very harmonious for visitors of the 8th annual Shalom Festival on Sunday.
The event, held each year in Congress Park, usually draws hundreds of people to share in the local Jewish celebration. Attendance was much lower this year because of storms.
But that didn’t deter organizers from the Saratoga Chabad.
During the storm, music could be heard throughout the park, falafel continued to be cooked, and children played games while watching Henry the Juggler under the pavilion.
“It’s an important day,” said Rabbi Abba Rubin of Saratoga Chabad. “It’s a time to express Jewish pride and share that with the larger community.”
Festivities like these are especially for the children, to get them charged up about their culture, according to Rubin.
“If they get excited about their heritage and religion when they’re younger, they’re more likely to keep with it when they grow up,” he said.
Singer Yoel Sharabi, an Israeli native now living in New York City, captivated the adults with his Israeli, Yemenite, and Chasidic songs, while Henry Lappen entertained the children with his mime, juggling and comedy show.
Lappen said juggling doesn’t really have a connection with Jewish customs, but that “a lot of what the Chabad is trying to do here is make life joyous, so that’s why it works,” he explained.
For many Jewish families, these types of festivities mean getting the chance to eat a kosher meal they don’t have to prepare themselves.
“We usually have to pack foods or a picnic to go out like this, so for us it’s a pleasure,” said Dini Gordon of Albany.
She was at the festival on Sunday with her husband and four children. Gordon said there are no kosher restaurants in the Capital Region and to be able to dine out, the family would have to drive as far as Brooklyn. Events, like the festival, that provide all-kosher meals give those in the Jewish community a break.
Leah Rubin, Abba’s sister-in-law, agreed, explaining that sometimes it’s even hard to find food in stores for their stricter kosher diet and the family is sometimes forced to buy food online and have it shipped to them.
“It’s great not having to cook,” said the mother of four kids. “I like the falafel, while they like the hot dogs.”
There were book vendors, fruit and vegetable stands, and kosher pickles for sale, but no tent was as popular as the one manned by Leah’s husband.
Shmuel Rubin was creating shofars.
Shofars are instrumental horns, usually made from those of a ram, which are used in ceremonies at Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana. They were once used to announce holidays and signify the start of war.
The shofar is made in current times by clearing out the horn, cutting it to the appropriate length depending on the sound you want, and drilling holes into the opposite end.
Though Rubin did this with power tools, he said traditionally the horn is boiled until it’s soft so it’s easier to work with. Other workers at the table described the process as the old school and digital age coming together.
Shmuel Rubin said typical Jewish families don’t own a shofar and they are kept at synagogues because of their religious significance, but children also like to play them as instruments.
In fact, Toby Goldstein of Glens Falls bought one for his young son Isaac for that reason.
“I’ve never owned one myself, so it will be the first shofar for both of us,” he said, adding how he liked that Isaac got to see one made. “We’ll have to share.”