Their arms filled with pots, pans, and other cooking utensils, Bryan Fox and Bill Goldfischer turned up at the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth recently. Their mission: to dunk new cooking equipment in the keilim (utensils) mikva, in preparation for a new YM-YWHA of Union County Passover task.
Fox is the executive vice president of the Y; Goldfischer, an 88-year-old retiree, is in charge of its food services. He oversees the preparation of around 200 kosher meals a day in the kitchen at its facility on Green Lane in Union, feeding seniors, children in day care, and the staff.
That also includes food prepared for the 100 kosher meals-on-wheels provided by Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey. The one job the Y hadn’t previously done was preparing Passover meals for the JFS service; the agency would instead buy those from a commercial caterer.
But this year, Fox said, JFS executive director Tom Beck prevailed on the Y to take on the task. “Costs have risen so much, using the commercial caterer had become too expensive,” Fox explained. “At first, I said we couldn’t do it. It was complicated and a real chore. But I heard the desperation in his voice; the community really needed us. So we worked out how we could manage.”
Fox, Jani Jonas, the Y’s program director who is also its resident nutrition adviser, and Goldfischer came up with menus for the required meals on the three days when the Y is functioning during Passover. (They are planning on making fish patties, matza lasagna, matza brei, tuna and egg salad, and gefilte fish, together with soup and desserts — fruit cup and macaroons.)
Each Passover, the Y moves its meal preparation operation downstairs to a smaller kitchen that is easier to cleanse and prepare for the holiday. Meals are served buffet-style to make things easier. But the operation was inadequate for preparing the Passover JFS meals.
New equipment would have to be acquired. So they got two more giant pots, three frying pans, a grater, and additional ladles and knives.
And that led to the dipping session at the JEC in order to use the new equipment for Pesach.
According to traditional Jewish law, metal and glass utensils previously owned or manufactured by non-Jews and used for cooking must be toveled — immersed, with the required blessings, in a mikva, a ritual bath, which has to be filled at least in part with fresh running water. Plastic, wood, and paper products and disposable ones are exempt.
The two men were joined by JEC head of school Rabbi Elazar M. Teitz, and the supervisor of many kosher establishments in the area. He pointed out that until the JEC built the keilim mikva a few years ago, members of the community took their equipment to regular mikvas. “This is easier to use and much more convenient,” he said.
The keilim mikva can be used at any time. Anyone who understands Hebrew can decipher the security code needed to open the door.
“It suddenly dawned on me,” Fox said later, with great satisfaction, “what a great example this was of the collaboration between our agencies: the Y, JFS, and the JEC.”