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Esther Fest!!

Posted on December 7th, 2012 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus. Photos by Will Kirk.

“If you’ve got latkes, sour cream and applesauce, of course it’s gonna be great!”  – Esther Weiner

These are the words I overheard Esther use to describe the success of last night’s Esther Fest program.  But, of course all of us present know what made Esther Fest the place to be last night… our very own Esther Weiner, gift shop manager, latke chef extraordinaire and all around amazing person.  Billed as “the most hilarious human on earth,” Esther, whose repertoire of jokes included classics about the Catskills and Borscht Belt as well as anecdotes from her own life, never disappoints.  Even her husband, Morty, told a joke!  It was certainly a family affair – Esther had the whole room smiling and laughing as she and her granddaughters fried up delicious latkes in honor of Chanukah.

This year as part of a fun twist, Esther invited audience participation, giving prizes to the Brews & Schmooze young adult audience members who shared Chanukah memories or could recount the facts of the epic battle commemorated during the holiday.  Prizes included dreidels, chocolate gelt, and a car mezuzah.  Car mezuzahs (available for purchase in the JMM gift shop) are just like the traditional mezuzahs affixed to doorposts, except they contain the traveler’s prayer and can be anchored to the inside of a car.  And, as Esther informed us, they have saved her from many a close call.  The grand prize winner was Jennie Gates Beckman for her rendition of the song, “I am a Latke.”

If you missed the program, you can catch a recording of Esther making latkes with WYPR’s Aaron Hankin tonight at 7:40pm and tomorrow, December 8th at 1:40pm.  As promised last night, below you will find the recipe for Esther’s famous latkes:

Potato Latkes

4 medium potatoes, peeled, slice 1 potato in quarters lengthwise, cut 3 in cubes for your processor, keep in cold water


1 medium sweet onion – cut up

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp sugar (if potatoes taste slightly bitter)

3 tblsp flour

Vegetable oil for frying


Grate one potato with the grater blade in food processor, put in bowl, put the cubed potatoes in processor and whirl with cutting blade until just chopped, not too fine.  Repeat until all the potatoes are grated.  If watery, place potatoes in strainer and then in your mixing bowl.

Put eggs and onion in blender; whirl to combine, do not leave pieces of onion intact.  Add to that potatoes in the bowl.

Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, baking soda and flour to thicken the batter slightly.

Heat oil in large skillet (or two smaller ones) until a drop of water tells you that oil is hot enough, it will bounce around the oil.  Drop and drag one tblsp potato mixture for each pancake.  The “dragging” with your spoon will leave little “strings” of potato to crisp and make the latkes a little thinner.

Fry crisp and golden brown on all sides.

Wishing you a happy Chanukah from everyone here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland!

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Esther Fest: The Best Latke Demonstration in Town

Posted on December 9th, 2011 by

A blog post by Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Esther entertaining the crowd.

The day I bought my mezuzah from Esther.

On December 1, the first Thursday of the month, Elena Rosemond-Hoerr and I hosted our sixth Brews & Schmooze event called “ Esther Fest: Cooking with Bubbe.” Since I began working at the JMM a little over a year ago I have to admit that seeing Esther has always been a highlight of my day. Although I am Jewish both of my grandmothers were not so I like to consider Esther to be the bubbe (or Jewish grandmother) I never had. From needing a good laugh to buying a mezuzah, she’s always been there for me. When I first moved to the area she even set me up with her granddaughters who live inWashingtonDC because she knew that I was new to the city and needed friends. Her instinct to introduce us was right on and I continue to be good friends with her granddaughters today.

Playing Apples to Apples under our festive decorations.

Elena and I knew right away that Esther needed to be our star attraction for the December Brews & Schmooze because her latke’s are known to be the best in town. In years past Esther performed her latke demonstration for a variety of groups both at the museum and off-site. She is one of the most requested speakers from our Speakers Bureau. Esther is also famous throughout the staff for being an amazing entertainer and knowledgeable chef so she was our clear choice when deciding on who should be the main event for our Hanukkah program.

Esther and her grandchildren, Jackie and Laura.

Our decision to focus on Esther and her latke’s was clearly the right one. We had a huge crowd (around 80 people) attend the event all of whom were clearly vying for Esther’s attention and delicious latkes. Elena and I made an effort to make the JMM’s lobby look festive with handmade decorations, which we enjoyed immensely. We also made the smart decision of providing other entertainment including dreidles games (how can you have a Hanukkah party without dreidles) and the card game Apples to Apples. Apples to Apples ended up being a huge success and we plan on having more games and crafts at future Brews & Schmooze events.


My sister, Sarah, eagerly signing up to receive Esther’s latke recipe.

As you can see from the photos, the event was high energy and very fun. We hope that all future Brews & Schmooze events will be as entertaining as Esther Fest was. If you would like to learn more about Brews & Schmooze and other young adult events you can visit the JMM young adult webpage at www.

Esther’s famous latkes!

Finally, Esther was such a hit that she was invited to perform another latke demonstration and talk about the story of Hanukkah on WYPR’s The Signal. The radio segment airs 12/9/11 and 12/10/11. It is already streaming here: http:/// If you missed Esther’s Brews & Schmooze presentation or you want to relive the experience again you must check this out.

I hope to see you all at the next Brews & Schmooze!

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Posted on January 25th, 2011 by

A Blog by Esther Weiner

So you thought that because we are coming to the end of January 2011, Chanukah would not resurface until December 8, 2011?  Think again, my friends…oh yes, we still have wonderful Chanukiot in our Museum Shop, we still feature dreidles, amazing dreidles, from hand painted small wood dreidles, that spin amazingly well, to stone and crystal dreidles, with holograph designs inset in the crystal, to sterling silver dreidles in the Yemenite design, with intricate designs and set with semi-precious stones. I believe we still have a box or two of bags of chocolate gelt, still delicious, still yummy to eat. Do plan to visit us, or our on-line shop.

Its part of my job as Museum Shop Manager to make sure that our merchandise is fresh, up to the minute, and draw the visitor in to the magic of the museum shop at the JMM. But I digress, this is about Chanukah Re-Visited…

As a part of the JMM Speakers Bureau, I speak to audiences on a topic that is very special and near and dear to my heart, The Jewish Kitchen: A Link to the Generations.  When I speak, I often give a demonstration of a favorite recipe of mine, one that is fairly easy to transport to a room with no kitchen, no oven, no utensils, nothing. I enjoy speaking to my audiences, and hopefully, they enjoy listening and sharing their Jewish Kitchen with mine.  Again, I digress.

Okay, so how, you may ask, does this relate to Chanukah Re-Visited?

Well, the museum is host to many, many school groups. High school groups, middle school children, children as young as 7 or 8, many have never been to a museum, and many have never been to a synagogue.  It is wonderful to see them and know that they are being shown the exhibits by our talented education department and docents. They visit the new exhibition in the downstairs area of the newly renovated Lloyd Street Synagogue, Synagogue Speaks. I have seen the wonder in the eyes as they walk in with their teachers; I know they are absorbing everything. When they come into the museum shop, we explain what certain items mean, and their interest is amazing.

So, now here it comes–normally in December, when the children come to visit the museum, we have a program where I make latkes for some of the school groups. I set up a couple of tables, put out two little gas stoves, I bring my food processor, two frying pans, potatoes, flour, eggs, oil, apple sauce and sour cream!  I work quickly since their appetites are quite amazing. The room is full of the scent of oil and fried latkes, smothered in apple sauce or sour cream. This December, Chanukah was so early, we never got to make latkes for the school kids….and they tell me that these children are ready for latkes!

Well, we will have Chanukah, again, next week…we will have a latke demonstration, a talk about Chanukah and a sing-a-long…the kids will have fun, and we get to re-visit Chanukah in January.  Hey, we might even spin dreidles…why not?

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