Sara Alexander: The Hamantaschen Project

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It’s amazing how much better you can do a thing when you do it together. Sara Alexander has this Perspective.

I didn’t use to pay much attention to the Jewish holiday of Purim, being basically a “cultural Jew” who does not belong to a synagogue, and spends more time studying Buddhist thought than Jewish liturgy. But in recent years I developed a nostalgia for yeast dough Hamantaschen that Grandma Belle used to bring us at this holiday. Her recipe is not findable in the family archives but God gave us Google and so I attempted to recreate this food memory from online recipes.

Hamentaschen is a triangular-shaped pastry with a fruit filling that is shaped like the hat of the evil Haman who tried and failed to annihilate the Jews in Persia a mere 25 centuries ago. The ritual of eating these comes with various meanings but a common one is that when you eat this pastry you are destroying the evil villain by biting off his head.

Although I would not give my previous results much more than a C+ grade, if that, the outcome of this year’s efforts was highly improved by the arrival of the Pandemic Zoom Gathering, specifically the Hardly Strictly Jewish Women’s Group Challah Zoom that has taken place every Friday for exactly one year. Dozens of women I have never met in person gather virtually to knead dough, compare recipes, sing prayers for the troubled and the dead, and discuss the topic of the day like: “What is something you want to pass on to the next generation?” Or: “If you were a fruit, what fruit might you be?”

Thanks to the Challah Zoom, this year’s Hamentaschen were fluffy and golden and, unexpectedly, they ignited a few days of revel and connection. I drove many miles to the houses of friends to drop off bags of pastries wrapped in silver ribbon! I carried extra in my car that I offered randomly: to the owner of a yard sale, to the tow truck driver that rescued my flat tire.

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One of the beneficiaries of my baking madness said: “You made my day … not an easy thing to do in these times."

And hearing her say that to me, made mine!

With a Perspective, I’m Sara Alexander.

Sara Alexander is a therapist and filmmaker living in Graton and San Francisco.