Rosh Hashana with a Latin Twist
During Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, food is as central to the celebration as prayer. But the kosher meal on the table of one Yonkers family will have a unique flavor: Latin.
Sephardic Rabbi Rigoberto Emmanuel “Manny” Viñas and his wife, Sandra Nuñez Viñas, have planned a menu that includes Pan de Calabaza (pumpkin bread), Keftes de Prasa (leek and scallion croquettes), Lubiya (black eyed peas) and La Sopa de las Siete Verduras (seven vegetable soup with stew meat).
“My wife, Sandra, is Dominican, so we jokingly call her Jew–minican,” he laughs. “She has a challah recipe, and she’ll put coconut oil instead of regular oil. That will add a little bit of sweetness so that it will be a sweet year.”
As the founder and director of El Centro de Estudios Judíos “Torat Emet,” a Spanish–language Jewish education and spirituality center for Latin American Jews living in the New York area, Rabbi ViÃ±as has a growing contingent of followers. The internet broadcasts of his lectures have brought an international audience to the Spanish Torah.
“It’s Judaism with a little Latin flavor,” says Viñas.
For the coming Rosh Hashana celebration, he and his wife will be joined in by more than 20 members of the Lincoln Park Jewish Center for a traditional meal, and plenty of song, stories and wine.
“We’ll probably have five languages at the table,” he says.
Working with his mother’s original recipes, saved on a handwritten and wine–stained paper from years of use, they will prepare a kosher meal that features some typical items found in Latin cooking, like coconut oil and fried plantains.
“My family left Cuba and I grew up in Miami, and attended primarily Spanish speaking synagogues,” says Viñas. “She sent me these recipes when I moved to New York.”
Each prayer — said in both Aramaic and Ladino, sometimes called Judeo–Spanish — will be accompanied by a dish that signifies desires for the new year, such as black–eyed peas for prosperity or fish for fertility. And guests will enjoy Yarden Mount Hermon red wine from Golan Heights in Israel with the main course. “It pairs really well with the seven vegetable stew.”
“The pomegranate has 613 seeds, so in eating it you’re saying ‘I should have as much prosperity as I have seeds’,” ViÃ±as explains. “And eating it brings the prayer to completion.”
Rabbi Viñas is the founder and director of El Centro de Estudios Judíos “Torat Emet,” a Spanish–language Jewish education and spirituality center for Latin–American Jews living in the New York area. Visit lpjc.org for more information.