Congregation gets a true feeling of community in the kitchen


Topping the mini cheesecakes.Topping the mini cheesecakes.

Congregation B’nai Israel, like many synagogues in Rhode Island, has a long tradition of communal cooking, for Shabbat, kiddush, bar and bat mitzvahs, holidays and many other events. At CBI, in Woonsocket, the biggest event of the year is often the break the fast following Yom Kippur. And while catering the meal would be a lot easier on our congregant-cooks, it cannot replace the delicious feeling of community and connectedness created by cooking together.

So, while children scampered through the kitchen and a man occasionally poked his head in to see if he could lend a hand, the CBI cooks were hard at work last week preparing a traditional break the fast of bagels, cream cheese and chive cheese, noodle kugel, cheese, sliced vegetables, fruit salad, tuna salad, egg salad, several types of fish, and desserts.

The break the fast menu is tweaked slightly every year, and sometimes a new item or two are added, but May Levinson’s much-anticipated noodle kugel has remained a favorite for decades. A new favorite is my mini cheesecakes – topped with fruit for the adults and plain for the kinder.

These recipes are so good, it would be a shame to only prepare them once a year, so they are offered here – enjoy!

Noodle kugel

1 stick of butter

1 pound noodles, any size from thin to extra wide

1 pound cottage cheese

1 pound sour cream

1 cup sugar, divided

6 eggs

3 cups milk



Add 1 teaspoon salt to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Put butter in a lasagna-size pan and place on top of pot so butter melts while the water is heating. Remove pan. Add noodles to boiling water and cook just until al dente. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Drain noodles, stopping while a little water remains on noodles; transfer to a large bowl. Mix in  cottage cheese, sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt. Place in pan over melted butter.

In another bowl, beat eggs with milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla. Pour on top of noodles.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until brown on top and set in the middle. Serve warm with sour cream and strawberries. Regardless of portion size, this recipe will feed a crowd.

Mini cheesecakes

Box of vanilla wafers, crushed

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fruit toppings

Line mini muffin cups with paper baking cups; if you do not have a mini muffin pan, it is okay to just place the muffin cups on a cookie sheet. Place about 1/2 teaspoon of crushed wafer in bottom of each muffin cup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

FILLING: Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and salt; beat well.

Pour mixture over crumbs in muffin tin and bake 22 to 25 minutes or until centers are almost set.

Cool in pan on wire rack. When completely cool, add toppings, such as canned cherries, berry and apricot fillings.

Refrigerate before serving. Makes several dozen.

CYNTHIA BENJAMIN is a writer, editor and chef, and a member of Congregation B’nai Israel.