Hanukkah Memories of Love + Latkes
Faces of the J, Holidays, Jewish Life

Dishing Up Hanukkah Traditions

Holidays are so full of traditions, memories, and—of course—food! Hanukkah is no exception. We asked our staff to share some of their favorite Hanukkah recipes, and the stories behind how they became holiday traditions.

From the rugelach that welcomed one staff member into her in-laws’ family to a twist on traditional latkes to a dinner party favorite, we’ve got some great ideas for your holiday table.

And we’d love to hear from you! If you have a family favorite recipe that you make every Hanukkah share it in the comments and tell us why it’s a part of your family’s holiday tradition.

From Susie Rosenstein, Fitness Instructor + Personal Trainer
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Hanukkah Recipes: Susie Rosenstein with her mother-in-law BethMy memory is very clear of the first time I tasted a rugelach.  My in-laws hosted an engagement party for my soon-to-be husband and me in Albuquerque.  All the Jewish traditions and foods were new to me.  Beth, my mother-in-law, was a fabulous cook and had prepared many traditional Jewish foods for the party.  I loved them all, but especially the rugelach. When I asked her about their shape and size, she told me there were the perfect bite-size so you could just pop one after another into your mouth.

My mother-in-law was a great friend to me and always happy to share her traditions, recipes, and stories.  We still make rugelach every Hanukkah.  I think back to those early days, how sweet they were, and my good luck to become part of the Rosenstein family.

From Dana Weiner, Senior Director SJCC Experience
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Growing up in South Africa, Hanukkah wasn’t a huge holiday. Ironically, when I think of Hanukkah foods, I think of making challah with my grandparents. They were great chefs, and very traditional – they loved the Jewish holidays. So that’s become my tradition now too. Whenever I bake challah I think of them, I think of my parents, and my kids and I send a little blessing to them. I also set an intention for the week. I see baking challah as an opportunity to start anew like a fresh new loaf of challah.

Hanukkah Cookies
From Emily Jane Schankerman, Early Childhood School Teacher
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Hanukkah CookiesMy mom and I make Hanukkah cookies each year, whether we’re together or apart. What’s funny about it is that it hasn’t been passed down over generations, but the act of making the cookies has happened since I was a kid. In 2009, my mom challenged herself to find the best sugar cookie recipe for Hanukkah cookies. Her winning recipe is the one I still use; it even has “Best Cookie 2009” written in my mom’s handwriting across the top.

Over the years I’ve added different twists, either making really small cookies or going with a sugar-covered topping. I like to think that the small coin-sized ones represent gelt around the Hanukkah season. Otherwise, they’re just tasty tiny cookies. I took them once for Thanksgiving and now my uncle asks where they are every November. I often make them a little more well done for some added crunch and flavor.

Classic Potato Latkes
From Elena Alberstone, Welcome Desk
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Every Hanukkah we make latkes like everyone does. I like to make them from scratch, with grated potatoes and onions. If we are having brisket, I fry them in schmaltz, with plenty of salt and fresh ground pepper. Then we eat them with cinnamon sugar, which is how my husband grew up. 

Sweet Potato and Pear Latkes
From Katherine Lloyd, Senior Design Producer
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I found this recipe in 2013, when the first night of Hanukkah was also Thanksgiving. Sweet potato casserole is my favorite Thanksgiving side dish. My mom makes it with brown sugar, cinnamon, orange juice, and marshmallows on top. The kids had the job to watch the last step in cooking, when marshmallows are toasted under the broiler until perfectly browned, gooey, and puffy – no flames or fire in the oven!

Pears are my youngest son’s favorite fruit, so combining a longtime family tradition with a favorite from the next generation makes this a sweet combination that’s filled with love.

The Great Annual Latke Debate
We asked the tough question: is the best latke topping applesauce or sour cream? See what people had to say about this great debate.

Tangy Spiced Brisket
From Sara Schweid, Communications Manager
Hanukkah Dinner PartyGet the recipe >>
In my opinion, all big holidays should be accompanied by brisket. It’s warm and comforting, which makes it a perfect meal for a cold, winter night. This recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers is a multi-day process, so it’s not something I make on any old day. It’s the sign of a dinner party—and I love a good dinner party. I also love introducing my non-Jewish friends to Jewish holidays and traditions. And what better cultural gateway is there than food?

This brisket reminds me of some of my favorite Hanukkah dinner parties. A bunch of friends—chosen family, really—gathered around a too-small table set with mismatched dishes, piling plates high with food, refilling wine glasses, learning about each other’s traditions, and laughing late into the night.

Pineapple Upside-Down Lokshen Kugel
From Denise Ipock, Membership Coordinator
Beth Shalom Cookbook Cover
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Some of my favorite recipes are included in this “vintage” cookbook written by the lovely ladies of Beth Israel Synagogue Sisterhood in our hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. My mom helped produce this cookbook, and I have many sweet memories of her and the other women who were so important in my life. One of our favorites has always been pineapple upside-down lokshen kugel, as you can see by the tattered, stained page in the book.  My late husband loved cooking some of the recipes as well, so I have a lot of important memories connected to this book. I like to think he and my mom are still cooking these together in the next life.