Rabbi Jeff Sultar came to Phoenixville in the spring of 2016 to attend to the spiritual needs of Congregation B’nai Jacob. The congregation was formed over 100 years ago in a small building in the downtown. A new synagogue was built in 1957 at Starr and Manovon streets. This congregation is small, but warm with some members being the third generation to attend.
Rabbi Sultar was a man who followed his vision. After college, he took 27 months covering 46 states on a 16,000-mile bicycle trip. As he traveled, he worked and learned along the way. After the trip, he moved on to work with Peace Research & Educational group. He spent a year in Israel studying and learning.
At the age of 30, Rabbi Sultar started his rabbinical studies and graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa. His life led him on many avenues of learning, teaching and writing.
Rabbi Sultar travels daily from his home in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia to Phoenixville. He spends a lot of time in his car — between the commutes, there are meetings and visits. He and Julia Bell have been married for 21 years. They have one daughter, Maya, who is off to college. He has two older step-children.
The “Festival of Lights” is known as Chanukah or Hanukkah (either is acceptable). This celebration last for eight days. The dates vary each year according to the Hebrew calendar. This year, it will begin at sundown on Tuesday, Dec. 12.
This is a time to dedicate oneself and show honor. Chanukah is not mentioned in the Bible. It is actually a minor event, but seems to be a most popular one, especially for the children. Good food plays a major part of the celebration, especially fried foods.
Oil commemorates a miracle occurring about 2,300 years ago when one day of oil lasted for eight days. Throughout Chanukah, food fried in oil is featured. Oy — think of all of those calories. Rabbi Sultar told me of a friend of his who hosts a funnel cake party to celebrate. Jelly doughnuts are also high on the list.
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
Powdered sugar for dusting
Canola or vegetable oil
Pour ¾-inch of oil into a 10-inch skillet, and heat over medium heat (375 degrees). Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, and set aside. Use a mixer to beat the milk, 1 cup water, vanilla and eggs at a medium-high speed. Add in the dry ingredients, and beat until smooth.
Using a ladle or measuring cup, pour batter into a funnel. Hold your thumb over the bottom of the opening of the funnel. Release you thumb, and allow batter to run into hot oil in a loose circular or zigzag pattern. The batter will expand, so do not fill the entire skillet. If the batter is too thick to run through the funnel, add a tablespoon of water or so to thin out.
Fry for 30 seconds until golden brown on one side. Flip with tongs. Fry second side for 20 seconds. Remove funnel cake, and drain on paper towels. Continue until all the batter is used. Slightly cool, and dust with powdered sugar.
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