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Meat and pota-tours

On the cholent-and-kugel trail with tours of the Haredi ’tisch’

Jerusalem tour guides offer glimpses of the ultra-Orthodox world, with tables full of traditional Sabbath fare

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews enjoy eating chulent,  a traditional Jewish stew, at Yoel's restaurant in Meah Shearim, Jerusalem. Many of the restaurants in Meah Shearim open late on Thursday nights to serve chulent. December 24, 2015.(Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox Jews enjoy eating chulent, a traditional Jewish stew, at Yoel's restaurant in Meah Shearim, Jerusalem. Many of the restaurants in Meah Shearim open late on Thursday nights to serve chulent. December 24, 2015.(Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Ever wanted a taste of the kugel Giti makes on “Shtisel“? Or a bowl of chulent?

A series of Jerusalem tours this winter is offering a glimpse of the Haredi culinary world, with “tisch” tours that revolve around what’s served on the table.

“Tisch” is Yiddish for table, where each community’s rabbi sits on Shabbat, surrounded by his disciples and mounds of traditional kugel and chulent, eaten between rounds of singing, storytelling and words of Torah.

Kugel is a baked casserole usually made of noodles or potatoes, with long-running and sometimes bitter debates over whether it is supposed to be served sweet or savory.

Chulent is the Ashkenazi version of a slow-cooked stew of meat and beans that is set in the oven before the Sabbath starts and cooks all night to allow a hot Saturday lunch without violating the prohibition against cooking on Shabbat.

Tours take place on Thursday evenings — when Sabbath cooking usually starts — and Saturday nights, as the Sabbath draws to a close.

Start with a NIS 99 tour in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim on Thursdays at 5:30 p.m., with a local guide who knows all the hidden places for tasting kugel and chulent, including pop-up cholent restaurants and bakeries.

The house of learning below the Nadav family home in Jerusalem’s Shaarei Chesed neighborhood, where tisch tours are held every Thursday and Saturday night (Courtesy Dudi Bar Sela)

From Mea Shearim, it’s an easy walk over to Jerusalem’s First Station complex, where the Aspaklaria Theater is currently performing “Jerusalem Tisch,” a show about this Hasidic tradition that also includes the foods served at a traditional tisch. Check the theater’s website for upcoming performance dates.

On Thursday and Saturday nights, the Nadav family in Shaarei Chesed, another Jerusalem neighborhood that is home to many ultra-Orthodox families, opens its tisch to visitors, offering a glimpse of their customs and the opportunity to ask questions. Tickets cost NIS 59 per person, or NIS 100 per couple.

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