The Shalom Y'all Jewish Food Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary year.
Set for Oct. 27 in Forsyth Park, the annual fest is sponsored by Savannah's historic Congregation Mickve Israel. From small beginnings in Monterey Square, the Jewish Food Festival has become one of Savannah's signature events.
No longer strictly a Mickve Israel event, it is supported by volunteers and contributors from the entire community. With Jewish delicacies such as blintzes and stuffed cabbage rolls, the menu includes the ever-popular Jewish delicatessen booth - sandwiches while you wait.
It introduces all of Savannah to the Jewish culture, and festival leaders believe, contributes to greater community relations.
The holiday booth showcases traditional foods that are part of Jewish observances: latkes for Hanukkah, Hamantaschen for Purim, apples and honey for the New Year, matzo ball soup for Passover and Challah for the Sabbath.
Musical entertainment will be provided by a trio from the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the Velvet Caravan Klezmer Group playing gypsy swing.
Congregation Mickve Israel, the third oldest synagogue in the United States, is celebrating its 280th anniversary this year.
The event began 25 years ago as simply the Jewish Food Festival, brought from New Orleans by Joan Levy when she moved back home. It took place in historic Monterey Square, the "home" square that fronts Mickve Israel.
Soon, it was renamed the Hard Lox CafÃ©, which it remained until the owners of the international Hard Rock CafÃ© chain protested the play on its copyrighted name.
In 2000, Carol Greenberg headed a group that recognized it had outgrown the confines of Monterey Square. It was a short two-block move to Forsyth Park, but the change in scope was huge.
It is a mammoth undertaking - 1,200 kosher hot dogs, 1,700 homemade blintzes, 500 stuffed cabbage rolls and some 1,000 pounds of meats (deli, chopped liver, Sephardic lamb and brisket.)
And it's been a success, because year after year for 25 years, many of the same volunteers have planned it, tweaked it, cooked it and produced it. They know what works and what doesn't.
That first year, there were no sponsors.
"We didn't know what we were doing," said Dr. Barbara Bart with a laugh. She was one of the early chairwomen, and has worked in some capacity every year since its inception.
She has always run the blintzes booth. (That reign comes to an end this year, as she passes the blintz baton to longtime volunteer Mires "Bubba" Rosenthal.)
Cathy Solomons "always bakes Challah." How long? "I don't know. Always."
"This is a major community event," said Toby Hollenberg, president of Congregation Mickve Israel. "We are appreciative of all who come out each year to enjoy and support it."