Scholar highlights Jewish traditions on beer and horseradish

by | May 4, 2018 | Other News

Most people would think twice before mixing horseradish and beer. However, Josh Kulp, the rosh (head) of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, covered both topics during his weekend visit to Norfolk in March as scholar-in-residence for Congregation Beth El and Temple Israel.

On Friday night, Kulp spoke at the Shabbat honoring Beth El’s newest members and 36 chai members. As it was the week before Passover, he discussed how to build a warm and inclusive community through the Seder. He also spoke about the meaning of—and the complications behind—the invitation: “All who are hungry, come and eat.” And he asked the powerful and pertinent question: “What does this or can this mean for our community today?”

The next day, on Shabbat morning, Kulp explained at Beth El why horseradish was the key to understanding all of Jewish history. He described the history of horseradish as a symbol of bitterness on the Seder plate and what it had come to mean to Jews throughout travels in Europe, Spain, and beyond. Both subjects added rich fodder for local Sedarim the next week.

The beer part occurred that Saturday night, when Temple Israel hosted “Beer and Burgers.” After eating and drinking, the 50 people in attendance heard Kulp focus on the all-important question: “Why do we recite Kiddush over wine and not beer?” The mixed news for beer lovers: Most of the commentators couldn’t vouch for saying Kiddush over wine, but some said beer was acceptable for the Havdalah service at the conclusion of Shabbat.

His talk was followed by interesting and tasty presentations from two Temple Israel members. Nathan Brauner showed his home-brewing equipment and offered samples of his pumpkin ale, which made believers even out of pumpkin skeptics. Mark Solberg spoke about the culture of beer in Biblical Israel, displaying beer strainers from his archaeological collection, which dates back two or three millennia.