Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival – Through the Generations
By Hanna Griff-Sleven, Director of Cultural Programs & Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival Coordinator
The Museum at Eldridge Street’s annual Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival demonstrates the diversity and the connections between the Jewish community that founded the Eldridge Street Synagogue in 1887 and the Chinese community that live and work on the block now. This year’s festival – our 14th! – will take place on Sunday, June 8 from 12 to 4 pm.
The street bursts with energy on our festival day. Chinese and Jewish folk bands alternate on the stage and a klezmer parade marches down the street every hour. Mah jongg players duel all day long. Children design their own yarmulkes and make paper fans and masks. This year, please stop by our food court and watch demonstrations of Jewish and Chinese pickling techniques and delicious, kosher kreplach and dumplings demonstrations. And, of course, enjoy eggrolls and egg creams which are for sale.
But there is so much more! We open our doors for all to see the beautiful Eldridge Street Synagogue. Folk artists presenting their cultural traditions on every level of the building enhance the freilichness (liveliness) of the day. This year, we have wonderful presenters of the paper arts, as both the Jewish and Chinese cultures have highly developed traditions in this medium. Paper was first invented by Cai Lun in the Eastern Han Dynasty in China and the tradition of paper folding originated for ceremonial purposes. In China, traditional funerals include burning folded paper, most often representations of yuanbo (gold nuggets). Paper cuts were also often found in Ashkenazic Jewish homes. They served daily religious and other ritual needs, such as indicating the direction of prayer, decorating the home for holidays and warding off the evil eye. Adam Whiteman, our master paper cutter, demonstrates the almost lost art of Jewish paper cutting. Seated next to him is Ah Lin Fung, our Chinese paper folder who makes beautiful baskets and birds proudly using recycled paper.
Check out our family history room where genealogist Roger Lustig will help you to get started on tracing your own family history. You don’t have to be Jewish or Chinese; Roger can point you in the right direction. Moving along, you can experience a Yiddish lesson led by teacher Mark Sommerstein or Mandarin lessons led by Julia Guo. To the left of the language bimah is our challah station. Using the delicious kosher dough made by Chiffon Bakery in Brooklyn, learn how to braid your own challah and pick up a recipe to make a loaf of your own,
Upstairs on the sanctuary level, drink in the beauty of our space. There will be short tours on the hour so you can learn about the history of our landmark synagogue, built in 1887, and the neighborhood. Listen as Cantor Eric Freeman explains the role of the cantor in a Jewish service as well as sings some of the songs from the Jewish liturgy. As you enter please stop and watch Rabbi Zelig Mandel demonstrate Jewish calligraphy and Guan Zhiyaun, Master Chinese calligrapher.
Upstairs in the historic women’s area, enjoy Ken Lo’s tea ceremony. A beautiful way to take time and enjoy the space while savoring his very special Chinese tea. Sifu Lo not only teaches you about tea but reinforces the meditative aspect of calligraphy and appreciation of beauty. Sitting in the beautiful balcony in proximity to the stained-glass windows and beautiful hand-painted ceiling and walls is a perfect setting for the ceremony. As well, take in Angel Chan’s flower arrangements. Flower arrangements are often an important part of the tea ceremony. Their beauty adds much ambiance to the ceremony.
This festival pays tribute to and celebrates these two groups that inhabit(ed) this neighborhood and the ways in which both groups stay connected, through language, arts, music and food.
Tell us what is your favorite part of our Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Festival? What are you most looking forward to?