Chag Notebook: Shterna Sarah Belkin

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Chag Notebook: Shterna Sarah Belkin // jewishfoodhero.com

Shterna Sarah Belkin is a media and communications professional based in Moscow, Russia.  She is the Public Relations Manager for the Moscow Jewish Community Center. I am honored she agreed to share her thoughts with us.

Let’s get to know Shterna Sarah and learn from her.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Konigsberg ( In 1946 the city’s name was changed to Kaliningrad ). My parents and I moved to Moscow when I was just a year old to join other family members.  From then on I have lived and studied in Moscow.  I am a graduate of Moscow State Univerisity, faculty of journalism.  Currently, I am a Masters student in Philology (modern Russian literature) and work as the Public Relations Manager for the Moscow Jewish Community Center.

I am a graduate of Moscow State Univerisity, faculty of journalism.  Currently, I am a Masters student in Philology (modern Russian literature) and work as the Public Relations Manager for the Moscow Jewish Community Center.

In what ways do you connect to Judaism?

All of my life is connected to the Jewish community here in Moscow.  I am very involved with Moscow Jewish Community Center; I work there, I study and enjoy meals at the kosher restaurant.  I attend Shabbat and holiday services at the Chabad Synagogue led by Rabbi Berl Lazar.

I am very active on social media where I share photos and thoughts about tzniut (modesty) and Chassidism (the teachings, interpretations, and practice of Judaism as articulated by the Hasidic movement).

How do you prepare to host people for a holiday meal or celebration?

I always plan ahead to get myself prepared.  I live alone and so planning ahead is really important for my morale and focus on the holiday.

The first question I ask myself is “Who is invited”.  After I know the guest list, I plan the menu according to the guests.

Since I do not like meat  (I don`t know why, I am not a vegetarian), all my holidays are “milky”.  So I have to prepare veeeery tasty fish.

How does the ideal Jewish holiday celebration look and feel to you?

An ideal holiday for me includes lots of beloved guests and family.

I want the food to be tasty and healthy.  Above all else,  I do not want to feel guilty about what I eat.  The ideal is to have tasty food that is also good for my body.  When I enjoy challah bread on Shabbos or cheese on Shavuot, I enjoy it in moderation for my health.

Leading up to, during, and after the holidays, how do you reconnect with yourself?

Before every holiday, my workload increases so I make sure to move my body before and after Shabbat and Yom Tov.

What is one of your most memorable Jewish holiday experiences?

In 2015 (5776) I spent Rosh Hashanah  in Saint Petersburg with some dear friends. I helped prepare traditional Rosh Hashanah salads and hot dishes for the holiday.

During the holiday, my friends and I visited the Grand Choral Synagogue of Saint Petersburg (image below*) and met many young people from the Saint Petersburg Jewish community.

My absolute favorite part was going for a walk in the center of Saint Petersberg on Yom Tov.

stamp_of_russia_2001_no_697_grand_choral_synagogue

What’s your absolute favorite Jewish holiday dish?

I DO LOVE different sweet tasty puddings . I don’t like meat, so fish (dorado, salmon) is my favorite for Shabbos and other holidays.

Do you have any nontraditional Jewish holiday rituals or habits?

Since I do not eat meat, I create milky menus that I can serve for the holidays.  At my house, you can expect lots of pareve and milky holiday meals.

What was something that your mother (or another influential figure) shared with you about the holidays that has stuck with you?

My mother taught me that we don’t eat peppers on Pesach.

My parents are not observant and my father is not Jewish. I am the first person in my family since my grandfather (who died during the Second World War) to keeps Jewish traditions. Most of the traditions that I keep strictly I have learned as an adult.

What’s your number one tip or trick you’ve discovered that makes the holidays smoother, more positive and meaningful for you?

Prepare everything beforehand.  Never worry about the food being perfect for everybody.  After all, tastes differ.

Shterna Sarah, thank you for sharing a glimpse of your life with us.  I want to know the recipes for those tasty puddings you prepare for your holidays!

This post is part of our Chag Notebook series where we interview inspiring women and men about their approach to the holidays. Which part of Shterna Sarah’s interview did you enjoy the most?

*Grand Choral Synagogue Stamp by Russian Post.  Stamp design by L. Zaytsev. Image via Wikimedia Commons

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