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75th annual Kosher Dinner is a way the Jewish community shares traditions

Jeff and Julie Morris share the joy of working at Kosher Dinners over the years

When they moved to Spokane in 1970, Julie and Jeff Morris became active in Temple Beth Shalom and began helping with its annual Kosher Dinner. 

This year is the 75th Kosher Dinner and their 46th.

The dinner will be served from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, March 13, at Temple Beth Shalom, 1322 E. 30th Ave.

Members of the Jewish community of all ages participate in the many phases of planning, promoting, preparing and serving the Kosher Dinner.

The first year, Jeff and Julie supervised youth in charge of the cloakroom.  There was a 10-inch snowfall, so people had umbrellas, boots and coats.

“Once we worked on it, we were hooked,” said Julie.  “We see people we may not see all year.  Doing a small job adds to the whole.”

About 150 people from Temple Beth Shalom’s 200 families—about 1,000 people—help set up, work in the kitchen, greet, entertain, serve, pour beverages, wrap silver, set tables, plate the food, refill relish trays, clear tables, wash dishes or sell homemade baked goods in the del bar.

Before the dinner, about 900 pounds of brisket, knishes and cake mix arrive from New York.

Julie likes that the Kosher Dinner teaches people about Judaism.

“It’s a wonderful outreach to the community,” she said.  “It started as a fundraiser.  That’s part of it, but secondary now.”

“We are proud to open our doors to the non-Jewish community,” said Jeff, noting that some people have been coming for more than 30 years. 

“In the early years it started small, but now serves more than 2,000 people,” Julie said.  “The kitchen crew starts 10 days before, cooking the brisket, slicing it and then reheating it.”

The Morrises moved from Seattle to Spokane for Jeff to practice law.  He had worked for the King County Prosecutors Office after graduating from the University of Washington (UW) School of Law in 1967.  He retired from his Spokane practice two years ago.

Julie, who graduated from the UW in 1965 in English literature and speech, taught high school in Seattle. When they moved to Spokane, she focused on raising their three sons and being involved in the community.  For 35 years, she has been involved in Hadassah, which has two hospitals in Israel.

Before Jeff and Julie came, Temple Emanu-El of the Reform tradition and Congregation Keneseth Israel of the Conservative tradition merged in 1967.  In 1969, they built the current Temple Beth Shalom (TBS) building.

Temple Emanu-El started the Kosher Dinner in 1941, said Julie. 

Keneseth Israel had started ordering kosher meat for their synagogue about 1920, and during the 1940s provided a kosher dinner to local Jewish servicemen.  The synagogues had their own dinners for 26 years until they merged.

Congregation Emanu-El (CEE) came into existence in 1994.  Now CEE, which previously met at the Unitarian Universalist Church, collaborates with and meets at TBS, where Rabbi Tamar Malino presently serves both synagogues.

Over the years, TBS has reached out to bring the Jewish community together, so it is multi-generational, said Jeff.

In their homes, the Morrises and most TBS families do not keep strictly kosher.  Several TBS families do, however, and Temple Beth Shalom maintains a strictly kosher kitchen.

“It’s part of being affiliated with United Synagogue,” said Jeff.

The Morrises enjoy the traditional meal of brisket, potato knishes, challah bread and apricot kuchen, because “it’s about who and what we are,” Julie said.

While Congregation Emanu-El and Temple Beth Shalom are separate congregations, they have joint adult education, Sunday school and Hebrew school, as well as some joint services, including parts of their High Holy Days services.  CEE has its own religious service Friday evenings and one Saturday morning a month.  TBS services are Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. 

“We have been sharing a rabbi for two years, so collaboration makes sense,” Julie said.

For information, call 747-3304.




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