Temple's festival pays tribute to area's heritage

Schenectady County residents should prepare themselves for a day of Jewish delights, including kosher dishes of brisket, salads and barbecue; music, crafts and synagogue tours at the 29th annual Carrot Festival Sunday, Sept. 9, sponsored by the Congregation Agudat Achim.

According to Anita Merims, who has been a Carrot Festival volunteer since its inception, the festival celebrates the beginning of the Jewish holidays and is an end-of-summer community celebration especially for Niskayuna residents.

I call this Nisky's fall festival. They have Niska Day in the spring and they have the Carrot Festival in the fall, Merims said.

The festival began as a fundraiser for the synagogue and included mostly local produce from the Schoharie Valley and local musical groups. Now it has grown to include professional musicians, crafters and a lot more food.

Merims said the volunteers are expecting between 3,000 and 4,000 people, so they have baked about 1,000 pieces of the festival's signature carrot cake and about 400 carrot cake loaves.

Unlike the Greek and Italian churches in Schenectady County that hold their expansive festivals for entire weekends, Congregation Agudat Achim hosts a one-day celebration on Sunday so that Jews can adhere to the rule of not working on the Sabbath, which is Saturdays.

"I really respect the Greek churches and Italian groups that can start their festivals on Thursdays," Merims said. "We can't even start on Friday nights, so we can't bring in the more professional rides and games."

Another challenge for the Carrot Festival volunteers is every ingredient used to make the food has to be kosher and must be prepared and cooked in the synagogue's kitchen.

"We have been baking for the past two weeks," Merims said. "Now we are working on preparing the rest of the food."

The volunteers who prepare the food for the Carrot Festival are seasoned experts. According to festival co-chair Hillary Fink, the group is renowned for its kosher cuisine and has cooked at the governor's mansion and for the state Legislature.

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