Shalom from Dubrovnik

posted 18 Jul 2016, 23:06 by Lodzer Shabbat-Bulletin

Shalom from Dubrovnik

History buffs may also know it as Ragusa, while our younger members, or at least the Game of Thrones watchers in their midst, may recognize the city of King's Landing.

View of Dubrovnik, July 2016_w600.jpg

This famously picturesque city (I often think that's what a seaside Jerusalem would look like) had been an independent republic since mid-14th century.

Prosperous thank largely to maritime trade, it's never been conquered. It has probably less to do with the strength of its fortifications, and more with the fact the city always prudently paid off any enemy formidable enough to approach its sea gates.

The Jews settled here even before the Spanish expulsion, filling an important niche as tradesmen and craftsmen with the seaport. The Ghetto inhabitants even had their own fountain, known as the Jewish fountain.


The synagogue in Dubrovnik is over 700 years old, which makes it the oldest Sephardic synagogue in use worldwide, and the second oldest synagogue in use in Europe (after the Altneu Schule - the Old-New-Synagogue - in Prague, which I hope to show to you one day).

Dubrovnik Synagogue_w600.jpg

The small Jewish community runs the Schule as a museum outside of prayer hours. If you bring tefillin/talles with you, or otherwise convince the security you are there to pray, they will let you enter free. Or, you can pay to support the community - but if you enter without a ticket and put the same amount of money in the pushke upstairs, it will give the Schule greater flexibility in spending it on its needs.

Our Yemenite group both started and ended their circular Balkan trip in Dubrovnik. Every traveling army has to march on its stomach, and this one is definitely no exception. We saw a personal challenge in the request of blending the novel Balkan cuisine with the familiar Jewish Yemenite one.


There are plenty dishes consisting mainly of oil and dough in both culinary traditions - the Serb priganica (essentially a savoury doughnut), the Yemenite lachuch and malawach, and many more.

Yet here, let me share with you the recipe of my favourite Yemenite condiment.

Hilbe is made of fenugreek and added to soups, salads, meat and fish, or just eaten with bread. It takes a bit of preparation time but is well worth the wait.

Take 500 g of whole fenugreek seeds and soak for about 36 hours (two nights and a day) in a non-reactive bowl. The water should just cover the seeds by about 1.5 fingers (everybody knows fingers are far more reliable measuring units than centimeters). After soaking, crush the seeds thoroughly in a blender (the mass should be smooth and silky; ideally, you won't have to discard any of the soaking water before blending). Add:

- 1 to 1.5 cups of finely chopped leek (even the green part is fine, but you should shock it first by pouring hot water, then placing it immediately in ice cold water)

- 3 to 7 Tbsp of Yemenite green zhug (it is a mixture of very finely chopped hot long green peppers, parsley, garlic, and spice; you can buy it in kosher supermarkets, or make your own - ask me how :-)

- 3 cups of finely chopped cilantro

Blend some more, then move into a glass or ceramic bowl and whip with a hand immersion mixer until your hilbe is light and foamy. Or if you are a Yemenite grandmother and hand mixer is anathema to you, do it patiently by hand with a fork.

Add pepper and salt to taste, serve and enjoy. Will keep in the fridge for over a week.

Maybe I should make some for our Kiddush.

Let's see what happens in September, right?

Meanwhile, I am headed to the Caucus mountains, then Central/Eastern Europe, then Norway, then back to the Caucus, then home (that's the plan in a nutshell).

In case you are interested in joining me in Norway, my group of August 16-23rd is fairly small, and I can safely add to it anywhere between 4 and 8 English speakers, and show you around personally. If interested, welcome to drop me a line through the office. The offer is only for the Lodzer community (including family members), as I do not intend to make a profit from your participation.

Shabbat Shalom,