October 2008: Episode One of All in the Temple

Throughout the year I will be introducing you to different members of our TBS family. This month, I would like you to meet Alan White.

Alan chuckled when I called and asked if he was watching the Giants/Redskins game because I didn’t want to disturb him. “No,” he replied. “I am watching a gourmet cooking show!”

Alan is a self-taught cook and my mouth was watering as he was telling me about his hobby. He told me that his favorite show is the original Japanese version of Iron Chef. He finds the techniques fascinating to watch, as well as how seriously the chefs take themselves.

Alan’s roasted chicken, cooked in a smoker to keep in all the juices, is done with salt, pepper, onion powder, and sometimes lemon, ginger and garlic in the cavity. This is Sandra’s, Alan’s wife, favorite meal.

Is your mouth watering? If not, it will be after you hear about his gravlax! It is cured salmon with kosher salt and brown sugar. No cooking is needed, just enjoy in five days!

Alan is mostly a self-taught cook, although he learned from his father, a deli-restaurateur and caterer, how to make pickled herring from smaltz herring! After my stomach stopped asking for food, I told Alan that Sister-hood is gathering recipes for a cookbook. He has already submitted a few recipes.

Alan’s cooking touches many mouths and stomachs, just as his voice touches many ears and hearts. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, Alan will be standing before our congregation, chanting the Haftorah.

“I am humbly honored,” said Alan, when he realized the congregation enjoys listening to him sing. Alan and Sandra have been members of Temple Beth Sholom since 1987. For the past 35 years or so, Alan spent the High Holidays in Massachusetts at his father’s Orthodox synagogue, always chanting that Haftorah. When Alan’s father passed on last December, Rabbi Scolnic asked him to be a part of our services.

Being part of a service comes naturally to Alan. Alan said that years ago, when he was saying Kaddish for his mother, he began driving long-time member Irving Mannes to services. At that time, Irving led all the daily minyans. When Irving passed on, Alan volunteered to follow in Irving’s footsteps by leading Sunday morning services. He wanted to be there for those who needed to say Kaddish as they had been there for him. Alan has also led Shacharit on Yom Kippur for many years. Having taken the leadership role at our Temple, he said he had to switch from Ashkenazic pronunciation to the Sephardic pronunciation. With help from Henry Cohen’s tape of the service and studying some of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s chants, he also relied on his childhood memory of the melodies. He also admits having included a few “idiosyncratic embellishments!”

“It has always been a great honor to do the morning Yom Kippur service,” said Alan. “By the time I complete the opening words, G-d is King enthroned supreme, — I am cruising at 35,000 feet spiritually. There are so many parts of the service that move me intensely.”

We have grown accustomed to hearing Alan’s beautiful uplifting melodies in synagogue and we are glad that Temple Beth Sholom is there for him and that he is part of our family.

Hinda Piscitelle

TBS President