Or VeShalom ‘Savors’ the Weekend

Or VeShalom ‘Savors’ the Weekend

Susan Barocas and Sarah Aroeste fed and entertained around 400 for a festive Sephardic themed weekend.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Barocas and Aroeste brought their Savor program to OVS to span three days.
Barocas and Aroeste brought their Savor program to OVS to span three days.

Congregation Or VeShalom hosted the March 22-24 weekend-long Purim & Sephardic Heritage Festival (Savor) with special guests, Susan Barocas and Sarah Aroeste, weaving food and music to celebrate the rich aspects of Sephardic Jewish life.

Congregation Or VeShalom is one of the few remaining Sephardic synagogues in the Southeast. Savor pronounced sa-VOR, which is Ladino (the Judeo-Spanish language) for “taste or flavor,” is a Sephardic music and food experience co-founded by chef Susan Barocas and Sarah Aroeste, Ladino singer and author.

Sarah explains, “What we do best through Savor is help people experience, participate, and engage with the beauty and breadth of Sephardic history, culture, and language through food and music, using all of the senses.”

The colorful eggplant appetizer started off the Friday meal.

In the first two years of Savor, the duo did in-person programs in New York City, White Plains, Newtown, Conn., Naples, the Berkshires, Washington, D.C., and Istanbul. Of Atlanta, Barocas said, “The Atlanta community seems to be one of the more cohesive Sephardic communities in the U.S., and I love the role Sephardi food plays at OVS, from bureka baking and the bazaar at Chanukah to family picnics.”

Aroeste is committed to bringing awareness of Sephardic music and culture to audiences around the globe. With eight Ladino albums, and two Sephardic children’s books (with three more on the way), she is credited for helping to revitalize a tradition for all ages.

If Barocas’ name sounds familiar, she was guest chef for three Presidential Seders. She told the AJT, “Serving as guest chef for three seders in the (Obama) White House (2014, 2015 and 2016) was one of the great honors of my life. I was proud to bring Sephardic dishes ‘to the table’ including huevos haminados, Moroccan haroset balls, and chicken with preserved lemon and olives, along with additional fresh, healthy dishes requested by the First Lady. I was nervous walking in, but the staff was very nice, capable and welcoming once they got over my cooking the hard-boiled eggs in onion peels and coffee grinds for eight hours.”

Chef Alex prepared a hearty Shabbat meal designed by Barocas.

Baracos’ writing and recipes have appeared in the Washington Post, Lilith, and Moment magazines, The Nosher, and several cookbooks.

Some items from Friday Shabbat Dinner: Patlican salatasi (roasted eggplant, chopped tomatoes and peppers) with flat bread, Lemony yaprakas (rice-filled grape leaves), Turkish meatballs with lemon tahini sauce, Carrot rice pilaf, Fasulye (Turkish green beans with tomatoes) and Tishpishti (syruped cake). Highlights from Saturday Kiddush: Marinated feta and assorted olives, Hummus with honeyed roasted eggplant, lemony fennel-leek-chickpea salad (toasted walnuts on side), Black-eyed pea salad, Tzatziki with cucumber and mint.

After the Shabbat dinner, Barocas delivered a history of Sephardic Jews tracing heritage to Spain and Portugal. During the centuries of the Inquisition and especially following the official expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and Portugal shortly after, many were absorbed into existing communities in Northern Africa and the Middle East with the largest number finding safe haven in the Ottoman Empire. Most of the early Jewish settlers of North America were Sephardic.

Sephardic menus often include stuffed grape leaves.

Aroeste performed some traditional songs. One particularly frightful tune was about a girl in Salonica who mistakenly burned the grape leaves and was so severely punished, she went to court to convert to Islam.

Barocas summarized, “Sephardic Jewish customs have been with us for hundreds of years, and at the heart of Sephardic heritage are the enduring connections between music and food.”

The duo also sponsors Savor Sephardic travel adventures (of course, with food) including a cruise in May — Rome to Seville — which is sold out with possible wait list cancellations.

Special Note: This writer does not photograph nor record events during Shabbat services. 


March 22: A musical Kabbalat Shabbat experience followed by a richly flavored traditional Turkish-Jewish Shabbat Dinner prepared under Barocas’ guidance by Chef Alex.

March 23: Tot Shabbat with Sarah and services featuring special d’vrei torah delivered by Sarah and Susan and featuring Sarah’s Ladino musical influence.
• Sephardic: Mezze Kiddush Lunch, featuring recipes by Chef Susan
• Evening Cooking Class by Susan, followed by Megillah reading

March 24: Bureka Bake Off – featured 12 bakers; Special Guest Bake-off Judges: chef/ restauranteur Shai Lavi, chef/restauranteur Todd Ginsberg,  Aroeste, Barocas, OVS Rabbi Hearshen; and Purim Carnival for kids

read more: