Jewish Community Prepares for Rosh Hashanah
Chicagoan Manages Kosher,
Israeli Foods Nationwide
The local Jewish community is preparing to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that starts Sunday, Sept. 16, at sundown and continues through Tuesday evening, Sept. 18. In the Hebrew calendar, it will be the start of the year 5773.
Yakov Yarmove, a resident of Chicago’s West Rogers Park neighborhood, has been extremely busy for months getting ready for this High Holiday. Yarmove is responsible for selecting the kosher and Israeli products offered to customers, as SUPERVALU’s Corporate Business Manager of Ethnic and Specialty Foods. His food selections are provided to customers at 1,300 SUPERVALU stores nationwide, including 180 JEWEL-OSCO stores in the Midwest, and he has been instrumental to adding more kosher products in many stores.
Yarmove spoke about the significance of the upcoming holiday.
“Rosh Hashanah is a time for reflection of the past year, hope for the future and, most importantly, a time of prayer asking for blessings and one’s needs for the year ahead,” said Yarmove. “By Jewish tradition, it is the day that God inscribes all that will happen in the year to come.”
Much of the holiday is spent by families attending services at their local temples, as many will do across the Chicago area and worldwide. After the daily and nightly services conclude, families come together to enjoy their meals.
Yarmove, who graduated from the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, NJ, says that sweet foods are commonly served during meals to symbolize a “sweet new year” ahead. “Beef or veal brisket and turkey are the traditional center plate items,” said Yarmove, ”and are often accompanied by carrot tzimmes, a sweet stew made with carrots, and dried fruit, matzah ball soup and round challah bread.”
Other foods eaten, particularly on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, and their respective symbolism, according to Yarmove, are: Apples dipped in honey, to remind the faithful of the sweetening or forgiveness of sins, such as the first sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; Pomegranates are eaten alone, or as ingredients in salads and other accompaniments. These fruits, with their hundreds of seeds inside, represent the many Biblical commandments that Jewish people practice;
The prayer recited for the pomegranate is, in Hebrew: “Sheyirbu zechuyoteinu kerimon.” “May our merits increase as the seeds of a pomegranate.”
Round loaves of Challah, an egg bread that is often braided, are served and the round shape symbolizes the circle of life; Carrots are eaten whole, sliced or added to salads or other dishes, and they represent the removal of any evil decrees or orders; Some serve the head of a fish or ram, to symbolize that God should make His people at the “head” and not the “tail” of the year.
At the hundreds of stores where Yarmove oversees kosher product variety, the past few months have been bustling.
“Leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it’s a very busy time when I am meeting with vendors and on the phone with them finalizing orders and deliveries and visiting our stores coast to coast to ensure that the products are in place and looking great for our customers,” said Yarmove. “After all, our JEWEL-OSCO customers expect that everything that they will need for their holiday meals – from brisket, to breads to unique Israeli treats and drinks – will be fresh, in stock and ready for their convenient purchase.”
Visiting JEWEL-OSCO stores in the area the week before Rosh Hashanah, especially stores located in areas with large Jewish populations, such as in parts of Chicago and its suburbs, Jewish consumers are evident as the men wear their yarmulkes and the women cover their heads with hats, berets or other hair coverings. Some use shopping lists while others chat on their cellphones, as they shop for food items for their holiday meals.
At the JEWEL-OSCO on Howard Street, in Evanston, Ill., the shopping aisles are brimming with multiple varieties of fresh challah bread made by local bakers, special cuts of kosher meats, whole fish, grape juice, imported and domestic wines and much more.
A native of Cincinnati, Yarmove had originally planned to become a military chaplain. After graduating from yeshiva and rabbinical college, he changed his mind and entered the foodservice industry, managing a bakery and deli in Cleveland. He joined SUPERVALU in 2007, and moved with his family to Chicago.
Today, he spends up to 40 weeks of the year traveling to cities from San Diego to Philadelphia to Boston, to oversee the kosher offerings at 15 different company-owned grocery chains.
Yet, by the time Rosh Hashanah arrives, Yarmove will be home in Chicago, attending temple services with his wife and their children, and enjoying traditional holiday meals. He says their holiday menu will likely feature beef brisket, tzimmes, apples with honey, apple kugel and, of course, homemade honey cake.
“Worshipping together and celebrating with my family, entreating God for many blessings for the year ahead – that will be the perfect way for us to end the current year and to welcome a wonderful New Year,” said Yarmove.
For those wanting recipe ideas for their Rosh Hashanah meals, visit: