Every November, members of Wichita’s Congregation Emanu-El open the doors to the community and invite people in to feast on the foods of their culture — New York Deli favorites like corned beef, brisket, matzo ball soup and challah bread.
This year, though, there’s a different feeling hanging over the annual Deli Day, which happens this weekend — just two weeks after a gunman killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue in the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in U.S. history.
After the attack, longtime Deli Day volunteer Ellie Shore admitted, she wondered if fear would keep people in Wichita away from the event, which always draws hundreds of people from around the city.
But after an emotional gathering last week at Temple Emanu-El, which attracted 250 Wichitans for an interfaith service designed to remember the Pittsburgh victims, Shore said she stopped worrying. People were so supportive and so positive, she said, she now wonders if this year’s Deli Day will draw even bigger crowds of people hoping to show their solidarity.
“As I was walking out of that service, I heard someone say to someone else, ‘We have to come to Deli Day,’” Shore said.
The annual event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the temple, 7011 E. Central, and organizers say they’ve had more pre-orders and online ticket sales than in recent memory.
People who attend will pay $16 and get a choice of a corned beef sandwich dinner or a brisket dinner, each served with a variety of traditional Jewish deli sides, including matzo ball soup, latkes (Jewish potato pancakes) and challah. The brisket is cooked using a recipe handed down by the mother of congregant member and Deli Day volunteer Scott Redler, co-founder of the Freddy’s Frozen Custard chain.
Attendees also can shop at a bakery/market, dubbed Uncle Manny’s Deli, which offers baked goods to go. Among the items for sale will be potato knishes, apple strudel, cabbage roles, cheese blintzes, mandelbrot, noodle kugle and rugelach. Back for the second year: homemade salami, a popular item that Shore said sold out quickly last year. Manny’s Deli will also be selling something that’s hard to find in Wichita: chopped liver.
The dinner will be served from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, but those who want to eat at the temple and be served by congregation members must attend between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The dining room will close at 2 p.m. Carryout will be available from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.
It takes about 50 of the temple’s most dedicated members to pull the dinner off each year. Several of the temple’s top bakers have been working weekends since September getting the baked items ready, and another crew has been back and forth to the kitchen all week preparing briskets.
People can buy tickets at the door or online before 5 p.m. on Friday. To get tickets, visit www.reformjewsofwichita.org.