Sunny side-up superhero

Yale Hollander is a dad, husband, legal professional and writer whose works have appeared in a number of local and national publications. He is currently a trustee of the St. Louis Jewish Light, however the opinions and viewpoints he presents in this blog are strictly his. Follow him on Twitter @yalehollander.

By Yale Hollander

Those of you who have been following this blog over the past six months are well aware that breakfast and temple service are two of my passions. Accordingly, I hope you will favor me with some empathy as I mourn the close of another season of Kibitz Café.

No, Kibitz Café is not some kind of reality series centered in a diner chock full of colorful characters from both sides of the counter. For that type of amusement, I highly recommend graphic novelist Mimi Pond’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece “Over Easy.”

Kibitz Café is a fixture of the Congregation Shaare Emeth culinary and social calendar. It occurs just about once a month during the religious school’s academic year when members of MOSHE (Men of Shaare Emeth) gather very early on Sunday mornings to put on a first-class breakfast experience for congregants and anyone else with an appetite for a great breakfast, some darn fine coffee and tea, and fellowship. With regard to the latter, there’s a good reason why it’s called Kibitz Café.

The program started a couple of years ago when current MOSHE president and former executive chef Ken Levine expressed a belief that people – especially parents of religious school kids – would get out of the drop-off line and into the building if they were offered a chance to have a reasonably priced, quality breakfast, a really good cup of coffee and the chance to schmooze with fellow parents of students. His hunch was spot-on, and word of mouth spread. Kibitz Café has become a multi-generational affair and has spread beyond just the religious school families.


I was an early fan. As a religious school parent and one who enjoys a quality breakfast and a really good cup of coffee (or four,) I savored the mornings I could enjoy Kibitz Café as a customer.

And then I joined the Shaare Emeth Board of Trustees, which is when the fun really began.

As Kibitz Café grew in popularity, the need for additional hands on deck grew beyond the reach of the dedicated cluster of gentlemen who got the enterprise off the ground. The call came out from congregation president (and veteran waiter) Greg Yawitz for more men to come to the service of their congregation, quite literally in this sense. I was only too jazzed to answer the call (okay, it was actually an email, not a call, but you get the point.)

My first shift on the Kibitz Café staff was as an expediter, the guy who follows the actual waiter (in my case, Joe Pereles, another garcon with “President” on his congregational resume) to make sure the right food gets to the right customer. I had a great time and must have done a fairly good job in that position because I received an executive promotion upon reporting for my second tour of duty – a position that has become my permanent assignment. I am now in charge of the coffee.

I should clarify this. I am in charge of the brewing and dispensing of the gourmet coffee that Ken personally procures, grinds and packages in perfectly portioned zipper bags. There is more to this task than simply throwing bags of coffee in a paper filter and pressing a button. This is good coffee we’re talking about, and good coffee cannot sit around in an urn for hours on end. We are not running a truck stop here. The coffee is brewed and stored – very briefly – in vacuum pots until it is needed to fill the thermal carafes that servers will carry around to fill and refill our guests’ mugs. When the system is working well, I will remain in nearly perpetual motion from 8 a.m. until 10:30, filling carafes and then refilling the vacuum pots with fresh coffee. Rinse. Brew. Repeat.

Fellow Kibitz Café server Doug Kolker stopped me in the midst of one of my refill missions last week and suggested I needed to find an appropriate title for my position, perhaps something befitting a superhero. I asked him to give me a few minutes to come up with one. I returned to the kitchen, loaded up another filter basket with Ken’s intoxicatingly aromatic ground beans and punched the button to start the process. And that’s when a little light went on.

Literally. It was the little orange light on the machine that said “BREW.”

“I’ve got it, Doug.” I informed my friend. “Call me the Brew Jew.”

A superhero was born.

Perhaps I can interest Mimi Pond in doing the comic book.