Helen Stambor rolls through the menu as quickly as the old commercial described the contents of a Big Mac.
“Quarter pound of kosher corned beef sandwiches on Jewish rye, potato salad, sauerkraut, a pickle and a brownie,” said Stambor. At 92 years old, she’s the oldest member of Temple Beth Israel-Shaare Zedek.
But now, instead of rattling off the contents of an overstuffed sandwich you could buy on Super Bowl Sunday, it’s just a memory of something temple members used to do. This year marks the first year it won’t sell those delicious hearty since the temple and synagogue merged in Lima in 1966.
The tradition started when the merged organizations’ women’s group fed one another for several years. They later decided to open it up to the community for a sit-down meal. Twenty-five years ago, that turned into a boxed lunch you could pick up, which became the temple’s largest fundraiser.
“Regretfully, we have to end it,” said Connie Hornung, president of the temple. “All things come to an end. ‘There is a season for everything under the sun,’ as it’s written in Ecclesiastes. I guess it’s the end of a very popular tradition.”
There is no one to blame for the end of these sandwiches, which have been served each Super Bowl since the mid-1990s at the temple, 2105 Lakewood Ave. You can only blame time itself.
The recent organizers of the time-intensive fundraiser, David and Nancy Mayerson, are in Cincinnati, dealing with health concerns. While members of the community helped fill the void of some temple members getting too old to help in recent years, organizing it is another story.
“It’s a horrendously hard job with all the orders, putting them together, having people come in to get them, handing out the sandwiches to them and collecting the money,” Stambor said.
The temple faces a common problem nowadays. Yes, there are younger members to keep the faith alive. Unfortunately, they don’t have the time or expertise to keep a complicated operation like the corned beef sandwiches moving.
“We would make about 700 to 800 sandwiches that Sunday morning; that was Super Bowl Sunday,” Stambor said. “It was really a feat of speed and accuracy. Everything had to be weighed, each one with a quarter-pound of meat.”
It was a statewide sandwich too. Corned beef came from Cincinnati. At one point, the Jewish rye bread came from Youngstown.
Jews in the region are familiar with pieces coming from all over. Their current rabbi, Howard Stein, comes over from Pittsburgh twice a month, Hornung said. A cantor drives down from Detroit for services.
Food is also a part of the tradition at Temple Beth Israel-Shaare Zedek.
“If you feed them, they will come,” Hornung quipped.
There’s a potluck dinner once a month before Friday services. Different members feed the rabbi when he’s in town.
Unfortunately, though, the sandwiches are off the table, unless another community group wants to contact the temple and learn the secrets of sourcing and delivering the delicious sandwich. You can also buy a similar meal from the temple in Fort Wayne in the autumn.
“It’s been a very positive thing for us and the community,” Hornung said. “It’s a just a lot of work for a small, aging temple like ours.”