When is having the whole nine not enough?

That’s an easy riddle: when you’re compiling a Top 10 list. Of course.




So, why was I compiling a Top 10 list? Because that’s what I’ve been doing every Thursday since last September for a site called If you’re not familiar with the site or what I write for them, don’t feel bad. Not yet, anyway.


Given that jewocity is a site mostly read by Jewish people—go figure—my top 10 list always features something related to Jewish culture. Compilations like the Top 10 Grossing Films of Steven Spielberg; the Top 10 Jewish Nobel Prize-Winning Authors; the Top 10 (Jewish…and don't laugh) Baseball, Football and Basketball Players. The Top 10 One-Liners of Groucho Marx. Yes, even the Top 10 Most Famous Goldbergs.



I often play “good news, bad news” with my three-year-old son, Benny. Indulge me. So Benny, I have good news and bad news. What’s the good news? I get to do a list of the Top 10 Goldbergs this week. What’s the bad news? I didn’t make the cut. Oy!



Since I had already done the Top 10 Bagels and the holiday of Purim was fast approaching, I thought I would feature the Top 10 Flavors of Hamantashen. You know, those triangular, three-cornered pastries with (usually) a fruit flavor in the middle. If you’re in Jersey, most of your Greek diners have a variation of one in their dessert case.



Now if you’re unfamiliar with why we eat hamantashen on Purim, here’s the quick and dirty. Many years ago, and allegedly, Haman, the royal advisor to King Ahasueros of the Persian Empire, wanted to kill all the Jewish people because they had refused to bow down to him. Yada, yada, yada…enter the hero Mordecai and his beautiful niece, Esther (who was now the Queen…even though the King did not know that she was a Jewish orphan named Hadassah), and Haman was hung on his own gallows instead. For more on this, try this slightly more detailed version from



I should mention that Haman had either triangular ears or wore a triangular hat—maybe both. So, of course we deride this creep and then, being Jewish, we find a way to memorialize him by making a dessert out of part of his anatomy/ headwear. Makes perfect sense to me.


For thousands of years, hamantashen seemed to only be filled with either poppy or prune filling. Maybe, one could find an apricot or a cherry, but that was about it. Prune and poppy have always posed a great dilemma for me. Unless I’m about two inches away, it’s hard for me to discern the difference between a prune and a poppy. They have the same appearance. So what, you ask? So this:


Poppy nourishes my soul, while anything prune-related grosses me out—even on a good day. I have made this mistake before—which I call a misconstrudel.



I emailed a few friends to try to get to 10 flavors but was stuck at nine. A day before I was to write the column, I decided to finally get in touch with the principal of my synagogue’s religious school (where I teach on Saturday mornings) and her assistant director.


I did not get any new flavors, per se, but got something much better. I found out that a fellow congregant named Ruth Halpern—who also teaches in the religious school—annually bakes thousands of hamantashen for over 100 families and uses all these crazy ingredients. Who knew? Not me. Not then.


Heck with the top 10 list; how could I get on Ruthie’s goodies list? Luckily, I hit the trifecta. I was able to cite one of her flavors to round out my Top 10. I then successfully pitched a feature about her and enjoyed a nice visit to her home where I witnessed her family baking a new flavor. And yes, I got on her goodies list as well.


What resulted was this feature story about Ruthie and her hamantashen that has been enjoyed by millions. Would you believe thousands? Okay, hundreds, for sure, and growing like my appetite for hamantashen.


Have a nosh, er, read.



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