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B'nai Israel Synagogue

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B'nai Israel Synagogue now selling congregation member's soup! It's kosher and for a good cause


Troy Moon, Pensacola News JournalPublished 6:00 a.m. CT Nov. 19, 2018

Kate Lollar couldn't help it. A little dab of beef and mushroom barley soup got spilled on the side of a container, so she wiped it off with her finger, and instead of wiping her finger on her "Kiss Me I'm Jewish" apron, she licked her finger clean.

I mean, why waste good soup? Especially good soup being made and prepared for a good cause.

B'nai Israel Synagogue on Ninth Avenue is now selling "Stanley's Soups,'' soups made using the donated, handwritten recipes of longtime congregation member Stanley Schmerken, 92, a former Pensacola bakery owner who began making gourmet soups after retiring in the 1990s.

"The broth is so rich because it has lots of really good soup bones and shank meats,'' Lollar said in the kosher kitchen of B'nai Israel Synagogue, as she and fellow kitchen volunteer Faye Rosenbaum, spooned Stanely's beef and mushroom barley into 36-ounce containers that were selling for $15. All proceeds will go toward purchasing a new roof for the synagogue. 

Brooklyn-born Schmerken, who moved to Pensacola in the early 1960s, had no real background in soup-making after he closed his East Hill bakery and bread company in the 1990s. But then again, he had no real baking knowledge when he and his brother opened their bakery in the early 1960s.

"He didn't know how to make bread, but he learned, and he never made soup before,'' said Sue Ordon, his partner of 37 years. "But he's very smart. He figured it out."

He just started experimenting with recipes, and soon was giving, then selling soups to friends and business types he had met over the years.

"My mother was a damn good cook,'' Schmerken said. "She really was. I'm sure I acquired some of that knowledge."

Schmerken, who has donated millions of dollars to the University of West Florida, is hard-pressed to pick a favorite soup.

They're "all delicious when you're hungry,'' he said, adding he might be partial to his chicken matzo ball soup. 

The recipes were given to the synagogue, and Lollar knew how to use them best.

"Look, I love to cook,'' she said. "And we need a new roof and I was thinking of ways to make money ... ."

The idea just clicked.

"He sold his soups all over and everyone loved them,'' Lollar said. "Everyone always talked about how good they were, so we decided it would be a great way to raise funds."

The synagogue had a test run sale of the soups last week, and will begin selling them regularly at noon every Tuesday beginning Nov. 27. 

Lollar plans on making a variety of soups from Schmerken's recipes, including creamy chicken and broccoli, chicken and gumbo, and Italian minestrone — all kosher.

"There are no additives or preservatives,'' Lollar said. "It's grass-fed beef, organic and very healthy.''

And delicious, say those who have tried some.

Congregation member Shelly Landau stopped by the kitchen for some soup, and began drinking it straight from the cup until she was handed a spoon.

"Oh my gosh,'' she said, soon after tasting the soup. "Wow, it's so creamy."



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