Fighting Cancer with Cholent and Facial Hair
Dozens of students showed up for the Cholent Cookoff and Mustache Movember competition on December 1. Much like the weather outside, the mood in Weisberg Commons was anything but dry, with students milling about, partaking in each other’s cholent, and marvelling at the contestants’ facial hair. In the end, junior Yosef Robin won the mustache competition, and the “Crack Pots,” a team consisting of juniors Devorah Pahmer, Shira Koperwas, and Lexi Zimmer, were crowned Cholent Champions.
The event itself was sponsored by the Movember Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting prostate cancer. A table for donations to the foundation was set up at the door. “We thought it would be nice to raise the money for the charity in November, the month dedicated to raising awareness for prostate and testicular cancer,” said Jacob Herenstein, a sophomore and Vice President of Classes for YSU.
“Noam Safier, president of YSU, originated the idea, ran it by Rachel Rolnick, the President of SCWSC, and they approached me for help with logistics,” said Mr. Herenstein. “Grand and Essex Market in Bergenfield, NJ agreed to sponsor all of the materials for the cholent making. They gave us a discount on all of the secret ingredients we purchased, sponsored all of the basic ingredients, and gave us four humongous bins of cholent – enough for 250 people,” in exchange for advertising their new delivery service to the Heights.
“The councils worked together to develop a program which could include the women of the Beren Campus, because the mustache competition is technically only open to the men of the Wilf,” added Herenstein. The men of Yeshiva University have always been a part of cake wars, which supports Sharsheret and breast cancer awareness, so we wanted the women to be a part of the Cholent Cookoff!”
For the first part of the event, 19 cholents, each made by YU students, were on display throughout the room, as the students in attendance made their way from crock pot to simmering crock pot to take part in the gigantic taste test. Each team brought a sample to the front for the judges to taste.
After the tasting, the much anticipated Mustache Competition began, with entrants showcasing their carefully designed manes to the crowd. Accounting Professor Lenny Fuld, famous for his own facial hair, was commissioned to judge the contest.
“We picked Lenny Fuld to judge the mustache contest because we saw pictures of him from his younger years, and he had the greatest mustache known to mankind,” said Herenstein.
The contestants included Robin, Shua Brick, Yonah Stromer, Rephael Rosenberg, Avi Strauss, and Uri Shalmon. Stromer was by far the most enthusiastic of the bunch, announcing himself as “focused and ready” from the beginning of the contest.
After carefully assessing the contestants mustaches for creativity, size, symmetry and more, Fuld dubbed Robin the champion and student council awarded him an $100 gift card to local eatery Golan Heights.
Robin explained the background to his victory. “I last shaved on Friday October 30 and grew it [my mustache] throughout November. I really alienated all of my friends and family, but I had no choice but to keep my eyes on the prize. Mustache growing is all about perseverance. My connectors weren't growing in so well in the early stages but I kept grinding to get the results I needed.”
“I was going for a "Ross 'The Boss' Rhea" kind of look. Thick, respectable, and Canadian.
Other candidates had good flow. It was anybody's game. I was fortunate to come out on top.”
But the result did not go without controversy. One YU student, who requested to remain anonymous, stated angrily, “Yonah Stromer should have won. The man has a mane coming out of his chin.”
Nonetheless, the event continued with the finale of the cholent competition, judged by Jonathan Schwab, Associate Director of University Housing and Residence Life, who sported a fantastic, Monopoly Man-esque mustache, and Benjy Isaacs, owner and manager of the aforementioned Golan Heights kosher restaurant.
“We thought Benjy would be a great choice because everyone knows him, and running Golan, he knows all about cholent,” said Herenstein. Schwab was chosen because “he’s always around, and everyone loves him.”
The winners on the “Crack Pots” incouded juniors Devorah Pahmer, majoring in business management, Shira Koperwas, speech pathology, and Lexi Zimmer, marketing. The three are roommates and have been making cholent for Shabbos for years. The winning cholent contained chicken soup mix, sweet potatoes, and ketchup, as well as a plethora of spices, and a secret ingredient.
The runners-up were “Rita’s Boys,” featuring juniors Binyamin Kohanbash, Jacob Finkel, Yoni Fried and Gavriel Racovsky. Kohanbash reported that he “was in charge of the potato department, Jacob was head chef, Yoni was official moral support, and Gavriel was head of water measurement. “Levi Herman said tehillim b’zchus that we would win.”
According to Benjy, great cholent “has to be not too thick, not too soupy, right in the middle. It has to have an original taste – no knockoffs. And it's gotta be heimish; you gotta feel like it's shabbos.”
In his remarks announcing the winner, Schwab mentioned that both the winner and the runner-up “didn't leave anything on the field... or in the pot." Crack Pots’ cholent was “a little less soupy, more meat and potatoes and spice…you could almost taste the sweat that went into it.” The other was “a little more liquidy, but a fantastic taste, a taste that will stick with me – and my stomach – for quite some time. Benjy summed it up as follows: "some were great, some were ok, some were terrible."
Schwab added, “In 2007, when I participated in a cholent cookoff similar to this one, we came in 14th place. I never thought I would be here.”
Overall, the event seemed to be a huge success, with much money and awareness raised on behalf of men’s health.