I wanted to tell you a little bit about myself. I hesitate to write so personally for quite a few reasons. Examples... You might not care. Businesses should stand on their own products and services and not on the personalities of their owners. I might distract you from the ultimate purpose of this message, which is to compel you to purchase our offerings. However, after 450 weeks of sending out these menu emails, I must be frank... I sometimes run out of meaningful things to tell you. The development of the business over the years has always been so intertwined with my personal development. And this is on my mind, it's news to you, and you're my captive audience, so here goes.
Those of you who have attended my lectures in the past may recall that one of the important seeds of the Soup Peddler was a group called "South Austin Shabbat". I was a younger fellow at the time with much free time and I lived in a magical house on Mary St. With a few friends, I started this potluck group for Friday nights, the main meal for the Jewish Sabbath. I became sort of the de facto self-appointed coordinator and Rabbi, and over time, since potlucks sometimes tend to be not so lucky, the cook. I started learning how to cook for larger groups. I started being inspired by the way that food brought people together, especially when there was some extra spiritual intention behind it. Ultimately that group fizzled, but it had sure planted a seed in me... one that, with the fertilization and rain of many other experiences came to grow into The Soup Peddler.
Fast forward ten years... my wife and I had kept up the tradition of throwing large Jewish holiday meals over the years, and outdid ourselves with an outdoor seated Rosh Hashana dinner for 50 in our back yard. I showed off a photo of the event to a Rabbi I had just met, Rabbi Kobrin of Congregation Agudas Achim, and we soon became fast friends. We eventually hatched an idea to create the first clergy-led Jewish service in the history of South Austin, and it has been running strong now for about two years, gathering groups of up to 100 diverse folks each month. We have since added the first Hebrew school in South Austin.
As we kicked it off, I realized there was an opportunity to make it more special with the addition of a well-rehearsed musical ensemble. So although I had never played music publicly, I tuned up my nylon-string guitar and became the Musical Director. We have a great repertoire of mostly those sad but sweet tunes that go along with Jewish liturgy.
A great thing happened. I met up with a woman named Samantha Goldberg, herself a community organizer. She took me under her wing and began teaching me traditional Eastern European Jewish music called klezmer, and I learned accordion well enough to take part in various jam sessions. Together with a core group of people including one of the elder statesmen in Austin folk music, Mark Rubin, we started the first klezmer free school in Austin (probably the first in a several thousand mile radius).
Problem is, some days you can't drive through an intersection in Austin without running over an accordion player so I had to find another instrument. I picked up this crazy thing called a cimbalom, which is a Romanian/Hungarian hammer dulcimer, and am now one of less than a handful of practitioners of that instrument in the American klezmer world. With that development, I can now be found joining the premiere Austin klezmer ensemble, the Mazel Tov Kocktail Hour, a few nights each week at some of your finer musical establishments. I wanted to share a photo of our large band playing recently at the spectacular Honk!TX marching band music festival (we are considered somewhat more of a stationary marching band) from last weekend... that's me in the middle.