a golden brown honey cake sliced and arranged on a white plate
Rachel Gross received this Rosh Hashanah honey cake from Nathan and Hilary Schumer and their kids, whom she does not know. (Photo/Gross)

Anonymous honey cake exchange adds a sweet note to new year

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Getting into the High Holiday spirit this year has been difficult for many. For Eitan Kensky, it was the lunch with friends and family after Rosh Hashanah services that he knew he would miss most. That inspired him to make holiday connections a different way.

The Mountain View resident had learned about software that coordinates a “Secret Santa” type of exchange, and decided he’d do something similar for Rosh Hashanah.

Kensky sent a note to a number of friends, asking if they wanted to participate in a cake exchange, strongly suggesting honey or apple cake, in line with the holiday.

“A (probably dry) honey cake that comes in the mail isn’t going to replace the long Rosh Hashanah lunch as a reward for making it through musaf,” he wrote. “But it’s a small way of sharing an experience with friends and feeling more connected.”

Kensky organized a three-household exchange in Massachusetts, where he lived with his family before moving several years ago. He also inspired 10 Bay Area households to participate, and another seven in New York and other parts of the country.

The software was able to note which recipients needed the cakes to be made in a kosher kitchen.

Many of the Bay Area bakers insisted on hand-delivering their cakes, and a Google photo album was shared after the fact. Some of the people didn’t even know each other and were only connected through Kensky. “I just received a cake in the mail from friends of friends, and I am filled with new year’s joy,” wrote recipient Rachel Gross of San Francisco.

“Informal connections over Judaism have made me feel more connected than synagogue streaming,” said Kensky, the Reinhard family curator of Judaica and Hebraica Collections at Stanford University.

“People are happy to be doing something that makes them feel connected to anything that has any holiday spirit, because it’s so hard to come by this year.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."