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Chag Ha Banot: A Female Sephardic Hanukkah Celebration

The Maccabee victory over the Greek- Syrian soldiers would not have been possible without the support of the brave Jewish women. It is the tradition in parts of the Sephardic world that the seventh day of Hanukkah is reserved especially to celebrate the women and girls of the community. The women study Torah, bless their daughters, and enjoy cheese sambusak prepared for them by the men.


Sambusak is a type of hand pie, which originated in Persia. It is made of pastry or yeast dough, filled with a combination of several types of cheese, some of them very sharp. Below is a recipe from the Jewish community of Baghdad.


Sambusak B-Jibbin (Cheese Sambusak)
Adapted from Mrs. Lamaan Heardoon

For the dough:

  • 3 1/3 cups of unbleached flour

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons quick-acting dry yeast

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • 1 egg

  • 1/4 cup warm water

In a bowl, place the water, yeast, and sugar. Mix well, then let rest for 15 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients, and knead the dough.

Cover the bowl with a clean towel, and place in warm spot. Allow the dough to rise for 3 hours.

For the filling:

  • 1 cup grated feta, kashkaval, kasseri, or parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese

  • ground white pepper to taste

  • 2 eggs

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.

  • Pull off a walnut-sized piece of dough. Roll it out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.

  • Place a teaspoon of filling at the center of the rolled-out dough.

  • Fold the dough over into the shape of a half moon. Pinch the edges shut.

  • Place on a cookie sheet covered with a piece of parchment paper. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden-brown.

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