Veterans: A legendary baker

Judy Nissanov’s baking became popular when her son’s army buddies couldn’t get enough of her cookies.

JUDY NISSANOV  521 (photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Judy Nissanov, 57
From Brooklyn to Ra’anana, 1991
The Cookie Monster would be in seventh heaven at the Nissanov home in Ra’anana. That’s where Judy Nissanov, who made aliya in 1991 with her husband Gideon and four children, settled and became famous for her baking talents. Cookies for friends, cookies for soldiers, cookies for the family – until one day she realized that her cookies were so popular she might as well try and turn her talents into a business.
Thus, Judy’s Sweet Petites was born and is now being launched on a cookie-hungry Israel.
“I’ve always enjoyed baking,” says 57- year-old Nissanov, who was born in Israel to Holocaust survivor parents with whom she moved to the US at the age of four. “I decided to take it to the next level and make a business. Will I succeed? Only time will tell.”
Her mother, Bertha (Bracha) Weinberger, who lives with the family, encouraged Nissanov to venture into the cookie business. Weinberger had been sent here by Youth Aliya after the war at the age of 13, and it was here that she met her husband, Menachem, an Auschwitz survivor who also came here alone, having lost his entire family. He had been one of a group of boys pulled out of the gas chamber at the last moment to help the Nazis unload some potatoes, an episode described by another survivor, Nachum Hoch, at the Eichmann trial. The family stayed in Israel until 1960 but as her father could not receive the medical treatment he needed, they left for the US and Judy did not return until she was 16.
“It was always my dream to come to Israel and when I did come as a teenager, I felt immediately at home,” she says.
At 19, while studying for a degree in junior accounting, she married Gideon, an Israeli in Brooklyn who worked in the diamond business and often traveled back and forth to Israel.
When their children were 16, 13, 10 and three, “a good friend who was a Bnei Akiva shaliah [emissary] said ‘if you don't go now, you'll never do it,’” she says.
So they packed their bags, arriving in Israel in 1991. Judy helped Gideon with his business, keeping the books, while the children settled in to schools. Other than that she didn’t yet work outside and remembers having a good time and making many new friends.
With the children growing up and becoming Israelis, she wondered about getting a proper job, and when a friend suggested that she might like to work in a clothing store she was going to manage, Nissanov jumped at the chance to get out of the house. She liked it so much she decided to buy a franchise and opened a successful store of her own in the Ra’anana industrial zone, “The Machsan.”
“I had the store for over six years and I really loved working with people, but in the end it got too much for me so I gave it up and went back to working with my husband,” she recalls.
MEANWHILE THE sons had grown and done army service, but it wasn't until her youngest went into the paratroopers that her cookie-making talents became legendary.
”The soldiers called me “Mother Cookie,’” she says with a laugh. “Every three weeks my son came home and returned with a batch of cookies for the entire regiment. When I went abroad for a visit, he insisted I leave a stash in the freezer.”
Her parents returned to Israel three years ago and Nissanov would bake special sugarfree delicacies for her father. Sadly, he died only a month after his return. Her mother, who had worked all her life in the garment industry as a pattern-maker, encouraged Nissanov to turn her cookie talents into a business.
Since starting in earnest she has learned many new secrets to successful cookie-making.
“I’ve discovered it’s not just getting the ingredients right that counts, but other factors like the temperature of the room and the weather outside affect the final result,” she says. “I’ve even realized that my mood sometimes affects my cookies.”
She has plans to join forces with another immigrant who started a very successful catering business and rent space together with her to carry on baking. At the moment all her crispy little miracles come out of the standard kitchen in her third-floor apartment.
She also wants to get kashrut supervision, realizing that although she is observant herself, many religious people would not buy her products without some authorization that they are kosher.
For years she baked her cookies relying on recommendations to spread the word, but in today’s competitive business world she realizes that is not enough and plans to open a website. For the moment she is counting on her Facebook page, where pictures of mouthwatering cookies are available for all to see.
They look good and you have a personal guarantee that they taste great too.