Keeping up with the Steins (or the Hassons, or the Bar-Els for that matter) was not the issue when I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah; collaborating with them was! In 1980, in Caracas, Venezuela, no one in our circle of friends catered. People from the community got together and cooked! With the current downturn of the economy, families in the United States are looking for alternatives to the expensive parties they may have had in mind. Coming together as a community to prepare for a simcha is a very old tradition in many Jewish communities around the world. Not only are the resulting menus more interesting, but the bonds formed between people, and the sweet memories, remain strong for many years after the festivities.
When we celebrated my Bat Mitzvah we were living in Venezuela, fifteen hours away by air from all of our relatives in Israel. In 1980, the Jewish community of Caracas was evenly divided between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. My parents befriended people in the community from many different backgrounds. For my Bat Mitzvah, my mother, her friends, their daughters, and I all got together and cooked. As a result, the menu for my Bat Mitzvah was much more diverse than it would have been had my relatives in Israel been the ones doing the cooking.
Mmmm Shavuot. The sweet smell of cheese blintzes and the sound of butter crackling in the frying pan fill the house. Bright red strawberry preserves are on the table, ready to be served with the delicious filled crepes. Why do we have the tradition of eating dairy foods during Shavuot? Shavuot is a celebration of the Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah to the Israelites. King Solomon described the pleasure of Torah as "honey and milk are under your tongue" (Song of Songs 4:11). The first iteration of this celebratory meal was homemade goat cheese, sweetened with honey or fruit. We can explore those primeval flavors as we indulge in the sweet study of Torah on Shavuot night.
IHN Executive Director Rachel Falkove reads to one of the children in the Interfaith Hospitality Network program.
-- Elisha Sawyer
At this time of renewal, follow the teaching of Abraham and Sarah.
A number of synagogues around the Greater Philadelphia area are actively participating in a creative solution to the growing problem of family homelessness and in doing so are following in the Abrahamic tradition of offering hospitality. Through their involvement with Interfaith Hospitality Network/ Family Promise and its affiliates throughout Pennsylvania, synagogue members are bringing about Tikkun Olam (repair of the world).
An example of such a network is Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (NPIHN), which formed 19 years ago. Germantown Jewish Centre, along with several area churches, banded together to take turns opening up their buildings to homeless families. Since then the non-profit organization, with a core staff of three and a modest network of support staff and area congregations, has moved 275 families - approximately 770 individuals - from homelessness to stability. The program proves to be successful as over 92% of families that have completed the NPIHN program do not return to homelessness.
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