I and other residents of the Main Line have been in lack of books since the bankruptcy of the Borders bookstore chain in July 2011, and the renovations of the Ludington and Bala Cynwyd branch libraries, the latter closing in December 2011. For a few months, we were bereft of all three resources, until Ludington reopened last September, and Bala Cynwyd reopened last month. Another pleasure awaits us at the newly opened Main Point Books, an independent bookstore in Bryn Mawr, run by local resident Cathy Fiebach.
Main Point Books stocks a broad range of books, with a particular emphasis on literary fiction. Fiebach is eager to hear from customers about the kinds of books they like, and especially about books they do not, because it helps her develop her inventory. (When was the last time you had fun chatting books with the staff at a chain store?)
One of the charming books available in the store is My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, a collection of essays by writers on their favorite bookstores. Some of those stores are in the writers' communities, and others are their stops along a book tour. I have my own copy, and I told Fiebach that it is "armchair traveling" for me to read about lovely bookstores across the country. Her store could easily join their ranks.
Aleeza Ben Shalom has always happily served as a networker or a "connector," bringing together people whether it was about housing, cars or furniture. Her successful connections, made through her Shabbat hospitality at her family's table and her volunteer work for the SawYouAtSinai dating website, have led her to launch her business, "Marriage Minded Mentor," in February 2012. To date, she has brought 14 clients to the wedding chuppah and another eight are engaged.
Her 132-page book, Get Real Get Married, hit the stores today (Tuesday). With clients from the observant community, her shortest match took four months from introduction to marriage (Those two really knew what they wanted!), while the longest match took about nine months. Her clients in the general public need more time.
Judging from the titles in the general and academic press, you would surmise that American Jewish women were not active in the biggest social movements of the 20th century. And you would be wrong. The paucity of scholarship in this area led Melissa Klapper, a historian at Rowan University, to a six-year odyssey that culminated with her latest book, Ballots, Babies, and Banners of Peace: American Jewish Women's Activism, 1890-1940 which highlights the role of American Jewish women in three social movements for suffrage, birth control, and peace.
"Kashrut, the kosher dietary laws, is the original practice of mindful eating, set within a holistic framework", said Sue Fishkoff at the symposium "How Kosher is Kosher?," held on April 15th as part of the What Is Your Food Worth? series, hosted by Temple University and coordinated by its Feinstein Center for American Jewish History.
Fishkoff is the author of the 2010 book Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America's Food Answers to a Higher Authority and editor of J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. For about ten years before she began research for her book, she said that Americans had expressed an interest in where and how we get our food. What galvanized her to write the book was that Jews were beginning the same conversation from a Jewish perspective. "Every Jewish household has a kosher story, even if the family does not follow kashrut."
"The first incidence of food justice occurred in the Garden of Eden," said Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, "when Adam and Eve chose to defy divine prohibition and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This moral consciousness formed the basis of Jewish ethical system and it was a matter of food choice."
Yanklowitz spoke on April 15 at a symposium titled "How Kosher is Kosher?," as part of the "What Is Your Food Worth" series, hosted at Temple University and coordinated by its Feinstein Center for American Jewish History.
Rav Shmuly, as he's known, burst onto the Jewish communal arena five years ago, after the scandal of Postville, Iowa, where federal agents conducted the largest immigration raid in United States' history at the Agri-Processors kosher slaughterhouse. The agents rounded up illegal migrant workers who had been abused, threatened, and paid below-minimum wages. At the time, Agri-Processors slaughtered 60 percent of the nation's kosher beef and 40 percent of the kosher chicken. Rabbinical students at the time, Shmuly and Ari Hart, had founded Uri L'Tzedek the year before, which then launched an international boycott, signed up 2,000 rabbis and community leaders, and demanded transparency in worker standards.
What makes food Jewish? "The iconic comfort foods of American Jews connect us with our heritage, but most of the items are not innately Jewish", says Ariella Werden-Greenfield, a PhD. candidate in religion at Temple University. She spoke last week at the Gershman Y as part of the series on What Is Your Food Worth? coordinated by Temple's Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. Some exceptions are bulkie rolls and matzo balls, which derive from challah and matzah, both prominent in Jewish rituals.
Jews have adapted recipes to the kosher ingredients available to them in whatever land they've landed. Pastrami, from the Turkish word, pastirma, we know as spiced, dried beef, but it originated in Romania where pork or mutton were instead used. The Romanian recipe arrived with the Jewish immigrants in the second half of the 19th century. In Israel, it's made with chicken or turkey. Corned beef, a salt-cured beef, is actually Irish, but the Jewish butchers sold cuts of brisket to the Irish, so they also offered it to their brethren.
Who doesn't seek family harmony? What I found compelling about Bruce Feiler's The Secrets of Happy Families was that the author did not seek out therapists, happiness researchers, or self-help gurus. Instead, he explored different disciplines, learning how to successfully apply their results to family management. I appreciate the affirmation from outside the social sciences.
The first chapter dealt with how to deal with stress points. Two of the techniques discussed were the use of a family flowchart/checklist (children love making checkmarks) and a weekly family meeting to discuss problems. These strategies were developed in the software industry and are now used in practically all forms of product development. Two startling strategies suggest involving the children, both in devising rewards and in assigning punishment, because they then become invested in the follow-through. The author wrote about the marvelous results that led to his sharing in his children's emotional inner life, as our children often do not open up to us in this way.
For Yom HaShoah 5773, Holocaust Memorial Day 2013.
Anne Frank's death was tragic, but she was only one of six million Jews murdered by the Nazi regime. The Jewish population in each European country was decimated in a different way. Here are some novels for children and teenagers that represent the diversity of the horror — but adults can learn a lot from them as well. I have read each of these several times; my favorites are starred. The books are listed in order of reading level from youngest to oldest, although your mileage may vary.
I first wrote about the vegan Vgë Café in Bryn Mawr when it just opened last spring. On a visit some time later, the Brazilian proprietor, Fernando Peralta, expressed to me his interest in obtaining kosher certification because his customers were asking for it. I advised him to speak with the owners of other vegetarian establishments. Lo and behold, I was delighted to hear right before Pesach that he is indeed now certified kosher.
The kosher supervisors are Rabbis Eli Hirsch and Zev Schwarcz from the International Kosher Council, the same agency that certifies other local establishments such as Singapore Vegetarian Restaurant, Blackbird Pizzeria, and Sweet Freedom Bakery. The IKC is based in New York (it supervises the popular Blossom restaurants) and they've recently expanded to Mexico, Portugal, and Ukraine. It was Rachel Klein of Miss Rachel's Pantry who led Peralta to IKC.
Belle Ginsburg in the arts studio. Photo: Miriam Braun
— by Hannah Lee
How do we inculcate a sense of empathy and compassion in our children? What brings them to give to others in need? A small program in Jerusalem has been chugging along, successfully matching young men and women doing their gap year in Israel after high school with the neediest of boys, damaged by neglect and abuse of all kinds, who've been referred by court order to the Sanhedria Children's Home.
Local teens have been valued contributors, from Aaron Meller who taught the harmonica, Belle Ginsburg who led arts and crafts activities, and Shoshana Wasserman who served as Big Sister. They were the weekly volunteers who complemented the professionals in therapy, including music therapy and therapeutic carpentry. They have all been profoundly moved and changed by their interactions with the residents of Sanhedria.
This year's Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia opened this past weekend with the 2012 box-office hit, The World is Funny. The gala weekend included a visit by the director/screenwriter, Shemi Zarhin, for a Q&A session with Sunday's audience.
Nominated for a record-setting 15 times by the Israeli Film Academy for its Ophir Awards (and won for one), The World is Funny is set in Tiberias, the birthplace and muse of its director. It has a stellar cast, including Assi Levy, who won a Best Actress Ophir for her starring role in the 2006 film Aviva My Love (Aviva Ahuvati), also written and directed by Zarhin. This film also is graced by the presence of an Israeli legend, Yeshayahu "Shaike" Levi, whose career with the Gashash HaHiver comedy trio spanned 40 years and won the Israel Prize in 2000. (My favorite Zarhin film remains the 2007 "Noodle," in part because of the Israeli cheerful bravado spirit and the Chinese actors.)
I've witnessed how theater is transformational when I observed how a young family friend, petite and shy, blossomed into a singer and actor on stage, first at the Perelman Jewish Day School and later in "Ragtime" at the Papermill Playhouse, the state theater in Millburn, NJ. Somehow having a script and an audience enables people to forget their usual persona and voice.
The experience of King George VI and his struggle with stuttering was portrayed brilliantly by Colin Firth in his Academy-award-winning role in the 2010 film, The King's Speech. How much more fun would it have been for the King had he attempted theater? This weekend, the Adrienne Theater will host two performances of "Tough Cookies," a one-act play by Edward Crosby Wells, with actors from Together We Act, a non-profit outreach theater company that is committed to educating, motivating, and building confidence in people who stutter.
Details about this weekend's shows after the jump.
I met Barak Avraham, known as Malaku in his native Amharic, during his 2-week tour of the United States on behalf of AMIT, which supports a network of 108 schools and programs in 29 cities in Israel. Avraham's personal story is a marvelous case study of how AMIT schools turn around individual lives and whole towns. His trek began at age 9 when he walked, with his mother and four siblings, for three weeks from their village of Abu Zava to the city of Gondar in Ethiopia. Sleeping outdoors at night, they were at the peril of anti-Semites, who recognized them as Jews and strangers. (His non-Jewish father, already divorced, stayed at home.)
On Monday, the National Museum of American Jewish History again waived its admission fee and opened its doors on a day when it is usually closed to the public, and hosted a full day of programs in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The museum's new exhibit is "Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow," about the experiences of Jewish refugee scholars who were driven from Europe by the Nazis who found teaching positions at black institutions in the American South of Jim Crow laws. And, in keeping with the spirit of the day, the museum organized a screening of the documentary film that inspired the exhibit, as well as a discussion with one of the filmmakers, Steven Fischler, of Pacific Street Films. Up to 900 people visited that day.
Heartbreaking are the testimonies of Jews who sought every avenue of escape from Nazi-controlled Europe, but were foiled at every turn, with diplomatic and bureaucratic obstacles. They had limited access to accurate news. They had limited resources to buy their freedom and even the ones with means and the forethought found themselves victims of covetous maneuvers. Nazi regulations forbade bringing most valuables from the country and limited cash to 10 Marks or $10 per person.
The third season of the British drama series, Downton Abbey, premieres on this side of the Atlantic on Sunday. For the diehard fan, I recommend The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines (who also wrote The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook, which I reviewed last March). It contains recipes for the elaborate multi-course meals enjoyed by the aristocratic Crawley family as well as the homespun, simple meals partaken by the servants of the Grantham estate. Anglophiles would enjoy learning about the customs and etiquette of the Edwardian era. Language enthusiasts would delight in tidbits like how "red herring" became an iconic phrase in mystery novels, named for the diversionary tactic of British fugitives in rubbing the aromatic herring across their trails to confuse the bloodhounds used by detectives.
I've never attended the first showing of a blockbuster movie, but I saw the premiere showing of Les Misérables at noon on the 25th, along with the other Jews in the area. By the time the credits were over (I always stay for the credits to show respect for the crew), the lobby was mobbed and the line outside was down the block.
My birthday falls on December 26 on the Gregorian calendar and I choose not to celebrate with a double-layered cake with frosting. In recent years, I've been experimenting with ceremonial sweets of other cultures (namely, Christmas), so last year I procured the traditional spring form pan used to bake the Italian panettone. This year, I had a hankering to try my hand at the German stollen, after my sister-in-law introduced the family to her father's annual treat.
There's nothing like an eyewitness to convey the visceral and emotional impact of overseas news. So, I'd looked forward to the parlor meeting held at a private residence on the Main Line on Tuesday. Their son, Akiva (a pseudonym to protect his identity), was the featured speaker and he showed computer images of his work with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Their goal for the Friends of the IDF (FIDF) was to outfit his unit, 80-member strong, with fleece jackets, Camelback water bottles, and Leatherman tools.
The United States has the second largest Jewish population in the world, yet we alone have no unifying Orthodox religious hierarchical structure. Other nations with communities of over 100,000 Jews have Chief Rabbis — Israel, United Kingdom, Russia, France, and Italy — while others have informal hierarchy, such as in Australia. Here in the United States, the local rabbi reports to the synagogue board and the Jewish day school headmaster reports to the school board. We have no national chief rabbi to ensure proper halachic supervision and unification of policies across the board in Orthodoxy, said Rabbi Michael Broyde, Dayan (judge) of the Beit Din of America (the Rabbinical court for Orthodox Jewry) and professor of law at Emory University while speaking at a Hanukkah program at Kohelet Yeshiva High School on Sunday.
Maybe it's because I was not born of the faith — I've joked that I'm from beyond the Pale — but I've always loved Christmas music. As an Orthodox Jew, I don't experience the December Dilemma, because I know which is my holiday. This also means that I can enjoy the lovely music, without any psychological conflicts, any envy. When we first visited Scotland, I bought a CD of Christmas music on the bag pipe — how's that for combining my interests! As soon as I learned about the new offering by the Idelson Society for Musical Preservation, I had to get Twas the Night Before Hanukkah: The Musical Battle between Christmas and the Festival of Lights.
In the foodie world, we fans tend to follow our favorite authors from their humble blogging origins to their splashy success in the publishing and media worlds. Case in point, I have both cookbooks by Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman. So, it was with tremendous regret that coming back from New York, I was too fatigued to attend a presentation by Deb Perelman at the Free Library last evening. She was to talk about her new book, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Her website, The Smitten Kitchen, has inspired me and her other legions of fans to expand our gustatory horizons. The marvel is that she works from a tiny kitchen in a New York apartment. She proves the point that talent heeds no boundaries and space is not a limitation.
Fig-Olive Oil-Sea Salt Challah recipe follows the jump.
Dressed in the modest garb of an observant Jew, Nachum Helig may not be what you'd expect of a farmer, especially if you're only familiar with the young hipsters of Adamah and Jewish Farm School. However, he's the fourth generation to till his family's land in southern New Jersey and he spoke last week at Lower Merion Synagogue, after a showing of the 1993 documentary, The Land Was Theirs.
What could you give to someone who has everything essential? When my friend, Mary Jo, finally married her long-time sweetheart and they combined two households, she didn't need another set of wine goblets or china. I was thrilled when she said that a donation to Heifer International would warm her heart. I knew of their humanitarian work in foreign countries, but I'd yet to learn of their myriad educational projects, including ones here in the United States. So, I purchased a flock of chicks in her honor. These chicks were given to an eligible family overseas and when they grow up and become productive, the family donates the new chicks to another family in a Passing on the Gift ceremony. This is tzedakah that grows exponentially from your initial investment.
When the animated musical film Prince of Egypt was released in 1998, a rabbi acquaintance expressed his dismay over the Hollywood version of the yetziat Mitzrayim story. Why worry?, I asked in my naiveté. He reminded me that for many Americans, it’d be the only version they know of that Bible story.* My husband and I saw Argo this weekend when it finally arrived at my local Bala Cinema and we thought it a fabulous movie, thrillingly told. The rescue of six Americans, trapped in Iran after our embassy was invaded in 1979, was classified until 1997 and remained under our national radar. It only made the headlines when Joshuah Bearman wrote about it for Wired magazine. That article sparked
As we prepare for our national holiday of thanksgiving — whether by dieting beforehand, shopping and cooking, or doing chesed — Rabbi Meir Soloveichik has some interesting insights on the curious halachic history of the Thanksgiving turkey. He is the Associate Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York and director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University (a great nephew of "The Rav," Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik) and recently nominated as one of the Forward's 50 notable American Jews. He spoke on Sunday to an audience of about 40 people at the newly opened Citron and Rose restaurant as part of its yearlong series on the philosophy of Jewish eating.
How much you know about yourself counts as much as how much you know about your opposing partner at the negotiating table, said the much-loved and much-lauded Professor Emeritus of Engineering Barrett Hazeltine in a presentation on Sunday for the Brown Alumni Club of Philadelphia at Bryn Mawr College. The case study he presented was the on-going negotiation between Google and the government of China, which began in 2005. What I learned was far more applicable to me in my personal relationships.
Jewish mothers, especially immigrant mothers, have particular preferences for their children and their chosen careers. Creative artists have a particularly hard time convincing their families of the validity of their choices. Nadia Kalman, a fellow of the National Endowment of the Arts and the author of the novel, The Cosmopolitans, which won the Emerging Writer Award from Moment magazine and was a finalist for the Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature, tried to follow in the engineering footsteps of the rest of her Russian émigré family.
With gratitude to Diane Sandoval and Rabbi Dr. Joel Hecker for their feedback.
Do you know anyone who wears tekhelet tzizit, ritual fringes with one blue cord with dye from one special species of marine creature, the chilazon? I've learned that Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Professorial Chair in Talmud and Rosh Kollel at Yeshiva University's Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) does. Furthermore, the eminent rabbi recently met with Dr. Israel Ziderman, the Israeli biochemist who identified the correct species of snail and agreed to join the Public Council of the Tekhelet Foundation to help advance this project.
In workshops on tzizit, Rabbi Goldie Milgram teaches that in Biblical times, the Kohen Gadol wore a tunic made only of tekhelet (Exodus 28:31). Tekhelet thread is used in the coverings for the Mishkan (tabernacle), the parochet (curtain), and the efod (tunic). (Exodus 26:1,31; 28:6,28)
I love listening to authors and artists talk about the creative process, so I'd looked forward to a lunch-and-talk program on Wednesday at the Gershman Y about Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish, which premiered at the Suzanne Roberts Theater on October 17th. Hurricane Sandy kept Abigail Pogrebin, its creator, from attending, but Warren Hoffman, Senior Director of Programming, ably undertook the role of interviewer for two notable Jews: Sharon Pinkenson, Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, and Ivy Barsky, the new Director and CEO of the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH). Then we went across the street and watched an afternoon show.
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