Monthly Archives: September 2008

The Great Schlep

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My parents aren’t grandparents yet. And this would be a really awkward way to tell them I’m pregnant, which I’m not. Don’t worry, Mom.

Nonetheless I’m going to show them this video from the Jewish Council for Education and Research and offensively funny comedian Sarah Silverman about the Great Schlep. It’s “aim” is to get young Jews to go to Florida and talk to their grandparents about voting for Obama.

It’s hilarious, but when you think about it, rather offensive to those of us who don’t have living grandparents anymore… and to black people.


Posted on September 25, 2008

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No need for TiVo

This entry was posted in Culture, Holidays on by .

I’ve been looking forward to the Presidential Debates for a while.  Last week though, I looked at a calendar and realized the first debate is on a Friday night (this Friday night to be exact).  “Way to forget the Jews,” I thought.

Well, this Barack Obama guy (he’s running for President) didn’t forget.  Yesterday, he sent a letter to Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk, the leaders of the Commission on Presidential Debates, asking them to replay the debate on the major news networks on Saturday night.

His reason? Shabbos! In Obama’s words, “many Jewish Americans will not have the opportunity to watch the debate live.”

Obama sure does want to win Florida.

Posted on September 25, 2008

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Reason to keep kosher #1084….

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Practices on by .

Or, just reason #1 to avoid McDonalds.

12-year-old Mcdonalds hamburger

Karen Hanrahan, a health and wellness consultant, bought this hamburger in 1996. (The paper is from this year; she bought it as a prop.) “Ladies, Gentleman, and children alike,” she writes on the site, “this is a chemical food. There is absolutely no nutrition here. Not one ounce of food value. Or at least value for why we are eating in the first place.”

I know kosher food doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for you. (And, actually, that purely chemical food stands a better chance of being kosher than the world’s most organic pig.) But I think our friends at JCarrot would testify to this: The Jewish ritual food laws, both of permitted foods and their preparation, are ideally designed to make your stomach a better place. And a McDonalds hamburger does not.

Posted on September 25, 2008

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Rosh Hashana round-up

This entry was posted in Culture, Holidays on by .
  • HighHolidayService.com is a great way to find a Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur service near you. (Thanks to Jeff Seidel for the tipoff!)
  • This new video series from the Ziegler School of American Jewish University (where I’m speaking on November 9, yo!) is a great way to get yourself in the headspace to both celebrate the creation of the world and learning just how scary and awesome the Book of Life is.
  • If you’re going to be in Israel for Sukkot, I hate you. Unless, that is, you have room in your suitcase. Check out the amazing lineup of bands at ShemeshFest, which includes my pick for best Jewish band ever Moshav, Lazer Lloyd’s remarkable Yood, the incontrovertible drummer/singer/all-around superhuman Udi Davidi, and about a dozen other bands.
  • The biblical and rabbinic history of Rosh Hashanah — both usually overlooked, both pretty darn influential to the way we celebrate today.

Posted on September 24, 2008

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Why can’t the year be braided?

This entry was posted in Holidays, Practices on by .

I hate the High Holidays.  I know, I know.  I’m not alone.  Who actually enjoys the crowded shuls, the breakup of the weekdays, the sermons…the list goes on.

I have a different reason.  I hate round challahs.  In fact, I hate everything about the hamotzi portion of meals during the High Holidays.  Seriously, honey on challah is just plain gross.  I’ve tried different types of honey (whipped looks like it would taste better but looks are deceiving) and nothing has changed my opinion.

It isn’t just that I hate round challahs and honey.  It’s that I LOVE normal challah and salt.  In fact, it’s probably my favorite part of Shabbat dinner.  And the High Holidays takes that away from me.  How can I properly eat gefilte fish when there is honey residue in my mouth and on my fingers?

I would rant about raisins in challah as well, but I’m scared I would be forced to use swear words.  So I’ll stop now.

Posted on September 24, 2008

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Jewish New Year’s Countdowns

This entry was posted in Culture, General on by .

It’s the end of the year, at least the Jewish one, and the countdown lists are beginning.

Galei Tzahal will broadcast its countdown of the top Israeli songs of 5768 today at 9 pm Israel time (2 pm EST) You can listen to the audio stream online.

JTA also has highlights from the past year, touching on the major stories that impacted our lives.

Posted on September 24, 2008

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Next Year in Cooperstown!

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

When I was a kid, I, like many others, wanted to be a professional athlete.  It seemed like a pretty easy task at the time.  I just had to practice every day and I would be a basketball star in no time.

Then, sadly, Judaism got in the way.  And no, I’m not talking about the religious restrictions.  I’m talking about the physical restrictions.  Short Jewish boys just aren’t meant to be athletes.

So when my roommate went to Shea Stadium this week to see the Mets play the Chicago Cubs, I sent him the following text message: “Root for Jason Marquis (the pitcher for the Cubs).  He’s a Jew.”  When a Jew makes it in the pros, you gotta represent.

About a half hour later, my roommate texted me back saying, “Marquis just hit a grand slam.”  Now, if you don’t know anything about baseball, a grand slam is a rare feat.  But for a pitcher to hit a grand slam, well that’s damn near impossible.

While I’m no fan of the Cubs, I couldn’t help but shep naches (express pride) for the Jewish boy from Long Island living the dream.

It turns out though, that I wasn’t the only one who noticed this “Ness Gadol” (great miracle).  According to JTA, Marquis is the first Jewish pitcher to hit a grand slam since Saul Rogovin of the Detroit Tigers accomplished the feat in 1950.

Posted on September 24, 2008

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Rosh Hashanah cooking done right

This entry was posted in History, Holidays, Practices on by .

As my dad would say: If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Well, Melbourne-based chef Malki Rose is giving people an opportunity to do just that.

Rosh Hashana Chicken SoupHer new business Made With Luv is packaging kosher meals for the High Holidays, spreading through a facebook group and the traditional Jewish word of mouth. Her menu boasts cuisine as varied as chicken soup with kreplach and Thai Green Curry Paste (sorry, we don’t have that recipe in MJL’s database…yet.)

Malki took a break out of her frantic pre-holiday preparations to chat with us, and to get us in the mood for some good, homemade repentance-style eatin’.

Continue reading

Posted on September 24, 2008

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Denominationalism

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Leaders of the UK’s three non-Orthodox religious movements (Reform, Liberal, and Masorti), which together account for about one-third of Britain’s synagogue membership, are seeking greater cooperation and recognition from the chief rabbi of religious diversity. (Jewish Community Online)

Orthodox:
For more than 20 years, the Modern Orthodox community has been sending its high-school graduates to yeshivas in Israel for a year of study.  What has been the impact of this enterprise? (Forward)

A portrait of unconventional Modern Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan, who believes each denomination should criticize its own failings, and who is “one of the few Orthodox leaders to defy the growing resistance to pluralism.� (Jewish Week)

Conservative:
The Conservative movement finally finds something to unify it: the Hekhsher Tzedek initiative.(Forward)

A shul decides to withdraw from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and, no, they are resolutely not going to say why. (NJ Jewish News)

Reform:
Professor Jack Wertheimer looks at the Reform movement’s “increasing reliance on large numbers of non-Jewish members, the emphasis on personal autonomy, the minimal level of literacy expected by leaders, the freedom of each congregation to shape its own liturgy and synagogue music, and the low identification with Israel expressed by the rank and file� and wonders “for how long will significant numbers of people continue to be drawn to, or stick with, a religious movement that cannot or will not define standards for committed living, and that, except when it comes to political imperatives, has self-consciously shunned the very notion of imperatives? In this regard, the dramatic decline of liberal Protestant denominations may truly serve as a warning�. (Commentary Magazine)

Posted on September 23, 2008

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Georgia on My Mind

This entry was posted in Culture, Holidays on by .

Today at the office, we were talking about traditional Rosh Hashanah food. Black-eyed peas, primarily as a Sephardic custom, came up.

Funny, I thought. That’s what we eat in the South on New Year’s Day for good luck. Slashfood writes that the little legumes are eaten below the Mason-Dixon line because “they are thought to symbolize wealth (because they look like little coins when cooked). They also swell when they are cooked, which is another sign of prosperity.”

I didn’t even realize it was a Jewish custom, until I reread our article on home customs. Black-eyed peas are likely the ruviah:

A number of other food-based rituals can also enliven the home celebration of Rosh Hashanah. Sephardic communities have developed a Rosh Hashanah seder, which revolves around the eating of symbolic foods and the recitation of prayers that transform these foods into wishes for the coming year.

Many of these prayers are based on Hebrew puns involving the food in question. For instance, the prayers before eating a date (tamar in Hebrew) includes the phrase “yitamu hataim”–may the wicked cease. Before eating pumpkin or squash (k’ra’a in Hebrew), Sephardim say “yikaru l’fanekha z’khuyoteinu”–may our good deeds call out our merit before you.

Other symbolic foods include leeks and onions, which are associated with the exodus from Egypt; beets, whose Aramaic name “silka,” similar to the Hebrew “salak”–go away– is used to express the hope that our enemies disappear; and peas or beans, mentioned in the Talmud as “ruviah,” a word that sounds like the Hebrew “to increase,” and therefore indicates a desire for increased blessings in the new year. (MORE)

Black eyed peas Rosh Hashanah foodSo how did the syncretism with Southern culture take place? There is some evidence that the original Jewish population in Georgia, which landed in 1733, was dominated by Sephardim. Some of their customs made it into mainstream culture, such as eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s.

For an outstanding recipe, check out this black-eyed pea salad, done by our new associate editor Tamar Fox.

Posted on September 23, 2008

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy