Monthly Archives: May 2009

Yom Yerushalayim: Break Out the Kugel.

This entry was posted in Holidays, Israel on by .

Tomorrow is Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Day. This year I didn’t do much for Yom Haatzmaut, but I can’t let Yom Yerushalayim go by unrecognized.

I have a truly bizarre relationship with Jerusalem. (Read more about it here –that’s my super secret pseudonym). I love that city like no place else on earth, but every time I’m there I feel like I’m being psychologically (and to a degree, physically) pummeled. When I was younger I always wanted to make Aliyah and live in Jerusalem. These days aliyah is not at the top of  my list, and if I went, I’d probably want to live somewhere a little more mellow, like Beer Sheva, or Petach Tikva, but I can’t imagine going more than a week in Israel without spending the night in Jerusalem.

Anyway, I’m celebrating Yom Yerushalayim by making some yummy Jerusalem-themed foods. Specifically: Jerusalem Kugel, and borekas. Yum!

If you’ve never had Jerusalem Kugel –I am so so sorry. It is amazing. Sweet and spicy and greasy and amazing regardless of temperature. I like to serve it as a side dish on Shabbat, but a non-Jewish friend who I once had over for Shabbat dinner took as taste and said, “I cannot believe you are trying to pass this off as if it was potatoes or rice. This is straight-up dessert.” Which, okay, I understand that. It is pretty sweet stuff.

If you’re one of those non-sweet-loving mutants, or if you just want something complementary, try borekas, savory pockets of dough with potatoes or spinach or cheese inside. They don’t get any better than the kind you buy in the shuk in Jerusalem, but the homemade variety are excellent, too.

Posted on May 21, 2009

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

Best of the Rest

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If you didn’t realize last week, we have a new feature on the blog that will highlight the best articles that are published on MJL that didn’t make it as a homepage feature.

First, we have a great new article about the Mishnah & Tosefta. Many think that the Tosefta is simply an addition to the Mishnah. But as Alieza Salzberg explains, there is more controversy behind the two than one would think. Those rabbis, always with their controversies…

There is also a great new article about Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. It is the best article on the site. How do I know this? Because I wrote it and I’m amazing. In fact, the only reason it wasn’t featured on the homepage was to not make the other articles jealous.

To go along with our Jon Stewart feature, we have a page of videos highlighting Stewart’s best Jewish jokes. Please, no one tell Comedy Central.

Finally, there is an article about the embarrassment Henry Ford faced for “exposing” a Jewish conspiracy. For some reason, the article doesn’t explain the conspiracy of Jews covering up their conspiracy.

Posted on May 21, 2009

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Turquoise: The Official Kosher Seafood Restuaurant of “Law & Order”

This entry was posted in Culture, Life on by .

ME: Have you ever heard of a restaurant called Turquoise?

TAMAR: No…well, not until on Law & Order last night.

It’s been a busy week in the Roth household. A kid who does not know how to go to sleep, coupled with two parents who do not get enough sleep. Tomorrow we’re going to visit the in-laws in Philly. Therefore, as encouraged by our newest board-book — see right — we’re going to go out on a date.

Pretty much every time we go to a restaurant, we go to a meat place. Since, you know, I’m a vegetarian and our kitchen is strictly non-meat. We’re always on the hunt for a place that can give us a good steak and a good…um…something without meat. Just before I got on the subway this morning, she called out to me, “Maybe that Turquoise place?”

I Googled, found it, and then stopped. Two things about the sign made me freeze. Can you spot the potential errors?

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one confused. Tamar went on to explain:

TAMAR: At first they were talking about a “kosher seafood” restaurant, and I was like, they really didn’t do their research. But then later someone said a line about how the crab was fake. And I was satisfied.

I’m still waiting to see how “aged meat” fits with the “fresher fish than ours are still at sea” line. But, hey, if a restaurant’s good enough for the men and women who make New York safe for the rest of us, it’s probably good enough for me.

Posted on May 21, 2009

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Building a Vibrant Community During Difficult Circumstances

This entry was posted in Life on by .

This article was written for the 2009 Why Be Jewish Gathering: Renaissance in a Time of Ration, a project of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation’s Bronfman Vision Forum.

Rachel-portrait-43a_1.jpg Three years ago, I launched an organization called Kavana, a cooperative, non-denominational Jewish community located in Seattle.  My decision as a young rabbi to explore this untested path in the Jewish world would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of a retired 36-year-old former Microsoft employee.  In her, I found a true visioning partner – someone who brought excitement, ideas, energy, passion, and the financial resources necessary to get this off the ground.

Together, we dreamed of building a new communal model – one that was intimate and local, that focused on intentionality and offered a personalized approach to Jewish involvement, and that called on “partners” in the co-op to play active roles in creating Jewish life for themselves and for the group.

And then this past December, the same individual – with whom I’d had so much fun over the last three years brainstorming, writing a business plan for Kavana, recruiting a launch team, and beginning to bring our dreams to fruition in Seattle – walked into my office and asked, “Do you know the name Bernie Madoff?”

And boom, the bottom fell out.

Continue reading

Posted on May 21, 2009

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This Week in “Are They Jewish?”

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This week’s contestant is the star of Fox’s new show Glee, Lea Michele. I’ve talked about Glee in the past and last night it finally debuted.

Michele, in my opinion, stole the show, as well as my heart. The writing on the show leaves something to be desired but the music is incredible. And not enough credit can go to Michele, the former star in Broadway’s Spring Awakening. Needless to say, for me, it was love at first sight.

But is she Jewish?
Reading up on Michele, I learned that her real name is Lea Michele Sarfati. Bingo! First big clue. Lea Sarfati is a majorly Jewish name. So far so good…I’m making the wedding invitations now…

But I need more than that. After doing a little more researching, I have hit a major wall. Theatermania.com interviewed some Broadway stars about their Christmas traditions. One of the interviews? Lea Michele. Her answer:

“On Christmas morning, I go over to my aunt’s house, where there are 20 cousins. There’s so much wrapping paper that you can’t even find the children.”

There is no mention of Chinese food. This is bad.

Conclusions: I’m going to with half-Jew. You can’t get away from the last name. But you also can’t ignore the Christmas traditions. The real questions are…what does she consider herself? Did her mom convert? Anything?

I think this video explains my feelings on her. All are genuine.

Posted on May 20, 2009

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Who Loves Hasidim?

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Once upon a time, Hasidim were known as a closeted, tight-lipped sect of Jews who practiced mysticism, dressed in an extreme and foreign manner, and offered up little contact with the outside world.

Today, every second household in Hasidic Brooklyn has a webcam, a Twitter feed, and a New York Times story about them.

Continuing the Times’ fetishization of Orthodox Judaism, this week’s e-paper includes a photo gallery of 47-year-old Colombian hatmaker Bruno Lacorazza, who is not Jewish himself, but whose trade involves selling hats almost exclusively to Orthodox and Hasidic Jews in New York.

The photos, by Times photographer Ozier Muhammad, are actually beautiful. Between the haphazardness of traveling haphazardly with luxury hats and the Old Worldliness of crumbling shops like Feltly Hats in Williamsburg and the more modern Primo Hatters in Crown Heights.

Of course, the only interior photographs seem to be from the Crown Heights store, where Lubavitchers were probably more than amiable than Satmars to being photographed (here’s one of one of our favorite family friends) and possibly even saw it as an opportunity for kiruv. You can imagine the conversation: “Can we take pictures of people trying on hats?” “Uh, I don’t know…” “But secular Jewish readers of the New York Times will read it and instantly be persuaded to become religious and don big black hats of their own!”

If you’ve never seen a foot-long beard light up in a smile, it did just now.

Posted on May 20, 2009

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Interview: The Daily Show’s Rob Kutner

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On today’s homepage, MyJewishLearning is featuring a fascinating new article about Daily Show host Jon Stewart. To go along with this great piece, four-time Emmy award winning Daily Show writer Rob Kutner was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us.

apocalypse.jpg Jeremy Moses: You recently had your seventh annual (correct me if I’m wrong on that) Purim Show at the 92 Street Y Tribeca. Have you considered expanding and doing a show for another holiday? I think there is a market for Tisha B’Av jokes.

Rob Kutner: Yes, that is correct–I’m impressed. We have talked about doing other holidays, like Shavuot and Hanukkah. And Tisha B’Av would be ideal, because then we could really fail miserably with the humor and it would be a mitzvah. Probably won’t happen though. What it ultimately comes down to is, the venue isn’t interested in a day when they can’t sell booze.

JM: At this year’s show, you had Daily Show contributors Wyett Cenac and John Oliver performing, both non-Jews. What’s in it for them? Do they get any of the jokes?

RK: I’ve often asked myself both of those questions. But that is part of the fun–giving someone a crash course in Purim. In fact, the majority of our cast this year wasn’t Jewish, and it’s always fun tutoring people in pronunciation and telling them things like “Just pause for a laugh after this joke about Aaron’s Best–it makes no sense to you but it will kill with our crowd.”

JM: Speaking of which, there are probably more Jewish oriented jokes on The Daily Show than any other show on television right now. Is there ever a worry amongst the writing staff that you’re alienating some viewers? And if there is, do you even care?

RK: Believe it or not, the majority of those jokes are written by non-Jews. I don’t know why–maybe it’s a desperate attempt on their parts to make it further in Hollywood. As for alienating our viewers, if you watch the show you know we’ve been working hard on that for years.

JM: While there are a lot of Jewish jokes being told on The Daily Show, I know of more than a few Jews who watch Jon Stewart and are surprised by his criticisms of Israel. First, do you buy the argument that sometimes the commentary is overly harsh on Israel? Second, how much debate goes on in the writer’s room when it comes to Middle East reporting?

RK: We do have some very spirited debates about the Middle East in the room, as on a number of things, if not on others (for ex: pretty clear consensus on Terri Schiavo). Even though I personally didn’t agree with several aspects of Jon’s views on the subject, I also recognize his natural instinct is to counteract any semblance of a “party line” by the media. And in the case of the Gaza war, American news outlets were pretty solidly on Israel’s side.

JM: You have a book out called Apocalypse How: Turn the End Times into the Best of Times! What do you think Jews should do to enjoy the end of the world? Or is the whole book just a front to convince people to accept the Rebbe?

RK: Honestly, Jews aren’t capable of enjoying the current world, so why should the end be any different?

Apocalypse How: Turn the End of Times Into the Best of Times! is available at apocalypsehowthebook.com. You can also order the scripts from past Purim spiel sketches to wow your congregation or JCC at shushanchannel.com.

Posted on May 20, 2009

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Create Your Own Shavuot

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

The best Shavuot I ever had, I made myself. I invited a bunch of friends, cooked a bunch of food, and then prepared myself for the all-night study extravaganza that is traditional to the holiday. I’m an author, and a geek, and for both reasons a holiday in which you’re commanded to stay up all night and study hugely appeals to my sensibilities.

I scattered a bunch of books in the center of the room. Some were Jewish books (my faves: Ben Ish Chai, Outpouring of the Soul, and a book of Rebbe Nachman‘s stories). There was a Torah and some printed-out translations of the Talmud. And then I scattered a bunch of X-Men comics, for good measure.

Slowly, people started to scatter in. At first, except for the lack of music, it resembled an ordinary night at the house — a bunch of kids leafing through books, sitting on the couch. Then, a friend of a friend — a Hasidic kid who’d been visiting from New York — jumped on the couch and started to tell a story.

From that point on, it was social, but social in a way that parties never had been. It was like there were twice as much company in the room, people + books. We studied individually. We studied together. The night wore on, and not many people stuck around till sunrise, but there were a few of us who did. (We watched it on the back porch, with the world still, one of those rare days when you can actually see through to the Pacific Ocean.) For the final half hour, in the time when we weren’t sure whether it still counted as night or not, I ripped open my X-Men comics (the Grant Morrison run, #141-144, I believe) and started learning things from there.

Torah is kind of like a Swiss Army knife. It has a thousand tools that can be used in half a million different permutations. I’m never as smart as I am when I stand up after learning Torah, when it’s all fresh in my mind and I really feel like I can do anything. Reading X-Men after seven hours of learning — reading it aloud to a room of other people who’ve also had seven hours of nothing but Torah in their heads — was one of the most transcendent reading experiences of my life. Do you remember the first time you saw your favorite movie? It was that good. Each panel was like a new world of meaning — the way they fought and spoke, the way Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton was actually a permutation of his inner kabbalistic sefirot not being as fluid as, say, Jean Grey’s.

So this year, we’re hanging out at home. The brilliant Jake Marmer and will just be getting home from Israel, and crashing at his in-laws’ near our place. We’re going to set up camp and learn. No plans for a big event, either like San Francisco or like the integrated Reform-Conservative-Orthodox all-nite affair last year in Chicago, where 75 people showed up for a random lecture on Hasidic thought and time travel. But sometimes, a good friend and a good book is all you need.

Oh, and a tiny tiny plug — my old yeshiva, Simchat Shlomo, is having a Shavuot night learn-a-thon, where people sponsor you $10 or $1 or whatever per hour of Torah study. It’s a great cause on both ends…and I’ve got a kid who wakes up early, so I promise not to study *too* long. If you want to sponsor me, give me a holler.

Posted on May 20, 2009

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Orthodox Kids Involved in East Coast-West Coast Rap Rivalry

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Not to trivialize a guy who was shot and killed today, but there is a great Jewish twist to the death of up and coming rapper Dolla today in Los Angeles.

Dolla, born Roderick Anthony Burton II, was in the Beverly Center Mall in L.A., when he was shot and killed. Because of security concerns, Maimonides Academy, an elementary school a block away, was put on lock down for the afternoon.

I’m not one into reading into news story, but I have a feeling that some kid was going around the hallways this week talking about how much he loved Biggie and how Tupac was a “wangsta.” If you’re gonna run your mouth, you best watch your back.

R.I.P. Dolla.

Posted on May 19, 2009

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Hasids and the Amish: Match Made in Heaven

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Life, Practices on by .

Somehow I missed this a few weeks ago when it was fresh news, but apparently there was a group of Amish people touring Crown Heights.

Via Gothamist: amish_and_hasids.jpg

Rabbi Beryl Epstein, who has been leading tours of Hasidic life since 1982, explained that the visit was intended to give each group a glimpse into the other’s devout culture. He tells the Post, “They don’t have too many places they can visit where they can be reassured their beliefs will be respected. If they go to Times Square, that’s not gonna work.” Yisroel Ber Kaplan of the Chassidic Discovery Center also emphasized the visit’s spirit of tolerance, “It’s reinforcing to the Amish community to see us Jews living the way the Bible says Jews are supposed to live, and have lived since the time of Moses and Abraham. The Amish are also living their lives as the Bible speaks to them.”

After touring a synagogue and a library, the group stopped to eat at Esther’s Deli on Albany Avenue; Jacob Blank, an Amish father of five, deemed the shawarma on laffa “very good.” And before getting back on the bus home, he told the Post what impressed him most: “Watching people cross into the street. People were just walking into traffic.

Dude, that’s not just the Jews. That’s New York. amos_abraham.jpg

If you’re looking for more Amish/Hasidic action, check out this cute little kids book, Amos and Abraham, in which Abraham, a young Jewish boy, becomes friends with Amos, a young Amish boy, during a visit to Amos’ farm. Hijinx ensue, I’m sure.

Posted on May 19, 2009

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