Monthly Archives: August 2009

God Loves Goat Cheese

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Don’t ask me how I know that–I just do. And it’s National Goat Cheese Month, which is the best time to celebrate the glory that is goat cheese, and what better way to do it than with some Jewish recipes?herbed_goat_cheese_490.jpg

Here on MJL we have a recipe for dates stuffed with goat cheese which will completely blow you over. The sweetness of the dates combined with the tartness of the goat cheese. Mmmmmmm.

J Weekly out of San Francisco has two great suggestions: Goat cheese dip and Fig and Pomegranate Tapenade with Goat Cheese, which I just might have to make for Rosh Hashanah this year it sounds so good.

Try this recipe for Fried Goat Cheese with Mint which seems to basically just be a combination of three of my favorite things in life (if it’s served to me by a nice Jewish man who can cook and has decent personal hygiene I’m set for life).

Gil Marks has a recipe for Central European Cheese Dumplings that looks delish, though I admit that dumplings really intimidate me.

Here’s my recipe for a spinach, beets, walnuts and goat cheese salad. It’s from that time I was on the Food Network. Really.

And finally, from TotallyJewish.com, a recipe for a “Puff Pastry Twister” that features goat cheese, leeks, and red onions. I have no idea what a twister is, but I want one. Now.

Posted on August 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

Eprhyme: The “Punklezmerap” Video Deciphered

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Eprhyme’s new music video is getting all sorts of play — at least, among the world of Jewish YouTube videos. But what’s it all about? We asked Eprhyme as well as Shemspeed founder Diwon, the Yemenite DJ, to tell us.

The “Punklezmerap” video, shot by hip-hop and R&B director Lenny Bass (Fantasia, De La Soul), incorporates a crazy cast of characters from the sacred to the profane, to the profanely sacred. There are several fun cameos, both of other awesome artists in the Jewish world and of people who you wouldn’t expect to find there, and some cool allusions to Jewish tradition and ritual.

First, watch the video. Then, read below for our exegetical commentary.

1 A.M. Eprhyme says: “The video was filmed in the basement of Levi Okunov‘s boutique, The 1929, in SoHo.” Okunov is a fashion designer with Hasidic roots who’s made a name of mixing Hasidic fashion sensibilities with radical couture.

eprhymeEprhyme: The video opens with Shir Yaakov gettin’ his freak on in a boa….Shir is an amazing singer/songwriter, and the other half of my newest project, Darshan.”

eprhymeElke Reva Sudin, a NY-based Orthodox artist and storyboarder, sketches away. (And, yep, her hair’s covered.) “No one expected the energy to be quite so insane,” says Diwon. “I think Lenny did a great job of capturing the energy that was there and the energy in the song and getting that across on film.”

eprhymeY-Love, another Orthodox rapper and Eprhyme’s labelmate, can be seen goofing off throughout the video. Here, he’s wrapping up a wine glass in a cloth napkin, a common practice at Jewish weddings. “Twelve cheap wine glasses were smashed during the making of this video,” Eprhyme notes. Also in the background is DeScribe, a.k.a. Shneur HaSofer, who recorded the Change E.P. with Y-Love. “Shneur just dropped by to see how the next video was coming out,” says Diwon. “He had no idea what to expect.”

eprhymeEprhyme: “Arrington de Dionysion (Old Time Relijun, [a band on legendary Olympia indie-rock label] K Records) plays bass clarinet. He brought along two of his free jazz buddies for the shoot.” K Records, Eprhyme’s former label, also released Beck’s first album, as well as the Moldy Peaches, from the film “Juno.”

diwonOn the turntables throughout the video is Diwon, the Yemenite DJ, who also owns Shemspeed Records. What record is he holding? “Eprhyme’s single,” he says. “It’s the original vinyl of the song from K Records, on their international pop underground series.”

eprhyme on stiltsEprhyme: “We basically wanted to recreate an Olympia basement party. We were representing underground music…literally underground. This is what hip hop looks and feels like outside the club. It’s a freakshow of religious fun addicts! [Someone named] Segulah was sportin’ an Ecudorian spirit mask. My homeboy Moshe the Peddler, who was a wine distributor at the time, had a kosher wine tasting during the shoot. Look out for Emily Peck on stilts!”

smashed glassThe video concludes with the boys sitting around on the floor, getting ready to smash a glass. MJL’s guide to Jewish weddings says: “The wedding ceremony ends with the breaking of the glass, which symbolizes that even in times of great joy, we remember that there is still pain in the world (which Jewish tradition relates to the destruction of the Jewish Temple). In most weddings, after the glass is broken it is time to jump up and yell, ‘Mazal Tov!'”

Posted on August 19, 2009

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Lady Gaga Is Her Own Tznius Police

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

Lady Gaga is in Israel for a concert, and she has apparently made statements about not being quite so wild and crazy while she’s in the Holy Land. According to mtv.com:

At a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, Gaga covered up her skin-exposing black top with a retro black leather jacket jazzed up with a spiky silver Star of David and declared that her maiden trip to Jerusalem would be a “an emotional and spiritual experience,” according to The Associated Press.

Promising to temper her provocative appearance and statements while on the trip, the “Poker Face” singer is set to close out her tour with a concert in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. She said she also plans to swim in the Dead Sea and looks forward to visiting Jerusalem, which she called “sacred and holy.”

Of course, the woman who’s known for wacky couture outfits and breezy statements about her own sexuality can’t erase all traces of the personality that has made her such a pop-culture sensation. Just as she said she’s more eager to visit Jerusalem than to “get drunk in a bar,” Gaga then said she actually just might “get drunk in Jerusalem.”

In case you were wondering what a toned down Lady Gaga looks like, behold, Gaga’s ensemble while touring the Old City:
03_lady_gaga.jpg
And in case you forgot what Lady Gaga looks like on a regular Tuesday afternoon, here’s a little reminder:
lady_gagas_bubble_leotard_.jpg

See more reminders here.

Am I the only one who wants Lady Gaga to end up falling for a yeshiva bochur? Think of all the cool shabbos robes she could design!

Posted on August 18, 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

Bad Jewish Poetry: The #1 Poem

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I never thought it would come to this.

bad poetry contestA few months ago, when I said we should ask people to write some bad Jewish poems for Bad Poetry Day, I didn’t realize any of this would happen. I didn’t know that my inbox would be bursting open every day for the next month with haiku about bagels and lox, limericks about Rosh Hashanah praying, and hip-hop verses where the M.C.s yell “Challah!”

We did it. And on today, the culmination of it all, you can feel bad poetry trembling in the air. Amy Oseroff and Miriam Wildeman wrote an outlandish take on Edgar Allan Poe and Jewish motherhood in The Maven. Jordana Horn wrote a sneakily clever paean to subversive kashrut.

And now, we give you “Bashert.”

This was a controversial poem from the start. For one thing, it was picked in a blind sample even though its author, the estimable Yonah Lavery, was actually featured on our blog for her brilliant Talmud Comics project. For another, as Daniel pointed out, the last line is technically not true, since a real follower of Meir Kahane wouldn’t be caught dead in an anti-Zionist mecca like Meah Shearim. (That, he said, is why it classifies as a bad poem.)

For the rest of us — well, we all loved it. In that awful way. No, not in an awful way at all. In fact, one of the best virtues of this poem is that it doesn’t involve a name. So if you’re after a handsome young man in a furry hat, just write “Dear Simcha Bunim” at the top of this poem, and maybe it will win his heart.

Just don’t say that MyJewishLearning never did anything for your love life.

Bashert

I first saw you, baby, in Mea Sharim.
Your lovely eyes downcast, your shtreimel agleam,
Your luscious lips let loose a horrible scream
And you pointed at me. I thought it was a dream,

And was all in a tizz when you threw the first stone,
Since this loving act prompted me to atone
For my bared lower shins, not okay in this zone.
You broke my heart, baby, and my collar bone.

You shouted “Zonah!” and I reached my nirvana.
Oh beautiful creature, sweeter than Tropicana,
Your judgment so harsh, your skin smooth as banana,
The comeliest student of Meir Kahane!

Posted on August 18, 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

Follow Your Twitter Bliss

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I was a judge for Ben Yehuda Press’s Twitter Love Contest. The entries have now been announced, and I would be embarrassed to have been a part of something so totally and unabashedly sweet, if the entries hadn’t been so genuine — and if we weren’t running our own totally un-sweet song of songsBad Poetry Contest, with the first two runners up announced yesterday, and the first-place winner being announced later today. And, after all, it is Bad Poetry Day.

1. @velveteenrabbi: My love plans built-in bookshelves, buys paint for the nursery, shapes where our child will dwell. We find home in each other. #15av

2. @vegdem: to my true love, the one who completes me: Thank you for pursuing me relentlessly. Relentlessly! #15av

3. @KatiBlack: chickpea & wilted spinach salad for lunch. thx @n_q_mainstream for being my #vegan meal pimp. u know how to keep ur girl happy #15av

The winners all receive copies of Shefa Gold’s new book, In the Fever of Love: An Illumination of the Song of Songs. You can read the first chapter on the nifty Google Reader at the bottom of Ben-Yehuda Press’s original announcement of winners.

Posted on August 18, 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

Bad Poetry: The 2nd-Worst Jewish Poem Ever

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Bad Poetry Day draws near, and we’ve got another winner for you. This one might be even worse — or even better, depending on the way you look at things.

bad poetry contestOne of our judges — I won’t say whom — said that this poem shouldn’t win because it was too honestly good to be a bad poem. But the others disagreed, citing a winning combination of satire, Jewish stereotypes used in a creative context, and a rhyme scheme that was true to the original, but embraced both form and content in a way that was wholly its own. (Rhyming “rebbetzin” with “Manischewitz in” didn’t hurt its chances, either.)

I also think this might be a group entry, or a family entry, although I’m not sure — this poem comes to us courtesy of Miriam Wildeman, although from the way she wrote “We are proud to submit our entry,” I think a group congratulations may be in order.

Ms. Wildeman and co-conspirators will receive a prize package from Jewish Publication Society, including Arie Kaplan’s brilliant history of Jewish comics From Krakow to Krypton, and Josh Lambert’s decidedly non-bad guide to American Jewish Fiction — as well as a pair of bongo drums.

And now, without further ado, the poem itself.

The Maven

Once inside a Succah dreary,
While I pondered Jewish theory,
Seeking answers to my query,
Responsa tomes strewn ‘round the flooring,
While I studied, deeply poring,
Oy gevalt! in came my mother,
Seeking this and nothing more,
“Darling, I need halvah from the store.”
Sighed my mother from the door,
     â€œOnly this, and nothing more.”

Nothing more? “Oh mother never,
Never was your list so brief.
Are you well? Have you a fever?
You don’t need schmaltz? Or corned beef either?”
Sighed my mother from the door,
     “Only this, and nothing more.”

So I schlepped off to the store, buying halvah, nothing more,
But when I came back through the gate, see,
My mother stood there, to await me.
“Nu, darling, I forgot. I also need some mandelbrot.”
“Mother, please think this fully through,
since I have other things to do.
One more thing you need, or four?”
Sighed my mother from the door,
     “Only this, and nothing more.”

Mutely moaning, “It’s a mitzvah,”
Aloud I asked her, “Need some kishke?”
How about some lukshen kugel
Or apples for your famous strudel?”
But, “No,” said she, “mandelbrot is all I wish for.”
Sighed my mother from the door,
     â€œOnly this, and nothing more.”

So off I went straight to the deli,
Marching past the herring smelly,
Ignoring matzos, and the soup stock,
Passing by the liver chop block,
Home I came, with one thing only,
Only mandelbrot, lost and lonely.
Sighed my mother from the door,
     â€œOnly this, and nothing more.”

“We have the food now for the party,
But we need to clean up, smarty.
I don’t mind stacks of books around the Succah,
But should my friends know you use a hookah?
We have the food we need, but wait! That recipe from the rebbetzin – ”
I gasped, “Which cabinet’s the Manischewitz in?
Mom, I won’t go back to the store. I have had it –
     Nevermore!”

Posted on August 17, 2009

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A Scholar At Woodstock

This entry was posted in History, Texts on by .

“Guess who eats together at the Carnegie Deli. Bowzer from Sha Na Na and Arthur Fonzarelli.”

Alan CooperAdam Sandler is right. Jon “Bowzer” Bauman is a Jew. But not everyone knows that Bauman was actually the replacement for the band’s original bassist, Alan Cooper. In 1971, Cooper left the band to pursue his graduate studies. Today, Cooper is a Bible scholar and the Provost of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.

And with the 40 year anniversary of Woodstock this year, Cooper is getting a little press (Check out this cool article about him here) Why? Because the guy performed at Woodstock. You see the picture of him here? Well, check out the video below to see him in his hey day. He is the lead singer, wearing the sunglasses and the vest with no shirt.

Merci to Jewschool for finding this.

Posted on August 17, 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

Bad Poetry: The 3rd-Worst Jewish Poem Ever

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With only 16 hours to go till Bad Poetry Day begins, we’re beginning our immersion in everything that says Jewish, poetry, and, especially, bad. With more than 200 entries, it was a bad poetry contesttough decision to make. As we asked in the original post: What could be better than bad poetry? Whether it starts with “Horseradish is red/The Red Sea is blue” or rhymes the words “you,” “Jew,” and “snuggle-poo,” it’ll probably make a hit.

Here’s our third-place winner. Jordana Horn — who’s written plenty of non-bad material — treats us to this saga that mixes G-dly love, the love of complicated relationships, food love, and love of being rebellious. (And, really, what says “Jewish” more than food, religious laws, and contrariness?)

For her pains, Ms. Horn wins a copy of David M. Bader’s Haikus for Jews — and bragging rights at any party at which she appears for the next 365 days.

Blue Dishes

He said blue dishes “looked dairy,”
She said she’d use them for meat.
He told her, stop being contrary
But she said she wouldn’t retreat.

You would think that someday, the fight would go away
That love and time both would resolve it.
But you would be wrong:
Marriage can be quite long
And if anything, this fight dissolved it.

There are those who contend that she went ’round the bend
And purely had acted from spite
When, on their silver, he came down the stairs
And was shocked when he turned on the light.
Surrounded by blue dishes in the kitchen was she
She gestured and said, “Here I am!
I TOLD you these dishes were better for meat!”
And he saw. They were covered with ham.

Congratulations, Jordana! Come back this afternoon to read the second-worst Jewish poem ever.

Posted on August 17, 2009

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I’m Still the Star Author in My Family

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I was asked by RedRoom, a website for writers, to blog about the problems of publicity when my first book came out. I had a publicist through my publisher, but they’re notoriously overworked, and they didn’t even read my book to start out with. So, because I am Jewish, my publicist ended up being my mother. Here’s how it went.

When my first book came out, I turned into a bit of a diva.

never mind the goldbergsI didn’t expect it to happen. I totally wasn’t diva material. It was like becoming a werewolf: one second you forgot to shave, the next you’re outside, naked, howling at the moon. For me, it was more like howling at everyone who picked up their phones. My editor, my publisher, the company publicist (who was working with about 50 books that came out the same month as mine, each with their own totally press-release-worthy story that was at least as good as mine) and the agent I’d just signed onto who had nothing to do with my first book, but who seemed eager to establish a good relationship with me, and was game to listen to just about any story or rant I cared to fire at him — no one was spared my wrath. Instead of telling people why Never Mind the Goldbergs was the book they needed to read, I kept telling people how no one was ever going to hear about Never Mind the
Goldbergs
.

It was my editor, David Levithan, who finally slapped me to my senses. He’s kind of the opposite of me — I’ve been self-publishing zines and chapbooks since I was twelve. He was writing for major publishers (the Baby-Sitters’ Club, no less) at 18. I was punk rock. He listened to teen pop. I was a firm believer in the indie, underground aesthetic; his first book, a personal journal from the viewpoint of Darth Maul, had been printed and publicized by no less than Lucasfilm.

“Matthue, you’ve grown up doing things by yourself, and you’ve never wanted anyone else to put words into your mouth,” he said. (That last part might have been a special dig at the chapter that he wanted to delete and I over-my-dead-body’d him about until he gave in.) “You have friends, good friends, who are willing to die for you. Why not ask them to help? Why not do a little bit yourself?”

So I did. While Scholastic would only buy two ads for my book (one of them in a magazine for middle-aged Jewish women, while the target demographic for my book was 17-21-year-olds — see if you can guess which one), I could write letters. I started telling everyone I knew who had anything to do with the publishing world, or anyone I knew who knew anyone themselves, that my first book was out and that I needed to do something about it. I came this close to a story in the Washington Post, which was my story of the one that got away for the whole next year. More important were the dozens of people who wrote about my book on their blogs and Facebook pages, saying how much they enjoyed it or how it sounded cool. Those dozens of people spread the word to dozens more. It grew exponentially.

Probably most successful of all, my parents threw a party for all their friends, with homemade lemonade and cookies, and had me read from and sign my book. Not only did they buy copies, many of them bought multiple copies. “For Hanukah,” one of them said, even though it was April.

It wasn’t a bestseller, but it was my best seller. “Cult novel” makes Goldbergs sound either kooky or B-level, but that’s exactly what it was — a bunch of people from disparate backgrounds who felt really passionately about my book.

That’s about all I can say about it. The rest, everyone else said for me. And that’s the kind of publicity that no publisher can buy.

Posted on August 17, 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

The Week That Was

This entry was posted in Culture, History, Life on by .

As the week comes to a close, it is time to look back at the best of times. There were no sour moments. So if you want to see the worst of times, go somewhere else.

Today, I’ve consumed an unhealthy amount of coffee and caffeine related products. But as Shabbat comes around, I know that I eventually will be offered a piece of coffee cake. Lucky for me, as I learned in our recipe, there is no actual coffee in coffee cake.

If you haven’t seen the new Todd & God video yet, you must now. Otherwise, you won’t know how to properly put up a mezuzah. Or learn what house music is. (Fun fact: Todd’s mom is also Charlie Brown’s teacher).

Finally, I want to highlight a story that is not often told in the history of black-Jewish relations. There were a total of 53 European, Jewish scholars who escaped the Holocaust by getting jobs at historically black colleges in the American South. Read more about it here.

Have a good shabbat and a good weekend!

Posted on August 14, 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