Monthly Archives: September 2009

Dessert Hummus?! What is the World Coming To?

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

I love hummus. I really do. I had some this morning for breakfast. I will probably have some with dinner. I seriously considered running away with my favorite hummus-seller in Machane Yehuda when I lived in Israel. But even I have never really considered the possibility of a sweet hummus. I mean, at its base hummus is mashed chickpeas. And when I think chickpeas I don’t think dessert.
Well lucky (?) for me, there are people in the world who don’t think the way I do when it comes to chickpeas. They saw hummus as a dessert-in-the-making. And they added some cocoa powder and some sugar (sugar! The humanity!) and they called it Chocolate Hummus.

Apparently the results are delicious and relatively healthy–you know, because of all of the CHICKPEAS that they smashed up with CHOCOLATE.

I’m sorry, but–WHA???? There are some ideas that should not be realized, people. When Herzl said, “If you will it, it is no dream,” he was not talking about hummus.

And these sweet hummus people haven’t stopped at chocolate. You can also buy the following flavored hummuses: pumpkin pie, toasted almond, peanut butter, caramel apple, and maple walnut. They’re made by a company called, I kid you not, Dessert Hummus.

Caramel Apple Hummus?! It’s just wrong.

To be fair, has reviewed these ridiculous flavors and calls them “brilliant.” This makes me think is maybe not so healthy in the head.

Some things are sacred, people. God, for instance. Also, the Torah. And: HUMMUS. Stop messing with it. Jeesh!

Finally: I challenge someone to buy a case of this dessert hummus. Bring it to the MJL offices so we can try it and I can see if my gut revulsion is warranted or not.

Posted on September 30, 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

I Probably Won’t Be A Farmer

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

Being an etrog farmer must be a tough job, especially in this economy. You know, because your product is only used for a week every year. Also, your only market is Jews and most Jews don’t even buy one.

Then again, someone has to grow them. And little known fact: They don’t all come from Israel. Just check out this hilarious video of an interview with California etrog farmer, and non-Jew, John Kirkpatrick.

Posted on September 29, 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

How Does Ice Cream Become Kosher?

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

Paul Nasrani is the owner of Adirondack Creamery, a New York State ice cream company that uses local labor and all-natural ingredients.

To celebrate his just-received kosher certification, he sent a bunch of pints of ice cream to the MJL offices, where we devoured them at a staff meeting with true journalistic impartiality (uh, we basically inhaled them). The verdict: all-natural ice cream really does taste better. Strawberry Moon tasted more like strawberries than actual strawberries do. Whiteface Mint Chip was the pint-size container equivalent of fine dining. My favorite was probably Kulfi-Pistachio Cardamom, which was spicy and soothing all at the same time, turning your mouth into a Bollywood movie that’s crunchy and sharp and smooth as, well, ice…

whiteface mint chip ice cream

But I’m digressing. Nasrani and his fellow ice creamers also use local farms and compassionate milk providers. His product travels no more than 150 miles, keeping everything local, sustainable, and fresh. And Adiarondack just received kosher certification for 7 of their 9 flavors, giving us another reason to go wild.It also gave us a prime opportunity to ask a few questions about being kosher. What does it mean? How does it happen? And does it really help sales? We dropped Mr. Nasrani a line, and he agreed to talk about all of the above and more.Paul: Hi! How was the staff meeting? How did the ice cream go over?

MJL: It was probably the best staff meeting on record.

That’s great to hear. I’ll try to get you some more of the new flavors when they come out. Maybe your next one can be even better.

Well, not to switch my first question or anything, but what new flavors?

Our seasonal flavors — we’re starting a pumpkin flavor, and a peppermint stick, that will be out in fall. Next year, we’ll be working on more wintry flavors.

When did you get started with this? Have you always worked in an ice cream-making plant?

I was in finance; I was CFO of a small/medium size staffing company. In 2001, someone had given me a small ice cream maker, and I started making it in my apartment.

As a kid, I worked on a farm. We used to make our own ice cream, just using the basic ingredients, mixing it all up at home. We used to vacation in Lake George, Pennsylvania, and there was an ice cream store there that I had great memories of. It was a hobby, and I just started to create flavors — I went to gourmet stores in the city and created flavors. My friends liked it so much that they bought me a bigger ice cream maker. I had no room for it; I had to store it in my tub. I never sold ice cream, I just gave it away.

In winter of ’03, I stumbled into Grand Central Station. There used to be an ice cream store in the basement, and they were closing, and their equipment was being foreclosed. It was a crazy auction, I had nowhere to put it, and I had to pay cash — but I did it. I stored it in a friend’s house in Jersey. Eventually, we went back to the ice cream store where I grew up, and we started a base of operations there.

paul nasraniWas the store still around?

Now it’s a part of a YMCA called Silver Bay. It’s a family conference center, it’s more than 100 years old. They didn’t make ice cream anymore, but I convinced them to let me start selling it again. In the summer of ’04, I moved up. One problem was, it was very seasonal. Except for summertime, there was no market.

The other problem was, we weren’t close to a dairy. We had to buy pre-packaged cream, so we had no input into the ingredients. I wanted to make a project that was as simple as possible — milk, cream, sugar and eggs. So I had to track down a place along the New York Throughway, along the north end.

Lo and behold, I found a dairy in Kingston, NY. I’m actually in route there now [sounds of traffic have been interspersed through the conversation]. It’s halfway between the Adirondacks and New York City. They had some ice cream equipment that they weren’t using. We just started to work together, and it’s been fantastic.

All the milk at the diary comes from a small family farm in the Hudson Valley. We started doing that in 2006-7. Then we were finally able to make the kind of ice cream we wanted to — locally-produced and all-natural.

Was it hard to become kosher?

One of the interesting things is, from the beginning, becoming kosher was an important thing for us. We knew we were in a marketplace [ice cream sales] with a significant population of kosher consumers. It took time, and investment, and…at first, we were so small that we couldn’t afford to. But some of our outlets said, we have a lot of kosher customers — if you could do this, you could gain a lot more customers.

We weren’t kosher yet, but we paid attention to the ingredients we used so, when we did go to certification, we wouldn’t have to change our ice creams. Once we were at the size that it made economical sense for us, we just kept making the same ice cream.

Did you have to choose between different kosher certifications? Were they hard to find, or did you just look up “kosher” in the phone book?

We decided on the Kof-K. We work closely with the people at Fairway, and they were kind enough to introduce us to Rabbi Rosenblum, one of the heads of Kof-K. I think all the top organizations are great, but we fit well with them — they’re family-owned and well-recognized. It was this summer that we got our certification.

Did it take a while?

It’s not that long, but it’s intensive. First you have to list all the ingredients. We’d done it before for ourselves, but they had to check our ingredients, and then our suppliers. I wasn’t that familiar with the process — there are so many different groups, and it was important to find out about them. They’re not all easily recognized.

Then we had some plant visits from the rabbis on staff. We went through an educational process for us and our staff, the history, and why it’s important. In the process, the people at K-K made it easy. It was a lot of work, and time-intensive, but it wasn’t difficult. And we learned a lot from it.

Then we had to get pieces of our equipment kosherized. We have a few specific specialty items that were hard to make kosher, some of which took a while to kosherize, and some of which we had to order new.

whiteface mint adiarondack ice creamWe had to review procedures with the rabbis. If we’re permitted to make non-kosher products, we make them on a separate day, or after, not before, making the kosher stuff. It also introduced the dairy to the kosher people, and they’ve gone through the procedure for their products, too.

How do you handle the non-kosher production?

You have to clean and sanitize the equipment. Truthfully, it’s only two flavors, Peppermint Stick and Bark Eater — that’s an English almond toffee vanilla flavor. Part of our business is that we’re local — we only sell within 150 miles of the dairy. We use local producers and local dairies, and we use these wonderful local candy companies within 10 miles of the dairy that are hard to replace . We hope that our business with them will grow so much that they’ll get their facilities certified. As I’ve learned in this business, it just takes time.

And being kosher give us another target consumer, too — people who are aware of food who may not even be Jewish, but they view the certification as another symbol of quality or cleanliness, an additional approval level.

Are there any flavors that it’s particularly hard to get certified?

No, because, you know what? We’d been aware of this as a goal. Our ingredients are of a premium level — they’re more expensive, but they’re of a better quality. Most of those are certified.

Does it really help sales?

It has already. You know what? We’re in our infancy of the launch of this. The hard part was, it wasn’t until June 19 or 20. But then we had to order our labels and packaging — it took a little while. As of mid-August, our packaging is just about completely rolled over, the stores have it. So, yes, we’ve seen sales increase — but I think we’ve only seen the beginning.

Also, I wanted to wait until the packaging was in the shelf — you’re one of the first people I’ve told. Technically, there hasn’t been any inventory. It’s all been kosher, but it hasn’t had the label. Already, in the last three weeks, it’s begun.

I do a lot of demos in stores, and people are starting to come over and take notice. And there’s a few people in my neighborhood that I actually owe phone calls to, to say to them, “Finally! It’s kosher!”

Do you have plans for the future?

The main goal of our business is, I want to make a living for my family. Ever since I’ve started, I’ve done outside work doing financial consulting to keep above ground, and I’d like to stop having to do that.

My family’s growing. We have a new baby. Our goal is to just keep the business so I don’t do anything else, and the people who work for us so they can make a little more than somewhere else. There are so many people from the Adiarondacks and the Catskills to the city that haven’t heard of us, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.

Posted on September 29, 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 Holidays on by .

I can’t wait for the weekend! I have all these great things planned! I’m going to a movie on Sunday night and this great all you can eat buffet on Monday afternoon!..Wait? What? It’s what holiday? You’re kidding. Come on…This ruins all of my plans…

That’s right. Yom Kippur is on Sunday night. With that in mind, we have put together a list of things you can do for each of the 10 Days of Repentance. What’s that? You didn’t know about this list until right now? Uhh…I guess you can do 2-3 things. God will forgive you, hopefully.

Shabbat Shuvah. Aint nuthin’ funny about that.

In the running for one of our site’s more offbeat articles, writer Neal Pollack talks about his distaste for Yom Kippur, why he doesn’t fast, and why he doesn’t believe in sin. But going to Disneyland on Yom Kippur? Unheard of.

To be a kid again. Not as amazing as you’d think. But it does have it’s perks. For one, you don’t have to fast. But if you’re a parent, these tips can show you some ways to make Yom Kippur meaningful for your non-fasting kid.

Have an easy fast!

Posted on September 25, 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

Kappara: A Poem

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

Just in case you forgot, our recent Bad Poetry Contest netted us a vast and diverse — if not encyclopedic — collection of all kinds of poetry. Joel Magalnick, the editor of Seattle’s, emailed us this choice nugget, which I asked if it was okay to reprint. We’re honored to have read it, and we really love the combination of goodness and “bad”-goodness that surrounds this poem…much like the holiday of Yom Kippur itself.


bad poetry monthAs I pick up the chicken
The bird begins its journey
Around my head. Again and again.
I twirl it faster, faster, faster.
My sins melt away with each spin
With every feather flying
Another one releases itself from my heavy heart
Faster, faster, faster
I have many sins this year
For which to atone.
And already one for the next,
For as I begin the new year
with a light heart and a heavy arm
I have killed the chicken.
I have killed the chicken.

Posted on September 25, 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

10 Days to a Better You: Days 7-10

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

With Yom Kippur bearing down on us, and the promise that only “repentance, prayer, and charity can alter the severity of the decree” you might be feeling like it’s a good time to start doing a little better. But being a better person can be a daunting task. Here at MyJewishLearning we put together 10 easy things you can do right away that will help you do better and feel better as you get ready for the Day of Atonement, and we’ve been unveiling a new suggestion every day. Today we present tips for Today, Saturday, Sunday and Yom Kippur itself. Shabbat Shalom and good luck!

Missed tips 1-6? Find them here.Donate_blood.jpg

7. Donate blood. Sign up to be a bone marrow donor, and tell your family if you’re okay with being an organ donor.

8. Donate airline miles that are about to expire to military families trying to visit injured soldiers overseas.

9. Bring your business card to Kol Nidre, and give it to three new faces you see in the crowd. Tell them you want to welcome them to the community, and ask if they want to join you for a meal sometime.

10. Think of the stupidest or most embarrassing thing you’ve done in the past year. Then apologize to someone to make it better — even if it’s yourself.

Posted on September 25, 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

Wise Fridays: Do-It-Yourself Inscribing

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Holidays on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the reception on your WiFri

“Inscribe us in the Book of Life.” This must be understood in a spiritual sense. When a man clings to the love of God, and puts his trust in His infinite mercy, he takes upon himself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven and therewith inscribes himself in the Book of Life. Whereas the man, a slave of his passions, who so loses his belief in the all-embracing love of God that he fails to repent and return to his Father in heaven, his despair of the love of God is equivalent to his being inscribed — God forbid — in the Book of Death.

The Baal Shem Tov

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on September 25, 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

Ahmadin-A-Palooza II

This entry was posted in History, Israel on by .

This week’s UN Summit means a lot of things for a lot of people. For some, it is a chance to discuss climate change. For others, it is a opportunity to take a picture with the President of Nicaragua. For me, though, it is a time for me to be crass and make fun of real world issues. That’s right, it’s time for the second annual running diary of the anti-Ahmadinejad rally at the United Nations (Check out last year’s diary here). It should be noted that while I agree with everything the rally stands for, the scene is just too hilarious to pass up making fun of.

ahmadinejad rally 11:30- The rally is scheduled to begin at noon. Yet, even with living in New York for over a year (and having been to the rally last year), I have no clue where Dag Hammarskjold Square is. This is honestly the first time I’ve been lost in New York. But I have a plan. Follow the kippahs. The men in kippahs will bring me to the promised land.

11:38- I’ve spotted a college age kid with a Jew-fro and a Guster t-shirt handing out flyers. Yep, I found the rally. It’s strange though. It is supposed to start in 20 or so minutes, and the square is surprisingly empty. I’m guessing the rally is planned on Jewish time.

11:52- I’m a little worried. The real highlights of last year’s rally were the insane signs people brought. (Who can forget the infamous “McCaine-Palin ’08” sign?) So far, the signs are pretty generic (Israel is here to stay…yada yada yada).

11:55- Our wonderful intern Jordanna informed me yesterday that she would be standing on the stage, with her mouth taped, holding a sign about people who are oppressed in Iran. I promised that I wouldn’t make fun of her. But I never promised I wouldn’t make fun of the other people on stage! Sorry! Here is one of the other signs on stage: “I’m a woman and in Iran I get stoned.” That’s right. There are no women left in Iran. They have all been stoned.

11:56- A couple of girls near me are chanting, “Hey, hey. Ho, Ho. Ahmadinejad has got to go!” It sucks that Ahmadinejad’s name is so long. We need to figure out some chant that can account for a five syllable last name. Anyone have any suggestions?

11:57- Let me describe the scene a little bit. The square actually has filled up quite a bit. And there are tons of pro-Israel signs. Honestly, I’m surrounded by them in every direction. I just did a 360 degree turn and all I see is blue and white. This makes the following statement by the woman next to me all the more hilarious: “The best thing about this rally is that it isn’t Jewish.”

11:58- The rally hasn’t even officially started and I have to go to the bathroom and I’m starved. This is going to be a long day. Honestly, why aren’t there falafel and schwarma stands set up here? This seems like the worst business decision by the kosher food industry since moving to Postville.

12:00- The rally has started with the American National Anthem. I’m a little disappointed that Jordin Sparks isn’t doing it. And in all seriousness, the amount of signs surrounding me has made me claustrophobic. I can’t see anything in any direction past five feet. I need to move back.

12:01- First insane sign of the day (don’t worry, many more to follow)! “Eichmann bin Jihad” with a picture of Ahmadinejad. Eichmann son of Holy War? Come on, at least be egalitarian! “Eichmann bin Jihad wa Crusades.” See, now we include everyone in a statement that makes zero sense.

12:04- Another great sign: “First Taiwan, Now Israel?” Hey, if that implies cheap knockoff bags and sunglasses made in Israel, I’m all for it.

12:07- Speaker refers to Al-Quds Day as “Israel’s Anti-Israel Day.” I’m not totally sure if Israel sponsors that day, but then again, I’m no expert.

12:08- And we have ourselves a slogan for the day! “Free Iran Now” is led from the stage. I’m sure we will be hearing this a lot. The speaker then reads off all the sponsors for the event. He finishes off by saying “…and 10,000 other organizations.” Is this an anti-Iran rally or a pro-Minnesota rally?

12:11- Second “Free Iran Now” chant. That didn’t take long.

12:15- A religious leader (I forget from where, I wasn’t paying attention), in one sentence says how proud we should be that we live in a country where anyone can speak no matter what they believe and that we should do everything in our power to make sure Qadafi and Ahmadinejad are not allowed to speak next year. Just pointing that out.

12:24- We are already on “Free Iran Now” chant #6. I’ll tell you this much though. One thing I’ve noticed this year is that people just aren’t into it as much as last year. Maybe it was the election that was getting people all fired up but there is an obvious decrease in anger in the crowd. All the chants are kind of weak. Most people are just talking to each other.

12:25- Last year, I tried to count the different pronunciations of Ahmadinejad. This year, a New York city councilwoman has taken it to another level. She referred to the Iranian President as “the man with the name I can’t pronounce.” Seriously, we couldn’t get a council member who knew Ahmadinejad’s name?

12:28- Just as I thought I was getting bored, my man, Irwin Cotler, my Member of Parliament back in Montreal, gets up to speak. He is just a fantastic speaker. Incredibly intelligent, eloquent and passionate. But he disappoints me yet again: Two years in a row and you don’t use Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof!? That’s your line Irwin. I’ve heard you say it 100 times! Why go away from something that works so well?

12:30- I’m gonna go find some crazy people. Oohhh. Here we go. “Obama is Hitler.” Jackpot. Just as I get near the guy, a young, relatively normal looking woman comes up to him and says she loves his sign and asks permission to hold his extra one! I’m flabergasted.

12:31- My favorite line on the second sign? “78% of Jews thought Roosevelt was our friend.” You tell ‘em! FDR and Hitler were in cahoots! Wait, huh?

12:33- The key is to get out of the front of the rally. All the crazy people are chilling further back. How about this sign? “Who are Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod?” You needed to come to a rally to ask that? It’s called Wikipedia buddy.

12:35- There is a man wearing a shirt that says “Free Southern Cameroon!” Seriously, Ahmadinejad. What do you have against Southern Cameroon?

12:40- The chant this time is “Stop Iran Now.” Wait, a sec. Are we trying to free Iran or stop Iran? These two statements seem diametrically opposed.

12:41- A message to shomer negiah girls. If you don’t want me to touch you, get out of my way. You don’t seem impure to me. So, I have no issues pushing you out of the way.

12:45- The most rational sign there: “Gilad is still alive.” Amen.

12:46- Did anyone see the Emmys this year? I say this because the format for the rally is much like this year’s Emmys. At the Emmys, they split the show up into five categories, with Comedy and Drama at the beginning and the end, and the three boring categories stuck in the middle. That is the only way to explain why Gov. David Patterson would speak before New York’s State Comptroller. “And now for your main event, the guy who you just heard’s assistant!”

neturei karta12:50- Wassup Neturei Karta.

12:51- Last year, I compared the Neturei Karta guys to zombies praying for brains. I’d like to change that to a less funny, yet more appropriate comparison. They look like they belong in Madame Tousaud’s. They are standing completely still (except for the one guy who started yelling at some kid in the crowd, only to be told by the guy next to him that he was being inappropriate. Yeah, the Neturei Karta have standards) and everyone just stands right in front of them and takes pictures.

12:53- My biggest issue with these guys are their glasses. Seriously, they need to have a fashion update. They look like Martin Starr in Freaks & Geeks.

12:55- I’m at my end. Call me a bad journalist. I don’t care. I really need to pee. I’m leaving. The crazy part is, looking back at last year’s rally, I actually made it to 1:45. How did I do that?

To be fair, and to not look like Max Blumenthal, I would say that almost everyone at the rally was relatively normal and was there to support a worthy cause. I’m just an immature kid who likes to make fun of people who don’t deserve it.

Posted on September 24, 2009

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Return of the Brooklyn Chickens

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

I still have mixed feelings about Kaparot

On one hand, the pre-Yom Kippur ritual where we transfer our sins onto some unsuspecting other is completely spiritual. We’re purging ourselves — but, more than that, we’re taking the bad parts from ourselves and doing some good with it. By transferring our sins to a five-dollar bill (me) or a chicken (the in-laws) and then giving it to a poor family for Sukkot dinner, we’re embodying all three stages of repentance in one: teshuvah (saying we’re sorry), tefilah (praying), and tzedakah (charity).

On the other — well, what did that poor chicken do to you?

kaporot in Crown Heights

Read the rest of my kapparot commentary from last year — and check out some righteous photos of Hasidim and chickens — right here.

Posted on September 24, 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

Sukkot On the Run

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

One thing I’ve always wondered about the holiday of Sukkot: If the makeshift tabernacles that we’re commanded to erect are supposed to function as our houses, then why do we spend so much damn time in them?

Let’s review. We’re commanded to go into the sukkah any time we want to eat. When we sleep. When we hang out with our friends. You know — all the stuff that, normally, would be done at home, we do in a sukkah. Basically, for one week of our lives, we run a 24-hour marathon between our normal lives and our little palm-covered huts.

sukkot on the run

However, here are the most frequent locations where those actions take place for me:

Eating: At my desk at work, and/or walking down the street.
Sleeping: Subway, riding home from work.
Hanging out: Gmail’s little chat windows.

To be fair, I could definitely accomplish the last one while inside a sukkah. But the others? Not so house-intensive, for the rest of the year. Last year, I was so busy that, instead of trekking to have my lunch at the beautiful (but impractical) West Side Synagogue all the way on 9th Avenue, I just didn’t eat.

This year, I’m going to try to do it different. In our prayers, Sukkot is called “zman simchatenu,” which translates to “the time of our rejoicing (or, if you’re feeling literal, “happy time”). In the times of the Temple, everyone traveled to Jerusalem to bring their harvest offerings.

It really was a vacation time — or, at least, it was as close to a vacation as the Children of Israel got in those days. Even though there are five work-days crammed right in the middle of Sukkot between the first days and Shemini Atzeret, it’s not supposed to be a return to our dreary business of working and running and not-eating-until-9-p.m. — it’s God demanding that, even when we return to our between-holidays lives, we bring a little bit of the holiday with us. And if I have to take a little bit longer to run out to the sukkah and get back, and put my mind in a different mental space just as I put my body in a different physical space…well, that’s putting the “moed” in “hol hamoed,” I guess.

(Note to bosses: I’m not actually going to take a two-hour lunch, I promise. Er…every day.)

Posted on September 24, 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