Monthly Archives: November 2009

Don’t Tease Me, Bro

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

I’m just going to say it. It’s wrong that there are so many Jewish restaurants out there that aren’t kosher. It’s wrong and it’s unfair. No, it’s not that I have issues with Jews owning non-kosher restaurants. To each their own. But you tease me. You all tease me with your wonderfully looking Jewish, yet non-kosher, meat.

I was just reading MJL’s new article on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and I came across an amazing fact about Sammy’s Roumanian Steak House. On their tables, they provide a syrup-like container of schmaltz. You heard me, plain old rendered chicken fat.

Now, as far as I can tell, Sammy’s is not kosher. Which is a shame. Because as this video shows (video contains language. Viewer discretion advised), the rendered chicken fat is for real. And it looks wonderfully gluttonous.

Posted on November 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

How the IDF Makes Jelly Doughnuts

This entry was posted in Holidays, Israel on by .

I don’t know why I’m so into Hanukkah food demonstration videos today. Actually, maybe I do. Probably because I’m really hungry. Maybe I should have lunch. But in the meantime, check out this video of chefs from the Israeli Army making doughnuts for Hanukkah. It’s in Hebrew, but the audio is not so good and anyway you just want to see how they do it. Yummy.

Posted on November 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

The New Settlement Freeze

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

Amos Harel points out that “in practice … there will be nearly no change in settlement construction, at least not in the coming months”–because 2,500 housing units under construction can be completed, a further 490 units were recently approved, and settlers themselves have started many unauthorized units. In addition, 28 new public buildings in the settlements were just authorized. (Ha’aretz)

Substantial criticism of the settlement freeze is coming from members of Netanyahu’s government, including many from his own party. (Jerusalem Post)

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told the security cabinet that there is no real way to enforce the freeze with just 14 building inspectors in the West Bank, so more will be added. (Ha’aretz)

But heads of West Bank local councils and heads of the Yesha Council have decided to ban the entrance of those Civil Administration inspectors enforcing the construction moratorium, and have agreed not to cooperate on any level with the Civil Administration. (YNet News)

And right-wing leaders denounce the plan, and set plans of resistance. (Ha’aretz)

Barry Rubin says the freeze will accomplish nothing because nothing Israel does will ever satisfy the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)

And Yoram Ettinger argues the freeze will actually make matters much worse. (YNet News)

Posted on November 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

How to Write a Hanukkah Song

This entry was posted in Culture, Holidays on by .

The rest of the world is still eons away from Hanukkah. If you’re super-prepared — like my mother, for instance — you’re just starting to think about buying Hanukkah presents*. If you’re like me, you’ll realize on December 1 that Hanukkah starts on December 11, and think you have tons of time, and then on December 11, as Shabbat is starting, you’ll totally freak out that you haven’t bought anyone presents yet.

But this year is different than all other years. Why, you ask? Because I wrote a Hanukkah song.

the hanukkah projectI sat down with my songwriting partner, Mista Cookie Jar, months ago. At first I wasn’t sure which direction we were going to take. How could I? It was early November, still basically Halloween. Anyway, my thoughts were a lot closer to shofars and sukkahs than menorahs and Maccabees. It’s exactly like department stores that put up Christmas trees in early fall, or hosts who put out dessert while you’re still eating dinner. By which I mean to say: you’re not in the right head space.

So, when my friend Patrick Aleph of the Southern Jewish punk band Can!!Can came knocking — one of his friends, Amanda from The Bachelorettes, wanted to put together a Southern Hanukkah record — we had to rise to the call of duty. (I’m from Philly, but Cookie Jar is from West Virginia, and we both like grits.) It’s true that, in my slam-poetry gigs, I do a poem called Dreidel Maven (download the mp3 free!), and I perform it year-round. I also have a chapbook called Dreidel Spinning Champion of the Universe, but the title refers more to being a twelve-year-old boy than to the divine miracle of everlasting olive oil.

So we could go in the direction of kitsch. And, fortunately, Hanukkah is replete with kitsch: menorahs, latkes, sufganiyot, gelt, even chintzy Maccabee costumes. And, closely related, the direction of cheesy rhymes, which Adam Sandler pioneered, and subsequently ruined for all other potential Hanukkah songwriters, ever.

But you know what? Adam Sandler can keep it. I didn’t want to rhyme Hanukkah with Veronica or harmonica or marijuanica or anything else. I wanted to write about something cool. Something indie. Something revolutionary.

The story of Hanukkah is a hard one, though — for all that religious people insist that we’re not celebrating a military victory, it sounds suspiciously like we’re doing just that. A lot of people died. There was a Maccabee army. Sure, they were fighting for freedom, but it was still fighting. Like it or not, we killed people. And it wasn’t pleasant.

It got me thinking, though. If the Maccabees existed today, what in the world would they do? Would they be guerrilla soldiers? Social-networking hackers? Marketing pundits? One pop hook later, and after a lot of sugar inhalation, and we got our song: The Maccababies. It’s a little frenetic, a little crazy, and a little can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head-y, if I do say so myself.

What did we end up with? Well, you can listen to it here. Or you can buy the compilation CD — made by a bunch of awesome kids in Jackson, Mississippi, with a hand-screened cover, and including temporary tattoos and a dreidel and gelt — for $10.

While I’d like to think that our song still conveys the spirit, celebration, and giddiness of Hanukkah, it might not call to mind that same vision of snow flurries as “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” or “Jingle Bell Rock.” Maybe just because it doesn’t have jingling bells or kitschy rhymes. Or maybe because, when we started writing it, it was still 65 degrees and sunny outside.

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* – Hi, Mom! If you’re reading this: A new camera, the final volume of X-Statix, and socks. No, not socks.

Posted on November 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

Hanukkah Countdown Begins: Korean Latke Recipe

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

We’re officially in the countdown to Hanukkah. As far as I’m concerned that means one thing, and one thing only: the excuse to eat fried foods is getting ever closer. Hooray!

You may associate latkes with your Bubbe, but since I’ve been living in Manhattan I’ve discovered Korean cuisine, which often includes a first cousin of the latke called kamja jeon. Check out this video with a latke tutorial, and a discussion of how similar the Japanese invasion of Korea was to the Greek invasion of Israel. Who knew?

Posted on November 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

Wise Fridays: Learning to Lie

This entry was posted in Life, Practices on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the reception on your WiFri

One should not promise a child something, and then not give it to him, because as a result, the child will learn to lie.
–BT Sukkah 46b

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on November 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

Keep It Rollin’!

This entry was posted in General on by .

Thank you everyone! As I wrote yesterday, we are on a campaign to raise $10,000. And we are doing it in a way that makes it easy for everyone to participate. We are only asking for you to give $2. That’s not a lot of money. It’s less than a large coffee at Starbucks (man they are expensive!).

mjl appeal We’ve only been at this for one day and we’ve already raised over $2600! That’s pretty crazy!

But not crazy enough. Oh no. Not crazy enough at all. We still got about $7500 to go! So please, make a tax deductible donation to MyJewishLearning.com today. Remember, it’s only $2.

Posted on November 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

I’m Not Used To This

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

Our intern Jordanna just expressed to me a feeling that I’ve had since this morning. She said that she is feeling rushed, trying to send as many e-mails and phone calls that she can before the day ends. Then she realized something. Thanksgiving isn’t a Jewish holiday.

I couldn’t agree with this feeling more. All day, I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to where to shul tonight and tomorrow and if I have enough undershirts. But then it occurs to me that tomorrow is just a Thursday! I can do whatever I want tomorrow!

I gotta say, we should have non-Jewish holidays more often. Good meals. Football. Family around. Electricity! No Musaf!

What could be better? Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Posted on November 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

The Jewish Music Woodstock

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

How do you discover great Jewish music?

I’m not talking about Barbra Streisand or Yossele Rosenblatt — or, no, not even Bob Dylan’s Christmas album. I mean real Jewish music, Jewish music that hits you straight in the gut, new and current and unlike anything you — or anyone else — has ever heard before.

jeremiah sway machineryFrom talking to Jeremiah of The Sway Machinery and Alan and Miriam of Stereo Sinai, I’ve been learning how, increasingly, it’s at these small music festivals. At places like this, you get Jewish music giants like Andy Statman and Debbie Friedman sharing stages with up-and-coming bands like…well, like Jeremiah and Stereo Sinai. It’s a kind of musical democracy that doesn’t really exist in the Jewish-music mainstream (yes, there is such a thing). And it really gives you the opportunity to discover the next Nirvana while they’re still playing mostly basements.

In a way, I’m exaggerating. But in a way I’m not. Virtually all the best Jewish music is being made by people you’ve never heard of. So here’s a chance to hear of them.

And here’s also the chance to be them. Right now, the Washington Jewish Music Festival is accepting submissions from artists. If you can manage to be around the Capital area from June 6-13, I’d certainly plan on it. And if you play music, you should start planning now — email Lili Kalish Gersch or check out the site for details.

And keep your eyes peeled! The next Sway Machinery could be standing right behind you. Or jamming right in front of you.

Oh, and one unrelated thing: my band, Chibi Vision, is on a new Hanukkah compilation. It’s hand-designed and there’s only 200 in existence, so order it now!

Posted on November 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

Hosting A Guest Minus the Food

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

I’ve been thinking a lot about food politics lately, not so much in relation to legislation, but  related to how political eating can be. Where will we eat, and where won’t we eat? Who do we we worry about offending if we don’t eat?
hosting_guests_fb_86031928.jpg
Recently my friend was telling me about a meal she was at where one guest ate only challah. It was a vegetarian meal, and he claimed not to like vegetables. So, he ate challah, and everyone else chowed down. This guy sounds like kind of a jerk, but still. It made me think about ways to be a good host when you can’t feed someone.

When kashrut is an issue, it’s not too rare to be in a situation where someone might want to show you hospitality, but where you might not be comfortable eating in his house. Or what about if you’re fasting, for religious, or medical reasons? The point is, there has to be a way of showing true hospitality without showering a person in food. But my mind is stuck in Jewish mama mode and I just cannot imagine how it would work. Any ideas?

Posted on November 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