Monthly Archives: February 2011

Win a Gorgeous Jewish Cookbook!

This entry was posted in Culture, Texts on by .

Here at MJL we are very proud of our frequent contributor and generally awesome friend Leah Koenig, whose cookbook, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen is coming out on March 8th. We have a copy here in the office, so I can say with authority that the book is drop-dead gorgeous. Filled with warm photos of scrumptious recipes, part of me just wants to read it, like a picture book for food porn lovers. But then it’s also full of fantastic recipes–recipes that are easy, relaxed, creative, and perfect for anyone who loves classy, interesting, and fun Jewish food. Paging through it, here are the top five recipes I will be making post haste:
Drunken Vegetable Chili
Orzo and Pinto Bean Salad
Ginger Sesame Baked Tempeh
Brownies with Pomegranate Whipped Cream
Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins

And there are so many fantastic options to choose from.

Other wonderful things about this cookbook: It’s hardcover, and lays flat, so consulting with it while you’re cooking doesn’t mean madly fumbling for pages

Did I mention the photography? I am seriously considering eating the book.

The layout and design are beautiful, simple, and easy to follow. Each recipe is also clearly marked as dairy, meat, or pareve for easy menu planning, and a section in the back collects all of each kind of recipe, so you can easily look at all of the meat dishes and decide which one works best for you tonight. The book also contains suggested menus, ingredient sources, and a handy measurement conversion chart.

Want to win a signed copy of this amazing cookbook? Of course you do! Leave a comment on this blog post by March 9th telling us your favorite thing to cook for a weekday meal. We’ll pick one winner at random to receive this awesome prize. If you aren’t lucky enough to win, you can buy your own copy online here.

See all of Leah’s recipes on MyJewishLearning here.

Looking for a Jewish Holiday cookbook? Try The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook: Traditional Recipes from Contemporary Kosher Kitchens by Joan Nathan.

Good luck, and happy cooking!

Posted on February 28, 2011

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 Poetry Conspiracy

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Aaron Roller is an editor of Mimaamakim,a journal of Jewish religious poetry and art. Their new issue was just released. He will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning’s Author Blog.

The very notion of creating one magazine to house “Jewish poetry” doesn’t seem to make any sense. Jews wrote poetry in medieval Spain. Other Jews wrote Yiddish poetry as the Enlightenment made its way to Eastern Europe. There were poets among the early Zionists, just as there were among early Jewish immigrants living in New York’s Lower East Side.

What justifies grouping these seemingly disparate poets together? They wrote in different languages, in different forms about different topics. They range from the the greatest defenders of faith to those who struggled with belief to those who gave up on G-d completely.

So what is Jewish poetry?

While not every poem written by someone who’s born a Jew counts as Jewish poetry, there is a larger conversation linking Jewish poets beyond a mere accident of birth. An awareness of Jewishness (whether manifested as pride, guilt or piety), a questioning of what it means to be Jewish, a feeling of interconnectedness with other Jews throughout both time and space and the willingness to employ (or inability to avoid) Jewish references (whether Biblical, liturgical or philosophical) all mark a Jewish poet.

Consider Allen Ginsberg, one of the most famous American poets of the last century, and a Jew more likely to chant “Hare Krishna” than “Shema Yisroel.” And yet, when faced with the death of his mother, Ginsburg responded with a poem entitled “Kaddish.” Ginsberg’s “Kaddish” jumps between fragmentary recollections of his mother’s life as a Jewish girl on the Lower East Side (“… I walk toward the Lower East Side — where you walked 50 years ago, little girl”), his own overheated experience (“I’ve been up all night, talking, talking, reading the Kaddish aloud, listening to Ray Charles blues shout blind on the phonograph”) and an appeal to G-d (“Take this, this Psalm, from me, burst from my hand in a day, some of my Time, now given to Nothing–to praise Thee–But Death”).

By attempting to make sense of the traditional prayer of mourning and put it into his own terms, Ginsberg enters the conversation of other writers (and mourners) who have tried to understand the Kaddish (other American poets who have written poems called “Kaddish” include Charles Reznikoff and David Ignatow). By recollecting his mother’s life, Ginsberg is placing her — and, by extension, himself  — within the larger Jewish experience.

What we’ve tried to do with Mima’amakim is to show you the variety, the strength and the diversity of Jewish poetry today. The new issue include poems and stories in three languages, and writing and art from writers from four continents, and of all different ages and religious backgrounds.

The new issue of Mimaamakim is now available. Come back all week to read Aaron Roller’s blog posts on the Jewish Authors Blog.

himself

Posted on February 28, 2011

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 Week

This entry was posted in General on by .

You might be asking yourself, really? Is this really the best of the week? And the answer is yes. Nothing comes close to being better than this material.

According to Jewish law, if a beggar approaches you to ask for food, you are required to oblige. Read more about the Jewish laws surrounding providing shelter and food to the needy.

Trivia: What is the oldest Jewish population in Europe? Give up? I’m not going to give you the answer. Okay fine, it’s Rome. Read all about the Jews of Rome.

Some parents have a custom of writing an ethical will for their children–telling them how to properly live their lives. If I ever write one, the first line will read, “For the love of all things, don’t pee the bed. I’m not cleaning it up.”

Alrighty then! See y’all (not ya’ll) on Monday.

Posted on February 25, 2011

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

Old, Yes. Pure? At Your Own Risk

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

If you normally go to a mikveh, I assume that you would want it to be nice, clean, and if you’re fancy, even a little sleek. So while this story that I read from the Los Angeles Times is cool, it doesn’t mean that I would want to participate in a ritual cleanse there any time soon.

The fine folks of Baltimore, Maryland have discovered what they believe to be the oldest mikveh in the United States. Archeologists were excavating the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue when they discovered a small wooden bath. They figured that the mikveh is from about 1845.

Now, you might be trying to figure out why exactly was it so hard to find a mikveh that was only built in 1845. Here’s what the article had to say about that:

When the congregation expanded its synagogue to the rear in 1860, it tore down the old mikvah house, filled in the bath and buried it beneath the addition. The dig has turned up a wealth of artifacts in the fill dirt — broken wine bottles, crockery, buttons and other domestic items — none dating later than 1860.

So there you go. I’m sure the owners of the second oldest mikveh in the United States are pretty pissed right now–but don’t mind them. They are cranky.

And again, a reminder–please don’t go in that mikveh.

Posted on February 25, 2011

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: The Most Love

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Life on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the     reception on  your WiFri

“The highest position in the love of people must be taken by the love of man, and it must extend to all men despite all differences of opinion, religion and faith, despite all distinctions of race and climate.”

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on February 25, 2011

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

Baruch Hashem!

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

I say Baruch Hashem a lot. It means, basically, thank God, and since I went to a very religious high school I got used to using that expression to punctuate all of my conversations. Baruch Hashem, I got a good parking spot! Baruch Hashem, I totally aced my gemara final.

Here are some other completely appropriate uses for Baruch Hashem:
Baruch Hashem, Rabbi Cohen didn’t notice that my skirt is totally not tznius.
Baruch Hashem, my matzah balls came out so fluffy!
Baruch Hashem, I met some really cute yeshiva boys on Ben-Yehuda last night.
Baruch Hashem, I got awesome tickets to the Justin Bieber concert.
Baruch Hashem, the protests in Egypt were successful.
Baruch Hashem, I am getting really good at the Dougie.
Baruch Hashem, I’ve seen 7 of the 10 Best Picture nominees.
Baruch Hashem, my barista gave me extra foam.
Baruch Hashem, I got totally awesome deals at the YU Seforim sale.

Something to not say baruch hashem about? When you google baruch hashem the first things that come up are almost all shuls for non-Jews, who I guess are really into saying Baruch Hashem. I don’t get it.

Finally, one more thing to say baruch hashem (and, obviously, mazel tov) about:

Posted on February 24, 2011

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

A Quick Oscar Reminder

This entry was posted in General on by .

The Oscars are coming up on Sunday and I guess I’m excited. I haven’t really seen that many movies this year and I’m pretty sure Hot Tub Time Machine didn’t get any nominations. I know, it’s unfair.

This morning though, I read an interview with Bruce Vilanch, the Jewish comedy writer who has been involved with writing the Oscars for years. He talks a lot about how to write for specific hosts and the delicate nature of writing jokes about touchy subjects.

Reading that section of the interview, I could help but be reminded of the amazing joke Steve Martin told last year in reference to Inglorious Basterds. I believe we’ve posted this video on the blog before but I think it’s worth watching again.

Posted on February 23, 2011

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

Don’t Compare Yourself to the Gestapo

This entry was posted in History, Life on by .

You know what I try to avoid? Calling myself a Nazi. I mean, for one thing, it would be false advertising, because I’m not a Nazi. Also, it would be stupid, because Nazis have a poor reputation (allegedly?).

But a health care worker named Nadine Powell, in England, isn’t quite as Nazi-savvy as I am. Powell was in a meeting with a psychotherapist who had been fired from her job after being accused of acting inappropriately to a vulnerable adult. She told the psychotherapist, Judy Williams (pictured at right), “If someone was of strong Jewish faith then you would not expect them to work in the Gestapo as they would not fit.”

Later on Williams was reinstated at her job and awarded a large settlement fee when the judge in her case heard what Powell had said to her.

Here’s what I don’t get about all this: in Powell’s analogy Williams is a Jew (which she is in real life) and Powell is a member of the Gestapo. Why would anyone make that analogy? It’s crazy! It’s Nazi-level psychotic.

So I say congratulations to Williams on getting her job back. And to Powell I say: that Gestapo uniform makes you look like a doomed fascist.

Posted on February 23, 2011

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

Why I Suddenly Understand Queen Esther

This entry was posted in Holidays, Life on by .

Sometimes I wonder what I would write about if I wasn’t Jewish and my mother hadn’t died. It’s kind of a weird question to ask yourself–what would you be like if you lost the central points of your identity? (I recognize that it sounds weird that my mother’s death counts as a central point of my identity, but to be completely honest, it was a life-changing event. I think it’s fair (if depressing) to say that everything I’ve done since I found out my mother was dying has been deeply affected by her illness and death.)

We like to imagine people losing their identity as a kind of magical or surreal event that happens on soap operas (amnesia) and Jason Bourne movies (government plot) and that awesome old show The Pretender. And it can be fun to imagine what it would be like if you woke up in someone else’s body, or with someone elses’s life. But we recognize, even in silly comedies (Freaky Friday) and soap operas, that losing your identity has to be scary and upsetting and confusing. Our lives are richly layered things, and when you suck out the bottom five or six layers you leave people shaky and unmoored.

Thinking through all this, I had this sudden revelation for why I’ve begun to connect with and enjoy Purim in the last few years. It used to be a holiday that made me roll my eyes. It just seemed…dumb (except for mishloach manot, which I’ve always thought are awesome). But of course, now I like Purim because its central character, Esther, is a Jewish woman whose parents died, and who has to pretend to be not-Jewish. She is forced to do away with huge chunks of her identity. And then, just as quickly, she is asked to own them again. And that’s what makes the Book of Esther such a compelling read to me, now. It’s about unforming and reforming identity.

There is not much that I really have in common with Queen Esther–I am not the hottest or sexiest girl in my city-state, I am not married to a drunk, I do not live in a harem, I am not friends with a eunuch, and my people are not at risk of being massacred. But the Purim story isn’t really about those things anyway. It’s about figuring out how to leverage your own identity to get what you need for yourself and the people you care about. It’s a pretty dark message, but one that I can appreciate as remarkably relatable.

Posted on February 23, 2011

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

A New Jewish Bieber?

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Life on by .

I had someone send me this video featuring the 12-year-old Edan Pinchot singing a version of “Imagine” for an NCSY Auction fundraiser. After giving it a couple of listens (and by a couple, I mean a good two hours on repeat yesterday morning), I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.

First, kid’s got a great voice. No doubting that.

Second, no other youth group could ever pull this video off. Ever. I was super involved in USY (ie. super popular in high school–at least on weekends) and we just didn’t take ourselves this seriously. “Imagine” is usually reserved for actual, serious issues like AIDS in Africa. This video makes it seem like NCSY is about to cave in or something and only Edan Pinchot can save it.

Not that the video doesn’t work. If you’re trying to raise money for your cause, then dude, this video is perfect. I almost felt compelled to donate $18. It’s just so cheesy that it works.

Finally, and this is probably my favorite part, the video title refers to Edan as the “Jewish Justin Bieber.” This probably was a ploy to get more hits on YouTube (similar to how this post is called “A New Jewish Bieber?”), however, that’s not my real problem. My issue is why we are forcing Edan to be compared to Justin Bieber in the first place?

Edan is clearly the man and needs his own category. To channel my best Randy Jackson, that kid can blow, dawg. Just give him a listen and you tell me that he is merely a Jewish Justin Bieber (again, this is all so I can get traffic to this post. Justin Bieber is awesome. Justin Bieber).

Also, I thought Justin Bieber was already Jewish.

Posted on February 22, 2011

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