Author Archives: Tamar Fox

Some Good News From Israel

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

I don’t write about Israel much because writing about Israel is about as fun (for me) as kneeling on the floor and butting my head up on the bottom of my desk. But every once in a while you get a nice story coming out of Israel, and perhaps because of the contrast, it’s especially fun to draw attention to something awesome, like a call center in Israel staffed by mentally and physically challenged adults. Some are Jewish, some are Arab, and all are productive. It’s great to see ways that Israel innovates in the workplace, and supports people with mental and physical disabilities.

According to the No Camels blog:

An Israeli psychologist, Gil Winch, has founded a call-center staffed mostly with disabled Israeli and Arab adults, who otherwise have difficulties finding work. Winch says the worker’s productivity is very high and the amazing business-model, based on parental support, has attracted interest from people all around the world.

Watch the video:

Posted on July 8, 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

Try a Vegetarian Shabbat

This entry was posted in Culture, Life on by .

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost twenty years, but I’m intentionally chill about it. I won’t eat meat or poultry but I never tell anyone they should follow my lead. I honestly don’t care if other people are carnivores or not as long as my plate stays meat-free. But I have to be honest and say that reading this article in the Harvard Business Review did make me feel a weensie bit self righteous. The article says that if you want to reduce your carbon footprint you can try eating local, but even if everything you buy is local, you’ll still do better by just cutting the meat out of your diet.

•    Food is transported a long way, going about 1,000 miles in delivery and over 4,000 miles across the supply chain.
•    But 83% of the average U.S. household’s carbon footprint for food comes from growing and producing it. Transportation is only 11%.
•    Different foods have vastly different greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity, with meat requiring far more energy to produce, and red meat being particularly egregious, requiring 150% more energy than even chicken.
So the journal article adds this up to an obvious conclusion: if you want to reduce your food’s carbon footprint, eat less meat. In short, “Shifting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more GHG reduction than buying all locally sourced food.”

So if you’re trying to compensate for all the air conditioning you’re using this summer by using a bit less fossil fuels in other parts of your life, how about having a vegetarian Shabbat this week? Here at MJL we already have a nice little database of Vegetarian Entrees, but here are four more of my favorites:

Veggie Chili with Cornbread Baked on Top
Spanikopita
Feta Phyllo Torte
Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

What are your favorite vegetarian Shabbat entrees?

Posted on June 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

Win a Copy of The Book of New Israeli Food

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

I know that you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I often do. And from the looks of it, The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur is a stellar volume. It is chock full of mind-bogglingly gorgeous pictures. Every recipe looks like the most scrumptious tasting thing you’ve ever laid eyes on, and there are lots of brilliant photographs of life in Israel—restaurants, market places, people making and eating classic Jewish foods, and generally reveling in the amazing cuisine of the Holy Land. And on top of THAT the recipes are phenomenal. A good mix of really basic and more complex recipes for a seasoned chefs. Everything from chicken soup to honey cake to lentil and vegetable soup to Shakshuka with Sausages.

This is a book that you will want to keep on your coffee table because it’s so beautiful, but paging through it will make you want to run to kitchen to start cooking. And you—yes, you!—could be the lucky person to wrestle with that dilemma. You can win a copy of The Book of New Israeli Food.

To win, just leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite Israeli food. Winner will be selected on Friday June 24th, so be sure to leave your comment before then.

Good luck!

Posted on June 16, 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

How to Help a Sick Friend

This entry was posted in Life on by .

A few months before my mother died, someone bought us a  gong (someone else bought us a pretty painted tambourine, but that’s another story). The gong was sent because we were having a problem with people coming over to visit and staying too long. And by too long, I mean for four hours.

I will be the first to say that we really really appreciated all the love and support we got from our community, and visitors were incredibly important to keeping my whole family—not just my mother—from going crazy during the horrific business of dying. Still, it could get overwhelming. Also, this might be rude, but we like some people more than others. A lot more. And when some of the less fun people came over to chat and stayed for more than about twenty minutes, I found myself getting a wee bit stabby. My mother could legitimately take a nap or close her eyes in the middle of a conversation. I did not really have that option. So, a friend sent over a gong, and when we’d had enough of the hordes of visitors, we banged the gonged and ushered people out. I think we only did this once, but people got the point, and started shortening their visits to a more manageable length.

The gong was one of a few things we picked up that made life easier. In case you’re wondering, we were also fans of:
Google Docs spreadsheets that allowed our friends to coordinate who was bringing us dinner. Takethemameal.com does it even better.
Caringbridge.org, a website that allows you to share information about how someone is doing with a select audience. We used it to update our friends and family on my mother’s status, and to post things like details about when people can come over to visit.
Healingthreads.com –clothes designed for people who have post-surgical drains. This seemed like a strange thing to buy and quickly became indispensable.
Heatpads that stay hot—when she was in pain my mom liked these heating pads that stay hot for a long time, and can easily be reheated.

And if you have a friend or relative who is seriously sick I strongly recommend The Awl’s Actually Awesome Things to Say to a Cancer Patient and the New York Times’ You Look Great and Other Lies, a list of things to never say, and other things TO say to those in the throes of illness.

We at MJL have our own very comprehensive list. It’s a useful and important thing to reread every six months or so.

Posted on June 15, 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

Witness Tahara

This entry was posted in Life on by .

I have always wanted to join a Chevra Kadisha, a Jewish burial society, but I was nervous about what it would really involve. What is it really like to wash a dead body for burial? The Progressive Chevra Kadisha is featured in a Chicago Tribune article that shows some members of the society being trained to do Tahara, the ritual washing, using a live volunteer. It’s a cool video, and it’s giving me what I need to call my local Chevra Kadisha and sign up. As you may know, caring for the dead is considered one of the most important acts of lovingkindness that a person can do.

 

To find out more about the Progressive Chevra Kadisha, click here. Or you can test your knowledge of the Jewish customs around death and mourning with our quiz.

Posted on June 14, 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

Hosting Meals is No Picnic

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

I inherited my love of hosting Shabbat meals from my mother. Growing up we had company for at least one meal every Shabbat. Friday nights were often a family affair, but Saturday lunches often involved 10-12 people. Preparing and serving a meal for a dozen people once a week is the kind of task that intimidates a lot of people but my mom taught me the skills to make the whole thing very low-stress and rewarding.

I’ve been living in New York for almost three years now, and I still host one meal a week (but I actually think I’m going to cut down to one every other week because wow is it expensive to cook that much!). One thing that has gotten to be more and more of an issue is dealing with guests who have a myriad of dietary restrictions. Not just vegetarians and/or strict kosher keepers, but celiac disease, lactose intolerance, people who “prefer no refined sugar or flour.” It can be very complicated to plan a menu to satisfy everyone.

JTA has an article today about dealing with hosting Shabbat meals with lots of dietary hoops to jump through, and it quotes me (among others).

So yes, allergies and whatnot are a concern when planning meals, but allow me to introduce you to a little thing I like to call The Internet, where you can search for and easily find recipes that you can serve to any permutation of allergy-ridden guests. For instance, have some vegans and a gluten-free friend coming over and want to serve a decadent dessert that doesn’t involve (ugh) tofu? How about this baby—a chilled double chocolate torte that looks amazing.

Looking for some more tips on how to plan and execute a good Shabbat dinner? Look here! And The Kitchn offers some good basic tips for making your guests feel comfortable, a big part of the mitzvah of hakhnasat orhim.

Posted on June 6, 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

Rape and the Holocaust

This entry was posted in History on by .

Recently on Jewniverse we featured information about Dr. Gisella Perl, a gynecologist who provided abortions to women in Auschwitz who would otherwise have been killed. One of the rather obvious implications here is that women were being raped in the camps. Some undoubtedly arrived pregnant, but others did not. Amazingly, there have never been any English studies or academic discussions of rape in the Holocaust until last year.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C has featured testimonials of rape survivors from the Democratic Republic of Congo and other conflict zones, but until recently they couldn’t feature the same kinds of testimonials from Holocaust survivors—those testimonials just didn’t exist. But a new book takes a look at some of the untold stories of sexual abuse in the Holocaust.

Jewish women were raped and sexually abused by Nazi guards, but also by liberators, people who hid them, aid givers, partisans and even fellow prisoners. Judy Weiszenberg Cohen, an Auschwitz survivor living in Canada, told the editors that the “fear of rape” was omnipresent in the concentration camp.

“The exact number of women who experienced sexual molestation during the Holocaust cannot be determined … and the rapists by and large did not leave documents testifying to their actions,” writes Nomi Levenkron, a human rights attorney in Israel, in an essay in the book. Most women who survived preferred silence, she said, fearing that they would be stigmatized in their communities.

“This is about all of our humanity. After I read the manuscript, I became kind of obsessed with it,” said Gloria Steinem, the renowned feminist writer and advocate, who sponsored two events in New York this year to draw attention to the publication. “I thought, ‘It’s 70 years later. Why didn’t we know this?’ For all of the people to whom it happened, to be victimized is one thing–to be shamed, as if it was your fault, is another profound and deep oppression.”

Read more and womensnews.org.

Posted on June 6, 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

Win a Copy of Kosher Elegance!

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Kosher Elegance: The Art of Cooking With Style is a new kosher cookbook by Efrat Libfroind, and it lives up to its name. This book is beautiful. Every recipe has an accompanying full-page full color photo that looks so delectable you just might elicit you to lick your book. The presentation is classy and sophisticated, and the recipes look intense and amazing. The chapters aren’t your usual Jewish holidays and Shabbat—instead they’re Sophisitication, Occasions, Brunch, Hors D’oeurves, Layers, Simplicity, “Sushi”, Temptation, and Chocolate. Wondering why sushi is in quotations? It’s because it includes things like Eggplant roll-ups with a cheese filling, and pastrami roll-ups with couscous salad filling. Also a couple of more tradition sushi rolls.

These recipes aren’t for kugels and cholents and briskets. What’s here is a bit more labor intensive, but the results are truly beautiful.

To win a copy of this cookbook, leave a comment telling us the most elegant dish in your repertoire. We’ll randomly choose someone to win a cookbook on Friday June 10th.

Or, you can buy your own copy.

Posted on June 2, 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 Butter Ten Commandments

This entry was posted in Culture, Holidays on by .

Shavuot is on the horizon, which means everyone is preparing for a holiday whose main ritual is eating blintzes. Don’t get me wrong, I love blintzes, but I’ve been thinking about a good way to combine the custom of eating dairy on Shavuot with the theme of the Israelites receiving the Torah on Shavuot. What I’ve come up with is this: butter sculptures. Specifically, butter sculptures of the Ten Commandments, Moses on Mt. Sinai, and a Torah scroll.

This seems like a fun Shavuot activity. In fact, it seems so obvious I’m kind of shocked that there aren’t a whole lot of Biblical butter sculptures already. Think about it! Ruth collecting wheat, Jonah inside a whale, Esther in a harem, Jacob wrestling with an angel—these would all make great butter sculptures.

And then, use the butter to make babka and rugelach. It’s a triple mitzvah. And so delectable. Who’s with me?

Posted on June 1, 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: Born as an Object

This entry was posted in Beliefs, Life on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the     reception on  your WiFri

“Man is born as an object, dies like an object, but possesses the ability to live like a subject, like a creator, an innovator, who can impress his own individual seal upon his life and can extricate himself from a mechanical type of existence and enter into a creative, active mode of being.”

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on May 20, 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