Author Archives: Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna

About Shannon Sarna

Shannon Sarna is an avid baker, blogger and all around food-lover. Born to an Italian mother who loved to bake, a Jewish father who loved to experiment, and a food chemist grandfather, loving and experimenting with diverse foods is simply in her blood. When she isn't tweeting, eating, or tweeting what she's eating, Shannon spends her time in Jersey City, NJ with her daughter, her husband, and her rescue dog, Otis.

Green Lasagna

Yield:
6-8 servings

I grew up eating lots of very traditional Italian-American lasagna, baked ziti and anything else you could cover in homemade tomato sauce and cheese. And I loved it – I mean who doesn’t!? Garfield the cat was even one of my heroes growing up. I always appreciated his feisty-ness towards his sibling (Odie), his appreciation of napping and of course his love of lasagna.

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In the past few years I have yearned for lasagnas with a little more flair, and a little less sauce. I have made a white pumpkin lasagna, and a white lasagna with spinach and pine nuts. I have included a béchamel, and left it out. I have even experimented with different kinds of cheeses.

As the greens of spring have taken over at my local farmer’s market, a lasagna recipe was once again creeping into my head. Peas, fresh herbs…something was simmering.

green6

When I suggested a puree of spring peas with herbs basked into a creamy lasagna, my husband was less than enthusiastic. He responded to the idea saying, “Um..ok. I guess let’s see how it turns out.”

I love it when my husband has to admit he was wrong, and in the case of this lasagna, he had to concede defeat as he shoveled another bite into his mouth. And though I actually hate peas, this lasagna is absolutely out of this world, creamy and full of fresh spring flavors. It’s also perfect for a Shavuot celebration. Pair with a crisp glass of white wine and a simple mixed green salad and you have a complete meal especially appropriate for a June lunch.

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I actually ended up making this recipe two ways. Once with regular, store-bough lasagna noodles which was delicious. And a second version with homemade spinach noodles. You can try either – they were both creamy, lighter than you might think and really yummy. It really depends on the amount of work you want to put in. Making your own noodles is delicious, but much more time consuming.

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Green Lasagna

Ingredients

8 ounces whole milk ricotta

8 ounces mascarpone cheese (or another 8 ounces of ricotta)

12 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated

¼ cup grated parmesan

1 egg

2 cups fresh or frozen peas

2 Tbsp butter, melted

1 Tbsp fresh mint

1 Tbsp fresh parsley

1 Tbsp fresh basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

12-15 lasagna noodles or homemade spinach noodles

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Boil a large pot of salted water. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the pot as the water is coming to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles as directed, around 7-8 minutes. Drain water and layer noodles on a baking sheet drizzled with a smidge of olive oil to prevent sticking. You can also put sheets of parchment paper in between noodles.

In a food processor fitted with blade attachment, pulse peas, herbs and melted butter until desired smoothness.

In a large bowl mix together ricotta, mascarpone, all but 1 cup of the grated mozzarella, parmesan, fresh herbs, egg and the pea mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix until just combined.

Drizzle bottom of a 9X13 baking with olive oil. Layer lasagna noodles so that they overlap just slightly on top of one another. The bottom layer should be 4 noodles. Layer about a third of the cheese-pea mixture on top and smooth using a spatula or back of a spoon.

Repeat with three layers. On top of the third layer of noodles, add the remaining grated mozzarella, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and another drizzle of olive oil.

Cover with tin foil.

Bake for 25-30 minutes covered. Remove foil. Bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese on top is melted and slightly bubbly. Allow to cool before cutting.

Posted on May 29, 2014

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

Dishes for Memorial Day Weekend

The long weekend is finally here and I am ready for some relaxing. I am also ready for the start of outdoor picnics, barbecues and other summer gatherings.

Struggling with what to make? We’ve got some ideas to wow your guests all weekend long. So turn on the grill, open some wine and take a deep breath, And maybe a big sip of a cocktail.

strawberry lemonade martini

Strawberry Lemonade Martini

Peachy Summer White Sangria

grilled artichokes 1Grilled Artichokes

Israeli Salad

Spring Quinoa with Pesto and Greens

Watermelon Corn Salsa

salsa

Spinach Steak Salad with Mango Peach Salsa

Fried Chicken

Ultimate Kosher Burgers

Roast Chicken with Spicy Honey BBQ Sauce

bbq-honey-chicken-2

Pretzel Ice Cream Pie

Berry Crumble Pie

berry crumble pie1

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Posted on May 22, 2014

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

Roast Chicken with Spicy Honey BBQ Sauce

Yield:
1 whole chicken

Summer is almost here. I can feel it. Every time we get a warmer day the women of NYC are giddy with sandal wearing and summertime accessories. The flowers are blooming, the farmer’s markets have returned and the season of grilling is almost upon us.

Growing up, BBQ sauce-slathered chicken was a staple, probably only because covering chicken in a sticky, sweet sauce was a surefire way to get the kids to eat it. But at some point I fell out of love with “BBQ chicken.”

bbq-honey-chicken-2

That is until I started making my own sauce. I have had some great bottled BBQ sauce, and I know some people swear by their go-to brand. But for me, making it from scratch makes all the difference between good chicken, and chicken people can’t stop talking about.

This spicy honey BBQ sauce is really quick to whip up and is inspired by this recipe from Taste of Home, one of my go-to places for tried-and-true home cooked dishes. I kept the coffee in, which really adds just a subtle flavor and balances out the sweetness of the honey and ketchup well.

This chicken is perfect for Shabbat and also for a summer BBQ. I promise, your guests will not stop talking about it.

Note: if you don’t have an upright chicken roaster I recommend investing in one like this. They are really cheap (less than $10) and make such a difference making a super moist chicken with crispy skin.

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Roast Chicken with Spicy Honey BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

For the chicken:

1 whole chicken

¼ cup orange juice

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, smashed

Salt and pepper

For the BBQ sauce:

2 Tbsp olive oil

½ medium onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup ketchup

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup plus 2 Tbsp honey

¼ cup soy sauce

¼ cup strong brewed coffee or espresso

Generous pinch red pepper flakes or 1-2 small dried chilies

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a medium bowl mix together orange juice, olive oil, garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Place chicken in a large, ziploc bag and pour marinade over chicken. Allow to marinate for at least one hour in the fridge or up to 3 hours.

In a medium saucepan, saute onions until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in ketchup, vinegar, honey, soy sauce and coffee. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low-medium. Simmer for 35-45 minutes stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roast chicken upright using an upright roaster for 50-60 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees when inserted. About halfway through roasting, brush some of the BBQ sauce all over the chicken and place back into the oven until cooking time is complete.

Allow the chicken to rest long enough to cut into quarters. Drizzle additional BBQ sauce on top and serve.

Posted on May 21, 2014

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

Jewish, Japanese, and Delicious

I am all too familiar with a story like Francesca Biller’s, who shares this week what it’s like to be Japanese and Jewish, especially where the kitchen is concerned. As an Italian-Jewish hybrid myself, I love exploring how to create mash-up combinations of classic Jewish food with Mediterranean flavors. Balsamic Apple Date Challah anyone?

Francesca-(Udon)

Franseca grew up with charoset and mandelbrodt served alongside chicken gyoza and udon noodles. What a lucky lady!

And we are lucky too, because she shared two of her family’s Japanese-Jewish mash-ups on the Jewish& diversity blog this week, including Chicken Udon Noodle Soup. Just when you thought chicken soup couldn’t get any better.

Posted on May 14, 2014

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

Spring Zucchini Kugel

Yield:
12 servings

I didn’t grow up eating kugel. Ok, maybe let me rephrase that.

My grandmother made noodle kugel, but it was almost always dried out and as a kid I was usually too scared to actually eat it. Thankfully I married into a family with an arsenal of great kugel recipes including my husband’s grandmother’s Salt and Pepper Noodle Kugel and his mother’s Cakey Crunch Sweet Potato Kugel. And now I really love kugel, and have been trying my hand at making kugel more and more.

spring-kugel-2For the last few weeks, green has been everywhere, especially in the abundance of springtime vegetables at the farmer’s markets and grocery store. And as I have been watching the spring veggies arrive, I was trying to imagine how to incorporate the flavors of Spring into kugel.

Zucchini kugel is delicious by itself, but add some fresh, bright herbs like basil and mint, and you have an updated dish perfect for Spring. If basil and mint doesn’t quite appeal to your taste buds, you could also use fresh parsley for a more subtle flavor.

spring-kugel-3

Note: after sauteing the zucchini, make sure to drain as much liquid out as possible. If there is too much liquid in the zucchini, the kugel will turn out a mushy mess.

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Spring Zucchini Kugel

Ingredients

5 medium zucchini

olive oil

salt and pepper

4 eggs

2 tsp fresh lemon zest

1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint

1/2 cup matzo meal

1/2 Tbsp salt

2 tsp black pepper

Directions

Using a spiralizer or vegetable peeler, make long noodles out of zucchini.

Heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute zucchini in batches for 3-4 minutes each until soft and slightly translucent. Add a pinch of salt and pepper with each batch.

Place the cooked zucchini in a colander and drain excess liquid. Make sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a 9x13 baking dish, add another 2 Tbsp olive oil to the dish and place in the oven to heat up while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs with mint, basil, salt, pepper and matzo meal. Add zucchini and stir gently until completely mixed.

After oil has heated in pan around 5-10 minutes, add zucchini mixture to pan. Using a spatula or the back of a spoon smooth out top.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until edges are crispy and the kugel is set in the middle. You may need to drain off excess oil and liquid and place back into the oven for additional 5-10 minutes.

Once kugel has cooked through, remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting. Serve at room temperature or warm.

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Posted on May 12, 2014

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

When Mother’s Day Sucks

This week someone asked me what kind of goodies I would be posting for Mother’s Day. And I really wanted to satisfy them and share something decadent, springtime-appropriate, and delicious. Like these banana chocolate chip muffins I posted last year.

But the truth is, I hate Mother’s Day. My mother passed away when I was 16 during the month of April, so springtime has always been the most difficult time of year for me.

Mom and shan on 1st bday

I dread Mother’s Day each year, even now that I have a daughter. Maybe even more so.  I see cute cards, mugs, menu ideas and emails from my favorite restaurants all telling me how exciting it is that Mother’s Day is soon arriving. But I would prefer to crawl into bed, put the covers over my head and wake up the following day. Because not only do I not have my own mother to share the day with, but Mother’s Day is now also a reminder that my daughter doesn’t have my mother as a grandmother.

We are used to hearing about the extreme commercialization of Valentine’s Day, but Mother’s Day shares many similarities: it’s an American, consumer-driven holiday which encourages people to spend money on gifts, flowers, and other items which ultimately can cause those not celebrating to feel extremely disconnected, or even depressed. And it’s not that people shouldn’t express gratitude and love towards their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and other special women; absolutely they should. I think this can happen on lots of occasions throughout the year, not only when the TV, radio, magazine ads and society around us is yelling at us that we MUST do it.

Because what if you are like me, and you don’t have a mother or a special woman in your life you want to celebrate? What if you don’t get along with your mother? What if your mother was abusive, neglectful, or otherwise inadequate?

What if you are experiencing fertility problems and desperately want to become a mother, but can’t? What if you’re single, or divorced, and feel alone in raising your children? What if you’ve lost a child? There are any number of reasons why Mother’s Day can just leave people feeling isolated and sad that they can’t or don’t want to participate in the merriment.

Last year my husband planned a special picnic for just me, my daughter and my younger sister, who I’ve had the joy and struggles of raising like a daughter. And while the day was still tinged with sadness, it was simple and low key enough that it felt just right. Or, at the very least, not contrived.

mothers day w Ella 2013

See, I am even smiling.

This year, weather permitting, we are hoping to make a trip to Alstede Farm in Chester, New Jersey, a favorite new spot for me and my family where we enjoy picking fruit and vegetables and hanging with farm animals all Summer and Fall. So while the day may still be tinged with sadness, at least I can feel close to nature and enjoy some fresh springtime vegetables.

And who knows, maybe I will have a new Mother’s Day recipe to share after all.

Posted on May 7, 2014

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

Nutella Babka

Yield:
three loaves

I didn’t grow up baking or even eating babka. Coffee cake, definitely. Banana bread was a staple. But babka just wasn’t something around. When I did finally taste babka as a teenager, I thought: “Where have you been all my life?” Chocolatey, chewy and slightly gooey—it was a perfect Shabbat morning breakfast treat with a cup of tea or coffee.

nutella-babka-2

Recently I’ve been itching to recreate babka at home. I mean, I bake challah every week. Why shouldn’t I tackle babka? But it was harder than I thought. I tried the recipe from Jerusalem. And it was great. But not quite what I was hoping to create.

And then I came across two other recipes: one from Orly Ziv’s Cook in Israel and one from a blog I came across on Instagram: Ba-Li cravings.

nutella-babka-1

My recipe is really a combination of Orly’s genius idea to stuff a babka with nutella, Ba-li’s tried-and-true dough which I have updated only slightly and a technique from Jerusalem that ensures that ooey gooey babka taste and texture we all crave.

This recipe is easily pareve-erized. (Yes, you can make this nondairy.) You can either buy a nondairy hazelnut spread or you can also make your own using a recipe like this one.

It’s perfect to enjoy with a cup of tea of coffee. Or, if you’re like my daughter, you’ll just dig right in.

nutella-babka-5

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Nutella Babka

Ingredients

4 ½ cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tbsp yeast

1 tsp sugar

½ cup lukewarm water

¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted

½ cup milk or almond milk

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

Chocolate hazelnut spread such as Nutella

2/3 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Directions

Place yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Add lukewarm water and set aside until foamy, around 5-10 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix together flour, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, mix together melted butter (or margarine) and milk (or almond milk).

Put mixer on low and begin adding the water yeast mixture, then the butter-milk mixture. Add the eggs one at a time.

When the dough begins to come together, after about 3-5 minutes, raise the speed to high and mix for another 5-10 minutes until the dough is shiny and elastic.

Place dough in a greased bowl with a damp towel on top. Allow to rise until it has doubled, about 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut dough into three equal parts. Roll out dough until it is a rectangular-like shape. Spread with chocolate-hazelnut spread. Working from the longest side, roll up dough using quick fingers, like you would in order to make cinnamon rolls.

Once the dough is a long log, cut it straight down the middle so the filling is exposed. Secure the ends on one side, and twist both the pieces . Pinch and secure at the other end.

Place in a greased loaf pan.

Bake for 35 minutes.

While the babka is baking, combine 2/3 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 1 tsp vanilla in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat and swirl around to ensure all the sugar is dissolved.

About 20-25 minutes into baking, spoon about half the syrup onto the baking babkas.

When you take the babkas out of the oven after they have baked completely, immediately drizzle or brush the remaining syrup on top of all three babkas. It may seem like a lot of syrup, but this ensures a moist and gooey babka.

Posted on May 5, 2014

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

Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing and Challah Croutons

Yield:
4 servings

My husband’s family is very male-centric and even though they love to eat, they can be a bit difficult to satisfy. They don’t like fancy desserts, eggplant, anything with nuts or “girly” salads. Whereas my mother-in-law love salads with fruits, nuts and lots of chopped veggies (like me!), the guys in the family don’t want much to do with a nice spinach salad.

So after racking my brain I decided to try making this classic wedge salad, sans the bacon that is traditionally included, for a dairy Shavuot meal last year. And thankfully, my father-in-law loved it and it was a big hit all around.

wedge-salad-2It is hearty, beautiful to look at and its the kind of salad that can be changed around depending on your tastes. Need some more protein? Add some beans or a grilled piece of fish and it becomes a main dish. Blue cheese too strong for you? Substitute a creamy ranch dressing instead. Want to get in some extra veggies? Add chopped cucumber and avocado.

But it’s the homemade challah croutons that really take this dish to the next level. They are crispy and buttery, adding crunch and a whole lot of satisfying flavor, especially for this gluten-loving gal. When making the croutons, don’t skimp on the olive oil.

wedge-salad-3

Classic Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing and Challah Croutons

Ingredients

1 head iceberg lettuce

2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered

4 hard-boiled eggs

2-3 cups leftover challah

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

½ cup crumbled blue cheese

½ cup buttermilk

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut challah into small cubes. Toss challah with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for 10-25 minutes until crispy, golden brown. Allow to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, olive oil and lemon juice. Add crumbled blue cheese and stir, breaking up any large clumps as you go. Set aside dressing.

Remove core from iceberg lettuce. Cut into four large wedges. Place on a large platter and assemble salad with cherry tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, croutons and salad dressing.

Posted on May 1, 2014

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

Blogger Spotlight: This American Bite

The blogging world can be a little female-heavy, especially where Jewish food blogs are concerned. Not that that’s a bad thing, being a female Jewish food blogger myself. But it was a lovely change of pace to chat with Yosef Silver a few weeks ago of This American Bite, who definitely has some unique perspectives on cooking and blogging. I learned his home is largely gluten free and dairy free: I could never survive.

But as I chatted with Yosef, I also learned about his life in Kansas, his “whole” approach to feeding the kids and his adventures cooking with Iron Chef Judge Simon Majumdar.

Stay tuned for Yosef’s recipe for eggplant dip tomorrow, and in the meantime enjoy learning more about this daddy food blogger based out of Kansas City.

eggplant dip preview

I noticed your blog describes your style as “whole food cooking.” How do you define “whole food?”

We eat real food. We don’t believe in “kid food” or processed food. We are very particular about what our kids will eat and we don’t want to buy too many items that come from a factory. We are also gluten free and dairy free out in our home. My wife, who is a nutritionist, has really influenced the healthy eating side of me. It amazes me how much people don’t want to cook. Food isn’t just about the food for me: it’s also about family dinner, togetherness. Wholesomeness.

Why did you start blogging?Yosef Silver - This American Bite

When I was waiting to receive my green card and wasn’t working, I was cooking a lot. And at some point I wanted a way to record what I was making, and what was good. I began writing for myself, and people enjoyed it. I am not sure at what point it really grew. I don’t write for an audience, although I am conscience what my readers enjoy because I love sharing.If I am not enjoying what I am making, then the quality of my food suffers.

You are originally from England – how does that influence your cooking?

I was raised by mom and it was just the two of us. No matter how busy my mom was, there was always a home-cooked meal. We always had dinner together no matter what was going on. And we continue that tradition for our kids.

We also love having guests at the house. It’s our normal.  When we don’t have guests for Shabbat dinner, our kids are like, “um what is going on?” Shabbat for me is very much about community and enjoying a special meal together. If I am cooking for you, it’s a statement of our relationship. If I am angry with someone, I have a hard time cooking for them.

Is that how your wife knows you are mad at her?

Ha, she will eat anyway.

scotch eggs

I noticed you recently collaborated on a recipe with Melinda from KitchenTested and used Marmite. I always thought that was an Australian thing?

Marmite = British. Vegemite = Australian

Marmite gives dishes a real beefy, stocky flavor. For example, I put it in my chicken soup and my split pea soup.

When my mom comes from Israel she brings me like 10 of them. And so I gave one to Melinda and we decided to collaborate on a dish when I visited NY in February.

We were brainstorming what we were going to do with it. And when we came up with the aioli, I wasn’t sure it was going to work. But the result, Scotch Eggs with Honey Marmite Aioli, was delicious. For me it reminds me of my childhood. It’s the kind of thing that people love or hate, there is no middle ground.

Taking-photos-of-food-2

What advice would you give to someone else who wants to blog?

Just do it. Don’t worry about your domain, or what it looks like. Just start writing. Even if you write in a google doc and start sending out to your friends for the first couple of months, just start doing it. And if your content and recipes are awesome, then it won’t matter what it’s called.

What’s on the horizon for This American bite and Yosef?

I ask myself this all the time. I would love to write a book.

I love the connections I am making through writing about food, like Melinda of KitchenTested and Whitney of Jewhungry. I love the online marketing field, and I love food. I love anything that combines both. Not sure where it will take met yet.

Posted on April 29, 2014

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

Key Challah

Have you heard of the tradition of baking a shlissel challah, or key challah, the Shabbat after Passover? I hadn’t either until last year when I started noticing pictures of key-shaped challot and challot with keys baked somewhere in the loaf last year on Facebook and instagram.

Liz key challahI googled and finally found out the reason. A shlissel challah is a good omen, or a segula, for livelihood, parnassa.

Melinda from Kitchen Tested has a great explanation of this tradition:

The key challah is supposed to bring “segulah for parnassah” or a blessing to their home. Why right after Passover? On the high-holidays, we ask G-d to open the gates of heaven for our prayers and on Passover, we ask G-d to recall how He opened the gates for the entire nation of Israel in the days after the Jews left Egypt and were welcomed in to the “promised land.” When the challah is made to represent a key, we are asking for the key to unlock the gates for us as well.

Shlissel-Challah-Final-Photo-1

So what do you think – will you try your hand at making a key challah as a good omen? Koshereye has video instructions to help if you’re up for the challenge.

A special thank you to Liz Morley, aka mama Morley, for sharing her picture of shlissel challah with The Nosher.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted on April 25, 2014

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

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