Monthly Archives: June 2012

Why Self-Publish?

Why self-publish? The mainstream publishing industry continues to be in a state of flux and when we began our cookbook many publishers were not taking on first-time, high-risk authors. There were small publishing houses willing to take us on, but the return was so minimal that the raison d’être, to raise funds for Jewish elder care, would not eventuate. Self-publishing was the best option to achieve our goal.

After all information gathering was complete, we changed our business plan and became publishers. To ensure credibility and success, and to produce the envisaged high-quality coffee-table cookbook, we employed professionals: a well-known editor, food photographer, food stylist, award-winning graphic designer, indexer, colour correction expert and lawyer. The next step was to produce the physical book. After printing in China, the books were shipped to warehouses in Sydney and Chicago. No easy feat for two women without sponsorship nor experience in the industry.

Our self-publishing route was an enormous task with a mixture of surprise, disappointment, joy and fun. We had our fair share of laughs, from dropping the angel cake onto the floor, with no spare, just before the final photograph to the insisting by one potential contributor on a recipe for lobster thermidor that we could, of course, not use.

After eleven years of determination, One Egg Is A Fortune is available worldwide. Even more importantly, we’ve already been able to make our first donation: to the Centre of Ageing in Sydney, Australia, a community group created to help Jewish seniors to stay in their own homes for as long as practicable.

Blazing Hot Wing Sauce with Beer

A recipe from my friend John Schlimm, author of The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Cookbook

Serves 6

SAUCE

1 packet Good Seasons Italian Dressing (powder)
½ cup margarine
2 cups Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce
6 tablespoons beer
12–24 chicken wings or drumettes

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Make sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl, mix well and set aside (makes 2¼ cups).
Make chicken wings: Boil wings in a large pot until they rise to the surface. Drain, place the wings into a baking dish and pour over sauce. Bake for 45 minutes or until crispy.
Note: This sauce can also be used as a dipping sauce for chicken tenders.

Aussie-style Blazing Hot Wing Sauce with Beer

Serves 6

SAUCE
2 tablespoons McCormick Italian Seasoning Blend (dry)
½ cup margarine
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons dried cayenne pepper
1 tablespoons hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco)
6 tablespoons beer
12–24 chicken wings or drumettes

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Make sauce: Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well and set aside.
Make chicken wings: Prepare chicken wings as above.

Posted on June 13, 2012

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

One Egg Is A Fortune

One Egg Is A Fortune is a collection of recipes and stories from fifty prominent Jewish people from around the world. It was compiled by two Australian Jewish women.

one egg is a fortuneOur purpose in publishing this cookbook is to raise funds for Jewish elder care all over the world. It’s hard to imagine a time when our parents and friends grow old, but many of us will find we are called on to assist in their care. It’s then when you may see the perception of the Jewish community that the elderly don’t need assistance and but can support them. This perception is not true. They need help–our help. The aging community continues to grow and with this comes the need to identify physical, emotional and financial help and extra resources.

Judy Kempler was a carer for her late mother-in-law and found just this. Together with Pnina Jacobson, she resolved to make a difference, whether by providing home help, equipment, meals or other things to help people remain independent in their own home and perhaps in some way make life a little better. By inviting prominent people to contribute, all with a diverse range of backgrounds and professions from around the world, we are not only providing for interesting reading, but also reaching a much larger audience.

After centuries of unrest and persecution, the Jewish people have wandered and established themselves across all corners of the globe. Changes have been constant in Australia and with waves of migration, the foods of the new homes were adopted and fused with traditional Jewish cuisine. Australia is a relatively new country, just over 200 years old. Although the first Jewish settlers were convicts, larger numbers arrived in waves, from the gold rush days in search of a fortune to escaping persecution in Russia, the Nazis, to recently leaving South Africa because of apartheid. It isfascinating to see that each wave of Jewish people prepare the same traditional fare, centuries later., butwith perhaps some subtle differences. However, it is the non-traditional foods adopted from other local cultures combined with the availability of a variety of fresh produce all year round as part of the move to eat a “healthier” diet that may in fact over time change these traditional signature dishes. Will chopped liver and egg salad disappear?

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2009 the Jewish population was 13,421,000 worldwide – 5,275,000 in the United States; 107,500 in Australia. In the U.S. there are 157 Jewish Federations and over 300 communities with social, volunteer and educational programs and which raise largeamounts to provide assistance of all kinds. In Australia, the Jewish population is concentrated in the major cities with less and organisations.

The officially elected organisation representing the Australian Jewish community is the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, affiliated with the World Jewish Congress. The ECAJ deals with a wide range of issues including human rights, interfaith relations, refugees, education, Holocaust remembrance, anti-Semitism, Israel and the international community. In addition to ECAJ, each Australian state has many active synagogues, charitable, social and sporting groups.

We are fortunate to be living in better times and our communities have much longer and fuller lives. But with this come other implications about elder care requirements and these statistics highlight this. To entice you, we’d like to share a recipe from the book – from Australia comes a beautiful recipe for slip pancakes from artist Judy Cassab.

Csusztatott Palacsinta: Slip Pancake

Serves 8–10

vanilla sugar
vanilla bean
1 cup icing sugar or caster sugar
5 eggs, separated
50g unsalted butter, softened
50g caster sugar
50g plain flour
1 cup milk
extra butter or oil spray, for frying

Make vanilla sugar: Break vanilla pod into pieces, crush in a blender, stir through the sugar
and set aside.

Make slip pancake: Beat egg whites until stiff. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, beat in egg yolks and add in flour and milk. Gently fold in egg whites. Heat a 20cm crepe pan until moderately hot and melt butter or spray with oil. Place a large soup ladle of pancake mixture into the pan and fry it only on one side. When set, slip it onto a 20cm ovenproof round plate. Sprinkle some vanilla sugar on top. Make the next pancake. Stack this over the first one and repeat the process until five thick pancakes have been cooked. Cut into slices like a torte. This can be served at once orprepared ahead of time and reheated for about 15 minutes in a hot oven.

Savoury alternative: To make as an entree, sprinkle each slip pancake layer withgrated cheese and finely sliced mushrooms.

Posted on June 12, 2012

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 People and Books

Yehuda Kurtzer’s first book, Shuva: The Future of the Jewish Past, is now available

Do the Jewish People need more books? And are books the key to Jewish innovation? In the 1920s Franz Rosenzweig wrote that “It could hardly be asserted that the great urgency of the present moment is to organize the science of Judaism or to prompt both Jews and non-Jews to the endless writings of books on Jewish subjects. Books are not now the prime need of the day. But what we need more than ever, or at least as much as ever, are human beings—Jewish human beings, to use a catchword that should be cleansed of the partisan associations still clinging to it.”

Rosenzweig then, and we in the business of Jewish education now, sense that the conditions in which modern Judaism is struggling for a continuous foothold require something more than the perpetuation of Jewish knowledge for knowledge’s sake; that our seeking, studying, teaching and learning needs to focus on human outcomes. Accordingly, the trend in the so-called innovation sector focuses heavily on just the “Jewish human beings” that Rosenzweig calls for: on innovators themselves, on people with ideas who fall between the margins of the institutions.

And yet it has always seemed ironic to me that with all the advances in our knowledge of Jewish history, and the successes of Jewish Studies in the academy, that we know now more about the Jewish past than we have ever known before; but as a community, we tend to care about the past less than ever. To paraphrase Leon Wieseltier, our collective ignorance of the classical Jewish past may be the scandal of contemporaryAmerican Jewry. I am concerned that the fixation on new programs – even in the embodiment of new individuals to lead the Jewish community – is alone insufficient to make a credible claim for the legacy of what this generation of Jewish life is going to leave behind, that we are substituting program leadership for the thought-leadership that ultimately has kept intellectual history in productive parallel with actual Jewish history.

I see the classical rabbis as the paradigmatic bridge-builders between the perpetuation of ideas and the programmatic work of innovation: they were architects not only of an extraordinary literature – one that they tied to the authenticity of the Bible through an ideology of calling it a second Torah, the oral Torah – but also of systems for Jewish life to enable Judaism to change productively through a period of existential challenge.

So I am not sure that a book – even if it is not the book that Rosenzweig derides – turns the tide for the innovation sector (which is not to say I was not grateful for the philanthropic experimentation that brought it about!). But it does make me hopeful that we are remembering the legacy of the transmission of ideas that has helped define Jewish life in the past as we do the work of redefining Jewish life in the present.

Posted on June 8, 2012

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

Being Jewish without Trauma

When my son Noah was about 3 or 4, he came home from school one day and asked me, “Abba, who are the Jewish people?” Thrilled by this opportunity to really begin in earnest my son’s Jewish education, and by the depth of this question coming at such a young age, I memoryreplied, “Why, Noah – we are the Jewish people!” Whereupon he burst into tears, inconsolable. When I finally calmed him down, I asked him why he was so upset. “Because I don’t want Pharaoh to hurt me!”

I was conflicted about how to answer him. My parenting instincts inclined me to disabuse him of the myth altogether: to tell him that it was just a story from a long time ago, that he was safe, that maybe the story wasn’t even true. Goodness knows a toddler does not need to be terrified by Judaism in general, much less as a catalyst for his sense of belonging to a story he is just learning about for the first time.

At the same time, I was proud to see that he had unwittingly internalized the mandate of the Passover Haggadah: that in every generation a person is obligated to see themselves as though they left Egypt. Pharaoh was alive for him, a source of genuine terror. The non-parental, Jewish educator side of me wanted to shrug my shoulders and tell him, “Shver tsu zayn a yid.”

This is a defining question in Jewish education, as it goes to the heart of what it means to create, cultivate and transmit memory. Not facts, not history, and not just values and ideas that are critically important as part of the texture of an intellectually credible Jewish education, but memory – that sense of belonging to a narrative that precedes you and will outlast you, and a set of stories and visceral experiences in which you may not have physically participated but are part of defining the identity to which you belong. But is there a workable way to transmit the power of traumatic memory, without creating post-traumatic stress?

Posted on June 6, 2012

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 Future of the Past

In a recent Commentary article, Jack Wertheimer once again takes on the trends in American Jewry – individualism, pluralism, universalism, anti-tribalism, non-judgmentalism – to attack these modern moves as anathema to the Jewish past and the tradition that modern Jews have inherited (and implicitly rejected). Wertheimer playfully positions his critique in the literary frame of the Ten Commandments, which is a useful straw-man in making these trends into inviolable beliefs held by his (mostly) unnamed opponents. Seeing as the article came out the week of Shavuot – the holiday that marks the receiving of the Decalogue (along with the rest of the Torah) at Mount Sinai, perhaps Wertheimer was seduced by the liturgical calendar.

But in telling the story of contemporary Jewry in this way, Wertheimer makes an ironic mistake. To truly traditional Jews, the laws of Bible co-exist with an interpretive tradition – an Oral Torah – that signals the constant way in which the values of the original revelation co-exist with the changing mores and morals of the societies in which Jews attempted to live out its mandate. In positioning the truths of the past (which he likes) as rigidly opposed to the truths of the present (which he hates), Wertheimer regrettably whitewashes the interpretive processes by which American Jews have remade their essential values.

The interpretive act of authentic change – even when it only comes about because it attempts to keep up with the pace of change of what the Jewish people are actually doing – is much more essential to the enterprise of Jewishness than is the canonical code itself which is being interpreted in the process. Our tradition fundamentally doubts the written tradition alone, aware that in its fixed state it is fundamentally limited in its ability to speak to present realities. The Decalogue requires both a parallel interpretive tradition, and an eager set of interpreters who live in the world, to make it applicable to contemporary realities.

So do contemporary Jews live by new rules? Sure – just as the Judaism of the Jews of 1950s America would have been unrecognizable to the people of the 1920s. I would welcome a healthy public debate about what Judaism should be in the face of the changing realities of the present. But the notion that Judaism should not let its core values evolve in response to changing world conditions? Well, that is not Torah-true Judaism at all.

Posted on June 4, 2012

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 Joint

Earlier this week, Leslie Maitland wrote about choosing an epigraph, the artist Gunter Demnig’s Stolpersteineproject, and reconnecting branches of her family separated by the Diaspora of the Nazi years. She has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

I would not be writing this today but for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, nor could I have written my newly published book, Crossing the Borders of Time. Indeed, but for the dedicated mission of “the Joint” to save imperiled Jews from murder in the Holocaust, I would not be here at all. It was thanks to the Joint and cooperating agencies that my mother made an eleventh-hour escape from France in 1942 before the Nazis seized the country and sealed its ports. Like thousands of other Jewish refugees, she and her family fled to safety on ships chartered by the Joint from neutral Portugal. There were more than four hundred passengers with her on the Lipari, leaving from Marseille to Casablanca, where they transferred to a freighter, the San Thomé, for a voyage that lasted almost two months before the ship was cleared to land in Havana.

The steamship Lipari, on which Leslie Maitland’s mother sailed with her family from
Marseille to Casablanca on March 13, 1942.
The Joint was a curious name I heard often throughout my childhood, eavesdropping on adult conversation in New York’s German-Jewish refugee community—the so-called Fourth Reich—where I was born and lived until the age of nine. (“What joint?” I remember asking, surprised to hear my very formal German grandfather speaking what sounded to me like slang.) But my understanding and appreciation of the humanitarian agency’s vital role in saving European Jews from Hitler grew exponentially as a result of my research into my mother’s story of persecution, romance in wartime, and escape. 

In this I was blessed by access to the remarkable archives of the Joint, which permitted me to study in detail the challenges it combated in securing visas, ships, and funds to rescue as many Jews as possible. In a seemingly indifferent world, even the United States had so sharply restricted entry that between the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and war’s end in 1945, ninety percent of American visa quotas for would-be immigrants from Nazi-controlled countries in Europe went unfilled. Thus the Joint took on the mission of finding safe havens elsewhere for hunted people who were trapped in deadly situations.

In my mother’s case, through internal Joint reports, I would learn for the first time of dangers that threatened her family even after the agency had managed to get them out of France. They had been at sea for more than four weeks when Cuban president Fulgencio Batista abruptly revoked permission for the San Thomé passengers to land. Once again, it was the Joint that saved them. Rushing into action, the Joint provided sufficient international pressure and inducements to prevent the San Thomé from meeting the same cruel fate as the St. Louis, whose passengers—barred from landing in Cuba or the United States three years earlier—had been sent straight back to Europe to face the Nazis.

The tourist identification card provided to Leslie’s mother, Janine Gunzburger, aboard
the San Thomé for debarking in Cuba
Then again, after the San Thomé refugees were allowed to disembark, the Cuban government locked them into a detention camp, Tiscornia, where they spent months inexplicably confined under terrible conditions, while forced to pay grossly inflated daily fees. Here, too, it was the Joint that fought incessantly to improve their lot, to bring them food and supplies, and ultimately to win the refugees’ release. The files of the Joint offered me eyewitness descriptions of everything that happened. Through once-confidential letters and memoranda, I sat at tables where its tireless staff negotiated strategies for overcoming obstacles and crises, as they worked to help the stricken refugees reclaim lives of freedom and normalcy.

Once freed from the Cuban detention camp where the family spent five months, Leslie’s grandfather, Samuel Sigmar Gunzburger, was required to purchase a Cuban Defense Ministry foreign registration booklet that included his fingerprints.

According to Linda Levi, the Joint’s director of Global Archives, I was one of approximately 850 researchers—scholars, journalists, filmmakers, authors, artists, and genealogists from twenty-eight countries—who annually seek permission to delve into its records. Housed in New York City and Jerusalem, the archives represent a vast repository of information gathered since the agency’s founding in 1914 by wealthy German-Jews in America to aid impoverished communities in Palestine and Eastern Europe struggling through the First World War. Included in the archives are more than three miles of text documents; 1,100 audio recordings of oral histories, broadcasts, and historic speeches; 100,000 photographs; 1,300 video recordings; and data relating to 500,000 names. 

Now, just this spring, in a gift to the general public and all researchers, the Joint has started making this material available online through its archival website: http://archives.jdc.org. With funds donated by Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky, the project has already digitized records dating from the agency’s founding up through 1932. In a telephone interview, Ms. Levi told me that the effort is continuing, and full archives covering the World War II period should be digitized by year’s end. Some of those Holocaust-era documents are expected to be online as early as this summer, she said, adding to what is already there.

Besides the professional researchers who will clearly benefit from the expanded website, Ms. Levi noted, members of the general public have consistently turned to the Joint seeking answers regarding family members, all too often dead or missing.

“Jews have questions about their pasts,” she said. “There is a hole somewhere they’re longing to fill. There is something intensely powerful about finding information about one’s family in a document in an archive. I’ve seen people burst out crying.”

Meanwhile, as the agency’s online archives grow, so too do its endeavors around the globe. Its work goes on today in more than seventy countries, where it strives to alleviate suffering, rescue endangered Jews, strengthen Jewish life, and provide relief for Jews and non-Jews who fall victim to disasters. It is my hope that through the online archives, the children and grandchildren of the people served and saved may one day learn their stories and join me in saying thank you to the Joint.

 

Posted on June 1, 2012

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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