Archive for the 'Jewish history' Category

26
Apr
13

About Tomorrow’s Radio Show…


After a far too long hiatus (due to the final disease and subsequent ptirah of my uncle – Henry Moss, alav haShalom), we are back with a radio show special on motzey Shabbat at 11:30 pm (Eastern Time). We prerecorded it on Wednesday, at Sotheby’s, at the press intro to the exhibit of the Michael and Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection.

The collection's catalog...

The collection’s catalog…

Detail of a very ornate Shabbat oil lamp, from the 18th Frankfurt Ghetto

Detail of a very ornate Shabbat oil lamp, from the 18th century Frankfurt am/Main ghetto.

We spoke with Jennifer Roth, Sotheby’s Senior Vice President and Department Head of the Judaica Department, John D. Ward, Vice President and Department Head of the Silver Department, Sharon Liberman Mintz and David Wachtel, Senior Judaica Consultants. The exhibit covers a millennium and a half of Jewish Ceremonial Art, from aquamanile to matza tools, from German Shabbat oil lamps to a British decorative silver plate given by the Jewish community to the Lord Mayor of London, to an illuminated medieval edition of MaimonidesMishnah Torah and hundreds more. Each item is unique, some are very rare, all show the extent to which the Jews appreciated art and integrated the artistic fashion of the time into their every day ceremonial needs.

The conversations with the four experts listed above were fascinating, as they opened up a new way to look at our history, at our values, and how the Jews truly fared in the European societies of old. Please listen to this fascinating show at BlogTalkRadio.com/kosherscene at 11:30 pm (Eastern Time) motzei Shabbat.

Meanwhile, in case you missed, please listen to the archive of our last show with Paula Shoyer.

Don’t forget to listen in tomorrow evening at 11:30 pm (Eastern Time), we’ll be wait’n for ya.

CS

07
Dec
12

Sufganyot! – Part 2


Chanukah may be a minor festival, but the concepts it embodies are major. Jews, that stiff-necked people, were living under the control of Seleucide Greeks. While the conquerors were generally tolerant of other religions, provided the conquered people accepted the ostensibly superior culture, the Jews – for the most part – refused to bend, to compromise, to accept “progress.” They stuck to their beliefs, even when threatened with death. What prompted these people to follow an invisible God, a God they were proscribed from making statutes of, a God who placed so many positive and negative commandments upon them?

A German Menorah, from the late 19th or early 20th century.Photo from the LA Times.

A German Menorah, from the late 19th or early 20th century.
Photo from the LA Times.

For generations, the Jews were witnesses to the Almighty’s open and not so open miracles, they had no need of wood, stone or metal statutes to feel His presence. His presence surrounded them constantly! Their ragtag army, now fought the world’s mightiest power and won. Was that not enough of a miracle? Yet we do not celebrate Chanukah as a merely nationalistic day of independence. No, we celebrate instead the rekindling of the Temple Menorah, the rebirth of our faith.

We celebrate the fact that the Temple in Jerusalem had been purified of foreign idolatrous contamination. We celebrate the fact that just as it seemed that we would have to wait eight days for new consecrated olive oil to be prepared, miraculously a small flask just enough for one day’s kindling was found and yet it lasted a full eight days. The Greeks had combed through the Temple to loot its treasures, to take away anything that could be used by the stubborn Jews to worship that God, and yet throughout the years this small flask had gone unnoticed until truly committed Jews found it. Was it merely that they looked harder, or was that itself a miracle?

As a result of olive oil’s power in restoring us a nation, His nation, we traditionally eat fried foods on Chanukah, here is a recipe for traditional “Sufganyot,” jelly filled donuts:

Sufganyot

(Adapted from Perfect Jewish, page 241)

Traditional sufganyot. - jelly filled doughnuts,

Traditional sufganyot. – jelly filled doughnuts. — Photo from: Perfect Jewish, page 240

Makes 24 doughnuts

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon easy-blend dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons very soft margarine or vegetable oil (for a dairy version you may use sour cream)
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • plum, apricot, red currants or black currant jelly
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions

  1. Stir the yeast, flour, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a standard electric, mixer fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the center. Add the milk, egg, yolk, and margarine (or sour cream for dairy sufganyot). Beat on low speed for 2 minutes, or until combined. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic and leaves the side of the bowl. Cover with a dish towel and leave in a warm place for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until doubled in volume.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly to deflate adding a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Divide the dough in half and roll out each piece to 3/4″ thick.
  3. Working with one dough half at a time, using a 2″ cutter, stamp out as many rounds as pssible. Knead the scraps together, reroll and stamp out more rounds, you should form at lease 24. Cover with the dish towel and leave for 20 minutes, or until puffed and slightly risen.
  4. Heat at least 3″ of oil in a deep-fat fryer, wok or large pan to 375 F. or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds. Working in batches, fry the doughnits, covered for 3 – 4 minutes, or until golden. Turn and fry on the other side for 3 minutes or until well colored. Using a skimmer, or slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain.
  5. Fit a small pastry bag, with a 1/2″ plain tip, and fill with jelly. Put the sugar into a bowl. When the doughnuts are cool enough to handle, make a small slit in the side of each, insert the tip into the center, and squeeze about 1 teaspoon of jelly. Drop each filled doughnut into the sugar and turn to coat completely. Transfer to a wire rack.

Enjoy, gentle reader, Enjoy!

CS

 

Chag Chanukah same’ach!!

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20
Dec
11

Rekindling the Soul


Tonight Jews around the world will celebrate the first of the eight days of Chanukah. Does the celebration solely commemorate a miraculous military victory? Does the festival of lights merely reflect a historical re-enactment of the providential discovery of a tiny jug of consecrated oil which relit the Temple candelabra, and whose miraculous radiant flame lasted eight days instead of one?

After years of serving as a temple to some Greek idol, the Holy Temple’s service was reinstated in 167 BCE; why then, do we concentrate on the miracle of the Menorah instead of the renewal of proper worship to Hashem? What is so special about the Menorah?  As we read in Mishley – Proverbs (20:27): Ner Hashem nishmat adamHashem’s candle is the human soul; the candle is a representational symbol of that soul as  Hakadosh Baruch Hu shines His divine light upon us through the Menorah. The essence of that divine light is Torah!

"Chanuka gelt" - Chanuka chocolate "money"

It is customary, even praiseworthy, to use pure olive oil when lighting the Menorah. Why? Ve’atah tetzaveh et Bney Yisrael: Vayikchu elecha shemen zait zach… And you will command the Children of Israel thus: Take to yourself pure olive oil… (Shmot 27:20)”  ChaZa”L  likened learning Torah to olive oil;  they taught that living within those teachings makes us pure. Just as pure olive oil enhances the flavor of the food it is combined with, so too does the pure learning and living within the Torah’s teaching enhance our lives, enabling each and every one of us to reach his/her true potential.

In Ohev Yisrael, the Apter Rebbe – Avraham Yehoshu’a Heschel of Opatow, writes that the reason the word “elecha – to yourself”, is used instead of just saying “vayikchu shemen zait zach… – take pure olive oil…” is in order to stress that one must do more than just just follow a command. Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants us to go beyond simple obedience, He wants us to absorb His word until it totally melds into and becomes one with our being, therefore the individual is told “take to yourself,” even though vayikchu is plural!

The Boreh Olam, The Creator, stresses and reminds us, year after year, what is of  greatest intrinsic value to Him. It is the absorption, saturation, and reflection of His message within us. It is the purity and beauty with which we bring ourselves to and act out His guidelines without defiling ourselves amidst the galut of our own history making as we talk, walk and act out the roadways of our individual and collective lives. May this Chanukah rekindle in each of us His the brigh lights of Torah and re-establish our own internal worthiness and sense of purpose. May our hearts and spirits become again that pure consecrated olive oil empowered to light and return us to our former greatness meriting the rebuilding of His Holy Temple in Yerushalayim, bimherah biyamenu. Amen!!!

A freilachen Chanukah, Chag Chanukah same’ach, a happy Chanukah!

SYR & CS

05
Oct
11

Yeshiva University Museum – Part 1


Yesterday I visited the Yeshiva University Museum and was given a tour of the current exhibits by Assistant Curator Zachary Paul Levine. The Museum is housed at the Center for Jewish History (15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011).

Center for Jewish History Photo from Citysearch.com

CJH (an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution) is home to five institutions: American Jewish History Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, all five present interesting exhibits and programs of interest to every Jew, all five boast impressive collections of historical, artistic and cultural items.

Three exhibits are, at present, running concurrently at the Yeshiva University Museum; these are: Jews on Vinyl (July 24, 2011 – January 8, 2012), Prophecy of Place: Quintan Ana Wikswo (August 14, 2011 – January 22, 2012) and Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women (September 25, 2011 – April 15, 2012).

Jews on Vinyl brought back many memories and some nice surprises as I listened to some of my long forgotten favorites of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and was pleasantly surprised and touched by some non Jews singing Kol Nidre, Eli Eli or Mein Yiddische Mamme. Yes, folks, you can listen to some highlights of the LP collection, they will delight you, they will surprise you, they will touch you and even make you want to dance!

Powerful, haunting, dream like...

I was touched by this very different photo exhibit. As the press release says:

Wikswo uses damaged and salvaged antique military cameras and battlefield typewriters to explore the startling ecological beauty that obscures “traumatized” sites of crimes against humanity, and to uncover the intergenerational legacies surrounding them. These fiercely mysterious images and starkly graceful prose poems create a powerful encounter with violence and beauty revealed through a fractured, unsettling lens.

Created between 2008-2011 in Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Finland and Russia, Prophecy of Place presents kaleidoscopic portraits of the astonishing and often invisible histories hidden at the heart of communities where Jews encountered exile, shelter and trauma.

Traversing 10 centuries, eight countries and five languages, the exhibition is a deeply immersive engagement with the legacy of Jewish survival and the struggle with other cultures through luminous, prismatic, multi-part contemporary photographs of villages, cities, shtetls and camps – sites where Jews have faced devastating attacks or attempts at cultural annihilation.

Some images make it hard to imagine the horrors Jews in these places once experienced, yet the poetry, subtly, makes it clear. Without minimizing the evil, Quintan Ana Wikswo‘s words give hope while making us aware of the terror.  She gives a voice to all the nameless Jews tortured and murdered, whose cries can never be heard, whose names have long been forgotten. As I looked at these unsettling images, as I read some of her accompanying prose poems, every unheeded cry somehow pierced my heart, every tear seared it. But… you will not see any image depicting the pain, the brutality, the fear, the death…

Well worth a visit, gentle reader!

CS

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21
Sep
11

Judaica at Sotheby’s – Valmadonna Trust Library


This past Sunday, I went to Sotheby’s to see the current exhibits. On the first flight up, they were showing Mid 20th Century Furnishings, and a collection spanning the over 4 decades’ career of 20th century American painter Sam Francis. In the Furnishings area, there was a small glass enclosed alcove where a tiny sampling of the more than 11,000 sfarim of the Valmadonna Trust Library was on show.

The entire collection had already been exhibited in 2009, occupying the whole of Sotheby’s 10th floor gallery. Sotheby’s press release, at the time, described it thus:

New York, NY; February 9, 2009 – Sotheby’s announced today that it would display in its entirety, for the first time ever, the Valmadonna Trust Library, the finest private library of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world. Assembled over the past century, this extensive group of over 11,000 works is monumental in its significance as a primary source on both world history and Jewish life and culture. The collection boasts rarities dating from the 10th century to the early 20th century from Italy, Holland, England, Greece, Eastern Europe, the Ottoman Empire, North Africa, India, and China, documenting the spread of the Hebrew press and the dissemination of Jewish culture around the globe. Among the treasures in the collection are: the only surviving manuscript written in England before the expulsion of the Jews in 1290; arguably the finest copy of the Babylonian Talmud produced between 1519 and 1523 by famed printer Daniel Bomberg, which was previously in the collection of Westminster Abbey; as well as the preeminent group of Hebrew books in existence from the dawn of printing (15th century). The entire collection will be exhibited in Sotheby’s 10th floor galleries from February 9-19, 2009, with the exception of February 14th.

A small sampling of this rare sfarim collection

This superb collection is comprised of books and manuscripts including Bibles and Talmuds, kabbalistic texts, siddurim, and Passover haggadot. Among the Library’s other holdings are Hebrew grammatical and legal texts; medical, philosophical and literary treatises; as well as periodicals, broadsheets, and wall calendars—particularly rare items on account of their ephemeral nature.

Printed by Daniel Bomberg, Maseches Me'ilah, around 1519-1523

Many medieval texts are here, dating from as early as the 10th century and including the first printed sfarim from the late 15th century. Among the collection’s jewels is a ktav yad of the earliest known Ashkenazic script, a Franco-German Chumash, dating from the 10th or 11th century. The crown jewel, however, is the Codex Valmadonna I. This is the only dated Hebrew text in existence from medieval England, before King Edward I’s 1290 edict expelling the Jews. The year following this manuscript’s creation, in 1190, mobs in York attacked the Jewish community living there, massacring the population, and looting their property.

Other opulent manuscripts in the collection include a Yemenite Chumash from the early 15th century, replete with characteristic Oriental illuminations. Of the original 29,000  titles – incunables [books printed on Gutenberg's original presses] – only 140 were done in lashon kodesh. This collections has almost half of them!

A superb collection, Sotheby’s is hoping to sell as one, perfect for an institution of Jewish learning!

CS

10
Aug
11

Tonight’s Radio Show – Alessandra Rovati From Dinner In Venice


Last minute cancellation due to unforeseen emergency!

Last minute cancellation due to unforeseen emergency!

Photo by: Irving Schild

Italian cuisine has earned a very well deserved place in the pantheon of superior cookery from around the world. Within that cuisine, it is the Cucina Ebraica, the Jewish Italian cuisine, which is considered its crown jewel. Our guest on The Kosher Scene Radio Show, this evening, will be Venetian born and bred Alessandra Rovati from  Dinner In Venice.com website and blog.  We will discuss the history of the Jews in Italy, a history that goes back almost 2200 years, the history of Jews in Venice specifically and, of course, the famed Jewish Italian cuisine.

Venice is where the first Jewish Ghetto came to be in 1500. The earliest known mention of Jews in Venice is around 1090. The census in 1152 showed 1300 of our coreligionists, mostly merchants, originally from Germany and  the Levant. Throughout its history, Venice has been the venue for some of the most picturesque chapters in our people’s history, featuring both famous and infamous Jewish personalities.

Please tune us in this evening on the internet’s blogtalkradio.com, at 8:00 pm (Eastern Time), for what promises to be a very interesting, and informative show.

If you missed our show last week with Ezzy Duchman from Jewpon, you can hear it here. The guest was interesting, the subject will save you money!

Please, don’t forget to tune us in this evening’s for our conversation with the charming, Alassandra Rovati, when we will explore the  history and the cuisine of Jewish Italy at 8:00pm (Eastern Time). We’ll be wait’n for ya…

CS

***UPDATE***

7:25 pm (Eastern Time) Ms. Rovati had a small electrical fire in her house and had to cancel this evening’s appearance.

18
May
11

Hillula d’Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness


Last evening, SYR and I had the privilege to be at Sidney and Tammy Cohen‘s (partners at 18 Restaurant) apartment in Manhattan. We were there to commemorate the Hilula (yohrtzeit, as we ashkenazim call it) of Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness. I had never heard of this custom until I got Tammy’s email last week… How I wish I had known of it earlier in my life!

Among walls covered with portraits of a very young Baba Sali (whose haunting eyes seemed to pierce right through me) and Chagall like paintings, the crowd, the tfilot, the candles, the food, made it all very special…

Dips galore, mashed potatoes, fish, couscous, chicken, beef and more...

Who was Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness? The Babylonian Talmud, in Tractate Gittin 56a relates:

As he [Nero] came close, he shot an arrow towards the east and it fell in Jerusalem. He then shot an arrow to the west and it fell in Jerusalem. [He shot] towards the four points of the compass and it fell in Jerusalem. He then asked a [passing] boy, “Tell me the verse [from Scripture] you learned [today].” He [the boy] said, “I will place my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel [Ezekiel 25:14].” He [Nero] said, “The Holy One, blessed be He, wishes to destroy His House and lay the blame on me.” He [Nero] ran away and became a proselyte. From him came Rabbi Meir.”

Rabbi Meir, the descendant of a former Roman emperor, eventually became a staunch supporter of Bar Kochba‘s rebellion against the Romans. Why was he called Meir, when tradition says that his name was either Nahori or Misha? “Meir” means “Illuminator,” as someone who illuminated the mind’s eye of students and scholars alike to give them an understanding of both the Written and the Oral Laws, he came to be known as Meir.

“Ba’al Haness” means “Master of Miracles,” why was that name added to him? It is related that on a certain occasion when a pack of wild dogs ran over to tear him apart, Rabbi Meir cried out: “Eloka d’Meir aneini – God of Meir answer me,” the dogs retreated. The Roman guard of a brothel was about to be hanged for having taken a bribe. He was bribed so as to allow Rabbi Meir‘s wife (Bruriah‘s) sister to escape (while still untouched) from the brothel where the Romans had condemned her to live her life in shame (after they killed her parents, the saintly R. Chananya ben Teradyon – one of the 10 martyrs we mention in the kinot of Tisha B’Av – and his wife). As the noose was tightened around the guard’s neck he cried out, “God of Meir answer me,” the rope tore – to everyone’s amazement – and the guard was saved!

Harav Raphael Benchimol, rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, very eloquently told the evening’s participants that the specific date 14th of Nissan (Pessach Sheini). was a very propitious time for asking Rabbi Meir Baal Haness to intercede in one’s behalf. As I walked around the room, I heard touching, gripping stories of people’s prayers being answered. Even over this last weekend in Providence, RI, I heard one such story…

Rabbi Benchimol: "If you need anything, or if you have lost your way, Rabbi Meir Ba'al Haness will help you find it..."

After Ma’ariv, people lit candles – on a specially set up table – while saying twice, “Eloka d’Meir aneini,” as each silently concentrated on his/her requests…

The emotions, the fervor, were contagious...

Meeting friends and friendly strangers, praying with them mincha and later ma’ariv, listening to the Rabbi’s divrey Torah, pouring out my heart as I concentrated on my personal requests – while lighting my candle – the delicious food, the drinks, made this a very inspiring and enchanted evening. Thank you Sidney, thank you Tammy.

Eloka d’Meir aneinU! God of Meir, answer US all!

CS

02
May
11

Yom Hashoa – Holocaust Remembrance Day


I’ve always had mixed feelings about Yom Hashoa, on the one hand it would have been preferable to honor our martyrs on the individual anniversaries if only these were known, on the other hand not only are most death anniversaries unknown, many of the 6,000,000 left no one to even remember them. No one to remember, nothing more than the indelible blood stains on the souls of their murderers, on the souls of those who publicly and privately rejoiced, on the souls of those who turned a blind eye, on the souls of those who perhaps winced and forgot it, on the souls of those who deny history…

As I reread my last year’s post (The Proper Way to Die), my eyes swell up, though I’ve read and heard this story many a time, I doubt I could say anything new here so forgive me for posting it again…

In a world where there are Holocaust deniers, where European cities (in deference to Muslims living there) have decided to do away with Holocaust commemorations, in a world where schools in the UK find it expedient (in the interest of a misguided, pernicious, “Political Correctness”) to ignore important historical facts (such as the Holocaust), I thought I should tell a simple story today Yom Hasho’a – the day that commemorates the Holocaust.

There are 6,000,000 stories of those that died, I cannot tell them all! Many of these are known, some (most, like their protagonists and their families) have totally vanished from the human mind, from any surviving record. Some are stories of unbelievable strength, others are more mundane but all unequivocally show an unconquerable spirit. A spirit that no Nazi power could break, no enemy before, no enemy after can destroy.

This is the Story of Rabbi Zvi Michelson, one of Warsaw’s oldest rabbi’s who at the age of 79, became just another of the 700,000 Jews killed in the death camps of Treblinka.

Early in 1942 the Germans first began their systematic raids in the Warsaw ghetto, snatching Jewish men, women and children from the warrens in which they had been “resettled” and transporting them to the extermination camps.

In the very first of these raids, the Germans aided by Ukrainian soldiers surrounded the house in which Rabbi Michelson lived, shouting through the megaphones that all those inside were to come out into the courtyard. All the Jews in the building obeyed the German command – except for Rabbi Michelson, who refused to budge. Those who would remain in their rooms, he reasoned, would soon be routed out by the German soldiers. Their travail would not last long; they would be gunned down on the spot, and their bodies would be flung into the street. There, chances were that other Jews would find them, pile them upon the carts that creaked through the ghetto alleys to collect the dead and bury them in accordance with Jewish law. Those who would go to the Germans in the courtyard, on the other hand, would be loaded by the storm troopers onto trucks and taken to the death camps. There they would die, too, but not without suffering. Even worse, from what the rabbi had heard, they would not be buried at all but cremated, in violation of the Torah. And so Rabbi Michelson prepared himself to meet death as he felt befitted a man of age and tradition. He put on his phylacteries, draped his tallith (prayer shawl) around his spare body, bolted the door of his room and waited for the Germans to come.

...to be murdered at Treblinka...

But things did not happen the way the rabbi had expected. Yes, the Germans, accompanied by a Jewish ghetto policeman, kicked open the door and burst into Rabbi Michelson’s room. But when the storm troopers saw the old man with the long flowing white beard standing upright before them, stern of countenance and draped from shoulders to feet in his snowy-white, silver -bordered prayer robe, they were immobilized by awe, indeed by a fear, such as they probably never knew before. Years later, the ghetto policeman, who survived the war, was to tell the end of the story. “Why, it is Moses himself!” the policeman heard one of the Germans mutter. With that, the German silently turned and led the others out of the room, slamming the door and leaving Rabbi Michelson untouched.

Alone in his little room, the rabbi could hear the babble of the crowd in the courtyard below, mingled with the raucous shouts of the German soldiers. From his tiny window, he could see the others from his house being shoved into onto huge German army trucks. And a thought far more frightening than death came to Rabbi Michelson. True, he had been granted a a miraculous reprieve. But for how long? When the Germans would recover from their surprise, they would return and shoot him. That is how he would die, and he would die alone. In effect, by refusing to leave his room he had run away like a coward; he had deserted his brethren. Which, he asked himself, was the proper alternative – to die alone, with the chance that he alone might be found by some survivors outside and be given proper burial, or go out to his brethren and be with them on their last journey? Which was the proper way to die?

It did not take Rabbi Michelson more than a moment to make his decision. He turned from the window, adjusted his tallith, and strode from the room. With firm steps, he descended the stairs and marched out into the courtyard. There he joined the others on their way to the Umschlagplatz, the assembly point from where they all were to be taken to Treblinka. He remained a source of comfort and inspiration to his brethren, and when the end came, he shared their fate. He is among the millions who have no graves, but he has a lasting memorial in the annals of valor and uprightness.

(from The Unconquerable Spirit – by Simon Zucker and Gertrude Hirschler)

Being the son of Holocaust survivors (the younger sibling of a brother I never got to meet, killed at age 3 for the heinous crime of having been born a Jew), I’ve heard hundreds of stories of unbearable horrors and indescribable courage, stories that show the greatness and the baseness of human beings, stories that reveal deep character flaws and hidden jewels but… neither can I retell them all here nor would you, gentle reader, bear to read them all. Therefore I chose one story to stand as a monument to all the known ones and all those that shall forever remain buried… like the people who lived them…

Perhaps a better title would have been a Proper Way to Live….

CS

14
Apr
11

Passover’s Relevance Today


In the Hebrew calendar year of 2448 (currently, the year is 5771) the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, exited that land under Moses’ leadership. Passover – the Festival of Freedom – has ever since been one of the highlights of the Jewish calendar. With its lengthy preparations, its rituals and the joy expressed at being free, it is unlike any other Jewish Holy Day. Jewish slavery in Egypt ended three thousand three hundred and twenty three years ago, but Jewish history is unfortunately rich in attempt after attempt by various powerful empires (who have since disappeared!) to convert or enslave those accursed, stiff necked, Jews.

In spite of every such try – right through modern times – the stubborn Jew refuses to go away, refuses to convert, refuses to die. Historians are perplexed! The Jew is a total anomaly! Forces far superior have tried their best to destroy him, in vain, only to became themselves little more than the equivalent of a few chapters in learned history tomes. Arnold Toynbee, the late British historian, in his Study of History refers to the Jew as “the fossil of history,” but he is hopelessly wrong… A fossil has been dead for thousands of years while the Jews are and will still be here long after Professor Toynbee will be forgotten, long after the learned Professor ceases to be even a footnote in some book of historical curiosities.

The message of Passover, the longing for freedom, the two thousand years of exile, the praying and crying to return home have paid off. In 1948 (63 years ago!), the State of Israel was officially established by the United Nations. Interestingly enough, Abraham (whom Jews and Arabs descend from) was born in the Hebrew year of… 1948! Was this just a mere coincidence?!?!?

The Jew’s dream of living – once again – in an independent Jewish country may have come to fruition, but the danger to Jewish survival is far from over. The same enemy that threatens to change the face and lifestyle of the West first wants to destroy the Jew, as an appetizer to his final goal of total conquest of the planet. Europe – especially – and the US, have long mislaid their will to fight for their Western values. Europe, the enlightened, has lost its spirituality and with it any reason to defend its lifestyle which has morphed into a search for instant gratification rather than for something of lasting value. Europe, at one time produced great civilizations and empires, it produced immortal works of art, literature and music. But it lost its inner qualities along the way and instead replaced them with emptiness. Its current philosophers, authors, composers do not compare with the masters of yore and – unlike the classics – are unlikely to be remembered within a few centuries from now.

America the mighty, where a strong work ethic and spirituality once propelled it to the undisputed leadership of the free world,  the America that brought to fruition the dreams and longings of everyone thirsting for freedom and a better chance for a happy life, that America, like Europe,  is also badly afflicted with horrible diseases. As a result of a mislabeled, misnamed, liberalism and its associated maladies (all aggravated by an acute case self hating anti-Americanism), that America suddenly moves around like a confused giant, faltering in its way, unfocused in the present, unsure of its future course.

Just as there were some Jews who preferred to stay in Egypt at the time of the Exodus (only 20% of the Jews actually left with Moses), just as there were those who could not imagine the Hebrew tribes would ever form their own independent kingdom, so there are today those who doubt the viability of a Jewish country on Jewish land. Not only are there self -hating “enlightened” Jews inside and outside of Israel, but there are also the doubters and fools who run its government.

The leadership of a country at war, has to do everything in its power to protect its denizens in the most forceful, most efficient manner possible. World opinion be damned, they never have, nor will they ever come to the aid of us Jews at the moment of peril. Looking at Israel’s governments, over the last 20 plus years, one must wonder how pervasive is the horrible malaise that is so prevalent in Europe and other places. Israel was given to the Jewish tribes by Hakodosh Boruch Hu, as promised to Abraham. Instead of vigorously defending their patrimony, instead of vigorously and unequivocally defending the Jewish rights to their own land, today’s leaders bend to the will, to the opinion of the same Europeans who live on soil soaked with centuries of innocent Jewish blood. When in history has appeasement ever worked?!?!? Remember WWII and British PM Neville Chamberlain’s dangerous, foolish, “Peace in our Time” act of appeasement towards Hitler?

When in history has anyone in Christian Europe ever turned the other cheek? Yet that same Europe who never followed its own dogma demands that the Jew turn the other cheek, isn’t that hypocritical? Isn’t that little more than pathological hatred of that stiff necked Jew who refuses to die, who refuses to become a fossil? And yet, Israeli governments – some further than others (I admit!) – are more intent in pleasing the Europeans and liberal Americans than in defending their own people?!?!?

Food symbols of Freedom...

As long as these governments have greater fear of world opinion tha they have regard for their duties as Jews, then perhaps Israel’s hour of redemption has not yet arrived. If Israel is to be no more than a mere Western enclave in the Levant, rather than a proud nation living in its own land of thousands of years, then it may yet again (chas vesholom, sholom vechas, God forbid!!!!) be spit out of its land.

Israel was historically entrusted with a mission, the mission was to become a light unto the nations, a mission that meant fearless pursuit of our values as commanded in the Torah and explained by our Sages. Alas, what we have instead is a country run by political eunuchs with no belief, with no gumption to fulfill their Divine mission. We are about to celebrate Pessach, to commemorate the time the Almighty, Himself, liberated us from slavery and yet… over 3300 years later, in our own country, we still live emotionally enslaved to those who would gladly celebrate our demise.

Yes, we too suffer a serious malaise; we are deficient – as a nation – in our spirituality, in our belief in the Almighty and ourselves. Adapting the mores of other nations, living life in the manner of other nations never worked for the Jew – on the contrary –  it has only led to his getting ruthlessly decimated. Let’s face up to the truth and our responsibilities; we are different, we have a Divine mission! Let us hope that this Pessach we break the chains of spiritual, emotional and intellectual slavery and become truly liberated from our self imposed indenture to others’ bankrupt values. If we do, then and only then, will the West wake up from its complacency and vigorously stand up to those who would take today’s world back to the barbarism of the seventh century of the Current Era.

CS

03
Jan
11

This Week’s Upcoming Internet Radio Show


Elizabeth Bland, photo from her website (cheesemistress.com/)

Last Wednesday we had a very interesting discussion on cheese and kosher cheese in particular with Elizabeth Bland (we will soon post, on these very pages, a supermarket trip with Mrs. Bland where we will look at various kosher cheeses. Meanwhile you can hear an .mp3 file of our radio show here.

This coming Wednesday – January 5, 2011 – our guest will be Gill Marks. Gill recently published the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. What are Gill Marks credentials? What qualifies him to talk or write about food? As his website states:

Gill Marks, at The James Beard Foundation. Photo from gilmarks.com

An author, rabbi, historian, chef, and social worker, Gil Marks is a leading authority on culinary subjects in general and Jewish cuisine in particular. Among his published books are Encyclopedia of Jewish Food (Wiley: 2010), James Beard Award-winning Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World (Wiley 2004), and James Beard Award finalist The World of Jewish Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 1996). Marks was included in the Jewish Forward’s annual “Forward 50,” a list of the fifty most influential Jewish-Americans in the year 2010. http://www.forward.com/forward-50/

A self-taught chef, Marks entertained at his New York City home, earning a reputation as a gourmet cook. He began moonlighting for several caterers before branching out on his own. Some of his early jobs involved baking 150 apple pies for a cooking spray promotion, an all-dessert bat mitzvah, and a health food wedding. In 1986, Marks combined his interests in food, history, Judaism, and writing to become founding editor of Kosher Gourmet magazine, a position he held for six years. After leaving Kosher Gourmet, Marks turned his attention to writing fiction and biblical research as well as continuing his work on culinary subjects. His efforts include two plays, Therapist, and, in collaboration with Stanley Allan Sherman, The Golem of Gavah. His other books are The World of Jewish Desserts (Simon & Schuster, September 2000) and The World of Jewish Entertaining (Simon & Schuster, 1998) and he was also among the international team of contributors to the prestigious Meals in Science and Practice: Interdisciplinary Research and Business Applications (Woodhead Publishing, 2009).

Marks has also written articles for numerous magazines; served as a guest lecturer at the Culinary Institute of America,HazonKosherfest, and Drisha Institute; acted as consultant for various companies and organizations; and given presentations throughout the world, including the 92nd Street Y, Macy’s DeGustibus Cooking SchoolThe Learning Annex, the Kislak Adult Center, and the Fresh Start Program at New York’s Rikers Island. Marks continues to write, research, lecture, and perform cooking demonstrations for groups across the country and make appearances on various television and radio programs.

When I first contacted Mr. Marks to arrange the radio interview I thought it would be a short call, instead I was totally fascinated listening to his stories and the call was rather a long one. He is a captivating repository of anecdotes and history, this upcoming show promises to be a very interesting one!

Please, listen in on Wednesday at 8:00pm on Jewish Radio Network. Click on the red “here” under the white “Radio,” then wait about 90 to 180 seconds for the application to start streaming.

CS




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