Archive | March, 2010

Eggs: What would Passover be without them?

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Eggs: What would Passover be without them?

Posted on 29 March 2010 by admin

By Linda Moreleggs

NEW YORK (JTA) — I start Passover food shopping by buying six dozen eggs, but it’s never enough. Inevitably I return to the store at least twice, purchasing two or three more cartons of eggs each time.

Matzah garners most of the attention in Passover fare because of the unleavened bread’s prominent role in the Exodus story. Eggs, however, are the unsung heroes, working behind the scenes, enhancing nearly every recipe consumed during the holiday’s eight days.

Without fanfare, eggs perform the binding and heavy lifting usually accomplished by flour. With great prowess, eggs hold together the ingredients that go into Passover kugels, matzah brie and matzah farfel casseroles.

When egg whites are whipped to a frenzy with electric beaters, they increase in volume six to eight times, lending structure and leavening to many baked goods. Egg whites singlehandedly add loft to cakes and other pastries, encouraging them to rise without a boost from the usual sources — flour and baking soda.

Eggs play a pivotal role during seders. Spherical and white, they symbolize the rebirth that occurs in the spring. Every seder plate reserves a place to display a roasted egg to remind us of the burnt offerings, the daily roasted sacrifices in the Temple. These sacrifices can no longer be offered because the Temple was destroyed centuries ago.

In addition, the roasted egg on the seder plate is a symbol of the new life the Jewish people acquired in attaining their freedom from Egyptian bondage.

During seder ceremonies all over the world, Jews consume an egg course. Ashkenazim partake of eggs that have been hard-boiled and chilled. During the seder they dip the eggs in heavily salted water, a symbol of the tears shed by our ancestors during slavery.

As a child, I looked forward each spring to the taste of hard-boiled eggs in a salty bath. When I was 12, I prepared the combination for lunch one day during October. But as I took a bite of boiled egg doused in salty water, it tasted so terrible I couldn’t eat it. I was crushed by the disappointment and concluded at that young age that you have to wait for Passover to appreciate this special dish resonating with so much history.

During Passover, many Sephardim eat an egg dish called Huevos Haminados in Spanish, or oven eggs. The recipe is prepared by layering eggs among onion skins and coffee grinds in a pot of water. The mixture is then warmed in the oven on a low temperature for many hours. This slow cooking method not only gives egg yolks a satiny texture, but also turns their shells a splendid brown color, reminiscent of roasted eggs.

Many Huevos Haminados recipes suggest saving the skins from the onions used in Passover cooking. However, I find that method does not produce a large enough yield. In preparation for making Huevos Haminados, I go from supermarket to supermarket collecting skins from bins of onions. The skins of red onions lend the most gorgeous color.

Every spring my husband worries that I will be accused of shoplifting for this practice. So far, cashiers have given me nothing more than strange looks when I point out a bag full of onion skins.

While Passover is perhaps the most cherished of Jewish holidays, for many people the sheer volume of eggs used in recipes poses health issues, specifically regarding the amount of cholesterol consumed. There are several ways to be health-conscious while observing the egg’s role during seders.

The yolk is the culprit, containing all the egg’s cholesterol and fat (about 5 grams in a large egg). With only about 20 calories, the egg white consists of water and slightly more than half the egg’s protein.

For the seder’s egg course, I recommend preparing large eggs. Ironically, large eggs are the smallest size available commercially, followed by extra large and jumbo.

Another way to cut down on cholesterol is to slice hard-boiled eggs in half, thus limiting portion size. For those who want to get fancy, place a tiny dollop of caviar on each half. Cover the halves with plastic wrap before serving, so the yolks don’t dry out.

For a cholesterol-free egg course, serve egg white omelets. I suggest stirring some chopped parsley into the beaten egg whites to give them spring color. This also adds the symbol of Passover greenery. Of course, egg white omelets can be served for breakfast, brunch or lunch throughout Passover.

When it comes to matzah casseroles made with vegetables or fruit, you can eliminate one or two of the egg yolks called for in recipes. Add an egg white for each yolk you discard.

A highlight of any seder is a rich chocolate cake, made lofty and moist by a bevy of luscious eggs. If you’re counting calories or cholesterol, dessert is the one place to splurge with an abundance of eggs. To balance a cake’s opulence, serve it with fresh strawberries.

During Passover’s eight days, I often return to the supermarket for additional ingredients. I end up making more macaroons, either coconut or chocolate almond; matzah brei, either mushroom or classic; Passover lasagna, with or without meat; or my signature dish, peach kugel. These recipes wouldn’t exist without the most ubiquitous ingredient in all of Passover cooking — eggs.

HUEVOS HAMINADOS

(Oven Eggs)
(Parve)
Prepared entirely in the oven, these eggs turn sepia brown and are served at Sephardic seders as the egg course.
Equipment:
A 4-qt. ovenproof pot that you don’t care about, as it may get stained, or a deep ovenproof glass casserole of equal size
Ingredients:

  • 4 c. tightly packed onion skins
  • 12 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp. coffee grinds
  • 1 Tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 250°.
2. Place half of the onion skins at the bottom of the pot or casserole. Nestle the eggs between the skins. Don’t crowd them. Sprinkle coffee grinds over eggs. Add oil, vinegar and salt. Slowly pour enough water inside to submerge the mixture, about 2–3 qt.
3. If using a pot, cover it with the lid. If using a casserole without a lid, cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Place eggs in the oven for 6–8 hours.
4. Remove pot carefully. Lift out eggs using a long-handled slotted spoon and place them temporarily on paper towels to drain off excess water. Eggs can be served hot or refrigerated for later. Yield: 12 servings

VEGETARIAN PASSOVER LASAGNA

(Parve or Dairy)
Equipment:
2 (10-by-15-inch) ovenproof pans
Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil, or more, if needed
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 9 pieces of commercially prepared matzah
  • 2 zucchinis sliced into circles about 1/8 inch thick
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 c. Parmesan cheese, optional
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 dried sage leaves, crushed
  • 2 large pinches of dried rosemary needles
  • 6 eggs
  • Juice from half a lemon

Preparation:
1. Coat 1 baking pan with cooking spray and reserve. In second baking pan, dissolve bouillon cubes in 3 c. boiling water and reserve. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil on a medium flame. Add onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until onion slices wilt, about 5 minutes. Move onions to prepared pan and distribute evenly.
3. Submerge 3 squares of matzah into bouillon bath until barely softened. Gently lift matzah pieces one at a time. Cover onion layer with the first 2 pieces of matzah. Break the third piece in half to fill in the edges on one side. (Don’t worry if matzah falls apart slightly. But if it completely disintegrates, soften additional pieces.)
4. To the skillet, add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Add zucchini and half the garlic, sprinkling lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until wilted, about 5 minutes. Cover matzah layer with zucchini mixture. Sprinkle 1/3 c. of Parmesan cheese on top, if using.
5. Repeat Step 3 and cover zucchini layer with 3 pieces of matzah.
6. To the skillet, add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Add mushrooms and remaining garlic, sprinkling lightly with salt and pepper, plus sage and rosemary. Sauté until mushrooms wilt, about 5 minutes. Cover second matzah layer with mushroom mixture. Sprinkle 1/3 c. Parmesan cheese on top, if using.
7. Repeat Step 3 and cover mushroom layer with 3 pieces of matzah.
8. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Add lemon juice and 1 c. of bouillon and beat again. Pour egg mixture over the top of the lasagna. With a spatula, press down on the lasagna to even out liquids. Bake until lasagna is firmly set and bubbles at the edges, about 45 minutes. Recipe can be served immediately or made 2 days ahead, refrigerated, and reheated. Recipe freezes well. Yield: 24 squares

PASSOVER PEACH KUGEL

(Parve or Dairy)
Ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • 2 c. apple juice
  • 2/3 c. dried cherries
  • 2 (15-oz.) cans sliced peaches
  • 3 pieces of matzah, broken into 1-inch squares
  • 6 eggs
  • Zest and juice from half a lemon
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2/3 c. chopped walnuts
  • 4 Tbsp. margarine or butter, melted

Preparation:
1. Coat a 9-by-13-inch ovenproof baking pan with nonstick spray. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. In a small pot, heat 1 c. apple juice to a simmer. Remove from flame. Stir in dried cherries and soak them while assembling remaining ingredients.
3. Place a colander over a large bowl. Drain the peaches, reserving the liquid from the can in the bowl. Dice peaches.
4. In a medium-sized pot, heat the remaining apple juice to a simmer. Remove from flame. Soak broken matzah squares in apple juice until soft, about 5 minutes. Using the colander, drain matzah and discard the juice. Reserve.
5. With an electric beater, whip eggs until frothy. Add lemon zest and juice, sugar and salt, and beat until well combined.
6. Drain the cherries and add them to the egg mixture, along with the peaches and walnuts. On a low speed, mix until incorporated. With a wooden spoon, add soaked matzah and gently stir until incorporated.
7. Move mixture to prepared pan and spread evenly. Pour 1/3 c. of the reserved peach juice evenly over the top. Drizzle the melted margarine or butter over the surface. Kugel will look quite liquid. Place kugel in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until edges brown and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a day. Cut into squares before serving. Kugel tastes delicious with sour cream. Yield: 18 squares

MOCHA PECAN TORTE

(Parve)
Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 7 egg whites
  • 1 c. pecans
  • 1 c. semisweet chocolate bits
  • 1 Tbsp. instant espresso coffee
  • 3/4 c. sugar

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9-inch springform baking pan with cooking spray.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until firm. Don’t overbeat or whites will become watery. Reserve.
3. In a food processor, using a metal blade, grind pecans and chocolate bits until broken into small pieces. Mix in coffee and sugar until blended. Fold mixture into egg whites, and by hand gently stir with a spatula until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 40–45 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool to room temperature and serve with sliced strawberries sprinkled with sugar and drops of lemon juice, or Coffee Whipped Cream (recipe below). Yield: 10–12 slices

COFFEE WHIPPED CREAM

(Dairy)
Ingredients:

  • 1 pt. heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. instant espresso coffee

Preparation:
Place the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until cream forms firm peaks. Stop machine every minute or so to avoid overbeating and turning the cream to butter. To check for firm peaks, lift beaters from mixture. Serve immediately.

A good egg: safety and nutrition tips

1. Buy the freshest eggs possible by purchasing them before the sell-by date.

2. Before purchasing eggs, examine them for cracks to avoid bacteria from getting inside. Gently roll around each egg within the carton. If an egg won’t budge, chances are the bottom is cracked and has leaked, gluing the shell in place.

3. Always purchase eggs from a refrigerated case. Avoid cartons at the front of the case because they have been exposed to warmer air each time the case was opened.

4. At home, refrigerate eggs immediately. It’s preferable to store them in their cartons at the back of the refrigerator so they are not exposed to room temperature air every time the refrigerator is opened.

5. Refrigerate cooked eggs within an hour after preparation. They should be consumed within a week.

6. Although recipes abound for raw eggs, they are still considered unsafe to eat by many health experts who warm against salmonella poisoning.

7. To improve whipping ability, keep raw eggs at room temperature for 20 minutes (but no longer) before beating them.

8. When separating eggs, it’s preferable to keep all traces of yolks from the whites so the whites can reach the maximum volume during beating. However, a speck of yolk will not ruin your chance of producing frothy egg whites.

9. Eggs are easiest to separate when cold. While egg separators, available wherever kitchenware is sold and at many supermarkets, keep yolks from whites, they take longer than the old-fashioned method of pouring whites into a bowl.

10. The stringy stuff inside an egg anchors the yolk in the center of the white. It is not an imperfection or a beginning embryo. The more prominent the stringy stuff, the fresher the egg. It does not interfere with cooking or the beating of an egg white.

11. Eggs with a visible blood spot on the yolk are safe for consumption. These tiny red spots are caused by the rupture of a blood vessel during the egg’s formation. While in the past, the consumption of eggs with blood spots was forbidden by the laws of kashrut, because these spots were the beginning of an embryo, modern production methods have improved and this is no longer the case. Blood spots found in commercially produced eggs today do not present any fundamental problems for kosher consumers. However, many followers of kashrut continue to discard eggs with blood spots.

12. Organic eggs are produced by hens fed with certified grains, minus most conventional pesticides and fertilizers. Growth hormones and antibiotics are prohibited. Organic eggs are more expensive than regular eggs because it costs farmers more to allow their hens to roam outside of cages and to give them organic feed. However, organic eggs have the same nutritional content, fat and cholesterol as regular eggs.

13. Brown eggs are as nutritious as white eggs. The color of the shell is determined by the breed of hen.

14. Make sure your refrigerator is at 40°. If the temperature is colder, eggs may freeze. Eggs that have been frozen should be discarded as they don’t perform well in cooking. If the temperature is warmer than 40°, your eggs will not last as long as they would in a colder environment.

15. When properly stored, eggs rarely spoil. However, as an egg ages, the white becomes thinner, the yolk gets flatter and the yolk membrane weakens. Although these changes affect appearance, they don’t indicate spoilage and don’t greatly affect the nutritional value of the egg or its ability to perform in recipes. Before spoiling, an old egg is more likely to dry up. But like all organic matter, eggs can go bad. Telltale signs are a sour or fruity odor and a blue-green color. If in doubt, discard a suspicious egg. It’s not worth the risk of getting sick.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 29 March 2010 by admin

Visiting Holocaust survivor to share stories of survival

Holocaust survivor Joe Klein of Cleveland, Ohio, will share his bitter memories and the atrocities he experienced as a 14-year-old child during the Holocaust on Thursday, April 1, from 5 until 6 p.m. at Congregation Shearith Israel. Mr. Klein is visiting with his daughter, Mona Allen, and her family. Mona is the program director at Shearith Israel. Mr. Klein was interned in Auschwitz, Theresienstadt and other labor camps before being liberated. Often called upon to speak to groups, he has been recognized by many organizations for his sensitive approach to educating others, especially teens, about this sad time in his past. His impact on public, private and religious school communities is immeasurable. He often speaks to teachers, conducts training seminars on the Holocaust and is sought out to speak to students in their classrooms. While his experiences are profound, the lessons he shares for future generations are even more so.

His talk, open to the community, is suitable for teenagers and adults.

Elaine Barenblat, Beth Torah Junior Congregation leader

Elaine Barenblat, Congregation Beth Torah’s new Junior Congregation leader, comes to the position with vast understanding of the needs of the youngsters who attend services on Saturday mornings. Enthusiasm, ruach, service expertise and knowledge about children all stand her in good stead as she connects with the wide range of service participants who have come over the course of the months she has been in her position.

A member of Congregation Agudas Achim in San Antonio, Elaine has learned how to experience the joy of Shabbat through many years of Junior Congregation participation at her synagogue. Rabbi Leonardo Bitran, who stands as her model, connected with her and the children. “That standard — being personal, relishing Saturday morning services, sharing the excitement of the experience, knowing the prayers — guides how I relate to the students who come weekly to Congregation Beth Torah.”

Elaine’s background prepared her solidly for success as the Junior Congregation service leader. Her parents were active Jews with strong family values. Whether spending special time together experiencing and living Jewish values or seeing the examples set by her involved parents, the path was mapped out and followed for Jewish learning and growth. Her participation as a camper and counselor in the Camp Young Judaea programs prepared her to understand what attracts and supports youngsters as they identify with and grow their skills as practicing Jews.

Currently a student at the University of North Texas in Denton, majoring in Early Childhood Special Education, she also brings to her position sensitivity to student differences and a knowledge base for supporting students in meeting the challenges they may face. It is that spark of caring that constantly emanates from her.

The congregation has responded warmly to Elaine’s presence. Whether it is Rabbi Adam Raskin, Learning Center Director Ruth Schor or the myriad of parents who have offered her positive support and feedback, Elaine has been embraced wholeheartedly. “It is a pleasure to watch her weave her spell as she works with our youngsters,” said congregant Aki Shane. “My children respond to her leadership with enjoyment and satisfaction. They want to attend services — what a testament to her skill in working with them.”

Saturday morning Junior Congregation services are offered from 10:30 to noon at Congregation Beth Torah, 720 Lookout Drive in Richardson. Adult services are conducted from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Call the synagogue office at 972-234-1542 to get further information. Both members and non-members are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Simcha Kosher Catering offers Passover food

Instead of closing for the week of Passover, Lowell Michelson, owner of Simcha Kosher Catering, continues to offer kosher-for-Passover food as a service to the community.

Not only does Simcha Kosher Catering service the local Dallas Jewish community, but for several years they have provided kosher-for-Passover food for the soldiers at various military bases, Fort Hood and Fort Sill; Medical City Hospital; alcohol and drug treatment centers; the elderly in retirement communities; and many others.

A percentage of proceeds from Passover meals will go to military bases. It will also provide kosher-for-Passover meals for students at St. Mark’s School in Dallas. People can order food for the seder or for the entire week. Food can be shipped throughout the state.

Michelson said, “Passover is one of the most popular Jewish holidays and this is a service needed in the community.”

For more information, call 972-620-7293.

MS Walk to take place March 27 in Addison

Waldman Bros. Insurance Agency sponsors a team for the Multiple Sclerosis Walk every year, and is again in first place for fundraising for the 2010 Walk. Recently, Steve and Jackie Waldman hosted a dinner at Zinsky’s Deli. More than 200 people attended and total sales were $2,000; $1,400 will be donated to MS on behalf of Team Waldman and the MS Walk. An extra $500 was raised from additional funds donated that evening.

The Dallas 2010 presented by Subway will be held this Saturday. Registration and check-in are at 7 a.m., and the walk begins at 8 at Addison Circle Park.

For more information, contact Michael Waldman at 972-458-8700.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 29 March 2010 by admin

‘Daytimers’ visit AT&T Performing Arts Center

Thirty-three Daytimers joined in Fort Worth’s Intermodal Transportation Center on the TRE train to Dallas’ AT&T Performing Arts Center last week. The group enjoyed a box lunch on the train, met the DART train at Union Station and walked through the Dallas Arts District to meet in the lobby of the Winspear Opera House.

The tour started at the top of the enormous complex, where the group had a view through the glass walls of much of the growing Arts District. They walked to the front of the stage and were able to see the extensive capability of the stage and its equipment.

The group proceeded across the plaza to the Wyly Theater, the new home of the Dallas Theater Center. The Wyly is a completely vertical complex with the box office on the ground floor, theater on the second floor, three additional floors of equipment and offices and a sixth-floor small experimental theater.

The trip ended with a walk back to the DART station for a ride on the TRE for the trip home.

Next event for the “Daytimers,” Wednesday, April 14, will feature Dr. James W. Riddlesperger, Jr., a frequent consultant to the news media concerning politics and ­elections. Dr. Riddlesberger will speak on “Texas Elections 2010: Republican Dominance or Democratic Resurgence?” For reservations, call Barbara Rubin, ­817-927-2736, or Sylvia Wexler, ­817-294-1129, or checks can be mailed to Daytimers, Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road, Fort Worth, TX 76109.

The Sylvia Wolens “Daytimers” is a program of Beth-El Congregation with financial support from the Jewish Federation.

Community Mitzvah Day, April 25

Four synagogues in Tarrant County — Ahavath Sholom, Beth-El, Beth Israel of Colleyville and Beth Shalom of Arlington — will participate in the Annual Community-wide Mitzvah Day on April 25. Volunteers will meet at Beth-El for an early 9 a.m. service and breakfast before leaving for their various assignments. They will visit hospitals where they will work in the gift shops, deliver toys and magazines to patients, and serve as messengers and at the information desk, among other tasks.

Donations, of every kind, can be brought to the Temple.

The charitable event is a program of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

Beth Shalom gala fundraiser to be held May 1

Congregation Beth Shalom’s biggest fundraising event of the year, their 12th Annual Gala, will be held Saturday evening, May 1, at 6 p.m. at the Temple, 1211 Thannisch in Arlington.

Talented Chef Philippe Lecoq, who has prepared gourmet meals for the galas for many years, promises an outstanding menu. Stations will be set up throughout the reception area, laden with foods of every description, including heavy hors d’oeuvres. The fun evening will include a live and silent auction, raffle and casino with roulette, “21,” Texas hold ‘em and other games. Music will be provided by popular Arlington DJ Mike Burk.

Among the articles to be auctioned are a Triumph motor, several children’s items including a playhouse for the back yard, a child’s bedroom set and many more. A 46 inch soft screen TV will be raffled.

In charge of the evening are Jan and Howard Weiss, Adam Weiss and Jeff Rothschild. Barry Goldfarb is president of the congregation. The event is a benefit for the temple and Camp Impact, led by Al Fratina.

To volunteer or for information call Jan or Howard Weiss, 972-679-2265.

Admission is $500 for a reserved table for 10 guests or $35 for individuals. The community is invited to attend.

Casa Mañana announces auditions

Casa Mañana has announced that “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” auditions for children and adults will be held on April 9 and 10. The popular Broadway musical will be presented July 23–29 at the Bass Performance Hall. The production will be directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes. Rhodes was the assistant choreographer for the original Broadway production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” He has appeared on Broadway as a performer in “Chicago,” “Fosse,” “Bells Are Ringing” and “Urban Cowboy.”

Auditions for the upcoming production will be held at Casa Mañana Theatre Rehearsal Studio, 3101 West Lancaster Ave. (located directly behind the theater) in Fort Worth.

Children, ages 8–12, can audition on April 9 by appointment only.

On April 10, there will be open auditions for adult principals, chorus and dancers. Dance call will begin at 10 a.m., with no appointment necessary. The studio will open at 9:30 a.m. for warm-up. Dancers may be required to sing. Vocal auditions, by appointment only, start at 2:30 p.m.

To make an audition appointment for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” please contact Lindsey Atkinson at 817-321-5001 or lindsey.atkinson@casamanana.org.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.casamanana.org or call 800-745-3000.

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 29 March 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

It’s time to think about matzah — I mean, really think about it. What it stands for.

We don’t have to think too hard, because Yehiel Poupko wrote all about this at Pesach five years ago. I’ve saved his words; they’re just as important for Pesach now.

Full disclosure first: I grew up in the shul of Bernard Poupko, an important, dynastic rabbi in the Orthodox tradition. Yehiel is one of his sons. I remember him as a very little boy, on the bimah, davening with his father. Of course he’s a rabbi, too, now — in Chicago, the last time I looked. Which was where and when I found his Passover message, called “Matzah: The Seder’s Sacred Messenger.” In it, he says that it’s “the matzah and the matzah alone over which the whole narrative is recited. Matzah is bread animated with memory….”

Rabbi Yehiel Poupko calls the seder “the most complex and detailed of Jewish rituals. A variety of texts have to be recited, chanted, studied, prayed. In their midst, a variety of foods — properly prepared — must be taught, presented, and eaten at the right moments, with understanding and purpose.” But the matzah, like the cheese in the famous nursery song, stands alone. The theme of the Haggadah, which guides us, is matzah.

To begin our seder, we bless the matzah. Then we break it, and put aside a piece to end our seder with. The story of Passover is recited in the presence of this broken bread. And why must we break it? Yehiel says, “Matzah really is poor bread, just flour and water, quickly kneaded by the poorest of the poor and baked on a hot rock in the desert sun of the Middle East. And the Talmud says it must be eaten as a poor person eats poor bread — never a whole loaf, but scraps and bits and crumbs.

“This was the poor bread that our ancestors ate while enslaved in Egypt: the bread of slavery itself.” So we break it to summon up the memory of poverty and torment. Yet it’s also the bread of faith, since those ancestors ate it before Sinai, before they had the Torah, when they left Mitzrayim with not much more than faith in God.

You see, that quick escape wasn’t the first time our people ate matzah! From Yehiel, I’ve learned that Moses told his people 14 days in advance about the 10th plague, and what they must eat that night: lamb broiled over an open fire, bitter herbs — and matzah. Why matzah, when they had ample time to make dough and let it rise? Because that first Passover, observed in homes rather than a place of worship, made each family’s table an altar.

“Because on the shared table of God and Israel,” Yehiel says, “everything must be pure. Leavening is not pure. The night of the first Passover meal, we were eating the only sacrificial meal found in the Torah that takes place outside a sanctuary. A sacred meal demands pure foods. Matzah is pure bread, just flour and water. Elemental.

“On that night, back in the land when and where we were still slaves, we became free by asserting that every home is a temple, every table an altar, every meal a sacrifice, every Jew a priest.”

This is a heavy matter to contemplate. But Yehiel offers us something much lighter to consider as well. Our seder culminates with the eating of the afikomen, the poor bread that has been waiting for us throughout, so that the last taste on our lips at the end of this special meal will be the taste of matzah.

If the children are sleepy, the Talmud says they may play “catch” to stay awake. With the matzah! The very first Frisbee! “This is actually the only time we permit this possibly less than fully respectful kind of fun to take place with bread, the staff of life,” Yehiel says.

So we begin the seder by tasting broken bits of matzah, and end it by eating the afikomen. The same matzah. But we have been transformed, at our table altars, from slaves into free men and women, just as our ancestors were. And that matzah has been transformed as well, from the poor bread of torment to the bread of faith.

The little boy I knew years ago has taught me to think deeply about matzah. Please join me! May Rabbi Yehiel Poupko’s wisdom enrich Passover for all of us this year.

E-mail: harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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Ask the Rabbi

Posted on 29 March 2010 by admin

By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried

Dear Readers: In response to questions from many, I am repeating this column from previous years with hopes of breathing some fresh air into the preparation for Pesach.

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I’m cleaning my house for Pesach as I have done every year since becoming more observant. I’m changing over the dishes to the Pesach ones, covering my counters and more. Although I know I need to do this, I’m having trouble getting anything spiritual out of all this cleaning and working. Could you give me anything to focus on which might help?

—Sonya L.

Dear Sonya,

I think what’s bothering you bothers most women, and their male helpers as well, when going through the drudgery of Pesach cleaning. The traditional blessings around this time of year are to have a Purim sameach (a joyous Purim) and a Pesach kasher (a kosher Pesach). One Chassidic rebbe used to wish people a kosher Purim (it’s easy for Purim to be joyous, harder to make it proper and kosher) and a Pesach sameach (it’s often tough to bring Pesach in joyfully with all the hard work getting there).

If we take a new look at Pesach preparation in the context of understanding what a Jewish holiday is all about, we can take a fresh, redeeming look at Pesach cleaning.

The concept of a yom tov, or holiday, in Judaism is very different from that of the outside world. In the world at large, time is a continuum which moves in a straight line. We mark off times to represent days and dates, but those have no relation to the same date a year ago or many years ago. When one celebrates the Fourth of July, it is an important remembrance for events that took place over 200 years ago, but they happened then only, and now we just celebrate the anniversary.

In Judaism, however, as explained by the Talmud and the Kabbalists, time is not a continuum, rather a cycle that moves in circles. Every date takes us back to the source of that date. If at any given time of year G-d chose that date to reveal the Divine Presence and shine the great light of the Shechinah onto the world, when we return to that date of the year-cycle that light is still shining just as brightly as the day He performed the miracles of revelation. There are some who clearly see and experience that light, those who have elevated themselves to higher spiritual levels. But for all of us, that light is shining upon us in a hidden way; that hidden illumination is the source of the holiness of the holiday.

This leads us to a very different outlook upon our holidays. A Jewish holiday is not something you do, but something you enter. For example, to relive the feelings of love and heavenly protection in the desert, we need to actually leave our homes and enter a different physical and mind-space, and live in a sukkah for seven days. We don’t just observe Sukkot; we enter the world of Sukkot.

On Shavuot night, seven weeks after Pesach, there is a custom observed worldwide for Jews to stay up all night studying Torah. Through this total immersion in Torah we leave our worlds and enter the space of Sinai.

With Pesach as well, we are enjoined not only to observe Pesach, but to transcend our world and enter into the world of Pesach. This is implicit in the statement of the Haggadah that every year every Jew should see themselves as if they personally are leaving Egypt. That’s only possible if you leave your familiar surroundings and enter a new world, the world of Pesach.

This is the reason we need to clean our homes of the familiar foods, even sell them to a non-Jew through the rabbi, and put out special tablecloths and dishes. We are no longer in our familiar homes, but have left them behind for our new ones — our Pesach homes. In the new home we are empowered to enter a new mind-space, the world of Pesach. With every cabinet you clean and every rag you use, you’re one step closer to entering the world of redemption!

Wishing a wonderful, joyous and kosher Pesach to you and all the readers!

Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at yfried@sbcglobal.net.

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Shalom From the Shabbat Lady

Posted on 29 March 2010 by admin

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

Passover is when we tell the story of our time in Egypt and the difficulties of being a “stranger.” We are reminded that we must welcome the stranger because we remember the feeling. Today it is a challenge to talk about this because of the worries about strangers. Parents, grandparents, teachers and all of us who work and live with children are concerned about teaching them many things. We want our children to have friends, and to have a friend you must be one. Making friends is easy for some and very hard for others. We are often dismayed about how our children treat the “new” kid. Perhaps you can use some of these ideas in talking, particularly with older children, about welcoming even as we want our children to be aware of “stranger danger.”

The “Jewish value” is called v’ahavtem et hager — love the stranger! “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:20). The Torah tells us 36 times to love the stranger and reminds us that we were strangers in the land of Egypt. This repetition tells us how essential this concept is to us — it is an important commandment that tells us how to treat all people. The reminder that we were strangers helps us put ourselves in the place of others.

Here are three texts from the Book of Deuteronomy:

*Deuteronomy 10:19: “You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

*Deuteronomy 10:17-18: “For the Lord your G-d is G-d supreme.… [He] befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.”

*Deuteronomy 24:22: “Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.”

Beginning in the Book of Genesis, Abraham is “warned” that his people will be slaves. In Exodus, when we leave Egypt, we are reminded over and over not to forget being a slave. Why do you think G-d put our people into that situation? Is it important to experience something to be able to understand it? Talk about a time when you felt like a stranger or felt different from others. What did you learn from the experience? Can you learn something from a bad experience? At Passover, we are told to remember that we were slaves. We can only recall something if it happened — but we weren’t living back then. How can we remember it?

There are many ways we may feel like strangers. Sometimes being the “new kid” reminds us of how nervous a person can be, waiting for someone to come over and just say hello. What can you do to make someone new feel welcome? Another way is when you are different — perhaps looking different, speaking another language or having a special need. When we befriend someone, we learn that they are more like us than different from us.

Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Passover lowdown

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Passover lowdown

Posted on 29 March 2010 by admin

By Annabel Cohen

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are sugars and starches, and nearly all foods contain them. Many of us want to avoid carbs.

But we don’t have to completely steer clear of carbs (we need them for energy), IF we choose the right ones. Complex carbohydrates are often acceptable on low-carb diets. Whole grains, legumes and brown rice (for you Sephardim) and most vegetables are good carbs. What we must pass up are “simple carbs” — white sugar and flour, very sweet fruit, and starchy vegetables such as white potatoes and carrots.

But you CAN eat low-carb during Passover. For gefilte fish, leave out the “fillers” and substitute low-calorie sweetener for sugar. Cut the onions a bit; don’t eat the carrot. Make roast brisket, but leave out sugary ingredients such as ketchup and wine. Even matzah balls can be made with whole-wheat matzah meal.

Sara’s Gefilte Fish

This recipe, from a friend in Bloomfield Hills, has already been adapted to be naturally low-carb.
NOTE: I prepared this without the matzah meal with good results.
Fish:

  • 1 large white onion (about 8 oz.)
  • 3-1/2 lb. ground fish (from about 4 lb. whole whitefish and 3 lb. pickerel; reserve head and bones)
  • 1/2 c. ice water
  • 3 large eggs
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c. whole-wheat matzah meal

Stock:

  • Reserved heads and bones of fish
  • 1 large yellow onion, unpeeled
  • Water
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch rounds

Prepare fish: Peel and cut the onion into small chunks (reserve both ends of the onion). Place the onion pieces in the bowl of a food processor and process the onion until it very finely chopped (almost a paste).
Place the fish in a large bowl. Add the onions and water and mix with an electric mixer until combined. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. white pepper). (To test seasoning, place a small amount of fish on a dish and microwave for 1 minute. Taste for seasoning. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.) Mix in the matzah meal. Chill mixture until ready to use.

Prepare the stock: Place the reserved fish heads and bones in a large pot. Season the heads and bones well with salt and pepper. Add the whole onion and reserved onion ends. Cover with water and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low boil and cook for 30 minutes. Strain the stock into a large bowl and discard the head and bones.
Place the stock back into the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Bring another pot of water to a boil (to use if needed later).

Using wet hands, form the fish mixture into 12–20 egg-shaped balls (depending on the size you prefer) and drop them into the boiling stock. Add enough boiling water (if needed) to cover the fish. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes. Add the celery and carrots and cook for one hour more (shake the pot occasionally so that the balls do not stick to the bottom of the pot). Turn off heat and allow the fish to cool in the stock.

Remove fish to a deep dish and cover with stock (reserve carrots if desired). Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Microwave Mashed Cauliflower

If you’d like to add cheese to this recipe, stir in 1/2 c. of Parmesan cheese (or your favorite cheese), or 1/2 c. softened cream cheese, to the mixture.

  • 2 lb. cauliflower florets (from about 2 cauliflower heads)
  • 1 tsp. fresh minced cauliflower
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle

Place the cauliflower florets in a large microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cook on high for 6 minutes, or more, until the cauliflower is very tender. Place the hot cauliflower in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and stir well.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon the mixture into the dish and drizzle with oil. Bake for 30 minutes and keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 8 or more servings.

Whole-Wheat Matzah Balls

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. sparkling water, seltzer or club soda
  • 1 c. whole-wheat matzah meal
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place eggs in a large bowl and whisk well. Whisk in the oil and water. Add the matzah meal, salt and pepper and stir well (taste the batter for saltiness). Chill (uncovered) for 1 hour. Use wet hands to form the batter into about 16–18 1-inch balls.

Bring a large pot of water with 2 tsp. of salt to a boil (the balls need room to expand, so don’t crowd the matzah balls). Drop the balls into the water. Immediately cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes or until cooked through (limit lifting the lid of the pot for best results). Makes about 8 servings (eat less for low-carb).

Bertha’s Vegetable Soup

We grew up with this soup, served “as is” — chunky — or pureed (with a bit of olive oil).

  • 1 c. chopped onions
  • 1-1/2 c. chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 chayote squash, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1-1/2 c. 1/2-inch zucchini chunks
  • 1/2 c. sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • Water to cover, plus 1/2 inch
  • Salt and to taste

Combine all soup ingredients in a pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for an hour or more, until the vegetables are very soft and the broth is golden. Adjust seasonings to taste. Makes 8, or more, hearty servings.

Cheesecake with Walnut Crust

Crust:

  • 1 c. ground walnuts (or walnut meal)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. Splenda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Cake:

  • 1-1/2 lb. (3 packages) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. Splenda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • Fresh strawberries, garnish

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Prepare crust: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well. Press the crust in the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Place a large length of foil on a counter and lay the springform pan on it. Lift the sides of the foil to wrap the bottom and sides of the pan. Set aside. Pour very hot water into a pan with at least 2-inch sides that’s large enough to accommodate the springform. Place in the oven while you prepare the cheesecake.

Make filling: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and Splenda in a large bowl until creamy, Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well until incorporated. Add lemon juice and sour cream and beat well. Pour this mixture into the crust-lined pan.

Place the springform in the pan of hot water and bake for 1 hour. Since not all ovens heat equally, check the doneness of the cake by shaking the pan lightly (it should not “jiggle”); the top should be dry and firm to the touch. If it is not, bake for up to 30 minutes more, checking every 10 minutes for doneness. Remove from oven and cool. Serve cold, with fresh berries on the side. Makes 16 servings.

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Dallas Doings

Posted on 11 March 2010 by admin

Dania Tanur, Brent Weinberg inducted into prestigious international Honor Society

Ann and Nate Levine Academy eighth-grade students Dania Tanur and Brent Weinberg were two of the 50 students nationwide to be inducted into the prestigious American Hebrew Academy Honor Society. The American Hebrew Academy, in Greensboro, N.C., is America’s premier Jewish pluralistic college-prep boarding school. The Honor Society was formed to identify the most outstanding eighth-grade Jewish students from around the world. The search produced hundreds of nominations. All Honor Society inductees received invitations to the Academy’s beautiful 100-acre campus for a scholars’ weekend to be held March 12–14.

“To be named a member of the American Hebrew Academy Honor Society is a great achievement,” said Mark Spielman, director of the Honor Society. “We look forward to meeting each of the honorees and following their successes as they make great contributions to our society.” Students selected to participate in the scholars’ program have exhibited an impressive set of accomplishments, given their age. Dania was chosen by the selection committee because of her intelligence, athletic prowess, leadership ability and commitment to tikkun olam. Brent was chosen because of his commitment to Judaism, intellectual curiosity and athletic prowess.

During the scholars’ weekend, all Honor Society nominees will engage in an exceptional program on leadership that will include riveting discussions, fascinating classes and renowned speakers. All Honor Society students will be acknowledged at an induction ceremony and have the opportunity to win one of five annual scholarships worth $20,000 a year to attend the American Hebrew Academy.

“Levine Academy is an exceptional institution with an outstanding faculty and student body. Identifying stellar eighth-grade students, such as Dania and Brent, is in keeping with our mission to mentor the Jewish leaders of tomorrow,” said Leslie Grossman, director of admissions.

Additional information can be obtained by visiting the Honor Society Web site at www.ahahonorsociety.org.

Points 4 Peace Tournament set for March 21

Sports fans from first grade through adult, and a first-time addition of a division for those living with special needs — Points 4 Peace Special Edition — are invited to participate in the eighth annual Points 4 Peace Tournament, to be held on Sunday, March 21 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Aaron Family JCC in North Dallas. Points for Peace, a 3-on-3 “Hoop it Up” style basketball tournament for all ages, is an opportunity to play basketball, spend time with friends and family and win prizes while helping Israel’s victims of terrorism.

This year’s proceeds will be donated to One Family Fund’s Sderot Aftershock Project, which supports the children of Sderot. “We’re helping children who live near the Gaza Strip, for whom walking to the park or school, or standing outside their homes, is a danger and rockets land at their doorsteps daily,” said Ethan Prescott ‘10, president of SAT, which has raised more than $375,000 in the last eight years.

Carter BloodCare will also be on-site, from 2 to 4 p.m., for those wishing to donate blood, in addition to their support of SAT’s programs.

Registration is $20/player until March 14; from March 15 to 19, it is $30/player. In addition, each team must raise $200 to be donated to the One Family Fund’s Sderot Aftershock Project. All money can be sent in advance to 12324 Merit Drive, Dallas, TX 75251, or brought to the door on March 21. For more information, call 214-546-2055 or visit www.studentsagainstterrorism.org.

Pianist/educator Mark Kreditor to perform at Zale Auditorium, April 22

Mark Kreditor, pianist, educator and author, will present “Jews of the American Songbook — From ‘Gypsy’ to ‘Bye Bye Birdie’” in the Zale Auditorium at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas, 7900 Northaven Road, Dallas, on Thursday, April 22 at 7 p.m. Watch for further details.

Matzah Bakery at the J

Learn the art of making matzah just in time for Passover! Chabad of Dallas and the J are co-sponsoring “Matzah Bakery at the J,” Sunday, March 21 through Friday, March 26. Highlight of this hands-on event is a Family Day on March 21, 1–3 p.m. at the J, 7900 Northaven Road, Dallas. Cost is $2/J member, $3/non-member. Advance reservations are required. Please contact Rachelle Weiss Crane, rweisscrane@jccdallas.org or 214-239-7128, to RSVP.

Akiba presents the 2010 National Junior Honor Society inductees

The leadership team, faculty, staff and students of Akiba Academy congratulate the Akiba seventh- and eighth-grade students who were recently inducted into the 2010 edition of the National Junior Honor Society, NJHS. Language Arts faculty member Rachel Schneider, the program sponsor, welcomed families and introduced the inductees at a recent ceremony held in their honor.

Leadership team member Dr. Beverly Millican presented a short history of the Society, including the criteria considered for selection — scholarship, service, leadership, citizenship and character. Akiba graduates and NJHS inductees Justine Berman ‘08 (Scholarship), Benjamin Liener ‘08 (Service and Leadership) and Gabby Steinbrecher ‘08 (Citizenship and Character), currently students of Yavneh Academy, gave an overview of the parameters of qualification for each category.

Dr. Millican also shared the following words: “It is important for our new inductees to not only know they are being recognized for their accomplishments in the categories just mentioned, but that alongside this honor comes the challenge to develop further through active involvement in school activities and community service.”

The new inductees received official membership certificates and pins from the leadership team, and each took a turn at lighting the symbolic candle. As a group, in front of their peers and the very proud members of their families, they took the NJHS pledge, accepting the ongoing commitment to serve their school and their community.

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Around the Town with Rene

Posted on 11 March 2010 by admin

Museum presents exhibit on Sam Rosen

Sam Rosen, an immigrant from Kovarsk, Russia, arrived in Texas in the 1880s and rose from frontier peddler into entrepreneur extraordinaire. His name remains on Fort Worth landmarks, among them an elementary school, a subdivision and a Baptist church — although his family was active at Beth-El and Ahavath Sholom.

Fort Worth’s Museum of Science and History reopened in November with a new building and a local-history exhibit that includes two display cases and one exhibit board showcasing Rosen’s accomplishments. He developed a streetcar line, a 1,500-acre subdivision for workers at the Swift and Armour meatpacking plants and an amusement park with a 50-acre lake. A number of thoroughfares are named for this pioneer and his Beaumont relatives, among them Ephraim Avenue, named for his son.

Rosen’s grandson, attorney Sam Rosen, a past president of Beth-El and a collector of Rosen family memorabilia, will share the artifacts through the spring exhibit.

The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is located at 1600 Gendy St. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. Admission fee is $14/adult, $10/juniors and seniors. Wednesdays is a free day for the community. For information, call 888-255-9300.

Federation forms focus groups

As part of the Jewish Federation’s Strategic Planning Project, community members can participate in 90-minute small group discussions. Groups will be moderated by a consultant and will focus on perceptions about our Jewish community and how we should move forward. All discussions are strictly confidential and only general findings will be reported.

Please call the Federation at 817-569-0892, if you have 90 minutes to volunteer. Following are available dates and times: Sunday, March 21, 7:30 p.m.; Monday, March 22, 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, March 23, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. All groups will meet at the Federation office, off Briarhaven and Hulen.

Church delegates visit Jewish archives

Hollace Weiner tells the TJP that volunteer archivists from the Episcopal Diocese in Fort Worth visited the Beth-El Archives recently to learn how to set up archives in their various churches. She and Rosanne Margolis explained the details of how to set up a similar exhibit.

A delegation from St. Andrews Catholic Church also visited the Fort Worth Jewish Archives at Congregation Ahavath Sholom to see firsthand how the archives operate. Serving on the committee with Hollace are Adeline Myers, Joe Klein and Hannah Howard.

The archives at Beth-El and Ahavath Sholom represent all the Jewish organizations in the community.

Miriam’s Seder at Beth-El

Miriam’s Seder, an annual Tarrant County women’s event, will be held on Sunday, March 21, 5 p.m. in the Great Hall of Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road, Fort Worth.

Come share spirituality, laughter and fun with other women (bat mitzvah age and beyond) celebrating a seder for the new millennium. Using a revised Haggadah, the group will explore the historical and contemporary importance of women. Bring a cushion to recline on a tambourine for dancing, and there will be delicious food, of course!

Admission is $32 per person, by reservation only. Credit cards are not accepted. The event is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. Please contact Karen Telschow Johnson at 817-707-4518 or ktjatty@aol.com for scholarship information and reservations.

Please make checks payable to, and send to: Karen Telschow Johnson, Chair–Tarrant County Women’s Seder, 3090 Bellaire Ranch Drive, No. 427, Fort Worth, TX 76109.

Bernie Appel campaigns for Federation

Bernie Appel was invited to Macon, Ga., March 1–4 to solicit for the Federation campaign. He met with 18 donors at their homes and offices, at lunches and at dinners, to tell the Israel story. The visit was successful on behalf of that Jewish Federations of North America Network community. Bernie serves on the executive committee of the 400 Network communities.

Golden Strings play for golden-agers

The Jewish Family Services Senior Program was delighted to have the Golden Strings play for a crowd of over 75 people. The Sylvia Gray Chavurah of Arlington and members of the Daytimers also joined the group. A kosher hot dog lunch was provided free of charge and the music was enjoyed by everyone. Couples danced together and some people even danced by themselves. It was a lovely way to start the celebration of Purim. The event ended with coffee and hamantaschen baked by the CAS Ladies Auxiliary.

Hedy Collins and family dedicate playground in Israel

Hedy Collins recently returned from Israel, where she and her family dedicated a playground to her grandparents, who were Holocaust survivors. She wrote, “It was a fantastic trip. My brother, Ben Gutmann, a prominent resident of Northern New Jersey, had dreamed of spending his 60th birthday with his family in Israel. He hosted a weeklong tour of Israel for over 50 friends and family from the states. We ranged in ages from 18 months to 89 years! He had a beautiful party in Tel Aviv. We had over 60 Israeli relatives join the festivities.

“One of the highlights of the trip was a park and playground donated by my brother and his wife Susan and their children to the West Bank settlement of Nofey Prat. It is in memory of my grandparents who died in Auschwitz. Ben (who is named after our grandfather and I am named after my grandmother) had no memorial and what better way than to honor them with a playground and park for children.

“It was incredible. There were eight of my grandparents, nine grandchildren present at the dedication (one cousin passed away last year). We were joined by the children and families of Nofey Prat and many other friends and family.”

Janice Rubin’s ‘Mikvah Project’ on display in Europe

Janice Rubin’s “The Mikvah Project” is currently on exhibit in Europe. The Jewish Museum Hohenems is collaborating with the Jewish Museums of Frankonia, Frankfurt am Main and Vienna on the display.

The oldest Jewish ritual bath in Austria has been preserved in Hohenems. To coincide with the restoration of this historic building, the Jewish Museum Hohenems is offering an insight into a private realm of Jewish life, between religious tradition and secular stirrings.

With the special exhibition “Ganz rein!” from March 9 to Oct. 3, the museum is opening up an exploration of ritual and freedom, sexuality and marriage, gender roles and religion, with concepts of cleanness and uncleanness — questions that give rise to conflicts in all religions in the present as well.

The exhibition goes into the historical deeper dimension of those purification rituals that extend from Judaism to the ritual of baptism, and deals with the theme of the renaissance of mikvahs as a token of a disputed new Jewish spirituality.

Architectural studies of European mikvahs by the Frankfurt photographer Peter Seidel show the diversity of the forms of building over the centuries, and “The Mikvah Project” by the American artists Janice Rubin and Leah Lax portrays women in the mikvah and their very personal responses to this old ritual.

Janice Rubin is the daughter of Barbara Rubin of Fort Worth and Sherwin Rubin of Arlington.

‘Left Luggage’ is next in Ahavath Sholom film series

The next film in Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s ‘Til 120 and Beyond Jewish Film Series will stay with you forever.

“Left Luggage” is a movie about the love of a young nanny and the 5-year-old boy she cares for. This young woman is offered a job working as a nanny for a strict Chassidic religious family. They don’t understand her and she doesn’t understand them. But the love between the nanny and the boy bridges the gap between misunderstanding and destiny. Through her relationship with the family she gains insight into the lives of her own parents, who are concentration camp survivors. The film stars Isabella Rossellini, Maximilian Schell and Chaim Topol, among others.

“Left Luggage” will screen Sunday, March 21 at 3:30 p.m. The doors will open at 3 for those who want to come early for a good seat.

Remember, the films are free. Popcorn and lemonade are free as well. Cold drinks and candy bars are on sale with the proceeds going to the Shul’s United Synagogue Youth organization.

Ahavath Sholom thanks the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County for generously funding its film series.

Come enjoy and be a part of Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s ‘Til 120 and Beyond experience.

WRJ thanks Beth-El women for a sweet Purim

Loretta Causey, a member of Beth-El’s Women of Reform Judaism, wrote in the WRJ Newsletter: “The Sweetness of Purim….

“The many ladies who baked in the Beth-El kitchen and in their homes helped fulfill our WRJ obligation for more than 1,600 hamantaschen for the several Purim celebrations over the weekend. A big thanks goes to Linda Hoffman, who coordinated the temple WRJ bake-in. Through her contacts, several ladies enjoyed a lively baking experience at the temple. We were told that Elizabeth Cooper prepared enough dough for over 1,000 hamantaschen. What a feat for ladies, molding 1,000 triangular cookies and getting them together for the Purim community festival, the Purim celebration at the temple on Saturday evening as well as for Religious School.

“Several ladies baked from their homes and provided ample hamantaschen for the Interfaith Shabbat and for the Religious School on Sunday morning. Everyone had a sweet taste and received a touch of the labor of love from WRJ members…. A BIG THANK YOU TO EVERYONE!”

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In My Mind’s I

Posted on 11 March 2010 by admin

By Harriet P. Gross

Ironies abound.

Very recently, our daily paper’s classical music reviewer scored the Dallas Opera’s announcement of its forthcoming season: Nothing new there, he noted — and complained. At virtually the same time, a friend pointed out to me a very new Italian opera that’s just had its first performances. That’s the first irony.

The second: This new opera has a Holocaust theme. And the third irony is that its story, which involves the not-always-stellar role of the Catholic Church vis-à-vis World War II’s Italian Jews, premiered in a Catholic church. I hope you’re intrigued.

The opera is called “The Mortara Case” (“Il Caso Mortara” in Italian). New York City’s Dicapo Opera Theater actually commissioned this new work by a young composer-librettist, Francesco Cilluffo, who based it on something entirely real.

Back in Bologna in 1851, a Jewish baby, Edgardo Mortara, fell seriously ill; the family nursemaid, hoping to save this near-dead child’s soul, had him baptized without the by-your-leave of his parents. Edgardo did indeed survive, but when he turned 6, representatives of the pope came to the family’s house to claim him; according to the Vatican, no baptized child could be raised in a Jewish home.

In his New York Times review of the opera, Anthony Tommasini attributes what happened next to “righteousness and paternal longing”: Pope Pius IX raised Edgardo himself, like a son, and the boy grew up to become a priest.

With much lyric and some of what Tommasini calls “tormented, complex, highly-charged, spiky” music, especially in the scene where the boy is taken away from his parents, the opera follows Edgardo’s life until 1940. Then, at age 89, he dies — some might say fortunately, for his passing was only a few minutes before he was to be arrested by German soldiers. Ah, the supreme irony here: Under Nazi law, Edgardo was a Jew!

(In the best tradition of Italian opera, the priest has a vision of his mother just before his death, and the two join in what the reviewer calls “an agitated duet.” How could it be otherwise? No irony here: Remember, this opera is based on truth. Marianna Mortara must surely have suffered torments far beyond agitation when her youngest child was torn from her, and for the rest of her life.)

We should be quick to hand Dicapo our praise for conceiving this project and seeing it through to completion. This opera company is no Met. But it’s no amateur effort, either. Its founder and general director, Michael Capasso, birthed his artistic baby almost 30 years ago on Long Island, in a theater-turned-movie-house that was in the process of becoming a legitimate theater again. He convinced its renovators to open their inaugural season with an opera, which was “wildly successful,” he says. But then, those developers had an offer they couldn’t resist, and sold the building to folks who made condos out of it.

The opera company, however, was too good to disband. For 10 years, it “bounced around” — Capasso’s words — from venue to venue, until finding a permanent home at St. Jean Baptiste Church on Manhattan’s East 76th Street, corner of Lexington. The lower level, fully remodeled back in 1995, boasts a large lobby, a pit for Dicapo’s own 26-piece orchestra and the “supertitles” that today’s opera-goers are accustomed to. With only 204 seats, it’s certainly not The Met, but Capasso revels in that: “We stage full-scale productions with professional performers whose voices and careers bring them to the greatest opera houses of the world and still perform here,” he says. “It is very high-end. The quality is there, but there is an intimacy and accessibility to the performance that you don’t receive anywhere else.

“The difference is, our last row is closer to the stage than the first row of the Metropolitan Opera is to its stage!” There are too many ironies right here in this tale of “The Little Opera Company That Could” to count!

The last performance of “The Mortara Case” was sung one week ago tonight, and I’m really sorry I wasn’t able to be in New York to hear it. I do hope, however, that a day — or a year! — will come soon when the Dallas Opera decides to update its offerings by adding a very new opera to its seasonal schedule, and that it will choose this one for that honor. A Jewish-themed work in Italian, sung on a Texas stage: That could be the greatest irony of all!

E-mail: harrietg@texasjewishpost.com

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