Archive | March, 2018

8 things you didn’t know about Passover

Posted on 29 March 2018 by admin

 

By MJL Staff
(My Jewish Learning via JTA)— Here are nine things that many likely wouldn’t know about the Festival of Freedom:
1. In Gibraltar, there’s dust in the charoset.
The traditional charoset is a sweet Passover paste whose texture is meant as a reminder of the mortar the enslaved Jews used to build in ancient Egypt. The name itself is related to the Hebrew word for clay. In Ashkenazi tradition, it is traditionally made from crushed nuts, apples and sweet red wine, while Sephardic Jews use figs or dates. But the tiny Jewish community of this small British territory at the tip of the Iberian Peninsula takes the brick symbolism to another level, using the dust of actual bricks in their recipe.

2. Arizona Is a hub for matzo wheat.
Chassidic Jews from Brooklyn have been increasingly sourcing wheat for their Passover matzo from farmers in Arizona. Excessive moisture in wheat kernels can result in fermentation, rendering the harvest unsuitable for Passover use. But rain is scarce in Arizona, which allows for a stricter standard of matzo production. Rabbis from New York travel to Arizona in the days leading up to the harvest, where they inspect the grains meticulously to ensure they are cut at the precise moisture levels.
3. At the Seder, Persian Jews whip each other with scallions.
Many of the Passover Seder rituals are intended to re-create the sensory experience of Egyptian slavery, from the eating of bitter herbs and matzo to the dipping of greenery in saltwater, which symbolizes the tears shed by the oppressed Israelites. Some Jews from Iran and Afghanistan have the tradition of whipping each other with green onions before the singing of Dayenu.
4. Karaite Jews skip the wine.
Karaite Jews reject rabbinic Judaism, observing only laws detailed in the Torah. That’s why they don’t drink the traditional four cups of wine at the Seder. Wine is fermented, and fermented foods are prohibited on Passover, so instead they drink fruit juice. (Mainstream Jews hold that only fermented grains are prohibited.) The Karaites also eschew other staples of the traditional Seder, including the Seder plate and charoset. Their maror (bitter herbs) is a mixture of lemon peel, bitter lettuce and an assortment of other herbs.
5. Israeli Jews have only one Seder.
Israeli Jews observe only one Passover Seder, unlike everywhere else where traditionally two Seders are held, one on each of the first two nights of the holiday. Known as yom tov sheni shel galuyot — literally “the second festival day of the Diaspora” — the practice was begun 2,000 years ago when Jews were informed of the start of a new lunar month only after it had been confirmed by witnesses in Jerusalem. Because Jewish communities outside of Israel were often delayed in learning the news, they consequently couldn’t be sure precisely which day festivals were meant to be observed. As a result, the practice of observing two Seder days was instituted just to be sure.
6. You’re wrong about the orange on the Seder plate.
Some progressive Jews have adopted the practice of including an orange on the Seder plate as a symbol of inclusion of gays, lesbians and other groups marginalized in the Jewish community. The story goes that the practice was instituted by the feminist scholar Susannah Heschel after she was told that a woman belongs on the synagogue bimah like an orange belongs on a Seder plate. But according to Heschel, that story is false. In that apocryphal version, she said, “a woman’s words are attributed to a man, and the affirmation of lesbians and gay men is erased. Isn’t that precisely what’s happened over the centuries to women’s ideas?”
7. ‘Afikomen’ isn’t Hebrew.
For many Seder participants, the highlight of the meal is the afikomen — a broken piece of matzo that the Seder leader hides and the children search for; the person who finds the afikomen usually gets a small reward. Most scholars believe the word “afikomen”derives from the Greek word for dessert. Others say it refers to a kind of postmeal revelry common among the Greeks. Either theory would explain why the afikomen is traditionally the last thing eaten at the Seder.
8. For North African Jews, after Passover comes Mimouna.
Most people are eager for a break from holiday meals when the eight-day Passover holiday concludes. But for the Jews of North Africa, the holiday’s end is the perfect time for another feast, Mimouna, marking the beginning of spring. Celebrated after nightfall on the last day of Passover, Mimouna is marked by a large spread of foods and the opening of homes to guests. The celebration is often laden with symbolism, including fish for fertility and golden rings for wealth.

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Counting of Omer and anticipating the Torah

Posted on 29 March 2018 by admin

Dear Rabbi,
I have learned that the period of time after Pesach is called the “counting of the Omer.” We are said to be counting the days from Passover until the holiday of Shavuos. What is the point of this counting, now that we have calendars and can simply look up the date of Shavuos? Is it one of those things we do just because they used to do it, or is there some other reason for doing this count?
Marc W.

Dear Marc,
The “counting of the Omer,” which begins the second night of Pesach until the holiday of Shavuos, is called sefiras ha’omer and is one of the 613 mitzvos of the Torah.
The Torah says, “You shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the rest day (Pesach), from the day when you bring the Omer (offering)…seven weeks…” (Leviticus 23:15).
Let’s try to understand this mitzvah.
When one has a special event coming up that he is truly excited about and looking forward to, he often counts the days until that time arrives. For the Jewish people, the most exciting time in our history was receiving the Torah at Sinai. This was the time that we achieved the greatest intimacy of all time with the Almighty. At that time, we became an eternal nation and received our “marching orders” for the upcoming thousands of years: how to be a light unto the nations and elevate ourselves to unique spiritual greatness.
Although this transpired over 3,300 years ago, our tradition teaches that our holidays are not mere celebrations of historical occurrences. We have often explained in this column that our holidays recur yearly; the same spiritual light revealed by the Almighty at that time of our history returns when we arrive at the same time of the year.
In a sense, the Torah is given to us yearly at Shavuos. Hence, year after year, we again count the days from our freedom (Pesach) till the time of the fulfillment of the purpose of that freedom (Shavuos). This counting shows our anticipation and excitement to again experience those spiritual heights on Shavuos.
Going one step deeper, the period of sefiras ha’omer is one of growth. In order to receive the Torah, we need to transform ourselves to be worthy receptacles fit to receive all that intense spiritual energy.
The Mishnah (Pirkei Avos, ch. 6) enumerates 48 study habits and positive character traits through which one merits the acquisition of Torah. The 49 days of “counting” are a period of acquiring these “48 ways” and, on the last day fusing them into oneself, ready to receive the Torah on Day 50, the day of Shavuos.
(To study these “48 ways,” see aish.com. In addition, DATA is sponsoring a communitywide study of the 48 ways this year, providing weekly emails and insights, based upon the book The 48 Ways by Rabbi Noach Weinberg ob’m and available at aish.com or at artscroll.com. Anyone who would like to join the communitywide program can contact Rabbi Shaya Fox at sfox@dallastorah.org. It promises to be very enlightening.)
The deeper sources provide yet another vehicle for growth through the sefiras ha’omer, based upon the concept of sefiros, or 10 Kabbalistic levels of existence. During the 49 days of sefiras ha’omer, it is a time to perfect ourselves in relation to the seven lower sefiros; those sefiros which reflect God’s interaction with the physical world. These seven sefiros interact with each other, like DNA, where every cell of the body has within it the DNA of every other part of the body. Each sefirah contains all the aspects of each other sefirah within itself, hence the seven multiples of seven, or 49 days of counting.
In order to tap into this spiritual energy, we count the days, connecting ourselves to the days and marking it as a time of growth and introspection, taking us forward toward Shavuos.
Wishing all joyous final days of Pesach and happy counting!

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Spiritual growth precedes ability to accept Torah

Posted on 29 March 2018 by admin

Personal growth necessitates self-awareness, then some change to the “self” we most identify with. The change may take the form of renewal, “getting back in touch with a vision, value or ideal that we’ve somehow lost or neglected.” Other times, it’s more about creating a new identity — “reinventing myself.” Focusing on performance, people speak of “being the best version of yourself.” Then, in rare situations, the ambition is to undo “the old self” and become a different creature altogether.
Last month’s theme was breaking internal barriers through increased joy and laughter; this month we reach the heights through faith, freedom and miracles. A miracle, in general, consists of an alteration within the natural direction of the universe. The title of the current Hebrew month, Nissan, from the word nes (miracle), provides extra power to create another type of miracle — to transform our personal “nature.”
Simply put, our nature is the innate unrefined character, our specific emotional constitution, or the way we operate. In the same context, to tap into “higher than nature” means activating a deeper chord inside the soul with the force to override our ordinary way of operating.
One of the essential teachings from the Baal Shem Tov, the founding figure of the Chassidic movement, is that any significant growth or transformation involves a three-stage process in consciousness: submission, separation and sweetening. This process may be applied to many types of improvement, whether in the physical, mental, social/emotional or spiritual arena.
In general, Stage 1 requires a person’s submission: getting into a calm and focused state, emptying the mind, setting aside the ego and self-monitoring that interferes with progress, to become ready and receptive. Stage 2, the separation stage, is more active, requiring personal input and analysis to distinguish the matter at hand. By clarifying which elements belong, verses which need to be discarded, one is able to personalize a plan. This stage, a filtering process, aids in our ability to later make strong choices.
Finally, in Stage 3, once the work of the other two stages has been completed, a person is able to “sweeten” their being and reach a new place in life. This final stage is the ability to be “myself,” regardless of the environment. In a nutshell, it’s true freedom — living, as opposed to existing.
This three-stage process of transformation can be applied to the current holiday. A common understanding of Pesach — “the time of our freedom” — embraces physical sovereignty, no longer being enslaved, able to enjoy comfort on our own terms. But the holiday commemorates a more profound change — the creation of a new Jewish identity, becoming essentially bound with the Torah.
The process opened with leaving the land of Egypt — the birth of Am Yisrael — but culminated at Mount Sinai. The miraculous redemption brought faith and submission, a readiness to accept what came next. But going from a group of slaves, individuals with common ancestry called “the children of Israel,” to becoming “a Torah nation” was no typical transformation. It was an unfathomable jump.
The challenge in making this shift, from one extreme to another, is amplified by the Zohar’s explanation that right before fleeing, the souls of the Jewish people (kneset yisroel) had sunk to 49 gates of impurity, about to reach the point of no return from Egyptian exile, assimilated and irredeemable. For such a people, emerging from the cultural furnace, then reaching a state of becoming suitable receptacles for the giving of the Torah — when a potent influx of holiness, the kind of which the world itself had never absorbed, would take place — necessitated a period of intense preparation, a 49-day countdown.
Preparation involved separation: undoing attachments to acquire an elevated perspective; a steady spiritual climb toward purification. The “sweetening” was a disproportional leap — when we gained a precious heavenly gift, described throughout our literature as the “Torah of light” and the “secret treasure” of life.
The three stages can also be applied to establishing individual Jewish identity: Even though we may be aware our identity, our natural tendencies and preoccupations cover it up. So, in the moment, we act contrary to what we believe. To bring that identity to the forefront — to get it into our consciousness — we must go through these developments. The first quality is to become silent, adopting a genuine humility when seeking connection with God.
Receptiveness to a grand purpose, something beyond “self,” is the prerequisite to progress. The opposite trait, a subconscious sense of “I don’t want anyone telling me what to do,” is the most natural barrier to spiritual development, as noble action revolves around personal gratification.
Next comes the grind. Nothing meaningful and holy is achieved without steady effort and sacrifice. The “separation” process here involves understanding through learning Torah, internalizing what is beneficial to the soul and what is harmful. Like a spiritual detox, implementing this stage is never enjoyable. It tests one’s commitment and resilience to withstand previous tendencies and natural temptations.
But each moment we stick it out leads us closer to the “sweetening” — a breakthrough where you discover a changed person. From one angle, this result is a product of effort insofar as you need to work to get there. On the other hand, it’s a transformation out of proportion to the work, a gift from above.
Each year, the Jewish calendar cycle provides the opportunity to revive this growth process. On Pesach we strengthen faith, beginning with the matzo (“the bread of faith”) on the Seder night and recollecting the past miracles. It’s that time of year, when trying to reach a higher level, that we feel as if we’ve been set in motion — the taste of freedom we didn’t yet earn. After that boost comes a period of effort, the counting of the Omer, mystically meant for character refinement. Finally, we arrive at the 50th gate — the festival of “giving of the Torah” — where we reach a level far beyond our strength.
Rabbi Dan Lewin is director of the nonprofit Maayan Chai Foundation. For information, visit www.maayanchai.org.

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Kindertransport play launches Yom HaShoah observance

Kindertransport play launches Yom HaShoah observance

Posted on 29 March 2018 by admin

By Amy Sorter

This year’s observance of Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — falls on Wednesday, April 11. The Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, in conjunction with Texas Christian University’s Religious and Spiritual Life Department, will begin the observance a little earlier, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, with a presentation of My Heart in a Suitcase at the BLUU Auditorium at TCU, 2901 Stadium Drive. Free valet parking is available. The Dan Danciger/Fort Worth Hebrew Day School Supporting Foundation is providing financial support for the program, which is free and open to the public.
The ArtsPower National Touring Theatre’s play is based on Kindertransport survivor Anne Lehmann Fox’s biography and will conclude with a question-and-answer session from Magie Furst, a Dallas-area Kindertransport survivor.
Angie Friedman, the Federation’s program director, said that while the play has been performed in Dallas, the upcoming performance will be its first in Fort Worth. She also pointed out that the Kindertransport was a bright spot in an otherwise horrible situation. “This play speaks to the beautiful, wonderful human beings who took care of the children, in the face of the war,” she said.
Bringing the children
to safety
The Kindertransport involved an organized rescue of close to 10,000 children, most of them Jewish, before the outbreak of World War II. Those children were taken from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland, and sent to families in the United Kingdom until the war ended.
Furst and her brother, Bert Romberg, also a Dallas resident, are among the few remaining survivors of the Kindertransport. And, Furst is no stranger to the play, having seen it about 20 years ago — “in a Christian church, in Irving, Texas,” she said, adding that, “Everyone had a different experience, though we initially left for the same reasons.”
Furst, her brother and her mother departed her native Germany in 1939, when she was 10 years old, on one of the “rescue trains.” Her father, a decorated soldier who had survived World War I, died in 1934. The three lived in Great Britain for six years, until the war concluded.
Though the family was safe, those years were difficult — Furst said she didn’t know any English, and she was separated from her mother and brother. “Very few families were willing to take in two children,” she said. Her mother eventually brought the family to the United States, where Furst and her brother settled in Dallas during the early 1960s.
And, while Furst will be on hand at My Heart in a Suitcase, Romberg will speak at the Fort Worth Federation’s annual Yom HaShoah observance on April 11, close to a week later.
Standing up to injustice
Furst will soon celebrate her 89th birthday and calls herself “one of the babies” of the Kindertransport. She also regularly shares her experiences with children who visit the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. One constant theme cropping up is “that they don’t seem to realize that Britain wasn’t overrun with Nazis,” Furst said. “I make it very clear that it didn’t happen that way.”
One of the questions she poses to the young visitors is if they, in similar circumstances, would be willing to shelter children from different countries who were in need of rescue, without knowing anything about those children’s backgrounds or situations. “Most are quiet, they think about it,” Furst said. “But a very few say yes.”
It’s for this very reason that My Heart in a Suitcase is so important, Friedman said, as it focuses on the very topic of taking action, when needed, and standing up when injustice takes place. “Those families didn’t have to take in those children, or families, and keep them safe from war, but they did,” Friedman said.
And, while the Nazi-generated Holocaust and events surrounding the Kindertransport are well in the past, hate-generated atrocities continue taking place worldwide. Additionally, anti-Semitism is alive and well, “and not just in Europe,” Furst commented.
“I hope audiences who attend this play realize that these things are still going on; they aren’t anything new,” she went on to say. “It’s taking place all over the world, it’s happening to children in Syria, Africa and everywhere. They have to help those children, too.”

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Pickles and root beer and ‘chrain,’ oh my!

Posted on 29 March 2018 by admin

My Boubby the Philosopher was queen of her kitchen. But throughout the year, some goodies were the province of my Zaidy the Plumber, all by himself.
First, there were the pickles. Clausson’s are probably the best in local markets today, but if you think they’re good, I feel sorry for you. They’re nothing like Zaidy’s pickles, which provided a sublime “sting” that stayed with you for hours after eating.
He also made delicious root beer. At times, it was dangerous to walk in the basement of the house because you’d have to avoid colliding with bottles that covered virtually all the floor until Zaidy declared it was time to bring them up and start drinking. And how did he know that? Well, he’d cleverly constructed a “timer” of sorts by inserting a raisin or two (or maybe three) into a few of those bottles which, left alone long enough, would ferment. And when that happened, they blew the corks right out of their bottles. The sound from the cellar that resembled gunfire signaled drinkability, and everyone in the family would holler out, collectively, “The root beer’s ready,” accompanied by loud applause.
But most important of all: Zaidy made the horseradish for our Pesach Seders, and it packed a wallop that outdid everything else, surpassing even his stinging pickles and his “pickled” root beer. As a child then I had no idea what his process was, or how long it took. But I remember that at a certain time before the start of Passover, we grandchildren would gather in the dining room, seated in a ceremonial half-circle around the foot of the long table, with Zaidy sitting opposite us, alone at the head, a dish of beet-stained red stuff in front of him.
It was a quiet ritual, at least at first, and very informal: I remember him wearing a sleeveless white undershirt for the occasion. Then we would watch, holding our collective breaths, as he took a heaping spoonful from that dish, swallowed the contents in one big gulp, threw back his head —and his eyes watered furiously while his face turned as red as what he had just ingested.
After what seemed to us a long, dangerous time, he would lower his head, regain his powers of speech, and declare with satisfaction: “Good. The chrain is ready.” Then the “fun” was over; the color would drain from his face, and we’d go back to more normal activities. But to this very day, I can’t abide that wimpy stuff I find in jars…
One more bit of cooking for the “man of the house”: Once in a great while, he would make cernatzlach. If you don’t know what these are, you are definitely not Romanian. In truth, neither was my Zaidy, but he was born in a small village located on several borders that included Hungary and other countries, so depending on who was in charge locally (no one Jewish, for sure) and what day of the week it was, his nationality was subject to change. But this was a meichel no woman in our family ever attempted: finely ground beef, mixed with nothing at all except many, many cloves of garlic that had been peeled, boiled and mashed, all then formed into sausages like fat little fingers and boiled. Another powerful Zaidy dish.
I actually have an 80-year-old Jewish cookbook that doesn’t feature lists of ingredients; it just tells you what to add and do as you read along. And this “recipe,” this step-by-step set of instructions, is in it. Four cloves of garlic to every pound of meat, it says; more if you prefer. As you can guess from the information above, Zaidy did prefer.
May your Pesach tables be beautiful and your foods delicious, so good memories will travel with you into a future as long as I’ve held mine: of pickles, root beer and — above all — chrain. (P.S: Cernatzlach are Kosher for Passover…)

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Yavneh, other Jewish day schools across U.S. join walkouts demanding action on gun violence

Yavneh, other Jewish day schools across U.S. join walkouts demanding action on gun violence

Posted on 22 March 2018 by admin


By Josefin Dolsten

NEW YORK (JTA) — Students at Jewish day schools offered prayers, lit candles and demanded change as part of a nationwide student walkout calling for gun reform in the wake of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Students around the country walked out of class for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 14, to pressure Congress to approve gun control legislation and to honor the lives of the 17 victims of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The national walkouts came a week before the March for Our Lives, a protest organized by Parkland students in which their peers from around the country will descend on Washington, D.C. to call for stricter gun control.
Yavneh Academy of Dallas was among the many schools nationwide that participated. Yavneh Head of School David Portnoy explained that the senior class organized it on their own through social media and informed him about it that morning. All students and many of the staff, Portnoy included, participated in the 17 minutes of silence and reflection outside on the Schultz-Rosenberg Campus.
“While we often hear about student apathy and self-centeredness, let me assure you that this generation is passionate and poised to lead our communities at college campuses and beyond. Indeed, if you look at the way Yavneh students step up here on campus, and throughout the community, you have little to worry about, and much to be proud of.
“Our teachers and I were extremely moved by this show of independent student activism, and many of us had the opportunity to stand with them in prayer and reflection. Please know how mature and pensive our Yavneh students were and are, led by an outstanding Senior Class of 2018,” Portnoy wrote in the school’s e-newsletter.
At Golda Och Academy, a Conservative day school in West Orange, New Jersey, students organized a prayer memorial service ahead of the walkout. At the service, students and teachers spoke about the Parkland victims and lit a yahrzeit memorial candle. Each speaker was picked so that he or she shared some characteristics with the victim being talked about, such as being in the same grade or teaching the same subject.
Afterward, the overwhelming majority of students chose to participate in a walkout, where they carried signs, made speeches and sang songs.
Theo Deitz-Green, an 11th-grader and the president of the school’s student council, said he and other student organizers planned the event after learning about the Parkland shooting.
“There was a sense that, yes, it happened at a different school, but it could have just as easily happened at our school, we could have been the school experiencing that tragedy,” Deitz-Green told JTA over the phone.
“As we saw the Parkland kids start to speak out, there was a sense that something about the aftermath of this shooting had to be different. It was time not just for the country to change but for students to lead that change,” he added.
Another organizer, eighth-grader Sarah Farbiarz, was happy with how the event turned out.
“We worked really hard, so most of it seemed really powerful, and really moving, especially at the end when people were singing together. I thought that was a really great moment,” Farbiarz said.
The school was supportive of the students, said the head of the school, Adam Shapiro.
“From a school perspective we supported the desire of the students to carry out this program and make their powerful voices heard,” he told JTA in an email.
Earlier this month, Shapiro led a group of 139 heads of Jewish day schools who signed an open letter voicing their support for students organizing for gun reform after the Parkland shooting.
Students at Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Brooklyn also held a prayer memorial service. The service honored all victims of gun violence in schools. Students gave out note cards with the names of gun violence victims, lit a yahrzeit candle and prayed for the families of victims.
After the service, students had the choice to stay inside, walk outside the school or walk together with teachers to Brooklyn Borough Hall, where students from other schools gathered. The majority of students took part, said Annette Powers, the school’s director of communications and marketing.
Powers said supporting the walkout was “very much in line with our values.”
“We’re a school that really promotes the idea of social action and not just talking about issues but taking action to make a difference,” she said.
At the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, a pluralistic school in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, students gathered in a parking lot outside the school. They read about the lives of the Parkland victims and heard speeches from students and teachers.
“It was really an incredible sense of togetherness that all these people I’ve talked to about other issues where we might not agree, or just people that I don’t know very well, we all came together and stood together for this issue that we all feel so passionately about,” said Sophia Shapiro, a 10th-grader who organized the walkout together with 11th-grader Ruthie Cohen.
She emphasized that the walkout was only the beginning of action. Shapiro and Cohen are planning to find ways to keep their fellow students engaged on the issue, including by organizing students to contact their local representatives.
“Our message doesn’t end with this news cycle,” Shapiro said. “When this news cycle ends, our message will continue, and we will continue to fight for what we believe in.”
NFTY, the Reform movement’s youth group, urged members in public schools and day schools to march and share their participation on social media using the hashtag #JewsDemandAction.

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Passover recipes for the children to prepare

Passover recipes for the children to prepare

Posted on 22 March 2018 by admin


By Tina Wasserman

Here are some easy recipes for Passover that children love to make:
A practical dilemma during Passover is taking one’s lunch to work or school without finding a brown bag filled with egg salad adhering to matzo pieces in the bottom. Here’s my answer: bagels! Made like the classic pate choux dough for cream puffs, these rolls turn out crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Children love to stick an oiled finger in the center and create the hole.
Passover Bagels
2 cups matzo meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1. Combine the matzo meal, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Bring the oil and water to a boil and add to the matzoh meal mixture all at once. Stir well to combine.
2. Using a wooden spoon or stiff spatula, beat in eggs thoroughly one at a time until each is incorporated into the dough. Let stand for 15 minutes.
3. With oiled hands, scoop up about 2 heaping tablespoons of dough, shape into rolls and place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.
4. Grease your forefinger. Insert your finger into the middle of the roll and twirl the roll around on the baking sheet until a hole is formed in the center.
5. Bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes.
YIELD: 12 bagels
Married to a man who works every day to reverse food allergies in children, I have learned how stigmatizing and isolating food allergies can be, especially to a child. I have strived to create a recipe that combines the fruits and flavors from much of the diaspora and crunch that we find in a classic nut-filled recipe but without the fear.
Fruit-filled Nut-free Haroset
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
4 large dried Calimyrna figs (about 1/3 cup)
6 pitted medjool dates
1 Honeycrisp or other sweet apple
1 medium-large ripe avocado
1/3 cup dark raisins
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sweet wine or grape juice
1. Combine all of the spices in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Tear the figs and dates into pieces and place in a processor work bowl.
3. Core the apple, but don’t peel, and cut it into 16 pieces. Add these to the figs and dates.
4. Cut avocado in half, remove pit, and scoop out pulp into processor work bowl with the fruit.
5. Add the raisins and sunflower seeds and pulse the mixture until it is coarse. Scrape down sides of work bowl and pulse again until a coarse/smooth mixture is formed.
6. Add 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture and the 2 tablespoons of wine or juice to the mixture and process until a fairly smooth consistency.
7. More liquid may be added if mixture appears too dry.
8. Allow mixture to sit for a few hours to totally absorb the spices. More spice mixture may be added in small amounts if you desire. Mixture can be made days in advance and kept refrigerated.
Yield: 2 cups
If there is a run on matzo farfel in your supermarket, my recipe is probably the reason. This recipe should be a staple in your Passover repertoire. Delicious with milk for breakfast, a healthy snack for school or work and a great treat anytime if you make the delicious chocolate candy recipe below. They are much less expensive than store-bought candies and kids love to make them.
Passover Granola
3 cups matzo farfel
2/3 cup slivered almonds (substitute sunflower seeds or more farfel for nut-free)
½ cup sweetened or unsweetened coconut
2/3 cup pecans, broken into large pieces
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons unsalted butter or parve margarine
1/3 cup wildflower or clover honey
1½ cups chopped dried mixed fruit of your choice including raisins, or 7-ounce bag of dried fruit pieces
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Combine the farfel, almonds, coconut, pecans, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a 3-quart mixing bowl.
3. Melt the butter and honey in a small glass bowl in a microwave for 1 minute until butter is melted and honey is more fluid.
4. Stir the butter mixture into the farfel mixture until all farfel is lightly coated with the butter.
5. Spread mixture over a large jellyroll pan with 1-inch sides and bake for 15 minutes. Half way through baking stir to brown evenly.
6. Remove from oven. Cool slightly and then toss with the dried fruit.
7. When totally cooled, store in a zip lock bag or airtight storage container for all eight days of Passover. If it lasts that long.
Chocolate Granola Treats
1. Melt 8 ounces of Passover chocolate chips and mix them with 1½ or 2 cups prepared granola. Stir to coat well.
2. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper and allow the mounds to firm up before you devour them.

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New twists on old favorites for Seder menu

New twists on old favorites for Seder menu

Posted on 22 March 2018 by admin


By Jamie Geller

My Passover menu always features a beautiful brisket (something hand-picked from my new book Brisket 101), perfectly presentable potato kugel cups (with almost 1 MILLION likes, views, shares and comments) and a fresh spring salad.
Braised Brisket
As seen on the Today Show — I wrote the book on brisket. Brisket 101 features 40 of the best brisket, side, slaw and leftover recipes around. Also learn my 3 Golden Rules For Perfect Brisket, All About Aromatics, How-To Build Your Braising Liquid and Deglaze, Marinating 101, How-To Make Your Own Spice Rub plus a Special Section on Slow Cooking. You’ll be empowered to invent your own recipes once you learn my easy (to make and easy to remember) techniques. The sky’s the limit when it comes to riffing on this holiday and comfort food classic that spans generations, cultures and seasons. Become a brisket master! BUY NOW!
Makes 10 servings
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 large Spanish onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup tomato paste
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (7-pound) whole brisket (or second cut)
3 whole heads garlic, cut in half to expose the cloves
3 cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
Bouquet garnish: several thyme sprigs, parsley stems, bay leaves tied to celery rib
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees or preheat slow cooker to low.
2. Heat a large sauté pan or Dutch oven, lightly coated with oil, over medium-high heat. Brown onions until dark and very soft. Stir tomato paste in and continue cooking for a few minutes to sear tomato paste. Transfer onions to slow cooker, or if using a Dutch oven, push onions to the side.
3. Season brisket with salt and pepper and brown on both sides in the same pan. You may need to cut brisket in half to fit into a slow cooker.
4. Nestle brisket into pan with onions. Add garlic, broth, wine, and bouquet garnish.
5. Cover and braise for 3½ to 4 hours in a 300-degree oven or for 8 hours in a slow cooker, until a fork, inserted, comes out with no resistance.
6. Cool brisket at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving or cool completely before slicing and storing with pan juices in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
7. To serve fresh, slice brisket against the grain. Squeeze garlic out of heads and add to pan juices. Serve with pan juices and onions.
8. To serve another day, remove sliced brisket from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before reheating in a 300-degree oven, covered, for 1 hour.
Personal Potato Cups
With almost 1 million views, comments, shares and likes, this is easily one of the No. 1 recipes on JamieGeller.com. Let my family favorite become yours this Passover. (Secret Tip: For a half the fat, half the carbs, half the calories, hubby-approved version of this very same recipe, check out my How-To Healthier Potato Kugel recipes and video on JamieGeller.com.)
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
3 eggs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 large Idaho potatoes
1 large onion, quartered
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Liberally oil six (4- to 6-ounce) glass dessert dishes or custard cups with 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil each. Place custard cups on a baking pan.
2. Fill a large bowl with cold water and, as you peel potatoes, place them in cold water to prevent browning.
3. Place the pan of cups in 425-degree oven to heat up the oil.
4. Beat eggs in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper, mix well, and set aside.
5. Pour ¾ cup of oil in a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat.
6. Cut potatoes lengthwise into halves or quarters so they fit into food processor feed tube. Process potatoes and onions using the blade that creates thin, shoestring-like strips.
7. Transfer potatoes and onions to a large bowl, add egg mixture and heated oil from stovetop, mix very well. Remove any large pieces of potatoes or onions that weren’t processed properly.
8. Remove heated cups from the oven and spoon potato mixture evenly into hot, oiled cups.
9. Bake at 425 degrees for 1 hour or until the tops look crunchy and sides look golden and browned. Let cool until the glass cups are safe to handle and loosen edges with a knife, unmold and serve on a platter.
TIPS: To make this as a potato kugel pie, bake at 425 degrees in an 8-inch square or 8- or 9-inch round glass baking dish for 1 hour.
Spring Ribbon Salad
Presentation, presentation, presentation — always remember, we eat with our eyes first. It doesn’t take much to create this beautiful spring salad. If you own a vegetable peeler you’re in business.
Makes 6 servings
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large cucumber
3 large carrots
1 pint multicolored grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups watercress, cut into 2-inch pieces
Suggested garnishes: pomegranate arils
1. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, shallots, mayonnaise, honey, salt and pepper and whisk well until dressing comes together. Set aside.
2. Using a vegetable peeler, peel cucumber and carrots into long ribbons. Transfer to a large bowl and add tomatoes and watercress. Add dressing and toss lightly to coat well. Serve immediately or refrigerate undressed for up to 1 hour.
7 Layer Matzo Cake
Makes 8 servings
1½ pounds bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 cup sweet red wine or grape juice
7 sheets matzo
Garnish: fresh berries
1. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Keep chocolate warm by keeping melted chocolate in a bowl over a bowl of warm water.
2. Place wine in a pan large enough to accommodate a sheet of matzo without breaking it.
3. Soak one piece of matzo for about 30 seconds. Transfer to lined baking sheet and spread a thin layer of chocolate, being sure to cover the edges. Moisten another piece of matzo and this time stack it on top of the matzo with chocolate. Spread more chocolate on the matzo. Repeat until all matzos are moistened and covered in chocolate. Pour remaining chocolate over the top, allowing it to drip down the sides. Spread it with a spatula.
4. Refrigerate to allow chocolate to set up.
5. Transfer to serving platter and garnish with fresh berries.

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3-on-3 teams ready to hit court for Points for Peace

3-on-3 teams ready to hit court for Points for Peace

Posted on 22 March 2018 by admin

Photo: SAT
SAT Co-Presidents Griffin Levine and Micah Romaner (seated) work on plans for the Points for Peace tournament, which will take place March 25 at the JCC.

Staff Report

Yavneh Academy’s Students Against Terrorism will host its 16th annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament, Points for Peace, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 25, at the Aaron Family JCC. Deadline to sign up is Thursday, March 22, before midnight. Participants range from first-graders to adults. The winners of each division receive prizes ranging from tickets to sporting events, gift cards, autographed basketballs and much more!
Teams are made up of a maximum of four players. Cost is $33 per team and a $3.89 Eventbrite fee. Register before the tournament at http://bit.ly/2GMFy0y. Only one “ticket” is necessary per team. Cost for the 3-point shooting contest is $10 and can be paid and registered for at the door.
Each four-person team is responsible for raising $200 in charitable donations that must be brought on tournament day. Also, contributions for the silent auction are welcomed.
“Being on the Yavneh basketball team, knowing that a lot of the younger kids look up to you, makes it a really special feeling to get to organize a tournament for them,” said Micah Romaner, SAT co-president. “Just like they love to watch us play, watching them play is just as fun.”
In 15 short years SAT has raised about $587,000 for victims of terror in Israel. This year’s beneficiary agency is The Israeli Trauma Coalition (http://israeltraumacoalition.org). Founded in 2002, ITC offers “a holistic, collaborative approach to building a continuum of care for individuals and communities affected by trauma,” according to the organization’s website.
Also, it provides “direct trauma care and counseling, deliver(s) professional caregiver training, established and manage(s) the Gaza envelope Resilience Centers, deploy(s) regional emergency preparedness programs and respond(s) to crises worldwide by offering emergency services, rehabilitation and training.”
The committee has set a goal of raising $50,000 for ITC. The main source of donations stems from the Points for Peace tournament.
Serving on the Students Against Terrorism committee this year and coordinating the tournament are: Micah Romaner and Griffin Levine, co-presidents; Alisa Rubinstein, vice president; Vanessa Tanur, logistics coordinator; Zach Bernstein, treasurer; Jonah Eber, logistics chair; Anna Wernick, fundraising coordinator; Tyler Winton, fundraising chair; and Jessica Lampert and Tami Govrin, co-secretaries.
SAT is a student-run organization; its goal: to demonstrate solidarity with Israel and provide support for victims of terror in Israel. The organization is committed to raising awareness in Dallas about the devastating effects of terrorism on Israeli citizens. SAT began in March 2002, when six Yavneh Academy of Dallas high school students attended a Yeshiva University-sponsored leadership conference in Connecticut. It focused on active leadership and various ways to help combat terror in Israel. After the insightful and motivational conference, the students returned to Dallas to share their thoughts with other students. The result was the formation of Students Against Terrorism.
“Points for Peace is an incredible way to end our high school careers, a true culmination of using our Jewish values to better the world, while strengthening our community and getting kids involved from a young age,” said Romaner, who, along with Levine, is a senior.
To sign up or donate, please visit points4peace.org, email contact@points4peace.org or call Micah Romaner at 972-413-0217.

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Modify your favorite cuisine for Passover

Posted on 22 March 2018 by admin

By Annabel Cohen

Bring on Passover. It’s next weekend and we are busy not just thinking about the menu, but bubbling up “shissels” of soup and forming ground whitefish and onions into the gefilte fish that starts our meal.
However, some people are already bored by the prospect of serving flavorless brisket, steamed vegetables or another nut cake or flourless concoction they hope will taste, heaven forbid, non-Pesadik.
I, on the other, like the challenge of creating delicious, savory and sweet dishes to accompany my favorite Passover brisket and chicken. But there’s something to be said about traditional foods our families crave and expect for the Passover festive meal.
So along with the tried-and-true, we yearn for complex textures and modern flavors we’ve come to love, whenever possible. There’s no reason most any food cannot be adapted, if needed, to comply with Passover customs.
We’re pretty lucky that we have so many choices. If you’re Sephardic, as I am, your choices are even greater — we eat rice and beans with our Passover meals. In the old days, while some matzo-based dishes were created especially for the holiday, most people prepared the same foods they ate every Shabbat, with just a few Pesadik modifications.
Here we offer some old and some new ideas for Passover, and some inspiration to get you thinking about the possibilities to how you can adapt your favorite cuisine for the holiday. After all, there are eight days of eating, and gefilte fish and potato kugel on a daily basis can get boring very fast.
Chicken with Tomatoes,
Olives and Capers
6 small boneless and skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 cup matzo meal
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red or Bermuda onion
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
5 cups diced plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons drained capers
½ cup pitted olives, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup fresh chopped parsley

Remove visible fat from chicken breasts and flatten them lightly with a meat mallet to uniform thickness. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in the matzo meal. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and sauté over medium-high heat, turning the pieces often until lightly browned, about 5 minutes (you may need to do this in batches). Add the remaining ingredients except parsley to the skillet (if your skillet is not large enough, place the sautéed breasts in a larger pot and add the remaining ingredients). Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered. Add half the parsley and cook for 5 minutes more or until the sauce has thickened. Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over, alone, or over hot Pesach noodles. Makes 6 servings.
Roast Chicken Pieces with
Ginger Orange Maple Glaze
2 3½-pound chickens, cut into 6 or 8 pieces, breast backbones removed, excess fat trimmed (alternatively, you may purchase individual parts such as breasts, thighs, and drumsticks — figure one breast or thigh or two drumsticks per person)
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Glaze:
½ cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
2 cups orange juice
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
Grated zest of 1 orange or lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Rub chicken pieces with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Arrange the chicken, skin side down, in a large disposable aluminum pan or in one or two large roasting pans (it’s OK to crowd the chicken).
Roast the chicken for 15 minutes (if you have two ovens, put one pan in each oven if using more than one pan; if you have one oven, place pans — if using more than one — on separate shelves and switch positions during the second cooking). Use tongs (not a fork) to turn the chicken over and cook for 15 minutes more. NOTE: You may prepare the chicken up to this point a day ahead and finish cooking the day you plan to serve it.
While the chicken is cooking, make the glaze. Combine all glaze ingredients except salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes.
Remove chicken from the pan and strain pan juices. Add 1 cup of strained juices to the pan and cook for 10 minutes more. Discard remaining juices or keep for another use. Place the chicken back in the pan, skin side up, and drizzle the glaze over. Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes more. Makes 12 servings.
Spaghetti Squash Kugel
5-6 pound spaghetti squash
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
6 large eggs
½ cup potato starch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish or tube pan (Bundt) with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
Use a sharp knife to split the squash in half and use a spoon to remove the seeds and strings (If you’d like to cut the squash into 4 pieces, that’s OK, too). Place the halves, cut-side down, in a microwave-safe dish large enough to hold them (you may need to cook the squash in batches if your microwave oven is small). Add ½ cup water to the dish, cover the dish with plastic wrap and microwave on high for seven to 10 minutes.
Remove from oven to check doneness. Using a fork, pull at the squash flesh. It should separate easily into strands if it’s done. If not, return to microwave, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes more and check again. When tender, allow to cool.
Combine sugar, oil, eggs, starch, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and whisk well.
Scrape squash onto a cutting board or bowl. Measure about 8-9 cups of squash and add it to the bowl. I find it’s easiest to toss all this together with your hands to mix (or use a spoon).
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and bake for 45 minutes (the tube pan will take longer, so bake for 1 hour). If the kugel is set, remove from the oven, otherwise cook until the mixture is set and golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving (allow the Bundt to cool a bit longer). Can be made a day ahead and reheated at 250 degrees for 30 minutes. Makes 15-18 servings.
Scalloped Potatoes
¼ cup (½ stick) butter or margarine
¼ cup matzo cake meal
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth or nondairy “milk”
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
8 cups russet potatoes, unpeeled and sliced
Spray a 9×13-inch or equivalent ceramic or glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or brush with melted butter or margarine (should be attractive because you will serve the potatoes in the baking dish).
Make the sauce: Melt the margarine in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cake meal and stir for one minute. Add the liquid (broth or milk) and bring to a low boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium and whisk until the liquid thickens to a pancake batter consistency. Add the parsley and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste (the mixture should be a bit salty to balance the blandness of the potatoes).
Layer the potatoes in the prepared dish, standing the slices up in the baking dish to allow the sauce to penetrate the potatoes. Ladle the sauce over potatoes (use all the sauce).
Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake one hour more.
Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8-12 servings.
ABC Salad (Annabel’s Broccoli Crunch Salad)

Dressing:
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup vinegar, red wine or cider preferred
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Salad:
6 cups finely chopped broccoli florets and stems (about 2 medium broccoli crowns)
½ cup finely diced celery
½ cup finely diced carrot
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
¹/₃ cup finely diced red onion
1 cup dried cranberries or golden raisins
¼ cup toasted sunflower seed kernels
Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and whisk well.
Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, pour the dressing over, and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, stirring once or twice. Makes 8-12 side dish servings.
Roasted Dilled Root
Vegetables with Garlic
Sometimes I’ll add 8 ounces of Brussels sprouts (though not a root vegetable), halved, to this dish for color and texture.
2 cups peeled, diagonally sliced carrots (thin ovals or rounds)
2 cups peeled, diagonally sliced parsnips (thin ovals or rounds)
8 ounces fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and cut lengthwise in halves
1 medium onion, trimmed, peeled and halved, each half cut into quarters
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
10 garlic cloves, peeled
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh chopped dill
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
Put all the vegetables (except the dill) in a large bowl. Season well with salt, black pepper and about 3 tablespoons olive oil, and toss them with your hands to coat them evenly.
Arrange the vegetables on the prepared baking sheet and cook until they are beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Test for doneness. They should be tender but not mushy (they will continue to cook as they cool). Toss with the fresh dill and serve warm or at room temperature (drizzle with balsamic vinegar, if desired). Makes 8 servings.

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