Monthly Archives: December 2009

Pho-like Matzo Ball Soup

By Olga Berman

Last Friday I decided to go to the grocery store to get ready for a huge snow storm we were supposed to have in DC area. To be completely honest, I did not believe we’d be snowed in, but thought it’d be best to be prepared. I decided to buy a mix to make Matzo Ball Soup, but with a twist. What’s the twist? I used spices you would typically find in Pho! One of my photos was used in Washington Post: score 🙂

Pho-like Matzo Ball Soup


4.5 ounce Manischewitz Matzo Ball & Soup mix

3 quarts water

1 egg

2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

4 cloves

2 star anise

2 inch piece of ginger, cut into a few pieces

2 teaspoon sugar

1-2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce

1 cup snowpeas, halved

1 cup shredded Napa cabbage

2 peeled carrots, made into ribbons using a peeler

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The Cat’s Meow

By Symi Rom-Rymer

While perusing the bookshelves at Barnes and Nobel yesterday, I came across a wonderful graphic novel entitled The Rabbi’s Cat by the French author, Joann Sfar, best known in the US for his children’s series, The Little VampireThe Rabbi’s Cat tells the story of a Rabbi, his daughter Zlabya, and their talking cat who live in Algiers in the 1930s when Algeria was still part of France.  Narrated by the cat, who is studying to become Bar Mitzvah, the intricate illustrations and the gentle, yet poignant story line draws readers into a seemingly simple world that soon reveals itself in all its complexities.  Situated on the line between perfect and flawed, wise and bumbling, sacred and profane, Sfar’s characters made me nostalgic for a time and place that exists only within his, and now my, imagination.  But the themes that he draws upon— internal religious struggle, familial bonds, and humanness—are very real and very contemporary. Continue reading

Old Reading for the New Year

By Caroline Kessler

As a way to occupy myself over winter break (and not go stir-crazy in the process), I’m picking my way through the Best American Essays collections. They’re an interesting assemblage of what’s considered the “best” in essay writing from publications like The New Yorker and The Kenyon Review. Starting with the 2003 volume, I’m skipping around to the present, although I don’t have my hands on the 2009 volume yet.

After bypassing essays on sea turtles and French politics, I stumbled upon a gem: Emily Raboteau’s “Searching For Zion”, first published in Transition Magazine and anthologized in the Best American Essays of 2008. I highly recommend reading the full text, linked here. Raboteau beautifully interweaves her story of growing up as a mixed-race child in suburban New Jersey, with bits of fact and other stories: that of her best childhood friend, a Jewish girl named Tamar Cohen, the experience of Ethiopian Jews emigrating to Israel, and a far-out community in Israel called the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Continue reading

A Declaration of War

By Symi Rom-Rymer

Well, the mystery is solved…sort of.  The infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign stolen from Auschwitz on December 18 has been recovered on the other side of the country from where it was taken.  At this point, the Polish police are refusing to comment on the circumstances surrounding the theft or on its motivation, although five men have been detained.  But what has been most striking throughout this whole incident is the wild rhetoric that erupted in its wake.  The comment that really got my attention, was one made by Avner Shalev, director of Yad Vashem (Israel’s memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust) the day the sign was reported missing.  According to reports by the BBC, he called the theft “a true declaration of war.”

To which I say:  Mr. Shalev, please explain yourself.  What does “a true declaration of war” mean?  Who is Israel now at war with? With all of Poland?  With Polish neo-Nazis (the presumed perpetrators)? With the thieves themselves? With anti-Semitism?  And is it all of Israel that is now at war with one or all of these groups or is it just Yad Vashem?  Or are Jews around the world at war?    Will you become ‘an Army of one’? Or will  I be expected to grab a weapon and fight? Continue reading

Menorah on High

By Caroline Kessler

Last week, I wrote about Montana. This week, I want to write briefly about Arizona. For the past week, I’ve been in the Grand Canyon State, visiting a friend, hiking every surface imaginable, and letting my ears adjust to the rapid changes in altitude. As I spent the majority of Hanukkah with my non-Jewish friend, I wondered about the Jewish population of Arizona. As it’s been pointed out in various publications, our culture seems to be obsessed with Jews in places other than Israel or America—a.k.a, unlikely places.

Just as I was beginning to think that wasn’t a single kipah-covered head in this state of so many different landscapes, I was pleasantly surprised. Not by an actual person I met, mind you, but by menorah in an unexpected place. There is a large hill smack in the middle of glittering Tempe, home to Arizona State University. Along one side of the hill perches (predictably) wooden silhouettes of the three wise men atop camels. Continue reading

Jon Stewart Sings Hannukah

On the last night night of Hanukkah enjoy this treat from our archives:

An Interest in Hanukkah? Jon Stewart Sings!

November 20, 2008

By Mandy Katz

Hanukah caroler Jon Stewart
Hanukkah caroler Jon Stewart

“Can I Interest You in Hanukkah?” may be the first ever TV ditty sung a due by Jon Stewart and fellow faux-newsie Stephen Colbert. It’s part of Colbert’s upcoming TV special, A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All, airing Sunday on Comedy Central. Audio of the duet aired yesterday on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air — you can hear it on the show’s website (click “Listen Now” and skip to minute 7:07). Sample lyric: “Yes, indeed, 8 days of presents, which means one nice one, then a week of dreck.”

Colbert, the show’s host and selfdescribed “broadcasting legend,” also sings his own original carols. After all, the crusty newsman explains, perched on a piano bench in a cozy cardigan sweater, every time we hear one of those other, familiar, Yuletide standards, “someone else gets the royalty check. That doesn’t sound like Christmas to me.”

Colbert’s got some stage chops you would never have guessed at: a little soft-shoe, a cozy baritone. Stewart’s voice, too, isn’t half-bad. But he’s no Joseph Shlisky.

Photo by ninjapoodles.

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Do You Want to Friend Heino?

By Symi Rom-Rymer

“My name is Henio Zytomirski. I am seven-years-old. I live on 3 Szewska Street in Lublin.”  So begins the profile of Heino Zytomirski, a young addition to Facebook. Why should we care? Because Heino is dead–a young victim of the Holocaust.  His profile and status updates are written by Piotr Buzek, a 22 year-old staff member of the Brama Grodzka Cultural Center in Lublin, Poland. The Center says that it is harnessing new technology to teach the internet generation about the history of Jews in Poland and to keep their memory alive.

To be perfectly honest, I feel queasy about this approach. First of all, much of what the Center does focuses on Lublin’s Jewish past. Which is important and necessary. But in doing so, it also looks backwards and not ahead. There is increasing evidence that Jewish communities in Poland not only exist, but are growing. Just look at the articles recently published by JTA. So why isn’t the Center celebrating and advertising those triumphs? It could easily choose a young 20-something living Polish Jew to talk about his life, his experiences, and his hopes to friends around the world. Continue reading

Sufganiyot: The other Hanukkah treat

By Jenna Huntsberger

Sufganiyot 3

A holiday where you get to fry everything in oil? Sign me up.

Sufganiyot, aka jelly doughnuts, are Israel’s Hanukkah food of choice. Before researching these fried confections, I thought that latkes were the traditional Hanukkah food the world round. After all, latkes are featured in every Hanukkah menu in all my food magazines – how is a shiksa like me to know otherwise? But no, latkes are actually an American favorite, while sufganiyot are more popular in Israel. Continue reading

Latke variations, improving on a good thing

By Olga Berman

Hanukkah started last Friday and many of you are spending the week making potato latkes. While the typical recipe for potato latkes uses regular potatoes, why not try something a little different? And I’m not talking about using sweet potatoes: after all, those are very similar to the regular white potatoes.

Why not use carrots and broccoli stems instead? The two recipes below don’t take much time to put together, are full of nutrients and add bright color to your table. Continue reading

How Long Can We Really Talk About Montana?

By Caroline Kessler

I’ve realized that the world of writing about all things Jewish is small—or perhaps the powerful juggernaut that is the Internet just makes it feel that way. Case in point: the “hey-there-are-Jews-even-in-the-backwoods” piece in the New York Times that people can’t seem to stop talking about: the wide-eyed take on a bomb-sniffing dog that only understands Hebrew, but is trapped in the flatlands of Montana. This piece has been ripped apart in more places than I want to count (but did, as I put off my final exams).

So, in the spirit of tackling Jewish issues before the rest of the snarkier, faster blogging world gets to them, I want to point out another “relevant” piece in our favorite New York paper. Slightly hidden in their ‘N.Y. / Region’ section (that I can’t imagine many people outside of the region actually look at), I found this gem: “In a Manhattan Classroom, Judaism Meets the Facts of Life.”

Interestingly, Tablet’s blog, The Scroll tackled the issue of sex education in Orthodox Jewish schools a few days ago, albeit the focus was Israeli schools. The Times article focuses mainly on Rabbi Haskel Lookstein who teaches at the Ramaz High School on the Upper East Side. There were several quotes from previously anxious students, now relaxed and even excited by the idea of talking about sex with a rabbi who’s pushing eighty. Continue reading