October 16, 2018


No Jewish cookbook of this year, or any year, for that matter, compares with Claudia Roden’s “The Book of Jewish Food” (Knopf), but two new local additions to the genre have plenty of charms on their own. “Mama Cooks California Style” (Wimmer, $23.95) gathers together recipes provided by the staff and residents of the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda. There are 300 recipes in this bright, clear book, all of them kosher, and most of them updated to reflect healthier habits — less chicken schmaltz, more olive oil.

Some of the recipes are flat-out unfortunate. Is it really worth making Corn Crepes with Southwestern Chicken Filling if you have to use 1 1/2 cups of nondairy creamer and a package of taco-seasoning mix? But the majority of recipes tempt — especially in the dessert section, where “Mama” seems to shine. Can’t you just taste Brown Sugar Brownies? Who wouldn’t feel a little better, knowing there was a plate of Zelda White’s Poppy Seed Cookies or Betty Goldberg’s Mandelbread waiting at home?

To get your copy, try local bookstores or call the JHA at (818) 774-3336.

“Jewish Cooking Secrets from Here and Far” (Millennium, $14.95) also puts the classics of Jewish cuisine through the Health-o-Meter. Author Lorraine Gerstel was inspired by the varied cooking traditions of Jews in her native South Africa, who brought with them recipes from Russia, Lithuania and Australia. Gerstel suggests subtracting a good portion of the fat from these dishes, substituting leaner cuts of meat, using vegetable oil instead of chicken fat, and cooking with nonfat or low-fat cheeses. But, to her credit, she includes the authentic higher-fat ingredients too, in case you’re feeling lucky. You choose.

At the end of the book, there are recipes that Gerstel gleaned from delis, restaurants and bakeries around the country. This is good stuff: meat knishes from Miller’s in Baltimore, chicken soup from the Stage Deli, and potato curry from Philadelphia’s Rajbahog, the only kosher Indian restaurant we know of. You may go back to Roden for history and scope, but you may find yourself keeping Gerstel closer to the stove.

These books will tell you

“Mama Cooks California

Style” (Wimmer, $23.95)

“Jewish Cooking Secrets from Here and Far” (Millennium, $14.95)

Tikkuning Tikkun

Tikkun magazine editor Michael Lerner has been sending out desperate letters to supporters lately, saying that if the left-of-left-of-center intellectual monthly doesn’t receive at least $250,000 immediately, it will have to fold.

But the New York Observer reported that Danny Goldberg, chief executive officer of Mercury Records, is considering saving the magazine and stepping in as publisher.

As Up Front sits back and muses on the pairing of the incisive, articulate and ultrapragmatic Goldberg with the logorrheic, indulgent and ethically challenged Lerner (last month, he copped to writing Letters to the Editor to his own mag), we can only ask ourselves, “Huh?”

Goldberg is brilliant, but we bet he still hasn’t figured out exactly what Lerner’s “the politics of meaning” mean. No one has. And how will Goldberg’s reported insistence that Tikkun delve deeper into pop culture, mass media and the practical concerns of today’s younger Jews sit with Lerner, who used his magazine to hype his misbegotten tome on Jewish-black relations? Up Front would rather seek a Hawaiian marriage with Rev. Louis Farrakhan than read through that rap again.

The 1960s aren’t over for Goldberg, but they are dead. He knows that today’s Jew needs a new approach to the messages of social responsibility and civil rights. The yearning is there, but the attention span isn’t.

Tikkun once had 40,000 readers and a shot at greatness. For a while, it danced on the corpses of Midstream, Commentary, Dissent, Present Tense, et al. But somewhere along the way, those fuddy-duddy mags reinvigorated themselves, and Lerner decided that what Jews really want are five-page essays in nine-point font on what Michael Lerner thinks. Note to Goldberg: Even editors need editors.

Too bad for us all if one more outlet for original Jewish intellect shorts out. But what exactly is the need for a printed monthly that allows New York/Washington/Berkeley Jewish policy wonks to write for one another in a jargon only they appreciate? The January/February 1997 issue featured a dull-as-dirt round table on conversion and intermarriage in which all six participants…agreed. Talk has always been cheap; it’s distributing it that has always been so expensive. That’s no longer true. Tikkunistas could e-mail one another their precious thoughts and save the trees. Or they could pick up the phone. Short of financing a major motion picture, magazines have to be the most expensive way to get a message out. They should be used to reach out to others who might disagree with you, or who might not know opinions such as yours even exist. Tikkun became a magazine that didn’t enlighten new people; it just embalmed old opinions.

Yet…despite our little rant, we intend to keep our subscription active. For one thing, the money doesn’t come out of our paycheck. And Danny Goldberg might be just the fix Tikkun needs.

Pick of the Week

Helkeinu, a Jewish educational organization that fights assimilation in the Persian Jewish community, is hosting a lecture and weekend retreat with Rebetsin Esther Jungreis. Jungreis has been hailed by The New York Times as an electrifying and inspiring speaker. A survivor of Bergen-Belsen, Jungreis, 61, speaks around the world on Jewish identity and assimilation. She’ll be participating in a Shabbaton at the Ventura Beach Resort on May 9-11. Although Up Front received late word of this $175-per-person weekend event, organizers said that space is still available. Call (310) 274-8988 for information.

Learn and Tell

One way to mark Israeli Independence Day is to applaud the efforts of Sharona Justman, a Century City business consultant who decided that people needed better information about Israel’s positive achievements.

Justman launched a six-week speaker’s series called “Lemad v’ Saper,” or “Learn and Tell.” The public series features a broad range of speakers on a variety of Israel-related topics.

Last week, 150 people crowded into a room at the Petersen Automotive Museum to hear San Francisco-based Middle East expert John Rothman speak about the history and meaning of Zionism. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, and Justman thought that it was time for people to learn about Zionism’s century of fantastic accomplishments.

Most audience members were under age 40 — itself an accomplishment in a town where interest in Israel skews toward an older generation. The lecture, which was co-sponsored by the Consul General of Israel, AIPAC and the Jewish National Fund, began with a talk by the Israel Consulate’s Ido Aharoni (“so articulate and good-looking,” reports Justman) and continued late into the night. “People were fascinated,” she said.

What You Can Learn and Tell Next

The series continues on May 15 with a talk on MAHAL, the 3,500 volunteers who helped Israel fight for independence. One special guest will be Vidal Sasoon, a former Mahal-nik. Future talks will be on the Israeli military (June 5), “Schindler’s List” (June 26), social Zionism (July 10) and the cultural and spiritual aspects of Zionism (July 24). For more information, call the JNF at (213) 964-1400, ext. 244. *