Core values: Apples are the stars of sweet and savory Rosh Hashanah recipes


During the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, which begins the evening of Oct. 2, ritual foods play an important part at the family meal. Among the foods served to represent our hopes for a sweet new year are apples and honey, and round loaves of egg challah are baked to promise a well-rounded future (with sesame seeds often added to symbolize fertility).

At our home, when family arrives for the holiday meal, custom calls for a perfect apple to be cut into as many pieces as there are people present. Then a slice of the apple is dipped in honey and passed to each person at the table.

Apples go into the making of countless dishes for this festival, and they often are included in every course, so let apples dominate your Rosh Hashanah table.

Apple and Spinach Salad With Tahini is a good place to start because it can be prepared the day before and refrigerated, with torn spinach leaves tossed into the apple mixture just before serving.

Veal Ragu With Apples and Curry is perfect to make for the holiday because this stew can also be prepared in advance and last all week. If you have a large family, then just double the recipe. Remember that the flavor of stews is enhanced by reheating.

Apple-Filled Egg Challah is a delightful bread for Rosh Hashanah. And to carry on the holiday spirit, serve it with apple slices and honey for dipping — along with my Apple Streusel!

There are lots of surprises in these recipes, and you’ll find them easy to prepare. Just remember: During Rosh Hashanah, sour or bitter tasting foods are omitted in keeping with the hope for a sweet new year. 

L’shanah tovah!

APPLE-FILLED EGG CHALLAH

– Apple filling (recipe follows)
– 1 package active dry yeast
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 4 to 5 cups flour
– 1 cup warm water
– 6 egg yolks
– 1/4 cup oil
– 1/4 cup melted unsalted margarine
– 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
– 1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare Apple Filling; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, blend the yeast, sugar, salt, 2 cups of the flour and warm water, and mix well. Blend in the egg yolks and oil. Add the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, blending with a beater after each addition, until the dough is thick enough to work by hand. 

Gather the dough into a ball. Place it on a floured board and knead 5 to 10 minutes, adding additional flour, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl, and oil the top. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide into 3 parts. Roll each part into a rectangle. Brush with melted margarine, top with the apple filling. Roll each rectangle into a long rope. Seal the ends of the rope together and braid. Form the braid into a ring and place it on an oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size. Brush with egg yolk wash, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack. 

Makes 12 servings.

APPLE FILLING

– 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
– Juice of 1 lemon
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, honey and cinnamon. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Drain and use for the challah filling. 

Makes about 3 cups.

APPLE AND SPINACH SALAD WITH TAHINI

– 3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
– 3 green onions, thinly sliced<
– 3 stalks celery, diced
– Juice of 2 lemons
– 1/4 cup mayonnaise
– 1/4 cup tahini (ground sesame seeds)
– 2 tablespoons honey
– 1 bunch of spinach, torn into bite-size pieces
– Additional spinach leaves for garnish
– 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

In a large bowl, toss the apples, onions and celery. Sprinkle with the juice of 1 lemon to keep apples from darkening.

In a blender or a small bowl, blend mayonnaise, tahini, honey and remaining lemon juice. Mixture will be thick. Toss with apple mixture. Cover and chill. Just before serving, toss salad with the torn spinach. Serve on a bed of spinach leaves and garnish with sesame seeds.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

VEAL RAGU WITH APPLES AND CURRY

– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 onions, finely chopped
– 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
– 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
– 4 pounds lean veal, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
– 3 tablespoons curry powder
– 2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
– 1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, drained
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
– 1 cup chicken stock

In a large pan, heat olive oil and sauté onions, garlic, celery and veal for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add curry powder and mix well. Add apples, tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken stock. Cover and simmer about 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Add additional

salt and pepper to taste. Serve with rice or noodles. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

APPLE STREUSEL LOAF

– Streusel Topping (recipe follows)
– 1 1/4 cups flour
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup unsalted margarine
– 1 cup roasted walnuts, chopped
– 1 cup peeled, cored and grated apples
– 2 eggs, well beaten
– 1/4 cup almond (or other nondairy) milk

Prepare Streusel Topping; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and margarine. Blend until mealy. Mix in walnuts. 

In a small bowl, blend apples, eggs, and almond milk thoroughly. Add to flour mixture and mix until all dry particles are moistened. 

Pour into greased and floured 8-by-4-inch loaf pan, sprinkle with Streusel Topping, and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

STREUSEL TOPPING

– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 cup flour
– 1/4 cup cinnamon
– 1/4 cup unsalted margarine
– 1/2 cup peeled, cored and chopped apples
– 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Blend brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and margarine until crumbly. Mix in apples and walnuts and sprinkle over batter before baking. 

Makes about 2 cups.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Recipe: Apple, raisin and honey challah


– 1 tablespoon instant yeast
– 3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) bread flour, divided, plus extra for kneading
– 1/2 cup warm water
– 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon honey, divided
– 3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
– 3 large eggs, at room temperature, divided
– 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 2 apples, preferably Braeburn or Golden Delicious
– 1 teaspoon lemon juice
– 3/4 cup raisins
– 1 tablespoon sesame seeds for garnish

In the bowl of a stand mixer using a whisk attachment, combine the yeast, 1/4 cup flour and the warm water, whisking until smooth. Set aside until the yeast begins to foam, about 10 minutes.

Whisk in 1/4 cup honey, the oil and 2 eggs until well incorporated. In a separate medium bowl, sift together the remaining flour with the salt and sugar.

Replace the whisk with the dough hook and begin mixing at low speed. Add the flour mixture, 1 spoonful at a time, until all is incorporated. Mix the dough for 6 to 8 minutes at medium-low speed to develop the dough; it will be very wet and sticky and will not form a ball. Remove to a well-floured surface and gently knead, adding a little flour at a time (up to 1/2 cup), until the dough is elastic, soft and only slightly sticky, 1 to 2 additional minutes.

Place the dough in a large, clean, oiled bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel or a loose sheet of plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm place until the dough is doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

While the dough is rising, prepare the apples. Peel and core the apples, then cut each into 8 slices. Dice them. Toss the apples with the lemon juice and teaspoon of honey to prevent them from discoloring. You should have 1 3/4 cups of diced apple.

Whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl to form the egg wash.

Roll the dough on a well-floured surface into a long strand 2 1/2 to 3 feet in length and 6 inches wide. Scatter the apples and raisins over the length of the dough, then roll the dough crosswise over the apples (as with cinnamon rolls) and seal the ends with the egg wash.

To make the high-rising spiral shape common for Rosh Hashanah, wind the strand to form a spiral (the tighter the spiral, the higher the final loaf), making sure the outer end of the spiral is tucked under to prevent it from unraveling while the challah bakes.

Place the challah on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush it with the egg wash, then scatter the sesame seeds evenly over the top.

Cover the challah loosely with greased plastic wrap and proof until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. When the challah is almost proofed, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the plastic wrap and bake the challah in the center of the oven until browned on top, the bottom of the loaf is dry when lifted, and a thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reaches 190 degrees, about 35 to 45 minutes. (Timing will vary depending on the tightness of the spiral and density of the loaf.) Rotate the challah after the first 20 minutes for even coloring. Remove the challah from the baking sheet and cool on a rack before serving.

Makes 10 servings.

Challah: Braiding our community together


Start to finish, making challah is a multisensory, multilevel process: mixing ingredients into dough, taking time to let it rise, punching it down, letting it rise some more, separating the dough into balls, stretching the balls into ropes, weaving the ropes together, tucking the ends under, glazing it with egg wash, setting it in the oven and breathing in the smell as it bakes to golden brown, tapping the bottom to make sure it’s cooked through, slicing (or tearing) the loaf and making “mmm” noises while you’re chewing.

“It tastes like cake,” someone will say, as you all sigh into the gustatory experience that links a Shabbat or holiday meal to all the Shabbat or holiday meals of the past. (Except Passover meals, of course, when we unsuccessfully pretend matzah is bread.) That’s the power of challah.

The braided — or sometimes round, as it is for the High Holy Days — bread has become a way to bring community together. These days, communities are using it to mobilize social action or as prayer for healing. For some, it is a business (see related article). But whether challah bakers are in it for the prayer, the pleasure or the profit, what they all share is passion.

Challah and Spirituality

When her friend’s daughter was battling cancer, Mushka Lightstone, a resident of Los Angeles’ Fairfax/LaBrea neighborhood, joined a group of 40 women making challah every week in honor of — and praying for — the sick child. 

Lightstone, executive producer of the 2014 documentary “Shekinah: The Intimate Life of Hasidic Women,” started researching the practice and found it to be “very powerful.”

“Every step of putting the bread together has its own significance,” she said recalling sources ranging from the Torah and Talmud to the Midrash and Kabbalah.

The primary source for challah is in Numbers (15:18-19): “When you enter the land to which I am taking you and you eat of the bread of the land, you shall set some aside as a gift to the Lord.”  Setting a small piece aside (traditionally 1/24th of the batch) has become known as “taking challah” (hafrashat challah). In Temple times, that fraction would have been given to the priests, but in our times, the piece is burned, recalling the Temple sacrifices. (Hafrashat challah is only for wheat, barley, oat, spelt or rye; challah bakers using rice, quinoa or other flour are exempt.)

As Lightstone worked her way through the challah recipe, she said, she “would have in mind each element I was putting together and meditate on the deeper aspects of each thing. I would visualize this little girl and visualize her wellness,” she said, “bringing in the unity of the whole world and the healing power and energy of the universe. 

“There are so many times when we feel so powerless and things in the world seem so crazy,” Lightstone said. “I believe all of creation is like this hologram, it’s all energy. I feel like I become a partner in that creation with Him, and work on the rectification of things. As I’m kneading the challah, I think about bringing the world back together and making it look beautiful again.”

While challah bakes to help heal the ill are primarily an Orthodox custom, some liberal Jews have adopted the practice as well, including Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr, who grew up in Fountain Valley and served the Reform Congregation B’nai Tzedek as rabbi until 2011.

“Just as we set aside the Sabbath day as holy, I want to set aside my preparation as distinct and special too,” said Schorr, editor of “The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate.” In an email, she wrote that she collects the names of “those who are in need of blessing” from her Facebook network, which “helps me set an intention for the sacred act of baking challah.” 

“Knowing that generations of Jewish women before me have observed this particular segulah (protective charm) binds me to our past while simultaneously looking towards a better future for those who need healing,” Schorr wrote. 

Linguistically, the word “challah” shares a Hebrew root with the word “chol,” meaning “ordinary” or “secular” (think of holidays’ intermediate days — “chol hamoed” — or the word for “sand,” also “chol”).  Combining ordinary things — flour, water, oil — makes them better together, elevates them from “chol,” mundane, to “kodesh,” holy.

“By establishing this spiritual practice, the physical act is elevated to the spiritual plane,” Schorr wrote. 

Baking the World to a Better Place: Challah for Hunger

A recent report on hunger by Feeding America, the leading network of food pantries in the United States, revealed that 10 percent of food pantry clients (about 4.5 million) were students who “explicitly reported that they were forced to choose between paying for food and for their educational expenses,” according to the Challah for Hunger website. For instance, at the University of California, “2 in 5 students reported that they experienced food insecurity in the past year, and nearly 23 percent reported that they skipped meals to save money.” 

On 82 campuses in 28 states nationwide, Challah for Hunger is mobilizing thousands of students and young adults — and challahs — to solve this problem.

Challah for Hunger was founded in 2004 by then-Scripps College student Eli Winkelman. The goal was to use challah to connect students and to raise funds for social justice causes. Their first challah sale was on Oct. 1, 2004; they became a registered 501(c)(3) in 2009 and moved their headquarters to Philadelphia in 2013.

Challah sale proceeds are split 50-50 between the national hunger organization MAZON and a local hunger relief nonprofit of each chapter’s choosing.  

“This connects people with the food they need now and connecting to an advocacy group that does more long-term change on systemic issues,” said Talia Berday Sacks, Challah for Hunger’s project manager, in a phone interview.

She called the issue of hunger among college students a “new, hyper-local form of hunger” that is “quietly growing,” adding that they don’t have exact numbers because food-insecure students may find it stigmatizing to receive food assistance.

Kneading Connection: Challah Hub

Sarah Klegman baked challah with her mom in Northern Michigan “ever since I could reach the counter,” she said. From film school in Chicago, to starting a career in talent management and comedy production in L.A., and now as a writer and marketing/branding professional, she maintained her practice of baking challah.

“At the time,” she said in a phone interview, “people found it hilarious that a professional businesswoman would also bake bread from scratch at home. The reaction that people have when you march into a space presenting them with this homemade bread … they get so excited. When you see a challah that was made by hand, presented by the person who made it, it’s a very unique and personal thing.”

She met Elina Tilipman, a marketing entrepreneur originally from Germany, and the pair realized that their shared passion for braided bread — and the “weird stuff” they could put into challahs —could be a social and business opportunity.

“Challah is a long process,” Klegman said. “When you bake challah with someone, it’s four to six hours; you’re going to get to know each other.”

The pair formed Challah Hub, which started as a recipes blog, then expanded to include tasting events. Their first event featured a tasting of more than 30 different challah flavors and featured a diverse group of musicians, artists and “business types,” all socializing over challah.

Challah Hub’s modern and fun twist on an old tradition also helps them reach the millennial crowd, Klegman said, “who don’t always feel a strong connection to their heritage, and that’s a pretty cool thing to be able to do.”

In the coming months, Challah Hub will be launching the “Challah Hub Beta,” taking orders through their website (challahhub.com) and, soon after, launching a subscription-based home challah delivery service.

Challah Hub also organizes bakes at the Downtown Women’s Center. While the Women’s Center gets leftover food from other places, Klegman said providing homemade challah specifically for these women is special.

“I don’t know what I believe in,” she said, “but there’s something about having this piece of beautiful bread that took time and was made by someone who cares for you with their hands that is both physically and spiritually nourishing.”

Jenna Jameson on her new spiritual journey to Judaism


In a cozy apartment near The Grove, in the heart of Los Angeles, lives an unlikely couple. He is Lior Bitton, 41, an immigrant from Israel and a diamond broker. She is perhaps the world’s most famous porn star, Jenna Jameson.

Since her June announcement that she is converting to Judaism, Jameson has embraced the religion with gusto, reading all the material about it she can find and shopping at kosher markets. The proof is all over Twitter and Instagram (of course):

“Finished with my grocery list for my latest menu for Shabbat,” one tweet says.

“Made Challah again last night (love trying new recipes), turned out fantastic,” says another. An Instagram post from mid-June shows a photo of a Shabbat table with homemade challah and candles with the caption, “Here is a little image from last Shabbat!!! I made homemade Chilean sea bass chraimeh, potato pancakes, Israeli salad and yummy challah!” She has even tweeted a couple of times in Hebrew.

Bitton and Jameson, also 41, moved in together a few months ago. On a recent Thursday evening, the dining table in their apartment was already set for Shabbat dinner. The scent of challah baking in the oven filled the air as a barefoot Jameson opened the door, dressed in a long, sleeveless dress revealing her fully tattooed arms. Her long, blond hair was tied back in a ponytail; numerous earrings adorned her earlobes. 

“I love cooking,” Jameson said as she opened the oven to introduce two perfect challahs. “I’m Italian, and we love to cook and feed others.”

Since she got engaged to her Israeli fiancé, she has learned to cook many Israeli dishes, including cholent — which Bitton is proud to say is exactly how his grandma used to make it — and Moroccan dishes such as chraimeh (spicy Moroccan fish). 

Bitton said he never asked Jameson to convert. 

“It was her decision completely,” he said.

“I was raised Catholic by my father, who was always on a religious journey. He was a very devout Catholic and he instilled that in me — not necessarily being Catholic, but the faith.” Jameson said. “However, from a very young age, I doubted this religion and had many questions [for] my father. He told me, ‘What you need to do is study all religions and see what talks to you and your heart.’ … I loved the spiritual aspect of Judaism. Therefore, I started studying and researching Judaism by myself and decided to convert. I didn’t even tell Lior about it until I made up my mind a few months ago.

“I love every aspect of Judaism,” she continued. “It goes hand in hand with bettering myself and my spiritual growth. I had a very rough four years, and I finally found my path. This is the light at the end of the tunnel for me.” 

Those rough times would refer to her breakup with the father of her twin boys, MMA fighter Tito Ortiz, and the resulting custody battle and financial hardship.

“Here is a little image from last Shabbat!!! I made homemade Chilean sea bass chraimeh, potato pancakes, Israeli salad and yummy challah!” Jenna Jameson posted on Instagram. Photo from Instagram

Jameson met Bitton about a year ago in an apartment complex in Huntington Beach. It was a year after her split from Ortiz, and Bitton also was in the process of a divorce from the mother of his three young children. They lived across from each other, her balcony overlooking his from across the yard. 

“I was finding myself again, trying to find happiness, being a bit solitary,” Jameson said. “I noticed this cute guy in the balcony across from me. He was also by himself, always with his computer, and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, we are living parallel lives.’ ” 

Jameson introduced herself, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

“For the first month, we talked for hours every single day,” Bitton said. “We were like shrinks to one another. We told each other everything, we spoke of our problems, cried on each other’s shoulder and got to know one another well.”

What Jameson said she found most endearing is the fact that Bitton was not judgmental and seemed a little clueless about her fame as “The Queen of Porn.” 

“He said, ‘I don’t think they know about you in Israel,’ and I said, ‘Oh, no, I think they just might,’ ” Jameson recalled, laughing. “Everyone is very judgmental and has misconceptions about who I am and always has something to say, and Lior only goes by what he knows and learns about me, and that’s a beautiful characteristic. I really like it about him.”

Bitton’s three children, who are all under 7, were born in the United States but now reside in Israel with their mother. Jameson’s twins are 6. Together, they hope to have more children.

Jameson’s father died a few years ago, but she believes that he wouldn’t have frowned on her decision to convert. 

“My father served in Vietnam, and he loved the way Israel had always protected herself from her enemies with lots of courage and dignity,” she said. “When I was growing up, I remember that I always had a great appreciation for the State of Israel, thanks to my dad. 

“What I didn’t know,” she continued, “was that the Israeli men are such hunks and that the Israeli women are so beautiful.” 

Her memoir, “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale,” hit the top of The New York Times best-seller list and rocketed Jameson into the mainstream spotlight. Now she is working on the sequel, which will include fewer sexual anecdotes and talk more about her spiritual journey, finding Judaism and the new love in her life.

Her new persona as a Yiddishe mama has been accepted well by her fans. “I’ve been interacting with so many Israelis, and they are all so welcoming and supportive,” she said.

Jameson’s — well, unorthodox — life might seem great material for a blockbuster movie and, indeed, she confirmed that numerous producers have approached her with offers to turn her memoir into a movie. Who would she like to see playing her on the big screen? 

“Scarlett Johansson,” she said without hesitating. “She is a great actress. And she is Jewish.”

Hipster guide to the High Holy Days


” target=”_blank”>atidla.com.

 

3 places to get great local honey

” target=”_blank”>Jewels of Elul: Craig Taubman’s gathering of short stories and anecdotes to help us reflect and prepare for the High Holy Days. 

” target=”_blank”>My Jewish Learning: A clearinghouse of handy information about Jewish holidays, culture, beliefs, etc. Think of it as an interactive “Jewish Book of Why” —with more pictures.

” target=”_blank”>10Q: 10 days, 10 questions. Answer each one and next Rosh Hashanah you’ll have your answers sent back to you, so you can reflect on how much you have (or haven’t) changed.

 

 

(by Sinai Temple’s Rabbi Jason Fruithandler)

 

1. It’s long for a reason — the liturgy tries to give as many opportunities for connection as possible.

Over the course of the High Holy Days, there are special extra prayers, special extra Torah readings, and even a whole extra book of the Tanakh — Jonah — is read. The length and diversity of the liturgy is an expression of the tension between the need for communal strength and individual reality. Each of us stands before God (however you define God) with our own set of deeds and misdeeds. Each of us needs a different kind of encouragement or support to embrace our broken, imperfect selves and make a plan to try to be better. Our prayer services offer a community of people reflecting on the year, medieval piyutim (liturgical poems) on the core nature of death, uplifting music about the possibility of being better, stories of our patriarchs and matriarchs doing the best they can, and many other entry points into the themes of the High Holy Days. Each year, I try to find one access point, one theme, one idea, one song to connect to and carry with me into the coming year.

2. Most of the High Holy Days liturgy is written by poets trying to understand the themes of the holidays.

The early rabbis laid out an outline of what themes the prayer leader should touch on. There were no siddurs for the community. There were traveling professionals who had beautiful singing voices and were masters of the Hebrew language. They would take the themes of that outline and elaborate. The siddur represents a collection, made over the course of 2,000 years, of the best work of those prayer leaders. Do you have a favorite poem? Is there a scene from a movie or TV show that moves you? Add your own to create your personal siddur.

3. The sound of the shofar counts as its own prayer.

Maimonides writes that an entire prayer is in his mind each time he hears the shofar. The powerful sounds of the shofar are meant to stir our souls. The content of that private prayer is going to be different for each person, yet the strength of the prayer is amplified — for all are sharing that moment together. The contrast between the short and long blasts gives us a chance to be individuals together in community.

4. Kol Nidre was extraordinarily controversial.

The early rabbis tried for centuries to abolish or at least to adjust the Kol Nidre service. In many ways, it seems to undermine the halachic (Jewish legal) system. Kol Nidre as a service either annuls all of the vows (promises that invoke God’s name) from the previous year or the coming year. It is possible to annul vows in Jewish law, but you need a rabbinic court. During the Kol Nidre service, we make a pretend court out of three Torahs held by three individuals. There is no halachic standing for such a thing. In addition, it seems to completely alleviate the responsibility of making promises. However, every synagogue in the world has a Kol Nidre service. The people overruled the rabbis. People love the moment of Kol Nidre — not because of its legal standing, but because it transitions us into Yom Kippur. What better way to start a day of forgiveness than by facing the fact that we don’t live up to the promises we make to ourselves and others? More than that, we forgive ourselves for those failings. That forgiveness becomes the foundation of an entire day of admitting all of our shortcomings.

5. Rosh Hashanah is the more somber of the two holidays.

It is the day God is our jury and we are found guilty. Yom Kippur is the “happy fast” — God serves as our sentencing judge, and our sentence is commuted. We have another year to try again.

 

 

7 places to “just do your own thing in, like, nature

 

” target=”_blank”>Instructables.com for a guide to building a free-standing DIY sukkah out of PVC pipes. ” target=”_blank”>Sukkot.com offers wood-frame or steel-tube sukkah kits, along with wall materials, bamboo roofing, decorations, and even a lulav and etrog. ” target=”_blank”>SiegerSukkah.com also offer easy-to-assemble sukkahs, but be prepared to shell out a few hundred dollars.

3. Go to a Home Depot or Loews with a budget in mind and the dimensions of your back porch or yard, and channel your inner Tim Allen.

4. Team up with some fellow Jews and build a communal sukkah. There’s no better way to break the Yom Kippur fast than with a nosh among friends under the stars.

 

 

Putting the “high” in High Holy Days – 7 “medical” marijuana strains we’d like to see

 

– Dread Lox

” target=”_blank”>Om Shalom Yoga

” target=”_blank”>Pre-High Holy Days Yoga Unwind & Detox at Sinai Temple, Sept. 21, 11 a.m.-noon.

– The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles ” target=”_blank”>israeliparties.com.

Rosh Hashanah Party, Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m., at The Victorian, 2640 Main St., Santa Monica. There’ll be mingling, music, dancing, appetizers and a festive party spirit. 

Apple Meets Honey Young Professionals Lounge at Sinai Temple, a place for folks in their 20s and 30s to stop by during or after services at Sinai for light bites (Rosh Hashanah only) and mingling. The lounge will be open on Rosh Hashanah Day 1 (Sept. 25), 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., and on Yom Kippur (Oct. 4), 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Rosh Hashanah Apple Extravaganza Party, Sept. 18, 8 p.m., at Moishe House LA,110 N. Harper Ave., Los Angeles. There’ll be delicious apple cider, apple pie, caramel apple dipping, and a discussion on what Rosh Hashanah means to young Jews.

 

 

6 best places to get round challah

 

Got Kosher?: 8914 W. Pico Blvd. (get the pretzel challah!)

  

6 places to do tashlich

 

” target=”_blank”>Creative Arts Temple, at Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey, Sept. 26, 10 a.m.

” target=”_blank”>“Down to the River,” East Side Jews, at Marsh Park on the Los Angeles River, Sept. 27, 6:30-9:30 p.m., $40, includes food, drink and transformation. 

” target=”_blank”>IKAR, at Santa Monica Beach, Lifeguard Station 26. Sept. 28, 4:30-7:30 p.m. 

 

 

” target=”_blank”>hearingshofar.blogspot.com.

Self-described “jazz comedian” David Zasloff also offers private lessons. Zasloff has staged shofar shows such as “Shofar-palooza,” and on Oct. 18 at the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, he will perform on the shofar all the Christian songs written by Jews.

Rosh Hashanah Food: All you knead for a bounty of challah


Dipping freshly baked challah in honey is a tradition observed during the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This act combines the Shabbat bread with hopes for a sweet New Year.

The custom is to serve a round or spiral-shaped challah, one of the symbolic foods eaten during Rosh Hashanah. Typical is the challah baked in a circle to signify the desire for a long life, peace and universal redemption. Another type of challah is made in the shape of a crown, braided and twisted into a circle and topped by a smaller circle, symbolizing the ascent to heaven.

Middle Eastern Jews add saffron and raisins to make the bread special for the holiday. Because carrots were one of the few sweet-tasting vegetables accessible to Eastern European Jews, they became a substitute for the candied pumpkin and squash often eaten during the holiday.

Another concept is a break-apart challah. The dough is divided into several parts, shaped into small rounds and placed together in a greased round or loaf pan. Next, it is oiled lightly, left to rise, then brushed with egg and sprinkled with poppy seeds before baking. After this challah is baked, it will break apart easily and be ready to dip in honey.

A round braided challah filled with apples, pears or quince, representing the harvest, is an Italian custom and is included in the recipes that follow.

Potato challah, usually associated with times of grain shortages or a need for economy in the kitchen, was made by Russian and Polish Jews during the Jewish New Year. And for those who could not afford to bake cakes for Rosh Hashanah, there was the delicious bolas, made in Spain from sweetened challah dough, filled with candied orange peel and raisins, rolled into loaves, sliced and baked.

Although challah is easily bought at the bakery, many families are discovering the joy of making it at home. This tradition is important especially during holidays in which it has special meaning. There is pleasure and satisfaction in baking it yourself, and what better way to celebrate the holiday than with the aroma of freshly baked bread. Be sure to reserve some dough for small individual challahs, which will be a special treat for the children. Make it a family project, and allow them to braid and bake their own. 


Rosh Hashanah round braided challah

1 package active dry yeast
1  1/2 cups warm water (110-115 F)
Pinch sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, melted
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron (optional)
2 tablespoons brandy
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup raisins, plumped
Cornmeal
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
 
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and  sugar. Beat together eggs, honey and melted butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining 1 cup warm water, saffron and brandy, and blend well. Blend in the yeast mixture. Add flour, 1 cup at a time with salt, blending with a beater after each addition, until the dough is thick enough to work by hand. Spoon it out onto a floured board and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, gradually incorporating the raisins and enough additional flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. Place dough in an oiled bowl and oil top of dough. Cover loosely with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1  1/2 hours.

Punch down dough and divide into 3 equal parts. Form each one into a rope about 26 inches long. Braid the ropes together and seal the ends by pinching.

Line a large heavy baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat. Oil the foil and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Remove the label and wash an empty 16-ounce can; oil its outside and place it in the center of the baking sheet, open end up. Transfer the challah to the baking sheet, forming it into a ring around the can; join and pinch together the ends of the braid. Cover dough with a towel and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Brush the challah with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack.

Serve the challah on a circular tray and set a bowl of honey in the center. Serve with sliced apples for dipping.

Makes 1 challah.

You can go home again


On Fridays, the children would line up, all glittery pink shoes and Ninja Turtle T-shirts, and hike up a steep driveway from the preschool yard to the temple sanctuary. They walked single file or in pairs, one teacher in the lead and another bringing up the rear, each holding one end of a rope. The kids, 3 and 4 years old, gripped the length of the rope with their little hands stained with watercolor paint and Play-Doh dye. You could hear them singing Shabbat songs as they walked, and later, as they poured into the aisles and climbed onto the chairs in the temple and tried to sit still for a whole 20 minutes. By noon, when parents went to take them home, they were spent and tousled, excited but worn out by the morning's exploits. In their backpacks, they carried small challahs they had baked for that evening's dinner. 

The last time I looked, my own kids were putting their little challahs next to a store-bought one in our dining room. That was 15 years ago. Yet I can hardly drive past their old school these days without seeing them and their little friends, loved and cared for and blessed with that unspoken compact between fate and its children — that they will be eternally young, forever standing on solid ground, thriving and triumphant and able, should they ever need at the end of a long, hard morning, to go back to the quiet safety of home. 

That's what the rope is for, what constitutes a major difference between Western and more traditional cultures: past elementary school in this country, the rope becomes the umbilical cord that must be severed in the interest of parents and child; past voting age, it becomes a noose that'll kill you if you put up with it for more than four hours on Thanksgiving. In our neck of the woods, the rope may choke you if you let it. But if used sparingly, it can be the lifeline that's always there, right below the water's surface, in case you feel you're drowning. 

I saw that rope again last Friday night at the famed and fabled “Jewish rehab” clinic Beit T'Shuvah, on Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles. You don't have to be a patient or a family member to belong to the synagogue, or to attend Friday services, which is one reason I, and many others, were there that night. The other reason, I suspect because I experienced it that night, is that something extraordinary and transformative happens here every week. 

There is, to begin with, the range of characters you find here, and that you'd never see under one roof at a traditional shul. An African-American family sits in the front row, next to an Ashkenazi doctor and his wife, between a young, pretty, school teacher and a tall, tanned man in $3,000 crocodile cowboy boots. There's the six-piece jazz band that accompanies the slender young cantor, and the clinic's senior rabbi and spiritual director, Mark Borovitz, known affectionately as Rabbi Mark, whose personal story — ex-con saved by faith — he doesn't let you forget. 

And there is, to the great credit of the clinic's founder and director, Harriet Rossetto, the intentional shedding of pomp and circumstance, of the theatrical staging of board members and major donors on the bimah and the endless speeches by distinguished gentlemen in suits that is so common at more established synagogues. To my personal relief, there's also the condensed length — two hours instead of the usual four at traditional synagogues, the absence of a why-not-say-it-a-dozen-times-if-only-once-will-do? mentality that will have you recite the same few verses extolling the almighty's goodness and generosity until you forget what you're saying. 

Mostly, though, there's the word itself — teshuvah — and the very astonishing way in which it is realized here. In Judaism, teshuvah represents the process of confession and atonement and the eventual purification of the soul, the kind of thing we hope for around the High Holy Days, and, I dare say, rarely achieve. That is the mission and purpose of the center, its patients and staff. But it's the word's literal meaning — return — that rings especially true here.  

The minimum age for being admitted to Beit T'Shuvah is 18. Many of the patients are not much older than that. They are beautiful, brilliant creatures at the brink of adulthood, radiant with youth and promise. Just the other day, they were singing Shabbat songs and baking challah to take home to their parents. Some time between the moment they walked out of that first synagogue and into this one, they let go of the rope that had kept them on one path with most other kids their age. But now they're back, and the only thing they seem to have lost between that day and this is the sense of invulnerability, the illusion, perhaps, that they will never need a lifeline, never lose their way in the beaming, dazzling light of youth. 

Could anyone have seen, had they examined the palms of those little hands lined with sand and streaked with markers 20 years ago, the road these children would travel thereafter? Is that why they made those small, hard challahs? To leave a trail of breadcrumbs in case they went too far into the woods? 

It's not true, what they say about going home. In some places at least, for some fortunate people, you can go home again. On Shabbat, they even give you a challah in this home. It's larger than what the kids made in preschool and considerably more palatable — as good a reason as any to attend the service.


Gina Nahai is an author and a professor of creative writing at USC whose column appears monthly in The Journal. She can be reached at ginabnahai.com.

Goodies that make you want to challah


With Rosh Hashanah approaching, Jewish cooks everywhere are cutting and chopping, searing and sauteing. And towering over our festive holiday spread stands the majestic spiral challah, the centerpiece of our High Holy Day celebration.

“The round challah represents the cycle of life and the cycle of the year,” Maggie Glezer said recently in a phone interview from her Atlanta home; she is the author of the award-winning cookbook, “A Blessing of Bread: Recipes and Rituals, Memories and Mitzvahs” (Artisan, $35).

“In Yiddish it’s called faigele or ‘little bird.’ My hypothesis is originally it probably came from the Ukrainian round bread baked with a bird’s head shaped in the center. Perhaps it became simplified, and they lost the bird. The bird represents the quote from Isaiah: ‘As birds hovering, so will the Lord of Hosts protect Jerusalem.’ The symbolism always harks back to something holy, so that we keep God in our sight at all times.”

To shape the spiral — or any shape using strands of dough — Glezer offers an amazing tip to eliminate air pockets and produce even strands.

“At the American Institute of Baking they have a machine that takes the blobs of dough and sheets them out to a couple millimeters thick for an incredibly fine texture,” she explained. “I thought, why couldn’t you do that at home?”

For the Rosh Hashanah spiral, roll each portion of dough as thinly as possible into an approximate circle. Then roll the thin sheet tightly into a strand with your palms.

“To lengthen the strand, don’t pull,” she warned. “Push down, not out, letting the dough extend itself.”

Braid the strands and join them to form a circle for the holiday. Braid loosely for the most defined shape.

“But whatever you do will be beautiful,” Glezer assures us.

I found a similar technique in “A Taste of Challah” (Feldheim, $34.99) by Tamar Ansh. “This method makes a tremendous difference in how professional your challahs will look, rise and taste. It does take extra time, but it is well worth it,” she said.

On this holiday, sweet foods are the order of the day “to usher in a sweet and delectable judgment,” Ansh noted. Add raisins or more sugar to the dough or both, but Ansh has another trick up her sleeve: “After the challahs are egg-glazed and ready to be baked, I sprinkle each with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. The smell they emit while baking is absolutely heavenly, and the taste is out of this world. Truly a holiday treat!”

If adding raisins, Ansh suggests that instead of just adding them to the ball of dough, place them on the flat piece of rolled-out dough before you roll it up. “When you go to shape the dough,” she explained, “the raisins will all be well hidden inside and will be delicious when the challah is sliced open.”

“A Taste of Challah” is a step-by-step primer to making the perfect loaf, and challenges you — indeed entices you — to forego that store-bought challah and make it yourself. Its more than 350 photos guide you through the challah-making process with detailed instructions for creating everything from the Shabbat braided challah to challah napkin rings, flower challah rolls, even an intricate lattice-woven challah basket.

One whole section provides tips that demystify the process. “Do not let the challahs over-rise,” Ansh cautioned. “When challahs over-rise, they become too light and airy, and later on, when they are glazed with egg they often burst and fall flat. Other times, although they may hold their shape after being egged, the braids may split and come apart in the oven while baking.”

But what distinguishes this book most is its overriding sense of awe that this is no ordinary loaf. We see it in the quote by Rashi that opens the book — “And there was a continual blessing in her dough” — in the prayers and blessings included and the excursus on the laws of separating the dough, the obligation to separate a small piece of dough and sanctify it.

“According to the Sages, this is one of the few mitzvot for which the entire world was created,” Ansh writes. “If challah is not separated when required, the grains are cursed and there is a shortage of food. But if the mitzvah is performed, the grains will grow in abundance and one’s house will be blessed.”

Glezer echoes the notion that bread is more than a mere accompaniment to a meal. “In the Torah the Hebrew word lechem is synonymous with food. A meal is not a meal unless you’re eating bread. Otherwise it is just a snack.”

Apple Challah

From “A Blessing of Bread: Recipes and Rituals, Memories and Mitzvahs” by Maggie Glezer.

2 envelopes (0.25 ounce each) or 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
5 cups bread flour
1 cup warm water
3 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus extra for oiling pan and topping
2 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
3 large or 4 medium (about 2 1/2 pounds) baking apples (preferably Braeburn)

In a large bowl, whisk together yeast and 1 cup of the flour. Then whisk in warm water until smooth. Let stand uncovered 10 to 20 minutes, or until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.
Whisk eggs, oil, salt and sugar into puffed yeast slurry until eggs are well incorporated and salt and sugar have dissolved. With your hands or a wooden spoon, stir in remaining 4 cups flour all at once. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface and knead until smooth and firm, no more than 10 minutes. (Soak mixing bowl in hot water to clean and warm it for fermenting dough.) If dough is too firm to knead easily, add a tablespoon or two of water. If dough is too wet, add a few tablespoons of flour. The dough should feel smooth, soft and only slightly sticky.
Place dough in the clean, warmed bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough ferment for one hour, or until just slightly puffed.

Pico-Robertson Live in the ‘hood: Little sukkahs, on the hillside, little huts made of …


You rise from your 300-thread cotton sheets and walk along your Carrera marble floors through the hand-crafted French doors that give out to a spectacular patiooverlooking the city. Off to the side is a small, frail- looking structure that looks like an old hut, with palm leaves on top.

You make your way into this little hut, and you say a blessing. There is art from your children on the vinyl walls, as well as a picture of the kabbalist Rav Kadoori. Over a Persian rug is a 2-by-8-foot table with 10 folding chairs, and on a beige tablecloth sits two covered challahs, a jar of honey, a Kiddush cup, and a Chumash. In the corner there is a wooden stand with an oriental lamp, and hanging from the thatched roof are fake fruit and other decorations that your kids made.
 
You have entered one of the great rituals of Jewish life: The sukkah.It may also be the least comfortable.
 
I have eaten in sukkots in Crown Heights where rain fell on my soup. I’ve slept in sukkot and my lower back was mad at me for a week. The sitting can be tight, there is rarely enough space to move around, and if you’re in my hometown of Montreal, you better bring your scarf and gloves.
 
So what is it about this odd ritual that has such a hold on the people who experience it?
 
The first, most obvious thing is that it’s really a lot of fun. This is not a very noble thing to say about a holy ritual, but it’s true. You get to feel like a kid again, like when you used to assemble play kits, or get silly with your siblings under a makeshift tent in the living room.
 
Once you enter the sukkah, you feel blessed. Don’t ask me to explain this. It’s just a vibe. A glow. An energy field — you walk into a sukkah and you’re happy to be alive.
 
The coffee tastes better. The kugel and the spicy Moroccan fish are incredible. You sing like Bocelli. Your kids don’t get on your nerves as much. Even your shmoozing is happier; you’re more likely to bring up the new Cirque du Soleil Beatles show than the enraging U.N. representative they had on “The O’Reilly Factor.”
 
Am I exaggerating? Of course, I am. (I’m Sephardic). But a sukkah will do that to you. It makes your heart overflow; you feel more generous, more grateful.Maybe that’s because the sukkah itself overflows. A rabbi once said that the sukkah is “the only mitzvah that you can walk into with your muddy boots.” It envelops all of you. Other mitzvahs connect to one part of the body — you eat matzah with the mouth, you put on tefilin with the hands, you read Torah with the eyes — but the sukkah wants every part of you!
 
The sukkah loves your beautiful voice and wonderful humor, but it also embraces your warts and wrinkles and “muddy boots.” It understands human nature: You can’t separate the good from the bad. This little hut does not discriminate.In fact, the sukkah might be the most egalitarian, unifying mitzvah of all. The origin of this holiday is agricultural — a way of thanking God for the blessings of the land. Every “species” of the land that we commemorate — the lulav (palm), the etrog (citron), the willow and the myrtle — represent, according to our Midrash, a different part of the Jewish people. Our little sukkah embraces them all.
 
Which makes you wonder: If something is so much fun and so magical, so overflowing with unconditional love and embracing of every part of every Jew, why are there not more Jews putting up their own sukkah? I can’t speak for all Jews, but in my new neighborhood, they embrace the sukkah like a Chassid embraces another l’chaim.
 
Pico-Robertson is where the sukkah rocks. You can feel it in the air. From the frantic rush to purchase sukkah kits at the local mitzvah store, to the last-minute scramble to get schach (palm leaves to cover the sukkah), to kids everywhere bringing home sukkah decorations from school, to seeing so many sukkot being put up on the front lawns, you are reminded that in this part of the world, you simply do not hide your Judaism.
 
And in a few days, all the sukkot of the Hood will have sprouted. If you want to see how cool this looks, you should really rent a helicopter.
 
But for now, just use your imagination and picture , as you fly above, hundreds and hundreds of cozy little huts speckling the landscape. Inside each of these little huts there will be thousands of songs that will be sung, thousands of blessings and l’chaims that will be made, and thousands of stories that will be told.
 
After you land, feel free to pop into one of these little huts — and don’t forget your muddy boots.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is the founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Arrested development: Young Jewish activists voluntarily go to jail in support of union rights


Sarah Leiber Church and Laura Podolsky had big plans for the evening of Sept. 28 — getting arrested.

They were part of a protest march that took place along Century Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport aimed at hotels that allegedly have been preventing employees from unionizing. During the late afternoon, approximately 2,000 people marched down the major thoroughfare, cutting off traffic. In what has been called the largest act of civil disobedience in Los Angeles, more than 300 of those people later deliberately sat down in the street, were arrested and jailed for up to 24 hours.

Both Church and Podolsky say their Jewish heritage is an important motivation for their activism for labor rights.

“From a young age I learned there’s a really strong message [in Judaism] about the importance of standing up for justice, and the importance of being directly involved,” Podolsky said.

Both she and Church are members of the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA), a group dedicated to social justice in Los Angeles. Daniel Sokatch, executive director of PJA, estimates that the group had anywhere between 50 and 100 people present at the protest, and that about 10 of those were arrested.

One part of the PJA’s larger goal is to reexamine the meaning of “kosher” among the Jewish population of Los Angeles.

“We’re working to expand the definition of kosher for the Jewish community, to go beyond how food is prepared to how workers are treated in institutions,” said Jaime Rapaport, program director for PJA. For example, she said, “The LAX Hilton is not a kosher hotel. Their kitchen may be kosher, and they may serve kosher food, but the way they treat their workers is not kosher.”

Church, the PJA’s Bay Area program director, said the timing of the protest, during the holiest part of the year, added meaning to her participation.

“The time in the Jewish calendar was very important to me in making the decision to take the steps to risk arrest … it’s a time when you take stock of how you’ve treated people over the last year,” she said. “I can think of no better way to start off 5767 than by supporting hotel workers and hard-working immigrant families in their fight for dignity in the work place.”

The sentiment was echoed by many, including Rabbi Jason Van Leeuwen of B’nai Tikvah Congregation in Westchester,who presided over a blessing of the challah in front of the Westin Hotel — one of three blessings that took place: Christian, Muslim and Jewish. The challahs used were round, he said, “as a symbol for the cycle of the year, but also as a symbol of a message to the hotel management — what goes around comes around.”

Church said the religious service had been a highlight of the march.

“They said, ‘We give you bread for the journey,’ and passed out challahs to everyone. I remember hearing from some of the women later that the bread was just exactly what they needed, because they were feeling a little faint; they were feeling a little scared, frankly, and they said that having something to eat whether or not they were Jewish was really important to them.”

When the marching stopped, the sitting began. Those being arrested sat down on Century Boulevard — the main thoroughfare to LAX — where the police warned them that, unless they moved, they faced arrest. All wore matching shirts that read, “I am a human” in English and Spanish, echoing signs held at the 1968 sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis. The 300 arrested offered no resistance as officers put them in plastic handcuffs.

En route to jail they sang songs.

“I wanted to lead songs in Hebrew and teach people, but it didn’t seem like the right environment,” Church said. “But we sang ‘We Shall Overcome,’ and we sang ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ in English and Spanish.”

Even as they were arresting the protesters, many police seemed supportive of the action.

“I was speaking to one of them who was taking my fingerprints,” Church said, “and he said, ‘You know, I think I support what you’re doing.’ I said, ‘You’re unionized, right?’ And he said, ‘Oh yeah, and if we weren’t I’d want you all to be out on the streets.'”

This was a first arrest for both Church and Podolsky.

“Jail is cold, dingy and boring,” Podolsky said. “But I would do it a lot more, if it were necessary in order to stand up for these issues.”

Other arrestees shared cells with prostitutes or drug dealers.

Both Church and Podolsky spent the night in jail in South Central, released at 3:30 and 6:30 a.m., respectively.

Van Leeuwen agreed that the action was in accordance with Jewish teachings.
“The Torah repeatedly tells us that we should love the stranger; that they should be subject to laws and rights we’re subject to,” he said.

Though tired from a long march and a night spent in jail, everyone seemed in good spirits by Friday, proud of what they had accomplished.

“It was an incredible experience, and it was also an uncomfortable experience
… it’s something that I look back on with pride,” Church said.
Said Podolsky, simply, “It’s a good way to be Jewish.”

New Year, New Orleans


“I think of Pompeii,” wrote Anne Brener in a September article for The Jewish Journal. “New Orleans was so beautiful.”

She wrote of her beloved New Orleans in the past tense, but during the High Holidays, she helped restore a measure of present hope. L.A. transplant Brener, a fourth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, conducted Rosh Hashanah services at Shir Chadash, a Conservative synagogue in Metairie, La., for congregants who braved a return. The challah came from Dallas.

The main auditorium was unusable, so some 80 congregants gathered in a smaller prayer room, according to a report by Associated Press. While their Torahs had been safely evacuated, hundreds of religious texts were damaged beyond repair and buried in a nearby cemetery last week, as per Jewish tradition.

“We’re being given a fresh start, a new beginning,” 19-year-old David Weber said. — Staff Report

More Meaning, Less Material


“Danny Siegel’s Bar and Bat Mitzvah Book: A Practical Guide for Changing the World Through Your Simcha,” by Danny Siegel (The Town House Press, $12).

This is a book that we have long needed. I wish that it had been around when my children were becoming bar and bat mitzvah.

Bar and bat mitzvahs are now widely observed. There was even a story in the Wall Street Journal a while ago about how non-Jewish kids are pestering their parents that they want one, too, since they are envious of their Jewish friends who get to have such big parties. However, children and their parents are bewildered and confused over how to make these events meaningful. Children wake up the morning after, after the out-of-town relatives have left, and before the mountain of waiting thank you-notes has to be attacked, and they ask themselves: What was this event which took over our lives for the last six months or more really all about?

Was the party that we threw only a way of reciprocating for the ones that our kids were invited to? Were the adults whom we invited really there only for business reasons or for social ones? Was this haftorah that our kids broke their teeth learning how to chant for so many weeks connected in any way to the world in which we live? And what message did we send our kids about our values by holding such a lavish bash?

Danny Siegel’s new book is filled with wise and helpful suggestions on how to avoid the letdown that the child and the family so often feel after such a simcha. First of all, it provides the child and the family with a whole different perspective on what this event means. And then it provides the family with a plethora of ideas on how to make this turning point in the life of the child and the family a genuinely meaningful event.

Siegel, the founder and chair of Ziv Tzedakah Fund, provides a definition of what it means to become a bar or bat mitzvah that I think puts everything into perspective. He says in some cultures the stages of life are: infant, toddler, child, teenager, young adult, adult, midlife, empty nester, retiree, etc. In Jewish thought, the stages of life are: infancy, childhood and then mitzvah manhood or womanhood. The whole point of the day is to understand and accept the status of one who is now capable and obligated to do good deeds.

If you accept this perspective, then everything else begins to fall into place: What you say on the invitation; if you buy your kippot from Guatemala women who live in utter poverty and desperately need the work; what the child says in his or her speech; what kind of party favors to give out; who you honor and how you honor them; and what happens with the leftover food after the party all flow directly from this understanding of what the event is really all about.

Here’s one example of what Siegel proposes you can do if you have imagination and good will:

Everyone has a challah at the dinner, right? Technically, you don’t need a challah except at the Shabbat or the holiday meal, but, for some reason, almost everyone has a big challah at the banquet table. And usually we call upon Uncle Herman — who is still sober this early in the evening, gave a pretty good gift and is one of the few at the meal whom we can trust to recite the “Motzi” by heart — to do the honors. But what more can be done with this ritual?

Level 1: At most parties the caterer takes the challah away the moment Uncle Herman recites the “Motzi.” It disappears through the swinging doors that lead into the kitchen, and it comes out some time later, neatly sliced and ready to serve. At some parties that I have been to, the family does it differently. They all gather around the challah, and instead of cutting it with a knife, each member of the family tears off a piece. It involves everyone in the mitzvah, and it is much more informal and haimish than having one person do it, and then having the people in the kitchen do the rest. And it is certainly easy to do.

Level 2: Consider baking the challah yourself, as a family project. Baking it is literally a hands-on mitzvah. And believe me, knowing how to make a challah is a very useful skill to have, something that will come in handy for years to come in the life of the boy or girl who learns how to do it. In this egalitarian age, who says that only girls should know how to bake a challah? Every Jewish wife will be delighted if she finds out that the man she has married knows how to and likes to bake challah, believe me

Level 3: Ask the rabbi for a list of members of the congregation who are in the hospital and bring them each a challah in honor of Shabbat. If you have ever been in the hospital, you know that it is a lonely and a scary experience, and it feels especially lonely if you are there on Shabbat. Imagine what it would mean to a patient to have someone come in, smile, wish them well and leave them a loaf of challah to enjoy in honor of Shabbat.

Level 4: If you have a challah, you have to have a challah cover. You can assign the honor to one of your relatives or friends who sews. They will feel honored and delighted to be given this mitzvah. Or you can go on the web and find lots of places where you can purchase a challah cover and help the poor at the same time. My favorite is Yad Lakashish, Lifeline for the Old (www.lifeline.org.il), where you can not only pick up some beautiful challah covers, but you can give honor and dignity to the elderly who make them.

Level 5: What if you went to a senior citizens center, nursing home or assisted- living center and asked if anyone there still remembers how to sew and knit? If they do, then offer them the mitzvah of making the challah cover for the simcha. You will have a work of art that has been specially commissioned for your simcha. How many people can say that?

Level 6: Invite the senior citizen who has made the challah cover to the dinner as your guest, and introduce her to everyone as the artist who made the cover. If you do that, you will have two mitzvot for the price of one: You will have added a lovely new work of ritual art to the simcha and you will have fulfilled the mitzvah of bringing out the radiance in the face of our elders.

And the challah cover that made its debut at this event can become a family treasure to be taken out again as the engagement party, at the wedding and, if we are fortunate, at bar mitzvah’s child’s bar mitzvah.

This is just one small example of the kind of innovative thinking that is found on almost every single page of this book. If even a simple challah can provide so many different opportunities for “mitzvah-izing,” then so can every other detail and every other aspect of the experience. Everything — the invitation, the mitzvah project, the d’var Torah, the centerpiece, etc. — no matter how small a detail it may be, has the power to become a method for doing good and, if it does, then the benefits to the bar or the bat mitzvah child, and to everyone else present, are very great.

There is an old joke that explains why we need this book so much. An exhausted parent says after his child’s simcha: “If having a bar mitzvah is going to get any more expensive, I hope that the next one runs away and becomes a bar mitzvah at a justice of the peace!”

For that parent and for all those who understand what he is saying, this book is a precious resource. If you know a family that will soon approach this event, run, don’t walk, to get them a copy. They will bless you for it.

For more information on purchasing the book, visit www.ziv.org .

Kick Off the Year Rolling in Dough


As most people know, challah is the braided egg-rich loaf of bread that we traditionally eat on the Sabbath and holidays — two loaves of challah at each of the three Shabbat meals. They help commemorate the miracles that the Jewish people experienced during their 40 years of wandering in the desert. While on weekdays they received one portion of manna from heaven, Friday God sent two portions.

Challah — especially homemade — is wonderful every week, but it resonates with deeper meaning at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, when it is an age-old custom to dip it (at least the first piece) in honey after reciting the appropriate blessing to beseech God to grant us a sweet year.

For Rosh Hashanah, challah is often shaped into a crown or a turban, and raisins are often added to make it even sweeter. Throughout the whole holiday period — through Sukkot — many people follow the custom of preparing or buying round loaves instead of the traditional long, braided ones: a reminder of the cycle of the seasons. Some very ambitious people add a braid in the center in the shape of a ladder, in the fervent hope that we merit both physical and spiritual uplift during the coming year.

The round challah custom is ideal for yours truly: I confess to being braid-impaired. While every preschool child in Israel seems to know how to form beautiful, even braids, I never learned this in Minnesota. Even my three-part braids (I have rarely attempted anything like six or more braids) leave much to be desired in the evenly braided department.

My solution? Round challahs — they always come out nice, look impressive, and no one can believe how easy they are to make. You can either make one long braid and then roll it up, or use the following recipe and baking method. The smell is indescribable. For more details on challah — actually on all aspects of bread baking, see any Jewish cookbook: all the myriad details won’t fit into this article. The mitzvah of separation of challah must be observed along with Jewish law — ask your local rabbi for more information.

Challah should be allowed to cool completely before being well-wrapped for storage. Well-sealed challah can be stored for a day or so on the shelf, or frozen. It defrosts well, and no one can tell that it’s not freshly baked. You can even freeze the ready-to-bake dough. This is good to know in the busy preholiday period.

May this be a sweet year for the entire Jewish people.

Sweet Round Challah

2 tablespoons instant dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup oil

Approximately 9 cups of flour (divided), sifted

1 tablespoon salt

5 eggs (divided)

2 cups warm water

1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)

Sesame seeds

Poppy seeds

Combine yeast, sugar and oil in a large bowl. Stir in about 3 cups of flour; combine well. Add salt and four well-beaten eggs, one at a time. Add water and mix in well. Sift in enough flour, 2 cups at a time, to form a dough for kneading, beating well after each addition. Add raisins, if desired.

Knead for eight to 10 minutes, adding a bit more flour if necessary. Place dough in a greased bowl and turn to grease all sides. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm place until double in bulk-about one and a half to two hours.

Punch down, fold in sides, cover and allow to rise for about another half hour. Punch down. Divide dough in half. Coat two 8- or 9-inch diameter pans (look for pans that are at least 3-inches high) with nonstick cooking spray. Form a ball of dough about 3 1/2 inches in diameter and place in center of pan. Divide rest of dough into eight even portions, forming eight balls of dough, and surround center ball of dough. Repeat with remaining half of dough.

Cover pans and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle both sesame and poppy seeds on the two middle balls. Sprinkle sesame and poppy seeds alternately on each of the outside balls of each challah. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and challah sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from pans immediately and cool on a rack.

Makes two round challahs.

The Greatest Good


The most exciting weeknight in our house is Thursday; our family eats a hasty dinner and I rush off, two or three children in tow, to Tomchei Shabbos. Every week, my children join me in packing and delivering “Shabbat packages” brought to those members of our community who need a little help just to “make Shabbat” — grape juice, challah, chicken, eggs, etc. Tomchei Shabbos delivers to more than 200 families every week, through the volunteer work of more than 50 people, young and old.

Every Thursday evening, as we are leaving the warehouse with our freshly packed boxes, each one of my children goes up to say thank you to Steve Berger, the tireless coordinator of Tomchei Shabbos. At each home where we stop to deliver, when the recipient comes out to greet us (as they always do) my children again say thank you — to the recipient of our Shabbat package.

They understand this powerful lesson: The greatest kindness you can do for someone is to make him/her feel worthwhile and to give him/her an avenue to make a difference. When these little children gather milk, challot, produce, etc. together to help pack a box, they feel at their best, because they understand that they are making a difference in someone else’s Shabbat, in someone else’s life. To invite someone to contribute — in an area where he or she is capable — is the greatest kindness you can bestow.

It seems that this is the gist of Moses’ oddly worded invitation to his father-in-law:

And Moses said to Hovav…. “We are journeying to the place about which Hashem said, I will give it you; come with us, and we will do you good; for Hashem has spoken good concerning Israel.”

And he said to him, “I will not go; but I will depart to my own land, and to my kindred.”

And he said, “Leave us not, I pray you; for you know how we are to camp in the wilderness, and you may be to us instead of eyes. And it shall be, if you go with us, it shall be, that whatever goodness Hashem shall do to us, the same will we do to you” (Numbers 10:29-32).

This conversation between Moses and his Midianite father-in-law took place at the foot of Sinai, just as the Israelites were about to depart on their triumphant march into Eretz Yisrael. Moses, in a statement of utter generosity, offers Hovav a place among the people, that he may benefit from the great goodness with which God blessed His people.

Rav Yosef Soloveitchik, z”l, once commented on this invitation:

“It was not an invitation that a son-in-law extended to his father-in-law. It was not an invitation extended by an individual to another human being to share the good things in life. It was more than that. It was an invitation extended by Moses, as a representative of Israel to all converts of all generations…. There is enough chesed [lovingkindness], goodness and happiness in the Torah to be transmitted to others and to be shared by others.”

What is this great goodness? What was the beneficence that Moses was offering to Hovav? Indeed, what is the generosity extended by the Torah to all of mankind?

Oddly enough, Moses does not offer Hovav land or a position of honor among the people; he asks him to “be our eyes in the desert” — to help lead the people through the wilderness, which he knows so well. What sort of beneficence is this on Moses’ part?

This is the same lesson as that all of the wonderful Tomchei packers and drivers know: There is no greater goodness than asking someone to contribute to the betterment of society and to the welfare of his fellow man.

In an age where deeds are vendible and kind acts are considered commodities, we would do well to listen to Moses’ invitation:

“And it shall be, if you go with us, it shall be, that whatever goodness Hashem shall do to us, the same will we do to you.”

For those who wish to contribute their time and/or energy to Tomchei Shabbos, call (323) 931-0224.


Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom is the associate director of Project Next Step.

Orange County Kids Page


Next week is Rosh Hashana, the Birthday of the World. Soon you get to eat apples and honey. You get to dip the round challah in the honey too — my personal favorite. Some of you will spend the day at synagogue in your holiday best. Some of you may decide to celebrate in nature — surrounded by the amazing gifts we receive from God all year. Like the trees, you’ve grown taller and stronger. You’ve also grown wiser and more aware of the world around you. Make a promise to the world as you grow stronger and wiser, the world will grow stronger too. You will keep it clean and protect it, and, in turn, the world will give you red apples, sweet honey and yellow wheat for challah. Sounds like a good deal to me!

WUJS Wants A Sweet Year for Israel


When Kim Herzog dips apples and challah in honey this Rosh Hashana, she says she will be reaching extra deep to get some sweetness, because after six months in Israel, she and the country need it more than ever.

"I want to begin this year with a sense of hope, that Israel can find sweetness in this year at a time that is a very bitter time," said the 23-year-old Pacific Palisades native who since February has been enrolled in the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) Institute for Graduate Studies, an Ulpan and Jewish/Israel studies program in this small town in the Negev desert.

Rabbi Aubrey Isaacs, the director of WUJS, looks forward to helping his students tap into "the moment of hope" that New Year’s provides, a moment that "unites all Israelis and goes beyond the religious-secular divide."

He noted that celebrating the holidays in Israel provides a special opportunity for the close to 40 students at WUJS, who come primarily from the English-speaking Diaspora, to "feel part of the mainstream" and to enjoy living in a country where you don’t have to take a day off to observe Rosh Hashana.

Jared Hochman, 23, from Tarzana, said he’s especially excited about the national experience of the High Holidays in Israel, where "they take on a whole new meaning."

"In the states you have to put up with ‘Merry Christmas,’" he said. "Here it’s ‘Chag Sameach.’"

Hochman explained that he came to Israel to immerse himself in life in the Jewish state after anti-Israel sentiment on the Berkeley campus, where he was a student, pushed him to learn about the country’s history and purpose.

"It’s one thing to read about it. I wanted to experience it myself. That’s why I came here," he said.

Isaacs said that many WUJS students have been pulled to Israel for similar reasons. "People feel they are participating in this dramatic period in Jewish history, in Israel. They’re not just sitting at home watching television and worrying about Israel," he said. "They’re sharing the experience of living in Israel as it goes through a difficult time."

After Herzog spent her junior year at Haifa University in 1999-2000, she knew wanted to return; she felt she needed to come now "to learn more about what it means to live in Israel at all times, and to be supportive of Israel and to be with a community of people who feel it’s important to be here now."

But she added that the violence also made it harder to decide to come. "It’s terrifying, what can I say? It’s a very scary time in Israel’s history."

At the same time, she noted, "As an American being in Israel at this time, I get the sense that people here are quite gratified that there are still people coming — and I get some that say, ‘Are you crazy?’"

Hochman hears the same question from people back home, but he responds by pointing to the incident in which two people were killed at the El Al counter at LAX. "I could be in Los Angeles and get shot."

Hochman said he’s considering making aliyah before he loses his army eligibility so he can participate in this essential ingredient of Israeli life.

The threat of terror occasionally creeps into his consciousness, he said, "but then you realize that you can’t live your life like that."

Herzog, who studied history and is fascinated with the historical lessons Israel provides, noted that while "there’s such a memory in Israel" which spans Jewish history from the Torah to the birth of the State of Israel, "you need to have a very short-term memory" to deal with the current spate of violence.

But memories are especially important to Herzog, who recently volunteered at a museum and learning center created by survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising who now live on a kibbutz in the Galilee. She’s considering a career in Jewish education and plans to study at a yeshiva this fall partly to pursue this idea: "I need to know it before I can teach it."

At the yeshiva she also hopes to immerse herself in Torah and continue to explore her newfound connection with prayer. Growing up socially — but not ritually — connected to Judaism, she studied the story of Ruth this past Shavuot and was inspired to take a closer look at observance.

"It talked to me in a way that was emotional, that I hadn’t experienced before," she said of the biblical book. "I’ve been finding more of a openness within myself in prayer, and it’s something that I’m very inspired to do."

She praised WUJS for providing a pluralistic community where students follow many different spiritual paths, from Orthodox to secular, but all dialogue with each other.

"WUJS’ aim is not to make people more observant," said Isaacs of the program, which isn’t affiliated with a particular stream of Judaism and provides an optional religious program that features traditional services. "WUJS’ aim is to encourage people to engage seriously with their own Jewishness, and to challenge themselves."

The Circuit


Challah if You Need Me

Last month The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ ACCESS program along with The Brandeis-Bardin Institute and numerous L.A. area singles organizations co-sponsored the Shabbat at Sunset Communitywide Dinner. The event may have been the follow-up to last year’s successful “Shabbat by the Sea,” but what really made the occasion special was that it heralded the arrival of New York Rabbi David Woznica, who has brought East Coast flair to The Federation fold as the executive vice president of Jewish Affairs. Weaving jokes into his sermon, Woznica –previously of the 92nd Street YMCA in Manhattan, where he facilitated a lecture series graced by Alan Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel — gave the 200 unattached in attendance a heart-to-heart on staying afloat in Bachelorville and Bacheloretteville.

Rodeo Drive

The Concours on Rodeo fundraiser raised $7,000 for The Amie Karen Cancer Fund for Children (AKCF) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which treats cancer, leukemia, sickle cell disease and AIDS-related illnesses. AKCF also funds Camp Rainbow, a sleep-away camp for critically ill children and their siblings.

Con at Cannes

The Circuit attended a private screening — cast members and friends only — of “Festival in Cannes,” hosted by Henry Jaglom.

Shot on location during the 1999 Cannes International Film Festival, the film is his most accessible and entertaining movie yet.

“Festival” — starring Greta Scacchi, Ron Silver, Anouk Aimée and Maximilian Schell — uncovers desperation and duplicity in the entertainment industry. Stealing the movie is Zack Norman (born Howard Zuker) as a charming con man who wheels and deals up and down La Croisette. “Festival” marks Jaglom’s fifth collaboration with Norman.”It’s always delicious working with Henry,” Norman said.

A “Festival” highlight: Schell — after a prolonged, enthusiastic reunion with William Shatner (as himself) — walks away asking, “Who was that man I was just hugging?”

“That encounter was real,” Jaglom said. “They had played together in ‘Judgment at Nuremberg.’ Maximilian, in his brilliance, improvised that line.”

“Festival in Cannes” screens Nov 3, 7:30 p.m., AFI Film Institute Festival 2001, Pacific Theatre, 6443 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.

Affair of the Heart

Philanthropist Marshall Ezralow was honored by The Heart Fund at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Mark Litman, Heart Fund chairman and Dana Carvey, the evening’s host, graced the gala, which took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Ezralow, who was elated to be honored, believes now is a paramount time to support research in this area.

“We are three or four years away from solving 90 percent of heart-related problems,” Ezaralow told The Circuit.



Aries Rising

Producer Fred Wolf threw a grand opening reception for his Aries Gallery, at the Fred Wolf Films building in North Hollywood.

Victor Haboush, Robert Reagan, Nola Figen Perla, and Wolf, whose paintings chronicle the lonely life of a cartoony, yellow-colored milquetoast of a man, rang in the NoHo gallery with a show of their works. Perla’s work is based on snapshots of her family, of Ukranian-Jewish heritage.

Exhibit runs through Nov. 30. For information, call (818) 846-0611.



Free For All

Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) has been awarded a $100,000 grant by the S. Mark Taper Foundation. The grant will go toward the JFLA’s community-wide, non-sectarian Kopelove Family Short-term Home Healthcare Loan Fund, which makes available interest-free loans of up to $5,000 to patients in need of home healthcare while recovering from illness, injury or surgery. In addition to the grant, the program has received.

Making ‘Waves


Visiting Anne Stern at her modest one-bedroom West Hollywood apartment, you quickly learn that she is very proud of her artwork. On the walls of her apartment hang her creative accomplishments – a prize-winning collage, an oil landscape, tiny acrylic still lifes of a covered challah and flower bouquets – all of which she is eager to talk about in her charming British lilt, a vestige of her Wembly upbringing.

What Stern, in her mid-80’s, might not tell you up front is that she has spent many years living alone on a fixed income, and is a recipient of Jewish Family Service’s (JFS) Home Delivered Meals, a quarter-century-old program that delivers seven balanced entrees a week to homebound seniors. Last week, with the help of Israel Humanitarian Foundation (IHF), JFS greatly modernized its program by purchasing a supply of microwaves that will be given to more than 300 senior citizens in the program.

“Microwaves are safer than conventional ovens, which the elderly might neglect to turn off,” said Joan Mithers, director of community programs and staff training at JFS, a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Eligible candidates for the Microwave Meals Program are 60 years of age or older, and they suffer from illness, disability or frailty that keeps them homebound and unable to drive. Many of them are also Holocaust survivors, and are socially isolated without any direct family support. Those on the program will now receive a microwave and seven meals for each day of the week.

IHF donated $65,000 to expand JFS’s long-running Home Delivered Meals Program. In addition to the microwaves, a significant improvement to the program is a machine called the AmeriPak 245 filled-tray sealer, a conveyor belt designed to add efficiency to meal packaging.

Overseeing the entire process is Carrie Hornby, director of food and nutrition services, who runs the Hirsh Family Kosher Kitchen.

“This machine can do over 600 meals an hour,” said Hornby, who plans the menu cycle, which has the approval of the Department of Aging for both the city and county, as well as the city of West Hollywood’s counterpart.

The meals, which are blast frozen for preservation, are delivered by JFS twice a week. Choices vary from week to week – ranging from roast chicken to turkey cacciatore to the occasional beef dish, and featuring desserts from fruit to pumpkin or chocolate marble cake – but always strike the recommended balance of protein, vitamin A and vitamin C. Hornby said that the kitchen is required to provide the seniors with about one-third of recommended daily nutritional allowances, but in reality, they have been fulfilling almost half.”Our intent is that they remain independent in their home as long as possible,” said Hornby, who said that the Hirsh Family Kosher Kitchen routinely serves 105 people a day.

At the Microwave Meal Program’s launch last week, even JFS office staff were getting into the spirit of the program, as Valerie Chavez, assistant executive to Director Paul Castro, volunteered some time to help prepare food at the Hirsh Family Kosher Kitchen.

Frederick Simmons, who has served on the IHF Board for 25 years and expressed his enthusiasm for the new project, was also on hand for the microwave project’s kickoff.

“I’m a lawyer. It is very rewarding to think we’re making something happen that otherwise wouldn’t. It’s not only important to do good, but to be seen doing good you’re inspiring people to become involved,” said Simmons.

Established in 1960, IHF, whose slogan is “The Charity of Choice,” prides itself on being a direct conduit between donors and a specific area of philanthropy. IHF supports more than 120 projects related to Israeli life, and provides services for humanitarian causes, educational programs, medical care and research, youth-in-need and the elderly.

IHF first became involved with the JFS project about a year ago. “We have various avenues from which we get our funds. One donor who passed away wanted to help the elderly Jews of the Pico-Fairfax area. We couldn’t have thought of a better cause,” said Geoffrey Gee, national campaign director and executive director of IHF’s Western Region.

Gee, a past president of University Synagogue and a past board member of The Jewish Federation, explained that IHF’s goals are “project related, not program related,” which means that now that they have helped subsidize improvements to the JFS program, IHF will move onto other projects, which includes one with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center that will assist the Jewish elderly.

Back in West Hollywood on this sunny weekday morning, JFS staff install Ann Stern’s new cooking appliance. Stern seems a little perplexed by the demonstration of this new technology, but the facilitators of this project will make sure that she is well-schooled in the art of preparing food via electromagnetic waves. Stern is asked how she feels about the extra layer of convenience the microwave should add to her life, and the retired Saks Fifth Avenue employee’s response is as candid and unpretentious as the paintings on her wall: “I’m happy I’ve got it, but I can’t tell you yet till I use it.”

Challah-palooza


Challah-palooza

The usual braided bread gives way to domed crowns ofgolden dough, studded with raisins

By Robert Eshman, Associate Editor

I was the kind of kid who rushed out to buy round corn chips andorange Gatorade and square-pan pizzas. Any food with the bold word”NEW!” on the label sang to me. I wasn’t dumb. I knew thatmanufacturers didn’t bother to improve, or even change, the taste ortexture of these products. They just saw a tweak in the color orshape as a marketing ploy, a sucker’s bait. And time after time, Ihappily bit.

At first glance, the round challahs of the High Holidays mightseem to be no more than the ritualized version of a GeneralMills-like strategy. How could a bread that is braided 11 months ofthe year suddenly taste different the month it is made round? Eggsare eggs, flour is flour, yeast is yeast, etc., right? But, somehow,the challahs of the High Holidays — domed crowns of golden dough,studded with raisins, sitting atop a holiday table like a princess’pillow — do taste different.

I look forward to them each year, and my heart leaps at the rowsof them that begin to appear in bakeries and kosher marts this timeof year.

The usual braided challah shape is certainly noble enough.Scholars trace its origin back to a time when the Gentile women ofNorthern Europe offered locks of their braided hair to the Teutonicgoddess Berchta. Eventually, the hair offerings were replaced bybraided loaves. Perhaps not coincidentally — no one knows suchthings for sure — Northern European Jews made a potato challahcalled berches.

Over the years, Jews invested their braided bread with symbolismof its own. The 12 humps that result from braiding two loaves ofbread are said to represent the 12 loaves of show bread (lehemhapanim) in the Temple.

The round challah of the New Year carried its own weight ofextra-alimentary meaning. Its shape is symbolic of a well-rounded andfull year. Its numerous raisins symbolize a year of plenty. Its tingeof sweetness symbolizes…sweetness. The round challah doesn’texactly strain our skills of deconstruction: It wears its symbolismon its broad, shiny surface.

If you’ve ever made regular challah, or bread, you will likewisehave no problem making it round. The recipe below, from Faye Levy’s”International Jewish Cookbook,” gives good, clear instructions.Levy’s challah recipe uses the traditional eggs. My own uses pumpkin.Those convinced that egg yolks pose health risks equal to, say,strychnine or cigarettes, will appreciate that the pumpkin challah ischolesterol-free. The pumpkin ensures that even without eggs, thebread will turn out moist, rich and subtly colored.

The Jews of Turkey make a similar holiday bread, pan de calabaza,scented with ginger and cardamom.

Of course, you can use both recipes the rest of year to make yourchallah in braids. Or you can divide the dough up in loaf pans. Butwhen Rosh Hashanah rolls around, see if you can’t resist the changeto the circular loaf. It is the time of year we’re allowed to change,to become sweeter and more whole. What a simple way to remindourselves.

Pumpkin Challah

2 packages dry yeast

1/2 cup light-brown sugar

2 cups warm water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons salt

1 can pumpkin purée, canned or fresh*

6 to 7 cups unbleached white flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

1) In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water.

2) Add the oil, salt and pumpkin and 2 cups of flour. Beatvigorously a few minutes. Add additional flour, up to 6 cups, andblend well.

3) Knead the dough on a floured surface for about seven minutes,adding additional flour to prevent the dough from sticking.

4) Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plasticwrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled. Takes about one to1 1/2 hours.

5) Punch down and knead lightly. Divide the dough and shape intotwo round loaves. Place them on an oiled cookie sheet, or place eachin a loaf pan. Cover with a damp, lightweight towel and let riseuntil double. Takes about 45 minutes.

6) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the tops of the loaveswith beaten egg. Bake about 45 minutes, or until loaves sound hollowwhen tapped.

Variations: To make fresh pumpkin purée, a dash ofginger, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves can be added to the dough in Step2. The dough can also be shaped into rolls or braided.

Round Holiday Challah with Raisins

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons lukewarm water

2 envelopes dry yeast

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup raisins, rinsed, drained and dried

1 large egg, beaten with a pinch of salt

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

1) Sift 3 3/4 cups of flour into a large bowl. Make a well incenter and add 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Sprinkle yeast on top and addsugar. Leave for ten minutes.

2) Whisk honey with the remaining 3 tablespoons of water. Add thehoney mixture, oil, eggs and salt to the well. Mix in the flour byspoon, then by hand, until the mixture comes together as a kneadabledough.

3) Knead, adding the remaining 4 tablespoons of flour (as isnecessary), until the dough is smooth and not sticky.

4) Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in awarm place until nearly doubled in volume. Takes one to 1 1/4 hours.

5) Remove the dough, knead lightly,