Argentina’s Fernandez mocks how the Chinese speak … during tour of China

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, on a tour of China to strengthen ties as the economy teeters on the brink of a recession, appeared to commit a diplomatic blunder on Wednesday by poking fun at how the Chinese speak.

While Fernandez's remark on Twitter that the Chinese pronounce the letter 'r' as an 'l' will be taken by her supporters as a light-hearted joke typical of her folksy style on social media, she may have offended her hosts.

In her message, Fernandez suggested that the Chinese struggled to pronounce “rice”, “petroleum” and “Campora,” the Spanish name given to the youth wing of her political party.

“More than 1,000 participants at the event … Are they all from the Campola and in it only for the lice and petroleum?” Fernandez tweeted.

Argentina has turned to China for loans to bolster its thin foreign reserves and financing for energy and rail projects as it grapples with another debt default and a stagnating economy.

There was no immediate reaction from Beijing.

Within minutes of her comments, '#Campola' was trending on Twitter in Argentina, with many voicing dismay and heaping scorn on the president.

“@CFKArgentina Without a doubt, she's gone to pasture,” tweeted one user.

Fernandez's erratic behavior has been scrutinized in past weeks, as she came under fire from political opponents for her handling of the death of a state prosecutor under mysterious circumstances, just days after he accused her plotting to stymie his investigation into a 1994 bomb attack.

Alberto Nisman, found dead last month with a bullet to the head, had drafted a request for Fernandez be arrested for her alleged meddling. The request was left out of his final submission.

A survey by pollster Carlos Fara and Associates published on Wednesday showed the two-term leader's approval rating falling 7 percentage points to 39 percent since November in the capital Buenos Aires and neighboring Buenos Aires province.

Argentines vote for a new leader in October. Fernandez is barred constitutionally from running.

“She makes a joke, as would any citizen,” said Fara. “Beyond whether you think they're appropriate for a president, they won't have much impact at home or abroad.”

International Chinese Culinary Competition: Culture on the menu

Times Square, the icon of New York kitsch and tourism, pop culture and media art, not only looked different that day in late September, it smelled different. The place that many people call the center of the world was transformed into one big Chinese kitchen. That's right. Times Square was home to the 5th International Chinese Culinary Competition.

I was there, ostensibly, to taste and review the first offerings of the day kosher Chinese food. In order to maintain a strict level of 'kashrut' the kosher competition was the first item on the agenda to ensure that all utensils, still new, would neither touch nor be tainted by anything non-kosher.

But more than my taste buds were tingling. This was not a mere foodie fest, it was an educational culture fest. The cook off organizers created a cooking challenge in order to make Chinese culture fun, hip, vibrant and if you will, palatable to Chinese youth living around the world who have abandoned the ways of their ancestors in order to realize the modern dream of franks, beans and apple pie.

The competitions are sponsored by the NTD-TV, the New Tang Dynasty Television network. Mr. Zhong Lee, president of NTD-TV, sat with me as the chefs were saut ing and explained that of all the competitions they could have chosen they felt that the food competition would be the best vehicle to educate and inform a new generation about the greatness of Chinese culture.

Mr. Lee explained that his network, rather than toeing the Chinese line, challenges the dictates coming from mainland China. The network is a tool to teach people about what is actually happening both around the world and also – in China. Most importantly, they teach about freedom and democracy to people who are always fed the party line.

NTD-TV is not welcomed by the Chinese government. In fact, the station is blocked in China, but yet, people still find a way to watch and to listen. Not surprisingly, NDT is also closely watched and carefully monitored by the leadership of Communist China. The government, too, uses NTD-TV as a learning tool. Communists need to know what is really happening in the world and they need to understand other points of view in order to confront them.

Communism, in addition to denying liberties and individual expression, has destroyed the great love for and appreciation of Chinese history, culture and, of course, religion. They created a revolution in order to step away from the past. The result is that a legacy forged over centuries has been pushed aside and forgotten.

Today's youth cannot connect to Confucius. They have no understanding of Daoism or of Buddhism. No matter where they live in the world, from Tiananmen Square to Trafalgar Square to Times Square, today's Chinese youth know very little and care even less about their heritage and culture.

Until, that is, NTD-TV was born. This TV network, broadcast around the world to a half billion viewers, introduces people to their heritage by making their heritage hip and sexy. The 6th International Cooking Competition was part of the network spin. It tweaked an age old tradition and injected a sense of modern day pride. The Food Network does it. The Cooking Channel does it. And so does NTD.

The addition of kosher Chinese food as an appetizer was not just shtick. The Jewish-kosher angle fit simply and squarely into the NTD-TV paradigm. Jewish culture and community serves as a model for NTD president Zhong Lee. Jews throughout the world demonstrate communal awareness and love of their unique culture and heritage. The highly developed Jewish sense of pride in the past and the great gifts that individual Jews and the Jewish people donate to the world are, according to Lee, what he hopes to inculcate in his audience. And especially the connection to Israel – the ancestral homeland. Through NTD-TV Zhong Lee hopes to recreate the Jewish model for Chinese living in China and living in the Chinese Diaspora.

Jewish food is part of Jewish tradition. Jews from various parts of the world all have their own very unique and distinctive foods. There is a literature about food and there is lore and recipes are handed down from generation to generation with great pride and satisfaction. That was one of the goals of the Chinese cook off competition in Times Square and that is why there were four kosher chefs who participated in the first round.

I tasted the kosher offerings- and they were OK. But I did not come for the tasting. I came to understand the link between a world media giant and kosher Chinese. And I came away with an understanding of the great pain that some very creative and exceptional minds not in China, but expressly outside the community, feel over a loss of pride and lack of knowledge in Chinese heritage.

Let me tell you a famous story about an argument between a Chinese person and Jewish person. The

Chinese person said: We Chinese have the oldest, richest culture in the world dating back to the Xia dynasty 2100 BCE. That is 4100 years ago.

The Jewish person said: Nonsense. We have the oldest culture in the world dating back 5700 years ago.

The Chinese man stroked his beard for a few seconds and then politely asked: If that is so what did the Jews eat for 3600 years?

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book is “Thugs: How History's Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder” (Thomas Nelson).

Wave of Chinese tourists expected

Over 100 million Chinese tourists are expected to be traveling annually by 2020 and one of their preferred destinations is turning out to be the Middle East.

Countries in the region are scrambling to meet the boon as the tourism trade moves to get back on its feet after the lull brought on by the turmoil of the Arab Spring.

At the recent ATM Dubai Tourism Fair it was announced that just last year some 70 million Chinese went abroad. Tourism professionals at the conference emphasized the significance of having tourism industry workers with Chinese language skills, as well as the food and kitchen quality and culture to lure Chinese tourists.

Lucy Chuang, managing director of Global Sino said the Chinese outbound market was being helped by countries being given “approved destination” status by Chinese authorities. The coveted status allows Chinese nationals to travel in groups rather than as individuals.

The UAE received approved destination status in 2009 and more than 300,000 Chinese visited there the following year, spending $334 million, according to MasterCard survey figures. Chuang said Chinese visitors to the UAE have since grown 50 percent annually.

Chuang stated a typical Chinese leisure preference was a three-night package with a different quality hotel for each night and she urged the region to promote this tiered concept to the market, particularly during the off-peak summer season.

Arab Spring unrest took a heavy toll on Middle Eastern tourism last year as unrest erupted in major regional tourism destinations like Tunisia and Egypt as well as Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. While international tourist arrivals grew by 4% worldwide in 2011, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region they dropped 8.8%, with the worst-hit countries reporting double-digit drops, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Egypt’s Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdul Noor said this week that airport fees would be cut and new tourism projects such as eco-tourism were being launched to lure Chinese, as well as Indians, Russians and Japanese.

In Israel, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of Chinese tourists. Last year alone saw a 29% increase over the previous year. While that number was just 17,157 out of over 3 million incoming tourists to Israel, it is growing. In the first quarter of this year, 6,000 Chinese tourists visited Israel, an increase of 14% over last year, Israel’s Tourism Ministry figures show.

“Two years ago we opened an office in Beijing where all it is doing is promoting Israel as a destination,” Pini Shani the head of the Overseas Department at Israel’s Tourism Ministry told The Media Line.

Shani said guides were being trained who spoke to the Chinese in their own language. He said hotels and airport staff were also briefed on how to accommodate and host the Far East visitors.

“It is natural that the Chinese will start to travel. The income in China is growing. They see what is happening in the West and their curiosity is growing to see the outside world,” Shani said.

The UNWTO has predicted that within the next five years China, with a population of some 1.3 billion, will be the number one country in terms of both sending and receiving tourists.

Professionals at the conference in Dubai said that desert safaris and shopping were priorities with designer goods high on the shopping list of the brand-conscious Chinese travelers. They added that while twin-bedded rooms were the number one request, an essential in that room was a kettle to facilitate the preparation of hot instant noodles or rice.

With nearly 485 million Chinese with access to the Internet, they also suggested that effective use of social media and the Internet was essential to tap into the potential Chinese tourist market.

Dubai announced on Monday that it would also be issuing multiple entry visas for Chinese and other tourists who were arriving by cruise ship, thus reducing fees and encouraging more arrivals.

Sean Staunton, vice chairman of Dubai Duty Free, said that while Chinese travelers made up less than 4 percent of the total numbers of visitors, they accounted for 18 percent of the duty-free company’s annual turnover of $1.46 billion. This included 42 percent of watch sales, 32 percent of cosmetics and 20 percent of sunglasses.

The China Tourism Academy said they expected Chinese will spend as much as $80 billion abroad this year. This is amazing considering that outbound Chinese tourists were virtually non-existent just two decades ago. Thanks to their massive population and rising incomes the number of Chinese traveling abroad is expected to continue its rise.

While the bulk of Chinese tourism is headed to the Far East, the Middle East is expected to attract quite a few.

“Israel can offer many things that can’t be found elsewhere,” Shani said, citing the Dead Sea, Christian holy sites and a swank Tel Aviv.

“The Chinese are also very curious of the Jewish brain and can find many examples of it in Israel and we know that their satisfaction rate is very high for tourists that come from China to Israel,” Shani said. “China is one of the sources of growth of tourism to Israel and we will see the results in the coming years.”

Truckin’ with kosher eggrolls

Jews have had a long and halcyon history with Chinese food. In many cities it’s tradition for Jews to spend Christmas at the movies, later eating at their favorite Chinese restaurant. So it’s no small feat that Los Angeles now has its first Jewnese food truck, and a kosher one at that.

Michael Israel grew up in Montreal eating plenty of eggrolls — they were one of his family’s favorite dishes. So when Israel, a culinary school graduate, and his wife, Emily, decided to enter the restaurant business, they knew where they wanted to start.

“Eggrolls, particularly Montreal eggrolls,” says Michael, “are a representation of my childhood and my family’s roots, coming from Canada. And I think it’s critical for any chef to connect with [his or her] upbringing and roots, and communicate that through food.” 

Emily Israel agreed with her husband, and while they initially considered opening a brick-and-mortar shop, the food truck craze in Los Angeles gave them another idea. Why not make an eggroll food truck?  And so, M.O.Eggrolls was born.

The Israels worked with a designer, who helped them find an old linen truck to strip down and rebuild as their kitchen on wheels.

Michael and Emily, members of Temple Beth Am, a Conservative synagogue on the edge of the Pico-Robertson area, knew immediately that they wanted their food truck to be kosher. They turned to their rabbi, Susan Leider, and asked her to help them with the endeavor.

Leider, who’s quick to admit that M.O.Eggrolls was the first food business for which she’s ever supervised kashrut, leapt at the chance. She supervised the building of the truck from the ground up and worked with Michael and Emily to ensure proper construction.

M.O.Eggrolls. Photo courtesy of M.O.Eggrolls

“We take kashrut seriously as Jews and as Conservative Jews, and we feel that we’re modeling for the rest of the community what that means,” Leider said. The obvious drawback is that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews will not recognize a Conservative hechsher, but Leider is quick to point out that Conservative Jews take Jewish law seriously, too. “In no way does any denomination have a monopoly on that.”

Emily agrees. “The fact that it’s kosher … speaks to the integrity not only of our food, but of our business. We’re kosher in the way we run the business, the way we treat our employees, the way we treat our customers.”

Michael doesn’t want people to see the kosher eggroll thing as a gimmick. “I personally am very averse to fusion — and I know our menu seems like it would be classified as fusion. But in actuality, all of the combinations in each individual eggroll tend to be very classic.”

The eggrolls, which come in varieties ranging from Tongue Chinois, which combines “sauteed shitake mushrooms, scallions and garlic” with tender bits of juicy beef tongue, to Challah Pain Perdu, a dessert eggroll with coconut, banana and white rum, are all designed and made by Michael and his team. “We make everything from scratch on the truck. … The only thing we don’t make from scratch are the wrappers that go around the eggrolls.”

And while M.O.Eggrolls isn’t the only game in town — other kosher food trucks, like the kosher taco truck Takosher, have been rolling around town — the Israels hope their family-owned, friendly business will help them stand out. “That’s why we’re doing it — we want to have a community; we want to celebrate Jewishness, and food, and street food, and celebrate Los Angeles,” Emily says.

“Now, every time we see a linen truck on the street, we can imagine what it could be.”

Chinese billionaire invests $30 million in Israeli startup

An Israeli startup company has received a $30 million investment from China’s richest man.

Billionaire Li Ka Shing has invested in the navigation technology firm Waze, which will put the money into supporting its application’s more than 7 million drivers and launch a traffic-reporting platform in China, the Israeli business daily Gloves reported.

The Waze free mobile application helps drivers find the shortest route to their destination and provides data on traffic conditions provided by its users. The company also has a social network allowing drivers to report directly to each other on road conditions. Its users live in 45 countries.

Other shareholders include Microsoft and Qualcomm.

Video courtesy of WazeGPS1.

Chinese military chief to visit Israel

The head of China’s military will visit Israel for the first time.

Chen Bingde, chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army, will be hosted next week by his Israeli counterpart, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the Israeli military said Monday.

The visit follows Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s trip to China two months ago.

Although China and Israel have had an occasionally frayed relationship, most recently over China’s ties to Iran, bilateral trade reached $6.7 billion in 2010.

Avrum Ehrlich, director of the Israel-China Institute, told The Associated Press that China’s Middle East policy is changing in the wake of unrest in the Arab world.

“The most important driving factors of Chinese foreign policy are its oil and securing its transport routes,” Ehrlich said, adding that the upcoming visit reflects China’s desire to use Israel as a gateway to the Mediterranean and Europe instead of Syria.

Rude Israeli Olympic medalist ticks off Chinese, Peres apologizes

BEIJING (JTA)—Israel’s biggest source of pride at the Beijing 2008 Olympics became its biggest blight this past week, after ” title=”interview published September 5th”>interview published September 5th in Israel’s Yediot Aharanot.

That was his answer when the reporter asked him to describe his hosts in one word.

Zubari also said he didn’t feel very comfortable during the month and a half he spent in China, and was happy he wouldn’t have to see any more Chinese people.

“They are difficult,” he said. “They don’t speak the language, their rituals are strange and even their pronunciation is weird.”
He added he didn’t like Chinese food and missed his usual food. “I can live off hummus.”

His comments could be especially damaging considering China is about to send its ” title=”Chinese citizen living in Israel”>Chinese citizen living in Israel who takes issue with comments by Israeli telecasters during the Games.

Since Zubari’s story broke in the Chinese online press, articles and posts on the web in Mandarin are numerous. They range from outrage to observations that Zubari is just an ignorant youth.

The Shanghaiist in an ” title=”Talkback”>Talkback” section on the Ha’aertz website also has international comments including some Chinese readers.

Zubari clearly offended beyond the online message boards, however, as the Chinese embassy in Tel Aviv canceled a reception for Israeli Olympians set to be held last Wednesday.

President Shimon Peres even apologized to the Chinese ambassador on Wednesday, and Ghaleb Majadle, Israeli Minister of Sport, Science and Culture made an ” title=”op-ed”>op-ed suggesting that better PR training for athletes (especially young ones like 22-year-old Zubari) could have prevented the gaffe.

Irvine’s Jason Lezak anchors 400-meter relay swim team for the gold

“I can’t even explain it, it was unreal. I’ve been a part of the two teams at the last two Olympics that came out behind, and I think I wanted it more than anybody, not just for myself, but to show that we are the nation to be beat in that relay, ” Jason Lezak told the Los Angeles Times

Lezak swam the final lap for the 400-meter team (including Michael Phelps), which won another gold for the U.S. That makes three Jewish medallists to date; Americans swimmer Dara Torres, swimming relay, and Sada Jacobson, fencing, have both earned silver.

Lezak, born in Irvine, has four Olympic medals. He was on a gold-medal-winning medley relay team, and won gold as a member of the medley relay team in Sydney.

He also has a silver medal from swimming on the 4×100 freestyle relay in Sydney and a bronze in the same event from Athens.

Lezak and another Jewish swimmer, Garrett Weber-Gale, comprised half the U.S. squad with Michael Phelps and Cullen Jones. The Americans finished Monday’s race in 3:08.24, erasing the world mark by about 4 seconds.

Lezak swam 46.06 seconds in managing to overtake world record-holder Alain Bernard of France. Lezak, who picked up his third career gold medal, trailed by nearly a second heading into the final lap. His time would have beaten his American record in the 100 freestyle.

Weber-Gale followed Phelps’ opening leg with a time of 47.02.

The U.S. team had beaten the world mark in the qualifying round with a team that did not include Lezak or Phelps but did have Ben Wildman-Tobriner, another Jewish swimmer.

Phelps has now earned two gold medals in his bid to win eight and break the mark of seven set by Mark Spitz, also a Jewish swimmer, in the 1972 Games in Munich.

VIDEO: Tel Aviv rally protests religious persecution in China

Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy lead rally protesting Chinese persecution of Falun Gong and China’s involvement in Sudan

VIDEO: What do the Chinese think of Jews?

Jews in China roll out red carpet for Olympics

Gold medalists won’t be the only ones climbing podiums in Beijing once the 2008 Olympic Games are under way. Isaac Shapiro will be stepping up to celebrate his bar mitzvah.

Isaac of Highland Park, Ill., will be called to the Torah at the Chabad House in Beijing on Aug. 16. Isaac and his family are among the hundreds of Jewish tourists, athletes, dignitaries and media expected to converge on the Chinese capital for the 2008 Olympic Games, which begin Aug. 8.

While most visitors probably don’t even realize there is a local Jewish community in Beijing, the resident Jews of China’s capital are getting ready to welcome anyone who seeks them out.

The Shapiro family was already planning a trip to Shanghai and then to the Olympics, motivated by Isaac’s love of sports and his older sister, Chloe’s, previous career as a competitive gymnast.

When Isaac’s bar mitzvah tutor in Chicago, a photographer for the Games, suggested that he have his bar mitzvah in Beijing, it all clicked. Isaac’s father, Sam, said the family didn’t feel the need for a “big American bar mitzvah.”

Shapiro offered many reasons for the offbeat choice of his son’s bar mitzvah location.

“It will give Isaac a wonderful sense for the Jewish Diaspora,” he explained. “We also wanted to give our kids a better understanding of China, since it is rapidly becoming one of the most important countries in the world.”

While the bar mitzvah will make the second Shabbat during the Olympics an especially lively affair (in Chinese, they would say “renao”) at the Chabad House, the local rabbi expects a big crowd the prior Shabbat, as well.

Rabbi Shimon Freundlich of Chabad Beijing said he expects a packed house in the already squeezed villa living room of the main Chabad House, which weekly is converted into a shul with mechitzah (partition) separating men and women.

He said he has been contacted by tourists from all over the world, including Australia, Israel, the United States and Europe, and even by some athletes directly. Without naming names, Freundlich did divulge that “there will be athletes at services.”

“It will be packed wall to wall, no question,” he said, noting that a larger hall could not be found because everything else was booked

Chabad will offer services three times a day every day during the Games, Freundlich said, at both the main Chabad house and at a central business district location.

The main Chabad house will also display a special Sino-Judaic exhibit of artifacts belonging to Jews around China in the last 200 years, including books, photographs and religious items like a Chanukiah from Shanghai.

While the Chabad community will be bustling, all signs indicate that the egalitarian, lay-led Kehillat Beijing minyan will have its share of visitors. Almost one-fifth of the total 18,000 hits on the Kehillat Web site,

Hot pot dinner bonds two very different ‘believers’ in China

Being treated to a hot pot meal is one of my most dreaded social situations in China.

Hot pot is like Chinese fondue. A large pot of meat stock bubbles in the center of the table, and fresh meat, fish, vegetables and tofu are dropped inside. You dip the cooked foods in a sesame sauce and drink the flavorful soup.

This is problematic for someone like me, since I’m not only a vegetarian but also kosher. I don’t eat meat or seafood, and I can’t eat vegetables cooked in a meat broth.

Traveling in America, Europe or the Middle East, I always was more comfortable saying I was vegetarian than saying I was kosher. Yet living in China, where vegetarianism for the sake of animals or the environment is rare, most people ask if my eating habits are religious. After all, they know that some observant Buddhists not only refuse to eat meat, but also eggs and milk.

If I am with friends who know I keep kosher, we will find a restaurant with individual hot pots and I can keep my meal vegetarian.

But at a recent dinner in Beijing, a colleague was introducing me to several people in the Chinese movie business. I wanted to make a good impression. That meant eating and drinking — a lot.

When I saw the communal hot pot in the center of every table in the restaurant, I groaned. Not only was I about to inconvenience my host, but a religious discussion was close at hand.

Our dinner host was the owner of a Beijing sound studio, and I told him I was a vegetarian. His first question, as expected, was if I was religious.

Then something happened I hadn’t encountered in China.

Zhang Qun, a Mandarin voice-over actress also at the table, gave me a sympathetic look.

“I have the same problem,” she said, “because I am Muslim.”

Zhang Qun is ethnically Han Chinese, so I was surprised when she told me she was from a Muslim community in Tianjin. She did not look like the stereotypical Chinese Muslim, whom I figured to be from China’s Western Xinjiang autonomous region, where the locals look more like they’re from neighboring Kazhakhstan — a country that is nearly 50 percent Muslim — than from China.

At first I was nervous that she might have a negative opinion about my being Jewish. Most Chinese are complimentary of Jews, saying how clever and rich Jews are without meaning to be at all anti-Semitic. Yet I had never had any extended interaction with a Chinese Muslim before. Would she have a different stereotype in mind?

Luckily, I had nothing to worry about. She even helped solve our food problem by taking charge and ordering a smaller hot pot containing only hot water, not chicken broth. It would be kept meat free.

Although the food problem was solved, there was still the matter of alcohol. As a Muslim, Zhang Qun could not drink alcohol. At each of the evening’s dozens of toasts, she clinked her water glass with our beer and baijiu, a strong distilled Chinese alcohol.

When she excused herself early, many of the men at the table complained. Why wouldn’t she drink with them? They felt it was impolite.

But the owner of the sound studio, Zhang Yong Mou, looked at me earnestly.

“I think out of everyone at this table, these two have the most in common,” he said. “If anyone can understand Zhang Qun, Alison can because they are both religious believers.”

The comments hit home for me. I rarely meet someone in China with dietary restrictions that exceed mine.

That night, fresh news from Israel about tensions between Muslims and Jews seemed far away. I felt an understanding with Zhang Qun. It was refreshing to find this interfaith connection in Beijing over a dreaded hot pot dinner.

Dual Identity, Double the Questions

Chinese villagers found the baby, abandoned by her birth parents, in a basket on a riverbank.

“Just like Moses,” the child’s adoptive mother, Terri Pollock, says.
Today, Leah Hua Xia Pollock, 14, lives in Seattle and plays the flute in her temple’s klezmer band.

Last year, Leah became a bat mitzvah. As she stood on the bimah, looking out at the crowd of white faces before her, “it just dawned on me,” she said, “that even if I do look in the mirror and see someone different from the people around me, it doesn’t matter, because I’m accepted.”

Leah is among the first in a tidal wave of Chinese-born girls who are growing up in Jewish families in the United States. When she was adopted in 1992, she was one of only 206 Chinese children brought to the United States that year. Last year, Americans adopted slightly more than 7,900 children from China, nearly all of them girls.

China only opened its doors in a big way to international adoption in 1991 to help mitigate its problem of abandoned children, brought on by China’s one-child policy. That policy, which the government enforces by imposing economic penalties for noncompliance, combined with the traditional culture that sons care for their parents in old age, had resulted in a sea of neglected children, particularly girls.

These days, more American families are adopting from China than any other foreign country, and a large number of those families are Jewish. A wave of girls is now coming of age, starting to face challenging issues of identity.

There is the question of what it means to — look Jewish — for one — and the matter of who is a Jew in the eyes of the Jewish

Kosher Feng Shui

Jayme Barrett wants you to close your bathroom door and keep the toilet seat down.

That is the feng shui (pronounced fung shway) way of assuring that the positive energy that comes from clearing out your clutter and creating love, wealth and fame will stay in the appropriate places in your house and not drain out every time you flush the toilet or pull a plug.

Tips like these made 35-year-old Barrett, the author of “Feng Shui Your Life” (Sterling Publishing), one of Los Angeles’ leading experts in this ancient Chinese art of object placement. Barrett has feng shuied the homes of Hollywood celebrities, and she has guided many others in creating calm and prosperous home and office environments.

But now Barrett would like the Jewish community to understand that even though feng shui is an Eastern discipline, it is one that is wholly symbiotic with Judaism. As she explains it, objects like mezuzot fill the house with divine energy, and clearing out clutter is akin to cleaning your house for chametz (leavened foods).

“From a kabbalistic perspective, it means you are clearing away the objects that keep you enslaved,” Barrett said. “When you clear up clutter, you are also taking away the things that are depleting you, and then you can purposefully place items in your house in a way that helps you move forward in your life.”

Barrett says that Jews actually need feng shui to keep their Judaism going.

“The home is the center of Jewish life in a lot of ways — it’s where you have Shabbat dinners — and it needs to be a place that emanates peace and order for you to feel happy and comfortable,” she said. “If your home is a wreck, you are less likely to invite people to your house for Shabbat.”

Barrett advises her Jewish clients to put tzedakah boxes in their “wealth center” (one of nine energy centers Barrett says comprise the home) to keep the money flowing in their lives, and she tells married couples to hang their ketubbot opposite their beds.

“You need to create positive energy every day, and you have the power to do it,” she said.

Jayme Barrett will sign copies of “Feng Shui Your Life”
on Aug. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at –Village Books, 1049 Swarthmore, Pacific Palisades.
For more information, visit .

Divine Fight

When Benjamin Andron, a second-degree black belt, bows in at the beginning of the martial arts class he teaches, he always keeps his eyes raised.

This subtle variation on the traditional Chinese and Japanese lowering of the eyes acknowledges that respect for God is supreme above all else.

It is one of several differences in approach that makes Tora Dojo a distinctly Jewish discipline.
Founded about 35 years ago by Yeshiva University professor Haim I. Sober, Tora Dojo takes the philosophy and structure of the martial arts and places it in a Jewish framework.

Andron, whose father, Michael, was the first Tora Dojo black belt and mother, Lillian, was the first female black belt, for the first time brings this discipline to Los Angeles, with classes taught at a Westside congregation.

Tora Dojo — Tora is the Japanese word for tiger — focuses and channels a person’s energy to help him or her achieve the centeredness that is necessary to handle blows, both internal and external, as they come in, Andron says.

“The moves are combative by nature. But while we might be fighting anti-Semitism or an enemy, we are also fighting the things that are holding us back, the veils that hide the divine spark within us,” says Andron, a 24-year-old who moved to L.A. from Florida to get into the movie business, possibly choreographing fight scenes.

Thus, when Andron begins his class, the rooting, or guided meditation, is grounded in kabbalistic methods.
That kind of concentration can be an asset not only when doing battle. Andron, who is modern Orthodox, says it helps him achieve a higher level of kavanah, concentration, during his daily prayers.

And always there is the knowledge that the discipline, founded in the post-Holocaust era, can make the Jewish people stronger.

“It may be difficult for Jews to stand tall and try to be an example for other nations to follow, with all the things that keep pushing us down,” Andron says. “The martial arts helps us fight from a centered position so we don’t get knocked over.”

Benjamin Andron teaches Tora Dojo classes Monday and Thursday evenings at B’nai David-Judea Congregation, 8906 W. Pico Blvd. Children’s classes (ages 7-11) 6-7 p.m., adults 7-9 p.m.

Michael Andron, one of only two seventh-degree black belts in Tora Dojo, will be holding an exhibition in forms, weapons, breaking and meditation Thursday, Dec. 14, 8 p.m., at B’nai David-Judea.

For information, call (310) 788-0045 or e-mail,

Marco Polo Redux

Travelers Meiand John Krich

The affinity of Jews to Chinese food reaches its apotheosis inJohn Krich’s “Won Ton Lust: Adventures in Search of the World’s BestChinese Restaurant” (Kodansha, $24). It’s no outrageous stereotype tostate that, as a people, American Jews seem to need a good Chinesemeal to kick-start us into the week. It’s nothing to be ashamed of;neither is it anything to take lightly.

For those of us who agonize over the lack of great Chinese cuisinewest of Monetrey Park or, at least, west of Chinatown, imagine thejoy luck of Manhattan native John Krich. Raised, as were many of us,in “the particularly Jewish-American ritual of ingesting illicitspare ribs, accompanied by bowls of pretzel-like prefab noodles,”Krich met and wed a native of Shanghai, Mei, and together they setoff on a mission to find the best Chinese food not in their SanFrancisco home, not in America, not even in China, but in the wholeworld.

Since the Chinese diaspora at least equals another one we know of,that meant that the Krich’s dined everywhere from Chez Vong in Paris,to Li Li’s in West Melbourne, to Vancouver’s Kowloon, to Kong Yi Jiin Beijing, to Avalon in Gallup, N.M., to Shun Lee Palace in NewYork, to Yujean Kang in Pasadena — 450 meals at 350 restaurants in23 countries over a 15-month span. If you haven’t tried the BuddhaJumps Over the Wall at the Hai Tian Lo in Singapore — a seafood soupcosting $200 per bowl — you deserve the take-out you get.

The couple begins their enviable journey in Venice, Italy, fromwhere Marco Polo once set out to discover the best ice cream,gunpowder and noodles. The Kriches find that — surprise — the wholeworld is crazy over good Chinese. Fortunately, the Chinese themselvesare among its biggest fans, and their single-minded dedication to thecrispiest duck skin or the perfect cup of tea greatly improves theodds of finding an excellent Chinese meal anywhere. (And afterreading “Won Ton Lust,” you’ll never be so thick as to lump all foodfrom China in as broad a term as “Chinese.”)

Even in humble Los Angeles, the Kriches are amused but notdisappointed. They dismiss Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois and the trendyMandarette as more image than eats. But Krich, 47, appreciates YujeanKang, adores the tableside-poached flounder at Charming Garden inMonterey Park (who wouldn’t?) and swoons over the Mint and DuckTongue at Good Chances in the San Gabriel Valley, whose chef oncecooked for Mao.

Throughout, Krich’s writing is chatty and familiar. The book has ahelpful ranking system, a few mostly indifferent recipes and — amajor oversight — no index. But Krich’s eagerness and appetite isinfectious, whether he’s writing about the Taft (néTaffapolski) branch of his family in Melbourne or about New York’sfamed Shun Lee Palace, which reminds him as nothing so much as “animperial Jewish deli.” And there’s more than a little perception inthat description.

Beef with Ginger and Scallions in Clay Pot

This recipe comes from Charming Garden in Monterey Park, courtesyof “Won Ton Lust.”


1/2 pound sliced beef

4 cloves garlic

6 green onions

3 slices ginger

1 tbs. Chinese marinated black beans

1/4 tbs. cornstarch

1/4 cup peanut oil


1 egg white

1/2 tsp. soy sauce

1/4 tsp. rice wine

1/2 tsp. cornstarch


1 tbs. rice wine

2 tbs. chicken broth

Slice the beef thinly against the grain. Combine the marinadeingredients and pour over sliced beef. Stir together.

Crush the garlic and slice green onions into 2-inch pieces. Placethe beans in water, let stand 10 minutes, then drain and mash thebeans. In a separate bowl, blend the cornstarch and 1 tbs. wateruntil smooth.

Heat the oil in a wok. Sauté the beef briefly, then remove.Add garlic and beans, and sauté briefly; add the beef to thepan, and stir-fry until fully cooked. Add the sauce, then thecornstarch mixture. Cook 30 seconds.

Add a little oil to a clay pot or other heat-proof vessel. Placeon the stove until hot, add scallion and ginger. Cook until fragrant,then add beef mixture and serve.

Shalom, Hunan

To say that Shalom Hunan is the best kosherChinese food in Los Angeles is not the left-handed compliment itseems.

Granted, the competition is not stiff. This cityand its environs has some of the best Chinese restaurants in theworld (see book review) — the kind of places where I imagine thestaff of Shalom Hunan goes to feast on days off. But the kosherChinese choices I’ve tried — and I haven’t tried them all — seem tostick to bland, oily versions of mid-1970s takeout favorites: kungpao chicken, fried rice, broccoli beef.

Shalom Hunan, a branch of a popular Brookline,Mass., restaurant owned and operated by Chinese-Americans, aimshigher, and mostly succeeds.

It would be easy to fault the restaurant for notliving up to the flavors of other Chinese establishments, butconsider its limitations. Chinese cuisine is the antithesis of kosher– a fact that probably accounts for its rampant popularity amongmany Jews. Its governing laws have everything to do with the complexbalance of clear flavors, in whatever natural form they occur. Kosherlaws severely limit the choice of those forms. None of the standbys,such as shellfish or pork, are allowed, of course. Neither arestandard Chinese condiments, such as oyster sauce. On the plus side,the cooking naturally is dairy-free, so the bane of kosher cuisine –dairy substitutes — needn’t appear.

Unfortunately, while stunning, completelyvegetarian Chinese cuisines exist (try the non-hechshered Fragrant Vegetable inMonterey Park), Chinese kosher chefs feel compelled to imitate themenus of non-kosher restaurants. That’s where Shalom Hunan’sweaknesses show. Appetizers such as “spareribs” ($3.50), beef eggrolls ($1.95) and chicken in foil ($3.95) are notable for the flavorsthey lack. Beef with Broccoli ($10.95) is simply salty, not complexor intense.

But there are many successes. Egg Drop Soup($2.50), thick as a bog, can be a flavorful cold-weather boost.Flavors of citrus and garlic burst forth from Orange Flavored Chicken($12.95) and Shredded Beef with Garlic Sauce ($10.95). You might askfor more heat with your Hunan Fish ($16.95) and Kung Pao Chicken($9.50), but the dishes don’t disappoint.

The lunch specials, a mid-city bargain at around$6.50, are usually filling and flavorful. I can’t help but think thatbehind the pots and pans at Shalom Hunan is a chef who, given theopportunity, could really impress.

And it is no small fact that Shalom Hunan,situated in the former home of the Shanghai Winter Garden, issumptuous in a way restaurants used to be. Deep booths, rich woodcarvings, scarlet rugs, paper lamps dripping gold tassels, etchedscreens setting off quiet rooms in the large elegant space — nokosher restaurant in Los Angeles, period, can boast such atmosphere.And few have Shalom Hunan’s attentive, efficient servers.

At Shalom Hunan, you can wait for your friends inthe bar, sipping a scotch or an Israeli red, then eat a kosherChinese banquet that is, as the movie says, as good as itgets.

Shalom Hunan, 5651 Wilshire Blvd. (213)934-0505. –Robert Eshman