Sukkahs that captured a city’s imagination to go nationwide

It was a surprise hit on the cultural roster of a city that may be the most culturally busy city in the nation.

And even though the Sukkah City architectural competition in New York is being dismantled this week, look for Sukkah City next year in a town near you.

“Our goal is to fan it out across the nation next year to 15 cities,” said Roger Bennett, who put together the sukkah competition with writer Josh Foer.

More than 620 participants from 43 countries submitted designs for sukkahs, the outdoor booths Jews build on the Sukkot holiday. A dozen finalists, chosen by an expert panel, were constructed for two days in Manhattan’s Union Square Park. Thousands of visitors wandered through the sukkahs; more than 17,000 voters cast ballots for their favorite.

The winning design—“Fractured Bubble” by Henry Grosman and Babak Bryan, which one reporter described as an “exploding coconut”—was left up alone for the duration of the holiday ending Friday.

Who would have thought a bunch of wild and crazy huts would generate such attention?

The project became a media darling. Reporters from The Wall Street Journal to The Los Angeles Times gushed and cooed over the cutting-edge sukkahs, all of which had to conform to halachah, or Jewish law: more than two walls; a roof made of organic material that provides more shade than sun but allows for views of the stars; no taller than 20 cubits but higher than 10 handbreadths.

“I’m not surprised at the buzz,” said Jacob Wisse, director of the Yeshiva University Museum in lower Manhattan, where two of the 12 winning structures spent the past few days on display after they were taken down in Union Square on Sept. 20. “It reflects the natural interest in a contemporary understanding of traditional forms.”

Bennett, vice president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies and co-founder of Reboot, a network for Jewish innovation, said one inspiration for the competition was to rescue Sukkot, one of the Bible’s three pilgrimage festivals, from its neglect by non-observant American Jews.

“We wanted to take Sukkot, a 21st century festival of meaning, and place it back on the pedestal where it belongs,” Bennett told JTA. “Themes of homelessness, of scarcity and abundance, of hospitality—there are few more important values embedded in a ritual than these.”

One of the finalist designs took the homeless theme literally. “Sukkah of the Signs,” conceived by an architectural firm in Oakland, Calif., utilized nearly 300 signs bought from homeless people in the San Francisco Bay area to illustrate the transient nature of the shelter provided by a sukkah.

In keeping with the theme, the wildly fanciful and elaborately constructed finalists themselves had short life spans.

Following their two-day presentation in the park, two were carted off to the Yeshiva University Museum, one went to the JCC in Manhattan and a couple were sold to private collectors, according to Bennett. Several ended up on the sidewalks of New York, cast off and abandoned.

New York Times writer Ariel Kaminer noticed that one runner-up sukkah, left by its creators on an Upper West Side sidewalk, was commandeered by a few local families. They “had run home and grabbed food, then reconvened under the stars,” moving with an alacrity Kaminer chalked up, at least partially, to “the lengths to which New Yorkers will go for outdoor seating.”

Sukkah City is inspiring other ventures.

The Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles already had commissioned a local firm to design its public sukkah; education director Sheri Bernstein said it “wasn’t inspired per se” by the New York contest.

“But we were inspired by the goals of the project, which tapped into something of interest not only to the Jewish community but the larger community: issues of shelter and caring for the earth and the world around us,” she said. “When we heard about Sukkah City, it confirmed that this is of interest to people. It’s a point where Jewish values can connect with issues of wider concern.”

Jerusalem Roots Sustain Jewish Life

I never created a professional work about Jerusalem. I didn’t write about Jerusalem in the days I worked as a journalist; nor did I, as a producer, make any films about the city. Nevertheless, Jerusalem is an integral part of all of my creations. Such is the power of Jerusalem that it gives every Jew an energizing flow of Jewish spirituality that inspires all his creative works, consciously and subconsciously.

Jerusalem, it seems to me, symbolizes three basic elements in our collective consciousness: 1. identification with the Jewish tradition, 2. yearning for the Land of Israel and 3. a desire for a divinely inspired, just society.

In recent generations, Jews have been able to give concrete expression to their loyalty to Jerusalem. Zionism deals with the renewal of the bond between the people of Israel and their land and language. But, as far back as close to a century ago, the Arab residents of the region initiated savage terror attacks against Jews wishing to settle in the Land of Israel.

Contrary to often-repeated claims, terror did not begin after the Six-Day War. Even the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), which later became the Palestinian Authority, was established three years earlier, in 1964, when there were no so-called "occupied" territories to liberate.

It was with great emotional difficulty that I decided prior to the release of my film, "One Day in September," to include at its end an authentic interview with the last surviving terrorist of the terror team in Munich, whom we located in a hiding place in Africa.

His words, however, proved tragically correct. He stated: "I do not regret our attack at the Olympic Games. We succeeded brilliantly in bringing the political aims of the Palestinians to the awareness of untold millions all over the world."

Terror, which sabotages our lives in every possible way, unfortunately is succeeding in winning the sympathy of public opinion in its war against Israel. The film, "One Day in September," warns against the destruction of the Zionist dream as a result of physical terror. But it doesn’t mention a terror that is possibly even worse: ideological terror.

Recent years have witnessed an alarming explosion of sophisticated Arab propaganda that has been delegitimizing the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. This attitude can be summarized by the phrase in a Palestinian schoolbook for the sixth grade which says explicitly: "The argument that Jews have historic rights in Palestine is the greatest lie in human history."

According to a study by Dr. Yitzhak Reiter, conducted for the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, even the history of Jerusalem has gradually been rewritten. The claim that Jews have no real connection to Jerusalem and its holy sites has been adopted by the Palestinian leadership and has become entrenched in Arab and Muslim communities.

At the heart of this new version is the argument that Arabs ruled Jerusalem thousands of years before the Children of Israel. The most amazing element of the new history is the claim that the First and Second Temples are lies, fabricated by the Jews. This view was even adopted by the Web site of the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, which declared that there has never been any archaeological evidence of Jewish life in the Jerusalem of ancient times.

No wonder, then, that the Palestinians seize every opportunity to destroy in the most uncivilized way all the precious archaeological findings beneath the surface of the Temple Mount. What an irony: No other people except the Jews has ever made Jerusalem its capital, despite its conquest by many imperial powers. But now clear facts are denied and history is rewritten.

By denying the historic-religious bond between the Jewish people and its land, the Arabs portray the Jewish settlement enterprise in the entire State of Israel as theft of their lands. This includes even those lands on which Jews have lived for generations and those acquired at great cost and sacrifice.

Just as the blood libels encouraged the murder of Jews, the contemporary libel that speaks about the theft of the Holy Land by the Zionists and Israel legitimizes acts of terror against the Jews."

However, the accusation of "theft" in the Arab textbooks and communications media — or as the Palestinians call it, "The rape of Palestine" — is applied to the entire State of Israel, with no distinction made between Shechem and Tel Aviv, between Jericho and Haifa.

The influence of this historic revisionism, together with the vilification of Israel and Jews, on Arab youth — particularly Palestinian youth — must be of major concern to us. The media, the textbooks and the sermons in the mosques are fraught with perverse libels and lies that distort both the historic past and the present. They prevent any possibility of coexistence and peace in the foreseeable future and poison the minds of future generations.

Whoever wants to defend Zion and whoever holds Jerusalem dear must take an active role in the struggle against this ideological terror. He must utterly repudiate the false and libelous accusations and tell the true facts about both historical and contemporary events.

Movies can play a tremendous role — a recent pseudo-historical film has demonstrated just how strong their negative influence can be — but each person in his or her own way and according to the means at his disposal, must expose these horrendous lies and slanders against the Jewish people.

The deep and abiding connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem is both a historic and an existential fact. Just as dreams of Jerusalem sustained the Jewish people throughout the generations in their darkest moments, today, too, Jerusalem nourishes the Jewish people wherever they may be.

If Jerusalem does not belong to us, our entire connection with this land is in question.

Every person needs both roots and wings. Only he who is nourished by the firm ground of his past can give creative expression to his personal dreams. Nations, too, can only soar to new horizons if they are established on sound foundations.

The roots that have bound us to this land for thousands of years are strong and deep. They allow us to survive the strongest tempests and to persist in our unique way of life. Thanks to these roots, the Jewish people was able, even after the horrors of the Holocaust, to renew itself and flourish in all paths of life.

The winds of time cannot undermine us so long as stability of the foundations of our existence, our Jewish and Zionist roots, remain firm. Therefore, we must protect, with vigor and devotion the deep roots of our tradition in Zion and Jerusalem. We all must be defenders of Jerusalem. We all are Guardians of Zion.

This is an excerpt of the annual Distinguished Rennert Lecture that Arthur Cohn delivered in Jerusalem May 27, upon receiving the Guardian of Zion Award from the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar Ilan University. Cohn is the Academy Award-winning producer of numerous films, including "The Garden of Finzi-Continis" and "One Day in September."

Artist Evokes Jewish Strength — Overtly

Five years ago, veteran comic book artist Joe Kubert visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. He expected to be moved, but since he and his parents had escaped from Poland before the Nazi genocide began, he assumed his emotional reaction would be relatively contained. Then, he saw something that struck him profoundly: "Yzeran," the name of the shtetl where he had been born, etched on a wall filled with names of towns that had been completely obliterated in World War II.

This one word began a creative odyssey that found its completion this month, with the publication of "Yossel — April 19, 1943," Kubert’s graphic novel about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust — artistic, as well as physical — with the date in the subtitle referring to the start of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

While many will likely draw parallels to Art Speigelman’s 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel, "Maus," "Yossel" actually mines what is nearly a century-old tradition. Will Eisner, who is popularly credited with the creation of the modern graphic novel, addressed the effects of the Holocaust on an immigrant Bronx family in his comic strip, "The Spirit," which was serialized in newspapers in the 1940s and 1950s; the villains in Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s "Superman" have been viewed as stand-ins for Nazis; and the Escapist, a character in Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Adventures of Kavalier & Klay," is a superhero dedicated to fighting Nazism. But whereas each of these mainstream superheroes carried a subtle message of Jewish strength in the face of oppression, Kubert chose to make this not just a theme but the very substance of his story.

"I feel that if I had lived under the circumstances of the Holocaust, I would have used any scrap of paper I could get my hands on to draw what I would have experienced," said the 77-year-old Kubert, who at age 11 started working in the comics industry as an inker and eventually moved on to edit and draw DC Comics heroes Tarzan, the Flash and Batman.

Indeed, everything about the book’s protagonist is synonymous with the writer — including his name, Yossel, a Yiddishized version of Joe. "Yossel" is a first-person account of the radicalization of a previously ordinary Jewish teenager, the same boy that Kubert believes he would have become had he stayed in Poland. Early in the story, readers are presented with Yossel as a child in Yzeran, the same village where Kubert was born two months before his parents immigrated to the United States in 1926. The drama begins shortly after his family is forced into the Warsaw Ghetto. At first, Yossel’s resistance is artistic, as he sets out to sketch his grim surroundings. But when his parents and sister are sent to Auschwitz, his resistance becomes physical, as he and fellow members of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising reclaim one last shred of humanity by fighting back against their oppressors, despite the revolt’s inherent futility.

The seeds of Yossel’s personal rebellion are first planted when Nazi soldiers stationed in the Warsaw Ghetto take notice of his drawings and mistake his loving depictions of muscled superheroes for sketches of Reich leaders. From then on, Yossel is asked to draw for his captors’ amusement, thrown a few extra scraps of food and subsequently spared the fate of his parents and sister — deportation to Auschwitz — because of his art. Orphaned and hopeless, he is soon infected by the revolutionary spirit of the now-famous resistance movement in Warsaw.

For his research, Kubert scoured dozens of books about the uprising, though he never actually visited the city. He recalled that during his research he was struck by images of Jews being pulled out of cellar windows and Nazis pulling the last remaining Jews out of the ghetto — images that are clearly recreated in the book.

"I wanted readers to feel as if they were actually there, watching the events unfold," Kubert said of his drawing style.

Unlike "Maus" — which, like most graphic novels, was drawn in ink with story boxes fit into uniform squares — Kubert’s images blend into one another. His trademark pencil drawings give the pages a raw, impressionistic style. Kubert also selected a heavy gray stock for the book’s pages, because he wanted the paper to feel like something someone could have used at that time, under those circumstances.

Kubert also had a large role in the design of the book’s cover, the image of an outstretched arm, sleeve rolled up to reveal tattooed numbers reaching out against a striped background.

"The cover drawing to me is indicative of the entire Holocaust," he said. "This graphic vision just hits me. There is something about the scrawny arm that says to me more about what happened during the Holocaust than a drawing of a gas chamber."

Despite his skill as a draftsman, Kubert said that he finds text more evocative than drawings.

"I don’t think anything is more powerful than the written word," he said. "However, graphic novels are what I do best. If I were to keep a diary, I would do it in sketch form."

Eight Crazy Lights

A kosher menorah can be fashioned out of any material, so why
not get creative? During the Festival of Lights we light the Chanukah menorah —
a modern-day symbol of the candelabra used in the Temple, also known as a chanukiah
— to commemorate the miracle of the oil and to celebrate the victory of the Macabbees.
In the tradition of Pirsum Ha’ness, broadcasting the miracle of Chanukah, why
not place a menorah that speaks a little bit about you on your windowsill?

With these creative pieces you won’t sacrifice Jewish
ritual. The eight candleholders are equidistant and aligned, making them kosher
for lighting. So buy yourself some dripless candles, and instead of lighting
the traditional eight-branch, kindle one of these proudly from left to right
each and every Chanukah night!

1. A menorah made for the solider wanna-be. Show your
solidarity with the Israeli army and light this Israel Defense Forces menorah,
complete with tanks, helicopters and jets.

$50. “> .

3. Now if you find yourself away for Chanukah, you don’t
have to take one of those disposable menorahs that might get dented in your
suitcase. Resembling a treasure chest, this solid pewter miniature menorah
travels like a miracle.

$60. “> .

5. Even the babes can light the menorah (under adult
supervision, of course). The diorama-like menorah sets a scene of a Chanukah
party with Disney characters Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, Donald and Pluto striking
up the band.

$84.95. “> .

7. The da Vinci among you will appreciate this painter’s
palette-shaped menorah. Crafted in ceramic and hand-painted, this beautiful
piece boasts a dreidel as a shamash.

$35.95. “> .

Get Your Creative Jews Flowing

Calling all creative kids. If you have a way with words or an aptitude for art, you can use your unique talents by entering the first annual Jews for Judaism Jewish Students’ Creative Writing & Art Contest.

Working with the theme "I Love Judaism," future scribes and artists can express their feelings about their young Jewish lives by writing original poems, songs or short stories or creating a piece of artwork. The competition, which is divided into three age groups, is open to Southern California Jews in first through 12th grade.

The contest is sponsored by Jews for Judaism, an international organization that provides a wide variety of counseling services, along with education and outreach programs, that enable Jews of all ages to rediscover and strengthen their Jewish heritage. The group is also the Jewish community’s leading response to the multimillion-dollar efforts of cults and Evangelical Christians who target Jews for conversion.

"We wanted a proactive approach toward keeping Jewish kids involved in Judaism," said Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, Los Angeles director of Jews for Judaism. "In addition to being a responsive program — most of what [the organization] does is reactive — we want to emphasize that Judaism needs to be proactive and fun."

A team of professional writers and artists will select nine contest winners who will be awarded prizes.

For more information or to enter the contest, visit or call (310) 556-3344. The entry deadline is Dec. 31.

Quit Staring at My Chest

Sure, your bubbie always said you had a shayna punim, but now there’s a T-shirt to help you pronounce it proudly to the world. Recently launched Rabbi’s Daughters is one of the latest Los Angeles-based clothing lines to jump on the baby-T bandwagon. But in this case, the ubiquitous tops usually emblazoned with girl-power identifiers such as “flirt,” “tomboy,” “princess” or “boy toy,” get an updated, irreverent Jewish twist. Rabbi’s Daughters T-shirts and “wife beater” tank tops are printed with choice Yiddish words and phrases in Hebrew-style graphics, like “Yenta,” “Kosher” and “Goy Toy.” They’re the brainchild of Creative Arts Temple’s Rabbi Jerry Cutler’s three daughters.

“It came to us probably within a moment,” Daniella Zax, the youngest Cutler daughter, told The Journal. “We thought it was a great idea to put our heritage into fun, sexy little T-shirts.”

Three months later, the shirts are being plucked off shelves of stores all around Los Angeles, including Fred Segal, Zero Minus Plus and M. Fredric.

But, Zax was quick to note, “It’s not just sticking Yiddish words on T-shirts. There’s meaning in it for us. It’s about our family tradition. We come from people who spoke the language.”

Their mother, for one, is a Holocaust survivor who speaks five languages, Yiddish being one of them.

“When we first thought of the idea, my dad was on the phone with us every day going through his Yiddish books with us,” Zax said. “Our mom speaks fluent Yiddish, so whenever we have questions she’s kind of like our dictionary.”

The sisters, all in their 30s, divide duties — with Zax employing her 10 years as a buyer for a women’s boutique to steer them through the ins and outs of the shmatte business. The eldest, Nina Bush, is an architect-turned-stay-at-home mom, while Myla Fraser, the middle sister, does freelance production work for music videos and television. For them this has become a second career, while for Zax, who left her job as a buyer, getting the entire Rabbi’s Daughters line into stores is now a full-time gig.

In addition to T-shirts and tanks for women for a double-chai price ($36), the line offers tees for kids and babies in blue, pink, white and gray, with options like “Pisher,” “Bubeleh” and “Kvetch” running $28-$30. There are future plans for long-sleeve t-shirts, Zax said, “Our wheels are constantly turning. We’re all always thinking about the next step.”

Meanwhile, those looking for the perfect Christmas present for their token non-Jewish friends can consider the now available “Shiksa” shirt, while Jewish J-Los can shake it in pricey $18 “Tush” panties.

To see the line, visit

From Page to Plate

Passover cooking becomes more fun each year with the
publication of glossy new kosher cookbooks brimming with creative suggestions
for elegant and enticing Passover dishes.

Whether you are planning your seder menu, looking for a
memorable Passover gift, or you just want a break from cleaning, salivate over
the scrumptious recipes in these cookbooks from master chefs and food writers.

“The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook: Traditional Recipes
from Contemporary Kosher Kitchens” (Hugh Lauter Levin, 2003), edited by Joan
Schwartz Michel, is a gorgeously photographed collection of 250 recipes from
Hadassah’s great cooks — Ashkenazic and Sephardic — in America and Israel.
Commentaries on holidays and their foods by Jewish cuisine experts like Joan
Nathan and Claudia Roden precede each section. The extensive Passover section
features seven types of charoset, from a Suriname cherry jam and dried fruit
recipe to the Persian version studded with pistachios, walnuts, almonds,
hazelnuts, dates, apples, pears and gingerroot. Try Traditional Chopped Liver,
Apple-Spiced Brisket or Chicken Marrakesh baked with olives, cumin, thyme,
apricots, figs, brown sugar and pecans. For dessert, whip up an Egyptian
Sephardic-style Orange Cake; or please kids and adults with Matzah Brickle,
Chocolate Pudding Cake and Lemon Squares.  

“Adventures in Jewish Cooking” (Clarkson Potter, 2002)
presents the innovative cuisine of Jeffrey Nathan, executive chef of Abigail’s
Restaurant in Manhattan and host of the PBS series, “New Jewish Cuisine.”
Alongside creative alternatives like Latin American Ceviche instead of gefilte
fish, Nathan offers “heritage” recipes like classic chopped liver. Date charoset
gets an extra kick with the addition of diced mango and quartered red grapes;
chicken soup goes Sephardic with saffron matzah balls; sweet oranges, smoky
trout and raddichio blend in an unusual salad; and wild mushroom-farfel
dressing complements a rack of veal. End on a light note with Banana Cake and
Strawberry Marsala Compote, or go all the way with the crunchy, creamy combo of
Matzah Napoleon with White Chocolate Mousse. Salivating yet?  

“Levana’s Table: Kosher Cooking for Everyone” (Stewart, Tabori
& Chang, 2002), offers 150 recipes from Levana Kirschenbaum, owner of Manhattan’s
kosher gourmet Levana Restaurant. Directions for creating homemade condiments
like preserved lemons and fiery Moroccan harissa will come in handy when adding
pizzaz to the Passover palate. The cookbook is divided by courses
(appetizers/soups/salads and so on, with a section on favorites from the
restaurant and even a kosher wine list), but cull through the book for numerous
recipes that can be made for Passover (some with minor adjustments) like the
nondairy Cream of Broccoli and Watercress Soup and Tricolor Ribbon Salad with
Cider-Shallot Dressing. Her suggested Passover menu: Trout Stuffed With Gefilte
Fish in Jellied Broth; Matzah Ball Soup; Brisket in Sweet and Sour Sauce;
Cider-Roasted Turkey with Dried Fruit Stuffing; Artichokes and Carrots in Lemon
Sauce; Potato Kugel; Almond-Wine Cake; and Poached Pears With Chocolate

Chef Joyce Goldstein explores Sephardic foods in her newest
cookbook, “Saffron Shores: Jewish Cooking of the Southern Mediterranean”
(Chronicle, 2002). As she traces the crosscultural culinary trail of the diaspora,
Goldstein explores the spice-infused dishes of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya,
as well as Judeo-Arabic recipes. Goldstein introduces the book with an
informative history of Jews in Muslim lands, description of kosher laws and a
selection of menus for holidays. Be aware that Sephardim consider legumes and
rice kosher for Passover. Three Passover menus — two for dinner, one for lunch
— include an emerald soup of pureed peas, beans and greens; a vegetable stew of
artichokes, fennel and celery root; a Sabbath stew (akin to cholent) called D’fina;
Tunisian Fish Ball Tagine, Whiting and Potato Pie; Moroccan Carrot Salad with
Cumin. Oranges, dates, raisins and walnuts star in candied desserts and,
strangely enough, there’s a candied eggplant, too. 

“Sephardic Israeli Cuisine: A Mediterranean Mosaic,” by
cooking instructor and author Sheilah Kaufman (Hippocrene, 2002) treads the
same ground, from an Israeli perspective. Following an historical overview,
Kaufman offers tasty recipes, many of which can be made for Passover.
Specifically for the holiday, there are Turkish and Portuguese haroset
recipes-both date-based; Meat and Leek Patties; fava bean Soup; Moroccan
apricot lamb shanks; spinach bake; sweet potato cake, and sponge cake.

“Tastes of Jewish Tradition: Recipes, Activities &
Stories for the Whole Family,” by Jody Hirsh, Idy Goodman, Aggie Goldenholtz
and Susan Roth (JCC of Milwaukee, 2002) provides a complete family-friendly
holiday experience. Before the pages of 125 recipes even begin, parents and
grandparents are invited to delve into each holiday through stories, cartoons,
games, activities, craft ideas and a special “Kids in the Kitchen” page. For
Passover, there’s Matzah Pizza as well as directions for making seder plates, afikoman
bags, frog hats, Burning Bush table centerpieces and more. In the recipe
section, try Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Easy Eggplant Dip; Honey Pecan Crusted
Chicken; Salmon with Brown Sugar and Mustard Glaze; Passover Popovers; Cherry
Muffins; Greens Salad Garnished With Fresh Strawberries; “Macaroni” (i.e.,
farfel) and Cheese; Flourless Chocolate Cake, Mandel Brot and Brownies.

I don’t know about you, but suddenly I’m raring to get into
the kitchen. With these guidebooks and a little creativity of your own,
Passover dishes can be delicious, eclectic, elegant, easy and appetizing.  

Miracle of Miracles!

Have you ever experienced a miracle? What’s a miracle anyway? Is it something that only God can do? The rabbis say that it was the Jews who actually created the miracle of Chanukah. They fought to keep Judaism alive when it was in danger of being extinguished. Here, today, in America, we must fight the same battle. Be part of the miracle: Learn about your Jewish roots; study Hebrew; visit Israel; shine the beauty of our religion on the rest of the world by doing works of tzedakah (charity). Keep the miraculous flame of Judaism going. Don’t let the light go out!


Well, here’s something else you can do with apples to make great Chanukah gifts!

What You Need

  • Apples

  • Poster paint for paper or fabric paint

  • Paper plate or shallow tray

  • Paper or fabric

  • Knife to cut the apple

How to Make It

Apple printing is always fun there are two very different prints:

  • There are two different apple prints that are easy to make. Cut an apple in half through the stem to make an apple shape. Cut one through the middle to make a circle stamp with a star in the middle.

  • Put some paint on a tray or paper plate. Take your stamp, put it in the paint and then stamp it on a plain tote bag, T-shirt or paper.

  • Get creative by alternating shapes and colors.

  • Remember to put a thick layer of paper inside the shirt/tote to prevent the paint from bleeding through to the back of the fabric.

Too Hip to be Jewish

Alex Dwek, a London-born real-estate developer, sits with a friend in a dimly-lit cafe on New York’s fashionable Upper West Side, sipping white wine and chatting up a young lady he’s just met. The three of them, all 30-something, fashionably dressed and single, have just emerged from an evening class nearby, where they studied “The Artist’s Way: Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self.”

“The teacher says we all have art in us somehow, and we have to recover it,” Alex explains. His companions, Richard Bakst and Lori Mark, nod enthusiastically. “It’s a way of getting in touch with yourself,” adds Richard.

This could be a scene from any one of hundreds of dimly-lit cafes dotting Manhattan. But there’s one crucial difference: Alex, Richard and Lori have come here hoping to meet other Jews. That, in fact, is what this cafe is here for.

This is Makor, one of the hottest new hot spots on the New York culture scene. The brainchild of zillionaire philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, it’s meant to be a sort of Jewish drop-in center for the young and hip. That’s proving controversial.

To a visitor, the five-story townhouse resembles nothing so much as a Hillel House for grownups. There’s a performance space and adjoining cafe (beer and wine, no booze) in the basement, a reading room and lecture hall at ground level, art gallery and screening room above that, and two more floors of classrooms.

Makor’s goal is to attract under-40 singles, who don’t generally frequent Jewish institutions, by offering cultural programs they can’t resist. “We try to bring them higher Jewishly as they move upward through the building,” says Makor’s creative and rabbinic director, Rabbi David Gedzelman.

And if some end up married, well, Makor won’t object. That was a key motive behind the project’s conception, though it’s downplayed lately, having evoked too much smirking. “This isn’t a dating service,” Steinhardt insists. Still, “a measure of the health of a future Jewish community relates in part to Jews marrying Jews.”

For Steinhardt, 59, the community’s health is a personal crusade. A Wall Street legend, he retired in 1995 to pursue Jewish continuity full-time. He created his own organization, the Jewish Life Network, and hired a stable of young rabbis to dream up new ideas, which are then spun off. One grants seed-money for new day schools. Another enlists young Jews in social-justice projects. Steinhardt is an avowed atheist and a political skeptic. Mostly, he’s a sworn contrarian.

Makor, like many Steinhardt initiatives — including Birthright Israel, his best-known — had naysayers howling from day one. Skeptics (your correspondent included) considered it an overpriced JCC for spoiled yuppies. Costing $11 million to build, requiring a staff of 28, it targeted a population that was already richly served by innovative synagogues and no less than two community centers, including the renowned 92nd Street YMHA. Who needed another facility?

As usual, Steinhardt has the last laugh. Five months after opening, Makor draws between 1,000 and 1,500 people a week, staffers say. Its mailing list tops 12,000 names. Monthly Sabbath dinners are always sold out.

“It gives you a good time,” says Alex Dwek, sipping his wine. “Saturday is always packed with people dancing and everything. Sunday you can come for brunch, meet people and hear good jazz. It’s a place where you know you’re going to meet Jewish people. Maybe as a soulmate, maybe not.”

Equally telling, Makor has won a reputation as one of New York’s leading venues for jazz and alternative pop music. Under Gedzelman’s supervision, the basement cabaret, open six nights a week (closed Fridays), books acts as diverse as the Klezmatics, the Christian McBride Band, bluesman Derek Trucks and Pharaoh’s Daughters, an Israeli fusion group.

“It just sort of showed up on the scene a few months ago, and it’s got tremendous buzz,” says Simon Moshenberg, a Columbia University junior who wandered in on a recent Saturday night to hear jazz banjoist Tony Trischka. “They’re booking really great acts. People are coming to hear the music.”

Success prompts new waves of criticism. Makor’s programs are so popular, critics wonder what’s to prevent non-Jews from coming. What if Makor ends up promoting intermarriage instead of fighting it?

The complaint circulated in whispers along Manhattan’s west side for months. Then, last month, the debate exploded into public view in a hostile cover story in the mass-circulation New York magazine. The article, titled “Goy Vey!,” took shots at the Makor phenomenon along with “Kosher Sex” author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Its bottom line: trying to make Judaism popular and hip is bad for Judaism.

That’s an argument rippling through Jewish continuity debates for years. Traditionalists warn that reaching out too eagerly to the unaffiliated risks perverting Judaism. Liberals say refusing to adapt means abandoning most of the next generation.

Makor may be the boldest, most expensive effort yet to test the limits of outreach. “If we want to reach the broadest range of Jews in their 20s and 30s and give them opportunities for Jewish connection and exploration, we first have to meet them where they are,” Gedzelman says.

Will it work? The jury is still out. About half of Makor’s monthly attendance is for the cabaret, half for the upstairs programs. It’s not clear how many music fans actually wander upstairs. Gedzelman is planning a study of his clientele, which should help clear that up.

The study will also show how much of the clientele is Jewish. Gedzelman thinks audiences are 20 to 25 percent non-Jewish at the cabaret, far less upstairs. “We don’t see it as a problem,” he says. “In order to reach the Jews we want to reach, the cafe context has to include the open society.”

The debate rages on, even down at the bar. “I find it strange here,” says Andrew Hahn, a graduate student in Jewish philosophy. “It’s secular, yet it’s Jewish. It doesn’t fit. What keeps it Jewish? It makes sense in Tel Aviv, not here.”

A few feet away, Emma, a non-Jewish filmmaker who won’t give her last name, has the opposite problem. “The whole thing seems narrow-minded and bigoted to me,” she says. “If I’d known what the purpose was, I wouldn’t have come. But now that I’m here, it’s really great.”

Her friend Martine, a Jewish psychotherapist, suffers no such qualms. “I’ve been hearing about it a lot, and I’m glad I came,” she says. “And, hey, if I could meet a Jewish guy here, that would be great.”

J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal