My Favorite Englishman


I have been travelling to London for the better part of a year. The property consulting company I used to rent a house, is a couple of lovely gentleman who have taken very good care of me. If anyone is looking to buy or rent a home in London, let me know and I will make an introduction. They are wonderful and over the past few months, one of the men has become rather important to me. He is my favorite Englishman and there is nothing I don’t like about him.

From his three piece suits, to always blowing his nose into a handkerchief, he is very proper. He can drink like a sailor, and speak on any topic with authority. I am not sure if this is because he is well versed on a variety of subjects, or rather because he is such a snob his dismissal of things makes him sound like he is dismissing from a place of knowledge, not boredom of something he has no interest in. He is funny, charming, smart, handsome, and simply lovely.

On Saturday night he took me out for my birthday. We went to The Ivy Club, which was terrific. They made a particularly good Cosmo and the wait staff were perfect. On the way to dinner however, my friend said he brought me to this particular location because I am a snob. Well, um, no. We go to fancy places because my friend is quite fancy. It is both ridiculous and insanely funny for him to think it is me who insists on where we go. The truth is he is a bit of snob.

He has impeccable taste and has never taken me anywhere that wasn’t fabulous. When I am in London I tend to stay within a 3-mile radius of home because everything I need is here, but he has shown me London and I have fallen in love with the city because of him. I have fallen in love with him too. He has made coming here a pleasure and taken the sting out of being away from my son for such long stretches.

If my friend could see himself as I do, he would be in love with himself too. I don’t think he has any idea how wonderful he is, which I suppose is part of his charm. He is accomplished, successful, and painfully unaware of his appeal. I want him to not only be happy, but find his happily ever after. I am going to introduce him to the woman he is going to marry. I am sure of it and so the search has begun. I am going to find a girl who is worthy of something special and will appreciate how amazing he is.

My Englishman and me have absolutely nothing in common, and on paper we don’t really make sense, but we have settled into something important and fun and rather entertaining. I am certain he has never met anyone like me, and I have only read about men like him in classic literature. There is no deeply woven story here, I just really wanted to share this man with you. That said, should you be a single woman living in London, between the ages of 27 and 35, let me know.

Sometimes it takes someone to see you a certain way for you to see it in yourself, so to my lovely friend, I see you and you are smashing. You are going to trust me and go out on dates with who I set you up with because you love me too, so you will believe it can happen. I am heading back to LA tomorrow and will be back in London next week to begin my matchmaking services. I will not only be in search of the perfect Cosmo, but also the perfect girl.

It has been a long five weeks and I am ready to go home and see my son. I will be celebrating my birthday in Las Vegas with Celine Dion and I am so excited I might bust. To my lovely friend, thank you. Thank you for always taking care of me and making sure I have some fun while here. I look forward to dancing at your wedding one day. By dancing, of course I mean I will also be giving a speech. When it comes to your search for love, my advice is simple, keep the faith.

Pesach without wine


How can we have Passover without wine? This is a question that is asked of me each year as Passover approaches. I always answer that the blessing is over the fruit of the vine and grape juice is perfectly acceptable. I then ask a different set of questions.

Passover is the celebration of our leaving Egypt. It is not a historical event. Yet too many of us consider the Passover seder as a recollection of an historical event. We need to go back to the intent and direction of our haggadah to see ourselves as if we, too, were brought out of Egypt. We have to ask ourselves, “What is the Egypt/Narrow Place I have to leave this year?” All of us have these, be they substances like drugs and alcohol, behaviors like eating disorders, compulsive gambling, etc. We also get stuck in the narrow places of despair, hopelessness, why bother, etc. And we can get stuck in the narrow places of comparing and competing with others, basing our self-worth on our net worth and/or seeking to feel good from outside validation, like lists, who we hang with, etc. 

These are the Egypts that wine could come to blur for us during Passover. I would suggest that everyone abstain from wine and drink grape juice instead this year. I am asking you all to make this an Alcohol-Free Seder so that every person will:

• Look inside themselves and see the narrow places that are keeping them stuck in old thoughts and behaviors.

• Tell the story of their enslavements to others at the seder, and ask for help in getting out and staying out of these narrow places. 

• Offer suggestions to others to help them out of their narrow places. 

• Write down on a piece of paper what the narrow place is, and make these your korban Pesach, your Pesach sacrifice, and burn them all together so that you release your need to run back to Egypt.

• Be present and see how we can work together to get out our comfortable slaveries.

• Make a commitment to be of service to others who are still enslaved and look for the similarities in others. 

In doing this, we will make the seder relevant and we will build stronger relationships through transparency and authenticity. 

It will allow all of us to break our addiction to perfection. We Jews have been telling our story for thousands of years; this year let us make it our story so next year we will be free

Rabbi Mark Borovitz is the senior rabbi and spiritual leader of the Beit T’Shuvah recovery program and Congregation Beit T’Shuvah.

Alcohol poisoning suspected in man’s death after Florida Purim celebration


A man was found dead, apparently of alcohol poisoning, in the parking lot of a Florida Chabad center following a Purim celebration.

Jesse Allen, 28, was found dead on the morning of Mar. 9 in the parking lot of the Chabad Lubavitch of Greater Daytona by the synagogue’s rabbi, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on Thursday.

Allen had attended the synagogue’s Purim party the night before. Rabbi Pinchas Ezagui said there was no alcohol served at the party, but several people had brought their own

The death was apparently due to alcohol poisoning but police are awaiting the results of a toxicology report to determine the cause, Ormond Beach police Lt. Kenny Hayes told the paper.

Ezagui said Allen had become so intoxicated at the party that he had urinated on himself. Another member of the synagogue escorted Allen outside to sleep off his drunkenness on the grass.

“It is a very unfortunate situation,” Ezagui said. “We don’t know the guy. He is not of the Jewish faith.”

Allen’s mother Lynn said her son loved Jewish tradition and was struggling to overcome an alcohol problem.

U.S. entrepreneurs brewing something special in Israel


It would be almost impossible to believe that an inventive Washington, D.C., caterer who created culinary events for Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush, an NYU-trained lawyer cum high-tech maven, and a successful New Jersey accountant would actually chuck their lucrative careers in order to serve up hand-crafted boutique beers to thirsty Israelis and curious tourists in metro Tel Aviv. However, Jeremy (“Jem”) Welfeld, Daniel Alon and David Cohen all admit that they are “living the Zionist dream” by reinventing themselves as adventurous American entrepreneurs who’ve fired up Israel’s fledgling microbrew industry.

In terms of chronology, Cohen opened Dancing Camel, the first Israeli microbrewery and pub, in Tel Aviv in 2006. Soon after, Welfeld and Alon partnered to create the first kosher microbrewery, pub and restaurant in Israel, which is located in the bustling Petach Tikva commercial district (home to dozens of high-tech and low-tech companies), just outside of Tel Aviv.

Up until the arrival of microbreweries in the Holy Land, most Israelis and tourists alike appeared to be content with sampling the mass-produced local beers (Goldstar and Maccabee) and some of the well-known European imports. A true beer culture had yet to take root in the Jewish state. Welfeld, who received his master brewer’s certificate from the prestigious Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, and Cohen, a former CPA who apprenticed at a microbrewery in New Jersey, decided that the time had come to change the way Israelis relate to their suds.

Five years later, Welfeld, Alon and Cohen had spurred a true American-style revolution in Israel. “What was a novelty [microbreweries], is now verging on a national phenomenon,” Israeli beer blogger Harley Zipori wrote.

Welfeld, Alon and Cohen will all tell you that while failure was not an option, having a cogent business plan, sufficient capital and quality brewing experience weren’t the only ingredients needed for success.

“We spent plenty of time searching for the right place to launch this venture,” recalled Welfeld, who catered events at the White House and State Department in the mid-1990s. “We needed to find a place large enough to install brewing equipment, as well as design a pub/restaurant that could fulfill our conceptualization. When we discovered an abandoned warehouse, which was a real mess, Danny and I knew we had found the perfect place for this venture.”

Welfeld and Alon also both knew that the warehouse was located in an area of Petach Tikva that was on the verge of a high-tech and real estate boom. “Besides which, it would have been almost impossible to develop our concept in Tel Aviv, because of the strict city zoning laws. Yes, some people thought we were out of our minds to do this in Petach Tikva, but the timing fit perfectly,” added Alon, the former New York legal eagle and high-tech impresario.

Jem’s Beer Factory serves six genuine lager beers including Pils, Dark Lager, Amber Ale, Wheat, 8.8 and Stout,  which are produced on the premises using the freshest ingredients. And, yes, Welfeld is only too happy to offer a quick behind-the-scenes tour of his brewing area to guests upon request. Jem’s also bottles tens of thousands of beers a month, some of which are sold on the premises and the rest available in select liquor stores throughout Israel.

Some of Dancing Camel’s unique beers

What separates Jem’s from the rest of the pub pack is the funky kosher restaurant that is an integral part of the experience. In fact, Jem’s is jam-packed with secular and religious singles, couples and business tourists during weekday evenings. On Sunday evenings, Jem’s is transformed into a SoHo-style pub/restaurant/nightclub where well-known Israeli singers entertain the throngs until the wee hours of the morning. The restaurant menu offers a variety of tasty dishes, including charbroiled steaks and homemade sausages.

“You won’t find a kosher microbrewery and restaurant anywhere …  New York, London, Singapore, etc. It’s hard to find ‘kosher and cool,’ which defines Jem’s,” Welfeld kvelled. “We’re not exclusive but inclusive, meaning that Jem’s is a microcosm of Israeli society, where both religious and secular Jews can enjoy a fun and relaxing experience together.”

Alon revealed that Jem’s also hosts hundreds of business tourists each week. “The business people come from the nearby offices of Teva, IBM, Intel and Amdocs … on their way back to their hotels in Tel Aviv or to the airport, which is only about 15 minutes away,” he added.

Cohen originally wanted to set up his Dancing Camel microbrewery in the mystical city of Safed (Tzfat) in northern Israel. But when he and his wife realized that living and working in bustling central Israel made more sense, Cohen decided to pursue his dream in Tel Aviv.

“We settled on Tel Aviv after visiting and looking at almost every industrial park across Israel,” Cohen said. “Eventually, I found a place in a gentrified neighborhood not far from the city’s busy office buildings. It’s a great neighborhood pub where we brew 13 different ales, five of which we brew year-round. Our most popular beers are American Pale Ale, made with distinctive hops from the United States; Eve, which is a light blond ale; India Pale Ale, which is brewed with date honey; and Leche Del Diablo, a wheat beer that contains chili peppers.”

Dancing Camel’s bottled beers, which are available at select liquor stores throughout Israel, are also kosher (with certification from a rabbi in Monsey, N.Y.).

As for his customer base, Cohen pointed out, “That’s hard to define since we are a local pub, but we do know that we get regular customers from as far away as Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba. The nearby Azrieli Towers complex is a major transportation hub so it’s not difficult for lovers of beer culture to hop aboard a bus or train and enjoy Dancing Camel’s unique atmosphere.”

The success of Jem’s and Dancing Camel has fueled talk of future expansion, but Welfeld, Alon and Cohen maintain that they are constantly working to perfect their existing business model.

Added Alon, “Jem’s is a successful Zionist story that is based on 20 years of vision, energy and persistence. Right now, we like where we are.”

Jem’s Beer Factory, Hamagshimim 15, Kiryat Matalon, Petach Tikva. (03) 919-5367. jems.co.il. Sunday-Thursday, noon-last customer. Saturdays, opens one hour after sunset.

Dancing Camel, Hataasiya 12, Tel Aviv. (03) 624-2783. dancingcamel.com. Sunday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-last customer, Friday, noon-one hour before Shabbat. Saturday, opens one hour after Shabbat.

Daniel Radcliffe reveals recent drinking problem


Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe talks about a drinking problem he had during the making of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” ” title=”MTV.com” target=”_blank”>MTV.com.

Drinking does not drive the Purim celebration


We are an American generation sadly marred by excess, addiction, and reduced public morals. On line at the supermarket we see magazines that headline Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Spears, and Charlie Sheen.  Purim is around the corner, and the question arises: What’s the deal with getting drunk on Purim?  So here’s the deal:

An alcoholic in recovery may not drink wine on Purim and should drink only grape juice at the Passover Seder.  Others need not drink wine on Purim if they prefer not to do so.  Teens in particular should not be plied with wine.  Any wine that one drinks on Purim is meant to be drunk specifically during the special Mitzvah Feast – the Purim Seudah eaten during Purim Day, replete with the careful recital of all brakhot (blessings) for washing one’s hands preparatory to eating bread, for eating the bread itself, and for thanking G-d after the meal during the four brakhot of the bentching grace after meals.  One also may drink wine during any Purim celebratory meal on Purim night after Megillah reading.  Again, however, the wine drinking must be tempered and must be only an adjunct to eating a mitzvah meal marked by the recital of brakhot.  It is forbidden to drink too much, and Judaism points to Noah and Lot as examples of what happens to degrade the sanctity of the human spirit when one overindulges.  One absolutely should withdraw from environments where celebrants drink too much.  That is not Judaism.  It is “Jersey Shore.”

The tradition of drinking alcohol, particularly wine, on Purim stems from the centrality of wine-drinking throughout the Megillah narrative.  Stem?  Where?

The encounter begins with King Achashverosh staging a massive empire-wide party of wine-drinking and eating for 180 days, followed by seven more days of wine partying for his inner circle and residents of his capital.  The Megillah text, augmented by the Talmudic and Midrashic commentaries, tell us how detailed the wine aspect was.  Each party-goer was served wine carefully selected for each participant from the vineyards of the respective province in which he lived.  People were served wine aged longer than their respective ages.  No one was forced to drink.

Under the influence of the wine, as partiers were arguing whether Medean women or Persian women are more beautiful, the King drunkenly decided to demonstrate that his wife’s appearance surpassed all and demanded that his Queen Vashti appear completely undressed – wearing only her tiara – before his advisors.  According to the text, amplified by the Midrashic tradition, she refused and sent back a sharply worded response that her husband should be ashamed of himself for losing his sobriety in a way that her family’s men never would.  The King became enraged and, as he lost his head in anger, he had her beheaded.

Later, when the King selected Esther from among the huge selection of women with whom he was spending respective nights, he celebrated with a wine party, the “Esther Party,” also accompanied by a tax holiday in her honor.  In time, as Haman emerged with his genocidal plan to murder the Jews of all the King’s 127 provinces, Esther – prompted by Mordechai’s importuning and a city-wide three-day public Jewish fast for God’s mercy – devised a strategy to save her people.  She invited the King and Haman to a private wine party in their honor.  As amplified by the Midrash, that party made Haman oh-so-proud, but it planted concerns in the King’s mind:  “What the heck was Haman doing at the private party? Why is my wife inviting this guy to our little private cozy wine party?  Is something up between them?  Are they having an affair?  Are they planning to kill me, like anachronistically in Hamlet or something?”

It really bothered the King. That night he couldn’t sleep, maybe because he was afraid his wife and Haman were plotting his assassination.  Maybe it was his Circadian rhythm.  So, to calm himself down, and lacking a television to watch, an Ipod to hear, a Twitter account to Tweet, a computer to Facebook, or anything else, he turned to his favorite pastime:  having his aides read him his favorite stories – namely, stories about himself, from his royal diary.  They pulled out the book and started reading.  It may even be that he worried whether he had failed in the past to show ample gratitude to someone who had saved his life by conveying an insider’s tip of an assassination plot.  “Perhaps,” he may have thought, “if I demonstrate that I never forget inside-tippers, I can encourage someone else now to tell me whether Haman and my wife are conniving against me.”  With G-d’s hidden face guiding the course of events, the reader turned to a long-forgotten entry about a murder plot that had been thwarted thanks to an inside tip that had come just-in-the-nick-of-time to save the King’s life.  Hearing the story, he was reminded that he owed his life to Mordechai the Jew but never had done a thing to show gratitude.  The time now was well into midnight, and he suddenly hears noise outside his window, in his courtyard.  “Who in the world could that be at this time of the night?” he asks.  It is Haman, so excited about hanging Mordechai the Jew tomorrow on the scaffold he has erected in his backyard, that he can’t sleep either.  So Haman has come past midnight to ask the King’s OK to kill the Jew, even as the King is unable to sleep at midnight, perhaps concerned that Haman is planning with Esther to murder him . . . like, maybe, at midnight when he is sleeping?  Or whatever.

The story unfolds into the next day, and another Esther wine party.  Again, just the three of them: the triangle of King, Haman, and Esther.  And it is there, under the influence of that wine, that Esther reveals her nation, her place of birth, and that Haman is planning to murder her people. As she reveals to the king, for the very first time, that she is a Jew, a member of that people whom Haman has undertaken to obliterate, the King goes into a rage, loses his head augmented by the wine, and orders Haman hanged.

So that is the reason that our Rabbis encouraged us to drink some wine at the Purim feast.  The Jews of that miraculous period gave gifts of food to one another, so we give mishlo’ach manot.  They circulated the Megillah narrative among their 127 provinces, so we assemble to read it and to hear every word. They feasted, so we feast. They drank some wine, so we drink some wine.  In a famous Talmudic aphorism, our Rabbis taught that we should drink enough wine so that we would not be able to discern between “Arur Haman” (Cursed is Haman) and “Barukh Mordechai” (Blessed is Mordechai).  Babylonian Talmud, Mesechet Megillah 7b; Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 695:2.  In one particular outlier incident, the Talmud in Mesechet Megillah recounts that two rabbis, Rabbah and Rav Zeira, made for themselves a private Purim feast, and one got so drunk that he inadvertently killed the other.  When he sobered, he was so remorseful, prayed so hard, and called upon all his holy merits from an otherwise spotless life that he succeeded in bringing about the miracle of a lifetime, as his deceased rabbinic friend returned to life. The Talmud continues, recounting that the next year the same rabbi invited his same friend to another two-man private Purim party, but this time his friend turned him down, explaining: “I can’t count on miracles every year.” (Literally: “Miracles do not happen all the time.”)

So there we have the dichotomy: yes, good to drink wine.  Forget the difference between Haman and Mordechai.  But don’t get all-that-drunk.  Our greatest Rabbinic Sages over the centuries have wrestled with the dichotomy, looking to harmonize the themes.  One Rabbi, the Magen Avraham, noted that the gematria numerology – the sum of the letters of the words, with each Hebrew letter having a numerical value – of “Arur Haman” (Cursed is Haman) is 502.  And the letters comprising “Barukh Mordechai” (Blessed is Mordechai) also equal 502.  (See M.A. Comment 3 on Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 695:2.)  So, he said, drink only until you can’t do the tally of those numbers in your head.  Another taught that you should drink only enough to make yourself a bit drowsy, which will lead you to fall asleep, and – unless you have a Purim dream – you then will be in state where you don’t know the difference between Haman and Mordechai. (See, e.g., Ram”a on Shulchan Arukh 695:2.)  A similar approach is taken by Rambam (Maimonides). (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Megillah 2:15).

In recent years, as American culture in general, and our teen culture in particular, has grown depressingly coarse – witness television shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Skins” and a society where more people know the daily thoughts, so to speak, of Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan than they do of their Congressional representative or the Poet Laureate of the United States – more rabbis than ever have called for bans on teen drinking during Purim and also have condemned the practice of certain outlier sects who would encourage drinking to the point of barfing on Main Street.  Judaism despises drunkenness, and Rambam explicitly warned against it.  (See, e.g., Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot  De’ot 5:3; Hilkhot Sh’vitat Yom Tov 6:20)

It therefore devolves on the individual to know his or her limits, his or her values.  If you are drinking some wine at a Mitzvah Purim Feast, a Seudat Purim marked by reciting brakhot (blessings) when washing your hands and eating bread, and then reciting more brakhot at the bentching prayers after the meal, that’s cool.  On the other hand, if it is not a Seudah feast of Mitzvah, but just one more excuse to go drinking and getting a “buzz,” then such wine drinking would be forbidden as a coarse denigration of the extraordinary sanctity of the human soul that was created in the image of G-d.  It would be a mockery and desecration of the miracle of Purim.  And it would be a shame.

Rabbi Dov Fischer, adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School, is a columnist for several online magazines and is rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County.  He blogs at rabbidov.com.

The Nimoys: A father and son, with space between them


When Adam Nimoy was growing up, he felt alienated from his famous father.

Leonard Nimoy’s work as the Vulcan Mr. Spock on “Star Trek” and his numerous other film and TV projects on both sides of the camera provided a comfortable West Coast lifestyle for his baby boom family.

But the younger Nimoy said the time-consuming work also deprived him of the steady presence of his father, and when they did share time together, he quickly learned that he had to share his dad with the rest of America.

Given the loyal and obsessive reputation of “Trekkies,” Adam could be forgiven for looking at them as his father’s other family.

“There were times I thought he gave more time and attention to his fan base,” said Adam Nimoy, who has written about that experience and of his adult life in a self-proclaimed “anti-memoir,” titled “My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life: An Anti-Memoir” (Pocket).

He’ll discuss the book Sunday, Sept. 28 at the West Hollywood Book Fair in West Hollywood Park as part of a panel on overcoming addiction. Both Nimoys have openly discussed their struggles with alcohol and, in Adam’s case, marijuana, which he began smoking as a teenager and used regularly through adulthood before entering a recovery program almost five years ago.

The ambiguity of the book’s title stems from the fact that Adam Nimoy would be seen by many as blessed in having a successful, famous father and an entrée into Hollywood life that later opened doors for his own directing career.

But the younger Nimoy describes a father who, like the stoic but dependable starship officer he portrayed, was often distant, putting the greater good of sustaining his family ahead of seemingly extraneous bonding and warmth.

“There’s a lot of Spock in Leonard, no doubt about that,” Adam Nimoy, 52, said in a recent interview in New York.

Leonard Nimoy grew up in the ’30s and ’40s in a Russian Jewish immigrant family in Boston, the son of a barber and a homemaker for whom Hollywood and its trappings seemed as distant as another planet.

“He’s not unlike a lot of Depression-era people, obsessed with generating income,” Adam Nimoy said. “I have friends who have dads cut from the exact same cloth.”

The difference: “If I have a conflict with him, I have to go back out on the street and deal with a public that adores him.”

The book is not, however, the tell-all memoir about “Life With Spock” that publishers and agents wanted him to write.

ALTTEXTRather, it’s a glimpse of how Adam Nimoy grew up with a famous name, inherited his father’s alcohol problem, met lots of interesting and famous people, and dabbled in law before becoming a successful TV director and starting a family, only to see his life come crashing down.

Leonard doesn’t escape some lumps, but neither does he absorb the brunt of the blasts. Adam takes responsibility for many of the failings of his life, including the end of his directing career because of on-set volatility he attributes mainly to his addictions. The deterioration of his marriage is harder to track from the details in the book, but the younger Nimoy makes clear that his wife and two teenagers urged him to reconcile, and that he persisted with the separation and divorce. The dust settled with both sides on good terms.

“I told her we’ll always be family,” he said. “We’ll always have a close relationship.”

Father and son share many traits and experiences, having both gone through divorces (Leonard divorced Sandra Zober in 1987 and is now married to actress Susan Bay) and worked as directors.

“We’re both similar in the sense of our ambition and desire to work and accomplish things,” Nimoy said.

One trait they don’t share is a desire to be in the spotlight, something Adam soured on during the inevitable media intrusions into his family life as a child.

“That’s one of the reasons I didn’t go into acting,” he said. “The idea of celebrity for its own sake was not something that appeals to me.”

Adam’s life these days includes 12-step meetings, dates and teaching directing at the Los Angeles campus of the New York Film Academy. Father and son have gone over their differences, and Adam took his father’s acceptance of the book, read before publication, as a gesture of atonement of sorts. Adam’s daughter, Maddy, is attending Bard College in New York and his younger son, Jonah, is finishing high school in Los Angeles.

Both Leonard and Adam Nimoy and their families are affiliated Jews active in the community. Adam became a bar mitzvah at Adat Shalom in West Los Angeles, where his mother’s parents, Archie and Ann Zober, were founding members. His children went to Hebrew school and celebrated their b’nai mitzvah at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Irmas Campus.

In the memoir, the younger Nimoy writes of the importance he felt of not only providing his children with bar and bat mitzvahs but making those occasions meaningful as well. He implored them to not only learn their Torah portions but to delve into their contemporary meanings.

“I come from Orthodox grandparents on both sides,” he said. “That’s a major factor in my life. I find it attractive, and it speaks to me, as well as my dad, so it’s a big part of my experience and something I want my kids to appreciate.”

Nimoy said spirituality and belief in God helped him in his recovery. “You have to believe in a power greater than yourself. A lot of addicts have trouble with the concept of God, because they think they’re the center of the universe. I’m a believer.”

Nimoy said he is working on another nonfiction book, which he declined to discuss, and he is continuing to teach. He’s contemplating a return to directing — “it’s fun being behind the camera” — but he’s happy with things the way they are.

“My dad fulfilled the immigrant’s dream of making it big for himself in America and becoming extremely successful,” Adam Nimoy said. “My journey was different. I’ll never come close to touching the kind of fame and fortune he’s created for himself. On the other hand, I feel very happy with my life, which is much smaller than his.”

Adam Nimoy will sign copies of “My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life” Sunday, Sept. 28 at the West Hollywood Book Fair, West Hollywood Park, 647 N. San Vicente Blvd. The Book Fair runs 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Wanna drink? Think again!


This Purim will be the first test of a new teen anti-drinking campaign adopted by Los Angeles’ Orthodox rabbis after a Simchat Torah debacle in which more than 100 teens were seen drinking publicly or intoxicated.

The plan was adopted Nov. 14 at a meeting convened by Jewish Family Service’s Aleinu Family Resource Center, which was attended by, among others, heads of school of Shalhevet, YULA and Valley Torah — all Orthodox high schools — and rabbis of synagogues in the Pico-Robertson area, Hancock Park and the Valley.

“There were around 100 to 150 teens drinking [on Simchat Torah], so we were concerned about the fact of adults giving that kind of alcohol to kids,” said Debbie Fox, director of Aleinu, which provides counseling and educational services to the Orthodox community.

Rabbis at the November meeting agreed to ask the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC), an Orthodox umbrella organization, to ask its members to designate shuls as “dry” — meaning alcohol-free — or “monitored,” meaning the shul would assign someone to make sure that no minors were served. They also reached a consensus to promote more knowledge about the dangers of teen drinking and addiction.

Recognizing alcohol’s long-standing presence in Jewish custom, tradition and culture — especially on Purim, when drinking is a mitzvah — and hearing from some rabbis that it would be impossible to have shuls go completely dry, Aleinu has tried to work directly with the shuls and parents to take responsibility for their teens.

While Aleinu and the RCC did not publish a list of dry and monitored shuls in time for Purim, last month Fox, with RCC cooperation, sent a letter and informational brochure to 85 rabbis, asking each shul to decide what its status would be on Purim, and to speak to their congregations about staying sober.

The Orthodox Union also sent out a letter urging rabbis to ask parents to carefully monitor their children, since drinks in shul are often cited as starting points for kids who later become addicts.

Many rabbis spoke to their congregations on Aleinu’s Feb. 3 “Shabbat of Awareness.” Two days before that event, about 45 rabbis came to The Jewish Federation to listen to an addiction specialist and watch a video in which recovering Orthodox teens explained factors that influenced their drinking and drug habits.

The same video was shown to the 130 parents who attended similar presentations Feb. 18 at Shaare Tefila and Beth Jacob. Also, in recent weeks flyers, posters and e-mails have circulated pleading: “This Purim, Don’t Get Carried Away.”

“These programs should help parents communicate with kids about the impact of drinking,” Fox said. “Our previous experience shows there are hardly ever conversations between parents and children about drinking.”

Shalhevet students who were out last erev Simchat Torah said that students from many different schools — including some from out of the area — were seen in the Pico area under the influence of alcohol. Two had to be taken to the hospital by paramedics, one of whom had her stomach pumped, witnesses said.

“This has been a problem every year,” said Rabbi Avi Greene, Shalhevet’s head of Judaic studies. “This year, certain events just made it impossible to keep the problem quiet.”

According to several witnesses, including students and rabbis from various schools interviewed by The Boiling Point, Shalhevet’s newspaper, teens were able to obtain drinks at several shuls in the Pico-Robertson area. They said alcohol might also have come from the teenagers’ homes.

“Walking down Pico Boulevard, I could barely take a few steps without hearing someone say or do something stupid because they were under the influence of alcohol,” Shalhevet junior Gaby Grossman said.

Perhaps the annual Purim party of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) will be able to distract teenagers from their alcoholic inclination. This year’s party, at Congregation Mogen David on Pico Boulevard, advertises itself as “alcohol-free” and includes all-night security, responsible staff and a packed schedule of activities. NCSY will also keep the Rubin Teen Drop-in Center on Pico near Roxbury Drive open all night as an alcohol-free safe zone.

“We definitely emphasized the absence of alcohol from this year’s event more than usual,” NCSY Vice President of Outreach Stephanie Aziz, a Shalhevet junior, said. “We recognized the goal to keep incidents like this from happening, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure teens have a fun, safe event on these holidays.”

Some students thought Aleinu’s outreach effort represented a stepping-stone toward overall progress.

“I’m in favor of educational programs because they help develop a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong,” Shalhevet junior Jennifer Reiz said. “At the same time, teenagers tend to learn more from their own mistakes and experiences.”

Others questioned whether the plans would succeed.

Educational programs “probably won’t help,” junior Meir Chodakiewitz said, “because when we see adults drink, it seems more OK for us. We drink to feel older.”

Sophomore Jonathan Cohen, who said he saw alcohol being served at as many as five synagogues Simchat Torah night, said designating shuls dry or monitored might slow kids’ drinking a little, “but most kids will still find a way around it.”

Still, most realized that something must be changed, because the current problem is, as one student put it, “intolerable.”

“It’s about time for change,” Shalhevet senior Jonah Braun said. “The debacle of Simchat Torah was a shame to the Jewish community as a whole.”

Louis Keene is a junior at Shalhevet and Torah editor of The Boiling Point, where a version of this article first appeared.

Speak Up!

Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the April issue is March 15; Deadline for the May issue is April 15. Send submissions to julief@jewishjournal.com.

Unmasking Purim’s vital meaning


It’s a classic Jewish tale: Just when we feel comfortable and safe, nahafokh hu — the whole world can turn upside down.

Megillat Esther, read on Purim, reminds us that history is capricious and life is fragile; that willing or not, we must confront our powerlessness and vulnerability, our inability to control everything. Or anything. We’re given some tools to assist in that brutal awakening — masks and flasks — which help us laugh at ourselves as we venture into the dangerous territory of rabbi-sanctioned drunken revelry, of the outrageous, irresponsible behavior most of us work hard to guard against the rest of the year.

On Purim we are instructed (Megillah 7a) to drink ad d’lo yada, until we can no longer distinguish between Haman and Mordecai, evil and good, blessing and curse — an excuse to be utterly confused, an annual corrective to our desperate attempts to exert control over our lives.

But is this really a laudable religious goal? The practice of Purim seems counterintuitive, counterproductive and even dangerous. Why put ourselves through it?

The Talmud tells the story of Rabbah, who, in a drunken frenzy on Purim, accidentally murders R. Zeira, then miraculously resuscitates him after sobering up. A year later, Rabbah again invites R. Zeira to celebrate Purim with him, but R. Zeira blithely refuses this time, saying that miracles are not to be taken for granted (Megillah 7b).

This story is an expression of rabbinic ambivalence to ad d’lo yada — underscoring the deeply problematic nature of Purim for people of conscience and sensibility. Most of us spend our year working assiduously to make order out of a chaotic world — trying to repair broken relationships, to make space for holiness in our work and in our homes; trying to respond to grief with comfort, to cruelty with goodness. Most of us work hard to try to remember — amidst the chaos — that every deed, every moment has the potential to pierce the darkness with some light.

Then Purim arrives each year, mandating that we contemplate a world without God (there is no mention of God throughout the entire megillah), that we entertain our darkest fears about the direction of history (there is no such thing as real security — our individual and collective destinies could change in an instant).

On Purim we are forced to confront the possibility that nothing we do really matters, because history is ultimately arbitrary, and life is therefore unalterably unpredictable. No wonder they tell us to have a couple of drinks …
But the power of Purim is not that it leaves us in a drunken stupor, vulnerable, uncertain and hungover.

The real power of Purim is that we move beyond the costumed debauchery — the ultimate response to nothingness — and respond to chaos with an affirmation of somethingness: namely the human capacity for goodness. One of the central obligations of Purim is not only to give mishloah manot — gifts to our loved ones, but also to give matanot l’evyonim — gifts to the poor. Remarkably, though the obligation is to give two gifts to two people in need, we are taught that even more is expected of us. “One is not exceedingly precautious with money on Purim. Rather, everyone who puts out a hand [in need], we are to give to that person” (Shulkhan Arukh, OH 694:3).

Purim demands that, for one day of the year, we are released from the shackles of cautious discernment and, instead, we give to anyone and everyone who lacks. We give, regardless of what we think or fear the person might do with the money, and regardless of our political perspectives on how best to fight poverty, homelessness and hunger. We give indiscriminately and generously, just because somebody needs.

Why the obligatory openheartedness? Because ultimately the message of Purim is that we can’t control history, but we must control how we treat humanity. Out of the depths of darkness, out of utter nonsense, we have the capacity to dream of a different kind of reality, one in which no person suffers the indignity of poverty, no parent puts her kids to bed hungry, and human beings work devotedly, even indiscriminately, to realize a world of dignity, justice and love.

At IKAR we try to communicate the complexity of this holiday through our Purim Justice Carnival. We embrace the confusion and moral ambiguity of Purim simultaneously with drunken revelry and a renewed commitment to social change.

We play blackjack with cards bearing hunger stats; we spin prize wheels for sweat-free souvenirs; we eat, drink and dance until it hurts. And at the end of the night, each of us ends up with a chunk of money that we give to organizations that are working to address critical local and global social justice issues.

But hunger, AIDS, economic justice on Purim? How do we reconcile those struggles with the obligation to have real simcha, joy of the holiday? The rabbis tell us exactly what it means to really experience the joy of the holiday.

“There is no greater or more wonderful joy,” says the Mishnah Berurah, “than to make happy the heart of a poor person, an orphan or a widow. And in this way, we are imitating God.”

Our commitment to help those most vulnerable fuels our celebration. Our Purim Justice Carnival is an attempt to integrate the religious and the political, the spiritual and the social — and for that reason it’s our best party of the year.

The rabbis teach that even when all the other festivals are abolished in the World to Come, Purim will remain (Midrash Mishle 9:2). Why is that? Because Purim is one holiday that teaches that no matter what life deals to us, we have the power to respond with love, hope, joy and purpose. We embrace chaos and meaninglessness for one day each year, precisely to affirm that that is not the world we want to live in. Then we spend the rest of the year making sure that it does not become our reality.

May we all be blessed this year with the capacity to internalize the message of Purim — to refuse to accept the inevitability of the flow of history, to give with all our hearts, to love with all our beings, and to work with all our strength to bring light, hope and healing into our world.

L’chayim!


Sharon Brous is rabbi of Olmert-Rice-Abbas summit meets low expectations

Post-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder


Our youngest son has just celebrated his bar mitzvah, and I am recovering from a case of Post-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder. This is a seriously underreported malady, yet shockingly, the government has yet to allocate a single dollar to research. If this doesn’t change soon, I’m going to launch an awareness campaign, complete with blue-and-white ribbons, pins and car decals.

Post-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder (PBMSD) usually follows a case of Pre-Bar Mitzvah Stress Disorder. This is characterized by speed-dialing your caterer several times daily until you actually hear him chewing antacids while you speak; zipping around so frantically from errand to errand that you have no time to eat anything other than large brownies in the car (perversely, this still causes weight gain), and bursting into tears with no warning because your little boy is no longer a little boy but a newly minted teen who has the audacity to catapult into puberty before your very eyes.

You don’t need to be Jewish to understand PBMSD. After all, symptoms are identical to those that flare up after other life-cycle events, the kind that often demand throwing large parties for people, some of whom are not on speaking terms but who will be forced into close proximity with one another for several hours, while having to smile much of that time.

My symptoms became acute as the weeks counted down to The Big Day. The following diary entries explain why:

Five weeks before the bar mitzvah: The invitations arrive, but the envelopes won’t seal shut. Wrestling the envelope flaps down with a hot glue gun for six hours eventually does the trick. I struggle to pare down guest list and fail. Like a powerful Hollywood party hostess, I withhold a batch of B-list invitees, pending the acceptance rates of other guests.

Four weeks and counting: Son is still growing too fast to buy the suit. He practices his Torah chanting each night, perfecting the reading. I worry about his speech, since the boy talks 90 m.p.h. Is it too late to hire a speaking coach?

Three weeks to go: Response cards coming in each day, many including checks. Son discovers that happiness is a positive cash flow. An alarming 90 percent of invitees have accepted. Cannot decide about B-list. Send to all anyway.

Two weeks left: Son has grown another inch and still afraid to buy suit. In meeting with caterer, son insists on a dinner menu of corn dogs and pasta. Fortunately, few 13-year-old boys are on the South Beach Diet. Musician calls me repeatedly, urging me to hire his entire orchestra. I repeatedly refuse, citing budget concerns. This is not a presidential inauguration, I tell him. It’s just a bar mitzvah. Musician sounds dirgical. I remain firm.

One week and a half away: I help son polish his speech, restraining myself from overediting. We simply add a few transitions and a laugh line or two when appropriate. Son’s delivery speed still faster than a major league pitch. Consider speech printouts on each seat?

Seven days: Musician, magician and caterer all need deposits. Consider asking son for loan.

Six days: Should I get a new dress? Daughter and many female friends are asking what I plan to wear. I had planned to lose 10 pounds for the occasion, but failed to take necessary actions. Too late now. Decide to wear ivory-colored spring suit, which still fits. Musician calls again, countering with an offer of just one additional musician. I agree, just to get rid of him. The fraud detection department of my credit card company calls to warn me of an unusual amount of activity on my account.

Five days: Must get son’s suit now. Even if he grows another two inches this week, it will still fit. Son insists all formal shirts in the store are too scratchy. I snag a hand-me-down shirt from the closet, worn at an older brother’s bar mitzvah. Finally, I save money.

Four days: Try to prearrange seating for family dinner. No configuration seems likely to prevent Uncle Harold from starting up with Cousin Norman about … what was that fight about, anyway? Pray that Aunt Shirley takes her meds before arrival. Stock up on my supply of migraine pills just in case.

Three days: Call everyone who hasn’t sent in response card. Some remind me testily that they did send them in, and I must have lost them. Of course they are coming. Several of son’s friends call to ask me if I can arrange their rides to and from the party. I lose my house keys.

Two days: Caterer calls and says he can’t get the special petit fours I had ordered, and a trucking strike on the East Coast may mean we can’t get the sorbet, either. Default to bakery cookies. Photographer calls. An emergency has arisen, and she’ll send her trainee instead. Will that be OK?

Day before: I supervise floral delivery to synagogue. Florist with heavy Italian accent assures me they will be “stupendous” but doesn’t warn me they’re nearly as big as Mount Sinai and will hardly fit through the door. At home, the phone won’t stop ringing. Everyone apologizes for calling, since I must be so busy, but what time is the party called for? Can they bring a niece who unexpectedly flew into town? Two invitations sent to close friends are returned as “address unknown.” My keys have not shown up yet, and I lose my spare set as well. Next move: climbing through the window to get into the house.

The Big Day: Get up early enough to put in contact lenses and dress with care. On goes the ivory suit. While drinking a quick cup of coffee in the kitchen, a crisis erupts. The dog rushes in from the yard, ecstatic at seeing me after an absence of seven minutes. He leaps up to greet me, festooning my ivory suit with muddy paw prints. I’ve got to leave for synagogue in three minutes or I’ll miss son’s big moment, but have no Plan B for another outfit. I race to my room and throw on a dark blue suit whose jacket won’t button all the way. No one seems to notice, so like a dope, I call attention to the unnecessary fact to my friends.

Son chants his portion from the Torah beautifully. He looks both adorable and handsome in his suit, straddling that brief, shining moment between boyhood and manhood. Miraculously, he gives his speech slow enough for most people to hear, and waits as I had instructed him for audience to laugh at appropriate moments. Sometimes, nagging pays off. In his speech, he thanks his father for taking him to Dodger games; me for correcting his grammar. He is in his glory, and I am in mine, even if my dress is too tight.

Four days later: The party goes smoothly. Some computer glitches make the music intermittent, and the silences are hard to explain. Several people wander into the hall, fill plates with food and leave. I have never seen these people before in my life. The desserts are a big hit, especially the brownies. I could have told them that. Keys still MIA.

Five days later: My son’s 15 minutes of fame are over, and he is returning to life as a mere mortal. He announces his first major purchase with his bar mitzvah money will be a chameleon and a six-month supply of meal worms. He also announces plans to grow his hair very long. And each day, he continues his deployment into manhood, standing a little taller, his face and body becoming ever thinner. The next time I see his chubby cheeks, they’ll be on my grandchildren. I am wildly happy that he is not embarrassed to say, “I love you, Mom.”

His dad and I are immensely proud of him, and love him more than any words can say. I am also nearly wildly happy that my keys finally turned up — in the backyard. My symptoms of PBMSD are dissipating at last. Mazal tov!

 

Avi Leibovic: Guardian Angel of the Streets



 

Stand on any corner in Hancock Park or Beverlywood, says Avi Leibovic, and within 10 blocks you can find Orthodox teenagers engaged in weekly poker games, drug use, underage drinking and reckless sex.

Not much has changed since Leibovic was a teenager in L.A.’s Orthodox community 15 years ago.

Now 32, a lawyer, rabbi and father of six, Leibovic has made it his life’s mission to find these youth and to pull them back toward a life where they can envision a future with regular employment, a strong sense of self and a sincere love of Yiddishkeit.

Five years ago, Leibovic was approached by the prodigal son of a prominent Orthodox family for help and inspiration. Soon, their one-on-one Torah study grew into a larger group, made up mostly of recent alumni of Neve Zion, the yeshiva outside Jerusalem where Leibovic had formative experiences as a teen and young adult.

That group grew into Aish Tamid, a nonprofit that now has a staff of part-time counselors, therapists, social workers and rabbis that in the last five years has served 400 young men and teens.

At a recent free workshop in Excel that Aish Tamid offered in a mid-Wilshire office building, Leibovic is working the room, making sure everyone is set up and liberally slapping on warm handshakes, high fives and “Howah YOUs.”

He looks tired but energized, with rings of red around eyes that are the same color as his trim auburn beard. His large black velvet kippah sits low across his forehead.

Leibovic, a doting perfectionist, teaches Torah, runs a Friday night service and holds court at a “tisch” at his home, where dozens show up every Shabbos for songs and inspirational story-telling. His “guys” are anything from hard-core addicts to kids who just didn’t fit the yeshiva mold, and he helps them finish school, find jobs, go clean, reconcile with family or get back into Judaism.

Last year Leibovic took a sabbatical from his job in his family’s law firm to build Aish Tamid’s infrastructure, but he is now back at work full time. He sets aside every night from 5:30-8 p.m. for his wife and their 6-year-old triplets and three younger children.

And from 8 p.m. on, and often well into the morning, he’s there for his guys.

He can do it because he gets them. He knows their insecurities and their haunts. He speaks their language — from his dude-laced lingo with a Brooklyn accent to his knowledge of the latest music.

“If not for Avi, I would be wandering the streets of Brooklyn,” says Yitzy, a 17-year-old who now has a job and is working toward getting his high school diploma.

Leibovic has never taken a salary from Aish Tamid, and he admits the work is taking a toll on him and his family.

But he’s sticking with it.

“If you give the kids time and if you give them love, if you give them the opportunity to express themselves in a way that is not cookie-cutter, you see tremendous success,” he says. “Guys who have been written off by their schools, their family and their community, we find that we are able to rekindle their aish tamid [eternal flame].”

For information call (323) 634-0505 or email to info@aishtamid.org.

 

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Steven Firestein: Making Magic for Children

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David Karp: A Guide for Unity in Scouting

No Wrong Way to End Yom Kippur Fast


I grew up in a family that never seemed to do anything right. Our approach to Yom Kippur, for example, was mixed: My father and I observed it; my mother and brother did not. Returning from synagogue at the end of the day, Dad and I were starving, so we grabbed a couple of slices of challah and spread chopped liver on top. Without ceremony, we leaned over a kitchen counter inhaling this snack.

Although the experience was a bonding one, by high school I realized that something was wrong with this picture, that something made me feel uncomfortable. Standing on linoleum, I’d pivot on one of my high heels and contemplate what routine other families followed when they came home from synagogue. How and when did they resume eating?

Years later, when I married into a family more cohesive and observant than my own, I expected the white picket fence of break fasts, yet I didn’t have a clear idea of what that was.

On the first Yom Kippur after our wedding, my husband, David, and I broke the fast at his sister and brother-in-law’s house. Within seconds of our arrival, Scotch and bourbon bottles were cracked open.

"What’s happening?" I whispered to David, as his sister quickly put out nuts, crackers and an assortment of hot and cold dips.

"We always break the fast with cocktails."

"Cocktails?" I asked.

David poured club soda into a glass of Jack Daniels and ice.

"It’s a custom my father started when we were children, and we’ve continued it since his death," he said. "He took Yom Kippur very seriously, but once the holiday was over, he liked to have a drink. Can I get you something?"

"On an empty stomach?"

David suggested I try white wine: "If hard liquor is too strong, then have a glass of Chardonnay."

"Okay," I said. "But pass me the cashews first."

Surprisingly, the wine went down smoothly and didn’t go to my head. Although this scene is not what I’d imagined as a teenager, there was a lot of warmth among the 10 of us gathered around the coffee table. Before long, we helped my sister-in-law take piping hot noodle kugel from the oven and line platters with vegetables and smoked fish.

Since then, I’ve noticed that when it comes to the moment the Yom Kippur fast is actually broken, no two families do it in the same way. That is not to say that different families’ break fast meals do not share common themes. Among Ashkenazi Jews, bagels and lox rule. And, of course, there’s the usual whitefish, sable, herring and sliced tomatoes.

The issue, then, is not the main course, but rather what is the first thing people consume when they arrive home from synagogue? We’re talking about the snacking that goes on before dinner is served.

After observing people in action and listening to their stories, I find many families have developed informal rituals, and the mini-meals they consume fall into one of several categories.

Cocktail Hour: My in-laws are not the only family to break the fast with liquid refreshments. As a matter of fact, it was customary among Eastern and Central European Jews to get their digestive juices going again by sipping brandy or schnapps.

An executive at Reuters in Manhattan claims that as soon as her family comes home from services, they pour brandy into snifters. Drinking slowly, they also nibble slices of challah. After that, they do not partake in an elaborate meal, but rather eat bowls of chicken soup.

Snap Back with Sweets: Many synagogues serve honey cake to congregants once Yom Kippur services conclude. At home, some families gather in their living rooms to dip apples in honey. This not only brings the cycle started at Rosh Hashanah full circle, but a bit of sweetness gives people a burst of energy, sorely needed after abstaining from food and drink for 24 hours.

A Brandeis University administrator claims that no matter how hungry her family gets, they wouldn’t dream of leaving synagogue until the very end. Because they are a 15-minute drive from home, they eat apples in the car to tide themselves over until dinner.

Starting Over: There are some people who think that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and must not be skipped — no matter what. For decades, a Stockbridge, Mass., grandmother has brewed a pot of coffee for friends and family returning from synagogue.

"Nothing cures caffeine-withdrawal headaches like steaming hot coffee," she said, explaining how she sets up a mini buffet of orange juice, muffins, danish and challah drizzled with honey. She encourages guests to take some breakfast foods before sitting down to a more substantial meal.

Other families prefer to drink tea with their pastries, perhaps because it is soothing and easier to digest than coffee. While the caffeine content varies depending on the variety of tea and the length of time it is steeped, there is enough stimulant in tea to revive people without the sudden jolt of nerves that can accompany a cup of coffee. For these reasons, it’s a gentler way to resume eating and drinking.

Noshers: Although some families do not have an official premeal menu, they have fun nibbling in the kitchen. At no other time are people quite as helpful as when those deli packages of smoked fish are opened. Volunteers often sample a little bit of this and that, while rapidly slicing bagels and piling delicacies on platters.

The aroma of yeasty breads and pungent fish fills the air. Guests and children mill about, slipping a scrap or two into their mouths, waiting. A Manhattan hostess often finds herself yelling: "Stop eating — there’ll be nothing left for dinner."

It’s not surprising that people are antsy after forgoing food for 24 hours. In many households, frenzy prevails. If your gatherings could benefit from a calming influence, perhaps this is the year to inaugurate a custom, bridging the gap between the time when your relatives and friends arrive at your home and the moment dinner is served — one that compliments your family’s lifestyle and brings closure to the most meaningful holiday of the year.

Hot Apple Tea

2 cups apple juice

4 cups water

1 cinnamon stick

2 teaspoons honey

5 bags of orange pekoe and pekoe black tea, such as Lipton

1/2 of a Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored

In a medium-sized pot, place apple juice, water, cinnamon and honey. Cover and bring to a slow boil, stirring occasionally. Remove pot from flame. Add tea bags and cover pot. Steep for three minutes. Meanwhile, cut apple into very thin slices and place in teacups. (You’ll have some apple leftover.) Pour Apple Tea into cups and serve immediately, either before dinner with light pastries or later with dessert. Apple slices will float to the surface and look attractive. Leftovers make great iced tea.

Makes eight cups of tea.

Blueberry Muffins

1 cup fresh blueberries

24 paper baking cups

2 muffin tins (12 muffins each)

No-stick spray

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup white sugar, plus 1 teaspoon

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 cup 1 percent milk

2 tablespoons corn oil

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Rinse blueberries under water. Remove stems. Gently roll around on paper towels to dry. Move to a plate. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of white sugar and roll again, coating evenly. Reserve. Place 24 paper baking cups inside muffin tins. Coat each cup with no-stick spray. Preheat oven to 350F. Sift flour, baking powder, 1/2 cup white sugar, and brown sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add milk, oil, egg, vanilla, lemon juice, and almond extract. Mix well. Add cinnamon and nutmeg, mixing well. Add blueberries and gently mix into batter with a wooden or plastic spoon. Spoon batter into paper baking cups until they are half full. Bake for 15 minutes, or until muffins are firm to the touch and a cake tester or toothpick comes clean. Eat while warm or cool completely for future use. Store in a covered container at room temperature. Recipe can be frozen. Serve with tea either before the break fast dinner or as part of the main course.

Makes 24 muffins.

Hot Artichoke Dip

2 14-ounce cans of artichoke hearts, drained in a colander

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Garlic powder to taste

No-stick spray

1/2 cup sesame seeds

Paprika for dusting

Preheat oven to F. One at a time, place each artichoke heart in palm and squeeze excess liquid from them. With fingers, pull bottom part from leaves and separate them. You’ll see what looks like hairs attached to the bottom. With fingers, pull off hairs and discard. With fingers, separate artichoke leaves and place them in a large bowl. Add sour cream, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, and garlic powder. With a spoon, mix well. With no-stick spray, coat either two two-cup ramekins (for hors d’oeuvres) or a four-quart casserole (as a side dish). Spoon artichoke mixture inside and smooth until even with a spoon. Sprinkle sesame seeds and paprika on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until casserole bubbles and top lightly browns. Serve immediately.

In ramekins as hors d’oeuvres serves 10-12. In casserole as a side dish, serves six.

Apple Crumb Coffee Cake

No-stick spray

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg, well-beaten

1 tablespoon sour cream

2 cups flour

21/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin

Crumb Topping:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup blanched almonds, coarsely ground

6 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat a seven-by-11-inch glass baking pan with no-stick spray. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and sour cream, beating well. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Pour milk, lemon juice, and vanilla into a pitcher. Add flour mixture alternately with milk mixture, beating well between each addition. Batter will be stiff. Spread batter into prepared baking pan. Cover with sliced apples. Place topping ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Mix them together with your hands until small lumps form and ingredients are well-incorporated. Sprinkle topping over apples. Bake for 30 minutes, or until topping lightly browns and cake tester inserted in center comes clean. Cool to room temperature. Cover loosely with waxed paper and serve the next day.

Makes 18 squares.

Alcohol Dependency Not in Our Genes


A new study suggests that genes, not religion, may help explain why Jews generally have fewer problems with alcohol than Caucasians in general do.

The study findings, which appeared in an issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, also suggest that the protective effects of this gene may be undermined by a culture that encourages drinking.

The gene, ADH2*2 is a rare variation of ADH2, which produces a more active form of alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme that catalyzes the first step in alcohol metabolism. However, explained lead author Deborah Hasin from Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, “the exact reason why ADH2*2 tends to discourage heavier drinking isn’t known.”

“Recently, reports have shown a relatively high prevalence [approximately 20 percent] of ADH2*2 in Jewish samples … suggesting that ADH2*2 is one of the factors explaining the low rates of alcoholism in this group,” Hasin noted.

Earlier research has shown that differences in religious practice and level of religiosity cannot account for these low rates.

Indeed, recent investigations have demonstrated “significant relationships between ADH2*2 and alcohol use … in all Jewish groups studied,” Hasin reported. Those with the variant gene have been seen to drink less frequently, consume less alcohol overall or have more unpleasant reactions to alcohol. Until the present study, however, the relationship between ADH2*2 and level of dependence on alcohol was not explored.

Hasin and her colleagues recruited 75 Israeli Jews ages 22-65. Trained interviewers employed a widely used questionnaire to assess each participant’s current, past and lifetime level of alcohol dependence. Sixty-eight of the participants provided genetic material to test for the presence of ADH2*2.

The results revealed that participants with ADH2*2 had significantly lower indicators of alcohol dependence over their lifetimes.

“This finding adds to the growing body of evidence that this genetic variation has a protective effect against alcoholism among Jewish groups,” Hasin said.

When the researchers divided the participants into three groups based on country of origin and recency of immigration, however, they found indications that the protective effect of ADH2*2 was not equally strong in every group.

The protective effect of ADH2*2 on alcohol dependence severity appeared stronger among the two more established groups of Israeli Jews, the Ashkenazis (those of European background and arrivals from Russia before 1989) and the Sephardics (those of Middle Eastern and North African background), than among more recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Among those with ADH2*2, the recent Russian immigrants tended to have a history of much heavier drinking than their Sephardic and Ashkenazic counterparts. Levels of past and lifetime alcohol dependency — but not current dependency — were also highest among the recent Russian immigrants.

According to Hasin, one logical explanation for these findings is the fact that both genes and environment influence the development of alcohol dependence.

“Russia has one of the world’s highest levels of alcohol consumption,” she noted, “whereas Israel has one of the lowest.”

“The study’s findings suggest that the recent Russian immigrants’ previous exposure to the heavy-drinking environment of Russian culture overcame the protective effects of the ADH2*2 gene,” Hasin said.

Their increased vulnerability to heavy drinking was evidenced by such study measures as peak lifetime alcohol consumption levels.

The decrease in the recent arrivals’ alcohol intake and dependency levels after immigration may reflect “acculturation to Israeli drinking patterns,” Hasin proposed.

“However,” she added, “other explanations, including a tendency to drink less as we age, cannot be ruled out.”

Funding for the study came in part from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

A Walk in Rick Orlov’s City Hall


Rick Orlov of the Los Angeles Daily News, long known as the
dean of City Hall reporters, is that rare media type who has no enemies. That’s
because he’s long had a reputation for being an old-fashioned straight shooter
who honors secrets not only in print, but also in hallway gossip.

“He’s a person you can trust,” Richard Riordan remarked once
when he was mayor. “He’s not some young person trying to prove himself with a
gotcha.”

“A big part of it is, you don’t play favorites,” Orlov said
recently over lunch at Pete’s Café & Bar, the new downtown hangout for
local pols. He’s covered City Hall for the Daily News since 1988; I worked with
him there in the early ’80s, when he was city editor. “I always remember what
an editor told me when I started out: ‘These people are not your friends,'”
Orlov added.

Orlov, 55, was born in Chicago and spent his early years in
the Midwest. His parents, both children of Russian Jewish immigrants, met in Los
Angeles during World War II at a Hillel-sponsored dance; his father was in
the Navy and his mother was a UCLA student. When he was 11, Orlov’s family
moved to Encino, where his father managed an insurance office, and his
religious training ended.

“Up until then, I had been in Hebrew school studying for a
bar mitzvah and we attended temple regularly,” Orlov said. “But when we came
here, my father got in a fight with the rabbi at our new temple, and since his
own religious background was minimal, our family became fairly secular. We had
Passover seders … but most of the rest was abandoned.”

Orlov, who’s a bachelor of the old-fashioned,
married-to-his-work newspaperman type, is such a City Hall institution that for
years no one complained about his lighting up cigarette after cigarette in full
view of the mayor and various councilmembers and their aides. Puffing away in
office buildings has, of course, long been illegal, but Orlov’s chainsmoking
habit apparently was tacitly OK’d under some sort of grandfather clause. It’s a
moot point now, since he gave up the cigs (and lost 30 pounds) after he was
diagnosed with diabetes a couple years ago.

“When they cut off your toes it gets your attention,” said
Orlov, who now gets around with a duck-headed cane and a handicapped parking
pass. He can still drink, which is fortunate, as a key technique of his
schmoozey style of information gathering is his endearing willingness to buy
everyone a round.

Another newspaper tradition he’s kept up is open cynicism
about the grandstanding and ineffective ways of local politicians, particularly
the L.A. City Council.

“They came out against Proposition 187, so you knew it would
pass,” he said. “And then there’s the war in Iraq. They were against the
Patriot Act, and there’s a lot of things to dislike about the Patriot Act, but
I can’t believe anyone in Washington cares what the L.A. City Council thinks.”

Over the years, Orlov has seen City Council demographics
change along with those of Los Angeles.

“When I came to City Hall in 1988, five of the 15 council
members were Jewish and the Bradley administration had a strong presence from
the Jewish community in staff jobs, contributors and political advisers. Today
I think the only Jewish members are Wendy Greuel, Jack Weiss and, through
conversion for marriage, Jan Perry,” he said about the African American.

“Councilman Bernard Parks counts a number of advisers from
the Jewish community, as does Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilman
Dennis Zine,” Orlov continued. “Mayor James Hahn does not seem to have the same
level of Jewish support that went either to Richard Riordan or Tom Bradley.
Hahn’s tried to inherit it, but he’s had a hard time.”

Much of the Jewish community, Orlov noted, was split between
Hahn and Villaraigosa in the mayoral election. “That was primarily due to
Riordan’s backing of Villaraigosa,” he noted, “as well as from Jewish leaders
like Eli Broad. I’m not sure it has made much of a difference on the council as
far as its policies, since it remains a heavily Democratic body that is
generally more liberal in its policies than the city’s population, and, as in
the past, composed of activists on social issues.”

Even if he hadn’t had to cut back his drinking, which used
to extend to Friday evening boozefests at the Daily News press office in City
Hall, Orlov finds local politics these days not only less Jewish, but less
colorful. “The Riordan administration was more fun because they were so
unprofessional politically,” he said. “Riordan would just say whatever was on
his mind, whereas [Mayor James] Hahn has been around politics since he was 5
years old.”

We drove back to the underground City Hall parking garage,
and I was impressed by the Dean of City Hall’s prime parking space. Rick
smiled.

“It’s that whole Deandom thing,” he said.  

Adults-In-Training Hopes and Fears


"Why are you having a bar or bat mitzvah?" Larry Kligman, dean of students at Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge, asks the school’s 65 seventh-graders.

"Tradition."

"Fun."

"Identity."

"Heritage."

The students are attending a one-day retreat, an event the school has sponsored for more than 10 years, enabling them to reflect on the ritual’s meaning as well as the concomitant anticipation and anguish.

"It’s a difficult year," Kligman explains, "as the students have to cope with their own bar or bat mitzvah in addition to a heavy academic load and the pressures of attending a friend’s bar or bat mitzvah almost every weekend."

This year, Jerry Brown, senior rabbi at Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge, has volunteered to host the retreat at his synagogue as well as lead one of the discussions.

"Why 13? It’s an interesting age, but why 13?" Brown asks the students.

"We become teenagers," Joshua I. Goldberg says.

"Teenagers," Brown says, grimacing as he emphasizes the first syllable. "What’s different about these teenage years?"

"We learn differently."

"We have more ability to understand things."

"Puberty."

He tells them that everything is changing — physically, psychologically and emotionally — faster than anytime in their lives except infancy. And that the ancient sages came up with the same number we have — 13 — to mark the beginning of adolescence.

"Why do you think the word teenager has a bad connotation?" he asks. "What kinds of things happen at bar mitzvah services and receptions?"

"Destruction."

"Food fights."

"Drinking."

"If you see somebody getting into something, do you want to do a very hard thing and say something to them?" Brown asks.

"Yes, because the bar mitzvah is only fun if everybody is having a good time," Benjamin Selski says.

"A successful bar mitzvah depends just as much on your friends," Hal Greenwald, Heschel’s rabbi-in-residence, adds.

Brown tells the students that they are becoming adults in terms of participating in Jewish religious life, but otherwise he considers them "adults-in-training."

He explains that the bar and bat mitzvah is essentially "a big time-out," a chance to think about what adolescence means and to start learning to take on adult responsibilities.

"To be in charge of your own lives is the best thing that you can want. I invite you to take that seriously," he says. "And a bar or bat mitzvah is the perfect place to start."

In another workshop, students are invited to grapple with real life scenarios. "What do you do when you’re invited to two bar mitzvahs on the same day?" Kligman asks them.

"If people know there’s a conflict far enough in advance, maybe one person can change the date. That happened to me," Samantha Hay says.

"You can go to one person’s service and one person’s party," Aviva Fleschler says.

Kligman presents another dilemma. "It’s 9 p.m. The party’s a little boring, but it’s not over until 11. What do you do?"

"You should put yourself in the bar or bat mitzvah’s place. You don’t want that person to feel bad if all the kids are leaving," Alex Kaplan answers.

"And if you’re going to be there, you need to be there more than just physically," Betty Winn, Heschel’s head of school, adds.

In the sanctuary, Judaic studies teacher Jodi Lasker helps the students "get a feel for the choreography" of the service, first showing them how to put on a tallit.

"Why does a tallit have an atara [collar]?" she asks.

"So you know where to hold it when you’re putting it on," Benjamin Wenger answers.

She explains that an atara is not required to have the tallit blessing on it and also tells the students that Torah is read on Mondays and Thursdays, in addition to Shabbat, because those were the traditional market days when people gathered together.

She then asks Josh Goldberg to demonstrate reading from the Torah and shows students where to stand if they’re called up for an aliyah.

After lunch, the students break into small groups where they write responses to specific questions. The answers to the first question — What are you looking forward to? — are read anonymously.

"The best thing is completing my Torah and Haftarah portion."

"The smiles on my family’s faces."

"The party."

"Giving my d’var Torah."

What are you afraid of?

"I’m afraid that at the service only two of my friends will be in the sanctuary when I’m reading my Torah portion and the rest will be in the bathroom."

"I’m worried my friends will be disrespectful."

"I’m afraid I’m going to mess up during the service and my friends will laugh."

"I wish people would not chew gum and talk."

"I’m afraid my dress will rip."

Students then write down their suggestions for invitation etiquette as well as appropriate behavior at both the service and the celebration. These are presented to the entire class, and copies are later distributed to all seventh-graders and their parents.

"We all now know what to do," says Kligman at the retreat’s finish. "Let’s do it."


Bar and Bat Mitzvah Dos and Don’ts

DO mail invitations; DON’T give them out in school.

DON’T leave out just a few classmates if you cannot invite the whole class.

DO R.S.V.P. promptly, before the cutoff date.

DO personally apologize and explain to your classmate why you cannot attend if there is more than one bar or bat mitzvah on the same date, it is a good idea to make your decision about which event to attend independently.

DO be respectful in services:

1. Don’t walk in and out of the temple, especially in large groups.

2. Do participate in the service.

3. If you know you have trouble sitting for a long time, consider coming a little later in the morning, perhaps at the start of the Torah service.

4. Consider going to the service as an important part of the celebration.

5. Dress appropriately in the synagogue — covered shoulders, no jeans, etc.

6. If you must arrive late, do not be disruptive when greeting your friends.

7. Don’t bring or use your cell phone or pager.

DO be a considerate guest while at the party:

1. Don’t be wild in the hallway or restrooms.

2. Stay in the party room, dance, celebrate with your classmates.

3. Thank the host family before going home.

4. Stay for the whole party; don’t decide to leave early, especially in a group.

DO remember, your actions should reflect how you want everyone else to behave when it is your special day. — JU


Jane Ulman lives in Encino and has four sons.

Painted Clowns


I’m drinking at a bar called the Dirty Horse on Hollywood Boulevard. Well, that’s not the real name but I never got a look at the sign and that name seemed right.

It fits the place, with its plastic pitchers of beer, painted clowns on black velvet, bowls of peanuts and the fast-talking, baseball-hat-wearing guy at the end of the bar who clutches a clipboard and swears he can hook you up with tickets to a taping of “Yes, Dear.”

That’s the nature of the place, a bar — where as you can probably imagine — a half-pretty girl in a three-quarters-dark room gets served a pretty stiff drink. I’m drinking martinis for the simple reason that they work fast and I’m on a bit of a schedule. I’ve been on the road working for all but four days of the past six weeks and I’m wound up tight. I keep thinking about my perpetually overheating Taurus, the way the mechanic’s gloved hand slowly loosens the radiator cap and lets the steam out.

At some point, the line between Mickey Rourke and me blurs. I slur. I buy drinks for strangers. I spill the contents of my purse onto the floor. By the end of the night, I have no cash, none.

In the interest of making sure the cliché train doesn’t miss a single stop, I make out with my ex-boyfriend, who is my designated driver and seated on the stool next to mine. It is later reported to me that without warning, I burst into tears and had an impassioned discussion about not much in said ex’s ear.

Hold that thought.

Several months before the Dirty Horse, I was out with a guy my girlfriend dubbed Sexy Pete. Pete’s in the music industry, dresses well, appears to take his workout regime very seriously and would never let you pay for dinner. Sexy Pete has been around. Normally, I’d never go out with a guy who exudes more sex appeal that mensch appeal, but my friend talked me into it.

“Now that you’re 30, things are different. In your 30s, you don’t worry so much. You just have fun,” she explained.

Not to shock you, but it turns out Sexy Pete just “wasn’t into a relationship right now.” Still, we went out a couple times before that last date, which ended up with me back at his place, very late at night. We talked on his couch. It got late, then early. He fell asleep and I was stuck there, not knowing whether to extricate myself from Sexy Pete’s sleepy grip or stay.

I thought to myself, “I’m in the apartment of a guy who couldn’t care less about me. He barely speaks. He has no interest in a relationship; a sentiment I finally understand has no hidden meaning for men. This is about to get really sad if I don’t leave now.”

Out I went. Pete, with all the enthusiasm of a catatonic patient at a hospital square dance, muttered, “Don’t leave.”

The door was already half shut and it closed. I was out on an unfamiliar street in last night’s boots and skirt. I spotted my car in the harsh light of early morning and the old Taurus had a brand new ticket.

This is what I call a Karma Ticket, the kind you get when you are where you shouldn’t be. It never fails. You may also be familiar with the Nobility Ticket, the kind you get when you couldn’t move your car because you were working and didn’t want to lose your flow, listening to a friend discuss her divorce or otherwise doing good in the world. You feel good when you pay these and almost want to write in the memo line of your check, “Fee for being such a good person.”

Because I’m 30, I don’t cram the Karma Ticket in the glove compartment and forget about it until it doubles. I pay it.

Now back to painted clowns.

I wake up after my evening at the Dark Horse. In my 20s, I would have had a series of concerns, sort of a self-administered shame questionnaire: Why did I do that? Should I still be dating that ex? What does it all mean? Why do I have to be such a jackass?

But now, it’s about slack. Just like my friend predicted, I don’t worry so much. I’m old enough to know what it costs to get wrapped up with a guy like Sexy Pete, which doesn’t mean I don’t get close, but it’s three dates and out. I don’t need to interpret what’s wrong with him or with me. I just move on with the mollifying impact of slack easing the way. I call the ex and we go over the highlights of the Dark Horse. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

Here’s the thing, if you spend the night where you shouldn’t or get crazy on martinis once a year, there’s no need to judge yourself. When it comes down to it, a few painted clowns doesn’t make your life a circus.

Teresa Strasser can be seen Fridays 8-10 p.m. and weekdays at 5 p.m. on TLC’s
“While You Were Out” and is on the Web at www.teresastrasser.com.

Tea House Therapy


Tired of serving up that familiar holiday honey cake? At the Rooibos Tea House, a happy, healthy New Year starts with African red tea and red tea baked goods.

"Cooking with our tea is a delicious way to celebrate the High Holidays — tasty and energizing," said Rooibos owner Nira Levy Maslin.

As I enter Rooibos Tea House on Fairfax, I look past the mahogany table and the draped white sheaths to find the source of that welcoming voice. With large dark eyes and an even larger smile, Maslin invites me to join her and her partner, Michael Broomberg, for some rooibos tea. "This tea will change your life," she says in a proud Israeli accent. "You don’t have to buy the tea, you just have to try it."

Who can say no to someone who is so passionate about a simple little drink?

Apparently, very few. Maslin and Broomberg’s teahouse is fast becoming one of Los Angeles’ places for "the other hot drink."

Rooibos, a low bush with spiky leaves that is grown exclusively in South Africa, is the new drink du jour amongst health-conscious, youth-seeking Angelenos. The organic, caffeine-free tea is rich in minerals and low in tannic acid. It’s higher in antioxidants (known to prevent cancer, reduce cholesterol and counter the aging process) than green tea, and is credited with relieving tension, mild depression and insomnia. And the taste is so sweet, there’s no need to add sugar.

"We only use the needles, not the stems. So it’s not bitter," said Broomberg, who grew up drinking rooibos in his native Capetown.

"Michael courted me with rooibos," Maslin remarked. "When we met, I was mildly depressed. Michael suggested I start drinking the tea. I fell for rooibos and for him," she said refilling my cup with my newfound favorite, rooibos with vanilla Madagascar and a touch of milk.

In addition to the vanilla, Rooibos Tea House sells rooibos with black cumin seeds, rooibos chai and rooibos natural and honeybush tea in loose-leaf form, tea bags or bulk (for making iced tea). The shop makes beautiful treasure chest-shaped gift baskets, sponsors art shows and free entertainment and hosts twice-monthly raw food dinners. Their tea is certified kosher by a South African beit din, said Maslin, who attends the Yemenite Synagogue Teferet Teman, in the Pico-Robertson area.

Maslin and Broomberg founded African Red Tea Imports two years ago to distribute the finest rooibos tea to mass markets like Trader Joe’s, Ralphs and Pavillions, among others. They opened The Rooibos Tea House last April to educate people about the tea and provide them with a calming place to enjoy it.

For Rosh Hashana, Maslin suggests baking a spicy tea cake or a date and nut loaf using rooibos, but any recipe can be made with the red tea. You simply replace any liquid ingredient the recipe calls for with an equal amount of rooibos tea, she said.

"Preparing High Holiday food with our rooibos tea not only adds valuable nutrition, it enriches the beautiful taste," said Maslin, touching the sizable silver mezuzah around her neck.

Spicy Tea Cake With Ginger Cream

1 cup butter
1 1¼2 cup sugar
1 egg plus 3 egg yolks
2 1¼2 cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
1¼2 teaspoon mace
1¼2 teaspoon powdered cloves
1¼2 teaspoon allspice
1¼2 teaspoon salt
1¼2 cup rooibos tea
Ginger Butter Cream
2 1¼ cups confectioners sugar
1 cup butter
2 tablespoons hot rooibos tea
Pinch of ginger

3 tablespoons chopped preserved ginger walnuts for garnishing.

Cream the sugar and butter very well. Add the beaten eggs and continue to cream well. Sieve the dry ingredients and add the tea and flour mixture alternately to the cream mixture. Stir well for smooth consistency.

Pour the mixture into two greased, lined, sandwich cake tins, 8 inches in diameter. Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes till done. Wait till cake cools, and ice the cake with the cream.

Alcohol Aftermath


On Purim, the Talmud commands us to drink until we "don’t know the difference between ‘Blessed be Mordechai’ and ‘Cursed be Haman.’"

Obviously, the talmudic rabbis never heard of "Just say no."

But the commandment to drink till we’re drunk is problematic, especially in a holiday that, some critics say, already celebrates sexual subjugation, murder and intermarriage.

It is problematic in a religion that advocates, as the Apocrypha states, "Moderation in all things."

And it is problematic in a society in which 10 percent of the population, Jews included, suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction or both.

Drinking permeates the Purim story: from the beginning, where King Ahasuerus hosts a weeklong feast for his officials and servants with "royal wine in abundance," (Megillah 1:7) to the end, where the Jews celebrate their victory and proclaim the 14th of Adar as an annual "day of feasting and gladness." (Megillah 9:17) A declaration that, according to some rabbis, prompted the talmudic dictate to drink to excess.

"I would argue that in this day and age, the commandment to drink till we’re blitzed ceases to have the force of mitzvah," says Rabbi Paul Kipnes, who leads Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, and who runs a program in the Los Angeles area for Jews in recovery from alcohol, drugs and other addictions.

But with or without the force of mitzvah, intemperate drinking is an accepted part of the Purim celebration and, many would argue, warranted. After all, without the two wine feasts arranged by Queen Esther and attended by King Ahasuerus and Haman, the miracle of Purim would never have happened.

At the first wine feast, Esther lays a trap for Haman by extravagantly flattering him. At the second, she reveals Haman’s plot to kill the Jews to King Ahasuerus. The king then orders Haman to be hanged on the gallows that Haman originally built for Mordechai.

Conversely, others would argue, myself included, that drinking triggers all the trouble in the first place.

After the week of feasting, when "the heart of the king was merry with wine" (Megillah 1:10), Ahasuerus orders his queen, Vashti, to parade naked, wearing only her crown, before him and his guests so he can show off her beauty. Vashti refuses and is banished, or, according to some sources, executed. This precipitates an all-points bulletin inviting beautiful young maidens to "audition" for the suddenly vacant position of queen — and makes way for Esther’s entrance.

It is also wine that later solemnizes the plot, when King Ahasuerus and Haman sit down to drink (Megillah 3:15) to seal the decree ordering the annihilation of the Jews.

"There is nothing wrong with drinking," Kipnes explains, "except when it becomes a raison d’etre or leads to people getting hurt."

"But," he adds, "Purim is one of three occasions where Jews who have gone down the path of alcoholism admit to getting drunk for the first time. The other two are Passover and b’nai mitzvah."

That’s not surprising as drinking pervades the Jewish calendar year — from multiple cups at Purim to four cups at Passover to one cup every Shabbat. It’s also present at Jewish life-cycle events — including wine given to anesthetize babies at the brit milah.

But ironically and erroneously, we Jews have a reputation for not getting drunk. In the 18th century, the philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote that Jews don’t get drunk because they "are exposed through their eccentricity and alleged chosenness to relax in their self-control." This is reinforced by the well-known Yiddish proverb, "The shikker is a goy."

Additionally, we Jews have a propensity for denial, for refraining from airing our dirty laundry in public, thereby serving to mask the addiction problem both in our homes and in our communities.

But the problem exists. And for us parents, license to drink heavily, even once a year, is not a message we want to give our children.

Not when, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, boys first try alcohol, on average, at age 11 and girls at 13.

Not when half of all teenage deaths result from driving under the influence of alcohol and about half of all teenage suicides involve alcohol use.

And not when the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that binge drinking is the number one substance-abuse problem on today’s college campuses, leading also to an increase in AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, date rape and other assaults.

Purim, this ostensibly frivolous and farcical holiday, celebrates the triumph of good over evil. But it does so by giving the message that drinking is the way to have fun, and by espousing behavior that is dangerous, demeaning and contrary to Judaism’s commandment of shmirat haguf, preventing bodily harm.

And there’s nothing good about that.