Religious zealots attack “immodest” Jerusalem shops


A sign at the ice cream parlor may caution men and women not to lick cones in public, but the warning didn’t stop Jewish zealots vandalizing the shop in Jerusalem’s main ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

Other businesses in Mea Shearim, including a book store and dress shops, have been damaged in night-time attacks by Sikrikim, a group of some 100 ultra-religious men who want one of the holy city’s most tradition-bound quarters to become even more conservative.

“Promiscuity” reads graffiti scrawled in black at the entrance of a clothing shop selling dresses whose lengthy hemline and drab colors have been deemed too racy by the group.

Other stores in the neighborhood, where men wear traditional black garb and women bare little but their face, have had their windows broken, locks glued and foul-smelling liquid smeared on walls.

“They also threw once a bag of excrement inside and smashed our windows three times,” said Marlene Samuels, manager of the Or Hachaim bookshop, whose bright lights and large storefront sign stand out among smaller and more dimly lit businesses.

The shop has been attacked more than 10 times since it opened a year and a half ago, Samuels said. The latest assault was last week when one of the store’s branches had its locks glued overnight.

Samuels said the shop’s owner met with the Sikrikim several times. The store stocks only religious books, but they include volumes published by Orthodox institutions that are Zionist—anathema to the Sikrikim, who believe a Jewish state can be established only with the coming of the Messiah.

Named after a small Jewish group which 2,000 years ago fought against Roman rulers and suspected Jewish collaborators, the modern-day Sikrikim strike at night and some wear masks to hide their identities.

“They use aggressive tactics and they also ask for protection money which involves paying (a religious inspector) coming in and removing the books he deems unfit,” Samuels said.

Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem councilman from the secular Israeli Meretz party, voiced concern that the existence of the Sikrikim, although a tiny minority, signified a growing divide among Jews in Israel.

“Society is becoming increasingly extremist. With the Sikrikim particularly, who are religiously motivated and rule out any position but their own, one cannot reckon, only fight them,” Margalit said.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up about 8 percent of Israel’s 7.7 million population. With an average of eight children per family, they are a fast-growing population. Many live below the poverty line and keep to dozens of their own towns and neighborhoods.

Mea Shearim area is small, less than half a square mile (1.3 square km), and home to about 30,000 residents considered among the most tight-knit and reclusive of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jews.

It takes about a minute to walk from Jerusalem’s city center to Mea Shearim, but the dozens of synagogues and Hassidic courts dotting its narrow alleyways are a world away from the cafes and bars of downtown Jerusalem.

Sikrikim attacks have also been reported at Beit Shemesh, a mixed secular and religious town with a growing ultra-Orthodox community, about half an hour’s drive from Jerusalem. The latest target there has been a religious girls’ school.

The Sikrikim who reside near the school object to the way the girls dress. Since the school year began in September they have regularly picketed outside shouting out at the students, most of them younger than 12, that they are promiscuous.

“They claim to be religious but what they do is a crime against God, against the Torah and against humanity,” said David Rotenberg, who works at Or Hachaim.

“SACRILEGE”

Up the road, the Zisalek ice cream parlor has separate entrances for men and women and a sign—posted at the request of local religious authorities—asking them to avoid any show of immodesty by licking cones in public.

“They (the Sikrikim) had a real ball with us,” said Guy Ammar, one of Zisalek’s owners, describing vandalism similar to attacks against other shops in the area.

“But we were not deterred. Residents here told us not to give up and business is going well now.”

Sikrikim shun the media and have made no public comment about their activities.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said an investigation was under way following two complaints lodged by Or Hachaim Center but no suspects have yet been arrested.

Some business owners in Mea Shearim said police has been slow to act, reluctant to get involved in what they see as internal disputes among different religious sects of a closed community.

Rosenfeld said that no other businesses have filed formal complaints in recent weeks.

A few minutes walk from Zisalek Ice Cream is the Greentech music shop, where Hassidic music plays in the background and one DVD in a collection of ultra-Orthodox movies is a suspense film about the battles of a rabbi against Christian missionaries.

The Sikrikim “do not like anything that changes the character of the shtetl and the way it was a hundred years ago,” a worker in the music store said, using a Yiddish term for the small towns where Eastern European Jews lived before the Holocaust.

Shlomo Kuk, an ultra-Orthodox journalist from Jerusalem, said the Sikrikim shouldn’t be seen as representative of devout Jews known as “haredim.”

“One thing is certain: they may dress like haredim but what they do is utter sacrilege which blackens the name of the entire haredi community,” Kuk said.

Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Sonya Hepinstall

Shoah lessons drive curriculum


The Holocaust will play a major role in educating teens at a new Green Dot charter school in Exposition Park. The entire staff of the Animo Jackie Robinson High School — seven teachers and two principals — has been trained to teach a curriculum by Facing History and Ourselves, a Boston-based organization that uses the Holocaust to help kids understand the impact of moral choices they make daily.

“In making our school a Facing History high school, we are saying ‘what if we could really shape all the curricular components with this vision? What would happen with kids from the inner city who are really struggling with moral choices, and who often have no idea what it means to have remorse for your actions?'” said assistant principal Kristen Botello.

 
The school has written a four-year curriculum that integrates the Facing History approach through several disciplines, including English, history, science, art and community service. Animo Jackie Robinson is the first school in Los Angeles to adopt Facing History as an underlying educational philosophy.

 
The school opened this year with 147 kids in ninth grade; 18 of them are African American and the rest are Latino. Grades will be added over the next three years until there are 600 ninth- to 12th-graders, and all teachers hired will be trained by Facing History.

 
“I believe the thought processes that result from Facing History affect the kids not only in terms of learning the content of the Holocaust, but in looking at human behavior and the specific, personal events where individuals had to make choices, and how individual choices impact history,” Botello said.

 
Botello taught English at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights for 14 years, 11 of them using the Facing History curriculum. She says she can always spot kids who had Facing History teachers.

 
“You can just see it in the way they behave, the way they treat each other and the tolerance levels they have for people who are different, not just in terms of race or ethnicity, but in terms of disabilities or challenges,” she said.
The Jackie Robinson educators were among 30 LAUSD teachers who participated in Facing History’s five-day September institute called “Holocaust and Human Behavior,” held at Mount St. Mary’s College Doheny Campus.

 
Around 1,500 teachers in Los Angeles have been trained by Facing History.
 
For information, visit www.facinghistory.org or www.greendot.org.

 
A helping foot
 
As they have been for the past 14 years, about 250 kids and families will lend their feet to AIDS Walk Los Angeles Oct. 15 as part of Kids Who Care, a team made up of kids from more than a dozen schools, including Stephen S. Wise Day School and Milken Community High School.
 
Last year, Kids Who Care raised $65,000, placing it fifth among the top AIDS Walk fundraisers, most of them corporations.

The team was founded with 25 walkers in 1992 by then-8-year-old Leo Beckerman, a Stephen S. Wise member. Since then, Stephen S. Wise families have raised more than $500,000 for AIDS Walk Los Angeles, now in its 22nd year.
 
The money funds direct services, prevention education and advocacy on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County.
 
There are approximately 55,000 people living with HIV in Los Angeles County, and there are 1,500-2,000 new infections each year.
 

For information visit www.WiseLA.org or www.aidswalk.net/losangeles.

 
Family dinners = better grades + better behavior
 
First ladies Maria Shriver and Corina Villaraigosa helped kick off Family Day at Thomas Starr King Middle School near Griffith Park Sept. 25. The Safeway Foundation launched a $2 million public service campaign to encourage families to eat dinner together.
 
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University founded Family Day in 2001 — and this year 600 cities participated. A CASA study found that compared to kids who have fewer than three family dinners per week, children and teens who have frequent family dinners are at 70 percent lower risk for substance abuse; half as likely to try cigarettes or marijuana; one-third less likely to try alcohol; and almost 40 percent likelier to say future drug use will never happen. The report also found that teens who have frequent family dinners are likelier to get better grades in school.

 
For information visit www.safeway.com or www.casafamilyday.org.

 
The next step for girls: Israel
 
The Orthodox Union’s (OU) Machon Maayan one-year program in Israel opened with its first class of 39 women, many of whom have scant Judaic studies background.
The post high-school seminary in Beit Shemesh — a half hour from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem — attracts girls who graduate from the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, the OU’s outreach youth movement, and want to continue in their Jewish studies.
 
“Where we stop, programs like Machon Maayan continue,” said Rabbi Steven Burg, National Director of NCSY, who was formerly the movement’s West Coast director.
For more information go to www.machonmaayan.org.

 

Bar/Bat Mitzvah – Author-Baker Rises to Bimah — at Last


Joanne Rocklin is obsessed with food. On her 60th birthday, she began summarizing her life with the essentials: “I love to cook. I love to eat.”

But it’s her passion for writing that has enabled her to come to terms with her life and her faith. The author of 20 children’s books, including her renowned “Strudel Stories” (Delacorte, 1999), is about to complete a chapter in her own life that many young Jews today take for granted. Rocklin wraps up two years of studies with Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills’ adult b’nai mitzvah program when she ascends to the bimah for her bat mitzvah on June 24. As she delivers her d’var Torah, she will share with the congregation the ways her past life connects with the discoveries she’s made about her Jewish self.

Although Rocklin is a clinical psychologist by training, her desire to write proved disruptive early in her professional life. The opposing tugs of two careers left her feeling unable to immerse herself fully in either profession. Factor in a divorce and the death of her mother, and it’s easy to understand why Rocklin craved the serious life changes symbolized by her upcoming bat mitzvah.

“I look Jewish, I eat Jewish. I felt Jewish, but I didn’t know anything about my background,” Rocklin said.

Her search for a congregation led her to Temple Emanuel, where Rabbi Laura Geller encouraged Rocklin to learn the liturgy by singing in the choir of the New Emanuel Minyan. With husband Gerry Nelson, whom she’d met through a personal ad in The Jewish Journal, she also joined a couples havurah built around discussions over potluck meals. During one havurah get-together, Rocklin demonstrated her newly developing challah-baking prowess.

But even before she discovered Temple Emanuel, the kind of study that leads to career achievement was always central to Rocklin’s life. As a young woman in Montreal, Rocklin studied to become an elementary school teacher. After moving to California in 1976 with her first husband and two sons, she studied for a doctorate in clinical psychology and soon established a practice focusing on the needs of children and families.

Yet a love for writing continued to gnaw at her. Before long, she was juggling family responsibilities, turning out children’s books in the morning and seeing patients in the afternoon. When divorce left her a single parent who needed to earn a living, a high-octane lifestyle became all the more essential.

Soon after Rocklin and Nelson married, he persuaded her to ease back on her workaholic tendencies. So she followed her heart and became a full-time writer.

The inspiration for “Strudel Stories” struck one day while Rocklin was browsing through Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking in America.” She spotted a reference to a Vermont woman who baked strudel with her children and grandchildren, sharing family stories while pounding and stretching the dough. The anecdote led Rocklin to invent a tale of three kitchens — one in czarist Russia, one in Brooklyn after World War II and one in present-day Los Angeles — in which strudel is made and stories are shared. Within this framework, Rocklin delicately introduced her young readers to Yiddish bubbemeises, Russian pogroms, the aftermath of the Holocaust and Jackie Robinson, as well as the joys of cooking with family.

Not long after the publication of “Strudel Stories,” Rocklin’s mother died. In her grief, she decided to make some changes. Rocklin told her husband it was time to move out of their condo and into a house. She also wanted a dog and a vegetable garden — and she wanted to join a synagogue.

Her b’nai mitzvah classmates include 14 women in various stages of life, from a young newlywed to an 83-year-old grandmother. They’ve studied Torah trope with Cantor Yonah Kliger, pored over the words of the sacred text with assistant Cantor Judy Greenfeld and rabbinic intern Pearl Berzansky, and even gone for a ritual dip at the University of Judaism’s mikvah to prepare for their upcoming rite of passage.

It’s only recently — since discovering the pleasures of Torah study for its own sake — that Rocklin said her workaholic side has truly relaxed itself.

In contrast to her former self, Rocklin no longer feels that a garden is a waste of time unless it produces vegetables. Instead of pouring all her energies into her writing career, she’s also embracing dawdling, taking tea with friends and playing with her cats. She’s begun a regular monthly volunteer stint at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center along with her golden retriever, Zoe, fulfilling the mitzvah of bikkur cholim (visiting the sick).

Last November, all of Rocklin’s new life lessons were put to the test when some suspicious spots were found on her lungs. There was a six-week period during which she made the rounds of labs and doctors’ offices, trying not to be overwhelmed by her glimpse of “another world … the world of the sick and dying,” she said.

When her chances looked bleak, before thoracic surgery confirmed that her problems were minor, all she wanted to do was bake bread.

Rocklin said she finds paying attention to the details of a bread recipe just as challenging and as fulfilling as the study of Torah. Following a 30-page recipe by La Brea Bakery’s Nancy Silverton, she has learned to savor each stage of the complex process that turns a homemade starter into a warm brown loaf. For Rocklin today, life is all about taking time to smell the challah.

Baking “slows you down,” Rocklin said. “Bread is an amazing thing. It’s just flour, water, and yeast … and it becomes alive.”

yeLAdim


Thank You!

The Navon family — Rebecca, Ariella, Eitan, Elisha and Asaf — gave us our pick for our new name: YeLAdim, which means children in Hebrew. The large L and A are in honor of where we live (good thing we aren’t in New York or it wouldn’t work). Thank you to all the kids who sent in ideas for a new name — you are really creative!

Kein v’ Lo:

Vashti

This section of the page will be a way for you as kids to sound off on an issue. This month’s kein v’ lo (yes and no) is about Queen Vashti. Is she, in the 21st century, a role model for women?

The Kein Side:

  • She stood up for what she believed in by refusing to dance in front of her drunk husband and his friends — wearing only her crown — during the royal feast. Even under penalty of death she stood by her convictions.
  • In earlier verses, she is referred to as “Vashti, the queen.” When she tells the king she won’t come, she is called “Queen Vashti,” to show that she has a mind of her own. The king’s advisers feared Vashti would start a trend. One adviser in particular (who some identify as Haman) told Ahashsuerus that he should issue a decree that women should obey their husbands, which he did.

The Lo Side:

  • She hosted a separate feast just for the women, but the sages say she held it in the same palace so the women would have a chance to flirt with the men. Some say she was incredibly vain and didn’t want to dance because she had a skin disease.
  • She was the great-granddaughter of the villainous King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who had destroyed the sacred Temple. On Shabbat, she would summon Jewish women and children and force them to work and do humiliating tasks.

We aren’t saying which is right and which is wrong. We want to know what you think. E-mail your thoughts to kids@jewishjournal.com with the subject line Vashti. We’ll publish your opinions on a future yeLAdim. And whether you like poppy seed or cherry filling in your hamantaschen

— Happy Purim!

About…Purim

“Purim is when we celebrate Jews being free to have their way of life and live peacefully. It teaches fairness and kindness, because it said Haman needed to be kind to people that were not like him, and that Esther was very fair in how she got him to stop.

“But the most important thing about Purim is that it’s a lot of fun. You eat yummy foods and have a big carnival. For Purim, I plan to attend my religious school’s Purim carnival and hear the Megillah.” — Mimi Erlick, 10, Farragut Elementary School, Culver City, and Adat Shalom Religious School.

Do you want to share your opinion about something? Just e-mail kids@jewishjournal.com and put About…(your topic) in the subject line. We’ll print as many as we can.

 

Fit L.A. – The Birthday Party Crasher: Dr. Atkins


Over the past few months, I have relished the apparent collapse of the low-carb industry. Low-carb specialty stores and magazines arrived with much fanfare but soon crumbled like a tired soufflé.

Good riddance to them, I thought — especially the magazine that tried to bilk me after I wrote an article for them. Low-carbism was just another sorry scheme to part consumers from their hard-earned bucks and their bagels.

And who could afford the stuff? I tried an insanely expensive low-carb pasta once. It was heavy, gummy and tasteless — and those were its finer qualities.

But I realized my satisfaction was premature, when I was confronted with the ghost of Dr. Atkins. She was draped in a Size 2 dress and toting a sorry slice of flourless bread between scrawny fingers.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. I was happily toting a batch of homemade bread and a broccoli quiche to a pot-luck birthday party, eager for some good fun and good eats. But I had barely crossed the threshold, when Sandy, the hostess and erstwhile birthday girl, announced that she had lost another 10 pounds on the Atkins plan.

Sandy had always been as slim as an asparagus spear. Why she felt compelled to whittle down to as thin as a blade of wheat grass was beyond me. And telling me bordered on the cruel. I forced a smile at her “achievement” as I placed my culinary contributions on the table.

“Mmmm, smells good,” Sandy said, leaning over to inhale the bread.

If she were still Atkinizing herself, could I blame her for wanting a little inhalation therapy of a wheat product?

“This is home baked, isn’t it?” I detected a plaintive quality to her question.

“Yes, and I made the broccoli quiche, too.”

Hope returned to her voice: “Is it crustless?”

“Uh, no, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were still no-carbing it.”

“I’m not no-carbing it; I’m low-carbing it,” she clarified.

“But Sandy, it’s your birthday, for crying out loud. Can’t you allow yourself a measly 50 or 60 carbs today? I mean, look at you. When you turn sideways you disappear.”

Sandy was saved from answering by a knock at the door. Linda and Rachel had arrived, the heavenly aroma of something Italian wafting in after them.

Soon, all the guests had settled around the table. I sliced my bread and passed the basket around. Sandy immediately passed the basket to Linda. Meanwhile, I saw her stealthily uncover a very dark, very thin slice of bread filled with sprouty-looking things from under her napkin.

“What is that?” Linda asked.

It appeared to have been made from at least 40 percent recycled paper products.

“It’s flourless protein bread,” Sandy explained. It was called Ezekiel 4.9, “as described in the Holy Bible,” according to the package, made from lentils, barley and spelt, whatever that was.

Just what we all needed: a “friend” seemingly bent on becoming skinnier than Lindsay Lohan and a loaf of bread that quoted scripture. Sandy offered us all a piece, and we each took polite little bites.

“Who says there’s no truth in advertising?” I asked. “This actually tastes biblical.”

“I thought the Atkins thing was over,” Linda chimed in helpfully, washing down her Ezekiel 4.9 with an eight-ounce cup of H2O.

“Not for me,” Sandy said. “I’m almost at my high school cheerleading weight, which is my goal. You may think it’s silly,” she admitted, ejecting a carrot curl from her salad as if it carried the avian flu.

Rachel was busily serving up a nice portion of the broccoli quiche and some low-fat manicotti: “My sister-in-law is going one better than you, Sandy. She’s only eating raw foods.”

“That sounds exhausting,” I said. “Who has that much time to chew?”

“She says it makes her feel light,” Rachel answered.

“If I want to feel that light, I’ll float in the Dead Sea,” I said.

Was I sounding a tad snarky? I couldn’t help it. I had been looking forward to this birthday party, and the guest of honor was ruining it for me. If only Sandy had warned us all in advance, we could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble and prepared a meal that she could have eaten without picking out half the ingredients, such as a plate of cheese slices and broiled zucchini. Rachel had made her famous Big Fat Greek Salad, but I was distracted by the sight of Sandy making a little hill of the croutons and shunting aside all the tomatoes, as well. What a waste of all that Vitamin C.

I didn’t say so at the time, but it didn’t seem to me that Dr. Atkins’ dietary brainstorm helped him very much, either. After all, he died after taking a fall. Seems to me that if he had had a little more padding on him, he probably could have just gotten up, dusted himself off and went on his merry way.

Of course, the Atkins people like to keep this quiet, but I also heard his cholesterol was higher than the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Despite all his efforts, you still never hear anybody say, “That’s the greatest thing since sliced celery.”

Inevitably, dessert time arrived. We all sang “Happy Birthday” to Sandy, but I wasn’t feeling so happy anymore. The unspoken pressure during lunch had made me peel off the pasta from the manicotti, and even I was reduced to foregoing the croutons on the Greek salad. It’s amazing how fast mass hysteria can spread.

Rachel served her luscious carrot cake, and Sandy blew out the candles before eating a piece. But no matter how long she sat there, no way could Sandy pick out all the microscopic pieces of carrot from a slab of carrot cake.

However, it all worked out in the end. While the rest of us ate the actual cake, we scraped off the cream cheese frosting and gave it to Sandy.

Judy Gruen (www.judygruen.com) is the author of two award-winning humor books, including “Till We Eat Again: Confessions of a Diet Dropout” (Champion, 2002).

 

When You Can’t Go Home Again


Ah, the High Holidays. Time to gather, celebrate, eat, fast, repent and eat some more. But before you can get to any of that, there’s another, perhaps less-ancient tradition that takes place a few weeks prior. It’s the High Holiday scramble, and anyone without deeply planted roots knows how the dance goes. Jewish New Year works much like Dec. 31: You don’t want to be alone; there’s pressure to have someplace to go; and for transplants, singles and others, the options are less obvious than a meal with the family and services at the synagogue where you grew up. A little originality is called for, and the industrious don’t miss a beat.

Witness the “orphan party.” The wandering Jew’s answer to family dinner involves the gathering of “orphans,” a.k.a., friends, brothers, sisters, cousins and anyone else who doesn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday.

“As a single person, I rally all my friends together,” longtime New York transplant Amy Levy said. “I want to make sure my friends have someplace to go…. For years I’ve had people to my home. I make fantastic pot roast, everybody brings something. I’ve created a new tradition with my friends. We celebrate the holidays together.”

Since taking on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur can be a big commitment, this year, when the repenting is done, “I’ll go to my friend, Joana’s Aunt Sandy’s,” Levy said. “My boyfriend and I are going there for break the fast.”

Services, too, can be a stress-inducing dilemma. At around $300 a head, standard synagogue membership can become a much less appealing consideration for those without families close by, and many synagogues don’t offer discounts for adults older than 25.

Some synagogues and Jewish organizations, like Sinai Temple (www.sinaitemple.org) and Aish (www.aish.com), offer reduced fees for those in their 20s and early 30s, and Jewish Singles Meet! (whose reservation line is (818) 780-4809) welcomes singles in their 30s and 40s to their services. A few other synagogues, like Temple Beth Zion-Sinai in Lakewood (www.tbzs.org), charge for tickets but will not turn people away because of an inability to pay. And then there’s always Chabad (www.chabad.com), the Chai Center (www.chaicenter.org) and the Laugh Factory (323) 656-1336), that offer completely free services and meals for the masses.

“We joined a temple because they had youth fees, so if you were under 34 it was like $100 for the year, and that got you tickets to the High Holidays,” said Karen Gilman, who moved to Los Angeles with her sister nearly five years ago. “But, I wasn’t wowed by their services, and when I turned 34 they were going to up my fees a lot. So I didn’t go to services last year.”

This year, Gilman will spend the holidays with her parents in New York. Financially, however, that’s not always an option. She and her sister have hosted Passover orphan parties for the last few years, with their penchant for hosting so acclaimed, that one friend nicknamed her sister the Pesach Queen.

Levy, on the other hand, will attend services at various synagogues around Los Angeles. She has said she likes to “explore the opportunities available to me on an a la carte basis.”

And while she admitted that the researching of prices, and the prices of services themselves, can seem overwhelming, she was equally quick to emphasize the value of it, at least to her.

“I really enjoy the holidays and as a person not married and without children, I don’t have a temple membership, but I’ve never missed a year of going to temple on the holidays,” Levy said. — Keren Engelberg,, Contributing Writer

In the Soup


My parents visited a year ago while I recuperated from lung cancer surgery and they developed a division of labor.

My father would do odd jobs around the house. My mother would feed me.

This was a good plan in theory, but in reality, it had loopholes. My father’s tasks were well-defined: fix a fence, change a light bulb.

But my mother struggled. What is it exactly her middle-aged daughter with upper-middle-class tastes liked to eat? The fact is that both of us had long since stopped cooking most of our meals, taking our nourishment from restaurants and take-out. Nevertheless, there persisted in her the belief that when a "child" is sick, only homemade foods will do. Familiar, nourishing, Jewish foods.

It had been decades since we’d all lived together. Immediately, she returned to the rigid cooking rhythm I recognized from my youth — Monday and Thursday she served fish, followed by sour cream and fruit; Tuesday and Wednesday, meat. If it seemed awkward to me, like stepping into a sepia photo, to her and dad it was preordained, as natural as lighting candles on Friday.

But it wasn’t to work.

Within hours of the folks’ arrival, my friends indicated that they knew me better than she did. Day after day, well-wishers came by the house loaded with platters and casseroles. My mother stood miserably at the door as the parade came by, stunned by the variety and creativity of the offerings. Little did she know that in sunny California, health and healing was based on soup: chicken soup, of course, but also barley, lentil, squash, tomato-vegetable and bean.

Overwhelmed by an overstuffed refrigerator, my mother surrendered, serving from the bounty that was given us.

I ate the donations my friends delivered, and she did, too. She returned home to Florida, plainly stewed.

Fast-forward. I healed from the surgery. But the long-distance phone calls were confusing. I was undergoing high-level biotech cancer treatments that seemed to transform their daughter into a one-woman human genome project. In frustration at the scientific complexity, mom and dad threw up their hands. OK, no parents should have to know from signal interference and cell aptosis. But the real question was: What was I eating?

Mom and dad arrived again to see for themselves.

This time, mom had a plan. While dad got right to work on his home repairs, mom settled into the kitchen: Operation Soup.

Out of my kitchen came scalding vats of chicken noodle soup with matzah balls, vegetable soup, bean and barley. With mom busy night and day, the word went out to friend and neighbor: hold the pottage.

The trouble was cancer treatment had ripped into my taste buds. I did my best to fake it. But I couldn’t abide the smell of vegetables, let alone chicken. What’s a mother to do?

One day we visited Elayne, whose home was perfumed with the ancient sugar-meat smell of tzimmes. Of the great dietary mysteries, somehow I could tolerate a brisket-potatoes-carrots melange, but not my poor mother’s barley soup.

"You eat tzimmes?" my mother stammered. "I’ll make you tzimmes!"

"Mom! Please don’t!"

But there she was, leaning her exhausted body over the sink, steadying herself while she cut yams and carrots into a boiling brew.

It broke my heart to see her work so hard, but she was unstoppable.

Then, a day later, the doorbell rang. It was my friend, chef Andy, with daughter, Sally, and dog, Abe. Andy carried a huge aluminum pan of an award-winning tzimmes of his own. His tzimmes is loaded with the flanken that for months I could not go near. By a fluke, this flanken I could stand.

Last week, my parents visited again. My father hung pictures and bathroom hooks. n

Mom served cheese blintzes straight from a New York deli. Delicious! See, you can’t keep a good woman down.

+