Kvetching Fire: The video that will get you through Yom Kippur


Worried about how to get through the 24-hour fast?

Katniss Eversteen, the protagonist of “The Jewish Hunger Games,” a clever parody by Andrew Zenn and Jon Rudnitsky, can help you out.

“This is crunch time,” announces a helpful voiceover. “There will be temptation.”

The Meaning of Memory: A Yizkor Reflection


I grew up in a home filled with food and love and laughter and music and Yiddishkayt and stories. I was the youngest of four kids and we were part of a tribe in Boro Park, Brooklyn, with my uncle Nat’s family living on the floor above us, my uncle Ruby’s family living next door to us, and my grandparents living above them. Nobody ever knocked on the door and nobody ever needed a key, everybody was always barging into everybody else’s home.

My parents were soul mates. They were constantly singing in harmony, walking hand in hand. As I grew, one by one my older siblings moved out and went off to college. And pretty soon it was just me, my mom and my dad. It was quieter, but it was beautiful.

One night when I was 15, my parents went out. They were walking on the street when a man held them up at gunpoint. My father was shot, and he died. And now it was just me and my mom. As you can imagine, the two of us became unnaturally close, the way two broken hearts have to figure it all out together. When I was in high school I tried so hard never to cry; I didn’t want to add to my mother’s sorrow. Instead, I threw myself into my studies. I was such a studious kid, such a nerd. I’d always work myself into a tizzy before an exam, and then I’d turn to my mom on the day of the test and I’d say, “Mom, bless me before the test. And bless my pen, too.” And she’d say, “Nomeleh, don’t you know I’m a good witch. I know how it is, and I know how it will be.” And I would take my blessed pen and scurry off to school.

[More from Rabbi Naomi Levy: A Memorial Prayer for Yom Kippur]

And then it came time for me to go to college. Honestly, I don’t know how she found the strength to send me off to college. How do you send your fourth child off when you have nothing at home but memories of a life that once was? I don’t know how I left, but I did.

And I hated it. It was a culture shock to go from Boro Park and an Orthodox Jewish yeshiva high school to Cornell University. It was so gentile. And preppy. I’d never seen so many headbands and Topsiders in my life. And they kept saying that the ideal Cornelian is a scholar and an athlete. Some Greek ideal. Well, I was no athlete, and I didn’t see myself as a scholar. So I started calling my mom every night, crying hysterically, “I want to go home. I don’t like it here.” And she was so strong. She’d say, “I want you to stay. Trust me, I’m a good witch.”  And then she’d bless me for my upcoming test.

And she was right. After six months and 15 pounds, I did learn to love college and I made new friends and I loved the learning. Though I never did get into athletics.

She was right about so many things. She knew my husband was the right man for me even before I knew it. “Trust me,” she said, “I’m a good witch. He’s a keeper.” And she walked me down the aisle at our wedding. Just the two of us.  Me and my mom, hand in hand. And she gave me away again. It was hard for her to let me go and live so far away from home.

And then the widow with the broken heart became a bubbe with a full heart and a full schedule of friends and grandchildren and volunteering and studies. And her Bat Mitzvah at age 80.

At her 70th birthday celebration, just when we thought she was going to make a speech, she turned around to me and she said, “Nomeleh, I want you to bless me.”

All those years as a rabbi I spent giving blessings to others, all those years she’d been blessing me, and I had never blessed her.  So I placed my hands on my mother’s head, and I blessed her. How can I describe what passed between us?  From that day on, it became our ritual. She’d call me every single night and ask me for her blessing. She had trouble sleeping, so I’d bless her. I’d say, “Mom, I bless you with peace, I bless you with sleep through the night, sweet dreams.”

She had various ailments: her eyes, her legs, her feet, her asthma, her stomach. I’d call her, and I’d say, “Mom, how are your giblets doing?” She’d laugh, we’d talk, and then she’d say, “I need my blessing.” And I’d bless her. “I bless you with peace, I bless you with sleep through the night, sweet dreams.”

Over the last several years I found myself saving her voicemails. People were constantly complaining that my mailbox was full, but I couldn’t erase my mother’s sweet messages: “Shabbat Shalom,” “Happy birthday,” “Shanah tovah,” “Happy Mother’s Day.”

Over the last few years, I’d say we spoke on the phone about six times a day.  She wanted to know the details. If it was a Friday of Nashuva (the Jewish community I lead), she’d call first to bless me and wish me good luck, and then she’d ask, “What are you going to talk about tonight?” And then there were the wrap up calls, “So, nu? How was Nashuva? How did it go? How was your sermon? Was it well received? How many people came?”

If I was traveling to speak out of town, I’d get a call in the taxi on the way to the airport. We’d talk and then I’d say, “I’ve got to go, Mom, I’m going through security.” And she’d say, “OK, call me on the other side.” I’d call, we’d chat, I’d board the plane:

“I’ve got to go, they’ve closed the cabin doors.”

“OK, call me when you land.”

Feasting after fasting: Recipes for breaking the fast after Yom Kippur


Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a holiday for serious fasting — no food or drink for 25 hours. At the end of the day, our thoughts inevitably turn to what we want to eat at sundown to break the fast.          

When I spoke with several friends about Yom Kippur foods they remember from growing up, many said their favorite break-the-fast meal was a variety of spicy, ready-to-eat deli foods. Some dishes were homemade and could be prepared several days in advance, while others were picked up at the local deli.

A deli buffet enables you to serve a combination of deli specialties to satisfy everyone. But you don’t have to buy deli food — the recipes that I am suggesting are easy to prepare. My menu is based on our family favorites that are prepared in advance. 

Early in the morning, a buffet table is made ready with plates, cutlery and an assortment of bowls and platters. 

When the hungry guests arrive, they are met with welcoming cups of Shiitake Mushroom and Barley Soup. The soup is accompanied by slices of raisin-filled challah

Several homemade salads, including a Scandinavian Herring Potato Salad and a Cauliflower Anchovy Salad, a cheese platter, pickles, olives and more of your deli selections will reward the dedicated fasters.  

Instead of the smoked fish that is usually served for the-break-the-fast meal, I have included a recipe for a Pickled Salmon. The fish is poached with pickling spices and served with homemade fresh Tartar Sauce or Tuna Sauce. What I find particularly appealing about this dish is that it can be prepared the day before and served chilled.

Desserts are my specialty, and I plan to do my own baking. Serve Rugelach and a delicious high-rise Coffee and Spice Honey Cake. 

Shiitake Mushroom and Barley Soup

Sautéing all the ingredients before adding the stock brings out the intense mushroom flavor of this robust soup.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups vegetable or pareve chicken stock

2 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons pearl barley

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon dry sherry

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, celery and carrots, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add shiitake mushrooms (other fresh mushrooms may be substituted) and garlic; cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.


Add vegetable stock, soy sauce, barley, thyme and sherry. Reduce heat to low, cover partially, and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into heated soup bowls.  

Makes 4 to 6 servings. 


Cauliflower Anchovy Salad

Cauliflower’s taste and color are subdued, so the zippy flavor of this salad’s anchovy dressing gives the understated vegetable a dynamic flavor boost.

1 cup Parsley-Anchovy Dressing
(recipe follows)

1 head cauliflower, rinsed
and separated into florets

Prepare Parsley-Anchovy Dressing, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.

In a large saucepan, using a vegetable rack, steam cauliflower until tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Spoon just enough dressing over cauliflower to moisten and toss. Serve immediately.  

Makes 4 servings.


Parsley-Anchovy Dressing

1/4 small onion, diced

1 can (2 ounces) anchovy fillets, drained

3/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 cups tightly packed parsley sprigs, stems removed (about 1 bunch)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Blend onion, anchovies, olive oil and vinegar in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add parsley, a little at a time, and puree until the dressing is a bright green color. Season with pepper to taste.  

Transfer to a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill.  If dressing thickens after chilling, add additional olive oil and mix well.  This will keep for several days in the refrigerator.  

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.



Pickled Salmon With Two Sauces

3 pounds salmon fillets

4 bay leaves

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

3 tablespoons pickling spices

6 cups cold water

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 large carrots thinly sliced 

1 stalk celery, thinly sliced

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

Tuna Sauce (recipe follows)

Tarter Sauce (recipe follows)

1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish

 

Wrap salmon fillets in cheesecloth and tie ends of cloth with string. 

Place bay leaves, peppercorns and pickling spices in a separate square of cheesecloth, tying ends with string to form a pouch.

Add water, onion, carrots, celery, vinegar, salt, sugar and bay leaf mixture in pouch to a heavy pot; bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes; remove pouch from broth. 

Gently lower the cheesecloth-wrapped salmon into the simmering broth and cook 3 minutes. Cool fish in broth. When cool, remove fish from broth, unwrap, and transfer to serving plate with large spatula. Serve with Tuna Sauce and/or Tartar Sauce, garnished with lemon slices. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


Tuna Sauce

1 (6-ounce) can tuna packed in olive oil,       drained

5 flat anchovy fillets

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons capers, soaked and rinsed

3/4 cup olive oil

 

Blend the tuna, anchovies, lemon juice and capers in a food processor or blender, with the metal blade in place, until smooth. Continue processing and pour the olive oil in a steady, thin stream through the feeder tube until it’s the consistency of a thick sauce. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill. 

Makes about 1 cup.

High Holy Day services guide: Alternative services


For other services, visit our ” target=”_blank” title=”Family”>Family, ” target=”_blank” title=”Kever Avot”>Kever Avot, ” target=”_blank” title=”Tashlich”>Tashlich calendars.

” target=”_blank” title=”metivta.org”>metivta.org.

COMMUNITY HIGH HOLY DAYS
Sun. 7:30 p.m. Free. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 653-7420. ” target=”_blank” title=”estherleon.com”>estherleon.com.

DAYS OF AWESOME
Jewlicious’ nontraditional, interactive High Holiday experience. For young professionals (20s and 30s). Mon. 9:30 a.m. Free (reservations recommended). Hillel Harkam Academy, 9120 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 277-5544. ” target=”_blank” title=”sholem.org”>sholem.org.

THE WALKING STICK
The scenic foothills of Simi Peak just outside of Thousand Oaks provide the backdrop, and author and singer-songwriter Rabbi Miriam Maron and author Rabbi Gershon Winkler incorporate ancient wisdom, spirited chant, entrancing movement, joyful celebration, and shamanic ceremony (completely Jewish-based). Childcare available. Mon. 1 p.m. Donation requested: $50 (RSVP required). Private home, 2000 Upper Ranch Road, Thousand Oaks. (805) 795-2996. ” target=”_blank” title=”nashuva.com”>nashuva.com

METIVTA
Chant and meditation service. Tue. 10 a.m. $50 (includes today’s service only). Olympic Collection, 11301 Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 654-9293. TUE SEPT 25 — KOL NIDRE

DAYS OF AWESOME
Jewlicious’ nontraditional, interactive High Holiday experience. For young professionals (20s and 30s). Tue. 6 p.m. Free (reservations recommended). Hillel Harkam Academy, 9120 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 277-5544.” target=”_blank” title=”sholem.org”>sholem.org.

THE WALKING STICK
The scenic foothills of Simi Peak just outside of Thousand Oaks provide the backdrop, and author and singer-songwriter Rabbi Miriam Maron and author Rabbi Gershon Winkler incorporate ancient wisdom, spirited chant, entrancing movement, joyful celebration and shamanic ceremony (completely Jewish-based). Childcare available. Tue. 7 p.m. Donation requested: $50, (Kol Nidre only). $100 (Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur). RSVP required. Private home, 2000 Upper Ranch Road, Thousand Oaks. (805) 795-2996. ” target=”_blank” title=”estherleon.com”>estherleon.com.


WED SEPT 26 — YOM KIPPUR

COMMUNITY HIGH HOLY DAYS
Wed. 9:30 a.m.  Free. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 653-7420. “>jconnectla.com.

THE WALKING STICK
The scenic foothills of Simi Peak just outside of Thousand Oaks provide the backdrop, and author and singer-songwriter Rabbi Miriam Maron and author Rabbi Gershon Winkler incorporate ancient wisdom, spirited chant, entrancing movement, joyful celebration and shamanic ceremony (completely Jewish-based). Childcare available. Wed. 1 p.m.-sundown. Donation requested: $75 (Yom Kippur only). $100 (Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur). RSVP required. Private home, 2000 Upper Ranch Road, Thousand Oaks. (805) 795-2996. calendar@jewishjournal.com.

High Holy Day services guide: College services


For other services, visit our ” target=”_blank” title=”Family”>Family, ” target=”_blank” title=”Kever Avot”>Kever Avot, ” target=”_blank” title=”Tashlich”>Tashlich calendars.

” target=”_blank” title=”uschillel.org”>uschillel.org.

CHABAD HOUSE AT CSUN
All Valley-based college students welcome. Sun. Candle-lighting time (6:39 p.m.). Free (students, includes meal). Chabad House at CSUN, 17833 Prairie St., Northridge. (818) 885-5770. ” target=”_blank” title=”uclahillel.org”>uclahillel.org.

UNIVERSITY SYNAGOGUE
College/grad students granted free admission to all-ages service. Must show valid school ID. Sun. 7:30 p.m. Free (advance registration required). University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255.  ” target=”_blank” title=”tioh.org”>tioh.org.


MON SEPT 17 — ROSH HASHANAH (FIRST DAY)

HILLEL AT UCLA
Students must show university ID. Mon. Traditional egalitarian: 9 a.m., Orthodox: 9:15 a.m., 6:40 p.m.; Reform: 9:30 a.m. Free (UCLA students, RSVP required). Hillel at UCLA, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-3081, ext. 213. ” target=”_blank” title=”uschillel.org”>uschillel.org.

CHABAD HOUSE AT CSUN
All Valley-based college students welcome. Mon. 10 a.m. Free (students, includes meal). Chabad House at CSUN, 17833 Prairie St., Northridge. (818) 885-5770. ” target=”_blank” title=”unisyn.org”>unisyn.org.

TEMPLE ISRAEL OF HOLLYWOOD
Students/Birthright Israel alumni granted free admission to all-ages service. Student ID/dates of Birthright trip and name of trip provider required. Mon. 10:15 a.m. (Sanctuary service, Minyan service). Free (advance registration required). Temple Israel of Hollywood, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 876-8330. ” target=”_blank” title=”uclahillel.org”>uclahillel.org.

CHABAD HOUSE AT CSUN
All Valley-based college students welcome. Tue. 10 a.m. Free (students, includes meal). Chabad House at CSUN, 17833 Prairie St., Northridge. (818) 885-5770. ” target=”_blank” title=”uschillel.org”>uschillel.org.


TUE SEPT 25 — KOL NIDRE

HILLEL AT UCLA
Students must show university ID. Tue. Traditional egalitarian: 6:15 p.m.; Orthodox, Reform: 6:30 p.m. Free (UCLA students, RSVP required). Hillel at UCLA, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-3081, ext. 213. ” target=”_blank” title=”chabadcsun.com”>chabadcsun.com.

USC HILLEL
Hillel invites USC students to celebrate the High Holy Days. Tue. 6:45 p.m. $18 (single-service ticket), $72 (all-services ticket). USC Hillel, 3300 S. Hoover St., Los Angeles. (213) 747-9135. ” target=”_blank” title=”unisyn.org”>unisyn.org.

TEMPLE ISRAEL OF HOLLYWOOD
Students/Birthright Israel alumni granted free admission to all-ages service. Student ID/dates of Birthright trip and name of trip provider required. Tue. 8 p.m. Free (advance registration required). Temple Israel of Hollywood, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 876-8330.” target=”_blank” title=”uclahillel.org”>uclahillel.org.

USC HILLEL
Hillel invites USC students to celebrate the High Holy Days. Wed. 9:30 a.m. (yizkor at 12:30 p.m. $18 (single-service ticket), $72 (all-services ticket). USC Hillel, 3300 S. Hoover St., Los Angeles. (213) 747-9135. ” target=”_blank” title=”chabadcsun.com”>chabadcsun.com.

UNIVERSITY SYNAGOGUE
College/grad students granted free admission to all-ages service. Must show valid school ID. Wed. 10 a.m. (morning service), 3:30 p.m/ (afternoon, memorial and concluding services). University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255. ” target=”_blank” title=”tioh.org”>tioh.org.

Are we missing a service? E-mail us at calendar@jewishjournal.com.

High Holy Day services guide: Family services


For other services, visit our ” target=”_blank” title=”College”>College, ” target=”_blank” title=”Kever Avot”>Kever Avot, ” target=”_blank” title=”Tashlich”>Tashlich calendars.

” target=”_blank” title=”zimmermuseum.org”>zimmermuseum.org

TEMPLE AHAVAT SHALOM
Geared toward families with young children (8 and under), this hour-long service offers opportunities for children and adults alike to join in both traditional and contemporary song and prayer while sharing in stories and special Torah readings reflecting the mood of the season. Sun. 6-7 p.m. Free. Temple Ahavat Shalom, Sanctuary, 18200 Rinaldi Place, Northridge. RSVP to (818) 360-2258. ” target=”_blank” title=”tasnorthridge.org”>tasnorthridge.org.

TEMPLE ISRAEL OF HOLLYWOOD
Toddlers through second-graders. Mon. 8:30 a.m. Free (no tickets required). Temple Israel of Hollywood, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 876-8330. ” target=”_blank” title=”adatariel.org”>adatariel.org.

IKAR
The progressive egalitarian community holds family services for parents and children (2-year-olds to first-graders). Mon. 9-9:45 a.m. Free (parent must show ID). Westside Jewish Community Center, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 634-1870. ” target=”_blank” title=”bcc-la.org”>bcc-la.org.

SHOMREI TORAH SYNAGOGUE
For families – especially those with third- to seventh-graders — this service will feature a full band, interactive stories, high-energy music and inclusive participation. Led by Rabbi Erez Sherman. Babysitting available for children 2 to 5. Mon. 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Free. Pomelo Elementary School, 7633 March Ave., West Hills. (818) 346-0811. ” target=”_blank” title=”sholem.org”>sholem.org.

TEMPLE EMANUEL
Tot service (toddlers and pre-schoolers). Mon. 11-11:30 a.m. Free. Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. (310) 274-6388. ” target=”_blank” title=”bethshirshalom.org”>bethshirshalom.org.

UNIVERSITY SYNAGOGUE
For younger children. Mon. 1:30 p.m. Free (tickets and registration required). University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255. ” target=”_blank” title=”leobaecktemple.org”>leobaecktemple.org.

TEMPLE KOL TIKVAH
Mon. 2 p.m. Free. Temple Kol Tikvah, 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 348-0670. ” target=”_blank” title=”adatelohim.org”>adatelohim.org.

TEMPLE JUDEA
Mon. 3:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. Free. Temple Judea, 5429 Lindley Ave., Tarzana. (818) 758-3800. “>wisela.org.


TUE SEPT 18 — ROSH HASHANAH (SECOND DAY)

IKAR
The progressive egalitarian community holds family services for parents and children (2-year-olds to first-graders). Parents are encouraged to attend with their children. Tue. 9-9:45 a.m. Free (parent must show ID). Westside Jewish Community Center, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 634-1870. TUE SEPT 25 — KOL NIDRE

TEMPLE AHAVAT SHALOM
Geared toward families with young children (8-and-under), this hour-long service offers opportunities for children and adults alike to join in both traditional and contemporary song and prayer while sharing in stories and special Torah readings reflective of the mood of the season. Tue. 6-7 p.m. Free. Temple Ahavat Shalom, Sanctuary, 18200 Rinaldi Place, Northridge. (818) 360-2258. ” target=”_blank” title=”tasnorthridge.org”>tasnorthridge.org.

TEMPLE ISRAEL OF HOLLYWOOD
Toddlers through second-graders. Wed. 8:30 a.m. Free (no tickets required). Temple Israel of Hollywood, 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 876-8330. ” target=”_blank” title=”adatariel.org”>adatariel.org.

IKAR
The progressive egalitarian community holds family services for parents and children (2-year-olds to first-graders). Parents are encouraged to attend with their children. Wed. 9-9:45 a.m. Free (parent must show ID). Westside Jewish Community Center, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 634-1870. ” target=”_blank” title=”stsonline.org”>stsonline.org.

BETH CHAYIM CHADASHIM
BCC education director Leah Zimmerman leads this service for parents and their kids (ages 1-12). Wed. 11 a.m. Free. Temple Isaiah, 10345 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 931-7023. ” target=”_blank” title=”tebh.org”>tebh.org.

UNIVERSITY SYNAGOGUE
For younger children. Wed. 1:30 p.m. Free (tickets and registration required). University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255. ” target=”_blank” title=”bethshirshalom.org”>bethshirshalom.org.

TEMPLE KOL TIKVAH
Wed. 2 p.m., 4 p.m. (afternoon service), 5:15 p.m. (Yizkor/Neilah). Free. Temple Kol Tikvah, 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 348-0670. ” target=”_blank” title=”leobaecktemple.org”>leobaecktemple.org.

TEMPLE ADAT ELOHIM
For parents who want to attend High Holy Days services with their young children (preschoolers to second-graders; older siblings permitted), this 30-minute service is for you. Wed. 3-3:30 p.m. Free. Temple Adat Elohim, 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks. (805) 497-7101. ” target=”_blank” title=”templejudea.com”>templejudea.com.

STEPHEN S. WISE TEMPLE
Join Stephen S. Wise for this service designed for children (birth to age 6) and their families. Stephen S. Wise Temple Clergy will lead this musical and age-appropriate service, so that families can celebrate Yom Kippur together. Wed. 4 p.m. Free (no tickets required). Skirball Cultural Center, Magnin Auditorium, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 889-2383. “>wisela.org.

Are we missing a service? E-mail us at calendar@jewishjournal.com.

Palestinian Khader Adnan tests limits of Israel’s system of military detention


As his weight dropped and his face grew gaunt, Khader Adnan became the latest Palestinian cause celebre.

Israel arrested Adnan, a 33-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank village of Arraba, on Dec. 17 and placed him in administrative detention. The former spokesman for the terrorist group Islamic Jihad was one of thousands of Palestinians over the years who have been arrested and held by Israel for months on end without charges.

What made Adnan’s case different was the hunger strike he launched after his arrest, galvanizing Palestinians and some Israeli human right activists, and catching the attention of international media.

On Tuesday, after 66 days without eating and with his condition reportedly critical, Adnan agreed to end his hunger strike after Israel said it would release him when the order for his administrative detention ends in mid-April—if no new evidence is brought against him.

The deal with Israel’s state prosecutor came less than an hour before the Israeli Supreme Court was to hold a hearing on Adnan’s case and as Israeli security officials warned that Adnan’s death could spark a wave of violent demonstrations throughout the West Bank.

“I always dreamt of marrying someone strong, someone who struggles in defense of his country,” Adnan’s wife, Randa, told Al Jazeera. “When I married him I knew I should expect anything. I am proud of him, whether he is under the ground or above it.”

Adnan’s case ignited a debate in Israel about the issue of administrative detention. Over the past few weeks, thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have held rallies to support Adnan, and several dozen Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv last week calling for Adnan’s release and an end to the practice of administrative detention.

The legal basis for Israeli administrative detention is a British mandate law from 1946, part of a Law on Authority in States of Emergency. Administrative detention orders are issued for a maximum of six months, although they can be easily renewed. A military judge must confirm the order.

Israel often uses administrative detention when the evidence against a defendant is based on information from the security services. In many cases, Israeli officials say a public trial could reveal sensitive security information, such as the identities of Palestinian informers or Israeli security agents who have infiltrated Palestinian organizations.

“It’s always a dilemma,” said Jonathan Livny, a lawyer and former military judge for more than 20 years. “I never felt like I had the tools to make a decision on whether to uphold an administrative detention order. Most often I upheld or shortened it, but rarely canceled it.”

Livny says that cases based solely on Palestinian informants can be suspect, as Palestinians sometimes will provide false information to Israeli security agents if they bear a grudge against another Palestinian.

“I always asked the security agents, “Do you know the informant? How reliable is his information?’ ” Livni said. “But at the end of the day I never really knew.”

There are 309 Palestinians in administrative detention among the nearly 4,800 Palestinian prisoners in Israel, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. One prisoner has been held in administrative detention for more than five years, the group says, and 17 have been held for two to four years.

Adameer, a Palestinian human rights group, says that some 20,000 Palestinians have been held under administrative detention orders since 2000.

“Administrative detention is a draconian measure,” B’Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli told JTA. “You’re taking away a person’s liberty without due process, without a trial and without the person being able to fight against these charges.”

Michaeli said that while administrative detention is not illegal, it should be used only in very limited circumstances, not for widespread detention of hundreds of Palestinians.

Some in Israel defend the use of administrative detention as an effective means of preventing terrorist attacks against Israel.

“Administrative detention is a tool used when information pertaining to a case is based on sensitive sources that cannot be released,” said Israel Defense Forces spokesman Eytan Buchman. “Defendants retain the right to appeal the court order, both to the military court and to the High Court of Justice.”

Administrative detention has been used occasionally against Israelis, including in the aftermath of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. But it is most often used against Palestinians.

Many Israeli politicians support administrative detention.

“We have seen periods when buses were blowing up in Jerusalem. Administrative detention helps secure the well-being of Israelis,” said the Likud Party’s Danny Danon, a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

But several Israeli human rights groups say that the practice of administrative detention contradicts international law and must be ended. Amnesty International had launched a campaign urging Israel to free Adnan and to stop the practice of administrative detention.

“Under administrative detention, detainees’ right to a fair trial as guaranteed by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) are consistently violated,” Amnesty wrote in a statement.

This isn’t the first time Adnan has been in prison. Palestinian reports said Adnan had been detained eight times by Israel and once by the Palestinian Authority, in 2010. It’s not clear whether his current detention is related to any direct involvement in terrorist attacks. In his village of Arraba, Adnan reportedly owns a bakery.

Tisha B’Av Social Justice [VIDEO]


Jewish leaders fast against budget cuts


Leaders of two Jewish groups are joining an organized fast to protest proposed congressional budget cuts to poverty programs in the United States and abroad.

The fast, initiated by HungerFast, a group led by anti-hunger activist Tony Hall, takes aim at proposed substantive cuts now under consideration in Congress that would target overseas food aid and domestic programs that provide food stamps, subsidized meals for preschoolers and their mothers, and subsidized heating for the poor.

Participants include the senior staff of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for Jewish public policy groups, and Ruth Messinger, the president of the American Jewish World Service, a Jewish relief group.

Options for fasters during the March 28 to April 24 period include missing one meal a day; a liquid diet one day a week; a liquid diet; or living on $2 or $4 a day, which respectively are the international poverty level and what U.S. food stamps recipients receive.

JCPA staffers will miss one meal a day for the two weeks before Passover, which begins on April 18. Messinger will fast for a week, starting Monday: two days on water and then five days on liquids.

Also supporting the effort is Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

Jewish interfaith leaders urge Shabbat sermon about Islam


A group of Jewish interfaith educators is asking rabbis to talk about Islam next Shabbat.

A letter signed by six prominent rabbis and scholars points out that Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, falls on Sept. 11, the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In light of the controversy over the Islamic center planned for near the New York site, the letter asks rabbis and rabbinical students to “speak out against the bigotry that has erupted,” and promote the ideals of religious freedoms for Muslims as well as Jews.

Rabbis in leading positions at the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative seminaries, as well as the rabbinical school at Hebrew College, signed the appeal.

It reads, in part: “The proposal for the ‘Mosque at Ground Zero’ that turns out not to be a mosque and not at Ground Zero has brought to light this simple fact: We Americans need to know a whole lot more about Muslims and their religion.”

Fast meals to beat the Kol Nidre rush


It’s a scramble every year, but Jews somehow manage to beat the clock getting dinner to the table on Yom Kippur eve — the most hurried meal on the holiday calendar.

It isn’t easy to conclude the evening meal with enough leeway to arrive at synagogue for the Kol Nidre service, which ushers in this most solemn holiday.
The challenge is finding the time to pull together a meal that is nourishing and light, exalted but not extravagant, yet effortless. It’s even more difficult when Yom Kippur lands in the middle of the workweek, as it does this year.

“One Yom Kippur I left the office early, raced home and hurled dinner on the table for my daughter and a couple of friends,” recalled Pamela Vassil, the director of marketing and communications at Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. “I inhaled my food in order to arrive at my shul for the 6 p.m. service and get a seat up front. But I ate so quickly, everything sat in my esophagus. It never had a chance to digest. I spent the entire night worried that I’d get sick.”

Wendy Moss, a style and wardrobe consultant in Manhattan, said she used to invite other families who belong to her synagogue.

“But by the time I got to services, I was out of breath and couldn’t relax,” she said.

Moss now cooks only for her immediate family.

Reducing the rush is part of the pre-Yom Kippur experience. Some plan the menu the day after Rosh Hashanah. It’s advisable to select uncomplicated recipes requiring few steps. Plain fare is in line with the serious nature of this holiday.

The pre-fast menu requires special attention. For example, recipes should be low in salt to avoid causing undue thirst on Yom Kippur when drinking anything, including water, is forbidden.

“I do a lot of cooking and freezing in advance,” said Rita Paszamant, a travel agent in Little Silver, N.J. “Since my family expects the same menu every year, preparing for this meal is like falling off a log.”

As an appetizer, Paszamant offers a choice of chopped liver or gefilte fish, which she buys pre-made.

“The dessert is certainly store-bought, too,” she said. “I always serve cinnamon babka, which they all love.”

While purchasing prepared foods is convenient, it can have its down side with the long lines, short tempers, incorrect orders and high prices. Often it’s less stressful to make your family’s favorites at home. Nothing is more nurturing before fasting than the smell of chicken soup and baking apples wafting from the kitchen.

“I do all the cooking myself,” Moss said. “I find it better that way, especially if I plan ahead and stay organized.”

She roasts a chicken — it’s traditional and easy to make.

“I gave up on Cornish hens,” Moss said. “They have to be stuffed. It’s an extra step.”

She suggested that one place to cut corners is serving fresh fruit for dessert.
Hours before the sun sets on Yom Kippur eve, Paszamant defrosts the chicken soup and the potted beef she prepared days earlier. Before serving she adds finishing touches such as freshly chopped vegetables.

To save time, Paszamant sets the dining-room table the night before and washes pots and utensils before dinner time.

“Having a warming drawer has been a blessing,” she said, explaining that the feature in her oven maintains the temperature of hot foods without drying them out.

“My family knows we start eating at 5 p.m. on erev Yom Kippur,” she said.
As in most households, her kitchen clean-up is the final hurdle.

“Everyone helps clear the table, course by course,” Paszamant said.

Observant families refrain from performing any manual labor after sunset, when the holiday begins. Many Jews eat dinner extra early so they can quickly wrap leftovers and wash the dishes before leaving for synagogue.

“In past years, I’ve run out and left the dishes in the sink,” Moss said. “If at all possible, I recommend hiring help to clean up the kitchen. That’s the most important thing I’ve figured out.”

Guests have their own stress.

“I keep looking at my watch, wondering if we’ll get out on time,” Vassil said.
The resourceful find a comfortable solution to the dilemma.

“One year I went to a restaurant a block from my shul,” Vassil recalled. “At first I felt guilty about the decision, but I got over that when I saw people from my synagogue sitting at other tables.”

Now she makes a reservation for every Yom Kippur eve.

“I have a leisurely dinner, including a cup of coffee, something I never had time for when I prepared dinner at home,” Vassil said.

But Moss, like many, prefers a traditional home-cooked meal before starting the 24-hour fast. While she calls herself a perfectionist at heart, Moss has become more realistic.

“I keep the menu simple,” she said. “I don’t prepare anything elaborate. Entertaining in my usual style just got too crazy on Yom Kippur eve.”

“It’s liberating to know on this one night a year, you don’t have to prepare a fancy meal,” Vassil said. “The point is to eat without pressure, to arrive at shul in a peaceful state of mind, in time to get a good seat.”

The following menu can be prepared in 90 minutes. Three of the recipes can share the oven, maximizing time. Start with the squash, which takes the longest time, followed by the apples and the chicken. While those three items are baking, prepare the potatoes. All four dishes should be ready about the same time.
Better still, prepare the recipes a day or two ahead. They can be reheated in 15 minutes.

The recipes are low sodium in deference to the fast.

Maple Glazed Acorn Squash
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 75 minutes

No-stick, vegetable spray
4 small butternut squash
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat a 10-by-15-inch ovenproof pan with no-stick spray.
Cut squash in half lengthwise, parallel to its ridges. With a spoon, scrape out pits and fibers; discard. Place the eight halves in the prepared baking pan.
Drizzle each half with maple syrup.

Bake for 75 minutes, or until edges brown and flesh is soft when pierced with a fork. Serve immediately.
Makes eight servings.

Lemon Chicken With Dijon Mustard
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45-50 minutes

4 chicken breasts (8 halves), with bones and skin
Juice from 2 fresh lemons
1 1/2 cups white wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
No-stick vegetable spray
Disposable broiler pans, optional
Salt to taste, optional
Paprika for coloring, optional

Rinse chicken breasts under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, white wine and mustard until well incorporated. Place chicken in bowl and coat evenly with lemon juice mixture; reserve.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat a roasting pan with a rack with no-stick spray. (For a fast clean up, use disposable broiler pans, coating them with no-stick spray.)
Remove chicken from lemon juice mixture and shake off liquid. Lightly salt and sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

Place chicken skin side down on prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes and turn over breasts. Continue baking for 30 minutes or until juices from the thickest part of the breasts run clean when pierced with a knife. Serve immediately.

Makes eight servings.

Sliced Red Potatoes and Onions
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes

8 red “A” potatoes, 1/4 to 1/2 pound each
2 large onions
6 tablespoons olive oil, or more, if needed
2 14 1/2-ounce cans beef broth (low sodium, if desired)

Wash potatoes and pat dry with paper towels. Keeping skins on, cut potatoes into slices about 1/8-inch thick. Slice onions thin.

Divide olive oil between two large skillets and heat briefly over medium flame.

Place half the potatoes and onions in each skillet. Sauté until onions turn golden and potatoes soften slightly, about 15 minutes. (If they brown too quickly, turn down flame. Some skins may loosen from potatoes.)

Remove pans from flame. Pour one can of beef broth into each pan. Return pans to flame and cover. Simmer until potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Makes eight servings.

Cranberry Baked Apples
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes

No-stick, vegetable spray
8 small baking apples (Cortland, Gala, Fuji or any apple recommended for baking — except Granny Smith
2 cups cranberry juice, or more if needed
2/3 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch ovenproof casserole with no-stick spray.

Rinse apples under cold water and dry with paper towels. Core apples with a knife by cutting a wide circle around their stems. Continue to cut in a circular motion. In a funnel shape, the opening will narrow the deeper you go. Remove the seeds and as much core as possible.

Place apples in prepared pan. Pour cranberry juice over the apples. Juice should be about 1/4-inch deep in bottom of pan. Add more juice, if needed.

Bake apples for 55 minutes, basting with pan juice occasionally. (If juice dries up, add more to keep apples in a juice bath.)

Remove pan from oven and fill apple cavities with raisins. Baste with pan juice. Continue baking for five minutes. Apples should be soft but not falling apart. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature.

Makes eight servings.

Shuls to observe Tisha B’Av through study, films


Tisha B’Av the ninth day of the month of Av is a day of fasting and mourning to commemorate some of the greatest tragedies to befall the Jewish people, among them the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem and the expulsion from Spain in 1492. But despite this litany of sorrow, many contemporary Jews are left wondering how to connect to these millennia-old tragedies that seemingly have no bearing on their lives. To assist in internalizing the message of this day, synagogues across the region and across the denominations are hosting Tisha B’Av programs on Saturday, Aug. 9 and Sunday, Aug. 10.

Like most traditional synagogues, the Westwood Kehilla will read the book of Eicha (Lamentations) on Saturday night, followed by a talk about striving for the final redemption. The Kehilla, an Orthodox synagogue, and the Los Angeles Intercommunity Kollel (LINK) follow their long-standing annual tradition of hosting a full day of programming. After morning services on Sunday, the congregation will join in reciting and analyzing the Kinot, elegies that bemoan tragedies including the Crusades, pogroms and the Holocaust. After an ease-the-fast nap break, “Leaving Envy Behind,” a two-part video, will explore the importance of being worthy of a final redemption and feeling true love for fellow Jews. The day will conclude with a lecture and a light break-the-fast.

Many congregations use Tisha B’Av as an opportunity to offer joint programming with other synagogues, sending an important message about ahavat Yisrael, loving your fellow Jews a central theme of Tisha B’Av. Adat Ari El in Valley Village and Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino, both Conservative synagogues, will engage their congregants in a joint community study, discussion and reading of Lamentations, lead by Rabbi Elianna Yolkut (Adat Ari El) and Rabbi Ed Feinstein (VBS) at Adat Ari El on Saturday night. Morning and afternoon services will commence the following day at each temple.

Young Israel of Century City (YICC) and B’nai David-Judea, two Orthodox synagogues in the Pico-Robertson area, are joining for services at YICC. The eve of Tisha B’av will include the reading of Eicha at 9 p.m. on Saturday, and on Sunday, the reading of Kinot and learning will begin at 8:30 a.m., led by Rabbis Elazar Muskin, Nachum Braverman, Ari Leubitz and Jason Weiner. Following the recitation of Kinot, a video from the Chofetz Chaim Foundation will be shown at 11:45 a.m.

IKAR and Shteibl Minyan, both on the Westside, are also joining forces at the Workmen’s Circle on Saturday at 9 p.m. (bring cushions for sitting on the floor).

Shomrei Torah Synagogue and Temple Aliyah, both in the West Valley, continue their tradition of a joint program, held this year at Shomrei Torah on Saturday night. At University Synagogue of Brentwood, a Reform congregation, Rabbi Morley Feinstein and Cantor Jay Frailich will provide a lesson and prayer on “Jerusalem, Then and Now” at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

If Lamentations and elegies just won’t hit home for you, JconnectLA will be showing the film “I Have Never Forgotten You,” a documentary on the life of Nazi-hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, narrated by Academy award-winner Nicole Kidman, at 12:30 p.m. at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

For teens, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) runs a program at Shaarei Tzedek in North Hollywood from 9:30-11:30 p.m. on Aug 9. Solly Hess, the Los Angeles director for NCSY, and Derek Gorman, the director of education for the Jewish Student Union, will show video clips and speak about the importance of having a profound connection to the land of Israel. “The idea is for the kids to feel a loyalty to Israel and really understand why we should feel so upset on Tisha B’av,” Hess said.

This year, Tisha B’Av begins at 7:49 p.m. on Aug 9. The fast ends at 8:30 p.m. on Aug 10. The rabbinical prohibitions on Tisha B’Av include: no eating or drinking, no wearing leather shoes, no bathing, no application of ointments or lotions, and no sexual relations.



Tisha B’Av guide:

Tisha B’Av 101 — the basics


What is Tisha B’av?

Tisha B’av is the Fast commemmorated on the ninth day of the month of Av. It begins at sunset Monday July 23, 2007 and ends at nightfall on July 24.

Why do we fast on Tisha B’av?

According to the Mishna, five misfortunes befell the Jews on this day throughout history:

  • This was the day that the spies maligned Israel, and the Israelites, begging not to go to Israel, were sentenced to wander in the desert for 40 years;
  • Both the First and Second Temples were destroyed;
  • The City of Betar was captured by the Romans, ending the Bar Kochba Rebellion.
  • A year later, the Jerusalem was destroyed.

What other customs do we follow this day?

As on Yom Kippur, people do not wear leather shoes, wash or anoint with oils. Because it is a day of mourning (unlike the High Holidays), some do not sleep with a pillow or on a bed, or on chairs, but on the floor, especially for the customary reading of Megillat Eicha, or Lamentations, which says:

Al eileh, ani bochiya. (“For these things, I do weep”) (1:16) , lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem.
Bacho tivkeh balaylah
v’dimatah al lechiah
ayn lah menachem mikol ohavehah
kol re’ehah bagdu bah
hayu lah le’oyvim.

“Bitterly she [Jerusalem] weeps in the night, tears upon her cheeks, she has no one to comfort her out of all her friends, all her friends have betrayed her and become her foes.” (1:2)

See also Commemorating Tisha B’Av — what to do?

For more information, click http://www.jewfaq.org/holidayd.htm.

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).

 

Insta-Love


 

It happened so quickly I couldn’t believe it. After a seemingly endless period of F & L’s (first and last dates, as I fondly call them), I met him.

When I walked into my favorite vegetarian restaurant I was relieved I’d decided to forgo my usual dazzling sweatpants/no makeup look. Finally — someone adorable both on the inside and out (that’s so rare in Los Angeles). He was witty and athletic; he came from a good family and loved dogs — will wonders never cease? They didn’t, I discovered when he walked me to me car and kissed me good night. I don’t know how I managed to drive home without crashing.

Within a month, he told me he loved me. He also invited me to Passover with his family. At the seder, he leaned over to me, put his hand in mine and said, “Honey, it’s our first Passover together.”

Hypnotized by his casual show of abundant affection, I just squeezed his hand and smiled.

My erstwhile prince topped his Passover pronouncement with a steady stream of references to our future together. By month two, he had asked me for a drawer, and slowly started to move his belongings into my home. The insta-home invasion had begun. First there was clothing, then toiletries, followed by his prized kitchen possession — a cast iron skillet. I was dizzy from the swiftness of it all and startled by the rapidity. But at our age, I told myself, maybe this is what happens. When it’s right it’s right. Right? By month three, we were planning vacations together and had intertwined our lives as if we had been dating for ages. Yes sir, we were already entrenched in the insta-relationship

And why not? We were two divorcees in our 40s who had considerable experience in dating. Why shouldn’t affairs of the heart transpire quickly? It’s an instant gratification society, where we can reach our friends instantaneously, purchase presents instantaneously and get dates online instantaneously. Why shouldn’t love be instant, too?

I’ve noticed the insta-relationship happening to my friends, as well. Sarah fell desperately in love perilously fast. Both she and her guy were weary from the endless Internet dating and felt that magical connection right away. They were intimate in no time and were introduced to each other’s families in a matter of just a few months. One day she called me to brag that they had made the key exchange.

“What is a key exchange?” I asked her.

“We exchanged house keys and burglar alarm codes,” she said triumphantly.

Did that mean that they were committing forever? Sarah certainly thought so. But apparently her paramour didn’t. She now refers to the affair as a drive-by relationship.

Mine was not a drive-by. We were taking a more scenic route.

One summer evening, I took my prince to see the revival of the Broadway musical, “Brigadoon,” about a fantastical love affair. Brigadoon was a bucolic, old-fashioned land of enchantment that existed in the mist above the Scottish Highlands. Every 100 years, for just a day, the town would return to Earth and the people that lived there were never touched by the realities of modern life. Just like us.

We had already been together for seven months. Seven perfect months, untouched by reality of modern life. For me, at least. That was until I promised to buy the new mattress he wanted, thinking it would be a good investment for our future. But this led to his chilling reply: “Honey, I don’t have a crystal ball into our future.”

Reality slammed into my life like a car blindly coming around dead man’s curve. Brigadoon vanished back into the Scottish Highlands. The fairy dust was clearing from our eyes. That was the beginning of the end.

What happened to my insta-love? What happened to the IM/eBay culture of instant gratification? Could it be that relationships need a stronger foundation than rushed expressions of sentiment? Have we become so impatient with finding “the one” that we dive right in without taking a good look at what/whom we’re jumping into? Yes, we had instant gratification, but maybe it caused us to suppress our patience, prudence and that great equalizer of all — the benefit of time.

Of course I only see this in retrospect. So now, for the future, I am going take some inspiration from “Brigadoon” and despite the crazy, hectic world we live in, I resolve to take things more slowly in my life — particularly when it comes to relationships. I’m now going to take time to search for a pair of special glasses that will stop the rose-colored glare and help me stay grounded in the reality of relationships.

Let’s just say that this purchase will definitely not be from the Internet.

Elizabeth Much is a partner with Much and House Public Relations, where she runs the entertainment division. She can be reached via e-mail at emuch@muchandhousepr.com.

 

Yom Kippur in Chad: Fasting a Way of Life


I am sitting in Adam’s living room — a carpet on a dirt patio. On one side is a small tent for his five children, as well as two nephews and a niece who have been orphaned. On the other side is a small tent for Adam, his wife and all they could carry out of Darfur.

Around us, the Kounoungo refugee camp is filled with a shattering sound — silence. It is the sound of despair. It is the sound of genocide coming closer and the world turning away.

This year, I observed Yom Kippur, the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar, in a Sudanese refugee camp in Chad. It is the day when Jews throughout the world abstain from food and drink to assess their lives and seek forgiveness for their wrongdoings. In this tragic moment, I could think of nowhere more fitting to keep the Yom Kippur fast than among people who have fasted for days on end — only not as a ritual but as an agonizing condition of life.

Adam is the only refugee I met who spoke English. He belongs to the Fur tribe and provides me with his analysis of the Sudanese genocide. He speaks calmly and rationally. He tells of how his village was set on fire by the Janjaweed and of other villages that met the same fate.

In his view, the problem is quite simple: The fundamentalist Arab Muslim government in Khartoum intends to eviscerate the African Muslim and tribal people. Listening to him, I think of the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide and other atrocities of the 20th century, where the conflict also boiled down to the ambition of one ethnic group to eradicate another.

Adam appreciates the noble humanitarian effort in the refugee camps but wonders why the international community is not doing more to stop this unfolding catastrophe.

I was in Kounoungo because of Adam — a human being I did not know existed, suffering a fate to which I cannot be indifferent. His condition as a human being is real, not reality television.

The enormity of the suffering — between 50,000 and 100,000 killed, nearly a million left homeless, over 200,000 refugees in Chad, hundreds of thousand more remaining in Darfur — tends to make us more numb than horrified. I find it hard to comprehend the numbers, but I do relate to Adam.

His desperate situation reminds me of the human capacity for cruelty. But his gentle humanity reminds me that kindness and decency are also possible.

Confronted by the misery of Kounoungo, I worry that I do not feel the shame, the embarrassment and even the disgust that I should. Many of us rationalize our indifference and inaction with the false notion that we cannot possibly make a difference. Overwhelmed by the complexity of human affairs, we forget about the human beings involved.

Yet I cannot forget the faces of the people I saw. As haggard and desperate as they are, they are no different than we — just immeasurably less fortunate. To turn away from them is to forget that we are one of them, all of us descended from the very first Adam.

In the Book of Genesis, God searches for Adam in the garden of Eden, asking, “Where are you?” In the Jewish tradition, this has always been understood as a moral question: Where is your conscience? Why are you hiding? Where do you stand?

The question hasn’t changed. What will be our answer?

Rabbi Lee Bycel is a board member of MAZON: A Jewish response to hunger and traveled to Chad under the auspices of the International Medical Corps. For more information, visit mazon.org or imcworldwide.org.

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

Ease Out of the Yom Kippur Fast With Salmon and Potatoes


Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a time when Jews are required to fast for 24 hours. At the end of this period, family and friends gather for the traditional break-the-fast meal.

This year at the conclusion of services our family and friends will arrive at our home at various times, since they are coming from synagogues that stretch from San Fernando Valley to West Los Angeles.

The transition from fasting to feasting should be a gradual one. Light, simple food is best. These two quick recipes are perfect for the holiday. Just add a few side dishes to complete the menu.

The first recipe is a dish I served a recent dinner, individual mini-potato salads topped with smoked salmon and garnished with a zesty mustard-dill sauce. Everyone enjoyed them so much, I decided to include them in our break-the-fast menu. The secret to this dish is that the potatoes are boiled for only eight minutes and they can be made in advance.

The second smoked salmon dish was inspired by a Swedish friend, Kerstin Marsh, a great cook, and she often serves this family specialty as a first course with sliced fresh cucumbers.

These two delicious dishes can be prepared ahead of time and chilled until ready to serve. It is comfort to return home from the synagogue and have the perfect dish ready for your guests.

Complete the break-the-fast meal with a fresh fruit salad and serve it with the traditional honey cake, my family’s favorite holiday dessert.

Smoked Salmon with Mini-Potato Salads

2 medium white rose potatoes, 1/2-inch

dice (1 pound)

1 small carrots, diced

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup diced fennel

1/2 cup uncooked corn kernels

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

6 slices smoked salmon (lox)

Mustard-Dill Sauce (recipe follows)

6 sprigs fresh dill

Rinse diced potatoes in cold running water. Bring a large pot of salt water to a rolling boil, drop in diced potatoes and boil for eight to 10 minutes.

Drain into a colander and transfer to a shallow dish to cool. Add carrots, fennel, red bell pepper, corn kernels and enough mayonnaise to moisten, and salt and pepper to taste.

Place a 3-inch ring mold on serving plate and spoon in salad mixture. Trim salmon slices to fit a 3-inch mold. Arrange a slice of smoked salmon on top of salad. Repeat with remaining five serving plates.

Prepare the mustard-dill sauce and spoon around each serving. Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill.

Serves 6.

Mustard-Dill Sauce

This sauce can be prepared several days ahead, Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Try replacing the dill with basil leaves, cilantro, water cress, parsley or sorrel.

3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1/3 cup oil

3 tablespoons fresh chopped (or snipped) dill

In a small, deep bowl, combine the mustard, powdered mustard, sugar and vinegar and blend well. With a wire whisk, slowly beat in the oil until it forms a thick mayonnaise. Stir in the chopped dill. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 1 cup.

Kerstin’s Swedish Potato and Gravlax Casserole

Unsalted butter for the baking dish

Eight (1 3/4 pounds) white or red

new potatoes, steamed, peeled,

and thinly sliced

8 large slices gravlax or smoked salmon

1/2 small yellow onion,

peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill

Salt and freshly ground black

pepper to taste

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter,

cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Brush an 8-inch square baking dish with butter. Arrange half of the sliced potatoes on the bottom. Arrange the slices of gravlax on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle with the onion and dill. Repeat with a top layer of the remaining sliced potatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, beat the cream and egg and pour over the potato mixture.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs and pieces of butter over the potatoes. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 6 servings

Note: Whole new unpeeled potatoes, steamed, take about 20 minutes to cook, depending on the size of the potatoes. Peeled and sliced potatoes, boiled, take only five minutes.

Another Melee Erupts as Women Pray with Men at WesternWall


The forcible eviction of the worshipers from Judaism’s mostrevered site came as thousands gathered there to mark Tisha B’Av, afast day marking the traditional anniversary of the destruction of,first, Solomon’s Temple and, then, Herod’s Temple.

The men and women were worshiping together in aspecially-designated area at the entrance to the plaza, a couple ofhundred yards from the wall itself.

Monday’s incident was the latest confrontation between OrthodoxJews and members of the other branches of Judaism, who have beenlocked in a divisive debate in the Knesset over the authority of theOrthodox rabbinic establishment in Israel.

“They’re symbolically, and more than symbolically, driving us outof the gates of Jerusalem,” said Rabbi Uri Regev, director of theReform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center.

“Even in the former Soviet Union, Jews can pray in peace. To beexcluded from the most important Jewish place in the world gives ussome perspective on the issues. This isn’t about freedom of worship;this is about where Israel is going.”

Even as the police action occurred, a committee charged withstaving off a crisis over conversions, faces a deadline this week.

The committee, headed by Finance Minister Ya’acov Ne’eman, wasformed by the government to forge a path acceptable to the threemajor Jewish streams to avert the passage of controversial pendinglegislation.

Friday, Aug. 15, is the slated deadline for the committee’srecommendations, to be followed by the government coalition’sapproval by Sept. 5.

A recent unconfirmed report by the daily Ha’aretz said that thediscussions included a proposal by Ne’eman for the establishment of a”joint conversion school for all streams of Judaism.” The conversionitself would be performed in an Orthodox rabbinical court accordingto halacha. Such a proposal, the newspaper said, could be applied toother rituals, including marriage.

At the same time, the report continued, the Reform andConservative synagogues would, for the first time, receive governmentfunding “similar to those of Orthodox synagogues.” — Compiled fromWire Services