Photos by Jonathan Fong.

Take Your Menorah to Go With a Mint Tin

In my quest for creative menorahs, I’ve found felt menorahs, Lego menorahs and mahjong menorahs. But for its compactness and portability, I have to say I love the Altoids tin menorah. Hex nuts glued in a line act as miniature candleholders, and the tin can be closed so you can pack it in your bag.

Altoids aren’t kosher, however, so to make the menorah in this example, I looked far and wide for kosher mints (to be enjoyed later) in a tin container. I eventually found certified kosher Mensch Mints at Dylan’s Candy Bar at The Grove. (Me, going to The Grove, at holiday time — the sacrifices I make for my readers.)

Keep in mind that this menorah uses birthday candles, and these small candles will not burn for the required 30-minute minimum. So if you’re a traditionalist, you may want to use it only for decorative purposes, or as a novelty menorah to supplement your real one.

Finally, remember: This menorah is not a toy. Lit candles should never be left unattended. And place the menorah on a nonflammable surface away from anything that can catch fire.

What you’ll need:
Mint tin
11 hex nuts (size 1/4 inch-20)
Super glue
Birthday candles


1. Clean the inside of the mint tin. At the hardware store, purchase 11 hex nuts — eight for the Hanukkah candles and three for the shamash candle.


2. With super glue, attach eight hex nuts in a straight row to the bottom of the tin. There is just enough room for eight nuts lined up side by side.


3. Stack three nuts together and attach them with super glue, and place that either in front of or in back of the row of eight nuts. This stack will elevate the shamash candle.


4. Place candles in the hex nuts on successive nights according to custom. Look for extra-long birthday candles at the supermarket.

Jonathan Fong is host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube and author of “Parties that Wow.”

The "First Night" will be held on Tuesday in Downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah.

What’s Happening in Jewish L.A. Dec. 8-14: Hanukkah Celebrations, JCC Run & Walk, and More


Sonia Warshawski

Holocaust survivor. Grandma. Diva. Big Sonia. Director Leah Warshawski’s documentary film follows her octogenarian grandmother, Sonia Warshawski, a Holocaust survivor who runs the last store in a defunct shopping mall, a tailor shop she’s owned for more than 30 years. When Sonia, one of the last remaining survivors in Kansas City, is given an eviction notice, the specter of retirement forces her to confront her harrowing past, which includes concentration camps and death marches. The film weaves Sonia’s current conflict with stories about her diva-like personality from family and friends. Various times. Laemmle Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. Laemmle Town Center 5, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (310) 478-3836.


Five-time Grammy nominee Michael Feinstein performs holiday classics from his album “A Michael Feinstein Christmas.” Feinstein has been called the “Ambassador of the Great American Songbook” for preserving and presenting the meld of old and new vocals. The crooner will belt out holiday classics, including “Sleigh Ride,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” 8 p.m. $38-$98. Valley Performing Arts Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. (818) 677-8800.


Award-winning songwriter, storyteller and artist Daniel Cainer performs a one-man Shabbat concert. The London-based Cainer shows off of a knack for clever lyrics and sweet melodies as he sings about his childhood encounters with anti-Semitism, explores the tapestry that makes up family and how Judaism has changed over the years, and examines the enigma that is Israel. 9 p.m. dessert, 9:30 p.m. show. $20. Pico Union Project, 1153 Valencia St., Los Angeles. (213) 915-0084.


Enjoy games, crafts, music, food and more at this family-friendly event, which annually welcomes more than 500 local Eastsiders, including families with children, to the Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center (SIJCC). Entertainment will include performances by the Hollow Trees, Sing With Sylvie, Stoli Magic, Ms. Hellen’s Silver Lake Ballet School, Love Bug & Me Music and students from the SIJCC’s Jewish Learning Center. Activities will include spinning top and wind chime craft booths, a “toddler zone,” reptile fun with the Critter Squad, animal balloon making, face painting and a doughnut-eating contest. The SIJCC also will hold a bake sale fundraiser, featuring food ranging from latkes and empanadas to brownies and cupcakes. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Children 2 and older, $15; adults, free. Silverlake Independent Jewish Community Center, 1110 Bates, Ave., Los Angeles. (Street parking only. Ride-sharing service, bicycling or public transportation highly recommended.) (323) 663-2255.


Seth Siegel, entrepreneur, water activist and New York Times best-selling author, will discuss whether the technology utilized in Israel is the key to helping solve global water needs. Siegel wrote the award-winning, international best-seller “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World.” Free. Reservations required. 11:30 a.m. The Beverly Hills Hotel, 9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 276-4246.


Do good — and feel good doing it! More than 600 runners, walkers and volunteers of all ages are expected at the Westside Jewish Community Center’s second annual 5-kilometer run and walk. The certified, timed route and pet-friendly, stroller-friendly course is on the northwest lane of San Vicente Boulevard, between Olympic Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. A shortened kids’ fun run serves the community’s youngest members. There also will be a health and wellness expo with food, drinks, a kids’ fun zone and finish-line celebrations. Funds raised will benefit wellness programs at the Westside JCC, which serves seniors, special needs individuals, children and teens. Participants receive a bagel breakfast, gift bag, T-shirt and finisher’s medal. 6:30 a.m. (registration opens), 8 a.m. (5K run/walk), 9:30 a.m. (kids’ fun run). $35 (ages 18 and older), $25 (ages 5-17), $15 (fun run for kids), $20 (fan). Westside Jewish Community Center, 5870 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 556-5238.


Docents Stephen Sass and Jeremy Sunderland will take guests, on foot and by mass transit, on a 2 1/2-mile tour from Union Station to sites of Jewish historic interest. Stops include Heritage Square Museum and the newly rebuilt Colonial Drug, operated for six decades by Jewish pharmacist George A. Simmons and family. Guests also will discover the role played by the Jewish community in the growth and development of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles. Sass is president of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California; Sunderland is on the board of the Jewish Historical Society of Southern California and the Breed Street Shul Project. Sponsored by the Whizin Center for Continuing Education. $58. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Waiting list is available. Union Station, 800 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles. (310) 440-1572.


Klezmer Juice

Guests of all ages can enjoy live music, dance, art and food at the Skirball Center. Latin-Jewish bands Klezmer Juice and Pan Felipe perform; dance ensembles Versa-Style and Mambo Inc. teach attendees salsa, cumbia, mambo and hip-hop moves; visual artist Sandy Rodriguez leads attendees in creating a visual art installation; Maite Gomez-Rejon, founder of Art Bites, teaches about Mexican chocolate and decorating chocolate gelt; and storytellers Mario Ibarra and Julia Garcia-Combs recount the age-old story of Hanukkah in English and Spanish. The museum’s current exhibitions, “Another Promised Land: Anita Brenner’s Mexico” and “Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs and Mark-Making in L.A.” will be open. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. $12 (general), $9 (seniors, full-time students and children older than 12), $7 (children 2-12). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.


Enjoy the festive Hanukkah and holiday season sounds of the Beverly Hills Madrigals, the Beverly Hills Unified School District middle school choir and the fourth- and fifth-grade honors choir. Complimentary holiday refreshments provided by students from the Beverly Hills High Culinary Arts program. Presented by Friends of Beverly Gardens and the Beverly Hills Community Services Department. Free. 1-2:30 p.m. Beverly Gardens Park (near the lily pond), 9439 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills.


Novelist and short story writer Nathan Englander discusses his new book, “Dinner at the Center of the Earth,” a tragicomic take of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with David Ulin, former editor of the Los Angeles Times books section. Join Wilshire Boulevard Temple for a conversation about Judaism, anti-Semitism, Israel and literature. A book sale, signing and a dessert reception follow. 7-10:30 p.m. Free. Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 11661 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 388-2401.


Journalist Jonathan Dobrer explores the work of Martin Buber, one of the most important and influential modern Jewish philosophers who redefined Jewish thinking and bridged Chasidic spirituality with the secularism of Freud. Dobrer, an author of serious and humorous essays on contemporary culture, explores the question of what it means to consider Buber a dissident. 7:30 p.m. $20. American Jewish University, David Alan Shapiro Memorial Synagogue Center, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 476-9777.


On the first night of Hanukkah, young adult movement NuRoots kicks off its third annual citywide celebration of miracles. That evening’s event, “First Night,” is one party in two locations, with people on the Westside gathering at Bergamot Station and people on the Eastside at Conduit DTLA for a creative dining experience featuring Hanukkah-inspired craft cocktails, swag, music and more. Additionally, more than 30 events will take place through Dec. 22 as part of this Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles initiative, including “Latkes and Vodka,” “Get Lit Fashion Show,” “Ugly Sweater Party” and the flappers-themed party “The Great Gatsberg.” Organizations including East Side Jews, Moishe House, Bend the Arc and the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles partner on various events. Through Dec. 22. 7:30 p.m., $30. Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Conduit DTLA, 1635 N. Spring St., Los Angeles. (323) 761-8118.


Join local synagogues and community groups as their members celebrate Hanukkah. Lighting the menorah begins shortly after sundown each evening. Participating synagogues include Mishkon Tephilo, Santa Monica Synagogue, Stephen Wise Temple, Kehillat Israel, Nashuva, Beth Shir Shalom and Chabad of Santa Monica. 4-8 p.m. Free. 1351 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. (310) 393-8355.


Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, a study of government decisions related to the Vietnam War, to the media when he was an analyst for the Rand Corp., discusses his new book, “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” a nonfiction account of the nuclear arms race. The event takes place in a run-up to the January release of Steven Spielberg’s new film, “The Post,” in which Ellsberg is a key figure. 8 p.m. $20 (general admission), $30 (reserved seat), $45 (reserve seat plus book). William Turner Gallery, Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica.


Honk if you love Hanukkah! On the third night of Hanukkah, Chabad-Lubavitch’s Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad, a seminary for Chabad high school students, celebrates the festival of lights by driving through the city in a caravan of celebration. Order an electric menorah to mount on top of your car and join the fun. Beep beep! 6:30 p.m. (lineup), 7 p.m. (departure). Start: Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad, 7215 Waring Ave., Los Angeles. Finish: Third Street and South Harper Avenue, Beverly Hills. To order a menorah for your car or for more information, call (410) 209-0545 or email

Last-Minute Hanukkah Gifts

You can’t bear the thought of going to the mall at this time of year — just finding a parking spot is a competitive sport. But Hanukkah is here. And your shopping list? Let’s just say it is a work in progress.

Don’t fret. We’ve got you covered with great finds from local retailers that should satisfy your entire crew, including the family pet. Happy Hanukkah!

Musical lovers will enjoy immersing themselves in “DEAR EVAN HANSEN: THROUGH THE WINDOW” ($50), the official behind-the-scenes book about the Tony Award-winning Broadway show starring former Harvard-Westlake student Ben Platt. Get it now, before the production comes to town next fall at the Ahmanson Theatre. Children’s Book World, 10580 1/2 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 559-2665.

Inspired by the success of the live game nights they host at the Hollywood Improv, Barry McLaughlin and Jason Lautenschleger created GAME NIGHT IN A CAN. Each can contains 30 games for players, ages 8 and older. And there’s no fancy equipment required — just pen, paper and a sense of humor. A tree is planted for every can sold. $24.99 at Miracle Mile Toys, 5464 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 389-1733.

Nothing says Hanukkah to a dog like a little brisket mixed in with the kibble — and maybe his very own menorah. The plush HAPPY HANNUKAH MENORAH DOG TOY ($7.99) is one of several holiday-themed gifts for dogs and cats available at Petco. Tossing it to your pooch also will help you work off some of those guilty gelt calories. Selection varies. Multiple locations.

Just when you thought you would never buy another fidget spinner, here comes the irresistible DREIDEL SPINNER ($6) in Hanukkah blue. It’s a very 2017 twist on the classic four-sided dreidel, complete with a nun, gimel, hey and shin, as well as the logo for the Museum of Tolerance, where you can grab one in the gift shop. 9786 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 772-2505.

The colorful YOEE BABY toy started with the simple idea of tickling a tot with a feather. Colorado-based mom Jillian Lakritz, who is Jewish, and designer Bill Donavan took that idea and turned it into a BPA-free first toy for baby available in five designs: puppy, kitty, fox, lion and monkey. $25 at Huzzah!, 2010 Lincoln Blvd., Venice. (310) 452-2900.

Photo from Pixnio.

The Light We Create

I recently stopped in at one of my favorite shops in Manhattan, a small boutique on upper Madison Avenue. I try to avoid the place because I love the clothes too much. This time, though, I was happy to see Galit, an Israeli designer who works there when he’s not designing.

After we hugged and exchanged pleasantries, I asked him how he was doing. “Oh, you know, whatever.” What do you mean? I asked. What’s the matter? “Nothing. Nothing’s the matter. We get up, we go to work, we come home. Repeat.”

I know enough about depression to recognize it, especially at this time of year when it gets dark at an unseemly hour. But I also know enough about creative people to know that they need to create, that it is essential to their emotional health.

What have you been designing recently? I asked casually. “Nothing. I mean, why design? People like ugly trends,” he said, pulling out from the rack an ugly trend that can be spotted all over the city.

I urged him to continue designing anyway, but what I really wanted to say was this: The deeper meaning of creativity can be even more gratifying.

It is something I have fully understood only in recent years. Creating beauty — through words, paint, cloth — is a great honor, and often, as Michelangelo put it, a great burden. But creating light for those around us, through acts of goodness and kindness, is an even deeper beauty, and it creates an even deeper happiness.

For some, this comes quite easily. My mother, for instance, had what I can describe only as an eternal flame burning within her. Brimming with optimism and sweetness, she seemed to float through life, always being the bigger person no matter what situation she found herself in.

As a child, she was my entire world; as a rebellious teen, I found her perennial sunshine annoying. It was only in my 20s that I began to realize that her happiness came from giving, from creating light for others — it was a circle of positivity, of beauty.

She inherited this trait from her father, my much-adored grandfather, who brought light into people’s lives through humor. No matter where we went with him, cashiers, waitresses, shopboys always made a point of telling us how much they loved Aba. In his later years, we would park him on a bench so we could take a morning walk along the beach. Every time, we would come back to find the bench filled with people laughing.

It was only after I had my son, spending every precious (exhausting) minute with him as a baby and young child, that I fully understood the larger canvas of creativity.

It was only after I had my son, spending every precious (exhausting) minute with him as a baby and young child, that I fully understood the larger canvas of creativity. And it wasn’t just about him. Freed from the hectic pace of office life, I began to look for ways to help — other children, the elderly, people struggling with groceries. Perhaps the most gratifying moment of all was watching my son create light for others — watching his face fill with the deep joy that this special moment brings.

Of course, we don’t often have the luxury of slowing down time. And because of this, we need to make sure that we nourish our souls so that we can then nourish the souls of others. As I write this, “Ma’oz Tzur” plays softly in the background; it is for me one of the most spiritually cleansing songs of Judaism. Whether it’s music, art, majestic architecture, loving friends and family — we each need to recognize what we need to help us create circles of beauty, moments of light.

And so every year, as I teach my son the story of Hanukkah — the bravery of the Maccabees, the miracle of the oil — I increasingly emphasize a more personal meaning: Just as lighting Hanukkah candles creates a beautiful moment, we can do the same in our everyday lives — through just a smile, a kind word, a sweet gesture. Often it takes just a drop of beauty to light up someone’s world.

Chag sameach.

Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic and author of “The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World” (Doubleday). Her writings have appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal and Metropolis, among others.

STRONGER TOGETHER: At a time of deep community divisions, Hanukkah holds lessons on the power of unity

On our many trips to Israel, our family had never spent much time in Tel Aviv because most of our friends and relatives live in the Jerusalem area. But a few years ago, when we were planning a visit to see our son, then serving in the Israel Defense Forces, we scheduled a couple of days in the great city on the sea.

I booked a reasonably priced hotel room somewhere near the beach and hoped for the best. To this day, my family teases me for choosing what turned out to be a ghastly choice of accommodations. But my predominant memory of our brief sojourn there is actually quite delightful.

The evening we checked in happened to be the fourth night of Hanukkah. When I walked into the lobby — overnight bag in one hand, Hanukkah menorah in the other — the young man behind the desk politely informed me that hotel policy forbade lighting flames in the rooms. After a brief back-and-forth, he agreed to let us to light our hanukkiah right there in the lobby. Realizing that this was my only option, I accepted the offer. We brought our luggage to the room, then returned to the lobby.

That’s when the unforgettable happened.

The hotel clerk already had laid out some aluminum foil for us, and was standing by, awaiting our return. I set down the hanukkiah and began to sing the blessings, and suddenly was surprised to hear another voice merge with mine: the clerk’s. Suddenly, the small group of people in the tiny lobby of this sketchy Tel Aviv hotel became an unlikely choir of randomly gathered Jews, together praising God for the miracles “in those days at this time.” Some of us had tears in our eyes.

There’s something about Hanukkah. Maybe it’s the arresting appeal of the few and the just overcoming the odds and achieving victory over the mighty many. Maybe it’s the delightful simplicity of the holiday’s main ritual. Perhaps it’s just the time of year. But Hanukkah generates a sense of Jewish unity, of Jewish solidarity and community, as no other occasion on the calendar does.

In wistful moments, we wish things could be this way more often, that the religious, ideological and political fault lines that divide us could become less deep and jagged, that our disputes could be the “arguments for the sake of heaven” that historically gave our people vitality, not poisonous discord. If only Hanukkah were a few hundred days longer.

If we listen closely to Hanukkah, though — to its story and its laws — we discover that it offers indispensable wisdom about how to hold together a community of differences, and about how a community that doesn’t agree on every issue still can learn to live and sing together.

It’s not widely understood why Judah the Maccabee and company specifically chose the 25th of Kislev as the day to rededicate the ancient Temple. The Syrian-Greeks had been successfully driven from Jerusalem months earlier, during the summer of 163 C.E. Yet Judah waited to rededicate the Temple, refraining from bringing his victory to its climax.

The group of people in the tiny lobby
of this sketchy Tel Aviv hotel became an unlikely choir of randomly gathered Jews.

The theory is that he delayed out of a desire to preserve the nation’s unity. The Chasidim of that era were traditionalist Jews who had joined the Maccabees’ resistance, ultimately deciding that the Maccabees’ cause justified fighting even on Shabbat. They also believed fervently that the human efforts to recapture Jerusalem would be capped by the fulfillment of messianic prophecies that God would make Himself known, and the End of Days would commence. So they asked Judah to wait for God to restore the Temple to its prior purity, confident that this would happen during the holidays in the month of Tishrei.

Judah himself believed that the Maccabees’ victory was supported by God, but ultimately engineered by humans. Nonetheless, in deference to the request of the Chasidim, he held off, hoping that the Temple’s rededication would bring together all the Jews in celebration. But when Sukkot ended, on the 22nd of Tishrei, no divine act had occurred.

The Chasidim again asked Judah to wait. Because of the upheavals wrought by Antiochus’ decrees, the Jewish calendar had not been intercalated for several years, so it could be as much as two months out of sync. Again, Judah honored their request, waiting until the 22nd of Kislev. When Divine intervention still hadn’t come, he declared that in three days — exactly three years after the Temple’s desecration — the menorah would be lit and the Temple re-consecrated to God.

It’s possible that if Judah simply had lit the menorah months earlier, over the objections of the Chasidim, Hanukkah never would have come to be. It might have become mired in Jewish sectarian controversy, and we would have lost the story and all that it has come to represent. Judah’s wisdom of waiting was the wisdom of recognizing that Jews interpret the world — and God’s role in it — differently. Judah understood that the greater our ability to hear and honor many voices, the greater the likelihood that we would be able to establish a calendar and to practice sacred rituals that unite us all.

Another piece of advice about how to hold together a community of differences comes from a legal discussion that plays out in the pages of the Mishnah. In many ways, it is the necessary complement to the lesson we drew from Judah Maccabee.

The Mishnah tells of a shopkeeper who, in accordance with halachah (Jewish law), lights his Hanukkah light just outside the door of his shop, which is also his home. When a camel laden with flax passes through the narrow street, the candle sets the flax aflame, and property is destroyed in the resulting fire. The Mishnah asks: Who is liable for the property damage? The flame lighter or the camel driver?

The Mishnah’s majority opinion (known as the Sages) applies the general rule that governs such matters: Anyone who puts a flame in a public thoroughfare is responsible for damages that may result. One Sage disagrees — Rabbi Yehuda. He argues that the shopkeeper should be held blameless because the laws of Hanukkah authorized him to place the flame in the potentially hazardous place.

The Mishnah doesn’t elaborate further on the reasoning behind the two opinions. But other rulings in the Mishnah might offer some insight. The Sages could point to the Mishnah that says that a homeowner is allowed to dispose of water that has accumulated in the home’s courtyard by pouring it into the public domain, and yet if anyone in the public domain should slip on that water, the homeowner is liable. Our deeds sometimes produce unintended consequences for others. When they do, even if our actions are legally permitted, we bear responsibility for those results. The same principle applies to the person who lights the Hanukkah light in a narrow street.

Rabbi Yehuda might object, strenuously distinguishing between emptying water from a courtyard (a discretionary act) and kindling the Hanukkah light (a commanded one). He would find support in a talmudic discussion about another topic: a person who runs through a crowded marketplace. The Talmud says that if the running person carelessly collides with a person who is walking, the runner is liable for damages — unless it happens to be a Friday. Why? Rabbi Yehuda would assert it’s because, on a Friday afternoon, the person is running through the marketplace for the sake of a mitzvah: preparing for Shabbat. And Jewish law cannot simultaneously mandate that you perform an action and also hold you liable for harm that might result. Wouldn’t the same apply to the mitzvah of lighting the Hanukkah light just outside one’s home?

In the end, though, the law follows the opinion of the Sages. Everyone who enters the marketplace on a Friday afternoon knows that people will be rushing, and implicitly accepts that risk. But when it comes to Hanukkah, the law requires only that the Hanukkah light be lit for half an hour. That’s a short enough time that a person who lights in a narrow street should stay nearby and keep close watch. There is no blanket exemption for a person doing a mitzvah.

Here is Hanukkah’s second lesson in preserving and encouraging communal unity. We need to reject the idea that being engaged in the performance of a mitzvah renders a Jew less responsible to those around him or her. To be sure, performing ritual mitzvot requires great attention to detail and we want to fulfill them in accordance with the law. It’s also true that within families and communities, people’s varying interpretations and religious practices can lead to tension, conflict and hurt feelings. The result is that moments that ought to be celebratory and filled with love instead become sources of resentment and division.

The Sages are teaching that when you’re performing a mitzvah, you need to be more — not less — conscious of those around you, and more — not less — sensitive to other people’s needs and welfare. That is not to say that every difference that arises has a neat and simple solution. We all know from personal experience that Passover seders and Shabbat dinners, weddings and even funerals can generate deeply rooted philosophical disagreements among the people who are trying to mark these events together. The important point is this: When we are engaged in performing a ritual mitzvah, we are also engaged in the interpersonal mitzvot of understanding the impact of our actions upon others, and taking responsibility to be sure that our Jewish decisions don’t bring injury to those around us.

If we listen closely to Hanukkah, we discover indispensable wisdom about how to hold together a community of differences.

A final insight arises from the situation in which a person is away from home on Hanukkah. According to Jewish law, a traveler may light the hanukkiah wherever he is sleeping, but the person isn’t obligated to light if his family back home is doing so. Still, even if the traveler isn’t lighting, if she should happen to see a lit hanukkiah, then she should recite the second of the two Hanukkah blessings, praising God, “who has wrought miracles for our ancestors in those days, at this time.”

What’s remarkable is that the traveler doesn’t need to know the identity of the lighter, and the lighter need not be conscious of the presence of the traveler. The two can share the light of the Hanukkah candles simply through the assumption that all of us are perpetually eager to help and support one another. Whatever our Jewish disagreements may be, we embrace thtis fundamental tenet of Jewish peoplehood. If there’s a way that we can support one another’s Jewish lives and journeys, then it should be our honor to do so.

“All of Israel are responsible to one another” is not an empty maxim, but a motto that should guide our lives. Each night of Hanukkah can be a moment of rededication to this principle if we remain conscious that we are lighting not only for ourselves and for our families, but for all of our fellow members of the tribe, whoever they are, wherever they reside and however they live and love their Judaism. Indeed, there may be no better place to wind up on the fourth night of Hanukkah than in the lobby of your accidental Tel Aviv hotel.

There’s something about Hanukkah. It generates a vibe of Jewish unity, of Jewish solidarity and community, as no other occasion on the calendar does. If we will it, the vibe of Hanukkah can become the vibe of Jewish life.

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky is rabbi of B’nai David–Judea Congregation.

The Dazzling Idea of Hanukkah

“What is Judaism?” asks Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. “A religion? A faith? A way of life? A set of beliefs? A collection of commands? A culture? A civilization?”

It is all of these, he responds, but something more — a “constellation of ideas.”

Judaism values the power to think. The rabbi describes our tradition as “a dazzlingly original way of thinking about life.”

In our Twitter-crazy world of radical polarization, are we losing this power to think? It often feels like it. We seem to always be in combat mode. We want to catch our opponents in a mistake, crush them with our talking points. Instead of valuing ideas, we value clever arguments. Above all, we want to be right.

Great ideas, though, are not about being right. They’re meant to enlighten, not bludgeon. They seek to open minds, not change them. They inspire thought, not angry passion.

Great ideas are not about being right. They’re meant to enlighten, not bludgeon.

Among his favorite ideas, Sacks quotes the American Declaration of Independence and its key sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

While claiming that “this is arguably the most important sentence in the history of modern politics,” Sacks notes the irony that “these truths are very far indeed from being self-evident. They would have sounded absurd to Plato and Aristotle, both of whom believed that not all men are created equal and therefore they do not have equal rights.”

The transformational idea of human equality, Sacks explains, can be self-evident only “to someone brought up in a culture that had deeply internalized the Hebrew Bible and the revolutionary idea set out in its first chapter, that we are each, regardless of color, culture, class or creed, in the image and likeness of God. This was one of Judaism’s world-changing ideas.”

Yes, ideas can change the world, but they can also change us.

One of my favorite ideas in Judaism is how we extract deep wisdom from our holidays. Digging for meaning is integral to the observance of rituals. We don’t just fast, pray or sit around a festive table. We’re supposed to go deep, find life lessons, ask big questions: How can these rituals help us grow? How can they bring us closer? How can they add meaning to our lives?

In our cover story this week, Rabbi Yosef Kanesfsky goes deep to find meaning in the quirky holiday of Hanukkah. If there’s one Jewish holiday that can use such an excavation, it’s surely the festival that has been so trivialized by its modern playfulness — by the dreidels and gelt and jelly doughnuts and latkes and Adam Sandler songs and those nightly gifts for the kids.

Beyond the fun stuff — which we should never undervalue — there’s spiritual gold to mine, and Kanefsky goes digging for the gems. Some of those gems speak directly to issues our community is facing.

“If we listen closely to Hanukkah,” he writes, “to its story and its laws, we’ll discover several indispensable pieces of advice that it offers — advice about how to hold together a community of differences, and about how such a community can learn to live and sing together, despite not always agreeing about every issue that arises.”

In his search, Kanefsky explores why Hanukkah falls so late after the great victory it commemorates. Why did Judah the Maccabee and company specifically choose the 25th of Kislev as the day to rededicate the Temple, even though the Syrian-Greeks had been driven out of Jerusalem months earlier, during the summer of 163 C.E.?

“Judah’s wisdom of waiting,” Kanefsky writes, “was the wisdom of recognizing that Jews interpret the world and God’s role in it differently, with resultant differences in how to commemorate and observe significant events. And he understood that the greater our ability to hear and honor many voices, the greater is the likelihood that we will be able to establish a calendar and to practice sacred rituals that unite us all.”

That’s just to give you a taste of the spiritual gems that lurk beneath the dreidels and latkes. They’re part of that “constellation of ideas” Rabbi Sacks speaks about when conveying the compelling nature of the Jewish faith.

If there’s one Jewish holiday that can use such an excavation, it’s surely the festival that has been so trivialized by its modern playfulness.

“Too few people think about faith in these terms,” Sacks writes. “We know the Torah contains commands, 613 of them. We know that Judaism has beliefs. Maimonides formulated them as the 13 principles of Jewish faith. But these are not all that Judaism is, nor are they what is most distinctive about it.”

What is distinctive is a “dazzlingly original way of thinking about life.”

In this issue, we offer you a dazzlingly original way of looking at Hanukkah. But don’t worry, we also have some great food and gift ideas.

Happy Hanukkah.

Week of December 8, 2017

Jewish Holidays: Tools That Will Make the Holidays a Little Easier

The holidays are approaching. This can mean different things for families, such as spending time with each other, shopping, or observing Jewish traditions.

Still, no matter how much one prepares, the holidays can be a little stressful. The following are interesting tools Jewish families have at their disposal to make things a little easier during the holidays.

Calendar Days

One of the most useful tools available today is the Jewish Days app. This application can be downloaded on most smart devices and helps people track special Jewish holidays.

It is okay to admit that some of these days are hard to keep track of, and the app tracks these days for you so you are never caught off guard. The app also allows you to add additional notes should there be something worth noting this year.

Proper Storytelling Tool

Getting the days right is just one thing to worry about. Others worry about telling the Haggadah Passover story. The story is normally condensed, but telling it in front of family and friends can still be intimidating.

This is why the Haggadah for Passover application can be useful. It outlines the story to ensure that it is told correctly, and it also tells the user when to drink from the cup of wine.

It makes the moment easier and makes you feel more confident, which is ultimately what everyone wants. All you have to do is type in the name of the app on your app store.

Gifting Help

You have a lot to worry about, from entertaining guests to updating family with all the information they might be interested in. On top of this, you still have to purchase the right gifts.

Another tool worth adding to your list is BestAdvisor, which allows you to browse through hundreds of gifts. This might not seem too useful at first, but what makes this tool unique is that it aggregates reviews from real people so that you get exactly what you were looking for.

You can also check on the present you are considering seeing how others have rated it before deciding on it.

The Cleanup

Preparing the house for the holidays can be a little overwhelming, but it can be a family affair if you want it to.

Getting rid of all Chametz can be challenging, but there are a number of tools out there that you can use to make this a little easier. For example, there is the No Chametz tool, which is an easy app to install and use.

The tool helps you find out what is Chametz, which can be confusing in this day and age. You should also receive a link that shares information. You will be able to sell things while still observing traditions.

Kosher Eating App

You got rid of all the Chametz, but that does not mean your work is done. Now, you have to make sure your food is acceptable for the holidays. It used to be quite difficult to ensure all food was Kosher, but that is becoming easier.

One tool that is making things easier for families across the country is the cRc Kosher application. The tool lists a number of foods that are considered Kosher. Another effective tool to consider is the OU Kosher application that helps you shop at the grocery store since it tells you if a product is Kosher or not.

Technology is making things easier for people, including Jewish families. Granted, these are just some of the tools out there, so do not be afraid to search your app store to look for other tools worth exploring.

Photos by Jonathan Fong.

Branching Out for Hanukkah

How much do we love Hanukkah? Let us count the ways with this festive Hanukkah countdown branch. Eight little wrapped boxes hang from the branch, and each night of Hanukkah one of the gifts gets to be opened. It’s true what they say — good things come in small packages.

What you’ll need:
8 small boxes with gifts inside
Wrapping paper
Branch, about 18 inches long
Glue stick


1. Gather eight small gift boxes. I bought these at The Container Store, but you can also look in your closets and repurpose any packaging you may find.


2. Place a gift in each box, and wrap the boxes.


3. Tie a ribbon vertically around each gift box. The ribbon is more than decorative — it will hold the string that is tied to the branch.


4. Find a branch that is about 18 inches long. You can cut one from your yard or purchase one from a crafts store. You also can use a dowel, long ruler or even a hanger. Tie a piece of string to each end for hanging.


5. Tie a piece of string around the ribbon on each box. Then hang the gift boxes on the branch with the string, spacing them evenly.


6. Write a number on each box, from one to eight. You can write directly on the package, or write the numbers on paper that you then glue to the box.

Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at

Just Desserts for Hanukkah — Even Latkes

I remember celebrating HanuKkah when growing up and being with my extended family of uncles, aunts and cousins. The highlights were lighting the Hanukkah menorah, eating lots of latkes, exchanging gifts and anticipating all the great desserts.

Potato latkes are the most popular of the Hanukkah foods. They are traditionally fried in olive oil to a delicious crispness and served with applesauce, sour cream, sugar and preserves.

This year, we are preparing recipes that include new, delicious Dessert Potato Latkes, a combination of apples and potatoes, as well as an Italian Olive Oil Cake, a recipe from chef/butcher Dario Cecchini (our adopted Italian son) that is served at his restaurant, Solo Ciccia, in Tuscany.

I also love to serve Sufganiyot, deep-fried doughnuts, usually eaten in Israel as a snack or at the conclusion of the Hanukkah dinner. The dough can be prepared in advance and fried in olive oil just before serving.

For our dessert buffet, and as an extra treat, we ask all the bakers in the family to bring their favorite, homemade Hanukkah cookies to share during our celebration.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy
2 large Red Delicious apples, peeled,
seeded and diced
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled
and shredded
2 eggs
4 to 5 tablespoons matzo meal
Salt to taste
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar for garnish

In a nonstick skillet, melt butter and add apples, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon. Over medium-high heat, sauté until apples are glazed, about 4 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the apple mixture, potatoes, eggs, matzo meal and salt. Mix well.

In a nonstick skillet, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil. With a tablespoon, spoon the potato-apple mixture into the hot oil and flatten the latkes with the back of the spoon. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes a side, turning only once, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes about 24 latkes.

Olive oil for baking pan
1/4 cup ground almonds for baking pan
5 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 oranges, finely chopped (pulp and peel)
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup raisins, plumped in Vin Santo or
a sweet wine
1/2 cup (toasted) pine nuts for garnish
Sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush a 10- or 12-inch springform pan with olive oil and dust with ground almonds.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar. Add orange peel and pulp and blend well. Slowly add the olive oil alternately with the flour and baking powder, and mix until smooth. Fold in the raisins.

Let rest for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. The oil is light, but tends to separate from the batter; mix well.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, level it and dust it with sugar, a little oil and the pine nuts. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

Makes 1 large, round cake.

SUFGANIYOT (Doughnuts)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk or nondairy creamer
Olive oil for frying
Powdered sugar for garnish

In a mixing bowl, combine 1/4 cup olive oil, sugar, eggs and egg yolk. Beat until fluffy. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Stir into egg mixture alternately with buttermilk.

Toss dough onto floured board and knead in additional flour if dough is sticky. Divide dough in half or quarters for easier handling. Pat and roll out 1/2-inch thick. Cut with doughnut cutter (round) dipped in flour.

In a heavy skillet, heat 1 to 2 inches of oil to 360 F. Drop Sufganiyot into hot oil and fry 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or dip in sugar.

Makes about 24 Sufganiyot.

Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is

Hanukkah Books for Kids Are Full of Wit, Whimsy

Many new Hanukkah-themed illustrated children’s books are full of wit and surprises this year. Some books take on the holiday with a bit of a twist, while others comfortably rely on traditional stories, newly told. All the recommended choices here celebrate the holiday with humor — from a fractured fairy tale and a reimagining of the beloved Chelm stories, to modern-day stories of multicultural families and, surprisingly, even the vaccine controversy.

“Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Tale” by Gloria Koster. Illustrated by Sue Eastland. Albert Whitman & Co.

Spunky Little Red Ruthie wears a puffy, red-hooded parka on her way to Bubbe Basha’s house on the other side of the forest. It’s snowing as she kisses her mother goodbye and leaves her comfortable, modern home with her basket filled with sour cream and applesauce. When a frightening wolf appears on the path and threatens, “Little girl … I am going to eat you up!” Ruthie stays strong and brave. Like the Maccabees of old, she “would stand up to her enemy too.” Ruthie meets up with the wolf again at Bubbe’s house and cleverly tricks him into delaying his evil plan by telling him the story of Hanukkah and frying up lots of latkes. The hungry wolf overindulges and gets too full for another bite of anything else as he is escorted out the door. The humorous illustrations enhance the well-told tale. A useful latke recipe is included.

“Way Too Many Latkes: A Hanukkah in Chelm” by Linda Glaser. Illustrated by Aleksandar Zolotic. Kar-Ben.

Chelm stories are supposed to be funny, and this one will inspire giggling in any child, particularly if the reader hams up the character voices. We learn that Faigel makes the best latkes in all of Chelm, but unfortunately for everyone else, she makes only enough for herself and Shmuel, her hapless husband. One year, she inexplicably forgets the recipe and her husband must go to the rabbi (“the wisest man in Chelm”) to ask how many potatoes need to be used. The rabbi tells him to “use them all” without realizing that Shmuel and Faigel’s larder is full. The cycle is repeated with the other ingredients (eggs, onions) and silliness ensues. The comic-style illustrations capture the kitchen mayhem, idealized shtetl life and the over-the-top storyline with amusing flair. Of course, the whole town gets to partake in the deliciousness by the story’s end.

“The Missing Letters: A Dreidel Story” by Renee Londner. Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk. Kar-Ben.

Children will be delighted to find out that dreidels come alive at night at the dreidel factory and talk to one another. Actually, they like to argue about the fairness of the dreidel game rules. The nuns are jealous of the gimels because … who wants to get a nun, anyway? But the shins have the most legitimate complaint, since people have to add to the pot when the dreidel falls on their letter. The heys, shins and nuns band together to figure out a way to make the gimels disappear before Hanukkah begins. They come up with elaborate ways to hide the sleeping gimels in a fun and busy double-paged, purple spread that kids will enjoy deciphering. In the morning, when it is time for the dreidel makers to add on the letters, they can’t find the gimels! When the dreidel maker explains the historical importance of the dreidel, the mischievous letters feel remorseful and do the right thing to make the dreidels whole again. It is a fun and silly story with delightfully appealing cartoonish illustrations and lots of purple — everywhere.

“Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas” by Pamela Ehrenberg. Illustrated by Anjan Sarkar. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The family members of the boy who is this story’s narrator are preparing for Hanukkah, but something about them seems different. They stop at the Little India Market on the way home from Hebrew school, bringing along his “amma-amma” (grandma), who is clothed in traditional Indian dress. They purchase dal and rice, but our unnamed narrator’s active little sister is climbing around the store, upsetting the coconut milk display. To distract her, he makes up new words to an old song: “I had a little dosa, I made it out of dal.” We learn that his father grew up Jewish and his mother is from India, and they have a family tradition of making dosas (a type of pancake fried in coconut oil) at Hanukkah. When they are locked out of their home by mistake at a large family celebration, little Sadie saves the day by using her climbing skills. Multicultural children’s books for Jewish families are an important addition to the literature as they reflect the lives of real families where children can see themselves represented and accepted as part of their community.

“Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor: A Story for Hanukkah” by Ann D. Koffsky. Illustrated by Talitha Shipman. Apples & Honey Press.

Kids need books to help them through scary experiences, and getting a shot is clearly one of those times. This book connects the bravery of Judah Maccabee with the bravery of a little boy, also named Judah, as he visits the doctor for a shot. The text emphasizes how much pride he has in being a good brother to his baby sister and how much he wants to protect her, particularly by using the Maccabee shield he gets as a Hanukkah gift. When his dad explains that getting his shot actually will act as a shield to protect his sister in a different way, he sticks out his arm for the doctor and the deed is done. He is proud of his “on-the-inside” bravery and realizes that heroism can manifest itself in a variety of ways. While it is an unusual combination of two subjects, the book is an important validation of science in response to vaccine misinformation. It stands as quite a Jewish educational feat, considering that all the incensed Amazon anti-vaccine reviewers calling it propaganda from “Big Pharma” also learned a lovely lesson on the origins of the Hanukkah holiday.

Lisa Silverman is the director of the Burton Sperber Jewish Community Library at American Jewish University.

Photo from Wikipedia

Gluten-Free Latkes That Are Nothing Short of Miraculous

Gluten-free everything seems to be all the rage. My friends in New York City tell me gluten is so reviled these days that you can practically hold up a bank while wielding only a bagel.

My experience in the large cafeteria that I run in the U.S. Embassy in Uganda mirrors this paradigm shift in our food pyramid. Grains and wheat seem to wreak havoc on a large part of the population’s digestive tracts, and so, as a result, I’ve noticed more requests for gluten-free meals and cakes than ever before.

You would think that’s not such great news for a pastry chef, but quite the contrary. Learning how to cook with alternate flours has sent me down an exciting path of discovery regarding new ingredients and healthier approaches to cooking traditional favorites.

One of the first recipes I adapted to this trend was for latkes after many of my non-gluten eating customers began lamenting the fact that they couldn’t enjoy their favorite treat on the Hanukkah menu. Even though potatoes fried in oil are not what anyone would deem a health food, making latkes without flour actually makes them crispier, lighter and so much tastier. So good, in fact, that when Latke Day rolls around in our embassy, I can look forward to making hundreds to satisfy the masses — Jewish and non-Jewish — that gather excitedly in the cafeteria early in the morning.

In terms of what to serve with latkes, I’ve adopted the traditional Ashkenazi accompaniments in the form of applesauce and sour cream. This despite growing up in a Sephardic household that has disdain for mixing sweet and salty on the same plate. But follow your own preferences: You would be completely justified serving your potato pancakes with slices of smoked salmon, a dollop of crème fraiche and chopped dill, or Russian-style, as a bed for caviar or salmon roe and a squeeze of lemon.

Take it from someone who’s slaved on the industrial latke production line: Follow my instructions, and I’ll bet you never go back to the old days of adding flour to the mix. But, please, whatever you do, don’t think about the calories. They’re worth it — and then some.

4 1/2 pounds of russet, Idaho or Yukon
Gold potatoes, unpeeled
1 large white or yellow onion, peeled and
cut in half
3 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon of freshly grated black pepper
(optional or to taste)
3 to 5 cups of canola or peanut oil
(do not use olive oil)

Wash and scrub potatoes with a vegetable brush or scrubber and remove all sand and dirt. Using the large holes on a cheese grater or the grater attachment of a food processor, grate the potatoes with the peel on, directly over a large bowl of ice water. Skipping the peeling step will save lots of time and energy.

Grate the onion into the same bowl of ice water and then swirl this mixture around with your hands; let it sit for 5 minutes. Notice the water getting cloudy — that’s the starch being pulled from the potato. You are going to use this to make the pancakes hold together, so don’t throw it away.

Line another dry bowl with a few dry kitchen towels and begin grabbing fistfuls of the potatoes and onions, squeezing as much moisture as you can out of them. Wring the water out over the bowl of ice water to catch the starch, placing the dry potatoes in the towel-lined bowl. Repeat until all the potatoes in the original bowl are dry.

Let the ice water settle for 15 minutes while you press and squeeze the potatoes and onions one last time with another dry kitchen towel. After 15 minutes, the ice water will clear and a thick white paste will form at the bottom of the bowl. Carefully pour off the water, leaving about 3 tablespoons of potato starch. With a spatula, collect the starch and add to the dry potatoes, along with the eggs, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly.

Start frying immediately, so your potatoes don’t oxidize and turn black. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan on medium heat just until it shimmers but before it reaches its smoking point. Take a 1/4-cup scoop and make a test latke to check for salt. If the seasonings are to your liking, continue scooping 1/4 cupfuls of the mixture into the hot oil, flattening the pancakes with your spatula after putting them in the pan. It’s important to keep the latkes on the thinner side, so the insides get a chance to cook before the outsides develop too much color and burn. Don’t overcrowd the pan so that the latkes can properly crisp.

Leave to cook about 4 minutes per side, flipping only once, or until they are golden brown and have crispy edges on both sides. Adjust the heat accordingly. Replenish the oil in between batches, making sure to let the new oil heat up before adding more mixture to the pan.

If you have a lot of latkes to make, set up a wire rack to keep them crisp longer. Otherwise, you can keep them in an oven heated to 200 F on a paper towel-lined baking tray while you continue frying. Latkes are best served pan to the plate, but if you aren’t willing to sacrifice yourself to the task, the oven may be your best option.

Makes about 40 latkes.

Yamit Behar Wood, an Israeli-American food and travel writer, is the executive chef at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda, and founder of the New York Kitchen Catering Co.

Members of the “Bnei Menashe” Jewish community in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, India, on their way to the airport, Feb. 12, 2017. Photo courtesy of Shavei Israel

These incredible photos show members of an Indian-Jewish ‘lost tribe’ moving to Israel

One hundred and two members of the Jewish community in India, who trace their heritage to one of Israel’s lost tribes, are moving to Israel this week.

The immigrants, who hail from the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram — home to the second largest concentration of the country’s Bnei Menashe community, as they are called — will arrive in Israel on Tuesday and Thursday. The move is being facilitated by Shavei Israel, a nonprofit that seeks to connect “lost” and “hidden” Jews to the Jewish state.

The group plans to live in the city of Nazareth Illit, where other members of their community have already settled. Some 3,000 Bnei Menashe have immigrated to Israel in recent years, with another 7,000 remaining in India.

Members of the “Bnei Menashe” Jewish community in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, India, Feb. 12. Photo courtesy of Shavei Israel

Their move represents the first time in three years that members of the Bnei Menashe community from Mizoram have moved to Israel, according to a statement by Shavei Israel.

Members of the “Bnei Menashe” Jewish community at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, en route to Israel, Feb. 13. Photo courtesy of Shavei Israel.

“After 27 centuries of exile, this lost tribe of Israel is truly coming home,” said Shavei Israel founder Michael Freund. “But we will not rest until all the remaining Bnei Menashe still in India are able to make aliyah as well.”

Freund, a conservative writer and former aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said his organization was hoping to bring more than 700 Jews from India to Israel this year.

Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from across northeastern India gathering in Churachandpur, in the Indian state of Manipur to celebrate Hanukkah, Dec. 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of Shavei Israel.


Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from across northeastern India gather in Churachandpur, in the state of Manipur, to celebrate Hanukkah on Dec. 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of Shavei Israel.


Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from across northeastern India gather in Churachandpur, in the state of Manipur, to celebrate Hanukkah on Dec. 8, 2015. Photo courtesy of Shavei Israel.

Burger King Israel introduces doughnut burger for Chanukah

Burger King restaurants in Israel have introduced a doughnut burger for the Chanukah season.

The SufganiKing is a Whopper with savory doughnuts in place of buns. Its name is a play on the Hebrew word for doughnuts, sufganiyot, which are ubiquitous on every Israeli street corner in the weeks leading up to Chanukah.

The burger “proves that miracles still happen,” Burger King Israel said in a Facebook post, a reference to the miracles at the heart of the holiday story.

The SufganiKing will be sold for about $4. It will be available through Jan. 1, the last day of Chanukah, according to reports.

Gifts to de-light

These are serious times. We just finished a brutal election cycle here in the United States, and things are as tense and uncertain as ever in the Middle East. What better excuse than Chanukah, then, to relax a little? For those who are interested in passing along a little laugh with some holiday spirit, here are a few fun gift ideas.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: Dec. 8-14, 2012


Dana Berger and Dan Toren

Singer-songwriter Berger is likened to an Israeli Joni Mitchell. Toren is an acclaimed songwriter behind some of Israel’s biggest pop hits. The two appear together for an acoustic performance at The Mint. Sat. 9:30 p.m. $45 (presale), $50 (door). The Mint, 6010 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (408) 318-7143.


Kugl Kukh-Off

Calling all kugel aficionados! Whether it’s sweet or savory, the kugel is the ultimate in Jewish-American culinary creativity when it comes to the holiday or family gathering. Today, bring your best kugel (or your favorite tasting fork) to Yiddishkayt’s third quadrennial Kugl Kukh-Off. Part of the Silverlake Independent JCC’s annual Festival of Lights, which features live entertainment and fun for the entire family. Kugel drop-off and registration starts at 11 a.m. and tasting begins at noon. Sun. noon-3 p.m. Kugl Kukh-Off: $2 (all the kugel you can eat and judge). Festival of Lights: free (adults), $15 (children). Silverlake Independent JCC, 1110 Bates Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 389-8880.


L.A. Clippers Jewish Heritage Day

Celebrate Chanukah with the Clippers as they square off against the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center. Pregame warm-ups include a menorah lighting and a Q-and-A with rabbis. The Keshet Chaim Dance Ensemble performs at halftime. Your Chanukah gift from the Clippers: a free T-shirt. Sun. 10:30 a.m. (pre-game), 12:30 p.m. (game time). $20-$62. Staples Center, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 742-7503.


A Holiday Celebration of Jewish Stories

Veteran actors Robert Lesser, Richard Fancy, Orson Bean and others bring to life stories by Saul Bellow, Sholem Aleichem, Grace Paley and Bernard Malamud, tracing the modern history of the Jews through fiction. The program includes Bellow’s “A Wen,” Aleichem’s “She Must Marry a Doctor,” Paley’s “The Loudest Voice” and Malamud’s “The Jewbird.” Directed and compiled by Matt Gottlieb. Sun. 2 p.m.; Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. $20. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 822-8392.


Wabash Saxons

Made up of former residents of Boyle Heights and Theodore Roosevelt High School alumni, this social club meets today for its 60th semi-annual luncheon. Former L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti appears as guest speaker. Mon. Noon. Free (lunch not included). Taix French Restaurant, 1911 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. RSVP to (310) 459-3620.


Ronna & Beverly 

Ronna Glickman (Jessica Chaffin) and Beverly Ginsburg (Jamie Denbo) are America’s favorite 50-something Jewish mothers. Between them they have seven marriages, three children, some step-kids they never talk about and a best-selling book, “You’ll Do a Little Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage and Re-marriage for Jewish Singles.” Tue. 8 p.m. $10. Upright Citizens Brigade, 5919 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 908-8702.


Zubin Mehta 50th Anniversary Concert

Celebrating 50 years since he was named music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, world-renowned maestro Mehta conducts the L.A. Phil in a performance of Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni, Hindemith’s Symphony: Mathis der Maler and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s music director for life, Mehta has demonstrated solidarity with the Jewish state throughout his celebrated career. Through Dec. 16. Thu. 8 p.m. $54.50-$187. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown. (323) 850-2000.


Harry Shearer and Judith Owen

Actor-satirist Shearer (KCRW’s “Le Show,” “The Simpsons”) and his singer-songwriter wife, Owen, host “An Evening of Holiday Music and Mirth,” which began as an annual gathering for family and friends but soon grew too large to host at the couple’s home. Mixing traditional and nontraditional holiday music, the public performances have drawn such celebrity guests as Jane Lynch (“Glee”), Weird Al Yankovic and Shearer collaborator Christopher Guest. Who knows who will turn up this year? Fri. 8 p.m. $50. Largo at the Coronet, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 855-0350.

Shining a new light on the Jewish response to Christmas

From Kung Pao kosher comedy to a swinging Mardi Gras version of the “Dreidel” song, two new Chanukah season releases explore the intriguing, delightful and sometimes perplexing ways in which American Jews have responded to Christmas.

In a book and an audio CD compilation, the holiday season known as the “December dilemma” is seen and heard in a new light. An added bonus: the covers of both are enticing and entertaining.

In the book “A Kosher Christmas” (Rutgers University Press, $22.95) subtitled “'Tis the Season to be Jewish,” Joshua Eli Plaut offers a richly detailed, page-turning read that draws on historical documents and ethnographic research sprinkled with often humorous images and photos.

In his introduction Plaut, a rabbi and scholar, admits to a lifelong fascination with Christmas. The son of a rabbi, he recalls as a young child growing up on Long Island in the 1960s that his mother dutifully took him to sit on Santa's lap every December.

“She was never worried about any influence on me as a child because my family was secure in its Jewish identity,” he writes.

Plaut paints a historical portrait of the shifts in American Jewish attitudes toward Christmas — the only American holiday founded on religion, he notes.

Jews have employed “a multitude of strategies to face the particular challenges of Christmas and to overcome feelings of exclusion and isolation,” he writes, adding that Jews actually have played a crucial role in popularizing Christmas by composing many of the country's most beloved holiday songs.

Plaut treats readers to a chapter on the popular Jewish custom of eating Chinese food on Christmas, a tradition that surprisingly dates back more than a century to Eastern European immigrants on the Lower East Side of New York. One  photo shows a sign in a Chinese restaurant window that thanks the Jewish people for their patronage during Christmas.

In the 1990s, comedian Lisa Geduldig hosted the first Kung Pao Kosher Comedy evening of Jewish stand-up comedy in a San Francisco Chinese restaurant on Christmas. Two decades later the event is still going strong and being replicated in cities across America.

On a more serious note, Plaut reveals a long history of Jewish volunteerism on Christmas, serving the needy and working shifts for non-Jewish co-workers, allowing them to spend the day with family and friends.

Plaut also covers the challenges faced by intermarried families at Chanukah and Christmas. He addresses as well the subject of public displays of religious symbols, with Jews on both sides of the issue.

Jonathan Sarna, the American Jewish historian who wrote the foreword, cautions that the book should not be read merely as a story of assimilation. In a phone conversation with JTA, the prominent Brandeis University professor argues that if that were the case, the book would be about how Jews observe Christmas.

Rather, Plaut chronicles how Jews demonstrate their Jewish identity through alternative ways of acting on Christmas that show them to be Jewish and American. Most significant, Sarna asserts, “A Kosher Christmas” is important because it portrays how two religions are transformed by the knowledge of the other.

The CD, “'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah” ($15.99) is a lively and inspiring music collection gathered by the Idelsohn Society, a nonprofit volunteer organization that aims to celebrate a Jewish musical heritage that may be lost to history.

The two-CD set includes 17 tracks for Chanukah and Christmas — some familiar and others that are lesser known. Performers on the Chanukah disc include Woody Guthrie, Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, Flory Jagoda, Mickey Katz, the Klezmatics and Debbie Friedman. Among the voices that croon and swing on the Christmas disc are The Ramones, Theo Bikel, Dinah Shore, Sammy Davis Jr. and Benny Goodman.

A 31-page booklet of liner notes is a fascinating read of short essays, notes on the songs and colorful reproductions of old Chanukah recordings.

The project started as an effort to present a historical survey of Chanukah music, according to David Katznelson, a veteran record producer who is one of the four principals of the Idelsohn Society. Other members of the core group include Roger Bennett, Courtney Holt and Josh Kun.

As their search deepened, they found noteworthy Chanukah recordings, Katznelson recalls, some by well-known performers, others by little-known singers and educators. But the group was most struck by the abundance of Christmas music by Jewish composers and performers.

“The biggest Jewish names in music have at least one Christmas recording in their catalog,” they write in the liner notes.

The group shifted the lens of their project to tell the full story “of how American Jews used music to negotiate their place in American national culture,” according to the liner notes.

“This was an amazing way to look at Jewish identity in the 20th century, through a combination of the history of Chanukah recordings side by side with Jews performing Christmas songs,” Katznelson affirms.

Some of the earliest Chanukah recordings appear in the 1920s and 1930s. By then, what had been a minor Jewish holiday through the later years of the 19th century had been transformed into a major celebration that was promoted by Jewish religious leaders and embraced by American Jewry.

The emergence of Chanukah recordings parallels that transformation, Katznelson suggests. In the postwar 1950s, in addition to traditional songs, livelier recordings targeted children.

On the Chanukah recording, Katznelson points to “Yevonim” (The Greeks) by Rosenblatt as the showstopper. Rosenblatt, a Ukraine native who immigrated to New York in 1912 at the age of 30, became known in the U.S. as the greatest cantor of his time.

A Yiddish song about the Chanukah oil that burned for eight days, “Yevonim” opens with a chorus of women followed by Rosenblatt's huge, haunting rich tenor full of color and warmth.

Many will be surprised by Guthrie's upbeat version of “Hanukkah Dance,” part of his 1940s collection of Jewish songs made for Moses Asch, founder of Folkways Records.

“He can take anything and make it American,” Katznelson says of the late folk legend, whose centennial birthday this year is being marked by performances of his music across the country.

Sure to be a party favorite is the version of “Dreidel” performed live by Jeremiah Lockwood, Ethan Miller and Luther Dickinson. The song was recorded live at a pop-up Chanukah record store concert hosted last year in San Francisco by the Idelsohn Society.

At the end of the song, the trio takes off into the New Orleans classic “Iko Iko,” sung to the tune of “Dreidel.” The tune no doubt will get listeners off the couch, singing and dancing.

On the Christmas CD, Katznelson is most drawn to Bikel's little-known 1967 recording of “Sweetest Dreams Be Thine.” Bikel, the beloved Jewish folk singer and actor, performs the Christmas song moving between Hebrew and English.

“It's the quintessential track of the whole compilation,” Katznelson says. “It's just Chanukah and Christmas, side by side, a perfect mishmosh.”

Katznelson says the society hopes the music conveys a deeper sense of Jewish history while raising questions that provoke conversation about the meaning of the holiday music.

Some may hear familiar songs in a new perspective, he says.

“This is music that is usually in the background,” Katznelson says. “We're bringing it to the foreground.” 

A Brentwood Country Club Chanukah [RECIPES]

Chef Brett Swartzman is a chef with passion. The Chicago native started working in his parents’ Jewish bakery when he was 10 years old, making bagels, muffins, cookies, challah and sandwiches.

Chanukah was always a big celebration at his grandparents’ home. Coming from a big family, there was always a kids’ table, and because there were so many cousins, Swartzman sat there until he was 17 years old. But while his cousins were busy playing dreidel, he was in the kitchen, helping his grandmother fry latkes.

This year will be his first preparing Chanukah dinner for the Brentwood Country Club.

His experience goes far beyond what he learned from his bubbe. Swartzman went from prep cook to line cook at a Marriott hotel, but decided he needed more training and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. There he received an associate degree in culinary arts and an additional certification in baking and pastry arts. 

Returning home to Chicago, Swartzman landed a job as sous chef at the Deer Path Inn in Lake Forest, Ill. His first executive chef job was at Rolling Green Country Club in Arlington Heights, Ill., where he met his future wife, Sheila Wu, the pastry chef.

Upon moving to California, Swartzman continued his career at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach. Then this young, ambitious and accomplished chef with more than 15 years of food preparation, catering, banquets, à la carte and fine dining experience was offered the position of executive chef at the Brentwood Country Club.

More than 350 guests are expected on Dec. 9. for Swartzman’s first Chanukah event at the Brentwood. A special holiday menu will be served buffet style, with a special buffet table for the kids. 

When asked what Chanukah celebrations were like when he was growing up in Chicago, Swartzman explained that the holiday always centered around food, especially the traditional dishes. His grandmother prepared foods fried in olive oil: potato latkes served with applesauce; zucchini latkes; kreplach; sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) and beef brisket with tzimmes. But the family’s favorite was kishke, a dish he is still trying to perfect.

Everyone at the Brentwood loves his chopped liver. The secret ingredient is lots of chicken shmaltz, and he suggests using a meat grinder rather than a food processor for a coarser texture.

His family’s influence continues to live on in other ways. Swartzman’s mom is a pastry chef at Lake Forest Place, a retirement community in Lake Forest, Ill., and he still uses her recipes for mandelbread, coconut macaroons and rugelach.






1 pound fresh chicken livers

1 medium onion, sliced

1/2 cup shmaltz

5 hard-boiled eggs

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Rye bread 

1/4 cup chopped

        white onions, for garnish

1 or 2 hard-boiled

       eggs, sieved, for garnish

Sauté livers in 1/4 cup shmaltz until cooked through. Caramelize the sliced onions in the remaining 1/4 cup shmaltz until golden brown. While livers and caramelized onions are still warm, place in food processer or meat grinder, add hard-boiled eggs, salt and peppers; pulse until thoroughly combined. Do not overmix. Chill. Serve with rye bread, chopped onions and sieved eggs.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.



1 whole beef brisket 

      (deckle on)

Salt and black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups red wine

3 carrots, diced

3 onions, diced

8 ribs celery, diced

5 garlic cloves, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can diced 

      tomatoes, undrained

4 sprigs fresh thyme

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Chicken stock


Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Season the whole untrimmed brisket liberally with salt and pepper. Then, over high heat, sear the brisket in olive oil in a roasting pan until deep golden brown. Deglaze pan with red wine, then add carrots, onions, celery, garlic, undrained tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and enough chicken stock to come halfway up the sides of the brisket. 

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 3 hours. Turn brisket over, cover and continue cooking for another 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the brisket. 

Check for doneness with a cooking fork — it should slide easily in and out of the brisket. If it feels like the brisket is holding onto the fork, it’s not done yet. Once done, remove brisket from braising liquid and let rest for 45 minutes. 

Meanwhile, strain the braising liquid and skim off the excess fat. This will be the gravy. After the brisket has rested, trim it of excess fat, then slice the brisket against the grain. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings. 



1 cup cooked black beluga lentils

1 or 2 bay leaves

2 cups cooked white rice

1 medium onion, diced

1/4 cup shmaltz

Fresh chopped thyme

Salt and white pepper, to taste

Place the lentils in a small saucepan with 3 cups water. Add bay leaves. Simmer slowly until the lentils are just done, al dente, about 20 minutes. 

Caramelize the onion in the shmaltz, cooking until deep golden-brown. Add chopped thyme; cooked lentils and cooked rice. Season with salt and pepper.

Can be made ahead of time and reheated in an ovenproof dish.

Makes 6 servings.



2 potatoes, peeled, shredded, 

       rinsed and drained

1/2 medium onion, shredded

2 eggs

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper, to taste

Shmaltz or oil for frying

Serve with Granny Smith Applesauce 

      (recipe follows)

Combine shredded potatoes, onions, eggs, flour, salt, pepper and flour; mix well. Heat shmaltz or oil in skillet. Drop potato mixture by large spoonsful into schmaltz; fry until golden brown on both sides; drain on paper towels. Can be made ahead of time and reheated in the oven on a cookie sheet. Serve with Granny Smith Applesauce.

Makes 18 to 20 latkes.



6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, 

      cored and diced

1 cup sugar

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

1 vanilla bean, split

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a wide-based pot. Simmer over low heat until apples are falling apart and liquid is reduced, about 1 hour. Remove vanilla bean, transfer apple mixture to food processor, and blend until smooth. Refrigerate.

Makes 2 to 3 cups.



2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 F)


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, 

      room temperature

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons salt

Vegetable oil

1 cup seedless raspberry jam

In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Place flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; add eggs, yeast mixture, 1/4 cup sugar, margarine, nutmeg and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir until a sticky dough forms. On a well-floured work surface, knead until dough is smooth, soft and bounces back when poked with a finger, about 8 minutes (add more flour if necessary). Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch-round cutter or drinking glass, cut 20 rounds. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise 15 minutes.

In deep saucepan over medium heat, heat 3 cups oil until a deep-frying thermometer registers 370 F. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slip 4 dough rounds into oil. Fry until golden, about 40 seconds. Turn doughnuts over; fry until golden on other side, another 40 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rounds to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Roll in sugar while warm. Repeat with remaining dough rounds, frying in oil and rolling in sugar. 

Fit a pastry bag with a No. 4 tip and fill bag with jam. When doughnuts are cool enough to handle, make a small hole in the side of each doughnut with a wooden skewer or toothpick, fit the pastry tip into hole, and pipe about 2 teaspoons jam into doughnut. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and jam. 

Makes 14 to 16 doughnuts.

Books that make perfect Chanukah gifts

This season’s crop of Chanukah books for kids brings us welcome reissues of two old favorites, along with a colorful multicultural tale welcoming a new baby. For older youths, an outstanding graphic novel may be just the right kind of gift. And somehow, once again, some prehistoric pals have managed to get in on the holiday fun. 

The good news is that “Jeremy’s Dreidel” (Kar-Ben Publishing) by Ellie Gellman, has been updated and re-released after 20 years. Parents and teachers never tired of sharing this classic 1992 Chanukah story on account of the emotional wallop it delivers and the discussions that inevitably followed. Unfortunately, the original story started to feel a bit dated. Now we can all thank Kar-Ben publishers for requesting that Gellman take a fresh look at her previous work. She cleverly tightened the narrative, and a new illustrator, Maria Mola, was found who attractively reimagines the artwork. 

The story revolves around a youngster named Jeremy who attends a dreidel-making workshop at his local JCC. Even though the other kids are coming up with unusual ideas for their dreidel projects, Jeremy is sticking with a simple ball of clay and molding little dots onto the sides. Does he know a secret code? It turns out Jeremy’s father is blind and this dreidel is meant to be a special gift for his dad. Interesting information about dreidels, Chanukah, Braille and how blind people use modern technology is seamlessly interwoven within the narrative. The wonderful idea to reimagine this 20-year-old picture book now enables a new generation of kids to think a bit more about how a diverse community can celebrate holidays together in meaningful ways.

“Maccabee Meals: Food and Fun for Hanukkah” (Kar-Ben) by Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler and illustrated by Ursula Roma has also been reissued, and it is full of fun facts and simple recipes children will enjoy. Here’s one for starters: “The first day of Hanukkah and Christmas day coincide once every 38 years. The next time it will happen will be in 2016.” Such valuable trivia, along with delightful and simple recipes, can be found in this new addition to the Chanukah bookshelf. The thin paperback cookbook also includes such information as the candle-lighting blessings in English and Hebrew, dreidel trivia, table crafts and decoration ideas. 

This is another clever do-over of an old favorite from 20 years ago written by the same authors. Of course, you will find simple recipes for cookies, latkes and sufganiyot, but have your kids ever considered spooning shredded potatoes into a heated waffle iron, baking them for brunch and topping them with yogurt? Certainly preschoolers would happily busy themselves preparing a menorah sandwich — cream cheese or peanut butter on bread, eight pretzel-stick candles, one carrot-stick shamash and nine raisins as flames. Plus, who needs those store-bought chocolate coins when you have a recipe to make your own gelt and have more fun? So if you’re noticing your young chefs are watching too many Food Network shows, maybe you’ll find a plate of chicken latkes, hero sandwiches or hot dog mini-kabobs at your next Chanukah celebration by leaving the preparations to them.

“Room for the Baby” (Random House) by Michelle Edwards and illustrated by Jana Christy poses the question: What do you do when a new baby is coming, but there’s just no place to put her? The sewing room would be a perfect baby’s bedroom, but that’s also the room where Mom saves stuff — and lots of it. There are stacks of worn-out sheets, boxes of leftover yarn, various bolts of flannel and a wide variety of other odds and ends. Luckily, Mom is blessed with creative talent and nine months of ideas. As the queen of recycling, she (along with helpful neighbors) snips, sews and knits, and by the time the baby is born, on the third night of Chanukah, the little one has stacks of tiny sleepers, diapers and toys, along with a decorative, repurposed room.  

The author depicts members of a joyous Jewish family whose daily lives revolve around the Jewish calendar. They bake challah for Shabbat and dip apples in honey for the New Year, while living happily in a multicultural city neighborhood where everyone is willing to help each other out. The bright, amusing illustrations reflect the same use and reuse of various funky fabrics and textures as the storyline champions. The marvelous art of the endpapers includes colorful fabrics, spools of thread, yarn, baby onesies, menorahs and apples with honey — all things that will surely attract young children. This charming book melds the pleasures of Jewish family life with the excitement of anticipating the arrival of a new baby.

Huge colorful illustrations of mischievous dinosaurs grace each page of “How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?” (Blue Sky Press) by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Mark Teague. Those with vast dino-knowledge will recognize such beasts as the dracorex, nodosaur and scelidosaurus — creatures seemingly in need of instruction regarding proper Jewish holiday etiquette as they interrupt the prayers, blow out candles and peek under the bed in search of gifts. By the time the eight nights are over, however, these dinosaurs have learned to take turns with the dreidel, clear away dishes and behave properly. 

The text is simple and rhythmic, but the stars of the pages are those signature, oversize dinosaurs by Teague. Kids will get a Chanukah primer while happily memorizing Paleolithic terms, and parents of little ones will recognize a bit of familiarity in the dinosaurs’ entertaining antics.

Those looking for a gift for kids who like comics and adventure stories can’t go wrong with “Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite” (Amulet) by author/illustrator Barry Deutsch. This highly anticipated sequel to the 2010 Sydney Taylor Award-winning graphic novel has nothing to do with the holiday of Chanukah, but it would certainly make a fabulous gift. Deutsch continues the zany exploits of brave Mirka (the 11-year-old troll-fighting Orthodox Jewish girl), who is back with a new adventure featuring a six-legged-troll, a witch and a talking meteorite. And … believe it or not, the entire full-color comic fantasy co-exists naturally within a completely authentic portrayal of the Orthodox Jewish experience. 

Although our imperfect heroine was grounded for her sword fighting chronicled in the first book, “How Mirka Got Her Sword,” now she’s back and ready for more. After losing a difficult game of chess to her wise stepmother, Fruma, Mirka is challenged to “imagine the person you want to become someday.” A few misguided decisions eventually lead her to battle her own doppelganger — a rogue meteorite that has been turned into Mirka’s twin by the funky village witch. Kids will love the zany plot and the brilliance of the art that proves superior at conveying typical childhood emotions with great empathy. What a treat to have Mirka back! Parents and relatives of 9- to 12-year-olds of any denomination who like comics, reading or action surely won’t go wrong by picking up the first two volumes of this witty and popular new series for middle-grade readers. 

Lisa Silverman is the director of the Sinai Temple Blumenthal Library.

In defense of acquiring material things

Every year around Christmas and Chanukah time, writers, commentators, pundits and many rabbis, priests and ministers exhort Americans against spending money on things. We are too materialistic, we are told every year. Happiness, not to mention a meaningful life, depends on our having non-material things, not material things.

Thus, Americans are told to spend little or nothing on holiday gifts. Give your children love and time, we are told, not train sets (are they still given?), dolls or electronic devices.

The problem is, this advice is built on platitudes. And as is always the case with platitudes — or they wouldn’t be platitudes — the words sound nice but mean very little.

Before defending material things, let me make clear where I do agree with the joy-deniers. First, there is no question that no material thing can compete with love, religion, music, reading, health and other precious non-material things. And second, experiences contribute more to happiness than things do. If you only have x amount of money to spend on yourself, traveling to new places is usually more contributive to happiness than a better car. When I had almost no money through my early 30s, I still traveled abroad every year — which meant that I could only afford an inexpensive car. I have now visited a hundred countries, and that has given me more meaning and happiness than a luxury car or any other material thing.

But having said all that, material things matter. They can contribute a great deal to a happier and more meaningful life.

A grandmother once called in to my radio show to tell me that instead of giving her grandchildren Christmas gifts, she wrote each of them a special poem. I respectfully suggested to the obviously sweet woman that I could not imagine any normal child preferring a poem to a material gift.

With all my love of family, of friends, of music and of the life of the mind, I have always loved material things, too. On any happiness scale, it would be difficult to overstate how much joy my stereo equipment has given me since high school. I so love music that I periodically conduct orchestras in Southern California. And I now own a system that is so good that its offerings sound only a bit less real than what I hear from the conductor’s podium. I bless the engineers and others who design stereo products, and it is my joy to help support their noble quest of reproducing great music in people’s homes.

Since high school, too, I have written only with fountain pens. Buying new pens and trying out new inks are among the little joys of life that contribute as much — and sometimes more — to one’s happiness than the “big” things. There is incomparable joy at attending a child’s bar mitzvah or wedding. But those great events last a day. I write with a beloved fountain pen every day, listen to music every day, smoke a pleasure-giving cigar or pipe every day (except Shabbat, for the halachically curious). I love these things. What a colorless world it would be without them. So, too, I love my house. And I love the artwork and furniture and library that help to make it beautiful.

Sure, I could write with a 29-cent Bic. Yes, I could hear great music on a $50 radio. Of course I could give up cigars. Certainly, I didn’t have to buy the 5,000 books and 3,000 classical music CDs I own, and I understand that I don’t need to live in a house when my “needs” could have been met in an apartment a third its size.

But, thank God, most Americans don’t think that way. We like things. And liking things doesn’t mean you love less or read less or appreciate sunsets less. Life isn’t a zero-sum game between free joys and purchased joys. Moreover, the American economy and that of most other nations depend on our buying considerably more than our minimum needs.

Can people overdo purchasing things? Of course they can. People can also overdo taking vitamins, exercising and even reading books or studying Talmud.

So, then, when do we need to control our buying things?
a) When it becomes a compulsion — when one cannot stop buying things because the buying gives more pleasure than the things that are bought.
b) When the primary purpose of the purchase is to impress others with one’s wealth.
c) When one cannot afford what one is buying.

But beyond those caveats, don’t let the killjoys get you down. “Work hard and play hard,” my father always said (and still does at 93). When he bought a new Oldsmobile every few years, the family stepped outside the house to marvel at it — and even as kids we understood this was his reward for working all day and many evenings six days a week.

May your holidays be filled with lovely gift receiving and giving and may your New Year be filled with both wonderful experiences and wonderful things. Both contribute to a fuller and happier life.

Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project
is the Internet-based Prager University (

Candle power

Anyone familiar with religious practices can testify to the fact that candles play a crucial role in normative observance for many religions. It is not surprising to find an identical phenomenon in Judaism, the mother of so many contemporary beliefs.

In our practice, candles are present at almost every festive occasion. Perhaps, however, the two most familiar to us are the Shabbat candles and Chanukah candles. Yet if we examine the purpose of each, they not only serve different purposes, they are fundamentally separate from one another.

The Talmud teaches that Shabbat candles were instituted to create an atmosphere of tranquility within the home (Shabbat 23b). By illuminating the Shabbat table, the lights help prevent distress or bickering that darkness might promote. In the opinion of Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish philosopher, the tranquility that the Shabbat lights provide is so crucial that if one has only enough money to buy either a candle for Shabbat or wine for Kiddush, he must first purchase the Shabbat candle.

Chanukah lights are strikingly different from Shabbat lights. They serve not to emphasize private family tranquility, but rather to proclaim the miracle of the holiday to the public. Chanukah lights symbolize the entire drama of the Chanukah story, of the few overcoming the many, of the weak defeating the strong and, as such, constitute a public declaration to impress upon as many people as possible that the Almighty performed great miracles on our behalf. Therefore, Maimonides noted, “The commandment of Chanukah lights is precious since it publicizes the miracle and enhances the praise of God for all He did for us.”

Strangely, although both commandments to kindle lights seem to serve separate if not opposite purposes, the Talmud paradoxically appears to lump them together in the remark of Rav Huna, who said: “He who habitually practices the lighting of the lamp will possess scholarly children” (Shabbat 23b). This statement seems puzzling to us on two accounts. First, to what does the word “lamp” refer? Second, what is the meaning of the term “scholarly children”? The classical medieval commentator, Rashi, provides some clues.

Wondering to which “lamp” the Talmud was referring, Rashi surprisingly concludes that it was to both the Shabbat and Chanukah lights. Rashi, of course, felt no need to elucidate “scholarly children” since, for almost all generations of Jews, as People of the Book, the highest accolade has been the term “scholar,” which encompasses everything honorable, virtuous and worthwhile.

Obviously, Rashi recognized that the Shabbat and Chanukah lights shared a common denominator, and that both provide an educational message. Children are not raised in a vacuum. The first influence on their maturation process is their family environment. If within the family mutual respect, peace and tranquility prevail, the child has a chance to become an honorable Jew.

Rashi, however, recognizes that Judaism isn’t experienced only in the private domain as celebrated by the Shabbat lights. Rather, our faith promotes participation in public life as the Chanukah lamp vividly symbolizes. We place our Chanukiyah in our windows for public display that everyone can see.  On Chanukah we aren’t simply private citizens; we have a community mission to inform others of God’s presence.

In this manner, Chanukah provides us with two crucial lessons. On the one hand, it teaches us not to practice Judaism only behind closed doors. We must be willing to proudly wear our Judaism in public. On the other hand, Chanukah teaches us a feeling of community responsibility. We must not only concern ourselves with our own religious development, but also with the community at large.

Rashi, therefore, understood that the fusion of the private lesson of the Shabbat lights that illuminate not just the table but the children educated at and by that table, combined with the message of the public Chanukah lamps that can inspire faith and freedom for all people everywhere, offer us a complete picture of Judaism.

Elazar Muskin is senior rabbi of Young Israel of Century City (, an Orthodox congregation in the Pico-Robertson area.

The Hanukkah Song: A 2011 update

Bill Funt parodies Adam Sandler’s holiday gem, “The Hanukkah Song.”

Grown-up gelt

All around the Jewish world, Chanukah is chocolate season. But that doesn’t have to mean you’re stuck with the waxy chocolate coins known as gelt. In fact, a new wave of boutique chocolate makers in Israel are redefining this beloved indulgence in Israel. Many of their skillfully crafted products are already available in the United States. One taste and it’s clear: Gelt has grown up.

Holy Cacao

This new guard of chocolatiers, contributing a reported $5.3 million to Israel’s domestic $40 million market, are savvy business owners and gourmands. Among them, only one — Joe Zander — imports whole cacao beans, working with the raw material from start to finish. This New Jersey native resides about 40 minutes outside of Jerusalem, in the Southern Chevron Hills, and like his comrades in chocolate, he is the definitive Israeli chocolatier: independent and artisan. Zander maintains his own piece of land in Peru, where he cultivates organic beans. Akin to the layered flavors of wine, his 72 percent Peruvian chocolate reveals delicious, complex, fruity hints of berries. His Dominican is darker, richer, more coffeelike. His 56 percent contains imperceptible ground hazelnuts that lighten and sweeten each bite.

Zander’s Holy Cacao label features sketches of the machinery used to make chocolate from bean to bar: a roaster, mill, conche and winnower. Seasonally, Zander makes truffles in a wide variety of flavors. Currently, he markets his wares online and through in-person individual sales in Israel, with plans to export on the horizon.

Sweet N’Karem

Less than an hour’s drive from Zander’s base of operations, Sima Amsalem handcrafts chocolate in a pastoral setting within Jerusalem. Ein Karem is an ancient neighborhood resembling a Tuscan village. Amsalem’s brand, Sweet N’Karem, is a tasty homage to this beautiful setting. This self-professed chocolate addict leads a small but critical team of three women chocolatiers. Together, they produce about 40 kilograms of dark, milk and white chocolate pralines, truffles and bars each month in a former Crusader building with thick stone walls and arches. In addition to high-cacao content pieces, there are liqueur infusions and other fresh ingredients, including marzipan, whole nuts and dried fruit. Everything is packaged with the whimsical logo: a truffle fairy resting on a massive chocolate pod. The self-educated Amsalem also leads workshops for groups of 10 to 20 people seeking to learn how to make chocolates at home. Visitors also personalize Sweet N’Karem products for bar mitzvahs, weddings, corporate events and more. Minutes away, the Chocolate House retail shop at 2 Mevo HaShaar offers coffee, ice cream, gifts and more.


Chocolate that goes down easy is the sole aim of Chocoholique, a cottage industry that began when former chef Marc Gottlieb tasted an inferior homemade version of chocolate liqueur. Inspired to make his own libation, this 2006 immigrant from Cedarhurst, N.Y., showed off his creation to his friend and neighbor, Shimona Gotlieb. It was so delicious that, soon after, the pair launched Chocoholique. In two and half years, “Gottlieb & Gotlieb” have introduced eight pareve, mehadrin flavors. Top seller Peanut Butter is a boozy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Intense Chocolate is made with 60 percent cacao content. And in all flavors, the alcohol level is kept low, just 7 percent, to ensure the alcohol’s astringency doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of the chocolate. Other than acknowledging that it is sourced from various bars, the pair keeps their provenance confidential. Keep your eyes peeled for imports — Chocoholique plans to launch in the United States at Kosherfest 2012.

Galita’s Chocolate Farm

Galit Alpert founded her namesake Galita’s Chocolate Farm in 1999 with methods she acquired during three years’ training in Belgium. Consumed by chocolate’s flavor and texture, Alpert set up shop in a beautiful stone building that once housed the historic Kibbutz Degania Bet’s first cow shed 85 years ago. The Galita chocolateria boasts an extensive line of products, family-friendly guided tours, a coffee and homemade ice cream bar and chocolate-making workshops for all ages. Nestled amid banana groves and green lawns near the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Galita’s embodies Alpert’s nine reasons to love chocolate: for health, soul, energy, childhood memories, relaxation, joy, desire, love and for yourself — as outlined on her charming (Hebrew-language) Web site,

De Karina Artisan Gourmet Chocolates Handmade Mountain Chocolate

Tucked away in a small “chocolate house” in the Golan Heights town of Ein Zivan, De Karina Artisan Gourmet Chocolates surprises the palate with a hint of South American flavor. Named for its founder, Argentine immigrant Karina Cheplinski, this third-generation chocolatier incorporates subtle tastes and contrasting flavors, carrying on the tradition of her grandfather, an emigrant from Europe. Her factory features a coffee shop, guided tours, tastings and workshops on tempering, making truffles and other mouth-watering adventures in chocolate-making. Advance reservations required.

Roy Chocolate

When Roy Gershon grew tired of working in technology management positions, he turned his zeal to creating Roy Chocolate. He operates a factory, a flagship store in Tel Aviv and another in Ramat Gan’s Ayalon Mall. Greshon also supplies franchises in Rishon L’Zion, Afula, Cinema City, Haifa and Jerusalem with more than 100 flavors of pralines, truffles and intense liqueurs in innovative bottles. There are also fun gifts galore: chocolate hearts on cinnamon sticks ready to melt into hot chocolate, LoveCakes filled with ganache, gorgeous French macaroons, cupcakes topped with chantilly cream, chocolate lollipops with romantic sayings and much more in pareve, dairy, and lactose- and sugar-free varieties. Each week, Gershon also conducts several workshops around Israel.


In Gush Tel Mond, in the Lev HaSharon industrial area near Netanya, Ornat considers itself the grandparent of Israel’s handmade chocolates. Established in 1987 by the La’or and Ronat families in the tradition of Dutch chocolate making, it ships pralines around the world, personalizing them for special events and corporate clients. The Ornat company operates a visitors center. Guests ages 6 and older are welcome for tours and chocolate-making workshops.

Max Brenner

Though once handcrafted, Max Brenner’s “Chocolate by the Bald Man,” was acquired in 2001 by Strauss Group, which, in 2004, also merged with Elite, Israel’s leading mass-market brand. The bald man is a composite creation of founders Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner. Visit their Willy Wonka-inspired Chocolate Bar in Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall and other locations around the world for signature products such as high-impact “cigarette packs” containing almost equally addictive wafer-thin bars and chocolate-covered caramelized pecans in colorful, reusable gift tins simply labeled “Nuts.” Of course, there are also pralines in a wide variety of flavors, including sea salt, as well as truffles and scrumptious creamy/crunchy “Feuilletine Fingers.” Innovative menu items include chocolate pizza topped with milk and white chocolate (and optional banana slices, melted marshmallows and whipped cream), a speckled “Cookieshake” of Oreos, carmelized pecans and white-chocolate creme, a “cappuccino of milk chocolate” and the not-to-be-missed, pudding-like Italian hot dark chocolate. Worth every calorie.,

Chanukah fare with international flair

Around this time of year, I think of my grandmother and the stories she told me about making beef brisket and potato latkes for her first Chanukah dinner in America. She loved to cook, and sharing her recipes from Russia brought her such delight.

Chanukah, often called the festival of lights, is a joyous holiday that is celebrated at home instead of taking place in the synagogue. Families light candles and enjoy the traditional foods that are fried in oil, recalling the miracle that occurred in ancient times, when a one-day supply of oil burned in the Temple for eight days.

For many years, we shared Gramma Eva’s brisket recipe with friends at our Chanukah meals, but as our food focus changed, so too did the menu. One year, we served meatloaf and cabbage borscht. After a trip to Brazil, we had a feijoada stew for our Chanukah family dinner, and last year, the main course was fried chicken.

This year, we are going back to our traditional Chanukah fare, but with a few additions. I am roasting Beef Brisket With Prunes in a Wine Sauce, almost like a tzimmes, and serving it with an Italian-inspired green tomato marmalade and crisp potato latkes.

I still remember using a hand-held grater to help my mother make the potato mixture for the latkes. Today, the food processor cuts down on the time it takes to prepare the old family recipe. To make the latke batter in minutes, use the food processor’s knife blade to chop the onions and the shredder blade to grate the potatoes, and then just add them to a bowl with the remaining ingredients.

We begin frying the latkes when family and friends arrive at our home; meanwhile, our grandchildren spin the dreidel, a game that dates back to ancient times. Before dinner, as the guests exchange greetings, we serve Fried Zucchini Sticks. Then we sit down to a salad of shredded lettuce tossed with sliced tomatoes, fresh fennel and topped with fried parsnip chips. The main course — brisket, green tomato marmalade and potato latkes — is served family style, and everyone helps themselves.

Carrying out the Chanukah theme for dessert, we serve homemade jam-filled doughnuts, which everyone loves. Served in many countries during the holiday, they take on different names. In Israel, they are known as sufganiyot; in Italy they are called bombolini, and in Poland they refer to them as ponchiks. No matter what they are called, they are delicious. Simply fry the doughnuts, roll in sugar and serve them with a bowl of melted chocolate for dipping.

The doughnuts can be made in advance, and stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Before serving, just reheat and roll in sugar. Make an extra batch for your guests to take home — they are delicious for breakfast the next day.

But the party is not over. After dessert, everyone returns to the living room, where the gifts wrapped in colorful Chanukah paper are waiting to be opened by the children.

From “Italy Cooks,” by Judy Zeidler.

If you saw the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes,” you may think the only way to cook green tomatoes is to fry them. The truth is they also make a wonderful marmalade that’s a perfect accompaniment to the brisket and potato latkes.

While living in Italy we were invited to a cooking class at Nittardi Winery in Tuscany taught by Kalus Trebes, chef/owner of Gargantua Restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany. He shared this recipe. It is so versatile that I always keep a jar in the refrigerator. Not only is it delicious on toast or a frittata for breakfast, it is also a perfect accompaniment to meat or chicken.

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
8 cups diced green tomatoes (2 pounds)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, heated
Grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon

In a large, heavy skillet, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar begins to turn golden. Add the tomatoes, heated orange juice and zest. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the tomatoes are soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup, about 30 minutes. Cool.

Makes about 3 to 4 cups.


This roast is best served well done. It is important to slice the cooked meat against the grain.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 onions, thinly sliced
1 (6- to 8-pound) lean beef brisket
5 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 to 2 cups red wine
1 head garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound pitted prunes

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Heat the oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.

Transfer garlic and onions to a large roasting pot and place meat on top, fat side up. Add carrots, parsley, tomatoes, wine and unpeeled garlic cloves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, cover, and bake for 2 to 3 hours, or until meat is tender. Add the prunes the last 30 minutes of baking.

Transfer the meat to a wooden board and slice. Return to pot and keep warm.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


The temperature of the cooking oil is very important when frying doughnuts: If it is too cool, the doughnuts will absorb it and be greasy; if it is too hot, the doughnuts will burn on the outside and remain uncooked inside. Use a frying (candy) thermometer to establish and maintain the proper heat.

These doughnuts can be fried one or two days in advance and refrigerated in plastic bags. When ready to serve, heat in the oven and they will puff up as if they were just fried.

1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 F)
Granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted
1 egg, separated
2 teaspoons orange juice
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup raspberry or strawberry jam
Vegetable oil for frying

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add a pinch of sugar and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Blend margarine, egg yolk, orange juice and yeast mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gradually add flour, 2 teaspoons sugar and salt and blend well. Cover with a towel and let rise until the dough doubles, about 45 minutes.

Place dough on a well-floured board and knead into a flat disc, adding more flour if needed. Roll dough out with a rolling pin to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Using a cooking cutter, cut out 2-inch rounds. Top half the rounds in the middle with 1 teaspoon of jam and brush the edges with the egg white. Place plain rounds on top of jam-covered rounds; pinch edges closed to seal. Place doughnuts on a parchment-covered cookie sheet, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise, about 45 minutes.

Reseal each doughnut.

Using a deep fryer or a heavy pot and a frying thermometer, heat about 4 inches of oil to 375 degrees. Fry three or four doughnuts at a time, turning them with a slotted spoon or tongs when one side is browned, and continuing to fry until brown all over, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

To serve, roll doughnuts in 1 cup of granulated sugar and serve immediately, or, to reheat, place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.

Makes about 12 doughnuts.


These crisp and crunchy zucchini sticks go well with any menu. They are best fried at the last moment. But, if prepared ahead and reheated in a hot oven, they can be just as crisp.

4 medium zucchini, unpeeled
1 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried basil
Freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
Vegetable oil for frying

Slice zucchini lengthwise into quarters; cut in half crosswise and set aside.

Place the flour in a small paper bag and set aside. Place the bread crumbs and dried basil in another small bag. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Place the eggs in a bowl and beat well.

Drop 4 to 6 zucchini sticks into the bag containing the flour, shaking the bag to coat. Transfer to a metal strainer and shake off the excess flour. Dip the flour-coated zucchini sticks into the beaten egg and then coat with the bread crumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. (You can hold the zucchini sticks at this point for at least 1 hour.)

Preheat oil in a deep-fryer or wok to 375 F.

Drop the coated zucchini sticks into the heated oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Transfer them to a napkin-covered platter and serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


1 large yellow onion, peeled
4 medium baking potatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

Chop the onion into small dice with the knife blade in a food processor. Remove the knife blade, insert the shredder blade, and grate the potatoes. Immediately transfer the potato and onion mixture to a large bowl, and add the lemon juice, eggs, flour, baking soda, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Heat 1/8 inch of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spoon the batter, about 1/3 cup at a time, into the hot oil and flatten with the back of the spoon to make 2- to 3-inch latkes. Cook on one side until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes; then turn and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes. (Turn only once.) Drain the latkes well on paper towels and serve immediately.

Makes about 2 dozen latkes.

Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks Dec. 27- Jan. 2: Hot Rod Chanukah, Moroccan New Years Eve


The week has been loaded with holiday merrymaking, but if you’ve got a drop of energy left, you’ll want to make it last all night long at the Hot Rod Chanukah Party hosted by The Jewish Federation’s Young Leadership Division and Birthright ” target=”_blank”> Non-alumni may buy tickets at ” target=”_blank”>

Nope, the Chanukah celebrations aren’t over yet. That’s one of the great things about being Jewish, isn’t it? Instead of one night of merriment, the parties just go on and on and on… Jumping right in is the Israel division of The Jewish Federation/ Valley Alliance, which is throwing its own holiday family festival complete with a magician, festive singing, a menorah-lighting ceremony, and — old magazines? Actually, attendees are asked to bring some along to turn them into a menorah. Not to worry, there will be expert magazine-menorah-makers on hand to help with the project. Sun. 4:30-6:30 p.m. Free. The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 464-3206.

JConnect is no stranger to bringing L.A.’s Jewish community together, but this gathering is for women only. As part of their monthly women’s gathering series, guest speaker Tova Hinda Siegel will be discussing “A Light Unto Our Nation: Are WE Women the Guiding Light?” Siegel, a certified midwife and very active in the city’s Jewish community, is in a unique position to discuss women and their relationship to Israel. The conversation will take place over a kosher potluck brunch, so make sure to bring along your favorite dish. Sun. 11:45 a.m. Only cost is your contribution to the potluck. JConnectLA, 1801 Avenue of the Stars, Suite 322, Los Angeles. R.S.V.P to for the exact address of the event. ” border = 0 vspace = ‘8’ hspace = ‘8’ align = ‘left’>Fuel in Studio City into a Moroccan-style lair of rich tapestries, lush cushions and sensuous belly dancers. The feast will not be limited to just your eyes: There will also be a decadent kosher Moroccan buffet by Bazilikum Caterers and Chef Sharon On, a free hookah patio with a variety of sweet flavors and a champagne toast at midnight. Sababa’s loyal DJ duo, Ziv and Titus, will be spinning ’70s, ’80s, hip-hop, dance, house and plenty of hip Israeli crowd-pleasers. Part of the proceeds from this relatively affordable NYE bash (a nod to the struggling economy) will be donated to Yad B’Yad, a nonprofit that provides services to abused children in Israel. 21 and over. Wed. 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. $48 (prepaid via PayPal), $58 (at the door). Club Fuel, 11608 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (310) 657-6650. ” target=”_blank”>; ” target=”_blank”>


Rabbi YY, as Yehuda Yonah Rubinstein is fondly known, is one of the most requested Jewish speakers in the United Kingdom. There, he is a regular broadcaster on national radio and television and was named one of the top five people in Britain to turn to for advice by the Independent newspaper. He has written innumerable essays and a couple of books, including “Dancing Through Time” and “That’s Life.” Jewish Learning Exchange is hosting this veteran public speaker and teacher with a gift for fusing Torah, modern-day challenges and humor at a special weekend starting tonight. Rubinstein will lead Melava Malka on Saturday night and speak on the subject of what Judaism says about dreams. Guests are asked to specify if they need sleeping accommodations and/or meals. Fri.-Sat. $36. Jewish Learning Exchange, 512 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. Call (323) 857-0923 or e-mail to register and to receive a detailed schedule. ” target=”_blank”>