Can Israel’s alpha bubbe bring Mideast peace?


Galia Albin is one grandmother who isn’t spending afternoons knitting booties, baking cookies or changing diapers. Instead, she’s running to television studios for tapings, representing Israel at international business forums and wielding influence on Israeli policymakers. She is one of the country’s powerful women, and her mission is to influence and empower other women throughout the world.

Sitting in a cramped Tel Aviv television studio dressing room, Albin is bright-eyed, alert and enthusiastic while breaking for lunch between tapings of “The Club,” a talk show she hosts for Israel’s 50-plus demographic.

“Would you like to share my salad?” she offers generously before launching into excited chatter about her projects and work.

At 57, Albin holds a slew of titles and positions in both public and private sectors in Israel and beyond. She serves as company director of at least 10 publicly held Israeli/international giants including Marks & Spencer Israel, United Steel Mills and the Koor Industries Group; she chairs the Business Forum Women’s advisory to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the National Council for Children, The Center for Economic Development Among Jewish & Arab Women and serves as director of the Israel Women’s Network.

Most recently, she was invited to the second annual International Women’s Forum in Deauville, France, to address global concerns over health care, education and demography. Bringing together world leaders and prominent businesswomen, the conference attendee list included Jordan’s Queen Rania, Kuwait’s premier female minister Maasouma Al-Mubarak, Lucent CEO Pat Russo and State Department Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes.

“I would have to say that the strongest message on all levels was self empowerment for women. The societal and economic topics addressed in Deauville tapped into the woman’s role and how women can be influential in policy making and business,” Albin said.

At the conference, Queen Rania called on women to join her in solving the current Middle East crisis and invited select participants from Kuwait, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, etc. to Jordan next spring for a Convention of Women for Peace in the Middle East. Rania hand-picked Albin to represent Israel.

“What I wish for more than anything is a connection between women in Israel, our region and the world. It’s a weak link that needs promoting, but luckily I think I have the power, knowledge and connections to do it. I would love to go to more cities and meet more women to speak about empowerment from my experience.”

Albin’s experience is broad. She holds four degrees — two in psychology, one in law and another in acting — has produced and executive produced three films, owned the Globes and Monitin business publications and at one point held the Israeli franchise rights to Penthouse Magazine.

“I fought religious groups like mad. They burnt down sales points. So after 11 issues, I threw in the towel,” she recalled.

Her husband’s sudden death in the mid-1980s prompted a tremendous shift.
“I had a business career until then, but mostly I stayed home with my children.

When he died, I inherited seven public companies and other holdings, and I had a choice: sit back and spend the money or learn how to ‘work it.’ It took four years to become chairwoman, and some of my husband’s closest associates didn’t like me being there. I made mistakes but ultimately I was the winner.”

At 50, Albin opted again for a major life change. “I realized I had been through six wars in my lifetime, my four kids were grown and the future of my country seemed to be in question,” she said.

She packed it in and headed to New York to study acting with Lee Strasberg, mentor to Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Uma Thurman and Geraldine Page.

“It was a lifelong dream,” Albin said.

After two years of acting study she returned to Israel and auditioned for her current role as “The Club” host, beating out some of Israel’s premier actors. Recently the show celebrated its 200th taping.

“It’s not too late to realize dreams. When you stop dreaming, you stop living,” Albin advised.

Dr. Raanan Gissin, the former adviser to past prime minister Ariel Sharon and a 30-year friend of Albin’s who sometimes guests on her show, says he sees huge potential in Albin’s dream of bridging the peace gap.

“Israel is like an island surrounded by enemies and fences. Her nonconformist way of reaching out is very important because in going beyond the regular formalities, sometimes people can be reached,” he said.

Sharing Albin’s dream of regional peace, Lebanese-born Fadia Otte says that when she and Albin discussed the region’s conflict in Deauville they found a common bond.

“When I met Galia we were nearly in tears over recent events. She wants peace between Arab and Jewish women, and I want the same. We have a moral obligation to meet in Jordan and try to bring peace,” Otte said during a call from her home in Paris.

A member of Lebanon’s prominent Khabbaz family, Otte left the country years ago due to severe in fighting between warring factions. “I grew up in bomb shelters,” she said, adding that she lost her brother in a bombing when she was 21.

Otte hopes that together with Albin and other attendees, problems of generations may be addressed at the upcoming Jordanian Women’s Convention.

“It’s really all about tolerance. Tremendous ignorance is making the world go wrong but if we inform the young that we are not each others’ enemies maybe it can stop,” Otte said.

Albin shares the sentiment, taking it one step further.

“My biggest fear is that in my lifetime I won’t be able to fulfill the mission I’m supposed to: leaving a safe country. I’m a grandmother with two grandchildren and I know I’m not good enough in that role because I choose to spend time with the children on my terms. But women and peace is something I want to be good enough at. I want to make the connection and do it right.”

Stephanie Freid is a freelance writer in Israel for ISRAEL21c, a news agency focusing on 21st century Israel.

Spectator – The ‘Truth’ That Lies Beneath


For Josh Bernstein, host of The History Channel’s “Digging for the Truth,” myth-dispelling, artifact-hunting and body-straining adventure are part of his regular routine.

“Digging,” now in its second season, has taken Bernstein from Peru to Greenland to Zimbabwe and Egypt searching for answers to archaeological mysteries, such as locating the lost tribe of Israel and uncovering the Holy Grail.

This Jewish Indiana Jones seems to have the travel bug in his DNA. Bernstein says he traveled from his home in New York to Israel to see family several times prior to age 2.

“My father was born in the Old City of Jerusalem, and I think just by nature the Israeli culture is very pro-travel. They still are today,” he explains. “As far back as I can remember I have always been on airplanes and in other countries.”

Bernstein grew up in a Conservative Jewish household on the Upper East Side, attended Hebrew school, was bar mitzvahed and enjoyed Shabbat dinner Friday nights. After he graduated from Cornell, where he majored in anthropology and psychology, Bernstein spent a year studying Judaic texts for at least 12 hours a day at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem.

While the majority of his fellow classmates continued their studies in rabbinical school, Bernstein opted to explore a different profession: “I wanted to pursue a career in the outdoors and get my knowledge from the same place.”

Bernstein soon began working at the Boulder Outdoor Survival School (BOSS) a program that teaches a field-based, hands-on curriculum of wilderness survival skills. After moving up the ranks to CEO, and establishing himself as an outdoor survival expert, Bernstein added another occupation to his resume: Television show host.

On “Digging for the Truth,” he is able to integrate his interest in the social sciences and his love of frequenting remote destinations.

“I’m actually physically there with the experts … exploring the actual tombs, temples or pyramids and bringing that to life in a very physical and hopefully accessible way,” he said.

When he’s not filming for the History Channel, Bernstein may be found in New York or Utah, or in Colorado, where four times yearly he continues to run courses for BOSS.

“Digging for the Truth” airs on The History Channel Mondays at 9 p.m., check local listings for additional times. Shows are also available on DVD.

Spectator


 

Temple Shalom for the Arts has a little part of its soul in Los Angeles gospel, when the independent congregation will host the pre-Passover Shared Heritage of Freedom service at the Wilshire Theatre on April 15.

“There was a real need to get the Jewish and African American communities together,” said temple founder Rabbi David Baron, who will welcome Bishop Charles Blake of West Angeles Church of God in Christ and his church’s 70-voice choir for a joint Jewish/African American-themed Shabbat service, with both gospel and Hebrew tunes.

Baron’s art-focused congregation has hosted interfaith gospel choirs around the High Holidays for the past 13 years, where the emphasis is a common one.

“The shared heritage of freedom … being denied liberty. The early founders of the NAACP were Jews,” said Baron, referring to Rabbi Stephen S. Wise being a founder in 1909 of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “There’s a lot more that unites than divides us, to experience one another’s tradition.”

Baron previously had annual black/Jewish Shabbat services with a choir from the Los Angeles Urban League, but several years ago began a friendship with Blake. “The best thing you can do to fight anti-Semitism is to invite a gentile to your Passover seder,” said Baron, a 53-year-old Conservative-trained rabbi who ran synagogues in New Jersey and Miami before joining the Verdugo Hills Jewish Center in Sunland-Tujunga.

That was Baron’s last denomination-based shul setting prior to creating the independent, 2,000-member Temple Shalom for the Arts, which has no building and holds services at Wilshire Theater. The congregation is known for innovations such as a televised Yom Kippur service on PAX TV and for a prayer book created around the paintings by Russian Jewish artist Marc Chagall. Nonetheless, one member of Baron’s artsy congregants, jazz musician Herb Alpert, expressed some concern about the gospel/Hebrew mix being so emotionally elastic, as gospel music is known to be.

Baron said he told Alpert, “To me that’s what the Chasidic movement did; it approached God through music, dance, prayer. We’ve tried to do that.”

The service will take place April 15 at 8 p.m. at the Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills.

For more information, call (310) 444-7500 or visit

Giants of the Small Screen


Andy and Opie. Archie and Meathead. The Professor and Mary Ann. Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia. We can all thank Sheldon Leonard, Norman Lear, Sherwood Schwartz and Susan Harris, respectively, for bringing these people into our living rooms and the pop culture landscape.

To some, they were the menches next door, but to the TV Land cable network they are “Moguls,” the ones with the “golden touch,” says Merv Griffin, host of the six-part series, which debuts Wednesday, April 21.

The show, narrated by actor Adam Arkin, devotes one hour each Wednesday to the last five boob-tube decades — two for the 1970s, due to the size of everyone’s hair.

The series is packed with enough interesting tidbits to please any TVologist. For instance, Leonard brought “The Danny Thomas Show” to Mayberry to introduce the character of Andy Griffith, thus eliminating the need to spend money on a separate pilot — an idea Lear would capitalize on two decades later with his “All in the Family” franchise (go ahead, count the spinoffs).

The first episode of “Moguls,” “The 50s,” splits time between TV pioneers Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz and Leonard/Danny Thomas — and answers the question of why the two companies never merged (hint: creative differences).

The final episode, “The 90s,” takes us to the cutting-edge worlds of Darren Star (“Sex and the City”), Dick Wolf (“Law and Order”) and Jerry Bruckheimer (the “CSI” franchise).

Like their movie counterparts, the moguls were not overt in their Judaism. However, there were several Yiddishkayt touches along the way, from Buddy Sorrell’s 1966 adult bar mitzvah on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to Charlotte York’s conversion to Judaism on “Sex and the City” in 2003.

Ironically, the moguls took stories from their own lives (many of “The Brady Bunch” plots were from Schwartz’s own family) and created the ultimate non-Jewish, all-American families. Thanks to syndication, the creative vision of these men and women will live on long after their closing credits have rolled.

Part one of “TV Land Moguls,” “The 50s,” airs April 21, 9
p.m. For more information, visit

Here Comes the Bridal Shower


Something old, something new,

Something borrowed, something blue,

And a lucky sixpence in her shoe….

— Anonymous

For years this adage has sent mothers of the bride, maids of honor — even well-meaning machatanim (in-laws) — scurrying about town to locate the perfect antique veil, virginal wedding dress, secondhand handkerchief and baby-blue garter to bestow upon the bride on her breathless walk down the aisle.

But the Jewish bride needs her embroidered challah cover, her art nouveau menorah, and her hand-painted porcelain Passover plate. That’s where the bridal shower comes in. And you were nice enough to host a luncheon. Oy gevalt!

Instead of spending upwards of $30 per person and having the whole family kvetch about “prosaic pasta” and “commonplace chicken,” or spending even more money hiring a caterer to tramp through your house and schmutz up your kitchen, how about making our delicious, do-able menu and toast the bride with a heartfelt “mazel tov!” and a glass of Champagne in your garden?

You’ll not only save your gelt, you’ll kvell about your cleverness. Hosting the perfect party for your favorite bride will not only bring her nachas and a ladleful of luck, she’ll get everything she registered for.

Since Los Angeles cooking teacher and party coordinator Jean Brady has catered over 500 wedding events, we asked the expert. We visited Brady in her gadget-filled kitchen in Rustic Canyon. She prepared some of her favorite recipes and offered us a sip of Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup, a bite of Rosemary Bread With Dried Cherries, a taste of Pot de Crème au Café. In between spoonfuls, she reveals tricks of her trade so we can host a shower that looks like she did it for us. Now, that’s a mitzvah.

Getting Started

Decide on a theme. Since showers are all about bestowing gifts for the bride’s new home, why not take your cue from her taste — whether it be Victorian, country or modern — and design the flowers, the decorations, even the music, accordingly.

Choose your menu, then make a timeline of what to do when, including shopping, preparing, cleaning the house and setting the tables. In Brady’s suggested menu, most items can be prepared in advance.

Make a list of dishes, flatware and glassware for each person, and platters, bowls and serving pieces for each dish. Be prepared to beg, borrow or shop.

Flower Arrangements

Because we love the idea of designing the shower according to the bride’s taste, we called Carlos Camara, head designer at Century City Flower Mart, for some advice. There are three basic styles:

  • Victorian — This is the most popular style. Arrangements are feminine, romantic and look best in baskets. Use pale colors such as light pink or lavender combined with white. Since roses and Victorian are synonymous, his favorite summer varieties are the lavender bluebird, which is gorgeous, gigantic and will last a long time; charming Cecil Bruners, which are pale pink and petit, and the silver rose, which is not only beautiful, it smells wonderful. Combine roses with lavender or white hydrangea, Casablancas (big white lilies) or pale pink, orange or white sweet peas. Victorian arrangements have more flowers than greens but some ivy flowing out of the baskets to compliment the roses looks lovely.
  • Country — This look is more casual. Arrangements look good in baskets, aluminum containers or terra- cotta pots. Colors are upbeat and bright, mainly orange, yellow and purple. Fruits such as lemons, apples and grapes (attached with wires or sticks) are often combined with the flowers. Lots of greens, such as rabbit tails, are used in these designs, also herbs with delightful aromas such as mint, rosemary and lavender. The most popular bouquets are of sunflowers, which are available in different varieties and colors, along with multicolored daisies and lavender statis.
  • Modern — Many brides love this fashion, which is high styled, sophisticated, and brightly colored. The form is geometric as are the ceramic, glass or metal vases. Use tropical flowers such as birds of paradise, ginger, antheriums, leacris (purple skinny branch) tiger lilies or stargazers. Complement them with modern looking, tropical leaves and branches such as tea leaves, gaylax or moss branch.

Jean Brady’s Helpful Hints

Tablecloths and napkins can be matching or contrasting. A pretty way of presenting napkins is shaking it down the middle, then tying it with a ribbon, variegated ivy, and a rose. Or fasten it with a ribbon and a sprig of herbs.

A wonderful party favor is a cruet or wine split of homemade blackberry vinegar tied with raffia. If you attach a name tag to each one, it serves a double purpose.

Serve butter in individual soufflé dishes with an herb sprig on top. Rosemary, basil or Italian parsley are pretty and smell wonderful.

Decorate a separate table, designate it for the gifts.

Have a table of simple appetizers available for guests when they arrive. We packed wide-mouthed vases with cherry tomatoes and black olives and filled dishes with pistachios, almonds and cashews.

Time Savers

  • Soup — Can be made up to three or four days in advance and refrigerated. Make sure chicken broth is very fresh and don’t add cream until the last minute.
  • Salad — Vegetables can be prepped several hours before the luncheon and placed in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel.
  • Avocado — Peel two to three hours in advance but don’t slice. Wrap in plastic until ready to use.
  • Asparagus — Blanch, cut and leave at room temperature for a few hours before serving.
  • Baby lettuce — Just before serving, submerge in ice water for a few minutes until cold and crisp, then either spin dry in salad spinner or blot with paper towel.
  • Mango — Remove skin with peeler, score lengthwise and crosswise, then cut as close to pit as possible to release. Place chunks in covered bowl in refrigerator several hours before serving.
  • Salmon — Grill right before serving and serve warm, or cook the day before, refrigerate, and serve cold.
  • Tarragon — Should be as fresh as possible. Wash well to loosen dirt.
  • Grapes –Wash well to get rid of pesticide residual. Keep in refrigerator until just before assembling salad.
  • Bread — Can be baked up to three weeks in advance, frozen, then defrosted at room temperature.
  • Pot de Crème — Can be made two to three days in advance, and set in coldest part of refrigerator. Let sit outside refrigerator 1/2 hour before serving.

Wedding Shower Recipes

The following recipes by Brady are for 20 people.

Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup

Since our soup is served at room temperature, it can be poured, placed on the tables, waiting for guests to arrive. Serve in individual soup bowls, preferably with handles, with matching or contrasting liners. The pale orange of the soup garnished with purple violas, violets or pansies looks like a painting. When eating flowers always make sure they are unsprayed.

15 roasted, peeled yellow peppers, sliced thin

8 carrots, scrubbed and diced

8 shallots, peeled and diced

4 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 stick unsalted butter for sautéing

11¼2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped

8 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash ground chili powder

11¼2 to 2 cups cream

20 edible violets, violas or purple pansies for garnish

Sauté vegetables in butter until carrots are tender. Add stock, salt, pepper and chili powder. Simmer, covered, about 20 minutes. Puree vegetables; add cream to achieve desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings. Just before serving, place a flower in the center of each bowl. Makes 20 servings.

Rosemary Bread With Dried Cherries

Be careful when warming the bread; it dries out easily. To save your sanity serve at room temperature — it tastes fine. These proportions are for one loaf, which will serve 10 people. For 20 people either double the recipe or make two separate batches.

41¼3 cups all purpose unbleached flour and more to shape.

11¼2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1¼4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped

2 teaspoons instant yeast

11¼3 cups warm water

1¼4 cup good quality olive oil

1¼2 cup dried cherries

Mix together 4 cups flour with salt, sugar, rosemary, and yeast. Add olive oil and water to make a sticky dough. Knead by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook for 3-4 minutes — the last 2 minutes add cherries and last 1¼3 cup flour. Cover with plastic wrap; allow to double in size, about 1 to 11¼2 hours. Shape into large round or oval loaves; place on parchment-lined sheet, attractive side up. Preheat oven to 425. Allow dough to double once again, for about 45 minutes. Slash top of loaf with razor sharp knife or razor blade in 3-inch “X.” Place in oven. Bake 45 minutes; cool on rack for at least an hour. Makes one loaf.

Champagne Tarragon Salad

30 cups mixed baby greens

2 bunches fresh tarragon, stemmed and coarsely chopped

20 (4-ounce) grilled salmon filets

8 mangoes or papaya, peeled and diced

5 large, ripe Haas avocados, peeled, sliced

2 cups celery hearts, chopped

2 cups very fresh hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

11¼2 pounds small seedless grapes

60 baby asparagus spears, blanched and sliced into 2-inch pieces

For Salad:

One large platter heaped with salad at each table is gorgeous, or make up individual plates. Serve salad dressing in attractive cruets or sauce boats with a ladle. Don’t dress the salad in advance; your crisp greens will turn irrevocably soggy.

Champagne Tarragon Vinegar

1 pint champagne vinegar

1 cup champagne

3 sprigs of tarragon

6 sprigs Italian parsley

4 whole cloves garlic, peeled

8 whole peppercorns (white, red, and black)

Sterilize wide-mouthed or decorative jar. While jar is still warm, add vinegar and champagne, along with tarragon and parsley sprigs, garlic and peppercorns. Store in cool place for two or three weeks. Drain vinegar. Taste; if herb infusion isn’t strong enough, add new herbs and let sit until flavor pleases you.

Champagne Tarragon Vinaigrette

All ingredients for vinaigrette should be at room temperature.

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons orange zest

1/ cup champagne tarragon vinegar

Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

3 shallots, peeled and finely minced

11/2 cups light olive oil

1 tablespoon hazelnut oil

Mix together all ingredients except oil. Gradually drizzle oils into mixture and whisk together. Vinaigrette tastes best if made 1 day in advance and left at room temperature.

Pot de Crème au Cafe

7 1/2 cups whipping cream

1/4 cup ground espresso beans

3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar, to taste

18 egg yolks

20 chocolate covered espresso beans

Preheat oven to 300. Heat sugar, cream and espresso beans over low heat until sugar dissolves. Beat into yolks. Strain through fine strainer or cheesecloth. Divide into 20 individual china cups, pots de crème cups or ramekins (custard molds). Set containers into a bain-marie (large pan of boiling water) in bottom third of oven. The hot water should come halfway up outside of cups. Bake 25 to 40 minutes, until just set. To determine doneness insert a sharp, thin bladed knife or toothpick one inch from outside of container. If it comes out clean, remove from water and cool. Chill in refrigerator. Take out 1/2 hour before serving.

Baking this luscious dessert in antique porcelain cups or cups to match theme of luncheon adds to the decor. You can surprise the bride by baking hers in a cup from her china pattern. Remember the cups don’t have to match. Often it’s more interesting to see a variety of patterns on the table.