November 21, 2018

The Recipe for Cheese Pie

Shavuot had me in the mood for a good cheese pie. Not a NY cheesecake, but an old fashioned cake my mom used to make with cake on top and bottom and a cottage cheese filling in between. I haven't made one for years, having long ago mastered the art of the cheese blintz.

Nostalgia got the better of me and I pulled out some of my old cookbooks, inherited and collected and stained over the years.  These cookbooks are the legacy of Ladies Auxiliaries, Sisterhoods, chapters of Hadassah Pioneer Women, and ORT. Each recipe is displayed with the name of the woman who submitted it. Reading it is like visiting the past… but what the heck is a utility pan? 

Two generations of women are represented in these pages; my mother's’ and my grandmothers. Flipping through the pages I can almost see the ladies…the hair-sprayed do’s, the aprons. I smell our old Jewish day school kitchen. I can imagine what was on their Yomtov (Yuntiff, or holiday) tables by piecing together all of their personal submissions. If I didn’t know the woman, I knew her children or at least her grandchildren. A connection. 

And now another deeper layer of connection. As I turn the pages, I recognize the names of those ladies for whom I have performed Taharot over the last 15 plus years. And there are many.

During the Taharah, while washing the hands of the maitah, I often reflect on the life those hands experienced and the life they created for others. Life created by sharing tender touches, card games, ironing and cooking. Feeding body and soul. These ladies were community volunteers and leaders of their time. They raised money for local and  Israeli causes, served their time on PTAs, and sewed costumes for endless school plays. They multitasked before multitasking was a word. Their pride in community and their love for tradition is between the lines of every recipe in those books. 

We are no different; still multitasking, still volunteering, still baking for the school Shabbaton or ushering at the Jewish Film Festival. Creating life for others. Feeding bodies and souls in an increasingly hectic and fractured world. But we are also Chevrah Kadisha volunteers. Our caring for others at their most vulnerable time is a quiet, heartfelt kindness. We acknowledge their lives and the values they held dear.

Our Shomrim sat, read Tehillim on behalf of these women; we performed Taharah and dressed them beautifully, laid them gently, with a final hug, in their caskets. We prayed for their safe journey, for God’s compassion. We honored their bodies and souls with love for tradition and pride in community. I think they would be pleased.

These old books don’t hold the same interest for my children, as they have few personal connections to these generations of ladies. I will continue to look through the pages, not so much for the recipes, but for the remembrances.

Rena Boroditsky is the Executive Director of the “>Kavod v'Nichum conferences and at Limmud events in the US & Canada. She recently launched Death Cafe Wnnipeg. She has served in past as a board member of “>Gamliel Institute. Rena is a member of the first graduating class of the Gamliel Institute, having completed the required studies and projects, and she has returned recently from the inaugural Israel Study Mission which is the heart of the sixth course in the Gamliel Institute curriculum, International Perspectives.





         Starting in October:

Chevrah Kadisha: History, Origins, & Evolution (HOE). Tuesdays, 12 online sessions (orientation session Monday October 12th, classes Tuesdays from October 13th to December 29th, 8-9:30 pm EST/5-6:30 pm PST. An examination of the modern Chevrah Kadisha and the environment in which it functions, from 1626 in Prague, through history and geography, as imported to Europe and the world, brought to the US, and as it has developed and changed over time, bringing us up to the present, including text study, history, sociology, politics, and other factors.

Winter 2016:  

Coming in the Winter semester, the Gamliel Insitute will be offering two courses. Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah (T&S), and Chevrah Kadisha: Ritual, Practices, & Liturgy (Other than Taharah) (RPL). These courses will begin in January, and will each run for 12 sessions. More information to come, or visit the Gamliel Institute section of the Kavod v’Nichum website.

NEW Option:

We are considering offering a course mid-day (East Coast time) as a convenience to those who would have scheduling issues (including those overseas in Israel and other places). This is anticipated to be the same online format as the courses that has been offered in past , but at a time that works better for some than the evening (East coast time). If you are interested in this option, please be in touch to let us know: we need to assess the level of interest as we determine whether to offer it. or 

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