As the World Grapples With Racism, Israel Seeks to Empower Ethiopian Youth


The growing protests against racism in the United States have aroused strong feelings worldwide, and Israel is no exception. Ethiopian Israelis have long complained of prejudice and being treated as second-class citizens.

Sheba Medical Center, Israel’s national hospital, enjoys a reputation for medical innovation, but many are unaware that it is also at the forefront of helping to integrate members of various minority groups in Israel.

In the past several years, Sheba has integrated hundreds of new Ethiopian olim (immigrants) into the hospital workforce, going as far to provide them with free classes to help them navigate Israeli bureaucracy and improve their language skills.

Most recently, Prof. Eldad Katorza, senior physician at Sheba, decided to give youth from the Ethiopian community a head start by folding them into a pilot program within “Project Arrow,” which he directs.

“Project Arrow” (chetz in Hebrew, the initials of chokrim tze’irim, meaning “young researchers”) is an apprenticeship program for medical students designed to pave their way into the world of medical research.

Established in 2006, the initiative matches select medical students with experienced researchers to serve as mentors. During once- or twice-weekly meetings, the student-mentor team works through every stage of medical research, from formulating the initial question, to collecting and analyzing data, to presenting the results at medical conferences.

This year, for the first time, each research duo included a third tier: high school students from the Ethiopian community.

Katorza believes in the importance of encouraging students to pursue research, noting that in medical school, they do not receive sufficient exposure to research thinking or methodology.

“I believe that research makes a doctor more knowledgeable, more curious, more creative,” he said. “A doctor who engages in research is a much better doctor.”

Employing this premise, Katorza now plans to open several slots for nursing school students in the coming year’s program.

“Nursing is also a field that stands to benefit greatly from adding researching to its ranks; it will raise the bar of nursing in Israel,” he said.

Even in the early stages of planning the pilot program for the Ethiopian high school students, it quickly became evident to Katorza just how crucial, timely, and challenging his initiative was.

“I asked my son, then in 11th grade, to look around his own school in Givatayim for students from the Ethiopian community who might be suitable for the program,” said Katorza. “As it turned out, there wasn’t a single Ethiopian student in his school, nor in any of the good schools in the area.”

The reason can be traced to the socioeconomic realities in Israel today. By and large, members of the Ethiopian community tend to dwell in poorer neighborhoods where community services and schools are on a lower level.

These conditions put Ethiopian teens at a disadvantage from the outset, and due to economic necessity, youth are pushed to join the workforce at an early age, perpetuating a cycle of poverty.

“Almost four decades have passed since the first wave of Ethiopian aliyah,” observed Katorza, “yet judging from their rate of participation in academia, their level of affluence and other markers of social mobility, it appears that the government has failed to take the necessary steps to help them bridge the gaps and facilitate their successful absorption into mainstream Israeli society.”

Anxious to change that trend, Katorza decided to include outstanding students from the Ethiopian community in “Project Arrow.”

But it wasn’t simple to locate high school students from the Ethiopian sector who met the criteria for participation in the program: High marks in the sciences, high motivation and interest, and living near enough to the Sheba campus to attend weekly meetings.

Ultimately, Katorza was aided by an organization called Fidel (“alphabet” in Amharic), which promotes the education and social integration of Ethiopian-Israeli youth.

The Fidel staff welcomed the opportunity to incorporate Ethiopian students into the program, and provided 10 candidates, from which the top five were chosen.

Katorza said the pilot was a resounding success and will be repeated in the coming year.

“We found that once they are freed from the limitations of their environment, the students manifested amazing capabilities,” he said. “We endeavored to help build their self-confidence, empower them, and teach them that they can do anything they put their mind to.”

Throughout the year, in addition to their full participation in research, the Ethiopian high-schoolers were also exposed to clinical activity at the hospital.

“At the beginning of the year, the students didn’t have any specific plans for the future,” Katorza said. “Now, they are now seriously considering a medical career.”

One of those is Yair Jalmar, 17, from Beer Yaakov, who participated in a research project with pediatric cardiologist Dr. Shai Tejman.

“This project helped me develop my interest in medicine and learn more about the advanced technologies and devices as well as the various departments in the medical field,” Jalmar said.

Former participants in the Arrow Project have gone on to publish their findings in prestigious medical journals, and several have joined the team at Sheba.

Sharon Gelback
Sharon Gelbach

Sharon Gelbach grew up in Toronto and moved to Israel in 1982. She is a writer, editor and translator and lives with her husband and family in Jerusalem.

Celebrate Canada Day With Light, Festive Recipes


Traditionally, July 1, Canada Day, is a celebratory time for young families. When my children were small, we would go to the local park to watch Canada Day fireworks with our neighbours. When the children were older, they marked the holiday at summer camp.

In adulthood, my children would spend the Canada-Day long weekend with friends at cottages they rented together.

But 2020 will be different. With COVID restrictions, there will be no cottage invites or rentals with friends. My children will be coming to our house for dinner. The day will be a throwback to earlier times when the whole family celebrated the day together.

We’re a bigger group now. Two of my sons have partners. There are two grandchildren and even a grand-dog. I’m planning a light, but festive summer dinner.

I’ll be making salmon, a dish I could never serve my children when they were young. Nobody ate fish then, but it’s a real crowd pleaser now.

My salmon recipe is from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Simple. The recipes include ratings according to their simplicity and prep time. Bridget Jones’s Pan-Fried Salmon with Pine Nut Salsa is rated “S-I-E”: S – short on time; I – one to 10 ingredients or less; and E – easier than you think.

When I’ve made this dish, I have substituted pecans for pine nuts because the latter is expensive and hard to find.

I’ll also be making cornbread, a special-occasion dish. I found this recipe for Chive Cheese Cornbread on a site called Taste of Home

Cheese Chive Cornbread
Chive Cheese Cornbread. Photo credit Barbara Silverstein

Sybil Eades of Gainesville, GA contributed this recipe, which offers a nice balance of sweet and savoury flavours.


¾ cup (185 ml) currants
4 salmon fillets, 1 lb 2 oz (500g), skin on and pin bones removed 
7 tbsp (105 ml) olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
4 medium celery stalks, cut into ½-inch (1 cm ) dice, leaves removed but kept for garnish
¼ cup (60 ml) *pine nuts or pecans, roughly chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) capers, plus 2 tbsp (30 ml) of their brine
½ cup (125 ml) large green olives, pitted and cut into ½-inch (1 cm) dice (about 8)
1 good pinch or ¼ tsp (2 g) saffron threads, mixed with 1 tbsp (15 ml) hot water
1 cup (250 ml) parsley, roughly chopped
1 lemon: finely zested to get 1 tsp (5 ml) then juiced to get 1 tsp (5 ml) 

Cover the currants with boiling water and set aside to soak for 20 minutes while you prep the salmon and make the salsa.

Mix the salmon with 1 tbsp (15 ml) of the oil, a rounded ¼ tsp (2 ml) salt, and a good grind of pepper. Set aside while you make the salsa.


Put 5 tbsp (75ml) of the olive oil into a large sauté pan and place on a high heat. Add the celery and *pine nuts or pecans and fry for 4–5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the nuts begin to brown (don’t take your eyes off them, as they can easily burn). Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the capers and their brine, the olives, saffron and its water, and a pinch of salt. Drain the currants and add these, along with the parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Set aside.

Put the remaining 15 ml (1 tbsp) of oil into a large frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the salmon fillets, skin side down, and fry for 3 minutes, until the skin is crisp. Decrease the heat to medium, then flip the fillets over and continue to fry for 2–4 minutes (depending on how well done you like the salmon). 

Remove the salmon from the pan and set aside. Arrange the salmon on four plates and spoon on the salsa. Scatter the celery leaves on top. Makes 4 servings


1 cup (250 ml) cornmeal
1 cup (250 ml) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 ml) sugar
4 tsp (20 ml) baking powder
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup (250 ml) 2% milk
¼ cup (60 ml) butter, melted
1 cup (250 ml) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 tbsp (45 ml) minced chives

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) 

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, milk and butter. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Gently fold in the cheese and chives.

Pour the batter into a greased 13 x 9-in (23 x 33-cm) baking pan. 

Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 18 minutes. 

Cut into strips; serve warm. Makes 9–12 servings.

Barbara Silverstein
Barbara Silverstein

Barbara Silverstein is a Toronto-area journalist and an award-winning food writer. She was a freelance writer and food blogger for The Canadian Jewish News. Her articles have appeared in Homemakers Magazine, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and Tablet Magazine.

Bold Side Dishes Make a Father’s Day BBQ Festive


Mother’s Day is often associated with elegant brunches – crepes, French toast, fancy omelettes and all kinds of poached egg specialities. 

But Father’s Day is all about the meat. Usually, people celebrate with a barbecue of some kind because the weather tends to be warm and many Dads like to flaunt their barbecue prowess.

Some men, like my brother-in-law David, are terrific grill masters. My husband, on the other hand, tends to burn almost everything he barbecues.

In keeping with COVID guidelines, my family will be gathering in our backyard for Father’s Day. A barbecue is the simplest and safest plan for dinner. My husband will be manning the grill, but we’ll be limiting the main course to hot dogs and hamburgers.

I’ll be preparing some side dishes and serving them because a buffet-style spread has to be avoided during the pandemic. 

It’s still asparagus season and Teriyaki Asparagus, will be a nice addition to the meal. This recipe comes from Meal Leani Yumm! 800 Fast, Fabulous & Healthy Recipes for the Kosher (or not) Cook, by the late Norene Gilletz.

You can never go wrong with potatoes. I’ll be baking Hasselback Potatoes. The recipe I’ll be using comes from I Heart Kosher: Beautiful Recipes From My Kitchen by Kim Kushner, a Canadian cookbook author based in New York City. I’ll also be making Kushner’s Sexy Red Kale with Beets & Fresh Dill in Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette. This colourful, bold-flavoured salad should give the meal some extra pizzazz.


1½ lb (750 g) asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 2-inch (5 cm) slices
2 tbsp (30 ml) teriyaki sauce
1 tsp (5 ml) minced fresh ginger
2 green onions, chopped
½ to 1 tsp (3-5 ml) toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp (15 ml) honey 
1 tbsp (15 ml) fresh orange juice
½ tsp (3 ml) Dijon mustard
2 tbsp (30 ml) toasted sesame seeds

Soak the asparagus in water and drain well. Place the spears in a 1-quart or (1-lL) casserole and drizzle with the teriyaki sauce. Sprinkle with the ginger and green onions.

Microwave on high for 6 or 7 minutes, until the spears are barely tender. Let them stand covered for 3 minutes. Stir in the sesame oil, honey, orange juice and mustard. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve immediately. 

To toast the sesame seeds: Place the seeds in a small pan and roast them on medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning.


Adapted version of Kim Kushner’s Kale with Beets and Fresh Dill Salad. Photo Barbara Silverstein

4 –6 cups (1–1½ L) red kale leaves, washed and stored, roughly chopped
2 Belgian endives, leaves peeled off whole
1 red beet, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup (250 ml ) frozen shelled edamame, thawed and rinsed
1 cup (250 ml) roughly chopped fresh dill
Juice of 3 Meyer lemons
½ tsp (3 ml) whole mustard seeds
¼ tsp (1 ml) crushed dried rose petals (optional)
1 tbsp (15 ml) honey
¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Combine the kale, endive leaves, beet, edamame, and dill in a large bowl or platter. Toss them all together.

Pour the lemon juice into a glass jar, add the mustard seeds, dried rose petals (if using), honey, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Shake well. Spoon the vinaigrette over the salad just before serving. Makes 6 –8 servings.


6–10 medium to large Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and dried
Light olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line an extra large rimmed baking sheet (or 2 regular baking sheets) with parchment paper.

Working with one potato at a time, cut thin slits into the top of the potato from one side to the other, cutting almost, but not all the way through, almost like a fan. Drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes and season generously with salt and pepper. Use your hands to rub in the seasonings and ensure that the potatoes are completely coated with the oil, salt, and pepper.

Place the potatoes, uncut side down. Cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until the potatoes are crispy and golden, about 30 minutes longer. Makes 6 to 10 servings.

Barbara Silverstein
Barbara Silverstein

Barbara Silverstein is a Toronto-area journalist and an award-winning food writer. She was a freelance writer and food blogger for The Canadian Jewish News. Her articles have also appeared in Homemakers Magazine, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and Tablet Magazine.

Food Celebrities Showcase Delis, Israeli Fare at Jewish Food Fest


The Great Big Jewish Food Fest, a 10-day virtual lineup of free programming celebrating Jewish cuisine, ran May 19-May 28. Jewish chefs and food personalities led a variety of cooking classes and hosted discussions on Jewish food and culinary traditions.

Two of the events featured Canadian food personalities: Toronto-based writer David Sax, author of Save-the-Deli, and television cooking show host Gail Simmons.

Sax’s event kicked off the festival. He interviewed delicatessen owners from New York City, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. about the impact of COVID on their restaurants.

The owners were all candid. Business is definitely down, but take-out orders and catering, they said, are sustaining them.

Toronto-born Simmons, a trained culinary expert, is best known for her role as a judge on Bravo’s Emmy-winning series, Top Chef. In addition, she was the host of Iron Chef Canada this year. She lives in New York City, where she is also a food columnist and cookbook author.

For the food fest, she hosted a Shabbat dinner event with cookbook author Adeena Sussman, and chefs and restaurateurs Michael Solomonov and Einat Admony. The presenters prepared different courses for a Shabbat dinner.

Within the last year or two, Solomonov, Admony, and Sussman, have all released cookbooks featuring Israeli cuisine.

Simmons introduced Solomonov, a James Beard Award-winning chef, author and restaurateur, as the “Hummus King.” His recipe for 5-Minute Hummus comes from his latest cookbook, Israeli Soul.

The recipe for hummus pitryot, a hummus and mushroom dish, is from his award-winning cookbook Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking.

Admony, the owner of several New York City restaurants, prepared Braised Chicken with Olives and Citrus. This recipe can be found in Shuk: From Market to Table, The Heart of Israeli Home Cooking.

The recipes for Sussman’s side dishes, Jeweled Rice and Tahini-Glazed Carrots, are from Sababa: Fresh Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen.

The festival uploaded the recipes of many of the presenters on the event page at so that participants could buy the ingredients in advance, and cook along at the various events.

CJR readers can directly download Solomonov’s, Admony’s and Sussman’s recipes at

Copyright restrictions prevent Sussman’s and Admony’s recipes from being reproduced here. However, the publisher of Shuk sent me another one of Admony’s chicken recipes, Dorot Wot: Ethiopian Chicken, which we are authorized to publish.

Shuk Doro Wot
Shuk Doro Wot (Photo: Quentin Bacon)

Solomonov has garnered six James Beard Awards, the most prestigious culinary honour in the United States.

Last year, his Israeli-style restaurant Zahav, in Philadelphia, was named best American restaurant.

Solomonov was in Toronto about a year ago to do a culinary event for the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada. At the time he generously gave me permission to reprint any of his recipes.

With COVID, however, Zahav and the other 15 restaurants he co-owns with Cook have all been operating at a limited capacity.


Tehina Sauce

1 garlic clove 
1-16-ounce (500 g) jar tahini
Juice of 1 lemon 
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
1 tbsp (15 ml) kosher salt
1–1½ cups (250 – 375 ml) ice water


2 19-ounce (540 ml) cans chickpeas

Basic Tehina Sauce: Nick off a piece of the garlic (about a quarter of the clove) and drop it into the bowl of a food processor. Squeeze the lemon juice into the bowl. Pour the tehina on top, making sure to scrape it all out of the container, and add the cumin and salt.

Process until the mixture looks peanut buttery, about one minute, then stream in the ice water a little at a time with the motor running. Process until the mixture is smooth and creamy and lightens to the colour of dry sand. 

Hummus: Add the chickpeas to the tehina sauce and process for about 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go, until the chickpeas are completely processed and the hummus is smooth and uniform in colour.


1½ cups (375 ml) Hen-of-the-Woods mushrooms
2 slivered garlic cloves
2 tbsp (30 ml) canola oil
1 tbsp (15 ml) fresh dill 
Olive oil for serving
Chopped parsley for garnish

Break up the mushrooms into 1– 2-inch pieces. Place the oil on the bottom of a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms along with the garlic. 

Cook, stirring until the mushrooms are brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Add the dill and toss. 

Serve over Hummus-Tehina and top with chopped fresh parsley, paprika and olive oil.


2 tbsp (30 ml) kosher salt, divided
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks 
1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice
¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil 
2 large onions, finely diced or chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp (5ml) ground cumin
1 tsp (5ml) ground ginger
1 tsp (5ml) ground cardamom
1 tsp (5ml) ground turmeric
1 tsp (5ml) paprika
1 tsp (5ml) ground fenugreek seed or leaf
1 tsp (5ml) freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2¼ cups (560 ml) homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock or water
Additional salt to taste for seasoning
Pepper to taste for seasoning

Rub the chicken with the lemon juice and 1 tbsp salt and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy-based wide skillet or Dutch oven (large enough to hold the chicken in one snug layer). Add the onions and the remaining tbsp of salt, and sauté gently until fragrant, golden brown, and sweet, about 20 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. 

Add the garlic, cumin, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, paprika, fenugreek, and pepper and stir for a minute so the spices bloom in the oil. Nestle the chicken pieces and the eggs into the pan and pour in the broth. 

Cover the pan and adjust the heat to a solid simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes. Then remove the lid so the sauce will reduce and thicken a bit and continue to simmer another 45 – 60 minutes, until the chicken is very tender when poked with a knife and the juices run clear, or until the thickest part of the thigh or drumstick reaches 165°F (74°C) on an instant-read thermometer. 

Taste and adjust with more salt or pepper. Serve with flat bread or rice to mop up the sauce. Makes 6–8 servings.

Remembering Canada’s Kosher Julia Child


May 29, the first day of Shavuot, would have been the 80th birthday of Norene Gilletz, Canada’s first lady of kosher cuisine. She died in Montreal this past winter after a long illness.

Some people have referred to Gilletz as Canada’s kosher Julia Child or the Jewish Martha Stewart. Gilletz had a huge influence on Canadian kosher fare.

Norene Gillitz (Photographer: Doug Gillitz)

She was the editor of the storied kosher cookbook, Second Helpings, Please! The Canadian best-seller it was originally published in 1968 sold more than 150,000 copies. The book launched Gilletz’s culinary career. She went on to write11 more cookbooks. 

Her last book, The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory, which she co-wrote with Dr. Edward Wein, was published just months before her death.

Gilletz was a much beloved community figure. One of her proudest achievements was the founding of Norene’s Kitchen, an international Facebook community of 10,000 plus like-minded people who are l connected through a shared love of food and their Jewish heritage.

Gilletz left a huge culinary legacy. Healthy eating was an important theme in many of her cookbooks, but she never sacrificed taste. Here are three of her vegetarian recipes – they’re all from The Brain Boosting Diet – to enjoy on Shavuot. 

Venezuelan Guacamole would appeal to guacamole aficionados. The Venezuelan version calls for hearts of palm to be incorporated into the avocado dish. This appetizer is lighter tasting, but just as flavourful as traditional guacamole. 

Gilletz’s recipe for Smashed Potato Latkehs is easy and great comfort food. Pair the potatoes with a healthy dollop or two of sour cream.

Kale Slaw with Peanut Dressing is tasty with lots of crunch and a rich Asian dressing.


1 can (14 oz/ 398 g) hearts of palm, well drained
2 tbsp (30 ml) fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh parsley
1 small onion
1 large clove garlic, about 5 ml (1 tsp), minced
½ green or red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 medium tomato, quartered
1 firm, ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
1 tbsp (15 m1) extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp (15 m1)  lemon juice (preferably fresh)
½ tsp  (2 ml) salt 
¼ tsp (1 ml) cayenne pepper or chilli powder
Freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the hearts of palm, cilantro, and parsley with quick on/off pulses, until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. You should have about (1 cup) 250 ml.

Process the onion, garlic, and bell pepper with quick on/off pulses, until coarsely chopped. Add the tomato, avocado, oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Process with quick on/offs pulses, until it’s finely chopped.

Add this mixture to the hearts of the palm mixture and mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap, pressing it directly against the surface. Refrigerate up to 4 days. Serve chilled. 


12 baby red-skinned potatoes
Lightly salted water
1-2 tbsp  (15-30 ml) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Additional seasonings to taste: basil, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika

Place the potatoes in enough lightly salted water to cover them.

Boil for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are fork-tender.

Drain the potatoes well.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C.)

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or sprayed foil.

Place the potatoes in a single layer, about 3 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheet. Cover them with a piece of parchment paper.

Smash each potato once or twice with the flat part of your palm, making a flat disc. Round off any ragged edges by pushing them together with your fingers.

Brush the potato tops lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings.

Bake the potatoes, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden and crispy. If desired, turn the potatoes over halfway through the baking and brush the tops with oil. Makes 4 to 5 servings.



1 medium bunch kale (about 1 lb/500 g)
1 tbsp (15 ml) canola oil
4 cups (1 L) shredded red cabbage (or one 16-oz/500-g pkg)
2 cups (500 ml) shredded carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ cup (125 ml) diced red onion
½ cup (125 ml) chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
½ cup (125 ml) toasted slivered almonds (for garnish) 

Peanut Dressing/Marinade 

2 cloves garlic
¼ cup (60 ml) peanut butter (preferably natural with no added sugar)
2 tbsp (30 ml) rice vinegar
2 tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce or tamari (preferably low-sodium)
2 tbsp (30 ml) honey
1 tsp (5 ml) toasted sesame oil
3–4 tbsp (45–60 mL) orange juice (preferably fresh)
Pinch red pepper flakes

Mince garlic in a mini-prep or food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, orange juice, and red pepper flakes. Process until blended, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. If too thick, drizzle in a little more orange juice.

Store in a jar in the refrigerator until ready to use. Shake well before using.

Barbara Silverstein
Barbara Silverstein

Barbara Silverstein is a Toronto-area journalist and an award-winning food writer. She was a freelance writer and food blogger for The Canadian Jewish News. Her articles have also appeared in Homemakers Magazine, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and Tablet Magazine.

The Jewish Response to Marriage and Separation During COVID


During COVID, we are either getting closer to our spouses and loved ones, or are ready to kill them. If you have “had it” with your spouse or kids and are seriously considering separation and divorce, consider the following.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught that if you have a negative thought, like resentment or annoyance, then force yourself to think positively. For those facing the break-up up of their marriage, being positive will go a long way to reconcile or to make the divorce process go more smoothly and less costly.

So, learn the following strategies on how to resolve potential conflicts. This is especially true with the change in the Canadian Divorce Act coming into effect on July 1, 2020.

General Rules of Self-control:

• If you’re a victim of physical violence and constant verbal abuse, go your separate ways.

• Otherwise, in the absence of abuse, a bitter financial or parenting dispute can be costly. It can bankrupt you.

• If you feel that a nasty argument is about to happen, then it’s better to be smart than right. Leave your differences to when both of you are in a better place.

• Never raise your voice for any reason, no matter how bad the behaviour of your partner. 

• Ever say something you later regret? Stop. Convince yourself that someone else you respect is in the room listening to your angry outburst, and you will feel embarrassed. Embarrassment is a good thing and could stop you. It could be anyone: Your kids, your employer, your friend, a parent, even God, if you are so inclined. So, don’t lash out if provoked and politely excuse yourself. Cool down, go for a nice long walk, play a musical instrument. Go to a place of joy and distract yourself.

• When your partner grabs the remote for the sixth straight time, make a joke of it. Then lie, if necessary. Explain how much you enjoy that Serbian cooking show rather than the reruns of your favourite Raptors games.

• Stop worrying about the little things and soon you will realize that there are no big things.

Legal Information about separation during COVID, up to July 1, 2020:

• If you are determined to separate or your spouse initiates separation, please don’t leave your kids behind with the other parent without a legally binding written parenting agreement. If you do, you’ll likely be spending far less time with your kids than if you’d had an agreement, and you will undoubtedly lose any hope of having a significant parenting role, in most cases.

If negotiations fail, the courts will resolve the issue, but in the absence of violence, don’t leave. You should try and resolve when the home is sold, the split of other property, and the question of spousal and child support are determined. Get help from competent counsel.

• If you’ve separated and you have a parenting dispute, the courts are still open if these disputes are urgent. During COVID, Family Courts in Ontario are using virtual methods to conduct urgent hearings, whether in writing, by telephone, or Zoom video conferencing. Also, your lawyer can now file your court papers online. However, to get quick results, the issue must be pressing, such as in the case of denial of access to your children, the unfair retention of them, child abduction, or the need for money for immediate child and spousal support when warranted.

• If you can’t or won’t be permitted to see your kids because of COVID, insist on other forms of access a few times a week. You can still bless your children on Erev Shabbat by video or phone, according to certain authorities. If your spouse is against exposing your kids to any medical danger, then ask for virtual access such as Skype, WhatsApp or Zoom, and if you fail, the courts will likely order at least such access if you have an existing court order.

• If you fear that your spouse will lie about your interactions with him or her, communicate via Family Wizard Canada by downloading its app (there is a small fee). This communication service for separated parents monitors all emails the parties have sent to each other. They can’t be altered when using the app.

John Syrtash is an associate and family law lawyer with the Toronto firm of Garfin Zeindenberg LLP. He is the author of Religion and Culture in Canadian Family Law (Butterworths).

Neither Garfin Zeidenberg nor John Syrtash are liable for any consequences arising from anyone’s reliance on this material, which is presented as general information and not as a legal opinion.

ROSENSWEIG: On Turning 60


I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” – Mahatma Gandhi) 

Avrum Rosensweig

My zaidy’s face, with the grandfatherly whiskers, always seemed to reflect a day or two of not shaving. I always felt that he looked like Hemingway’s Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea. My zaidy always struck me as being old even when he was only 60.

Now I am 60 and I swear, I’m old. I can no longer be chayav kares – the heavenly punishment of being “cut off.” That’s good. But did you know that Theodore Roosevelt, Carrie Fisher, Syd Barrett, Leon Trotsky, Benedict Arnold all died at 60? So did Mahalia Jackson. Sixty can be old – and perilous.

My father, Shraga Phyvle, died at 61. Oh, that is a problem. Our teachings tell us that we begin thinking of our own demise five years prior to the age of death of a parent. I certainly am.

I am 60.

I am 60 and the youngest of five siblings. I am three-score and no longer ride a motorcycle, but my hair is long. I have hair, and that is good.

What have I accomplished? I launched and built a non-profit called Ve’ahavta. That is good. I have a 14-year-old son, Noah River. He keeps me young. He always has. Noah is almost my height. He knows hard words and what reverse psychology is. Noah beats me every time at hockey video games (I can never get a goal). But it is fun. A whole lot of fun. He is 14. I am 60.

Today, I’m searching my hands for wrinkles. They still look smooth. My face is somewhat creased though. I saw myself in the elevator mirror the other day. When I moved my head, so did the reflection. So, I knew it was me. I am a salt-and-pepper haired man who looks a tad hunched over. I’m 60.

I have life ahead of me. The world is my oyster. I’ll unearth my skills, talents and gifts, share them. If I live until 120, I am halfway there. If I live to 80, I am three-quarters of the way there. In 20 years, I will be 80!

My Old Age pension is available if I want it, albeit discounted from the rate I would get at 65. Now that I am 60, I have a particular understanding of the complexities of life. My bucket list no longer sits in the mud room. It is quite real, waiting to be unpacked. 

My head is filled with thoughts. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained that the number 60 embodies the rule of transformation. A principle in Torah law is the “nullified by 60” rule. For example, if a drop of milk falls into a vessel of cholent by accident, the unwanted element is “nullified” if the desired component is 60 times greater. Could it be I have a chance? 

Mr. Siderson, a member of my father’s shul, was 60 when I was little. He was spry, as I remember. But he was elderly. When I was five, I used to look up at the old man duchanning (singing the priestly blessing) in shul during the holidays. I was not supposed to look, but I did. The man was old. He was different. He scared me. Not because he was necessarily scary. Remember how the elderly would do that? His cheek-squeezes hurt. I hid because I was little and young. And that was only yesterday. Now, I am 60.

Cheesecake Sweetens Torah Study on Shavuot


Shavuot begins on the evening of May 28. Because Jews abstain from meat on this day, a variety of dairy dishes like blintzes and cheese kugel have become the traditional holiday fare. A healthy serving of cheesecake usually caps off the festive meal.

It is common for people to stay up all night to study Torah on Shavuot. Cheesecake often provides them with sustenance for this endeavour.

With the social distancing necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the configuration of Torah study groups may be different for Shavuot 2020, but the consumption of cheesecake need not change.

However, over the course of this pandemic, there has been a lot of chatter about people growing wider around the middle and developing what has come to be known as the COVID-19 Bulge. Perhaps for some people a low-calorie cheesecake may be a good option for Shavuot this year.

In her last cookbook, The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory, the late Norene Gilletz offered a calorie-reduced cheesecake recipe, “Basic Mini-Cheesecakes,” with variations that could “expand your repertoire,” she wrote, “without expanding your hips!”

Another more calorie-laden option is Anna Olson’s recipe for key lime cheesecake.  Olson is a Canadian celebrity pastry chef, and Food Network personality. This cheesecake recipe is delicious but there are quite a few steps. I used a food processor to make the cheesecake base.

Find the recipe here:

One of my favourite Gilletz desserts is the chocolate cheesecake recipe from her classic cookbook, The Food Processor Bible. The cake looks and tastes great, with or without the whipped cream and chocolate curl garnish.

Basic Mini-Cheesecakes (Norene Gilletz)

1/3 cup (80 ml) finely chopped almonds or pecans

2 cups (500 ml) light cream cheese (1 b/500 g)

Sweetener equivalent to 2/3 cup (160 ml) sugar

2 large eggs

1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice (preferably fresh)

12 large whole strawberries, hulled

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line each compartment of a muffin pan with a paper liner and sprinkle some chopped nuts in the bottom of each.

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the cheese with sweetener until blended, about 15 seconds. Add the eggs and lemon juice. Process for 20 to 30 seconds, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan compartments.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until set. Once cooled, top each cheesecake with a whole strawberry. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or overnight. Serve chilled.

Variation 1

Replace half the cream cheese with pressed cottage cheese. Increase the processing time to 1 minute until the mixture is very smooth.

Variation 2: Praline Mini-Cheesecakes:

Replace the sweetener with brown sugar sweetener. Instead of strawberries, top each cheesecake with a pecan half.


Coconut Crust

1½ cup (375 ml) sweetened flaked coconut
¼ cup (60 ml) sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) all-purpose flour
1 large egg white, at room temperature

Cheesecake Base

3 250 g packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 300 ml tin sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp (15 ml) freshly grated lime zest
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
** ½ cup (125 ml) fresh lime juice

Lime Curd

2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
½ cup (125 ml) sugar
**1 tbsp (15 ml) finely grated lime zest
**½ cup (125 ml) fresh lime juice
½ cup (125 ml) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup (60 ml) sour cream


1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
1 tbsp (15 ml) instant skim milk powder
2 tbsp (30 ml) sugar
½ tsp (3 ml) vanilla extract
½ cup (125 ml) fresh blueberries, for garnish

**NB Lemon can be substituted for lime

Preheat the oven to 350° (180°C). Lightly grease a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan and place it onto a baking tray.

Crust: Stir the coconut, sugar and flour together. Whisk the egg white until frothy and then stir it into the coconut. Press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan (if you are finding it sticky, wet your fingers with water before pressing). Bake the crust for about 18 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges and then cool before filling.

Cheesecake: Lower the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C). Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in the condensed milk, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl well. Beat in the zest and vanilla, then on a lower speed; beat in each egg and the yolk one at a time. Still on low speed, beat in the lime juice. Pour this over the cooled crust and bake for about 40 minutes, until the outside of the cheesecake is set, but the centre still has a little jiggle to it. Prepare the lime curd as the cheesecake cools.

Lime Curd: Whisk the whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lime zest and juice in a metal bowl. Whisk in the butter and sour cream and place the bowl over a pot of gently simmering water, whisking often, until the lime curd has thickened, about 10 to15 minutes. Strain the curd and spread this gently over the cheesecake. Once fully cooled to room temperature, chill the cheesecake for at least 6 hours (do not cover with plastic wrap).

Topping: Whip the cream and skim milk powder to a soft peak. Stir in the sugar and vanilla and spread this over the cheesecake, leaving two inches of the lime curd visible around the outside. Top the cream with blueberries and chill until ready to serve.

The cheesecake will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 days. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

 Anna Olson’s key lime cheesecake (photo: Barbara Silverstein)



1 3/4 cups (430 ml) chocolate wafer crumbs
½ cup (125 ml) butter or margarine, melted
2 tbsp (30 ml) granulated or brown sugar
½ tsp (3 ml) ground cinnamon

Cheesecake base

2 cups (500 ml) chocolate chips
2 cups (500 ml) or 500 g (1 lb) light or cream cheese cut in chunks
3/4 cup (185 ml) granulated sugar
4 eggs
½ cup (125 ml) sour cream, light or regular

Whipped cream Topping (optional)

½ cup (125 ml) chilled whipping cream
1 tbsp (15 ml) icing sugar
Chocolate curls for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C)

Grease a 9-inch (23-cm) spring-form pan with non-stick spray

Prepare the crust: Break the wafers into chunks. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, drop the wafers through the feed tube until fine crumbs form. Add the butter, 2 tbsp (30 ml) sugar and cinnamon into the bowl of your food processor. Process a few seconds longer to blend. Press 2/3 of the crumb mixture into the prepared springform pan. Reserve 1/3 of the mixture for the topping.

Clean & dry the processor bowl & blade. You will need it for the filling.

Melt the chocolate chips (2 to 3 minutes on medium (50%) in the microwave, stirring once or twice.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar (185 ml) for 30 seconds. Add the eggs and process until well blended. Stop the machine once in awhile and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Add the melted chocolate and sour cream and process 20 seconds longer.

Pour the chocolate cheese mixture over the crust and sprinkle with the reserved wafer crumbs.

To bake, place a pie plate half filled with water on the bottom rack of the oven. Place the cheesecake on the middle rack. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes. When done, the edges of the cake will be set, but the centre will be somewhat soft. Turn off the oven, but let the cake cool inside for half an hour with oven door partly open.

When completely cooled, place the cake on a plate and remove the sides of the pan.

Optional: Whip the heavy cream until thick. Add the icing sugar and whip until the cream stiffens.

Pipe rosettes of whipped cream around the edges and garnish with chocolate curls. Refrigerate the cake until serving time. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

SIMONS: A Study in Others’ Conversation


The time has come in my life when I must freely admit I honestly miss going to Toronto’s United Bakers Dairy Restaurant just by myself for breakfast and sitting at my new favourite table at the south-west corner.

Perhaps I should explain. I choose my table very carefully, as I do my friends – not that there’s any similarity between them. My friends are neither square nor rectangular nor suffer from the same identical height, and they certainly don’t have a wobbly leg or screech when they move around.

I know from the regulars who visit UB for breakfast that they have one thing in common: They take great pleasure in being scanned by other patrons as they walk into the restaurant. For the life of me, I have no idea why – and they revel in endorsing UB’s superb breakfast of orange juice, two scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, a slice of cucumber and tomato, with a toasted bagel accompanied by jam, all washed down with a bottomless cup of coffee.

Which seems to me quite odd, since I’ve never witnessed any of them eating this meal. We shouldn’t make too much of this, for if UB is known for anything special, it is that its patrons can be categorized as “characters.”

Take for instance the two elderly ladies of an age far greater than mine who were sitting on my left. To distinguish the two, I will call one Luca, who I immediately recognized as speaking stereotypical Hunglish. The other I will call “the second woman.”

“Tell me, darling what do you think? How’s my hair looking?” asked Luca. “Earlier this morning I went to Mario’s. Be honest, do you think Abe will notice me?”

To which the second woman replied, “So, when are you going to have your hair done?”

Their urbane conversation abruptly stopped, reminding me of what George Bernard Shaw had to say. “She had lost the art of conversation but not, unfortunately, the power of speech.”

Conversation during breakfast makes UB a superb location to visit. Let me give you a further example. Take the dialogue between Ruthie and Fran, two ladies out of a vaudeville act.

Ruthie: “My only brother is in town. The one I don’t talk to. He’s in town with his ‘thing’ that we don’t mention.”

Fran: “His thing?”

Ruthie: “Yes his thing. He married her 25 years ago. No one knew. He didn’t tell the family. Me, his only sister, he didn’t tell. Now, after 25 years, he phoned me. I said, ‘do you want to get together?’ He says he’s busy! Who’s he busy with? Her, the thing!”

At this time – need I say it? – Ruthie and Fran received my full attention.

Fran: “He’s in town after 25 years?”

Ruthie: “I’m not seeing him. After so many years I should see him when he didn’t invite me to his wedding?”

At the next table to their left, an elderly man, dressed in old-fashioned bright polyester – one might see in Florida at the early-bird dinners – struggled to get up to leave. Oblivious to the two women, he slowly shuffled past them heading for the exit.

Ruthie: “Oi Fran, say nothing! Shush! Not one word. Just look at me!”

Fran: “What’s up, Ruthie?”

Ruthie: “It’s him!” she croaked, pointing to the elderly man. “It’s my brother!”

I’ll tell you frankly, there is no doubt that if I were a theatre critic, I would have been the first to stand and applaud the performance of these three thespians. However, the very thought of doing so at such close vicinity while attempting to move my table and not spill my coffee and glass of water settled the matter for me.

I have heard from time to time of similar conversations at United Bakers. But with such great stress put on me while eating my breakfast, to my credit, I have now found a table far from such animated dialogue.

I think this will count toward a longer life.