Hannukah: The Many Blessings of its Blessings

Dec. 11, 2020

By ILANA KRYGIER LAPIDES

Hanukkah is here, and not a moment too soon: Bringing light into the darkness right now is most welcome. While we look up how to play dreidel, exchange low-fat latke recipes (just kidding, it’s a pandemic – fry the damn things) and schedule online get-togethers, we tend to gloss over a significant aspect of the holiday: the Hanukkah blessings. We recite the blessings every night for eight nights, but are rarely mindful of what we are saying.

The first blessing is so familiar, we don’t really hear it anymore: “Blessed are You, Adoshem our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Your Commandments spark holiness in us as You command us to light Hanukkah candles.”

This blessing is interesting both because it recognizes our innate glimmers of holiness and because it references an old controversy. Historically, Hanukkah celebrates a military victory followed by the rededication of the Second Temple. But less than 200 years later, the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, and Jews were exiled and scattered into the Diaspora. When the dust settled, Jews were faced with the obligation to celebrate a defunct victory – a bitter reminder of permanent loss. A heated debate ensued about whether to scrap Hanukkah completely.

Ultimately, our sages came to a compromise. Yes, Hanukkah would continue, but the miracle story would transform from a military victory into a gentle legend about a single day’s carafe of kosher oil lasting eight days. Our blessing mentions no military triumph; peaceful lighting of the darkness becomes the true legacy of this festival.

Next comes our second blessing: “G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who is blessed and Who blesses us, in this season in ancient days, You performed miracles for our ancestors.”

We chant this blessing to celebrate the miracle of the oil. But wait: The miracle of the oil lasting eight days didn’t really start until the second day. The Maccabees knew the oil would burn for at least one day, so why do we bless the miracle of the first day?

It is true the Maccabees didn’t know the oil would last longer than a day, but they lit it anyway. They chose to take a chance, to have faith. The miracle of the first day isn’t the oil lasting, but the miracle of faith itself.

And lastly, on the first night only, we chant the Shehechyanu. This is the blessing we say when we arrive at a new occasion: “Blessed are You, G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment in time.”

These days, being sustained to this moment is no small feat; the pandemic has made us all too aware of our mortality.

Rabbi Shefa Gold speaks of Shehechyanu moments – moments when something new and wonderful happens. Shehechyanu moments occur when our hearts are full and we feel the need to mark the occasion somehow; to acknowledge it and make it memorable.

Festive holidays are Shehechyanu moments, but so can be reuniting with a loved one, or a child’s first day of school, or noticing that we are genuinely laughing for the first time after grieving a heartbreaking loss. Our Shehechyanu moments may feel rare lately, but they do happen if we can be still enough to notice.

As Rabbi Gold wrote, the Shehechyanu blessing is said whenever we realize the miracle of the present moment.

May this Hanukkah bring us the miracle of the present moment. May the warmth of the kindling lights usher in a season of good health, abundance, and joy. And may the Hanukkah blessings bring a spark to our hearts and light to the darkness.

Chag Hanukkah Sameach.


Ilana Krygier Lapides
Ilana Krygier Lapides

Ilana Krygier Lapides is a Jewish educator and storyteller in Calgary. She is currently attending the online Rabbinic School, the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute (JSLI) in New York, and will be ordained at the end of December 2020.

Tahini Adds Richness to Sweet and Savoury Dishes

Dec. 4, 2020

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR.

Last Sunday, it was warm enough to serve brunch al fresco. We wore our jackets and ate a simple meal in a sunny corner of the garden. 

Two days later, my husband was out shovelling the driveway after a substantial snowfall in Toronto.

If the weather keeps up, we will have a white Hanukkah. We light the first candle on Thursday, Dec. 10.

This week, “Kitchen Talk” has a guest contributor for the Spotlight feature. Jacqueline Louie, a Calgary-based freelance writer and editor, has written about Israel Cookalong, a weekly cooking class from Israel. The classes are run on Zoom and attract participants from all over the world.

Louie has included a recipe for Tahini Cookies from Israel Cookalong.

I have kept this week’s recipes to the tahini theme. Tahini, or sesame seed paste, is a Middle Eastern food that has become very popular worldwide and is used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes.

I have found two savoury recipes from two wonderful cookbooks that utilize tahini. Tahini Glazed Carrots can be found in Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from my Israeli Kitchen by Adeena Sussman, and Beets with Tahina is from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Philadelphia-based restaurateurs Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.

I tried the Tahini Glazed Carrots last week. It’s a delicious dish that would work well for Hanukkah or any festive occasion. The carrots can be served warm, at room temperature or even cold.

Solomonov said Beets with Tahina is one of the most popular menu items at Zahav, the award-winning restaurant he co-owns with Cook. 

SPOTLIGHT

Israel Cookalong Has A Global Reach

By JACQUELINE LOUIE

Every Sunday at 11 a.m. (Eastern Time), Miriam Kresh logs onto Zoom and leads the Israel Cookalong from her kitchen in Petach Tikvah, Israel.

The Cookalong, which Kresh started in the spring of 2020, attracts Canadians from Calgary, Winnipeg and other cities, along with participants from the United States, South Africa and Israel. 

They cook together in real time via Zoom. At the end of each session, everyone has freshly cooked dishes inspired by Israel’s multi-ethnic cuisine.

Examples of the Cookalong recipes include Herb-and Nut-Crusted Schnitzel, Chicken Tajine with Apricots, and Majadra, a lentil and rice dish.

“We share wisdom, crack jokes, and tell stories while we cook. It’s like a party in your kitchen every Sunday,” says Kresh, a Jerusalem Post writer.

Her former food blog, Israeli Kitchen – it was acquired by Mother Nature News network– is now part of the online publication, From The Grapevine.

Amy Kenigsberg participates regularly in the Israel Cookalong from Maale Shomron in central Israel. “You’re making recipes for food you’ve never heard of, so you’re learning an enormous amount about Israeli cuisine and Israeli culture. “And the food is really good!” says Kenigsberg, who cooks for a family of five. They enjoy the Israel Cookalong meals “because it’s not the same boring stuff that I make all the time.”

Kenigsberg encourages people to try out the Israel Cookalong. “It’s a great group of people that you’re cooking with. I feel like I’ve made some really nice new friends, even though we only meet once a week on video.”

To find out what’s cooking at the Israel Cookalong this month, or for more information about registration, email Kresh at miriamkresh1@gmail.com. Type “Cookalong” in the subject line.

“I’d love to welcome you to the classes,” she says. “You can join for one session or more, as you choose.”

TAHINI COOKIES Miriam Kresh 

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp (200 g) soft margarine or butter
1 cup (250 ml) sugar
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla
1 cup (250 ml) tahini. If there’s a layer of oil floating on top of the jar, stir in back in.
2 cups plus 4 tbsp (560 ml) flour
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
Optional: 2 tbsp (30 ml) pine nuts and powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) 

Cream the margarine and the sugar together.

Add the vanilla and the tahini and blend again.

Combine the flour and the baking powder; add to the tahini mixture.

Form balls the size of walnuts and place them on a greased baking sheet. The dough is dry and crumbly, so squeeze it together to make the balls.

If adding the optional pine nuts, form one cookie ball. Take 2 or 3 pine nuts into your left palm, and with your right hand, press the ball onto them. 

Reverse it when placing onto the baking sheet. If the ball crumbles slightly, just squeeze it back into shape with your fingertips.

Bake 13–15 minutes. Do not bake longer because the cookies need a little moisture to retain their shape and not crumble. Cool the baking tray on a rack, and don’t touch the cookies for at least 5 minutes. (If they’re handled while hot, they will fall apart.) Dust with powdered sugar when they’re cool.

Follow Jacqueline Louie at https://jacquelinelouie.ca/

TAHINI GLAZED CARROTS Adeena Sussman

14–16 (1½ lbs total) *thin carrots, peeled and trimmed
2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp (2 ml) kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp (2 ml) ground cumin

Tahini Glaze: Makes 1 cup (250 ml) 

1/3 cup (100 ml) extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) pure tahini paste
¼ cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp (45 ml) silan**
2 tbsp (30 ml) water or more as needed
½ tsp (2 ml) fine sea salt
¼ tsp (1 ml) cayenne pepper

* Thick carrots cut thin can be substituted
** honey or maple syrup can be substituted

Roast the Carrots 

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Arrange the carrots on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and cumin. Shake the pan to coat the carrots, and roast them in the preheated oven turning midway through, until they have softened and their edges are golden, 25–27 minutes.

Tahini Glaze: While the carrots are roasting, whisk the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, silan (or substitute), water, salt and cayenne in a medium bowl until smooth and pourable, adding an additional tablespoon (15 ml) of water if necessary.

Remove the carrots from the oven. Transfer them to a serving platter, and drizzle then with the tahini glaze. Use tongs to gently toss and coat. Makes 4 servings.

BEETS WITH TAHINA (Michael Solomonov) 

5 cups plus ½ tsp (1250 ml plus 2 ml) kosher salt
8 medium beets
½ cup (125 ml) of Basic Tahini Sauce
½ cup (125 ml) olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) lemon juice
¼ cup (60 ml) chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
2 tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh mint and more for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190 °C). Spread 1 cup (250 ml) of the salt in an oven-proof skillet or baking dish. Put the beets on the salt and cover them with the remaining cups of salt. Bake until the beets are tender, about 90 minutes.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove them from the salt and peel. Set them aside to cool completely.

Grate the beets into a mixing bowl, using the coarse holes of a box grater. Add the tahina sauce, oil lemon juice, dill, mint and season with ½ tsp (2 ml) salt. Mix well to blend. 

Top with dill and chopped mint. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

BASIC TAHINA SAUCE (Michael Solomonov)

1 head of garlic
3/4 cup (190 ml) fresh lemon juice
1½ tsp (7 ml) kosher salt
2 generous cups (500 ml) of tehina
½ tsp (2 ml) ground cumin
1½ cups (375 ml) ice-water, as needed

Break the garlic head up and put the unpeeled cloves in the blender. Add the lemon juice and ½ tsp of salt. Blend on high until the mixture becomes a course puree. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer over a large mixing bowl. Discard the solids. Add the tahina to the strained lemon juice along with the cumin and 1 tsp salt.

Whisk the mixture until smooth or use a food processor, adding ice water a few tablespoons at a time to thin the mixture out. The sauce will lighten in colour with the whisking or processing. When the tahina seizes up or tightens keep adding water, bit by bit, about 1½ cups (375 ml) in total, whisking or processing until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

Taste and add up to 1½ tsp (7 ml) of salt or additional cumin. If the sauce is not being used immediately add a few tablespoons of ice water to loosen the tahini before refrigerating it.

The recipe makes 4 cups (1 L) and it will keep refrigerated for one week.

CULINARY CALENDAR

Dec. 6, 3 p.m.: Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. Lea Zeltserman will be leading a virtual cooking workshop for Russian Pickle Soup, through Building the Jewish& Cookbook, presented by the Miles Nadal JCC. https://www.facebook.com/events/192408629142347

Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.: Latkes and Vodka Workshop with National food columnist and author, Bonnie Stern, and Rabbi Elyse Goldstein. Virtual cooking demo for latkes, cocktails and dessert. To register: https://www.cityshul.com/form/latkes-vodkas.html

Dec. 8 & 9 Shoresh Chanukah Markets: Place advance orders for beeswax Hanukkah candles, Chanukah Miracle Bundle, Bela’s Bees Raw Honey, and other sustainable natural products. Pick up locations south of St. Clair on Dec. 8.; locations north of St. Clair on Dec. 9. https://shop.shoresh.ca/

Dec. 22 1:00 p.m.: Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese Food Lecture presented by YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Andrew Coe, author of Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States traces the history of Ashkenazi Jews’ affinity for Chinese food from the turn of the century to today. To register: https://secure2.convio.net/yivo/site/Ticketing?view=Tickets&id=102421

Limmud Toronto 2020: Virtual, But No Shortage of Choices

Nov. 17, 2020

By DAN BROTMAN

One of the greatest Jewish innovations I came across during the decade I lived in South Africa is Limmud, which means “learning” in Hebrew. Limmud is an international Jewish educational festival, established in the UK in 1980. The Limmud concept is unique in that it brings together Jewish thought leaders and community members across social, denominational and political lines to learn from each other in a safe space on a wide range of topics. Since its inception, Limmud festivals have spread to 42 countries on six continents, with Toronto being home to the first-ever Limmud in North America.

Limmud Toronto is taking place this Sunday, Nov. 22, and for the first time, will be hosted virtually, enabling access to an even wider range of community members from Canada and beyond.

Some 60 presentations will explore topics ranging from opera in Israel, campus antisemitism, an introduction to “post-pandemic theology,” the Nuremberg trials, and Jewish roller derby.

Peter Sevitt
Peter Sevitt

The CJR spoke to Peter Sevitt, who brought the Limmud UK concept to Toronto 16 years ago, and this year’s chairperson, and to Mira Kates Rose, about how Limmud came to Canada, and what to expect from this year’s festival.

What motivated you to bring the Limmud UK concept to Canada back in 2004?

Peter: When I attended Limmud UK, it was incredible to see people of all ages and backgrounds come together to learn and discuss topics that are meaningful to them. The spirit and energy at Limmud UK were unforgettable, and I wanted to recreate that in Toronto. Limmud Canada’s inaugural day-long festival took place in November 2004 at York University’s Founder’s College in Toronto. It was the first Limmud in North America, and was promoted as a festival of Jewish learning, without a denominational or political agenda, that believes in the inherent value of Jewish education. 

That first festival attracted close to 400 participants and over 60 presenters, including some of Canada’s top Jewish educators, community organizers, writers and rabbis. They spoke on topics including Jewish text, Israel, history, cooking, philosophy, contemporary issues, and the arts. Presentations included spiritual music, an improv workshop, Rambam, Kabbalah, healthy Jewish cooking, spiritual parenting, sexuality in biblical narrative, Trudeau and Canadian Jews, identifying media bias against Israel, and the history of Yiddish. The keynote speaker, Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler, spoke on Jewish values and public policy. A Young Limmud offered programming to children ages five to 12. 

Limmud Canada is a registered Canadian charity, and Limmud International requests that each organization in the global Limmud family be represented by individual cities. There had previously been a Limmud in Montreal, and in addition to Toronto, there are currently annual Limmud festivals in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Ottawa and Kingston.”

Mira Kates Rose

What are some common misconceptions about Limmud?

Mira: Some people assume that Limmud is for those who have enormous background knowledge on Jewish history or law or culture, but in fact the very point of Limmud is to learn something new. Limmud is, at its heart, a celebration of the Jewish idea that everyone has something to teach, and everyone has something to learn. Regardless of your background education or Jewish affiliation, political leanings, religious or cultural practices, and regardless of whether or not you are presenting, you should feel that Limmud’s discussions are for you, and that they reflect you, and that you are part of the conversation. At Limmud, we don’t refer to “lectures” or “teachers,” and participants who happen to be Jewish professionals are asked to leave their titles at the door. Limmud’s success is the diversity of voices that take part.

For the first time, this year’s Limmud Toronto is going to be held virtually. What is this going to look like?

Mira: Every year, we try to increase the breadth, diversity and representativeness of Limmud. This year, we are setting a record for presenters making their first Limmud Toronto festival, and we are lucky to include some experienced presenters from other Limmuds from four different continents. We have a selection of speakers talking about Sephardi histories, identities, and perspectives; different types of responses to the COVID pandemic, including communal, social, psychological, and halachic; and our program will include a lot of multimedia tours of culturally fascinating places, such as the National Library of Israel and the history of Jewish Shanghai. We are honoured to be bringing together a really vibrant and unique roster of teachers, politicians, advocates, and artists. Our popular Marketplace is going virtual too: You will be able to visit presenters’ “booths” through the Sched platform. One important difference is that guests attending Limmud will need to choose sessions from the program and sign up for them in advance.

What excites you the most about Limmud Toronto 2020?

Mira: There is an instant spark of excitement and community amongst people who show up, and especially on a Sunday in November. They come to learn from each other, engage in conversation, wrestle with big ideas and seek inspiration. We have a stellar and far-reaching roster of program presenters, and I am already torn with indecision about having to choose sessions. But the full picture of Limmud only comes to light once all the presenters and all the participants are together. This year I will really miss the buzz of participants excitedly trading “who did you learn from?” recommendations in the hallways between sessions, but I hope that in our virtual format we can deliver some of that energy and inspiration to everyone at home.

To learn more, view the schedule and register, visit www.limmud.ca


Dan Brotman is the Executive Director of the Windsor Jewish Federation & Community Centre. He will be co-presenting at this year’s Limmud Toronto on the future of smaller Jewish communities in Ontario.

Virtual Cooking Eases Cabin Fever

Oct. 30, 2020 

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR. The weather is getting colder and COVID rates across the country are on the rise. We’ll soon be spending much more time indoors.

However, it’s not all gloom and doom. It’ll be Zoom and more Zoom.

This technology has become quite the lifesaver during this pandemic. Thanks to Zoom, I participate in a study group with a rabbi. I attend Kabbalat Shabbat services at a synagogue in Long Island, N.Y. I listen to U.S. political lectures, and I take all kinds of cooking classes, some with top international chefs.

I’m looking forward to attending Building the Jewish & Cookbook at 2 p.m. on Nov. 8., a virtual cooking workshop hosted by the Miles Nadal JCC and The Wandering Chew, a non-profit group that embraces Montreal’s Jewish food cultures and traditions.

Kat Romanow

Wondering-Jew co-founder Kat Romanow will teach how to make her family’s recipe for Pizza Napoletana through the Jewish& Cookbook program. “Jewish&” celebrates Jewish diversity through various programs. To register: https://www.amilia.com/store/en/miles-nadal-jcc/shop/activities/2864377

Romanow has shared two recipes from The Wandering Chew Website https://wanderingchew.ca/

Lysette’s Mock Chopped Liver is a Mexican take on chopped liver that uses avocado as the base and mixes in hardboiled eggs, caramelized onions, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Massafan is an Iranian-Jewish recipe for flourless cookies that are often eaten at Passover.

This week, the late Norene Gilletz, Canada’s Queen of Kosher Cuisine was posthumously inducted into the Taste Canada Hall of Fame. Taste Canada honours food writers, and cookbook authors.

To mark this bittersweet but special occasion, I am including a recipe for Hoisin Sesame Chicken from Gilletz’s last book, The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory. Co-written with the late Edward Wein, The Brain Boosting Diet was on the long list of nominations for a Taste-Canada Award in the category of Health and Special Diet Cookbooks.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT:

Kat Romanow promotes Montreal’s Jewish food traditions

The Wandering Chew’s Kat Romanow, director of food programming for the Museum of Jewish Montreal, says her pizza workshop for MNJCC’s Jewish& Cookbook program (Nov. 8) “marries her Italian and Jewish background.”

Romanow grew up in a close-knit Italian-Ukrainian home and was raised Roman Catholic. While doing a master’s degree in Jewish studies, she specialized in food traditions. She later converted to Judaism.

Romanow’s maternal great-grandfather, an Italian immigrant, founded the Carona Bakery in 1932 and built homes for his family next door to the bakery in Montreal’s east end.

“When the bakery was in operation it was a meeting place for the whole family living on the street,” she recalled.

The bakery, known for its Pizza Napoletana, closed in 1995. Romanow said she, her mother and grandmother were able to recreate the pizza recipe for a home-kitchen oven. She also adapted the recipe by substituting shortening for lard. This recipe will be sent to participants in MNJCC workshop.

Romanow suggested that the dough be prepared in advance because it takes 1½ hours to rise.

Romanow founded The Wandering Chew with Sydney Warshaw in 2013. “We both have a deep love of Jewish food,” she said. “Our mission is to share the diversity of Jewish stories through food.”

The pair runs cooking workshops, food events, and cookbook launches. “We were doing it all in person prior to the pandemic. Now we have moved on line. We are meeting our mission through our events and the recipe collection on the website.”

For recipes and upcoming workshops visit The Wandering Chew Web site, https://wanderingchew.ca/

RECIPES

LYSETTE’S MOCK CHOPPED LIVER The Wandering Chew

2 eggs
1 white onion, finely diced
2 avocados
Juice of ½ lemon
Canola oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and immediately turn off the heat. Leave the eggs in the covered pot for 8 minutes, until hard-boiled. Drain and run the eggs under cold water. Peel and chop the hard-boiled eggs into half-inch pieces.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Cook the onions until caramelized, about 8–10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Mash the avocados until smooth and mix in the onions, eggs and lemon juice.

Season generously with salt and pepper. Serve with rye bread or tortilla chips.

MASSAFAN The Wandering Chew

1 cup (250 ml) almond flour
1/3 cup (100 ml) sugar
1 egg white
½ tsp (2 ml) ground cardamom
Rosewater

Mix the ground almonds, sugar and cardamom together until evenly combined.

Mix the egg white into the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon until the dough comes together. This will take around 1–2 minutes. Wet your hands with rose water and shape into stars. Continue to wet your hands with a little rose water to shape each cookie.

If freezing, place the baking sheet in the freezer until the cookies are frozen and then place the cookies in a single layer in a freezer bag.

Bake the cookies for 8–10 minutes until light golden brown. To bake from frozen, bake the cookies for 10–12 minutes until light golden brown. Yields 12 star-shaped cookies

HOISIN SESAME CHICKEN Norene Gilletz

6 boneless, skinless single chicken breasts (or 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
Freshly ground black pepper 
¼ cup (60 ml) hoisin sauce
1 tbsp (15 ml) apricot preserves (reduced-sugar or all-fruit)
1 tbsp (15 ml) minced garlic 
1 tbsp (15 ml) orange juice 
¼ cup (60 ml) sesame seeds

Place the chicken on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with pepper on both sides.

In a medium bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, apricot preserves, garlic, and orange juice; mix well.

Brush the sauce evenly over chicken on both sides, then sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Let marinate for 30 minutes or refrigerate, covered, for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Bake, uncovered, for 20–25 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a fork. Serve hot or cold.

Norene’s Notes:

Grilled hoisin sesame chicken: Prepare and marinate the chicken as directed in Steps 1–3. Preheat the barbecue to medium-high. Grill the chicken over indirect heat for 4–6 minutes per side, or until the juices run clear and grill marks appear. (If using a two-sided indoor grill, spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place the chicken on the grill and close the lid. Total grilling time will be 4–6 minutes.)

Sheet pan dinner: Make a double batch of the sauce mixture in a large bowl. Add assorted sliced vegetables (e.g., 2 onions, 2 red or yellow bell peppers, 1 zucchini, or 2 cups (500 ml) mushrooms) and mix well. Spread out in a single layer on the same baking sheet as the chicken. Bake, uncovered, for 20–25 minutes, stirring the vegetables once or twice.

CULINARY CALENDAR

Nov. 8, 2 p.m: Montreal-style Pizza making workshop through MNJCC’s Jewish& Virtual Cookbook program https://www.amilia.com/store/en/miles-nadal-jcc/shop/activities/2864377 

Nov. 4, 11 a.m: Virtual Cooking with Katie Giles. The winter-squash recipes includes Butternut Squash Lentil Curry and Quinoa Stuffed Acorn 

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYocuyupjgtHdH4SkYK9XS69aolga5nsjd_

Leila Khaled and the Corruption of the Academy

Sept. 14, 2020 – By DAVID ROYTENBERG

On Sept. 6, 1970, 50 years ago last week, Leila Khaled, a Palestinian refugee from Haifa, participated in the hijacking of El Al flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York. The crime was part of a coordinated attack involving 600 passengers on four commercial jets from four airlines, all bound for New York.

Leila Khaled
Leila Khaled

The Israeli pilot and crew overpowered the hijackers. Khaled’s accomplice wounded two members of the flight crew and was himself killed. Khaled was handed over to the British authorities when the Israeli pilot landed at Heathrow.

The hijacking was the second one for Khaled, who was also involved in an attack on TWA flight 840 on Aug. 29, 1969. In that earlier act of terrorism, a flight bound for Tel Aviv was diverted to Damascus by six attackers.

With three other aircraft captured on Sept 6, 1970 on the ground in Beirut and Amman, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which was responsible for all of the hijackings, demanded Khaled’s release in return for the release of British hostages. On Sept. 10, the PFLP highjacked a British VC10 to Amman, and on Sept 12, they blew up the airliner. They were holding 300 hostages in Jordan and Lebanon, and by Oct. 1, the UK surrendered to their demands. Khaled, two-time air pirate, was set free. She never stood trial and never expressed any regrets.

More shocking than the fact that she was never tried is that Khaled has spent the 50 years since she escaped justice being treated as an honoured spokesperson for the Palestinian people and their cause. In recent years, she has been a globetrotting advocate of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.

In 2013, B’nai Brith Canada protested when a student group invited Khaled to speak via remote video link at a conference at the University of British Colombia. The organizing group was “Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights,” registered with the Alma Mater Society affiliated with the UBC.

Six years ago, Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada wondered, as did many others, “at a time when we’ve just seen a terrorist tragedy in Boston, and arrests here in Canada due to a bombing plot … which has all been speculated to be a product of homegrown radicalization, why would we [allow] a public institution in Canada to bring in a convicted terrorist to speak to students?”

Khaled, now 76, was back in the news this week because San Francisco State University (SFSU), also funded with public dollars, is implicated in a Zoom panel discussion hosted by the university’s “Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies” program, and scheduled for Sept. 23. University president Lynn Mahoney defended the panel, which is entirely composed of anti-Zionists, as promoting “diversity.”

As news spread of the planned anti-Israel event, held with SFSU’s endorsement, protests were heard from many quarters, but none as poignant as a letter from Rodney Khazzam, who was a child hostage on the flight Khaled hijacked on Sept 6, 1970.

In his letter to the SFSU president, Khazzam bluntly states that Khaled “attempted to kill me, an innocent, civilian child at the time. I am alive because of the heroic pilot who thwarted the hijacking. … When she realized she was being captured and her plan was being foiled, she detonated a grenade and indiscriminately attempted to set if off onboard. By sheer fortune, all her attempts failed.”

In March 2019, SFSU settled two lawsuits alleging that it failed to prevent an atmosphere of antisemitism on campus. This time, the welcome extended to a life-long member of a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s annihilation suggests that the university has not made the changes necessary to prevent antisemitism.

More broadly, the celebration of violence in the academic sphere reveals a profound moral rot, not just at SFSU, but at other universities that welcome unrepentant terrorists.

Addendum: Rodney Khazzam has begun a petition calling on SFSU president Lynn Maloney to cancel Khaled’s appearance.

The aircraft Khaled helped commandeer were “all passenger planes filled with civilians. These were not war planes. Would it be OK for a 9/11 hijacker to teach university students has one survived?” the petition asks.

Khaled, it goes on, is being given the “honour” of speaking at the university “for one reason only: She is an infamous female hijacker/terrorist. That is her claim to fame…It is deplorable to see a State university in America rolling out the red carpet for this woman, to speak and influence college kids on campus. We must sign and stop this from happening.”

The petition is at: 

https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/stop-hijackerterrorist-leila-khaled-from-speaking-at-sfsu.html


David Roytenberg
David Roytenberg

David Roytenberg is a computer consultant living in Ottawa.  He is Secretary of MERCAZ Canada and chair of adult education at Kehillat Beth Israel congregation.

Tribute to Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Recounts Personal Meetings, Influence

Aug. 11, 2020 – By JANICE ARNOLD

MONTREAL—Reading Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s popular work on Kabbalah, The Thirteen Petalled Rose, not only changed Murray Dalfen’s relationship to Judaism, but led to a treasured friendship with the author that lasted three decades until the eminent scholar’s death this month.

Dalfen, head of a major North American commercial real estate company, described his awe at the late rabbi’s intellect, astonishing capacity for work, and genuine love of people at a virtual tribute to Rabbi Steinsaltz held by Chabad of Westmount on Aug. 9.

Rabbi Steinsaltz, best known for his monumental lifelong project of translating the entire Babylonian Talmud into modern Hebrew, making it more accessible even to the lay person, died in his native Jerusalem on Aug. 7 at age 83.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

He visited Chabad of Westmount on three occasions, most recently in 2013, giving memorable lectures and leading joyous farbrengen (gatherings) each time, said the centre’s director, Rabbi Yossi Shanowitz.

“He had a profound impact on everyone there, people from all walks of life,” Rabbi Shanowitz recalled. “He took lofty concepts and communicated them to people of all levels, getting to the essence of the matter.”

Born into a secular family and later trained as a scientist, Rabbi Steinsaltz became religious as a youth and was affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch community.

Dalfen, a leading benefactor of Chabad of Westmount, said that after reading The Thirteen Petalled Rose, first published in 1989, he was determined to meet its author. The slim volume, which aimed to make esoteric Jewish mysticism intelligible and relevant, was life-altering for Dalfen.

Getting a personal audience with this towering sage was not so simple, but Dalfen managed to meet Rabbi Steinsaltz in Israel. He would visit him there numerous times over the ensuing years. “I find it unbelievable that I was able to know him for 25 or 30 years on a close level.”

Dalfen later sponsored and raised money for the publication of several of the rabbi’s many books, including one of the more than 40 volumes of the translated Talmud.

Dalfen provided some insights: “He was not humble, but was approachable. He had strong opinions and expressed them.” But he was also kind and had a great sense of humour.

Rabbi Steinsaltz had an “extraordinary memory and knowledge, it was limitless,” and even a stroke in 2016 that robbed him of his speech did not impede his ability to think and continue to write, Dalfen recounted.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

Whenever he was in Jerusalem, Dalfen was sure to find a seat opposite Rabbi Steinsaltz at the shul he attended near the Kotel. What surprised him is how the rabbi would reach out to everyone there, even interrupting prayers to speak to someone who needed him.

“I only saw him lose his temper once,” Dalfen recalled. “It was at my home. Someone criticized one of his books on the Talmud. That person got quiet quickly.”

He recalled a bit of wisdom the rabbi imparted once when they were walking the streets of Westmount. “He said: ‘If one changes their direction even one degree, one ends at a different destination.’”

Chabad of Westmount Rebbetzin Devorah Shanowitz, who emceed the tribute, also had an indirect connection to Rabbi Steinsaltz: They shared a sister-in-law. Prior to the Zoom event, Shanowitz spoke to her to gain a glimpse into the man, whom she called “the Rashi of his generation,” whose work will endure forever.

Observing that his impact was felt beyond the Jewish world, Shanowitz cited Time magazine’s description of Rabbi Steinsaltz as “a once in a millennium” figure.

The tribute heard that he never went to bed before three or four in the morning because he was so engrossed in study and writing, despite health challenges he had for years. Yet at the end of his life, Rabbi Steinsaltz regretted that he had accomplished only a fraction of what he had wanted in unlocking seminal Jewish texts for the benefit of all.

Shanowitz also learned that Rabbi Steinsaltz, on a visit to Eastern Europe, was made aware of the existence of a grave of an ancestor. Time was limited and he was scheduled to speak to a group of young people. “He vacillated, but decided the living take precedence and forwent going to the cemetery.”

Connecting with young people was important for him. Shanowitz related that years ago, he was disappointed and a little angry that only a handful of students showed up for a lecture he was to give in Minnesota because it conflicted with final exams.

Long after, Rabbi Steinsaltz was approached at the Kotel one day by a young man. “He told him he had been among those few students [who attended the lecture] and that hearing Rabbi Steinsaltz had transformed his life, and that is why he was there (praying).”

The tribute concluded with an excerpt from a conversation between Rabbi Steinsaltz and Dalfen during the 2013 visit to Chabad of Westmount. Dalfen asked what the mood in Israel was during that violent and turbulent period. “Do you want to hear propaganda or the truth?” Rabbi Steinsaltz answered without missing a beat.


A Conversation with Rabbi Steinsaltz and Murray Dalfen

Click for video: A Conversation with Rabbi Steinsaltz

Rabbi Adin Even Yisrael Steinsaltz sat down for a conversation at Chabad of Westmount in Montreal, Canada. In this frank and informal discussion, he talks about politics, love, family, and more with Murray Dalfen.

The content in this video is produced by Chabad.org, and is copyrighted by the author and/or Chabad.org.

Zoom Life-Cycle Events: The New Normal?

July 30, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Not long ago, my sister and I were kibitzing about making a bris on Zoom. At the time her daughter was eight-plus months pregnant. She did in fact have a boy, just this week.

The COVID pandemic has relegated so many facets of Jewish life to Zoom, the platform of choice for virtual holiday observance, synagogue services, bar and bat mitzvahs and other life-cycle events.

I doubt that a bris would generate much interest on Zoom. Who would want to watch? I couldn’t look when my own three sons were circumcised.

On the other hand, a baby-naming would be a lovely celebration to share with family and friends.

Just a couple of weeks ago, my Zoom life expanded exponentially: My middle son and his long-time girlfriend decided to get married this summer and almost all the guests will be attending their wedding via Zoom.

The couple is planning a small outdoor ceremony for the immediate families, but the whole affair will be live-streamed for some 200 friends and relatives in the U.S. and Canada.

My husband and I are thrilled about the marriage, but the Zoom component… well, I guess it’s just a fact of Jewish life these days. 

Given the pandemic’s indefinite presence in our lives, it would be very difficult to plan for a big, fat expensive Jewish wedding. The only thing fat about this wedding will be my waistline.

Like many people, I’ve developed the COVID spare tire around my middle. I have been doing a lot of baking and now I’m scrambling to find an outfit I can fit into for the wedding.

We’ve been given just two weeks to prepare. I was hoping for a late summer date so I could lop off a few pounds, but the rabbi was readily available on the long weekend in August, and naturally his presence matters more than my appearance. Hopefully, there will not be too many Zoom close-ups on me.

Besides the weight gain, I have not had a good hair day in months and I am being extra COVID-cautious because of the wedding, so I won’t be visiting a hairdresser until after the event.

Neither will my husband go to the barber, despite his lop-sided haircut – testament to my lack of skill with the electric hair groomer.

Then there’s the matter of the venue. The wedding will take place in our backyard, a most inelegant space, with a green carpet of weeds that passes for grass and a large paver-stone sports pad with two basketball nets.

We also have a trampoline, a relatively new purchase we made for our grandchildren, along with a fleet of tricycles and Little Tykes cars. In fact, the backyard could actually pass for a day-care centre – hardly the ideal setting for a wedding.

But we’ve been busy fixing the deck and cleaning up the yard. The basketball nets, the vehicles and all the other toys will be moved out of sight for the big day.

My husband and a family friend have also built an amazing rustic-style chupah from large tree branches they found in the ravine behind our house. And once it’s decorated with flowers, the chupah will be quite the Zoom showstopper.

In fact, the chupah may be moving to another home near us. Our daughter-in-law-to-be has a couple of friends who are also having similar, small backyard weddings this summer, and one friend is interested in using our chupah.

Since the duration of the pandemic is so unpredictable, small Jewish weddings on Zoom may become a new trend. These affairs would certainly lighten the financial load for parents, which is a clearly a plus for Zoom Jewish life.

The other day Beth Tzedec held an Aufruf, a special prenuptial component of a synagogue service. Traditionally the Aufruf is only for grooms-to-be, but this Conservative congregation includes brides-to-be as well. Everyone participated on Zoom, of course.

I was able to attend this early morning service in my pyjamas…Zoom Jewish life definitely has its advantages.