NEW YORK (JTA)—Sukkot is a wonderful time of year to incorporate seasonal ingredients into your cooking. One of my most important rules for cooking and eating is to use what is best and freshest in the market—fish, vegetables, fruit and meat. The better your ingredients, the better your results.
Beets, cabbage and squash are vegetables that are especially delicious at this time of year and work well in many recipes. Sukkot also reminds me of savory sweet and sour dishes that we ate in Eastern Europe, where I was raised.
For the holidays, I like to stick with traditional family recipes, and fortunately we have many for Sukkot. I also try to plan ahead for a holiday like Sukkot, which lasts eight days. Many of the recipes freeze well, which helps with the planning and unexpected company.
Beet Salad with Ginger is a lovely way to start a Sukkot meal. It is a delicious appetizer that I like to serve at room temperature surrounded by greens lightly dressed with oil. Traditionally, beets are boiled or steamed, but I think baking gives them a much richer flavor and a gorgeous color.
It is a popular custom to make stuffed foods for Sukkot as a symbol of an abundant harvest, and Stuffed Cabbage Rolls is a perfect example of the tradition. Among the many versions of the dish is the one I feature in my cookbook, “Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine.” It’s light, the cabbage rolls are small and not too filling, and it freezes well. The cookbook also includes a wonderful recipe for a vegetarian alternative, Barley Stuffed Cabbage.
Acorn Squash Sweet-and-Sour, a flavorful accompaniment to any kind of poultry, satisfies my need to eat sweet and sour dishes on Sukkot. Acorn squash is readily available in September.
A lovely way to end a sukkah meal is with a slice of Zucchini Cake and a cup of tea. The cake is moist and flavorful, and it freezes well.
The following recipes are from “Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine.”
BEETS WITH GINGER
5 medium beets
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Snipped chives, for garnish
Mache or other greens, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees; you can also use a toaster oven. Line a baking pan with foil.
Wash the beets and, while still wet, wrap each one individually in foil. (Be sure to wrap them tightly, otherwise some of the juice may ooze out.) Place in the pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Remove each beet from the oven as it becomes ready.
When cool, slip the skin off the beets. Cut them into 1/4-inch slices, then into 1/4-inch cubes. Add the ginger, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper; combine well. Season to taste.
Serve on individual plates, garnished with chives and accompanied by mache. Makes 4 servings.
Tips: I always wear thin plastic gloves when I work with beets to avoid staining my fingers with beet juice, which can be hard to remove. For those in a hurry, you can chop the beets in a food processor, but it will give them a different texture.
STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS
In Eastern Europe, stuffed cabbage rolls are traditionally served on Sukkot. This one is a favorite, as it is light and sweet and sour. Like all stuffed cabbage recipes, this is a bit time-consuming, but you can do it in stages, and because it freezes well, you can make it in advance.
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 medium heads cabbage (about 3 pounds each)
1 onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, quartered
1 Idaho baking potato, peeled and cut in large pieces
1 large egg
1 pound veal and 1 pound beef, ground together
1/2 cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup raw long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons double-concentrated tomato paste
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Granny Smith apples
4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 onions, quartered
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup golden raisins
6 ounces dried apricots, diced
1 can (35 ounces) imported peeled tomatoes
1 can (28 ounces) imported crushed tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons double-concentrated tomato paste
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar, plus more as needed
1 cup chicken broth
Cabbage leaves: Bring a large pot of water to a boil with the salt. With the point of a knife, cut out some of the hard center core of the cabbages. Remove and discard any bruised and discolored leaves. Add the cabbage to the boiling water and boil for a few minutes, turning the cabbage often. Remove the cabbage from the water by piercing the core with a large fork and lifting out the head.
To remove the leaves without damaging them, cut where they are attached at the core, then peel off. If necessary, return the cabbage to the boiling water to soften the leaves. Shred the small center leaves.
Repeat this process for the second cabbage. (You can do this earlier in the day or the night before. Place the leaves in a tightly sealed zip-top plastic bag and refrigerate until needed.)
Filling: Place the onion, garlic, potato and egg in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and add the meat, parsley, rice, tomato paste and soy sauce. Mix with your hands to combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To fill the cabbage leaves: Spread each cabbage leaf on a cutting board and cut out some of the center rib. Place 2 tablespoons of the filling in the center. Starting from the smaller end, roll the cabbage halfway, fold the sides toward the center and roll tightly to the end. Continue until all the filling has been used.
To make the sauce: Peel, core and quarter the apples. Chop the apples, carrots and onions in a food processor, one at a time. (Chopping each ingredient separately preserves its distinct texture.)
Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the apples, carrots and onions, and saute for a few minutes. Remove to a large bowl and add the parsley, raisins, apricots, peeled and crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar and broth.
To cook the rolls: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the rolls near each other, seam side down, in an enamel-lined saucepan large enough to hold the rolls in 2 or 3 layers. Scatter the leftover shredded cabbage on top. Add the sauce. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat. (If the heat is too high, the bottom will burn.)
Cover the pan with heavy foil and a tight-fitting lid. Place in the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Season the sauce to taste with sugar, salt and pepper. Makes about 3 dozen small rolls.
ACORN SQUASH, SWEET-AND-SOUR
This is a pretty winter dish that goes very well with any kind of poultry or fish. I often serve it with Glazed Arctic Char.
1 small acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil and brush the foil with 1 tablespoon of the oil.
Rinse and pat dry the squash. Trim the ends and discard. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out all the seeds and fibrous strings. Cut into 1/2-inch wedges.
Arrange the wedges in the pan. Brush the squash with the remaining oil, then the vinegar; sprinkle with the sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the wedges are tender and the sugar has lightly caramelized. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.
This moist and delicious cake is perfect when a surprise visitor pops in and you want to serve a light snack with your tea.
1/4 pound skin-on hazelnuts
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing pan
2 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon for dusting the pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Generous 3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons grated zest from a navel orange
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium zucchini (not more than 1/2 pound), coarsely grated
Roast the hazelnuts in a toaster oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the skins are blistered. While the nuts are still hot, rub them in a dish towel to remove most of their skin. (Some skin will remain.) Cool. Chop them in a food processor until coarse.
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil. Dust the pan with 1 tablespoon of the flour, then invert and tap the pan to shake out any excess flour.
Place the 2 cups flour in a large bowl and add the hazelnuts, baking soda, baking powder and sugar. In a smaller bowl, whisk the 1/2 cup oil, the eggs, orange zest, orange juice, ginger and vanilla. With a rubber spatula, combine the wet ingredients with the flour mixture. Fold in the zucchini.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 60 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Run a metal spatula around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the loaf pan onto a serving plate. Makes 12 servings.
“Prague Torah Crown of 1839” by Akiva Kenny Segan. 2012. Ink, gouache, colored pencil on mat board; framed.
Segan, a Seattle-based artist since 1980, is the creator of the educational fine art series, designed for any age of audience, called “Under the Wings of G-d.”
The Torah crown and a mid-19th-century Prague synagogue key depicted in the drawing were among the 10,000 Judaica personal and communal effects, such as family heirlooms and ritual items, stolen by the Nazis during the Shoah from the Jews of Bohemia and Moravia, Czechoslovakia who were then murdered. The items were stored in Prague warehouses for a planned “Museum of the Extinct Jewish Race.”
The Jews who toiled as cataloguers of the enormous inventory of stolen possessions were themselves murdered. The drawing was inspired by photos in the
exhibition catalog book “The Precious Legacy: Judaic Treasures from the Czechoslovakia State Collections,” edited by David Altschuler (1983, Summit Books and The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services).
Proceeds from the purchase of this artwork will fund the artist’s eighth teaching trip to Israel, planned for 2014, and 25 percent will be a gift
to the Emergency Services department of Jewish Family Service of Greater Seattle. Learn more about the artwork by contacting Akiva Kenny Segan at
Cantor Ellen Dreskin will join Rabbi Jessica Marshall on the bima at Temple Beth Or in Everett this High Holiday season.
Dreskin is the coordinator of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music Cantorial Certification Program at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Following in the late, great Friedman’s footsteps, Dreskin is nationally known for enlivening Jewish liturgical music and “re-energizing synagogue life,” according to a bio from HUC-JIR.
Marshall says the 130-family congregation loves music.
“Many of us connect to the Eternal, the transcendent, through song and music,” she said. “It’s important to provide that modality for people.”
The temple’s cantorial soloist moved out of state and enrolled in graduate school, leaving them with good song leaders and volunteers to lead Shabbat services, but no one to take on the hefty liturgical melodies of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
As it turned out, Dreskin was planning to be in the area as scholar in residence at Camp Kesher, an annual camp for local Reform congregations, on Vashon Island over Labor Day weekend, where she’ll be leading study and music sessions for adults. When she heard Temple Beth Or was looking for a cantor, “it just seemed to fit,” she said.
“I hope to integrate traditional and contemporary melodies to help the congregation to celebrate and to reflect, and to come together as a community in prayer and song,” she said. “I hope that the congregation will consider that I am also one who loves to pray, and I that am looking forward to us raising our voices together.”
While Dreskin is considered something of a star in the Reform music world, “that’s really not my style,” she said with a laugh. “It really is all about my leading the community, and not just starring or anything like that.”
Marshall hopes “to create a sacred space where congregants can connect to their own personal teshuva process, and also their communal connection through music and prayer.
“I think these are going to be very moving High Holiday services,” she said.
Danny Perez Photography/Creative Commons
I have a bush outside of my house that blooms brilliant flowers each spring. With those flowers come honeybees. Lots and lots of bees. When the bush starts growing out of control and I have this urge to break out my clippers and start trimming, something stops me: The knowledge that these bees, whether they know it or not, have to work extra hard since they need to pick up the slack from the billions of others that have been dying prematurely over the past decade.
Known as colony collapse disorder, a perfect storm of factors has come together to decimate our bee populations, and the answers to why it’s happening have only begun to become clear. Here’s what’s happening, in no particular order: The one-two punch of a virus and a fungus known as nosema ceranae, which alone aren’t enough to kill off the hives, but knock them out when brought together; a number of pesticides which in the lab were thought to be harmless to bees are actually showing up in nearly all bee carcass samples collected by government agencies; many of these pesticides sprayed on crops are drifting to wildflowers where bees collect pollen, increasing the chemicals in their fragile systems; dust that drifts from industrial harvests coats bees’ bodies and kills them — and there may be more factors. And these findings are still relatively new.
“Nosema ceranae was only recently described in the U.S., the first time in 2007,” said Walter (Steve) Sheppard, a professor of entomology at Washington State University to the WSU news service. “But while no one really noticed, it has spread throughout the country.”
Researchers in Sheppard’s department also discovered that nearly all of the dead bees sent to the WSU lab found “fairly high levels of multiple pesticide residues,” according to Sheppard.
While the pesticides didn’t kill the bees outright, they did affect the bees’ immune systems and significantly reduced their life expectancies.
The magnitude of this problem can be viewed in thirds: Every year since 2006, beekeepers have seen a loss of a third of their colonies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that one of every three bites of food we eat is dependent upon bee pollination. And as much as third of our crops could be wiped out completely if we don’t have the bees to pollinate them.
So why am I thinking about the bees right now? As Rosh Hashanah approaches, many of us begin thinking about the direct result of the bees’ pollination efforts: Honey. It’s wonderfully sweet, it’s about as close as we can get to directly commune with nature, and it’s endangered.
Thinking about just the honey doesn’t take into account the apples, which we of course use for dipping. What would it mean for our state’s economy, not to mention access to one of our most ubiquitous fruits, if the apple harvest imploded? Or the disappearance of cherries, peaches, blueberries, squash, grapes? What would you hang in your sukkah?
While I don’t want to run around screaming as if the sky is falling, this is a serious, serious issue. Many of farming’s greatest minds have begun to devote all of their energies to mitigate the problem, as it appears we may be too late for a real solution.
In the spirit of renewal, here are some suggestions to do your part to keep the honey on our Rosh Hashanah tables: Contact your legislators, both state and federal, and let them know you support any efforts to pass the “Save Our Pollinators Act,” which includes tighter regulation of pesticide use. When you can, buy organic produce and products. Yes, it’s more expensive, but the more we buy, the more it shows support for pesticide alternatives and our bees. Write to pesticide companies and let them know your concerns. Yes, most of these companies are major conglomerates and tend to ignore comments from a handful of activists, but if they hear from many people who just want to be sure they can have their honeycake, it could make a difference.
So many of us try to live the good food life — and it all starts with bees. When you wish your family and friends a sweet New Year, remember where the honey you’re dipping into comes from, and the effort those bees make to bring it to you. In the meanwhile, I’m going to grab my tree clippers. Their work is done; now mine can begin.
NEW YORK (JTA) — Nearly 30 years ago, when my first cookbook was published, I wrote that kosher cooking wasn’t just about traditional recipes like gefilte fish and chopped liver, that you could make gourmet meals and international dishes using kosher ingredients.
Since then, many new kosher ingredients have become readily available, making all kinds of fusion cuisine even easier to prepare. Some of these ingredients include vinegars, oils, mustards, Panko bread crumbs and a larger selection of cheeses.
But traditional recipes also have their place — and Rosh Hashanah is a great time to use them. There is something very satisfying about ushering in the New Year with old family recipes. I do, however, introduce one or two new dishes to make it more interesting for my friends and family with whom I celebrate every year.
For dinner on Rosh Hashanah, I like to begin my meal with chopped chicken liver. This traditional dish brings me back to my Eastern European roots and my guests love it. The version offered below is incredibly easy to make and actually tastes like a paté.
Here’s a new dish for Rosh Hashanah lunch: Chicken rolls with orange sauce. The sauce adds some sweetness to the chicken, which is perfect for the holiday. The dish can be made ahead of time and served at room temperature.
Broccoli with panko, flaky Japanese breadcrumbs, is a delicious side dish that can be served with the chicken rolls. Panko is lighter and crunchier than ordinary breadcrumbs. When toasted, they transform an ordinary vegetable into something quite special. This dish also can be made in advance and served at room temperature.
These are a sampling from my latest cookbook, “Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine” (Overlook Press). I hope they help make your preparations a little easier and your holiday more enjoyable. Shana Tova!
Chopped Chicken Liver
Makes about 1-1/2 dozen hors d’oeuvres or 8 appetizer servings
For an hors d’oeuvre, I like to serve on whole-grain crackers, toasted potato bread, cucumber slices or endive petals. For an appetizer, I like to place sliced radishes and sliced cucumbers on the plate as accompaniments.
1 lb. chicken livers
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs, hard-boiled and quartered
2 to 3 Tbs. sherry
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the broiler. Set the rack in the broiler pan and cover it completely with foil.
Remove any green spots from the livers, which are bitter, as well as any fatty particles.
Make a shallow “basket” with a piece of heavy foil, crimping it at the corners so that the liquids don’t spill out. Set the basket on the broiler rack and arrange the livers inside. Place the broiler pan in the oven (or broiling unit), as close as possible to the heat source. Broil for about 4 minutes per side, until cooked through. Cool.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until brown. Cool.
Place half the onions, livers and eggs in a food processor and pulse, adding sherry through the feed tube, until the mixture is moist and almost smooth. Transfer the first batch to a container and repeat the process. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chicken Rolls With Orange Sauce
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 6 oz. each (Ask the butcher to butterfly the chicken breasts and pound them thin.)
12 large spinach leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup raw sushi rice
3/4 cup cold water
1 Tbs. seasoned rice vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
3 to 4 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1-1/2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 Tbs. honey
Freshly ground black pepper
To make the filling: Place the sushi rice and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Season with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Mix well and cool.
To make the sauce: Bring all the sauce ingredients to a boil in a small enamel-lined saucepan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To make the rolls: Lightly salt and pepper each chicken breast on both sides and place it on a piece of cling wrap. Remove the stems from the spinach leaves and flatten the leaves so they will roll easier. Line each breast with three spinach leaves and 1/4 of the filling. Starting with the narrowest end, roll the breast up (not too tight!) until it looks like a log. (I use cling wrap to facilitate the rolling.) When the breast is rolled and completely enclosed in the cling wrap, twist the sides and close them with a metal tie. Refrigerate if not using right away.
To cook the rolls: Bring the chicken rolls to room temperature. Place them in the basket of a bamboo steamer. Fill the bottom third of the basket with water and set over a large pot or wok. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Cover and steam over high heat for 9 to 10 minutes, turning the rolls once. Cook until the chicken has turned pale pink inside. Turn off the heat and let rest, covered, for 1 minute.
To serve: Remove one of the ties and, holding the other end, slip each roll onto a plate. Pour off the accumulated juices. Cut each roll on the diagonal into three pieces. Place the pieces on a dinner plate or serving dish. Reheat the sauce and spoon the hot sauce over the pieces.
Makes 4 servings.
Broccoli with Panko
1 small bunch broccoli, about 3 stalks
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Freshly ground black pepper
Separate the broccoli into florets and set the stems aside for another use. Steam the florets until they are bright green but still crisp to the bite.
Heat the oil in a wok. Add the garlic and sauté over low heat for a few seconds. Add the panko and stir until golden. Add the broccoli and combine well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 4 servings.
I could not resist sharing this heirloom honey cake recipe. Following tradition, I make it every Rosh Hashanah.
2 Tbs. unsalted margarine, for greasing the pans
2-1/3 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbs. for dusting the pans
2 large eggs, room temperature
Scant 2/3 cup sugar
1 cup strong brewed tea (made with 3 tea bags), cooled
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1/2 medium-ripe banana, thoroughly mashed
Grated zest of 1 navel orange
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Preheat the oven to 325º. Grease two 5-by-9-inch loaf pans with margarine and dust with 2 Tbs. of the flour. Invert the pans and tap to shake out the excess flour.
Place the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer bowl. Using the balloon whisk attachment, beat them at medium speed, gradually adding the sugar until the mixture is pale and bubbles appear, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed and beat in the tea, oil, honey, banana, orange zest, cinnamon and cloves. Combine thoroughly.
With a rubber spatula, gradually fold in the flour, baking powder and baking soda, combining well after each addition. No traces of flour should be visible.
Pour the batter evenly into the two pans. Bake the pans side by side, without touching, on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes.
Increase the heat to 350º and bake for another 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool the cakes on a wire rack. Run a metal spatula around the sides of the pans to loosen the cakes. Invert each pan onto a serving plate.
Note: These cakes freeze well. Wrap individually in wax paper, then in foil, and place in plastic freezer bags.
Makes 2 loaves, each serving 12.
From “Cartoonists Against the Holocaust”
This cartoon by Arie Navon appeared in the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Davar on Oct. 13, 1943. Navon contrasted the rescue of Denmark’s Jews with the farcical refugee conference the Allies staged earlier that year in Bermuda. The title of the cartoon is a Hebrew word that means both “lifeguards” and “rescuers.” The lifeguards, one smoking a Churchill-style pipe, and the other wearing Roosevelt-style glasses, are standing next to an unused life preserver labeled “Bermuda.” The scrawny man diving into the swastika-infested ocean to rescue a drowning person is labeled “Sweden.”
As the final minutes of Rosh Hashanah ticked away, 13-year-old Leo Goldberger was hiding, along with his parents and three brothers, in the thick brush along the shore of Dragor, a small fishing village south of Copenhagen. The year was 1943, and the Goldbergers, like thousands of other Danish Jews, were desperately trying to escape an imminent Nazi roundup.
“Finally, after what seemed like an excruciatingly long wait, we saw our signal offshore,” Goldberger later recalled. His family “strode straight into the ocean and waded through three or four feet of icy water until we were hauled aboard a fishing boat” and covered themselves “with smelly canvases.” Shivering and frightened, but grateful, the Goldberger family soon found itself in the safety and freedom of neighboring Sweden.
For years, the Allied leaders had insisted nothing could be done to rescue Jews from the Nazis except to win the war. But in one extraordinary night, 70 years ago next month, the Danish people exploded that myth and changed history.
When the Nazis occupied Denmark during the Holocaust in 1940, the Danes put up little resistance. As a result, the German authorities agreed to let the Danish government continue functioning with greater autonomy than other occupied countries. They also postponed taking steps against Denmark’s 8,000 Jewish citizens.
In the late summer of 1943, amid rising tensions between the occupation regime and the Danish government, the Nazis declared martial law and decided the time had come to deport Danish Jews to the death camps. But Georg Duckwitz, a German diplomat in Denmark, leaked the information to Danish friends. Duckwitz was later honored by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. As word of the Germans’ plans spread, the Danish public responded with a spontaneous nationwide grassroots effort to help the Jews.
The Danes’ remarkable response gave rise to the legend that King Christian X himself rode through the streets of Copenhagen on horseback, wearing a yellow Star of David, and that the citizens of the city likewise donned the star in solidarity with the Jews.
The story may have had its origins in a political cartoon that appeared in a Swedish newspaper in 1942. It showed King Christian pointing to a Star of David and declaring that if the Nazis imposed it upon the Jews of Demark, “then we must all wear the star.” Leon Uris’s novel Exodus, and the movie based on that book, helped spread the legend. But subsequent investigations by historians have concluded the story is a myth.
On Rosh Hashanah — which fell on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 in 1943 — and the days that followed, numerous Danish Christian families hid Jews from Holocaust persecution in their homes or farms, and then smuggled them to the seashore late at night. From there, fishermen took them across the Kattegat Straits to neighboring Sweden. This three-week operation had the strong support of Danish church leaders, who used their pulpits to urge aid to the Jews, as well as Danish universities, which shut down so students could assist the smugglers. More than 7,000 Danish Jews reached Sweden and were sheltered there until the end of the war.
Esther Finkler, a young newlywed, hid with her husband and their mothers in a greenhouse.
“At night, we saw the [German] searchlights sweeping back and forth throughout the neighborhood,” as the Nazis hunted for Jews, Esther later recalled. One evening, a member of the Danish Underground arrived and drove the four “through streets saturated with Nazi stormtroopers,” to a point near the shore.
There they hid in an underground shelter, and then in the attic of a bakery, until finally they were brought to a beach, where they boarded a small fishing vessel with other Jewish refugees. “There were nine of us, lying down on the deck or the floor,” Esther said. “The captain covered us with fishing nets. When everyone had been properly concealed, the fishermen started the boat, and as the motor started to run, so did my pent-up tears.”
Then, suddenly, trouble. “The captain began to sing and whistle nonchalantly, which puzzled us. Soon we heard him shouting in German toward a passing Nazi patrol boat: ‘Wollen sie einen beer haben?’ (Would you like a beer?) — a clever gimmick designed to avoid the Germans’ suspicions. After three tense hours at sea, we heard shouting: ‘Get up! Get up! And welcome to Sweden!’ It was hard to believe, but we were now safe. We cried and the Swedes cried with us as they escorted as ashore. The nightmare was over,” Esther recalled.
The implications of the Danish rescue operation resonated strongly in the United States. The Roosevelt administration had long insisted that rescue of Jews from the Nazis was not possible. The refugee advocates known as the Bergson Group began citing the escape of Denmark’s Jews as evidence that if the Allies were sufficiently interested, ways could be found to save many European Jews.
The Bergson Group sponsored a series of full-page newspaper advertisements about the Danish-Swedish effort, headlined “It Can Be Done!” On Oct. 31, thousands of New Yorkers jammed Carnegie Hall for the Bergson Group’s “Salute to Sweden and Denmark” rally.
Keynote speakers included members of Congress, Danish and Swedish diplomats, and one of the biggest names in Hollywood — Orson Welles, director of “Citizen Kane” and “The War of the Worlds.” In another coup for the Bergson Group, one of the speakers was Leon Henderson, one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s own former economic advisers (Henderson had headed the White House’s Office of Price Administration).
In blunt language that summed up the tragedy — and the hope — Henderson declared: “The Allied governments have been guilty of moral cowardice. The issue of saving the Jewish people of Europe has been avoided, submerged, played down, hushed up, resisted with all the forms of political force that are available… Sweden and Denmark have proved the tragedy of Allied indecision… The Danes and Swedes have shown us the way… If this be a war for civilization, then most surely this is the time to be civilized!”
Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C. His latest book is “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith.”
Curried eggplant slap-down with yogurt, onion relish, and pomegranate, by chef Mollie Katzen.
In the traditions of many Jewish holidays, there’s a poetic relationship between the festival’s culinary laws and that season’s foods. While the relationship linking Rosh Hashanah with apples and honey never grows old, the elegant and elusive pomegranate is less acknowledged, though profoundly tied to biblical literature and ancient agriculture. Pomegranate seeds offer the kind of culinary beauty that cause us to slow down, take note, and absorb the scared spirit of newness. That being said, they can be a pain to wrangle.
Here are some strategies to help you conquer the pomegranate this Rosh Hashanah: Have ready a big bowl of water. Cut the fruit into quarters, and submerge them. Peel them under water, and keep them in there as you comb through with your fingers to loosen the seeds. The skins and inedible pith will float to the surface (skim this away thoroughly, and discard), and the seeds will sink to the bottom. Strain, and you’ve got the goods.
Roasted Acorn Squash Rings with Pomegranate-Lime Glaze
Simple and sweet, these golden circles topped with the contrasting tart glaze will round out your dinner plate. Be careful slicing the squash. Use a very sharp paring knife, inserting the point first and using a gently sawing motion. The easiest way to remove the seeds is to cut loose the strand around them with scissors, and then scrape them away with a spoon.
You can make the glaze well ahead of time. It keeps indefinitely.
Olive oil for the baking tray
2 medium-sized acorn squash (about 3 pounds) — skin on, and cut into 1/2-inch rings
Pomegranate-Lime Glaze (recipe follows)
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice (possibly more to taste)
Acorn squash directions:
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375°. Line a baking tray with foil, and coat it lightly with olive oil. (You can use one of the squash rings to spread it around.) Arrange the squash slices on the prepared tray, and place the tray in the oven.
After about 15 to 20 minutes (or when the squash is fork-tender and lightly browned on top and around the edges) remove the tray from the oven, and spoon or brush the still-hot squash with a light coating of the glaze. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, decorated with pomegranate seeds. Pass a little dish of extra glaze at the table.
Yield: 6 servings (about 3 pieces per serving)
Pomegranate-Lime Glaze directions:
Combine the pomegranate molasses and lime juice in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Taste to adjust lime juice. Serve at room temperature, spooned over hot or room temperature food.
Yield: 1/3 cup (about 1 Tbs. per serving). Good on all vegetables, grains, tofu, chicken, meat etc.
Curried Eggplant Slap-Down with Yogurt, Onion Relish, and Pomegranate
Adapted from “The Heart of the Plate”
Small eggplants, artfully prepared, can be an elegant appetizer or a light lunch, in addition to a welcome side dish.
2 Tbs. grapeseed oil or peanut oil
Up to 1 tsp. unsalted butter (optional)
1 tsp. curry powder
Four 4-ounce eggplants, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1/2 tsp. salt (plus a big extra pinch)
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
Another scant Tbs. oil (hot, so the seeds will sizzle on contact)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. (big pinch) turmeric
1 cup minced onion
Pomegranate seeds and/or pomegranate concentrate or molasses
Place a medium (9-inch) skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute, then add 1/2 Tbs. of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Melt some butter into the oil, if desired, and sprinkle in the curry powder, which will sizzle upon contact.
Add the eggplant halves, cut sides face down, into the oil, and swish them around (as if you’re wiping the pan with them) to both distribute and acquire the curry. Turn the heat to medium low, cover the pan, and cook undisturbed for about 8 minutes — until each eggplant half becomes tender. (Peek underneath a few times to be sure the cut surfaces are not becoming too dark. If they are, lower the heat, and/or turn the eggplants over onto their backs sooner than I am about to advise in step 3.) The eggplant is cooked when the stem end can easily be pierced with a fork. Flip the eggplants onto their backs, sprinkle with a 1/4 tsp. salt, and transfer to a plate. Spoon a little yogurt onto each open surface, spreading it to cover; set aside while you prepare the onion.
Keeping the same pan over medium high heat, add another 1/2 Tbs. oil, swirling to coat the pan. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds and turmeric (should both sizzle on contact), and mix them a little to pick up some of the flavor that may have adhered. Add the onion and a big pinch of salt, tossing to coat. Cook quickly over medium heat (about five minutes, or until tender-crisp) then remove the pan from the heat. Divide the onions evenly among the four halves, spooning them over the yogurt (and scraping and maximally including any remaining tasty bits from the pan). Top with pomegranate seeds and/or a drizzle of pomegranate concentrate or molasses. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Yield: 4 servings
Adapted from “The Heart of the Plate”
Cook the wild rice ahead of time. You’ll need only 1/2 a cup — okay to use leftovers. If you can find both colors, it’s nice to use a combination of green and red Belgian endive in this salad.
4 Belgian endives (about a pound), chopped crosswise
1/2 medium jicama (about 3/4 pound, peeled and cut into matchsticks or any shape bite-sized pieces)
1 medium-sized red apple, sliced
Seeds from a medium-sized pomegranate
1/2 cup cooked wild rice
Blue cheese-yogurt dressing (recipe follows)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, lightly toasted
Blue cheese-yogurt dressing ingredients:
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 heaping Tbs. finely minced shallot
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. apple juice
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. pure maple syrup
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. crumbled blue cheese (possibly more, to taste)
Combine the yogurt shallot, salt, apple juice, vinegar, and maple syrup in a small jar with a tight fitting lid—or a medium-small bowl. Whisk until thoroughly blended. Keep whisking as you drizzle in the olive oil.
Stir in the blue cheese, then taste the dressing. Add more cheese, if you like. Cover tightly, and refrigerate until use. Shake or stir from the bottom before using.
Yield: 3/4 cup
Mollie Katzen is the author of the popular Moosewood vegetarian cookbooks. Her latest book, “The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation,” will be published in September.
Rosh Hashanah really is “heading” off the year, starting earlier than ever before in our lifetimes. The whole Jewish calendar is premature, leaving us with the burden of making both turkey and latkes on Thanksgiving/Hanukkah and celebrating Pesach eating matzoh while watching March Madness. This year’s calendar is definitely an anomaly, because the last time Rosh Hashanah was so early was all the way back in 1899, when it started on September 5. The next time it will be this early again is 2089.
Unlike our civil, Gregorian calendar, which is solar-based, the Jewish calendar syncs the lunar, solar, and daily calendars. The months are lunar-based — but the years are based on the solar calendar. Since the holidays are partly fixed to agricultural themes, holding Hebrew dates to a lunar calendar alone would mean that the holidays would drift all around the year. To rectify this problem, every two to three years out of a 19-year cycle, a month (Adar II) is added to synchronize the 12 lunar cycles with the longer solar year. This is known as the leap month. The last leap month didn’t match up the calendars very effectively, which is why the holidays fall so early this year.
So the big issue we face is preparation: How will we brace ourselves for the High Holidays when they are coming at us head-on at 60 miles an hour? In reality, the time between Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah never changes, but the illusion is set because we base our holidays in relation to the seasons. So the High Holidays seem rushed, because the summer has just faded away. But Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first of Tishrei, just like it always does.
As we all know, the High Holidays are a time for us to do some self-reflection and take a good look at the life we are living. It is a time for us to welcome the New Year (literally, this time) with sweetness and joy. Although we may not feel totally warmed up and ready for the “big game,” we should spend the short time that we do have to prepare emotionally and “wake up” with the sound of the shofar.
Even the simplest things can inspire wonder in a child.
NEW YORK (JTA) — A deep spiritual life is hard to find. While opportunities abound for spiritual connections (yoga, meditation, retreats and the like), for most of us it doesn’t come easy. The noise, unfinished to-do lists and the distractions of everyday life interfere with quieting our minds, letting go of our egos for a moment, and connecting to something far greater than ourselves.
On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we notice just how difficult it is to connect spiritually. As we log in hours of prayer at our neighborhood synagogues, with unfamiliar liturgy and an unfamiliar language, we can easily let the longing for spiritual growth morph into a longing for the service to be over.
But for some, the spiritual life that we crave comes naturally. This is especially true for children.
Yes, they may be running through the synagogue’s aisles and “whispering” too loudly, but this time of year they can become our best teachers. We just need to slow down enough to listen to them.
Cultivating a relationship with God comes easy for children. As an adult, a relationship with God has never been central to my Jewish identity. It might sound strange because I live an observant life and prayer is important to me. The weekly holiday cycle punctuates my family’s calendar and Jewish ethics frame much of my behavior.
Still, I seldom credit my observance to God. Judaism is important to me because it adds meaning to my life. And if I start speaking about God, I start to feel self-conscious, too “religious,” and slightly fundamentalist. Then I notice how easily my kids speak about God.
At 3, my son periodically gave a high five to God and explained to others what a blessing was. “A bracha,” he would say, “is like a group hug.” With his simple young mind, he experienced both a level of intimacy with God and recognized that connecting to God helps one develop a sense of intimacy with others.
The rabbis call Rosh Hashanah “Coronation Day.” In the rabbinic mind, the metaphor of crowning God as Ruler and giving God the right to judge our actions was a powerful way to galvanize Jews to do the hard work of repentance, or teshuvah.
While the image of a King sitting in judgment might motivate some, the rabbis also knew that God is indescribable. Throughout the liturgy, they struggled to find other images that might penetrate the hearts of those who pray. The famous medieval piyut (liturgical poem) “Ki Anu Amecha” portrays God as a parent, a shepherd, a creator and lover.
The images continued to proliferate in modern times. The theologian Mordechai Kaplan spoke of God as the power that makes for good in the world. And the contemporary poet Ruth Brin speaks about God as “the source of love springing up in us.”
The liturgy on Rosh Hashanah challenges us to confront the meaning of God in our lives and then develop a level of intimacy with the Ineffable. While I am still not sure what God is, I am coming to appreciate the view that God is what inspires us to live our lives in service to others.
Children have a natural ability to be awestruck. There is so little they have experienced in life that it must be easy for them to experience wonder. We watch their delight as they find out how a salad spinner works, or when they find a worm squirming in the dirt, or when they observe how flowers change colors as they enter full bloom.
These are not simply the sweet moments of childhood. These are ways of being that have deep theological resonance.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel recalls in “Who is Man” (1965), “Awe is a sense for transcendence, for the reference everywhere to mystery beyond all things. It enables us… to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple: to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal.”
Would that we could develop that sense of awe by first simply noticing our surroundings instead of being preoccupied with what comes next.
We can make space this Rosh Hashanah to begin a journey toward wonder, whether you notice the cantor’s voice as she reaches a certain note, or hear the crackle of a candy wrapper, or connect to the sound of your own breathing during the standing silent Amidah prayer. Take a walk sometime during the High Holidays and notice the leaves on the trees, the sunlight refracting from a window, the taste of holiday food at a meal or the voice of a loved one. Notice the small things and consider for that moment that they have ultimate significance.
Consider the concept that Rosh Hashanah marks the birth of the world. Act as if nothing existed before this moment. Slow down, focus in, be silent and you may experience awe.
Children forgive easily, grown-ups not so much. The central work of the period of the High Holidays is teshuvah, or return. We return to our better selves and make amends with those whom we have hurt in some way. Every year I recognize how uncomfortable I am to ask for forgiveness from family members, peers and colleagues. “So much time has passed” or “I’m sure they forgot about that incident” are common rationalizations I offer.
What takes an adult days, weeks or even years to let go of resentment takes children a matter of minutes before they are back to laughing with those with whom they once were angry. While it might be difficult to coax an “I’m sorry” from a child’s lips, they rebound quickly. It is a lesson for us.
Jim Summaria/Wikimedia Commons
Paul McCartney in 1976 with his wife Linda in the background. McCartney sings “Man, I was mean, but I’m changing my scene and I’m doing the best that I can” in “Getting Better,” No. 3 on the High Holidays playlist.
In time for the 2013 High Holiday season, we’ve compiled a list of the top five popular songs to put you in the mood for introspection, repentance, and renewal — and a few just to make you smile.
Here is your High Holidays playlist:
1. “Who By Fire” (Leonard Cohen)
The consummate coffeehouse theologian lands in the number one spot on our list, having borrowed the title and concept of this song directly from the emotional centerpiece of the High Holidays liturgy, Un’taneh Tokef. Another song of Cohen’s deserves honorable mention here: “The Story of Isaac,” a post-modern retelling of the famous near-sacrifice that highlights the moral ambiguity of Abraham’s choice. The section of Genesis that contains the original story is read as the Rosh Hashanah Torah service.
2. “Man in the Mirror” (Michael Jackson)
Back from the time when Top 40 songs were still allowed to have simple moral messages, the prince of pop reminds us that changing the world must always begin with changing one’s self. As with the silent confessions of the Yom Kippur musaf, the High Holidays are a time to give our friends and family a break and turn our critical eye to the person looking back at us in the mirror.
3. “Getting Better” (The Beatles)
A golden oldie about turning things around: “Man, I was mean, but I’m changing my scene and I’m doing the best that I can,” sings Paul. Sometimes we lose faith in our ability to grow out of lifelong patterns of getting hurt and hurting back, but the song insists that change is always possible when we open our hearts and truly listen to our loved ones.
4. “Please Forgive Me” (Bryan Adams)
This one’s about saying sorry for loving too much, rather than too little. After all, don’t many of our conflicts come from holding on too tight? Not to mention the heart-wrenching power of Adams’s voice, which moves the listener like good chazzanut ought to.
5. “Unwritten” (Natasha Bedingfield)
Here’s one for the millennials. A talented young British singer/songwriter, Bedingfield sings with conviction about the ever-present possibility of a fresh start. Her chorus offers an optimistic counter to the traditional image of the sealing of the book of fate: “Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten…”
And a few more just for fun….
“Oops I Did It Again” (Britney Spears)
This song marked the original pop princess’s transition from ingénue to femme fatale. Perhaps it can inspire those of us who walk around feeling ethically spotless to remember that we all make the same mistakes (and usually twice).
“On Bended Knee” (Boys II Men)
Those of us Jews who are not football players (you know, almost all of us) only take a knee once a year — during the Yom Kippur musaf service, when cantors, rabbis, and often whole congregations bow down in unison to commemorate the ancient temple service.
“Wake Me Up When September Ends” (Green Day)
For the shul-shluffer (synagogue sleeper) in all of us.
Binyamin Kagedan has an MA in Jewish thought from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
LOS ANGELES (JTA) — Here’s the buzz about Rosh Hashanah: Beyond a congregation or family, it takes a hive to have a holiday. You may have your tickets, new dress or suit, and High Holidays app, but without the honey in which to dip a slice of apple, where would you be?
We wish each other “Shanah tovah umetuka,” “Have a good and sweet New Year.” To further sweeten the calendar change we eat honey cake — even Martha Stewart has a recipe — and teiglach, little twisted balls of dough boiled in honey syrup.
Little do we realize that to fill a jar or squeeze bottle containing two cups of the sticky, golden stuff, a hive of honeybees must visit 5 million flowers.
For most of us, the honey seems a somehow natural byproduct of the cute, bear-shaped squeeze bottle we pick up at the store. But for beekeeper Uri Laio, honey is like a gift from heaven. His motto, “Honey and Beeswax with Intention,” is on his website, chassidicbeekeeper.com.
“Everyone takes honey for granted; I did,” says Laio, who is affiliated with Chabad and attended yeshiva in Jerusalem and Morristown, N.J.
Not wanting to take my holiday honey for granted anymore, I suited up along with him in a white cotton bee suit and hood to visit the hives he keeps near the large garden area of the Highland Hall Waldorf School, an 11-acre campus in Northridge, Calif.
After three years of beekeeping — he also leads sessions with the school’s students — Laio has learned to appreciate that “thousands of bees gave their entire lives to fill a jar of honey.” In the summer, that’s five to six weeks for an adult worker; in the winter it’s longer.
It’s been an appreciation gained through experience — the throbbing kind.
“It’s dangerous. I’ve been stung a lot. It’s part of the learning,” Laio says. “The first summer I thought I was going into anaphylactic shock,” he adds, advising me to stay out of the bees’ flight path to the hive’s entrance.
Drawing on his education, Laio puts a dab of honey on his finger and holds it out. Soon a bee lands and begins to feed.
“Have you ever been stung?” he asks.
“A couple of times,” I answer, as Laio uses a hand-held bee smoker to puff in some white smoke to “calm the hive.” After waiting a few minutes for the smoke to take effect, and with me watching wide-eyed, he carefully pries off the hive’s wooden lid.
Half expecting to see an angry swarm of bees come flying out like in a horror flick, I step back.
“They seem calm,” says Laio, bending down to listen to the buzz level coming from the hive. “Some days the humming sounds almost like song.”
The rectangular stack of boxes, called a Langstroth Hive, allows the bee colony — estimated by Laio to be 50,000 — to efficiently build the waxy cells of honeycomb into vertical frames.
As he inspects the frames, each still holding sedated bees, he finds few capped cells of honey. The bees have a way to go if Laio is going to be able to put up a small number of jars for sale, as he did last year for Rosh Hashanah.
According to Laio, hives can be attacked by ants, mites, moths and a disease called bee colony collapse disorder that has been decimating hives increasingly over the last 10 years.
Pesticides contribute to the disorder as well as genetically modified plants, he says.
Underscoring the importance that bees have in our lives beyond the Days of Awe, Laio calculates that “one out of every three bites of food you eat is a result of honeybee pollination.”
Laio practices backward, or treatment-free beekeeping, so-called because he relies on observation and natural practices and forgoes pesticides or chemicals in his beekeeping.
The resulting wildflower honey — Laio hands me a jar to try — is sweet, flavorful and thick, tastier than any honey from the store.
“Honey is a superfood. And it heals better than Neosporin,” Laio claims. “In Europe there are bandages impregnated with honey.”
He says it takes a certain type of character to be a beekeeper.
“You need to have patience. Be determined. Learn your limitations. Be calm in stressful situations,” he says. “People are fascinated with it. I can’t tell you how many Shabbos table meals have been filled with people asking me about bees.”
On the Sabbath, Laio likes to sip on a mint iced tea sweetened with his honey — his only sweetener, he says.
“In the Talmud, honey is considered to be one-sixtieth of manna,” says Laio, referring to the “bread” that fell from the sky for 40 years while the Israelites wandered in the desert. “The blessing for manna ended with ‘Min hashamayim,’ ‘from the heavens,’ and not ‘min haaretz,’ ‘from the earth.’”
With the honey-manna connection in mind, especially at the Jewish New Year, Laio finds that “all the sweetness, whatever form it is in, comes straight from God.”
Maurycy Gottlieb/Wikimedia Commons
An illustration of Jews praying in synagogue on Yom Kippur.
LOS ANGELES—The holiest days on the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are largely spent in synagogue. Yet prayer isn’t usually the focus when Jews prepare for the High Holidays, observes Cantor Arik Wollheim.
“Hopefully people go through this process of repentance, and they give charity, but what about prayer?” says Wollheim. “People neglect that. How many people open the prayer book before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and go over the davening?”
The answer, Wollheim says, is almost no one. But he is looking to change that. At Congregation Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he is in his first year as cantor, Wollheim organized a sing-a-long preparation event in advance of the High Holidays, in addition to posting melodies on the synagogue’s website.
During this year’s High Holidays at Beth Jacob, an Orthodox synagogue, Wollheim will be accompanied by the Maccabeats, the popular Jewish a cappella group that burst onto the scene in 2010 with their hit Hanukkah song “Candlelight.” A student of famed cantor Yitzchak Eshel, Wollheim gave his perspective on the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services.
JNS.org: What are the challenges of trying to engage a congregation in High Holidays services?
Cantor Arik Wollheim: For the holidays, together with the regulars, the people who come every week, or several times a month, in every congregation you also have a number of people that come only for the High Holidays. And they are a little bit disconnected with what’s going on throughout the year in the synagogue.
Especially here in America, and also in Israel, not everybody understands all the text. Thank God we have prayer books with an English translation, but it’s not the same [as understanding the Hebrew], and people sometimes don’t bother to look at the translations. It’s not that they don’t want to, but you’re engaged already in the recitation of the prayer, you don’t have time to also look [at the translation].
For the High Holidays liturgy, we have a lot of poems, and many of them were written during the Middle Ages. It’s very poetic, high language that is not that easy to understand. How do I create that inspiration? What can I do to make people engaged in the service, even though it’s very difficult? It’s a long day, they’ve been standing for hours, they’re fasting, they’re tired, and they don’t understand the text, in many cases.
JNS: How does a cantor prepare for the High Holidays?
Wollheim: I’m going through a tremendous amount of research in order to create that “salad” that I spoke about.
You have to understand what your objectives are. Do I want to do congregation singing? How much congregation singing do I want to do? What is the mood that I’m trying to create? There’s a connection between one [objective] and the other. It’s like one symphony. You have a theme, and a theme, and a theme, and then the fillers in between, and the question is: What do you do with those fillers? How are they going to work together?
Preparation is huge. Every year we’re different. I’m not the same person I was last year. This is the day of judgment. I think every cantor feels a huge responsibility on those days, because we’re praying not only on our behalf, we’re praying on behalf of the entire congregation. It’s a tremendous responsibility, and you go through the text, and you try to figure out: How does it resonate with you? What is the meaning of the text? How can you make it relevant to you, to your life, to the lives of your congregants?
JNS: Which prayers do you see as the highlights of the High Holidays service?
Wollheim: I think without doubt, Unetaneh Tokef is one of the highlights. First of all, because of the text. [It includes] the description of the process that goes on in heaven. It gives us an idea of how God examines each case, so to say. From a musical perspective, this is your chance as a cantor to really shine, to show what you can do, especially because the text is so moving. This is your moment to try to inspire people, to really get them to try to feel something.
Number two, there’s a prayer called the Hineni. It’s the first thing that the cantor says before Musaf. The cantor is the only one who recites that prayer. And basically it’s a prayer for the cantor, asking, “God, please help me in this task, and don’t judge them, my congregation, because of my sins. If I’m doing it wrong, don’t let if affect them.” It’s really a personal prayer that reminds us cantors that at the end of the day, this is not about how we sing, and the music, and all that kind of stuff. It’s about this tremendous responsibility that we have of pleading on behalf of the congregation.
JNS: What advice would you give about how to approach High Holidays prayer?
Wollheim: The service is very long, we have a lot of text. If I have one recommendation to people for the holidays, it’s don’t take a prayer as something obvious, that we’ve done every year, and that’s it. Take the prayer book, take the machzor, and go over the text. See what it means to you. See what prayers resonate with you. Refresh your memory with some of the tunes. Read the English translation, so you’ll know what you’re saying.
I can guarantee that if you do some preparation, you will get much more out of the service, and this is regardless of who is leading it.
This is the season to tally our blessings, settle our debts, evaluate the year gone by and pray for good in the year to come. So, too, for those of us with an eye on the world of children’s book publishing. In years past, while we blessed the bounty — the sensitive authors, talented illustrators, and astute editors who give books the capacity to enchant and delight — we also struggled to forgive publishing its sins: The pictures that disappoint, the text that drags, the editor asleep on the job, the bindings that didn’t bind, and the distribution system that didn’t distribute until the week after the holiday ended.
However, with new technology changing everything, this may be the year when these abuses dwindle and the lives of trees are less apt to be sacrificed in vain. While Kindles, Nooks and iPads can never replace the joyful human connection that comes from holding a real book while reading to a real child, judiciously supporting use of their electronic counterparts can help empower a budding reader and expand an early connection with words.
Meanwhile, here are a few recent works especially suitable to entertain and enlighten your favorite children as the New Year begins.
Jewish life calls on us to observe mitzvot, but as we introduce children to God’s sacred commandments — learning from the Torah, listening to the shofar, observing Shabbat — we usually broaden the meaning to include gemilut hasadim, acts of loving kindness. Why not use It’s a… It’s a… It’s a Mitzvah (Jewish Lights, $18.99) by Liz Suneby and Diane Heiman, delightfully illustrated by Laurel Molk? In this charming new book, a menagerie of appealing animals act out activities that show examples of good deeds even very young children can perform. Whether welcoming newcomers, sharing food, respecting elders, or forgiving mistakes, the exuberant Mitzvah Meerkat and his chevra of happy do-gooders show clearly the warmth and satisfaction to be found in everyday kindness and a commitment to tikkun olam (repairing the world).
In What a Way to Start a New Year: a Rosh Hashanah Story (Lerner), Jacqueline Jules presents a perfect opportunity for a community to perform mitzvot as she imagines what it’s like for Dina and her family to move to a new house in a new town just as the New Year begins. A new beginning, it’s true, but one any child will understand is full of difficulties, adjustments and fear of change. With the help of Judy Stead’s bright and expressive illustrations, the story describes how the generous hospitality of Dina’s new community and the warm familiarity of synagogue tunes and Jewish rituals bring with them the promise of a truly happy New Year to be shared with many new friends
Hannah’s Way (Kar-Ben) by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Adam Gustavson, shows that friends don’t have to be Jewish to do mitzvot. When Hannah’s father loses his job during the Depression, her Orthodox Jewish family has to move to Minnesota, where she is the only Jewish child in her class. Her teacher unwittingly arranges a special class picnic on a Saturday, trying to put Hannah into a carpool. What can she do? She wants to go to the picnic and maybe make some new friends, but she cannot ride on the Sabbath. Maybe she could go, Papa agrees, if someone would walk the two miles with her to the park. But who would be crazy enough to do that, she wonders, when she’s so new and hardly anybody even knows her? The book’s last double spread answers Hannah’s doubts and fears, providing a lovely story of friendship, kindness and community.
Maybe people aren’t the only ones who can share and practice mitzvot. Mitzi’s Mitzvah (Lerner) by Gloria Koster, illustrated by Holly Conger with charm and texture, shows what happens when a lovable puppy is taken to a nursing home to visit the elderly residents on Rosh Hashanah. At first she’s excluded from the holiday gathering while young visitors and the residents eat and play together. But once she’s invited inside, just by being Mitzi, she brings happiness to the residents, showing clearly that you’re never too young and puppyish, or too old, to need (or to provide) attention, companionship and the sweetness of friendship.
In Sylvia B. Epstein’s amusing tale, How the Rosh Hashanah Challah Became Round (Gefen), the rabbi’s wisdom saves the day after Yossi, the baker’s cocky son and assistant, drops a whole tray of long braided Rosh Hashanah challahs. To his dismay, they all roll down the stairs, changing shape on the way. Too late to make a new batch, the baker brushes them off and sells them, even to the rabbi’s wife, who takes two. It’s the rabbi who gives the new shape a special meaning to suit a special day. Ever since, the holiday challah has been round, a shape without end, like each new year holding the promise of sweetness, happiness and hope.
Leslie Kimmelman’s Sam and Charlie (and Sam too) (Whitman, Albert & Company) is an Easy Reader collection of five stories filled with Jewish flavor. The last is “I’m Sorry Day,” a.k.a. Yom Kippur. A silly story but with a serious objective as Charlie and Sam determine to be better friends in the year ahead. However, they reserve the right to make a few mistakes so they’ll have something to deal with on the next “I’m Sorry Day.” Illustrated by Stefano Tambellini.
Sylvia A. Rouss and Katherine Janus Kahn have again collaborated as writer and illustrator to bring you the best Jewishly informed arachnid in town, intrepid Sammy who lives in Josh Shapiro’s house. In Sammy Spider’s First Yom Kippur (Lerner), Sammy is, as usual, greatly interested to listen and learn as his mom explains the Shapiros’ upcoming holiday. Mrs. Shapiro tells Josh to make a list after dinner of everyone to whom he should apologize. Before then, however, Josh’s disobedience affects the welfare of Sammy and his mother. Realizing he has destroyed their web, Josh knows he must add them to the list of those he has wronged.
As usual, the clear story and bright pictures make this Sammy book a great way to introduce very young children to a simple understanding of taking personal responsibility, a basic Jewish value.
To remember those we love on Yom Kippur through the observance of Yizkor is an important facet of the holiday, but not one usually shared with young children. However, let me recommend Zayde Comes to Live (Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.), an award-winning story by Sheri Sinykin, beautifully illustrated by Kristina Swarner. This sensitive work concentrates on what happens before the loss, when Rachel’s grandfather has come to live at her house because he is dying and she worries about what will happen to him afterwards. Her friends reassure her: Megan says he’ll go to heaven if he believes in Jesus while Hakim describes a beautiful paradise waiting for those who believe in Allah. But Rachel is Jewish, so she asks the rabbi what will happen. With great honesty and beauty, he describes to her the comforting continuity of life. At peace, Zayde, too, helps her realize that as long as he is alive and she can snuggle close to him, they are creating memories that will allow him to live forever in her love. The pictures, linoleum prints with watercolor and colored pencil, show the family but backgrounds have a feeling of timelessness and depth. And though the family is Jewish, the situation and the emotions are universal. Zayde’s love and Rachel’s memories are set in a story that opens a door for discussions about many faith traditions and beliefs.
Local government and townspeople raised money to build a 30-foot menorah in the mountains outside Manado.
Yaakov Baruch can be contacted at email@example.com. Though the synagogue is hard to find, he is willing to meet visitors in Manado and bring them out to the shul for a tour. If looking for something else to do around Sulawesi, visit world-renowned Bunaken Marine Park, a 40-minute boat ride from Manado. It’s a perfect place for first-time snorklers or experienced SCUBA divers to take in stunning coral reefs and marine life. Visit www.sulawesi-info.com.
Traveling through the mountain roads of Indonesia, just outside the town of Manado on the island of Sulawesi, you will come across some incongruous sites.
The wrought-iron gate surrounding a home is as likely to have a sculpted Magen David in its design as it is to have a cross. A taxi might have a photo of the Virgin Mary on the front dashboard and an Israeli flag in the back window.
Though Indonesia is almost 90 percent Muslem, this enclave, about an hour’s flight from Jakarta, is 90 percent Christian, and the residents have embraced Jews as family.
It’s this community characteristic that has enabled the one lone rabbi in Indonesia — Yaakov Baruch — to practice his religion and even maintain a synagogue in the heart of an Islamic population.
Yaakov Baruch on the bimah of Shaar Hashamayim synagogue in Minahasa, Indonesia.
Baruch found out about his Judaism about 12 years ago, when he was 18, after his great aunt let slip the fact in a casual conversation. He became interested in his heritage, finding out that his background was from a line of Dutch Jews. The Dutch presence in the area can be traced to the 17th century when the Dutch East India Company built a fortress in Manado in the 1650s.
Baruch, an instructor of law at Sam Ratulangi University in Manado, began to research his background and decided he wanted to reconnect with his Judaism.
“When I found out I was Jewish, it made me excited,” he said in broken English. “I contacted a few rabbis on the Internet and told them my story. They helped me with what I needed to practice Shabbat and so on and they even said I can open a shul. I had no idea how to do that.”
With records in hand and a strong curiosity, Baruch set out to study with the closest rabbi to Indonesia — in Singapore — to learn how to properly carry out daily prayers, Shabbat and holidays.
“He was step by step guiding me,” Baruch said. “He led me back to my roots.”
After a few years he decided to have a Shabbat service in Jakarta and received support from Chabad, who sent a rabbi down to help with the service. They would hold services in Jakarta or Bali, wherever they could get a minyan together.
It wasn’t that easy to “come out” as a Jew in Indonesia, however. Though the constitution officially allows practice of all religions, animosity toward Jews exists outside Christian enclaves like Manado. Baruch was once chased while walking through a mall in Jakarta because he was wearing his kippah. When the pursuers caught him, they told him to take it off.
“Thankfully, there was security in the mall that helped me,” he explained. “Baruch Hashem, I’m fine.”
That was the only time he had ever had a bad experience wearing identifiably Jewish clothing.
“My father even told me to keep silent about our identity,” Baruch admitted. Many members of his grandfather’s family had died in Europe in the Holocaust and his father was worried about repercussions. But Baruch was determined to explore his background and questioned any relatives he could find. He discovered grandparents and great uncles who had mementos such as prayer books from family members who had been lost in the Holocaust.
Shaar Hashamayim synagogue in Minahasa, Indonesia.
In 2004, a benevolent resident of Jakarta heard about Baruch and decided to buy a small house to transform into a synagogue, which is now the Shaar Hashamayim in Minahasa, Indonesia.
Over the years, Baruch has been able to visit Israel several times and eventually would like to make aliyah and join the handful of other Indonesian Jews living there.
“For me, Indonesia is still safe, but I would like another place to keep my faith,” said Baruch, who is married to a non-Jewish Indonesian and has a 19-month-old son, Levi Yitzhak, who was circumcised in a hospital in Indonesia. On one of his trips to Israel, a friend of his at the Israel Museum said they might be interested in dismantling the synagogue and rebuilding it in the museum, when he is ready.
Baruch celebrates as many Jewish holidays as he can. He makes his own challah and hamantashen and hosted a dinner last Passover for Jewish travelers in Bali. With the help of YouTube, he has been able to access Jewish recipes.
Rosh Hashanah will be spent in the small synagogue in his hometown, his father and son by his side and those locals that have also discovered their own connection to the Jewish faith.
“You can’t compare us with a Jewish synagogue in Mea Shearim,” he said, “but we’re trying.”
Baila Lazarus is a Vancouver-based writer and photographer. Her work can be seen at www.orchiddesigns.net.
Mass Distraction/Creative Commons
Need a place to spend your High Holidays? We’ve got a compilation of services across the state, and they’re all happy to welcome you in. Please contact the individual congregation for tickets or any further information.
Erev Rosh Hashanah: Wednesday, September 4. Candlelighting 7:25 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: Thursday, September 5. Candlelighting after 8:30 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: Friday, September 6. Candlelighting 7:21 p.m.
Erev Yom Kippur: Friday, September 13. Candlelighting 7:07 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Saturday, September 14. Fast ends 8:13 p.m.
Click to find services by denomination or area:
Greater Seattle area
Throughout Washington State
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND/KITSAP PENINSULA
Congregation Beth Shalom
6800 35th Ave. NE, Seattle
Contact: Heidi Piel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-524-0075 or bethshalomseattle.org
Tickets are $200 for non-members.
Erev Rosh Hashanah: Prospective member open house 5:45-6:45 p.m. Meet Rabbi Jill Borodin, eat some apples and honey, and stay for services, 6:15-7 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 8:30 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Traditional Rosh Hashanah service in a vibrant and spiritually energetic environment. They provide special programming for families with children pre-K and K and 1st-5th grade as well as activities for those under 5. Tashlich: 5:30 p.m. Gather at Ravenna Park for a traditional Tashlich service.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: 8:30 a.m.-1:15 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 6:30 p.m. Erev Yom Kippur Mincha. Kol Nidre follows, including the traditionally haunting sounds of the cello.
Yom Kippur: 9:30 a.m. Appropriately solemn Yom Kippur prayer services for exploring the soul, complemented by learning and engagement to engage the mind and expand the heart. Includes family services for children in 1st-5th grade and programs for children under 5. Final shofar at 8:10 p.m. and break-fast meal at 8:20 p.m.
Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation
3700 E Mercer Way, Mercer Island
Contact: Rebecca Levy at Rebecca@h-nt.org or 206-232-8555, ext. 207 or www.h-nt.org
Tickets $50 per person for each holiday.
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 6-7 p.m.
Jewish New Year Rockin’ Eve: 3-4 p.m. For preschool and kindergarten families (open to non-members). Led by Rabbi Jill Levy and Chava Mirel.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: Main sanctuary service 8:15 a.m.-6 p.m. Inquire for pricing.
Youth and family service: 1st-5th grade: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Preschool and kindergarten: 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Family Tashlich: 12:45 p.m. 6th-8th grade: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. 9th-12th grade: 12:45-1:30 p.m.
Parallel service: 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Mercerwood Shore Club, 4150 E Mercer Way, Mercer Island.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Family service, 1st–5th grade and 6th–12th grade: 11 a.m.-12 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 6:45 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Inquire for pricing.
Youth and family service: 6:30 p.m. 1st–5th grade family service: 7:15 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 9:40 a.m.– 8:06 p.m. Main sanctuary service. Inquire for pricing.
Parallel service: 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. At Mercerwood Shore Club, 4150 E Mercer Way, Mercer Island.
Youth and Family Programs: Preschool and kindergarten: 11 a.m.-12 p.m. 1st–5th grade: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. 9th–12th grade: 10:15-11 a.m. 6th–8th grade: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Meets at Prospect Church, 1919 E Prospect St., Seattle.
Kadima’s High Holy Days services are Reconstructionist, progressive, interactive, and lay led. Free. Donations accepted.
Contact: Kathy Gallagher at email@example.com or 206-547-3914 or www.kadima.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30-9:30 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Children’s service: 10-11 a.m. Potluck lunch. Tashlich: 2:15 p.m. at Madrona Park.
Kol Nidre: 7:30-9:30 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Children’s service: 10-11 a.m. Yizkor: 5 p.m. Ne’ilah: 6 p.m. followed by break-fast at 7 p.m.
Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue
1111 Harvard Ave., Seattle
Tickets are $50 for members, $70 for non-members
Contact: Elizabeth Fagin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-527-9399 or betalef.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7 p.m. “Preparing for the Journey.”
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10:30 a.m. Service and children’s programming. Tashlich at Madrona Beach, 853 Lake Washington Blvd.
Sunday, September 8: Preparing for the High Holy Days: 2-4 p.m. “Deciding to Forgive.” Time for learning, reflection, meditation, discussion and exploration through the medium of creative art expression with Rabbi Olivier BenHaim. Registration required. Free for Bet Alef members; $10 for non-members.
Kol Nidre: 7 p.m. “The Yearning of the Soul.”
Yom Kippur: 10:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Worship and programming all day, including morning worship, healing circle, Yizkor and Neilah and break-fast. Quality children’s programming and childcare throughout the day.
Family Yom Kippur Service: 1:45 p.m. Rabbi Olivier BenHaim leads this unique interactive service bringing parents and children together to experience healing and forgiveness as they step into the New Year. Free.
Congregation Eitz Or
At University Unitarian Church, 6556 35th Ave., Seattle
Reb Arik Labowitz will be joined by his team of “super-hero holy music makers” whose combination of musicianship and spirit elevate souls and connect hearts.
Contact: email@example.com or 206-467-2617 or www.eitzor.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 6:45 pm. Kiddush with honey and apples at 9 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah: Services: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Vegetarian potluck lunch: 1-2 p.m. Tashlich and shofar service at Green Lake: 4-5:30 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 7 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Services: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Break: 1-4:45 p.m. Healing service: 5-5:45 p.m. Yizkor and Neilah: 6-8 p.m. Havdalah: 8-8:30 p.m. Vegetarian potluck break-fast: 8:30-9:30 p.m.
Congregation Tikvah Chadashah
RSVP for location, Seattle
CTC, Puget Sound’s GLBTQ Chavurah, will host lay-led, participatory High Holy Day services in an informal setting. All are welcome. Free.
Contact: Harley Broe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-322-7298 or tikvahchadashah.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30-9 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10 a.m.
Kol Nidre: 8-9:30 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 10 a.m.
Upper Queen Anne. Location provided upon registration.
Tickets: $18 per partner; $180 per non-partner
Contact: email@example.com or www.kavana.org/events/high-holidays-kavana-0
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 5:30-8:15 p.m. Communal dinner: 5:30 p.m. Service: 7 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Family services and program: 9 a.m. Morning services: 10 a.m. Youth discussion group: 12 p.m. Tashlich ceremony and BYO picnic lunch: 2 p.m.
Rosh Hashana Second Day: 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Erev Yom Kippur: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Lighting of memorial candles in honor of deceased relatives: 6:30 p.m. Kol Nidre cello rendition: 6:45 p.m. Kol Nidre prayer services: 7 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 9 a.m.-8:15 p.m. Yom Kippur meditation workshops: 9 a.m.-8:05 p.m. Family program: 9 a.m. Yom Kippur morning services: 10 a.m. Youth discussion group: 12 p.m. Book of Jonah text study and meditation: 5:30 p.m. Neilah closing service: 6:45 p.m. Final shofar blast and Havdalah: 8:05 p.m. Break-fast meal: 8:15 p.m.
Paths to Awakening
At Unity in Lynnwood, 16727 Alderwood Mall Pky., Lynnwood
Rabbi Ted Falcon, with musicians led by Stephen Merritt, welcomes all who yearn to open their hearts more fully to themselves and to each other in a warm and supportive spiritual environment.
All services $140. Rosh Hashanah (both services): $70. Rosh Hashanah (single service): $38. Yom Kippur (both services): $75. Yom Kippur (single service): $41. No one will be turned away due to inability to pay. Please email to make financial arrangements. Contact: Ruth Falcon at RabbiTedFalcon@gmail.com or www.RabbiTedFalcon.com
Erev Rosh Hashanah: “The Celebration of Creation”: 7:30 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah: “Beginner’s Mind”: 10:30 a.m. Worship: 2:30 p.m. Tashlich at Edmonds Beach.
Kol Nidre: “The Song of the Soul”: 7:30 p.m.
Yom Kippur: “Returning to Source.” Morning worship: 10:30 a.m. Chanting meditation: 1:30 p.m. Healing service: 2:30 p.m. Yizkor and concluding worship: 4:30 p.m.
Secular Jewish Circle
Location provided upon RSVP
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-528-1944 or secularjewishcircle.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: Rosh Hashanah Ceremony 7-9 p.m. Join Secular Jewish Circle for reflection, poetry, and music. Pause for introspection, hear the shofar, enjoy traditional foods and music with other secular, humanistic Jews. Donations accepted.
At Temple De Hirsch Sinai, 1441 16th Ave., Seattle.
Celebrations for all. Open to the public. No tickets required. Sha’arei Tikvah offers services and celebrations for Jews of all abilities.
Contact: Marjorie Schnyder at email@example.com or 206-861-3146 or www.jfsseattle.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah service: 4 p.m. All are welcome to join in prayer and celebration and to hear the sounding of the shofar.
Bet Chaverim Community of South King County
25701 14th Pl. S, Des Moines
Small, friendly congregation welcomes visitors to High Holiday services.
No tickets required. Suggested donation $50 per individual, $75 per family per holiday.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-577-0403 or betchaverim.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30-9:30 p.m. Led by Rabbi Harkavy, Cantorial Soloist Neil Weinstein, and choir.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 7:30-9:30 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Congregation Kol Ami
16530 Avondale Rd. NE, Woodinville
Tickets $75 per service, $250 for all four services. Childcare provided. No one turned away because of inability to pay. Any contribution for tickets can be applied to dues for new membership.
Contact: Admin at email@example.com or 425-844-1604 or kolaminw.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30-9 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10:30 a.m.–12 p.m.
Children’s Service: 9-10 a.m. Special service geared for the little ones.
Kol Nidre: 7:30 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Children’s service: 9 a.m. Yom Kippur morning service: 10:30 a.m. Study and meditation: 1 p.m. Afternoon service: 3 p.m. Yizkor/Neilah service: 5 p.m. Break-the-fast potluck at a member’s home: 6:30 p.m.
Meets at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, 3050 California Ave. SW, Seattle.
Contact: Sheila Abrahams at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-935-1590 or www.khnseattle.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7-9 p.m. Begin with kavana, an intention, to open to the possibility of transformation during these Days of Awe. Bring a small item, poem, or something that symbolizes your hopes for the New Year, and together create a Mishkan, a sacred space, so that prayers might be lifted higher.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. “Shofarot (Call of the Shofar): Being Present.” The powerful sound of the shofar calls you to wake up, to be present. What do you need to pay attention to as you enter into this new year? Children’s service: 8:45 –9:15 a.m. Tashlich and picnic: 1 p.m. at Alki Beach, grassy area, 63rd and Alki. Bring your own picnic.
Kol Nidre: “Malchuyot (Awe): Standing in the Presence of the Mystery of Life.” What might it mean, metaphorically, to come before the Maker? How would our deeds, our words, our lives be measured?
Yom Kippur: 9:30 a.m. Morning service: 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. How do we become more present to ourselves, in a world that continually seduces us away from who we are and who we want to be? Children’s service: 8:45-9:15 a.m. Afternoon workshops: 2-4 p.m. Afternoon service: Yizkor, Ne’ila 4-6:45 p.m. “Zichronot (Remembrance): Connecting to Past and Future Generations”: How does history guide who we are and what we envision for the future? Break-the-fast immediately following services.
Temple Beth Am
2632 NE 80th St., Seattle
Tickets $65 for single service, $225 for all services.
Contact: Stephanie at email@example.com or 206-525-0915 or templebetham.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 6:30-10 p.m. The High Holy Days are a time for reflection, introspection, and reconnection. Observe them at a variety of services, which meet the spiritual needs of this diverse community.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 8:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m. Gather for the Jewish New Year to celebrate creation, the miracle of life, and inner potential for renewal.
Kol Nidre: 6:30-10 p.m. The call of the evening prayer beckons you to let your longings and prayers combine in a powerful expression of hope.
Yom Kippur: 8:30 a.m.-2:15 p.m. On Yom Kippur, look deeply at the path of life, and reflect on the ability to turn to a better, more meaningful direction.
Temple Beth Or
3215 Lombard Ave., Everett
Led by Rabbi Jessica Kessler Marshall and Cantor Ellen Dreskin. Tickets required.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-259-7125 or templebethor.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30 p.m. Oneg after services.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10 a.m.: Morning service: 10 a.m. Dairy/vegetarian luncheon: 12:30 p.m. Reservations required. 2 p.m.: Children’s service. Tashlich service at Everett Public Boat Launch (West Marine View Drive at 10th Street): 3:15 p.m.
Erev Yom Kippur (Kol Nidre): 7:30 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Morning service: 10 a.m. Text study with Heidi Piel: 1 p.m. Children’s service: 3 p.m. Afternoon service, Yizkor and conclusion: 4:15–6:30 p.m.
Temple B’nai Torah
15727 NE Fourth St., Bellevue
Contact: Karen Sakamoto at email@example.com or 425-603-9677 or templebnaitorah.org/index.aspx
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 5-9:30 p.m. Join TBT for an exciting kick off to Rosh Hashanah. Contemporary service: 5 p.m. Traditional service: 8 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Traditional service: 9 a.m. Youth service (grades 1-5): 9 a.m. Teen service (grades 6-12): 9 a.m. Contemporary service: 12:30 p.m. Children’s & family service: 3:15 p.m. Tashlich at Phantom Lake: 4:15 p.m. Please join the Sha’arei Tikvah service at 4 p.m. at TDHS. Babysitting available.
Kol Nidre: 5-9:30 p.m. Contemporary service: 5 p.m. Traditional service: 8 p.m. Babysitting available.
Yom Kippur: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Traditional service: 9 a.m. Youth service (grades 1-5): 9 a.m. Teen service (grades 6-12): 9 a.m. Contemporary service: 12:30 p.m. Yom Kippur study sessions: 1, 2, 3 p.m. (attend one or all). Children’s and family service: 3:15 p.m. Mincha service: 4 p.m. Yizkor: 5 p.m. Ne’ilah concluding service: 6 p.m. Break-the fast: 7 p.m. Times are approximate. Babysitting for morning service available.
Temple De Hirsch Sinai
1441 16th Ave., Seattle
3850 156th Ave. SE, Bellevue
Contact: Wendy Dessenberger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-323-8486 or www.tdhs-nw.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30 p.m. Services offered at both Bellevue and Seattle locations. Tickets are required.
Rosh Hashanah First Day – Seattle: 10 a.m. Kulanu, intergenerational family service. Open to the public. No tickets required.
Main sanctuary services: 10 a.m. Tickets required. Contact temple for more information. KIDdish Club (2.5 years-pre-kindergarten): 10:45 a.m. Advanced registration required. Kids’ Kehillah (kindergarten-3rd grade): 10:45 a.m. Advanced registration required. Tashlich, casting off sins: 3 p.m. at Luther Burbank Park, Mercer Island. Open to the public. No tickets required. Sha’arei Tikvah service: 4 p.m. Open to the public. No tickets required. Sha’arei Tikvah is a partnership with Jewish Family Service to offer services and celebrations for Jews of all abilities.
Rosh Hashanah First Day – Bellevue: Main sanctuary services: 10 a.m. Tickets required. Kids’ Kehillah (kindergarten-3rd grade): 10:45 a.m. Advanced registration required. Family service: 1:30 p.m. Open to the public. No tickets required.
Kol Nidre: 7:30 p.m. Offered at both locations.
Yom Kippur – Seattle: Kulanu, intergenerational family service: 10 a.m. Open to the public. No tickets required. Main sanctuary services: 10 a.m. Tickets required. KIDdish Club (2.5 years-pre-kindergarten): 10:45 a.m. Advanced registration required. Kids’ Kehillah (kindergarten-3rd grade): 10:45 a.m. Advanced registration required. Afternoon Yizkor, Neilah/closing service and break-the-fast reception: 3 p.m. Open to the public. No tickets required.
Yom Kippur – Bellevue: Main sanctuary services: 10 a.m. Tickets required. Kids’ Kehillah (kindergarten-3rd grade): 10:45 a.m. Advanced registration required. Family services: 1:30 p.m. Open to the public. No tickets required. Afternoon Yizkor, Neilah/closing service and break-the-fast reception: 3 p.m. Open to the public. No tickets required.
Bikur Cholim-Machzikay Hadath (BCMH)
5145 S Morgan St., Seattle
Contact: Dee Wilson at email@example.com or 206-721-0970 or www.bcmhseattle.org.
Non-member adult: $225. Non-member children (age 13-17): $50. Non-member student: $75.
Erev Rosh Hashanah: Candlelighting: 7:26 p.m. Mincha: 7:30 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 7:45 a.m. Shacharis: 7:45 a.m. Torah reading: Approx. 9:40 a.m. Sermon: Approx. 10:15 a.m. Shofar blowing: Approx. 10:40 a.m. Mussaf: Approx. 11 a.m. Mincha: 7:15 p.m. Tashlich following Mincha. Candlelighting for second day after 8:27 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: 7:45 p.m. Shacharis: 7:45 a.m. Torah reading: Approx. 9:40 a.m. Sermon: Approx. 10:15 a.m. Shofar blowing: Approx. 10:40 a.m. Mussaf: Approx. 11 a.m. Mincha: 7:30 p.m. Candlelighting for Shabbos Shuva: 7:22 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 7:10 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Shacharis: 8 a.m. Torah reading: 10:45 a.m. Sermon: 11:30 a.m. Yizkor: 12 p.m. Mussaf: 12:15 p.m. Mincha: 6 p.m. Ne’ilah: 7:15 p.m. Fast concludes: 8:09 p.m.
Capitol Hill Minyan
1501 17th Ave., Seattle
The Capitol Hill Minyan offers traditional Orthodox services and a warm environment in the center of Seattle.
Contact Rabbi Ben Aaronson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-659-SHUL (7845) or www.capitolhillminyan.com
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:25 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: Morning services: 8:30 a.m., shofar: 11:15 a.m. Mincha: 7:20 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: 8:30 a.m. Shofar: 11:15 a.m. Mincha: 7:20 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 7 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 8:30 a.m. Yizkor: 11:30 a.m. Mincha: 5:45 p.m. Break-the-fast: 8:15 p.m.
Chabad House Seattle
4541 19th Ave. NE, Seattle
Erev Rosh Hashanah: Candlelighting: 7:26 p.m.
Rosh Hashana First Day: Services: 10 a.m. Evening services: 7:30 p.m. Light candles after 8:27 p.m.
Rosh Hashana Second Day: Services: 10 a.m. Evening services: 7:30 p.m. Light candles after 8:25 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 7:08 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 9 a.m. Ne’ilah: 7:15 p.m.
Chabad of the Central Cascades
24121 SE Black Nugget Rd., Issaquah
No membership fees or tickets. Hebrew-English prayerbooks. Warm and friendly atmosphere. No background or affiliation necessary. Traditional and contemporary services. Free.
Contact: Rabbi Farkash at email@example.com or 425-427-1652
Erev Rosh Hashanah: Light candles at 7:25 p.m. Services at 7:30 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: Morning services: 9:30 a.m. Shofar: 11:30 a.m. Tashlich and evening services: 7:30 p.m.: Light candles after 8:28 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: Morning services: 9:30 a.m. Shofar: 11:30 a.m. Light Shabbat candles by 7:21 p.m.
Kol Nidre: Light candles: 7:07 p.m. Services: 7:15 p.m. Fast begins at 7:25 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Morning services: 9:30 a.m. Yizkor memorial services: 11:30 a.m. Mincha and Neila closing services: 6 p.m. Fast ends at 8:09 p.m.
Congregation Ezra Bessaroth
5217 S Brandon St., Seattle
EB members free, non-members $200 per person, children $30 (covers all holiday services).
Contact: Susan Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.ezrabessaroth.net
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 6-6:30 p.m. Mincha, Arvit to follow. Early candlelighting: 6:21 p.m., regular candlelighting 7:25 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah: 8 a.m.-8:12 p.m. Shahrit: 8 a.m., sermon and shofar at approx. 11 a.m. Mincha and Tashlich: 5:30 p.m., Arvit to follow. Early candlelighting: Not before 6:19 p.m., regular candlelighting: After 8:12 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 8:25 a.m.-7:20 p.m. Shahrit: 8:25 a.m., sermon and shofar at approx. 11 a.m. Mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat: 6 p.m. Early candlelighting: Not before 6:18 p.m., regular candlelighting 7:22 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 3-7:06 p.m. Mincha-Hatarat Nedarim: 3 p.m. Kal Nidre: 6:45 p.m., Arvit to follow. Candlelighting: 7:06 p.m. Fast begins 7:23 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 8:25 a.m.-8:09 p.m. Shahrit: 8:25 a.m. Sermon: 12 p.m. Presidents’ message: 6 p.m. Neilah: 6:30 p.m., Arvit to follow. Fast ends 8:09 p.m.
Congregation Shaarei Tefillah Lubavitch
6250 43rd Ave. NE, Seattle
No event fees or tickets. Hebrew-English prayer books. Warm and friendly atmosphere. No background or affiliation necessary. Traditional and contemporary services.
Contact: email@example.com or 206-527-1411
Erev Rosh Hashanah: Candlelighting: 7:26 p.m.
Rosh Hashana First Day: Services: 9 a.m. Evening services: 7:30 p.m. Light candles after 8:27 p.m.
Rosh Hashana Second Day: Services at 9 a.m. Evening services at 7:30 p.m. Light candles after 8:25 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 7:08 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Services at 9 a.m. Ne’ilah: 7:00pm
Congregation Shevet Achim
5017 90th Ave. SE, Mercer Island
All services free of charge.
Contact: Jo Kershaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-275-1539 or www.shevetachim.com
Erev Rosh Hashanah: Selichot services at 6:30 a.m. followed by Shacharit. Mincha at 7:30 p.m. followed by Maariv.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: Shacharit: 8:30 a.m.: Sounding of the shofar: 10:45 a.m. Mincha followed by Tashlich: 6:30 p.m. Maariv: 7:50 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: Shacharit: 8:30 a.m. Sounding of the shofar: 10:45 a.m.: Mincha/Maariv: 7:15 p.m.
Kol Nidre: Selichot: 6:30 a.m. Shacharit: 7 a.m. Mincha: 3 p.m. Kol Nidre/Maariv: 7 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Shacharit: 8:30 a.m. Yizkor: 11:30 a.m. Mincha/Neilah/Maariv: 5:30 p.m.
Eastside Torah Center
1837 156th Ave NE #303, Bellevue.
No membership required. All are welcome. Warm, friendly and family-like environment. Free.
Contact Rabbi Mordechai Farkash at email@example.com or 425-957-7890 or www. Chabadbellevue.org.
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: Shacharit: 9:30 a.m. Shofar: 11:30 a.m. Mincha followed by Tashlich: 6:15 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: Shacharit: 9:30 a.m. Shofar: 11:30 a.m. Mincha: 7 p.m.
Erev Yom Kippur: Mincha: 3:15 p.m. Kol Nidre and Arvit: 7:15 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Morning Shacharit: 9:30 a.m. Yizkor: 11:30 a.m. Mincha: 5:45 p.m.
3412 NE 65th St., Seattle
Contact Gary Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 9:30 a.m.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: 9:30 a.m.
Kol Nidre: 6:15 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
West Seattle Torah Learning Center
Contact for location details
Join the TLC family for inspiring, explanatory, and interactive High Holiday services. Come for it all or just pop in for a traditional holiday experience that is sure to leave you on a “high” for the rest of the year. Meals follow services. Free.
Contact: email@example.com or 206-722-8289
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30 pm.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 8:45 a.m. Torah reading and shofar 10:30 a.m.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: 8:45 a.m. Torah reading and shofar 10:30 a.m.
Kol Nidre: 7:15 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 8:45 am. Yizkor: 10:30 a.m. Ne’ilah: 6:45 p.m. Fast ends: 8:09 p.m. Light break-fast served.
Hillel at the University of Washington
4745 17th Ave. NE, Seattle
Reservations are required at www.hilleluw.org/highholidays
Contact: Silver@hilleluw.org or 206-527-1997
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 9:30 a.m.
Kol Nidre: 7 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 10:30 a.m.
Throughout Washington State
Temple Beth Israel
Sumner and Martin Streets
No charge. Always friendly, meaningful services led by experienced and talented lay individuals.
Contact: Jane Goldberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-533-5755
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30-9 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 7:30-9 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Morning, memorial and concluding services throughout Yom Kippur Day are observed.
Bainbridge Island/Kitsap Peninsula
Chavurat Shir Hayam
Bainbridge Commons, Bainbridge Island
Chavurat Shir Hayam welcomes Reb Tiv’ona Reith. The theme will be “The Time Has Come — for What?” Guests welcome, no tickets or reservations are necessary.
Contact for times and locations: Sharon at 206-842-8453
Erev Rosh Hashanah: Services followed by potluck dessert.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: Rosh Hashanah day services, study session, and Tashlich.
Kol Nidre: Contact for details.
Yom Kippur: Morning service, meditation, Yizkor, children’s Bibliodrama, Neilah, and break-the-fast.
Congregation Kol Shalom
9010 Miller Rd., Bainbridge Island
Tickets are $250. Price includes all of the Days of Awe services.
Contact: Janice Hill at email@example.com or 206-842-9010 or www.kolshalom.net
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7-10 p.m. Led by Rabbi Mark Glickman and Cantorial Soloist Laura Cannon. Services followed by dessert potluck.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Led by Rabbi Mark Glickman and Cantorial Soloist Laura Cannon. Children’s services are free and begin at 9:30 a.m. Tashlich at Point White Pier. See web page for directions.
Kol Nidre: 7-9 p.m. Led by Rabbi Anson Laytner and Cantorial Soloist Laura Cannon. Rabbi Laytner is the program manager of the Interreligious Initiative at Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry and the author of several books.
Yom Kippur: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Led by Rabbi Anson Laytner and Cantorial Soloist Laura Cannon. Children’s services are free and begin at 9:30 a.m. Potluck community break-the-fast after Havdalah.
Congregation Beth Israel
Please visit the synagogue website for updated location info
Contact: Mary Somerville at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-733-8890 or bethisraelbellingham.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30-9:30 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Tickets required — contact synagogue office. Family service: 9-10 a.m.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: 10-11 a.m. Free. At Congregation Beth Israel, 2200 Broadway, Bellingham.
Kol Nidre: 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tickets required. At Leopold Ballroom, 1224 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham.
Yom Kippur: 9 a.m.– 2:30 p.m. Family service: 9 a.m. Morning service: 10:30 a.m. Study session: 1:30 p.m. Tickets required. Yom Kippur afternoon service, Yizkor and Ne’ilah: 3-6:30 p.m. Tickets required. At Leopold Ballroom, 1224 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham.
Congregation Beth Hatikvah
1410 11th St., Bremerton
Non-member suggested donation: $75
Contact: Rabbi Sarah Newmark at email@example.com
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: Morning service: 9:30 a.m. Torah/youth service: Approx. 10:30 a.m. Tashlich immediately following at Lions Park.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: Morning service: 10 a.m.
Kol Nidrei: Evening service: 7 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Morning service: 9:30 a.m. Torah/youth service: Approx. 10:30 a.m. Yizkor service: Immediately following. Ne’ilah: Approx. 5:30 p.m. Shofar: Approx. 6:30 p.m. Break-fast immediately following.
Congregation B’nai Torah
3437 Libby Rd. NE, Olympia
All are welcome, no tickets needed.
Contact: Larry Perrin at 360-866-0862
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 9:30 a.m. Tashlich following kosher dairy lunch.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: 9:30 a.m.
Kol Nidre: 6:30 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 9 a.m. Community break-fast following.
At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Jefferson and Tyler Streets, Port Townsend
Free; donations from non-members accepted.
Contact: Barry Lerich at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-223-5333
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7-9:30 p.m. Lay-led services.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 6:30-9 p.m. — Bet Shira
Yom Kippur: 10 a.m.– 9 p.m. Lay-led Yom Kippur, Yizkor, Neilah, closing, and potluck break-the-fast.
Rosh Hashanah services held at Unitarian Universalist Church, 4340 W Fort George Wright Dr., Spokane. Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur services held at Unity Spiritual Center, 2900 S Bernard, Spokane.
No cost; donations suggested.
Contact: Faith Hayflich at email@example.com or www.spokaneemanu-el.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30-10 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Children’s services (ages 10 and under): 9-9:30 a.m.: Adult and older kids’ service: 10 a.m. Community luncheon: 1 p.m. Tashlich at the river: 2 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 6:30-9 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Morning services: 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Mincha family service at 4:30 p.m. followed by Avodah, Neilah, and Havdalah starting at 5:15, then a break-the-fast potluck.
Temple Beth Shalom
1322 E 30th Ave., Spokane
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30 p.m. Service with babysitting available.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Rosh Hashanah first day morning service: 8 a.m. Youth service for all ages: 10:30 a.m.-noon. Tashlich at Gersh residence: 5:30 p.m. Rosh Hashanah second day evening service: 6:30 p.m. Babysitting available at morning services.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: 8 a.m. Erev Shabbat service: 6 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 6:45 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Yom Kippur morning service: 9 a.m. Youth service for all ages: 10:30 a.m.-noon. Yizkor Service (approximate time): 1:15 p.m. Discussion with the rabbi: 5 p.m. Mincha and Ne’ila service: 5:30 p.m. Havdalah, shofar, and break-fast: 7:50 p.m. Babysitting available for morning services.
312 Thayer Dr., Richland
Contact: Dan Metzger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 509-987-5548 or www.cbstricities.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: Morning services: 9:30 a.m. Children’s service: 10 a.m. Tashlich: 5 p.m. at Lee Boulevard and Columbia River. Evening services: 7 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: Morning services: 9:30 a.m. Dairy potluck: 6 p.m. Erev Shabbat services: 7:15 p.m. (approximate).
Kol Nidre: 6:45 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 9:30 a.m. Services start at 9:30 a.m. Children’s service: 10 a.m. Yizkor: 11:15 a.m. Ask the Rabbi: 4:45 p.m. Concluding services: 6 p.m. Community break-the-fast: 7:45 p.m.
Chabad of Pierce County
2146 N Mildred St., Tacoma
Hebrew/English prayer books, no membership fees or tickets, warm and friendly atmosphere, no background or affiliation necessary. Traditional and contemporary services.
Contact: Rabbi Heber at email@example.com
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7 p.m. Light candles at 7:27 p.m. Say blessings 1 and 4. Services at 7 p.m. followed by community dinner.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: Morning services: 9 a.m. Shofar sounding: 11 a.m. Evening services: 7 p.m. Light candles at 7:23 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: Morning services: 9 a.m. Shofar: 11 a.m. Light candles at 7:23 p.m. Say blessing 5. Evening services: 7 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 7 p.m. Light candles at 7:09 p.m. Say blessings 2 and 4. Fast begins at 7:09 p.m. Services at 7 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Morning services: 10 a.m. Yizkor memorial service: 12:30 p.m. Mincha and Neilah closing service: 5:30 p.m. Fast ends at 8:11 p.m. Break-the-fast meal.
Temple Beth El
At Temple Beth El, 5975 S 12th St., Tacoma
Free; donations requested.
Contact: Bruce Kadden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-564-7101 or templebethel18.org
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 8-9:30 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: Morning service: 10 a.m. Tashlich family service: 1 p.m. at Titlow Waterfront, Sixth Ave., Tacoma.
Rosh Hashanah Second Day: 10 a.m. With Congregation Beth Hatikvah, 1410 11th Ave., Bremerton.
Kol Nidre: Family service: 5-6 p.m. Regular service: 8 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Morning service: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Family service: 1-2 p.m.Yom Kippur afternoon, Yizkor and Neilah services followed by break-the fast: 3 p.m.
Congregation Beth Israel
1202 E Alder St., Walla Walla
Services $10 per person
Contact: Jennifer Winchell at email@example.com
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7-9 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 7-9 p.m.
Yom Kippur: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
1517 Browne Ave., Yakima
High Holy Day services will be led by student rabbi Abram Goodstein.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.templeshalomyakima.com
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 7:30-9 p.m.
Rosh Hashanah First Day: 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 7:30 p.m.
Yom Kippur: Services begin at 10 a.m. and resume around 3:45 p.m. with a break-the-fast meal after the service ends.
Jewish Community of the Palouse
At Unitarian Universalist Church, 420 E Second St., Moscow, ID
Free; no tickets required.
Contact: Myron Schreck at email@example.com or jcpalouse.wordpress.com
Erev Rosh Hashanah: 6:30-8 p.m.
Kol Nidre: 6:30-8 p.m.
Kale, beet and seaweed salad.
If you’re going to buy one Jewish cookbook this year, make it Lévana Kirschenbaum’s “The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen: Glorious Meals Pure and Simple” (Lévana Cooks, $39.95).
But be warned: Lévana has no patience for fad diets, box mixes, the dearth of extreme television cook-offs, deceptive marketing, can’t-lose-weight pity parties, “bad-bad-bad-for-you additives, preservatives, supplements and whatnot,” and proofreaders.
The co-owner of Manhattan’s haute-kosher Lévana Restaurant, which recently closed after a three-decade run, takes a whole foods approach. (The “whole foods” in the title is not connected to Whole Foods Market). Even in the Northwest, where farm-to-table is becoming household language, a kosher cookbook focusing on holistic dining is refreshing — and necessary.
Lévana opens this 400-page hardbound beast of a book with a polite, 18-page tirade about American food culture. She is outraged by low-carb diets (“I would hate to add myself to the glut of people who feed you a barrage of information on low-carb foods, which leaves me, for one, confused and not an ounce thinner”), liquid meals and various marketing sleights-of-hand that fool consumers into thinking they’re saving a few grams of fat, when in fact they’re eating a higher-calorie product pumped with unpronounceable manmade ingredients.
Aside from a fresh — literally — approach to Jewish cooking, one that does not require such kosher-aisle offenders as MSG-laden powdered soup stock and Passover cake mixes with no ingredients found in nature, Lévana’s recipes are beautiful, easy and inventive. Recipes like “Quick Black Bean Chocolate Soup” and “Mushroom and Feta-Stuffed Tilapia Rolls” make me fall in love with food all over again. Well, since yesterday.
This is an excellent go-to book for holiday recipes, not only for traditional recipes (with an emphasis on Lévana’s Moroccan background) but also because each recipe makes enough to feed a small army. No need to worry about making an elaborate dish, only to find out it serves four supermodels or one normal person. And in case you overdo it, you can burn off some calories bench-pressing the book.
One note of caution: Some recipes call for pantry items like preserved lemon, which takes two weeks to make. While most ingredients are readily available at the supermarket or farmers’ markets, be sure to read through ingredients first.
Here are a few recipes that use in-season ingredients and will bring symbolic meaning to your holiday tables. B’tayavon!
Kabocha Sweet Potato Soup
Round lentils symbolize the cyclical year, and at Sephardic Rosh Hashanah seders gourds — based on Hebrew word play — represent the tearing apart of evil judgments on us, and the announcement of our merits before God.
1 Kabocha squash, about 2 pounds, unpeeled, seeded, and cut into large chunks (use a hammer)
2 large sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
1 large red onion, cut into large chunks
2 cups red lentils or yellow split peas
6 ribs celery, peeled
1 large bunch dill, fronds and stems
1∕3 cup olive oil
6 bay leaves, or 1 tsp. ground
1 Tbs. turmeric
Sea salt to taste
12 cups water
Ground pepper to taste
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a wide heavy pot. Reduce to medium, cover, and cook 1-1/2 hours. Cream with an immersion blender. Adjust the texture and seasonings. Makes a dozen ample servings.
Kale, Beet and Seaweed Salad (Gluten Free)
Give this one a chance! Kale is abundant right now, and in the Sephardic seder beets and scallions symbolize the hope that our enemies will retreat and be eliminated by God.
1 bunch kale, tough stems removed, leaves cut into very thin ribbons
1 large beet, red or golden, grated very fine (food processor fine shredding blade)
6 scallions, sliced very thin
1/4 cup hijiki or other seaweed: wakame, arame, etc. (available in health food stores), soaked in hot water to cover
1/4 cup sesame or other seeds (chia, flax, hemp, etc.), toasted
1 cup Chinese green tea dressing (see below)
Place all salad ingredients in a mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Store refrigerated in glass jars. Makes 8 servings.
Chinese Green Tea Dressing
Servings: 2 1/2 cups
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup strong green tea (or Red or White) Decaf OK
2 tablespoons honey, agave, or maple syrup
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar or brown rice vinegar
dash of bottled hot sauce to taste
Grind the ginger finely in food processor. Add all remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Store refrigerated in a glass jar.
Roasted Salmon with Maple Glaze (Gluten Free)
Bluefish will be suitable here, as well as any thick white fish.
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 Tbs. soy sauce
3 Tbs. Dijon-style mustard
3 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs. cracked pepper, or less to taste
1 whole side salmon, about 3 lbs., skin off, bones out, trimmed
Preheat the oven to 500º. Mix all but last ingredient in a bowl. Place the salmon skin side up in a baking pan just large enough to fit it snugly in one layer (if you have empty spaces, the liquids will burn). Pour the sauce evenly over the fish. Bake 18 minutes, or a minute or two longer, until the fish is tender but firm to the touch. Transfer to a platter and pour the cooking juices over the fish. Serve hot, or at room temperature. Makes 8 main course servings, or a dozen ample first course servings.
Lemon Coconut Mousse (Gluten Free)
1-1/2 envelopes unflavored kosher gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 15-oz. can coconut milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 cup rum
1 cup light agave syrup
1 lb. silken tofu
1 8-oz. container dairy-free cream cheese
1 cup toasted coconut for topping (about 15 minutes in a 325°F oven), optional
Dissolve the gelatin in the water and reserve. Bring the coconut milk and the lemon juice to just below boiling in a small saucepan. Transfer the warm mixture to a food processor with the reserved gelatin mixture and process about 30 seconds. Add all remaining ingredients and process until perfectly smooth. Pour into a bowl or small individual cups and chill. Top with toasted coconut, if desired. Makes a dozen servings.
Many of Lévana’s recipes are available on her website, levanacooks.com. Here are a few personal recommendations:
Moroccan Fava Bean Soup
Though the reputation of fava beans was permanently altered for the worse by Hannibal Lecter, this soup is incredible. The spice mix will put some hair on your chest, too.
Made with vegetables peaking right now, this is a wonderful side dish or vegetarian main dish. To boost the protein content, throw in a can of chickpeas. Make this a day ahead to enjoy a bolder flavor.
Fish and almonds are related to fertility and abundance, good things to hope for in the New Year.
Brisket in Coffee and Brandy Sauce
This is a perfect example of Lévana’s experimentation with “wacky ingredients” and a result “that comes out to die for!” I might just have to come out of vegetarianism for this one.
The change was subtle but undeniable. Carrots cut lengthwise rather than sliced; some scattered sprigs of rosemary. Any other day of the year, such a discrete rift in recipe might have gone unnoticed. But this was not any other day of the year — this was Rosh Hashanah.
“What’s up with the brisket, Grandma?” my preteen son asked, echoing my suspicions that Bubbe’s famous brisket — the eternal pillar of my family’s High Holiday feasts — had undergone an unprecedented facelift.
“I thought I’d try something a little different this year,” answered my mother (who had recently been possessed by Rachael Ray of the Food Network).
“But I like the old brisket,” said my younger son.
“Me, too!” agreed my daughter.
“Oh, no. Not the brisket!” added the eldest of my grumbling foursome.
“Shh, I’m sure it’s delicious,” I said, trying to mask my own disappointment in the demise of the dish of honor.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that my kids and I didn’t appreciate the wonderful meal my mother had prepared. (We did.) And it’s not that the updated version of Bubbe’s famous recipe wasn’t a legitimate improvement over the original. (It was.) It’s just that it didn’t matter whether Rachael Ray herself had prepared that brisket — it wasn’t about taste at all.
In fact, prior to that particular evening, my children had scarcely given our traditional Rosh Hashanah brisket a second thought. It was not until it went MIA — and was suddenly replaced with a swankier roast — that my kids came to appreciate its significance in their lives.
Please, you may be thinking. How can you possibly suggest that a brisket could have a significant impact on someone’s life?
But it wasn’t just any old brisket; it was Bubbe’s famous brisket. The same unwavering recipe that had accompanied my family’s Jewish New Year for as long as my children could remember — for as long as I could remember. In the predictable presence of Bubbe’s brisket on our Rosh Hashanah table, my children found steady ground; a sturdy link between their past, present and future; and a safety net woven out of knowing where they have been and where they are going.
No, I’m not being melodramatic. Oodles of experts believe that it is in the simple repetitions of life — not in the grand black-tie affairs — that our children find the stability and continuity they need to thrive in an unpredictable world. That it is ritual and tradition — not kiddie stress management seminars or pintsized yoga classes — that builds a vital sense of emotional security in our kids.
Of course, if you asked Tevye the milkman, the power of tradition is not breaking news. Yet, in our rocket-paced, technology-based, achievement-driven, media-ridden society, the presence of family rituals in our children’s lives may be more integral to their emotional well being than ever before.
Fortunately, Jewish life is positively bursting at the seams with ritual opportunity for parents: Lighting the Hanukkah candles, welcoming Elijah to our seder table, eating challah on Shabbat — all these experiences fill our children’s lives with spirituality, security and predictability. Yet the defining rituals of the Jewish New Year play an especially vital role in our children’s overall well being, as they also carry meaningful symbolism and essential life lessons.
What follows are a few of our rich Rosh Hashanah traditions and the ways they strengthen and prepare our children for the coming year—and far beyond. To help ensure your family enjoys all the sweet rewards of the Jewish New Year (while simultaneously taking advantage of the bountiful benefits of family rituals), here are some out-of-the-box, ripe-for-the-picking Rosh Hashanah traditions:
1. Visit a paint-it-yourself ceramic shop, and decorate kiddush cups, apple plates or honey bowls together.
2. Put together baskets of apples, honey, raisins and other sweet treats, and deliver them as a family to a hospital or nursing home.
3. Give the world a birthday present by planting a tree. (You’ll have a whole Rosh Hashanah grove before long!)
4. Let your kids design your Rosh Hashanah tablecloths, placemats and challah covers using fabric crayons or markers.
5. Take a Rosh Hashanah family nature hike. Sit down in a shady spot and have everyone share what he or she appreciates about one another.
6. Go apple picking. Use your haul to make Rosh Hashanah apple cakes, kugels and other goodies.
7. Have a shofar-blowing showdown.
8. Gather family pictures from the past year, and work together to create a “year-in-review” collage.
9. After lighting the Rosh Hashanah candles, join hands and let everyone share hopes and dreams for the coming year.
10. Leave chocolate on your children’s pillows before every Rosh Hashanah along with a note wishing them a sweet New Year.
Sharon Duke Estroff is an award-winning educator and author of “Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah?” (Random House). Her parenting articles appear in over 100 publications including Parents, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Huffington Post and the Jerusalem Post. Her four children give her an endless supply of parenting fodder.
Courtesy The National Center for Jewish Film, www.jewishfilm.org.
A scene from “The Dybbuk.”
When cinema was still in its youth, Hollywood built a story around the High Holidays. Its tale was a measure of Jewry’s ties to tradition, but also a gentle sign of its loss.
In “The Jazz Singer” (1927), America’s first feature-length sound film, Jakie Rabinowitz is a cantor’s son whose father expects him to follow tradition and stand by his side in the synagogue to chant Kol Nidre, the prayer that opens the erev Yom Kippur service. But as the eve of the holiday approaches, the father is told that 12-year-old Jakie is singing in a saloon. The cantor angrily fetches him home and gives him a thrashing. Jakie vows to leave home for good. As the father chants Kol Nidre at shul, the son takes to the streets and embarks on a life singing jazz.
Years later, his career on the rise, his name now changed to Jack Robin (played here by the great Al Jolson, whose life had inspired the story), he visits his parents on his papa’s 60th birthday, announces he’ll soon be starring on Broadway, and hopes to make peace with his folks. Jack’s mama welcomes him back eagerly, but the father orders him to leave. Soon after, the cantor grows ill and hovers between life and death. Jack’s mother appears at the Broadway rehearsals and begs him to sing Kol Nidre in place of his father. But Yom Kippur is also the show’s opening night. The film constructs a virtual morality play around this dilemma.
I won’t tell you the outcome, except to say that the film would be incomplete without a Jolson version of Kol Nidre. Or at least it sounds like Kol Nidre — but in Jolson’s handling, the Aramaic-language lines are radically abridged and repeated, over and over, in a reverie of improvisation. In effect, it’s Kol Nidre as jazz. The film here subtly portrays the passing of tradition into a creatively eroded form, symbolic of what New World Jews have done with the old.
In 1937, Jews in Poland did a film version of S. An-sky’s acclaimed Yiddish play, “The Dybbuk.” In the film, two Hassidic Jews, Sender and Nisan, are longtime friends who meet up only infrequently during holiday pilgrimages to the Rebbe of Miropolye. One such time, they pledge their yet-unborn children in marriage. Soon after, Nisan is drowned and Sender, preoccupied with money, forgets his promise to his friend.
Years later, an impoverished scholar named named Chanan makes his way to Brinitz, Sender’s town, where, as a Sabbath guest at Sender’s, he instantly falls in love with Sender’s daughter Leah, who loves him in return. The father, unaware that Chanan is the son of his long-departed friend, is determined to betroth Leah to the richest suitor he can find. Desperate to win Leah’s hand, Chanan immerses himself in kabbalistic magic so he can conjure up barrels of gold.
Intensely ascetic, Chanan grows ever more unbalanced, and when Leah’s engagement to a rich man’s son is announced, he calls on Satan for help, then keels over and dies. When Leah is later about to be married, she becomes possessed by her dead lover’s spirit. Her father then takes her to Miropolye, where he petitions the Rebbe to exorcise the wayward soul.
The film, one of the last great cultural products of Polish Jewry, is a rich portrait of pre-modern Jewish life and custom. Unlike the play, it opens with an impassioned table sermon by the Rebbe on the youthful days of the fathers-to-be. The sermon deals with the Yom Kippur ministrations of the high priest in ancient times — if an impure thought were to enter his mind in the Holy of Holies, “the entire world would be destroyed.” The Rebbe compares this to the precarious journey of some unfortunate souls, who pass through several lifetimes (these Jews believed in reincarnation) in striving toward their source, the Throne of Glory — only to be cast down, just as they reach celestial heights. As this point in the Rebbe’s sermon, Sender and Nisan inopportunely try to inform him of their pact.
When, a generation later, Chanan fantasizes a union with his beloved Leah, he refers to it as “the Holy of Holies.” In retrospect, the Rebbe’s sermon becomes a prophecy of Chanan’s disastrous fall. But “The Dybbuk” never ceases to exalt the lovers’ bond, though the Rebbe and his court try their best to undo it. The holiest moment of Yom Kippur, though fraught with catastrophe, remains a symbol for the resistance of these lovers to a world enslaved by money and class.
A third film, Barry Levinson’s “Liberty Heights” (1999), is a nostalgic comedy about growing up Jewish in 1950s Baltimore. It both opens and closes on Rosh Hashanah, when the Kurtzman family customarily attends synagogue. Nate Kurtzman (Joe Mantegna) has his own New Year custom of exiting early from shul to stroll to the nearby Cadillac showroom, where the coming year’s models are on display. Each year, Nate trades in his Caddy for a spiffy new one, which he can afford — not from fading profits of the burlesque house he owns but because of his thriving illegal numbers racket. Nate is otherwise a solid citizen, a devoted husband and father, who has raised himself up from humble origins, and had often, in his youth, proven himself a scrappy street fighter against neighborhood anti-Semites. Most of the film deals with the adventures of Nate’s sons, Van and Ben (Adrien Brody and Ben Foster) and their relations with gentile girls — Van’s pursuit of a beautiful, old-money debutante named Dubbie, whom he met at a party; and Ben’s friendship with Sylvia, a black classmate.
Levinson’s framing the story inside the Jewish New Year and Nate’s Cadillac ritual is important. The Kurtzmans are nominally observant Jews — perhaps even Orthodox, but in a laid-back, assimilated way. Though Nate’s wife shows remnants of clannishness, the Kurtzmans are open to the winds of change. While both the New Year and the “new car year” are equally important to Nate, their overlap seems a portrait of the tradition’s loosening grip since the days of “The Jazz Singer.”
Even “The Dybbuk,” flawless as its command of pre-modern tradition had been, was the creation of Jewish moderns: Playwright Ansky had been a secularist and socialist revolutionary, folklorist, and humanitarian activist. The film’s creators were immersed in avant-garde theater and Expressionist idioms, and director Mihał Waszyński was a gay man who had left behind his Orthodox background and pretended he knew no Yiddish. But what unites these three films is not just their deep awareness (hidden in “The Dybbuk”) of the secular world, but also their willingness to invoke tradition as a yardstick. The High Holidays might be a site of fading cultural memory, but the theme still strikes a responsive chord among filmgoers, Jewish and gentile alike.
Joel Rosenberg teaches film and Judaic studies at Tufts University. His articles on the cinema of Jewish experience have appeared in various journals and collections, and he has recently completed a book, “Crisis in Disguise: Some Cinema of Jewish Experience from the Era of Catastrophe (1914-47).”
Kevin Dean/Creative Commons
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (JTA) — In our busy lives, there are lots of decisions to make. Though we know that quick judgments made without all the facts can be faulty, we do not have the time to dwell on each decision, and we learn to live with a kind of necessary impatience. Whether it is a route across town, what we want for lunch or the selection of a shirt to wear, we need to make our choices quickly and then get on with the day.
Thus do we approach many things in life — including stories in the news. Even when the story is important, we want to finish it quickly. We want to know what happened and why it happened, and we want to get some kind of expeditious resolution (lesson learned) before we move on.
The problem, however, is that some stories do not conform to our impatience. Complex events elude quick and simple conclusions and are not conducive to the few minutes we are willing to give them.
Of course, when we are the ones involved in controversy — when our reputations are at risk and our feelings are being battered — we want plenty of time to defend ourselves. Many of us have known the frustration and hurt of being falsely accused, and I suspect that this fear of false accusation is at the heart of our legal system’s many safeguards. “Innocent until proven guilty” is no abstract principle. It is one of our nation’s most important protections.
The problem, however, is that the time delays necessary for our day in court — all those procedures and facts — can get in the way of a good story. Although not every accusation leads to an indictment, and not every indictment leads to a conviction, there is that rush of excitement when evil is exposed and we get to watch the bad guys squirm. In many ways, the truth seems less important than the fun and titillation of lashon hara, the “evil tongue”.
This year, I am particularly aware of our human tendency to rush to judgment, and of the injustice it can cause, because I live in a town that has been at the center of an enormous news story. State College, Pa., the home of Penn State University, has been rocked by the indictment and conviction of Jerry Sandusky, the former football coach who sexually victimized a number of young boys. That this happened is horrible enough, but the revelations were particularly shocking to this small town because Sandusky was such an integral part of the community’s social fabric.
When a trusted and respected member of the community turned out to be a pedophile — a serial pedophile — people were stunned and wondered how their judgment could have been so wrong, their trust so abused. There was grief that the crimes were committed, sympathy for the victims, and anger that no one saw through the criminal’s deception.
This anger is overwhelming, and people have furiously sought places to focus it. One would have thought that the rage would have been addressed by the criminal’s arrest, trial, conviction and incarceration, but this has not been the case. The outrage is too great for the criminal alone. From the beginning, allegations and stories of a highly placed conspiracy have become well known and frequently repeated.
Here’s what this story says: Coach Sandusky’s criminal activities were well known at the highest levels of the university administration. The men at the top of the Penn State power structure did not care about his crimes, allowed them to continue on campus, and then conspired to conceal them for the sake of the football program. As everyone knows, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Therefore, people as powerful as Coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier must have been corrupt. They must have known everything that was transpiring on campus, and their corruption included a criminal conspiracy to cover up child abuse.
Of course, we do not actually know any of these things. While this story has been repeated again and again, the charges have never been proven. Indeed, no grand jury or governmental prosecutor has ever even alleged these accusations. What we have is a rush to judgment and a conspiratorial tale that is more entertaining than factual.
In the very long and complicated Freeh Report, a team of investigators looked into some of the evidence and concluded that high administrators did not adequately respond to this situation. They based their opinion on some of the evidence, but there is additional evidence and other possible interpretations of it. Inasmuch as the university authorities reported the suspicious behavior to the district attorney, and inasmuch as the district attorney’s official investigation did not find enough evidence for an indictment, one could conclude that the university leaders did their jobs. One could conclude that the criminal was deceiving people — as criminals are wont to do. In other words, rather than imagining a conspiracy that allowed Sandusky to continue his crimes, one could conclude that his deception worked. Therefore, and tragically, he was able to continue his criminal behavior.
A careful reading of the Freeh Report would have revealed this possible interpretation, but reading the report would have been tedious and taken a long time. Besides, what people wanted was a conclusion and dramatic punishment. Public anxiety demanded answers and action immediately. So instead of a careful discussion of the Freeh Report’s opinions and some patience as the legal system worked its slow process, we saw the NCAA and its hurried imposition of dramatic sanctions rescue public patience.
In lieu of an actual investigation, the NCAA gave us closure. Much less interested in the truth than in resolution, many people are happy with the penalties, regardless of whether they are properly directed. Instead of fact finding and legal dilly-dallying, this crisis was met with a swift and decisive rush to judgment. The important thing is that we see someone punished; now we can then get on with other concerns.
In the interest of clear thinking and the possibility of justice, it is important, however, to remind everyone that the oft-repeated and salacious stories have not been proven. In other words, the common knowledge of a high university conspiracy and the NCAA sanctions are based on nothing more than gossip, and that is a shame and a scandal in and of itself.
As mortified as I am about the terrible things Jerry Sandusky is convicted of doing, I am also disappointed in the way that the rest of this story is being told. Rushing to judgment does not make for justice, and we should all know better. Our Jewish tradition teaches that relying on premature conclusions and gossip is not just — that this kind of behavior is unfair and sinful. I believe that many people in the media, in the NCAA and in the public are guilty of these sins this year.
For the sin of believing gossip, for the sin of repeating it, and for the sin of rushing to judgment, many of us have some teshuvah, repentance, to do.
David E. Ostrich is rabbi of Congregation Brit Shalom in State College, Pa.
Not to be confined by the four walls of a synagogue, “Adventure Rabbi” Jamie Korngold takes to the hills for Rosh Hashanah.
Now in its seventh year, Korngold’s 24-hour retreat in Winter Park, Colo., helps participants connect with the holiday through hiking, camping and yoga in the mountains — not your standard prayer service — with the premise that “everyone is literally closer to God at 9,000 feet.”
“Nature is beautiful in its own way and has so many things to teach us about life,” Korngold says. “We can learn about ourselves by observing changes from nature.”
On the High Holy Days, there are many who, regardless of religious practices, seek new and different ways to sweeten the New Year. From nature retreats to international travel to clothing donations and holiday gift baskets, Jews and their community organizations are celebrating with creativity.
Growing into (and out of) the holiday
When she taught at the Jewish Community Center in Chicago, Dian Bymel had a difficult time explaining to children how Rosh Hashanah meant that a whole year had gone by.
Bymel’s solution was a hands-on experience, as she told her students to put on a pair of socks or a sweater they had outgrown. The children would reflect on how they (and the world) had changed in the past year, and donated the clothes to different organizations in need.
“When a child puts on a sweater that was small — they can see how much their arms had grown,” Bymel explains.
“It was a good lesson,” she says. “And spiritually, it made them happy to pass the clothing on to someone who needed it, a nice, satisfying act for all.”
Gift baskets: A sweet and memorable gesture
What began 25 years ago as a brunch, and then a pizza party, has turned into an annual “institution” for the Jewish youth of Madison, Wis., recalls Francie Saposnik. Looking for a way to get her daughter Liora involved in the youth community, Saposnik invited all the area’s youth groups to her house to prepare food for each other, but afterward to “take care of other people as well” by putting together gift baskets for those who are homebound or in care giving situations.
The basket content has varied over the years, including little containers of honey or honey sticks, honey cake, sugar-free candies for people with diabetes, and sometimes miniature round challahs, Saposnik says. The baskets are always decorated and have handmade cards from the kids wishing the recipients sweet times.
Liora Saposnik, now herself a mother of teenagers, says, “I can remember kids coming, that was really fun; I was so happy that I could bring something to make someone so happy. And, it was really cool to have a chance for all of us to get together.”
Francie Saposnik, a social worker for Madison’s Jewish Social Services, says the recipients love being remembered.
“The holiday might have passed them by because they were alone, but the youths talked to them and listened to their stories,” she says. “I would walk into the rooms and see the baskets and cards proudly displayed, sometimes even saved from previous years, a tangible reminder to them that they were remembered and valued. In fact, the sweetness of honey they delivered couldn’t begin to match the sweetness of the feeling we all had and continue to have from doing this.”
Travel: From hotels to rabbinical gravesites
American Jews will travel as far as Uman for an outside-the-box Rosh Hashanah experience. Thousands flock to the central Ukraine city each year to pay homage to the late Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who promised that “Whoever will come to my grave and give a coin to tzedakah and will say the Ten Psalms, even if he committed the worst sins, God forbid, I will take him out of Gehennom (hell).”
More than 18,000 Jews, including Hassidim and those of other backgrounds, made the trip to Uman in a recent year, according to Five Star Travel.
“It’s a very uplifting experience, it’s euphoric,” says one participant. “We go, we live very modestly there, because the point is the visit and the religious experience, not the comfort or accommodations.”
Starting a ‘conversation with God’
With a rabbinical ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, coupled with a natural resources degree from Cornell University, Jamie Korngold is amply armed to walk the paths between nature and God as the “Adventure Rabbi.”
Korngold’s Rosh Hashanah retreat, which runs this year from Sept. 15-17, uses a prayer book filled with nature writings and photos; the program also includes children’s services, oneg and campfire, singing, and late-night conversation.
“The retreat provides a sense of community, it’s easy to meet others, it’s easy to talk when walking on a trail, it’s a real chance to evaluate how Judaism makes your life more meaningful,” Korngold says.
“The whole point is to start a conversation with God, at least I’ve started a conversation — and even if everyone won’t agree, at least we can talk about it,” she says.
NEW YORK (JTA) — Children beginning to acquire language face some amusing obstacles. Confusing basic words is one of them.
My son, for example, loved to stretch out his arms and tell me about something that was the biggest or the best “in the whole wide word.” My heart smiled every time.
There was something telling in his mistake.
Jewish tradition is no stranger to the link between words and the world. Words have great power. We recite each morning in the liturgy, “Blessed is the One who spoke and the world came into being.” Words are more than signs. They have the ability to create. They are intrinsically holy. As S. Ansky relates in “The Dybbuk,” “every word that a man speaks with sincerity is the Name of the Lord.”
For children, words describe what is concrete around them (“book,” “banana,” “car”) and communicate their most basic needs (“water,” “pee”).
As adults, our relationship with words grows much more complex. We use words to build relationships (“I love you”) and to break them down (“You’re fired”). We use them to direct people, manage situations, reflect and pray. We also use words to chart our future behavior. We make promises and vows (“neder” in Hebrew). Rabbi Jonathan Sacks comments on the meaning of a neder: “When we bind ourselves by words, we are using language not to describe but to create — to create an orderly future out of the chaos of human instincts and desires.”
No one knows this more than someone who is trying to stop some addictive behavior and makes a vow (“I will eat less sugar, I will stop smoking”), or who wants to create reliable work habits (“I will get that report to you on time”) or build a relationship with others (“I will marry you”). Our promises to ourselves and to others guide our behavior and can shape our future.
Sacks continues, “What is unique to humans is that we use language to bind our own future behavior so that we can form with other human beings bonds of mutuality and trust.” The care with which we choose our words is at the core of building relationships, family lives, communities and a just society. When we speak, our words can be relied upon. When we promise to do something, others know we will follow through.
But even with our best intentions, we fall short in many ways.
Yom Kippur is our time to reflect on the year that has passed and all the ways we wished we could fulfill the promises and nedarim we made.
One of the central aspects of the Yom Kippur liturgy is the confessional prayer, or vidui. In a chant audible only to ourselves, we beat our chest and recite a litany of missteps that begin, “We sinned before you.” Hardly an exhaustive list, it represents the whole alphabet of sins (it starts with aleph and ends with tav). It is striking how many times sins related to speech appear.
“We have sinned against you through idle chatter, the way we talk, foul speech, foolish talk, gossip, speaking ill of others, everyday conversation,” and the list goes on. The sheer number of sins on the list calling us to consider our speech confronts us to recognize that our talk is cheap. Far from holiness, we use our words to fill the silence at best and malign people at worst. Once sensitized to our overall use of speech, we can go a step deeper and consider another transgression mentioned in the confessional prayer: “We have sinned against you through empty promises.”
Time and again we have said that we will do something and don’t follow through. Slowly, these empty promises erode trust that binds people and communities together.
I have a personal practice every High Holidays season. Instead of sinking into the feeling of “where to begin” with the project of self-improvement presented by the High Holidays, I start small by picking one character flaw and focusing on correcting it. One year it was my struggle with being late, so being on time was my focus. Another year I felt like my friendships were fading into the background of my recent marriage, so I focused on investing more energy into friendships.
Last year, aware that there were many things I did not complete, my vow was to “keep my word.” It was an amazing experience. I learned to measure my words. I wasn’t the first to volunteer for projects I knew I couldn’t complete. And the ones to which I did commit, I was devoted to the end. By becoming more conscious about keeping my word, I worked to make my world a little bit more reliable. I certainly have more work to do in this area.
Maybe my son, in his innocent confusion, was onto something when he mistook “word” for “world.” By keeping our word, we keep our world together.
This Yom Kippur, let us be more conscious of our words, their intrinsic holiness and their powerful potential to create a better world.
NEW YORK (JTA) — This summer I traveled to Ghana with 17 American rabbis. We spent 12 days constructing the walls of a school compound in partnership with a local Ghanaian community ravaged by hunger, poverty and labor exploitation.
More important than our efforts to mix cement and schlep bricks, we built powerful relationships with Ghanaian human rights activists. We also engaged in rich discussions about what it means to be faith-based leaders and global citizens.
One afternoon, a rabbi was exchanging stories with a young Ghanaian girl. In the middle of their conversation, she suddenly asked the rabbi if he had eaten lunch. When he said that he was planning to eat soon, the girl responded, “I pray to God you will be able to eat tomorrow,” reflecting her own understandable insecurity about food as well as her concern for others.
As I prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the young girl’s words weigh heavily on my mind, especially as I reflect on a familiar refrain from the High Holy Days liturgy: “Who shall live and who shall die?”
Most of the blessings we celebrate on Rosh Hashanah are unearned blessings. I often remind myself that I did nothing to deserve being born in the richest country in the world — I was lucky. I did nothing to deserve a roof over my head and hot meals on my kitchen table — I was lucky.
Most American Jews who are privileged enough to read the words of the High Holy Days liturgy are among the luckiest people in the world. We have rarely in recent years known the hardship of being “the hungry” or “the naked” — the very people Jewish tradition demands that we feed and clothe. For the vast majority of American Jews, fasting on Yom Kippur is a voluntary act, not a chronic reality.
But when nearly a billion people around the world go to bed hungry every night, when drought exacerbates hunger in the United States and around the globe, and when fasting for too many people is not a choice but an endemic condition, we must adopt a food ethic that enables everyone to experience the sweetness of having enough.
The links between hunger and the Yom Kippur liturgy — “Share your bread with the hungry” — require that we challenge the injustice of hunger and champion the right for everyone to access healthy food.
It is easy to forget that the potential to effect global change is intimately tied to our local lives. What we consume, which government policies we support, where we work, and how we spend our money and our time have a profound impact on the lives and human rights of people thousands of miles away — earthquake survivors in Haiti, migrant workers in Thailand, young girls in Ghana.
As I take stock of all that happened this year, I know that many American Jews already have made a difference in challenging policies that are unintentionally undermining the ability of people in the developing world to feed themselves. Last fall, American Jewish World Service and a coalition of Jewish organizations committed to ending hunger in the United States and around the world launched the Jewish Petition for a Just Farm Bill. Together we gathered more than 18,000 signatures in support of a just food and agriculture system.
As compassionate, concerned citizens, we must continue to educate our own communities about the urgent need to address hunger.
With the New Year upon us, one way to make a difference is by observing the Global Hunger Shabbat on Nov. 2 and 3. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel described Shabbat as an “island in time” — a portrait of how the world should be. Global Hunger Shabbat is an opportunity to use this sacred time to reaffirm our commitment to food justice for all. It is a time to ask ourselves: How do we use our power as American Jews to make a difference in the lives of people facing hunger in the developing world? How can we be more effective as advocates and catalysts for change?
Certainly, extreme poverty and hunger are colossal problems. No matter the number of Global Hunger Shabbat observances, we cannot eliminate these problems on our own. But we can — and must — expand our collective responsibility to support people who are unable to put food on their own tables.
With the Days of Awe upon us — a time when we weigh our lives against our benefit to others — we must hold ourselves and our communities accountable. Join me in assuring the young girl I met in Ghana, and so many others like her around the world, that we will live the values of our tradition: We will work for justice so that people around the world have enough to eat tomorrow and for many years to come.
Ruth Messinger is the president of American Jewish World Service.
NEW YORK (JTA) — Last Yom Kippur, a fasting Brenda Rienhardt sat in the hallway outside her classroom studying for a test while watching online Yom Kippur services on her laptop.
“I wanted to keep up with what was going on religiously and not fail my test,” said Rienhardt, 26, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resident who was then a senior at Florida Atlantic University. “It was just a challenge because I was balancing what I should do with what I needed to do.”
For many American Jews like Rienhardt, the High Holidays mean balancing the demands of the American workplace and school with their Jewish observance.
Lisa Vaughn, who has worked as an urgent care and emergency physician for 17 years, said that being on call doesn’t give a lot of opportunities to take days off.
“When you have that job, you work every shift, holiday or not,” said Vaughn, 51, of Massillon, Ohio. “You hope God understands because you know your employer doesn’t.”
Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, says the High Holidays are a time when Jews are conflicted with their identity.
“I think because there are many non-Jews who know about the High Holidays and wonder if a Jewish person doesn’t celebrate them…Jews find themselves confronting the tension between identifying with the Jewish community or identifying with the general community,” Sarna said. “It’s not about the High Holidays but about one’s larger identity as a Jew different from the rest of America.”
Shawn Green, a Jewish, now retired professional baseball player, sat out a 2001 Los Angeles Dodgers’ game on Yom Kippur for just that reason. It was the first time in 415 games that he chose not to play.
“As a baseball player, it’s a little different, you don’t have the luxury of picking several holidays. But if I was going to pick one holiday to sit out, then that’s the one,” Green said about Yom Kippur. “I felt that as one of the few Jewish athletes, it was important to acknowledge my connection to my heritage.”
His first major challenge came in 2004 when the Dodgers were locked in a tight battle with the San Francisco Giants for the division title. With only 10 games left in the season and two of them scheduled for Yom Kippur — one on Kol Nidre, one on Yom Kippur afternoon — Green faced a dilemma.
“I was in a no-win situation because if I miss both games, that would be a little hypocritical because I really wasn’t very religious, but at the same time I wanted to acknowledge my connection and heritage,” Green said. “So I opted to play one and to sit one game as a compromise just to say look, I am acknowledging my Jewish roots, but at the same time I also have a responsibility to the team and to my fans at the Dodgers.”
Most Jews don’t face such public dilemmas and often can adjust their schedules. That’s true for Meyer Koplow, executive partner at the Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz law firm in New York.
“Most of the things you do as a litigator involves either briefing matters, taking discovery, trials and other court appearances. You almost always know well in advance what the schedule will require for each of those tasks,” said Koplow, 61. “It’s usually very easy to schedule them around the holidays so that holidays are not a problem.”
For some people, it’s not getting time off for the holidays that’s problematic, it’s the stress of being disconnected that causes tensions.
Take Stu Loeser, who recently left his job as press secretary for New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Loeser said that with his BlackBerry turned off during holidays and the Sabbath, he doesn’t necessarily know about breaking news.
“When you pick up the newspaper the next day, then you can be in for quite a surprise,” said Loeser, 39. “I find it especially stressful and nerve-wracking. I have a deputy who steps in for me, but even though you have phenomenally competent people filling in for you doesn’t mean that it’s not stressful.”
For Loeser and other observant Jews, however, it’s the lesser-known holidays, such as Shemini Atzeret and Shavuot, that can be most challenging in terms of taking days off.
“Everyone’s heard of Rosh Hashanah and people understand that there are people who observe and some people who sort of observe,” Loeser said. It’s the other 10 days — Simchat Torah, Shemini Atzeret, two for Sukkot, the first two and last two of Passover and two for Shavuot — that are the most difficult. “People start thinking that you are taking the same two days off a month because people have never heard of them.”
David Barkey, the Anti-Defamation League’s religious freedom counsel, said much of the confusion surrounding the holidays arises because not all people observe the holidays in the same way.
“You might have employers that look on the calendar and see that Yom Kippur is on Wednesday and not understand why an employee needs to leave on Tuesday night or why one employee takes two days off when another takes a week,” Barkey said.
Sippy Laster, 24, a recruitment coordinator at JPMorgan Chase in New York, does her best to compensate for the time that she takes off.
“I spend a lot of time working later, and the days leading up to the days that I have to take off, I end up spending later nights at work so a lot of preparation goes into it,” she said.
Barkey said that while most employees are able to observe holidays by trading shifts and talking with their employers, religious accommodation issues are still a problem.
There was a 32 percent increase in religious accommodation charges filed by Jews from 1998 to 2011, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. While Jews comprise 2 percent of the U.S. population, they represented 14.9 percent of all 2011 religious accommodation charges.
While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides the primary protection, Barkey says there is no absolute requirement for an employer to give time off.
“If you have a religious conflict, especially if you know far in advance, you have a duty to tell your employer in advance,” he said. “A lot of complaints we get are from employees who waited two or three days before the holidays to ask for time.”
Jacqueline Simon, public policy director of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union representing government workers, says the problem often isn’t getting the time off but feeling left out.
“I think people are tolerant of someone taking time off for religious observance, but much less willing to alter the schedule of a group to accommodate one or two people,” she said.
Rienhardt has seen that firsthand. “If you go to the dean and make a fuss, yes, you can have the day off, but if you have a test, you are going to be at a disadvantage,” she said. “When they have tests scheduled, teachers tend to be less forgiving.”
Many Jews believe that clients and co-workers view their decisions to take time off positively.
“For a business that is all business all the time, I think a lot of [my clients] respect that there’s something else that’s important to me than just the business,” said Cory Richman, 34, a partner at the talent management firm Liebman Entertainment in New York. “It keeps me grounded and I have morals.”
Rabbi Abigail Treu, a rabbinic fellow and director of planned giving at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary, says that for people who absolutely cannot take time off, there is an understanding built in to the tradition.
“I think that there is a respect in the tradition for parnassah, the need to earn a livelihood, so certainly if the choice is between losing one’s job and not being able to support oneself and one’s family versus celebrating the holiday in the traditional way,” Treu said, “then the tradition encourages us to keep our jobs and being able to support our families.”
Jessica Merz/Creative Commons
A little ice cream’s okay as long as you eat your veggies.
You ready for a clean slate? We Jews are lucky to get a chance to start over every fall as the shofar sounds a wakeup call in each of our lives. With the changing leaves, the crispness in the air, and new Justin Bieber Trapper Keepers in the back-to-school aisle comes a promise for a fresh start in 5773.
Since the sum of 5, 7, 7, and 3 equals 22, I offer you 22 tips for a sweeter new year. L’shana tovah tikatevu!
1. Give thanks. No matter what you’re doing, take at least a moment every day to stop and say thank you to God, to your parents, to the love of your life, to your kids, and to that barista at your local coffee joint who greets you with a smile and a “half-caff-skim-latte-easy whip” every morning. We get so wrapped up in the chaos of our days that we forget to give thanks for all the blessings, big and small, in our lives.
2. Make Shabbat special. Whether you keep Shabbat or not, it’s a nice time to be in the present with a good meal, good people — and a good nap.
3. Get inspired. Go online and click on one of those TED talks, listen to an uplifting sermon by your rabbi, take in a sunset, watch a Spielberg flick — whatever moves you.
4. Learn about your roots. Ask an older member of your family to tell you a story stemming from your family tree. My grandparents just recently told me how they met. Long story short, I might not be here if it weren’t for my grandma’s Canasta game with my great aunts Faye and Gertie, who put the shidduch together. How’d your grandparents meet?
5. Spend time with people you really like and love. And spend less time with people you don’t. Life’s short. ‘Nuf said.
6. Raise your heart rate. They say sitting at your desk all day can shave years off your life. It’s a pity I write these words as I sit at my desk. So whenever you can, get up and move. Walk, don’t drive, the mile to the store. Take the stairs, not the elevator. Do yoga. Shoot hoops. Just move.
7. Never text and drive — capiche? And while we’re on the subject, texting and walking is dangerous, too.
8. Laugh more. In the book “The Happiness Project,” author Gretchen Rubin says a small child typically laughs more than 400 times each day, while an adult laughs only 17 times. Raise that average.
9. Look up at the sky and down at the earth. Pay attention to the sun, the moon, and the stars, and plant something in the ground.
10. Take up space in the room. Last year, I attended a Jewish women’s empowerment seminar, where we talked about this concept, but it applies to both men and women: Who you are and what you have to say matter. Own it.
11. Commit gemilut hasadim — deeds of loving kindness. Mentor a kid who needs a friend, volunteer at a senior home, or feed the hungry at a local soup kitchen.
12. Devour a book — for fun. Read it on your Kindle or the real kind made of actual paper.
13. Give yourself a break. So many people, especially among us MOTs, are taught to excel and to make everyone around them happy all the time, whether that means making the honor roll, getting that promotion, or saying yes to a project you know you don’t have time for. But you know what? Sometimes it’s okay to take a day off from perfection. I give you permission.
14. Eat broccoli, beans, and blueberries. Incorporate superfoods like these into your diet to improve your overall health.
15. …But eat ice cream, too. I know these last two tips sound contradictory, but it’s not like you’re training for the Olympics. Yes, eat your vegetables, but every once in a while, go for those two scoops of peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.
16. Visit somewhere you’ve never been. That may be Israel, India, or Indiana, or it could be your local gym or the top of the Space Needle. Visit uncharted territory next year.
17. Talk about real stuff. Again, we get bogged down in the details of life, logistics, and work, but take some time to really talk to the people in your lives about what really matters.
18. Dance more. So you’re not exactly Mikhail Baryshnikov or J. Lo. Well, chances are neither is that guy next to you on the dance floor at the club or dancing the hora alongside you.
19. Find joy in every season — even winter. Yes, we have two seasons: Rain and summer. But revel in each of them — whether you’re seven years old or seven at heart. In the fall, jump in a pile of leaves. When it’s cold, make a snow angel. Meander through the rain without an umbrella in the spring. And, next July, jump into a lake.
20. Be more Zen. I’m a work in progress on this one. Your friend is 11 minutes late for your coffee date. The forecast calls for storms on your wedding day. Your daughter just drew a picture of the dog with a Sharpie on the coffee table — rather than on her plentiful construction paper. Don’t freak out about things beyond your control. Okay, maybe freak out a little about the Sharpie stain.
21. Do something a little scary. No, not necessarily bungee jumping. My mom would kill me — and she’d probably kill you too. But get out of your comfort zone and do something new that seems easier not to do.
22. Turn your phone off every once in a while. Wouldn’t it be nice, every so often — maybe on Shabbat — to not text, not email, not status update, and not tweet — to just be?
This column originally appeared in JUF News, Chicago.
A sampling of Wiebke Light’s postcards created throughout the year.
Last December, Wiebke Light was browsing through Third Place Books when she stumbled upon an idea.
“There was this art diary,” she says, about artists who had done different art projects each day for a year. Light was especially inspired by “Obsessive Consumption: What Did You Buy Today?” Kate Bingaman Burt’s collected drawings of everything she bought for three years.
“I was walking home and my mind was spinning,” she says. “I thought ‘maybe I could just do it.’”
Light brought the idea home to her husband, Rabbi Stuart Light, who encouraged her. She only had to decide what to create every day for 365 days.
“What are my values? What would I like to document every day?” Light, 42, asked herself. “First, I’d like to develop more art skills and do it in a way that’s somewhat challenging…something small and simple and doable.” She also wanted to connect it to people, who would hold her accountable. And it went from there.
“We feel strongly about no media, and a simplistic life,” Light says. So she decided to create one postcard a day to send to friends and family. It was sort of “an anti-act to Facebook and emailing and texting and Twittering, to connect with people the old way,” she says.
Light studied art in her native Germany (her first name is pronounced Vib-keh) before studying Jewish art and material culture at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, where she met her husband. After working for many years in the museum world, she currently assists in the art room at the Jewish Day School, where her three children attend and her husband is assistant head of school.
Since January 1, Light has been carving out time every day to design a postcard. But the project has evolved from artistic enrichment and reconnection to a lesson in gratitude, change and acceptance.
Light recalls starting out by opening her address book. “I’ll just go from A to Z and see how far I can get,” she says. But she soon found her address book was outdated.
“I realized after two weeks or three weeks there weren’t any addresses were left.”
It was her first lesson in accepting change.
“Sometimes, when we have a plan, and we want to change something, we think we have to have it all figured out,” she reflects.
Light started “looking for things to thank people for that aren’t so obvious.” So she sent one to her kids’ bus driver.
“His name is Nestor and he’s awesome,” she says. “I take him so for granted, and we all do…he never gets a formal thank you.”
Light also keeps a blog, located at mazecard.blogspot.com, to track her journey. In January, she worked through struggles with time management and perfectionism. But since then, Light says the project has made her “think about the positives in life.” On June 10 she wrote, “Finding myself now on day 148 of my daily postcard project, I notice that I have gained something that I have always longed for, but never knew how to achieve: I am much happier and more content…by cultivating the daily practice of thinking of people in a positive way, I find myself constantly concerned with thoughts of gratitude, love and appreciation.”
While many of her cards go to family members here and in her hometown of Braunfels, Germany, Light sends cards with words of encouragement to community members going through hard times. At the midyear point, she held a party and invited her friends to make their own cards, which she brought to the radiation department at the University of Washington Medical Center. Light sent her first card to her oldest friend in Germany, who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She will also get the last card.
Light has also found her project to be a good lesson for her kids, who are 12, 10 and 6. “They see me do something that I follow through with that is kind of crazy,” she says. Her children often join her as guest artists.
Light admits she’s somewhat looking forward to the end of the daily commitment, but she’s thinking ahead to her next artistic endeavor, which may involve holiday crafts, puppets or sewing. She’s making a tallit for her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, part of a vision to make lifecycles more meaningful through art.
“We still rely on the ‘Jewish Catalog’ for ideas,” she says.
She would like to create something “out of the box,” whimsical or recycled, to beautify the home.
But, as Light has learned, it’s not about the plan.
“I can start something without knowing where it’s going to go,” she says.
Jason Zions, foreground, and the rest of the Seattle Jewish Chorale practice for two concerts they will be performing just prior to and during Hanukkah. Find plenty of Hanukkah happenings on pages 15 and 22.
We’ll start with stuff for families.
The Seattle Jewish Chorale is doing it second-night style with a concert at Temple B’nai Torah.
“It’s Hanukkah songs, but not necessarily all the Hanukkah songs that everybody knows,” says Michele Yanow, the chorale’s executive director, of “Light the Candles: A Hanukkah Concert for Everyone.”
Yanow and her army of music lovers have combed the archives of Jewish lore to find songs such as an adaptation of an old Sephardic liturgical tune, which translates to “Let’s Make a Meal.”
They’ll do some of what she calls the “typical beautiful, mournful Yiddish-in-minor-key piece” while interspersing that with sing-a-longs, a bopping, klezmer-style (with clarinet!) ode to the dreidel written by a couple of ‘20s-era Yiddish theater musicians, and plenty of tunes that celebrate the candles.
One song the chorale performed in the spring, “Not in Our Town,” tells the story of the night in the early 1990s that white supremacists threw a rock through the window of a home displaying a menorah in Billings, Mont. Many residents of the city put a picture of a menorah in their own windows to stand in solidarity with the family. The chorale will reprise that touching piece at its Hanukkah concerts, and close “with a beautiful interpretation of the Refuah Shlemah, ‘Heal Us Now,’ by a cantor friend of mine from back east,” Yanow says.
The piece, by Cantor Leon Sher of Temple Shalom in Aberdeen, N.J., was sung at the memorial service for the victims of the January shooting in Tucson that critically injured Jewish Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The Bellevue concert will also feature Rabbi Jim Mirel’s Shalom Ensemble and, of course, a candle lighting before the concert begins.
Temple B’nai Torah is located at 15727 NE 4th St., Bellevue. The show begins at 7 p.m.
This performance, incidentally, is one of two the Seattle Jewish Chorale will perform during the week. Three days before, at the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church at 7141 California Ave. SW in West Seattle, in conjunction with Congregation Kol HaNeshamah, you can see the chorale with some other special guests.
“We will have some children with us at the West Seattle concert…who will come up and join us for one of the songs,” Yanow says.
Those kids, she added, have “a special surprise of their own.”
Both concerts are intended for anyone and everyone: All ages from kids to seniors, interfaith families, Jews and non-Jews alike. Tickets for both concerts are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, $5 for children, and the unemployed or underemployed can pay as they are able. Purchase them online at www.brownpapertickets.com.
If you enjoyed the Shalom Ensemble for this concert, you can always head back to Temple B’nai Torah the next day, Dec. 22, to see them again. Starting at 10:30 a.m., the ensemble will perform its mix of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Hanukkah tunes as well as some rollicking klezmer for Jewish Family Service’s Endless Opportunities seniors program. Contact Ellen Hendin at JFS at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-861-3183 if you need more information.
Then, later that day, if the building doesn’t collapse from all the use, the Shaarei Tikvah program for people of all abilities will have its annual Hanukkah celebration at B’nai Torah. Rabbi Mirel and Cantor David Serkin Poole will lead the party that will of course feature latkes, dreidel spinning and a lot of singing. That celebration runs from 3 to 5 p.m. RSVPs are required. Contact Marjorie Schnyder at email@example.com or 206-861-3146 to register.
There’s probably a reason nobody has attempted to build a six-foot menorah out of ice in our region before: We’re not Antarctica. Or Minnesota (though we suspect that somewhere along the line the original Ballardites were fooled until it didn’t stop raining). But as they do every year with one type of six-foot menorah or another, be it candy, Lego or some other creative object that can easily stored in the Farkashes’ basement, Chabad of the Central Cascades will carve this year’s Hanukkah menorah out of a big block of ice. And then they will put candles on it and set it alight.
Following the annual public lighting of their traditional aluminum menorah by Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger and several of the city’s other elected officials on the first night, Dec. 20, the party will move to Blakely Hall on the Issaquah Highlands for the ice sculpture, a party with latkes, doughnuts, kids’ activities and a show by local puppeteer/musical duo The Sababas.
The first candlelighting will take place at Village Green, followed by the party and ice sculpture lighting at Blakely Hall, 2550 NE Park Dr., Issaquah Highlands. To get more information, contact 425-427-1654 or visit www.ChabadIssaquah.com.
For a traditional candle-lighting celebration, the Eastside Torah Center moves its annual giant menorah lighting from Crossroads to Redmond Town Center. At 6:30 p.m. on Wed., Dec. 22 the Torah Center will erect its big hanukkiyah and hand out dreidels and gelt to everyone.
Young adults, there’s a party for you as well! As soon as you knock off work on the 22nd, the Eastside Torah Center will have a Hanukkah celebration and latke-making party around its fireplace. The party starts at 5 p.m. Leave the kids at the day care for an extra hour — they’re not invited to this shindig. RSVPs required at 425-957-7860 or firstname.lastname@example.org. It will be at the Eastside Torah Center, 1837 156th Ave. NE #303 in Bellevue.
Have you ever been sitting at a Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur service and asked yourself, “Why am I feeling somewhat distant from the wording of these prayers?” Or “Why do I feel so distracted here and the service is so lengthy?”
You are not alone. As a psychotherapist and a Jewish author, I’ve heard from thousands of diverse Jews (from the very religious to the not-very religious to the extremely not religious) who told me they felt bored or fidgety at times during High Holiday services in previous years.
Fortunately, there are some highly effective ways to connect more deeply with the profound themes and life-changing insights that can be found in the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services of nearly every congregation. Here are a few easy-to-utilize steps on how to make these carefully choreographed Days of Awe more meaningful to you or a member of your family who feels bored or disconnected from High Holiday gatherings:
• Let the music move you. The services will come alive for you if you allow the beautiful melodies, the talented voices, and the intense sounds of the shofar to take you to a place of profound waking up. Rather than focusing on what people are wearing or whose kids are misbehaving, or even whether the rabbi’s sermon is perfect, let yourself be lifted up by the soulful melodies that connect each of us with hundreds of years of passionate and vulnerable Jews who have poured out their feelings of longing, sadness, joy, and gratitude at similar services during pleasant years and tragic years. As you listen closely to the music and the call of the shofar, imagine yourself surrounded by many generations of ancestors asking you lovingly, “Nu, how are you? How is your beautiful soul navigating this complicated world that is so challenging?”
• Do some personal preparation. During the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah, pick a phrase or a theme from the High Holiday prayer book that makes you curious about the mysteries of life or helps your soul find its true purpose of doing some good in large or small ways. Rather than getting bent out of shape by some harsh phrase from the prayer book you don’t like, choose instead to focus on phrases and themes that you select consciously to inspire and motivate you in the days and weeks surrounding the High Holidays. For example, what is a vow you made in the past year (to yourself, to a loved one, or to someone at work) and that you now realize you haven’t fully kept? What will it take for you to change that vow and create something new that is much more likely to be kept?
• Take charge of your breathing and your focus. I’ve found in my own life and in counseling many different types of Jewish women and men that one of the best ways to enjoy the High Holiday services and get more insights from them is if you notice your breathing whenever possible during the lengthy services. Silently say “Hineni, here I am,” a powerful focusing phrase that you can utilize whenever you feel distracted, tense, or frustrated. If you remember to breathe smoothly and fully as you open up your creative mind with these words, you may be surprised at how you start to become less stressed and more centered, not only at High Holiday services but throughout the rest of the year.
• Let your heart speak your deepest truth. At various points during the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, you will be given the opportunity to say out loud or to speak silently the truths, concerns, and aspirations you carry in your heart. In addition, you are being encouraged to speak these truths to the mysterious Source of Life that is beyond human comprehension. Yet we feel especially close to the mysterious One at these holiday gatherings. Whether you are a strong believer in a loving Presence or you wrestle with many doubts, these Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services ask you to dig deeply into your own heart and admit honestly, “This is where I have missed the mark,” “This is what I notice and appreciate about the gifts in my life,” and “This is what I am longing to improve in the coming year.” You will probably find that having the chance to slow down and connect with the still, small voice within as you express these profound truths is time well spent.
• Look for opportunities for progress, not perfection. One of the beautiful things about Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is that in Judaism we always have the chance to wake up anew, to ask for guidance, and to improve how we deal with our toughest personal, family, and work-related challenges. But we are not being asked to be perfect, nor are we condemned for being human and having our struggles. As you sit in the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, make sure to treat yourself with loving-kindness and see if you can connect with the mysterious Source of Loving-kindness that flows through your heart not only on these holy days but throughout the coming year. May it be a good and healthy year for you and the people whose lives you touch with your caring and your creativity.
Leonard Felder, Ph.D. is the author of 12 books, including Here I Am: Using Jewish Spiritual Wisdom to Become More Present, Centered, and Available for Life (Trumpeter Books/Random House, 2011). For more information on how to use Jewish mindfulness methods for daily growth and re-focusing during stressful moments, log onto www.hereiamremedies.com.
A man is grief-stricken after the earthquake and tsunamis devastated Japan in March. Rabbi Kushner guides the way to facing God after suffering tragedy and the loss of loved ones.
I have been a rabbi for 50 years. For the last 30 of those years, I have been known as the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, a book that suggested a different understanding of God’s role in all the misfortunes that occur in our world.
Between those two roles, I have had countless conversations with people who had reasons to be angry at God, some because of tragedies and disappointments in their own lives, some because of the Holocaust, some because of famines, floods or genocide in other parts of the world. I have spoken to any number of people who have stopped believing in God altogether because of all the terrible things that keep happening (it’s interesting how angry people get at God for not existing), and others who still believe in Him but refuse to pray to him.
In the opening chapters of the book of Deuteronomy, last of the five books of the Torah and the one we read in synagogue during the weeks before the High Holy Days, Moses does something completely out of character. He expresses anger at God. He complains that God has treated him unfairly.
Moses has spent his entire life, at considerable personal sacrifice, bringing the word of God to the Israelites. He has endured their complaints and their deviations from God’s ways, and instead of rewarding him for his efforts, God has decreed that the people who have made his life miserable for all these years will get to live in the Promised Land and Moses himself will never even set foot in it.
Whenever I would read that surprising outburst on Moses’ part, I would attribute it to his advanced age and fatigue. But a few years ago, I heard a lecture by Professor Aviva Zornberg of Jerusalem on the subject of Moses’ anger at God. She suggests that Moses did that deliberately as a way of giving the Israelites permission to vent their anger at God, which they promptly do.
“God must hate us to have made us wander in this desert for 40 years. If God loved us, He would have let us remain in Egypt and sent the Egyptians into the desert.”
Zornberg goes on to note that, immediately after the people express their anger toward God, we find something in the Torah that we have never seen before: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord alone. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart….”
We had previously been commanded to obey God, to revere and honor God, to walk in His ways, but never before to love Him. Zornberg’s explanation: You cannot truly love someone with all your heart if you are afraid to be angry at him. Anger need not terminate a relationship. It need not shatter a relationship. Anger, disappointment are a part of an honest, healthy relationship.
For years, I wondered why the kaddish, a hymn of praise to God with no mention of death or loss, was the prayer we asked mourners to recite at services. I have come to understand that asking the one person in the congregation with the most reason to be angry at God for what has happened in his or her life to publicly praise God is not to demand an act of hypocrisy. It is to recognize that a prayerful relationship to God remains even at a time of pain and anger.
Ultimately I would like to think that the mourner will come to see God not as the source of his grief but as the source of his resilience in the face of grief and the inspiration behind the efforts of friends and neighbors to comfort him.
I would like to believe that God is not offended by our righteous anger at the world’s unfairness, nor does He need our flattery. Just as in our personal lives, there are few moments more reassuring than the experience of getting angry at someone we care about and discovering that our love is genuine enough to survive the anger. We should find it reassuring that we can get angry at God because we expect so much from Him, and at the same time recognize how much we need and rely on Him.
Harold Kushner is Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Mass., and the author of 12 books, notably When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
Freddie Mercury led Queen into musical glory with countless powerful rock ballads that may have evolved from a very familiar instrument.
With its diverse genres, dramatic melodies, and timeless character, few songs have etched themselves into modern musical consciousness like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Imagine, for a moment, that in place of its classic guitar solo, the song peaks with the coarse, mournful bellow of the shofar, the ram’s horn instrument that captures in its echoed cry what words fail to articulate.
Without the shofar’s time-penetrating influence, it is possible that contemporary music would lack fundamental elements, says John Sinclair, who during the 1970s opened the first 24-track studio in Europe. It was in that studio that Queen recorded and mixed “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Now a lecturer in Talmudic Logic and Jewish Philosophy at the Ohr Somoyach/Tanenbaum College of Judaic Studies in Jerusalem, Sinclair says he is “not a big fan of [contemporary] Jewish music” because it “sounds about as Jewish as Led Zeppelin wearing tefillin.” Instead, he suggests investigating original Jewish music — that of the Temple period.
Over 2,000 years ago, a 12-man chorus and a 12-instrument (including the shofar) orchestra of Levites played music and psalms as an inextricable component of the Temple’s daily worship service. While some of the orchestra’s instruments like the lyre have fallen out of fashion, the shofar has continually served an integral role in Jewish worship since the time of the Temple. Aside from its place in the orchestra, the shofar was used to announce the holidays and Jubilee year, accompany processions, signify the start of a war, and was blown with trumpets on the High Holidays.
Historical musicologists, who study the development of music styles over time, assume that Temple music was monophonic, containing a single melody without harmony. Temple music used the seven-note diatonic scale.
“Everyone knows the diatonic scale,” says Sinclair. “It was made famous by that great musicologist Julie Andrews in her unforgettable contribution to Western culture: ‘Doe, a deer, a female deer.’”
According to Sinclair, who in addition to Queen recorded Elton John and co-produced a quadruple platinum album with two Top 10 hits from the ‘80s group Foreigner, says the shofar’s influence made its way into other music forms after the second temple was destroyed in 70 CE.
“When the Romans burned the house of God and exiled the Jewish people, they also exiled our music,” he says. “They took it into captivity and made it sing for a new master.”
Early Christians incorporated music they heard in the Temple into their own practice. As Christianity developed in Rome, the orchestral psalms of the Levites blended with Grecian influences to form the Gregorian chant, which had a single melody, based on a diatonic scale.
“The mesmerizing quality of the chant comes from an exquisite longing always to return to the root note of the scale, the tonic — to return to ‘doe,’” Sinclair says.
Gregorian chants laid a foundation for Renaissance music, which built on Temple music’s monophonic form by adding harmonies and multiple layers of interwoven melodies. The subsequent Classical period employed instrumental melody-dominated homophony, adding chordal support to Temple music’s single-melody form. Most popular music today uses melody-dominated homophony, with one voice accompanied by chordal instrumentation.
Contemporary genres — jazz, blues, rock, pop, hip hop — blend features of ethnic and cultural folk rhythms with components of the Temple’s, and the shofar’s, musical legacy. While it is difficult to isolate the exact effect of the shofar, it has surely left its mark on songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Containing a capella, ballad, opera, and hard rock sections, the song is an elemental depot of all musical forms built upon Temple music, even ending gracefully on “doe.”
In the words of Sinclair, “Music can come to us like a familiar voice caressing our souls with the shared knowledge of our deepest sadness, and it can fly with our highest elation. Music consoles and exalts only because it, itself, can connect to the two extremities of feeling.”
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Among the familiar customs of Rosh Hashanah is the dipping of apple pieces in honey — but what is its origin?
King David had a “cake made in a pan and a sweet cake” (II Samuel 6: 15, 19) given to everyone. Hosea 3:1 identifies the “sweet cake” as a raisin cake.
Honey also may have been used in the cake, but the honey of ancient eretz Yisrael was made from dates, grapes, figs or raisins, because the land at the time had no domestic bees, only Syrian bees. To extract honey from their combs, it had to be smoked.
During the Roman period, Italian bees were introduced to the Middle East, and bee honey became more common.
The Torah also describes Israel as “eretz zvat chalav u’dvash,” the land flowing with milk and honey, although the honey was more than likely date honey, a custom retained by many Sephardic Jews to this day.
Today, Israel has some 500 beekeepers with some 90,000 beehives that produce more than 3,500 tons of honey annually. Kibbutz Yad Mordechai is the largest producer of honey — 10,000 bottles a day.
Dipping the apple in honey on Rosh Hashanah is said to symbolize the desire for a sweet New Year. Why an apple? In Bereshit, the book of Genesis, Isaac compares the fragrance of his son, Jacob, to “sadeh shel tapuchim,” a field of apple trees.
Scholars tell us that mystical powers were ascribed to the apple, and people believed it provided good health and personal well-being.
Some attribute the using of an apple to the translation of the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit that caused the expulsion from paradise.
The word honey, or “dvash” in Hebrew, has the same numerical value as the words “Av Harachamim,” Father of Mercy. Jews hope that God will be merciful on Rosh Hashanah as He judges us for our year’s deeds.
Moroccans dip apples in honey and serve cooked quince, an apple-like fruit, symbolizing a sweet future. Other Moroccans dip dates in sesame and anise seeds and powdered sugar in addition to dipping apples in honey.
Among some Jews from Egypt, a sweet jelly made of gourds or coconut is used to ensure a sweet year and apples are dipped in sugar water instead of honey.
Honey is also used by Jews around the world not only for dipping apples, but in desserts. Some maintain in the phrase “go you way, eat the fat, drink the sweet,” sweet refers to apples and honey.
The recipes below will help make your Rosh Hashanah sweet.
Chicken with Honey Fruit Sauce
3/4 cup apricot jam
1-1/2 cups orange juice
1-1/2 cups red wine
1 Tbs. ginger
2 tsp. garlic powder
1-1/2 tsp. thyme
2 Tbs. honey
2 tsp. corn starch
2 tsp. cold water
6 oz. apricots
6 oz. prunes
3 to 4 pounds cut-up chicken
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease a baking dish. Place chicken parts in dish. Set aside.
Place apricot jam, orange juice, red wine, ginger, garlic powder, thyme and honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer to reduce to 3 cups. Stir in corn starch and water, then blend. Add apricots and prunes. Pour over chicken. Bake in preheated oven 45 minutes or until chicken is done.
Makes 6 servings
Apples and Honey Cake
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
3 cups grated, unpeeled apples
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup non-dairy creamer or parve whipping cream
1/2 cup honey or honey substitute
Preheat oven to 325º. Grease a bundt pan.
In a mixer or food processor, blend flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Add apples. Add eggs, vanilla, oil, non-dairy creamer or whipping cream, and honey and blend slightly. Pour into greased bundt pan. Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool before removing from pan.
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist and food writer in Jerusalem.
IDF Spokesperson Film Unit
IDF soldiers near the Israel-Syrian border stand guard following the “Nakba day” riots. To protect against similar situations when Israel is at its most vulnerable, the country maintains a normal level of military preparedness during the High Holy Days.
Each year for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the IDF announces the closure of the West Bank “in accordance with the directives of the Minister of Defense and as part of the situation assessments adopted by the defense establishment.” This bland statement does very little to foster understanding of what the closure actually entails and how the lives of Palestinian residents and Israeli soldiers are affected over the holidays.
The closing does not represent an attempt to shut down roads or interdict Palestinian traffic, but instead affects the major crossings whereby Palestinians with work permits exit the West Bank and cross the old Green Line into Israel. The Israeli government has not released exact figures on how many Palestinians legally work in the country, but in 2010 that was estimated at 23,000. Non-governmental organization workers, United Nations workers, and those needing humanitarian or emergency medical treatment are not impacted by the West Bank closure.
A senior IDF officer (who requested anonymity per army policy) spoke about the logistics of holiday security:
How do you prepare to secure the West Bank and Israel for the holiday?
First of all, we don’t have any specific preparations for these holy days, [meaning we don’t have special orders to alter our deployment from previous] years. We bring more forces to the area and back up the regional forces. We try to focus on the settlements and the synagogues.
What about for the average soldier: How is his or her life impacted by the holiday?
Every holiday there are special meals, but the mission comes first. The schedule of his day will follow that of the civilians around him. When the civilians are praying [he will be guarding them], so he will begin his meal at 11 p.m. That is what we usually do, because we don’t want that the schedule of the forces will be similar to that of the civilians. We give the soldiers the right conditions to have a nice holiday.
A few Septembers ago I was dining on the tree-lined patio of Madrid’s Naomi Grill, savoring a sweet yet piquant stew that seemed to embody the spirit of Rosh Hashanah. When I asked restaurateur Patricio Felsenstein where he found the recipe for this honeyed, saffron-scented dish simmered with prunes and the prized local Marcona almonds, he shrugged, “It could have been anywhere. Chicken tagine has been around for 1,000 years.”
Like his most requested dish, Felsenstein’s kosher Sephardic restaurant seems a culmination of the occasionally sweet but mostly sorrowful journey his ancestors took as a result of Spain’s infamous Edict of Expulsion in 1492.
During that time Jews were arrested for kashering their food, celebrating Jewish holidays, even practicing their religion at all, so they dispersed to lands as diverse as North Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and, where Felsenstein spent his formative years, South America.
Perhaps the only sweet part of these Jews’ journey was picking up the culinary habits of their new homes, combining sweet with sour, adding nuts and fruits to meats and salads, and encouraging experimentation with exotic, regional fresh fruits and vegetables. Carefully adhering to kosher dietary laws, they amalgamated them with the best of the Spanish, Moorish and Jewish traditions, forging the exotic, complicated Sephardic cuisine.
Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, where there are few, if any, kosher restaurants, Felsenstein dreamed of moving back to the land of his ancestors and opening a restaurant that served the bittersweet Sephardic cuisine. He wanted to provide a beautiful setting for Jews to celebrate their heritage, and he wanted to introduce the cooking style he was so proud of to Spaniards and visitors looking for kosher food.
“There’s a law that makes it easy for a family with a Sephardic tradition to return to Spain,” Felsenstein said, while sipping a glass of sweet mint tea on the tree-lined patio of his restaurant. “And lots of Jews are ‘coming home.’”
Fifteen years ago Felsenstein and his wife, Vera, moved to Madrid.
There was no money to open a restaurant, so he worked with Rabbi Moshe Bendahan supervising the production of kosher products such as wine, olive oil, tuna, cheese and candies.
The Felsensteins were invited to weekly barbecues at Masada, a Jewish weekend retreat and children’s camp in the mountains north of Madrid. It was there they were served the formerly forbidden food. Soon Felsenstein was barbecuing and serving the others. He was never happier.
The Felsensteins and a few other families founded a synagogue at their children’s school in the suburb of La Moraleja, Sinagoga del Centro de Estudios Ibn Gabirol.
When Vera’s parents moved to Madrid, Felsenstein and his father-in-law, Giuseppe Gavison, decided to open Naomi Grill.
“The name Naomi means ‘My pleasure,’” Felsenstein said, smiling as he showed visitors around the dining room which embraces both modernity and antiquity. The tables and chairs are hand carved by the revered artisans of Toledo, and the menus and art on the walls depict ancient, empty Spanish synagogues, including the tiny, jewel-like structure in Cordoba, where the iconic Jewish philosopher Maimonides used to pray. To accessorize the emotion-filled setting is haunting Sephardic and Israeli music.
But all pales next to the impeccable, formerly forbidden cuisine that Felsenstein has succeeded in bringing back to Madrid after half a millennium of absence.
When guests sit down they’re served sweet fresh mint tea, popular in Morocco and Tunisia. The decorative brass pitcher is from Tangiers, Morocco.
“Before the restaurant opened, my parents went to the shouk [open-air market] in Tangiers and bought all the serving accessories for the restaurant — tagine and kebab dishes, platters and bowls — so that everything looks authentic,” Vera Felsenstein said.
But it isn’t Patricio Felsenstein doing the cooking. With all of the dedicated restaurateur’s passion for food, he had no formal culinary training.
“I learned to cook in my family,” he said. “We looked high and low for a Sephardic chef. In our small Jewish community there is a place where immigrants go to find jobs. It was fate I found Ariel Kars, who is an amazing chef.”
Try these Sephardic recipes for a beautiful erev Rosh Hashanah dinner or as a feast before the fast of Yom Kippur.
Moroccan Fresh Mint Tea
7 fresh mint sprigs, plus 7 for garnish
3 Tbs. sugar
4 cups boiling water
Pour a small amount of boiling water in a teapot and swish around to warm the pot. Place mint sprigs and sugar in teapot. Add boiling water. Steep for 3 minutes. Remove mint springs. Pour hot water infused with the mint and sugar into glass teacups. Garnish with remaining mint sprigs.
Adapted from Chef Ariel Kars and owner Patricio Felsenstein, Naomi Grill.
Marcona almonds are available in natural food markets such as Whole Foods, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern Markets, or in the ethnic sections of supermarkets. Whole, blanched almonds may be substituted.
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 cups sliced Spanish onions
2 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1-1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp. saffron threads
1 tsp. brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 3-pound chicken, cut in quarters
1 tsp. honey
1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup pitted prunes
3/4 cup Marcona almonds, roasted with oil and salt
Preheat oven to 350º.
In a large skillet with a heat-proof handle, heat oil. Add onions, garlic, coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon stick, saffron, sugar, salt and pepper.
Cook over a medium flame until onions are light golden brown. Add chicken; turn to coat with onion mixture. Continue cooking until chicken is golden. Add honey, lemon juice, prunes and 1 cup hot water.
Cover and place in oven. Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked all the way through and sauce has a honey-like consistency.
Sauté almonds in oil. Drain, reserving the oil, and sprinkle almonds over the chicken. Add remaining oil to the sauce. Place chicken in a serving tagine, pour sauce on top of it and top with almond.
Pastella (Spanish) or B’stilla (Moroccan)
Adapted from Chef Ariel Kars and owner Patricio Felsenstein, Naomi Grill.
2 lbs. chicken meat (breast and thighs)
1 cup onions, chopped coarsely
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp. cumin seeds, toasted, then ground
1 tsp. saffron threads
2-1/2 cups mixed dried fruit (raisins, currants, cherries)
1-1/2 cups sliced almonds, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs. cinnamon
2 Tbs. lemon juice
6 eggs, beaten until frothy
10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions
1/2 cup (1 stick) parve margarine, melted
Powdered sugar and cinnamon for garnish
To poach chicken:
In a large stockpot, place chicken with enough water to barely cover. Remove chicken. Add onions, cinnamon, ginger, cumin and saffron. Bring liquid to a simmer. Place chicken back in pot; continue to simmer gently for about 45 minutes until it is tender.
While chicken is poaching, place sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.
Remove chicken with slotted spoon and cool, reserving poaching liquid.
Remove meat from the bone. Combine with dried fruits and almonds.
Over medium-high heat, reduce poaching liquid to 1/4 of the volume. Add lemon juice and beaten eggs to the reduction. Cook until liquid evaporates and eggs look scrambled and are no longer wet. Remove from heat.
To assemble and serve:
Set oven to 425º. Brush a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with melted margarine. Cover stack of phyllo dough with plastic wrap and dampened paper towel. Working very quickly, place 1 sheet of phyllo in pan; brush with margarine. Repeat with 5 sheets, brushing each with margarine, placing each sheet on top of the previous one in a star pattern to form a round.
Spread egg mixture evenly over the sheets. Spread chicken mixture on top. Place 5 more sheets of greased phyllo over almond mixture. Bring edges of bottom sheets over the top and fold into circular, hexagon, or free-form shape.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until phyllo is brown and crispy. Let Pastella sit for about 10 minutes; make holes in the top to release steam and cool. Remove from baking dish and sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
First, my confession. And it comes with a slice of guilt. I never liked the High Holidays. In fact, as the thoughts of family and friend-filled Passover seders would start to fade each year, I would begin to think about the impending Days of Awe with a knot in my stomach and a distaste in my mouth that even the thought of sweet apples and honey could do little to relieve. What’s worse is that as a Jewish educator, I am charged each September to teach about the meaningfulness of these Tishrei days: The opportunity to reflect, to return, to become a better person.
What was really swirling through my mind was the idea of sitting through seemingly endless services, uninspiring sermons and a day of fasting and praying that had a sadomasochistic feel to it.
I would ask myself why the need for the hours on hours of prayers, many of which were repeated over and over. And wasn’t it enough to hear the words of Kol Nidre once? But three times? Really? All while standing and listening to musical notes dragged out for what seemed like days. And I was cynical of the whole spectacle, of synagogues having to move locations to accommodate larger-than-normal crowds (reminiscent of college days when on final exam day the lecture hall would fill up with students who had not shown up all semester for class). And of the fashion shows and maneuvering for the best seats that money can buy.
But all of these thoughts changed about a decade ago, when I was in my late 30s. The holidays were approaching, and I was anything but looking forward to them. Then a colleague introduced me to a work booklet called Where Are You? by Jael Greenleaf, subtitled The Inventory of the Soul in Preparation for the High Holy Days. Each page included a verse from the High Holiday prayer Ashamnu. Following the verse was a trigger for thinking and a half page for written reflection. Every night I would read the page and journal.
That year, as I reflected upon the High Holidays just past, I realized not only were they meaningful, but I actually felt refreshed and empowered. I reflected on it after the holidays and realized something that had never occurred to me previously: Every year until that year, I would walk into services on the holidays and expect to be somehow transformed. I would enter the sanctuary on the first night of Rosh Hashanah and unconsciously be thinking: Rabbi, Cantor, do your work. Make me a better person. Make me feel something.
Only that year, on the cusp of my fifth decade, did I realize that this was my responsibility. I couldn’t expect to walk into the final exam having not done the work and then expect to ace the test.
Every year since I have done my homework. Beginning the first day of Elul (traditionally the beginning of the days of preparation for the holidays) I have made a plan to get me into the mindset of the challenging work of reflection and self-transformation. One year I bought a book that included a reading for each day of the month preceding the High Holidays. One year I journalled each night, focusing on ways I hoped to do better in the year ahead. Another year I read a psalm traditional for this time of year each night.
A few years ago I decided to focus my preparations on a specific goal and aspect of my life that was troubling me. At the time I was feeling disconnected from friends and social relationships. It was taking a toll on my spirits, and I knew I needed to do something to repair this. I decided each day to call a friend with whom I had not spoken for a while. By the end of the month, having spoken with or left voicemails for 30 friends with whom I had been out of touch, I found myself feeling much less disconnected and significantly more whole. Walking into services on the first day of Tishrei I was ready to engage. I had done my homework.
This year I am feeling less charitable than I wish I were. I have decided that every day I will put a dollar in my tzedakah box. My hope is that I will make a concerted effort to carry this over for the rest of the year and beyond. And when I sit in services this year I know I will reflect on my active engagement in the Elul preparations.
This year, as I have these past several years when I teach about Elul and prepare for self-transformation and when I journal with my students about this, it will be from my heart.
And when I walk into services on the first evening of Rosh Hashanah, I will be able to say, as Abraham and Moses say in the Torah and as the cantor chants on Kol Nidre evening, “Hineni, here I am. I am here. I am ready.”
Jeff Bernhardt is a Jewish educator, Jewish communal professional and writer living in Los Angeles. His dramatic readings including “Who Shall Live…?” and “Standing at Sinai” have been used by synagogues around the country to help their congregants prepare to enter the High Holidays. He can be reached at
This November, the Washington State Jewish Historical Society will release its cookbook, Yesterday’s Mavens, Today’s Foodies: Traditions in Northwest Jewish Kitchens, which contains recipes and stories from families throughout the Northwest. Helen’s Chopped Herring, submitted by Sandra Lott, was a holiday favorite.
“This is our family’s favorite appetizer and my signature dish — even my grandchildren all love it! I make it for Rosh Hashanah and all year round for company. This was my mother’s recipe and I’m not sure where it came from, but it’s a classic dish. It’s great with crackers or I eat it straight off of a spoon!”
— Sandra Lott
2 pieces challah, dried (or rye bread without crust, Bake in oven 200-225º for 2-4 hours, but be sure it does not brown)
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks
1 medium onion (sweet if possible)
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 tsp. sugar
12-ounce jar pickled herring, drained
Using a food processor, pulse the bread until it is very fine. Add the apple, then the onion and chop. Add the egg, sugar and herring and mix until desired consistency.
Makes 4 cups
Tips and tricks
The order of mixing is important because you want the bread to be very pulverized and the apple, onion and egg to be finely chopped.
Keeps well in the fridge for a long time and freezes well. It is easy to make; the ingredients are available all year round, which makes this a great dish.
One New Year’s Eve when I was 6 years old, I stayed up way past my bedtime and, crouching behind the living room door, looked on as my parents celebrated the night with friends. I silently watched as they twirled to the music of Tony Bennett, drank champagne from elegant glasses and toasted Happy New Year when the clock struck 12. I couldn’t wait to be grown-up — to wear black and gray silk lounge pants like my mother and have parties where I served tiny hotdogs wrapped in pastry. From my young vantage point, the night seemed magical, filled with celebration and friendship.
As Americans, we wish each other a happy New Year on New Year’s Eve and toast to a year of good health, friendship and success. Yet when the Jewish New Year rolls around, we wish each other something quite different. At Rosh Hashanah we say: “L’shanah Tova!” — may you have a good new year, not a happy one. Why is that?
Although Judaism values joy and happiness as an important part of spiritual wholeness, we seek something more as the cornerstone of each New Year. To be a mensch — a good, loving and caring person is what the Jewish New Year is all about. When we wish each other a good New Year, the message we pass along is one of hope; that this year we will become more compassionate, loving, responsible and honest human beings, and in doing so make the world a better place for everyone.
So how do we go about becoming a “good” person? Judaism does not provide a singular rule, definition or value that categorically defines goodness. It understands the complexity of being human and that the variety of situations we will face and the many relationships we will have will make our ethical decision-making complicated, challenging and not amenable to rigid rules and standard regulations.
The beauty of Judaism is that it provides us with a system, a framework of morals and values that can help us in the daily choices we make in our efforts to be good people. As in any system, the first step is to learn more about it — to study what traditional Jewish wisdom has to say about things like caring for our parents, helping the needy, raising our children or dealing with business matters. Once we know more, we can use the tools we have been given — the Torah, our inner wisdom and free will — to enable us to act on what we know is good and right. The net result is that in studying more about what Judaism has to say, we create more opportunities for ourselves to become better parents, friends, professionals, community leaders and volunteers.
What are some of the Jewish guidelines that help us become better people? They are found throughout the Torah, Talmud and other sacred Jewish texts. While the following is by no means an exhaustive list, it is must-read for any syllabus on “How to Be a Mensch.”
Love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)
Do not do to others what is hateful unto you. (Talmud, Shabbat 31a)
Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed. (Leviticus 19:16)
Justice, justice you shall pursue. (Deuteronomy 16:20)
Do not separate yourself from the community. (Pirkei Avot 2:5)
Do what is fair and good in the eyes of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 6:18)
Do not hate your brother in your heart. (Leviticus 19:17)
The world stands on three things: Torah study, service of God and acts of loving kindness. (Pirkei Avot 1:2)
He has told you what is good and what the Lord requires of you: To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
You shall be holy, for I, the Lord God, am holy. (Leviticus 19:2)
This year when someone wishes you L’shana Tova, remember that within those two words lies a deeper, more profound meaning. For in those words is the hope that this year will be a year of learning, opportunity and commitment to becoming a good (or better) person and the knowledge that the world will be enriched because of your efforts.