Considering the history of the Jewish people, the fact that Jews are still celebrating the High Holy Days today is a miracle in itself. Strong traditions and lasting rituals have enabled Jews to survive the most threatening periods of history. With the freedoms we have as modern American Jews, it makes sense that we use these same traditions and rituals to enjoy holidays to the fullest. As a chef and registered foodie, the best way I know to relish in the upcoming holidays is by making really delicious food.
Ellen Hoffman and Neal Castleman live in a contemporary two-story home that covers a narrow lot in Malibu. We have been guests for several years at one of the dinners the couple host during Sukkot, which are held in a sukkah Castleman built on the only space available -- their rooftop patio overlooking the sea.
The seasonal aspect of contemporary macrobiotic cuisine seems to fit Sukkot perfectly, because it is a harvest holiday focused on food and hospitality and is set in an temporary exterior dwelling.
Twenty parents from the Emek Hebrew Academy in Valley Village have come on a chilly winter evening to hear Dr. Francine Kaufman, a national expert on diabetes and childhood obesity, talk about promoting children's health. Although the school has 455 families, Rabbi Sholom Strajcher, the school's dean, is not discouraged by the modest turnout.
"John has given real leadership to the issue of Ethiopian Jewry," said Barry Shrage, president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, who earlier this year went to Ethiopia with Fishel and 100 American Jewish federation members. "He's always been the first one to speak up and stir the conscience of the federation movement."
Here was my dilemma when I came of age and began making my own seders: Should I maintain tradition even though I didn't have the same associations with these foods that my mother did? Since Passover celebrates freedom (another traditional name for the holiday is Zman Cheiruteinu, or The Time of Our Freedom), I wanted to express my freedom by making foods of my own choosing, rather than feeling bound by a menu that was "traditional" only due to its roots in Eastern European cuisine.
Something new for the holiday, use the charoset ingredients to make a Passover Fruit Cake filled with nuts and dried fruit that offers a tasty and a crunchy treat. It is similar to the Italian delicacy known as Panforte that originated in Sienna. The mixture is tossed together in a large bowl, spooned into parchment-lined baking pans, and baked for an hour and a half. The good news is that these loaves will easily keep for the eight days of the holiday.
While there are only four questions posed in the haggadah, most seders struggle with the unasked fifth question, "When are we going to eat?" It is asked, not only by hungry children, but also by adults who feel disconnected to the rituals of their ancestors.
"Just one Shabbos and we'll all be free," religious rocker Mordechai Ben David sang back in the 1980s. Well, for the last decade, one Jewish organization has tried to get people to experience Shabbat at least once a year.
The timing couldn't have been worse. I was happily toting a batch of homemade bread and a broccoli quiche to a pot-luck birthday party, eager for some good fun and good eats. But I had barely crossed the threshold, when Sandy, the hostess and erstwhile birthday girl, announced that she had lost another 10 pounds on the Atkins plan.
For many years, my daughter and I were lucky to be invited out for Passover. Besides joining a big group of people, and sampling a variety of Passover foods, I relished the added benefit of not having to plan, shop and cook for the daunting seder (first and second night) meals.
I can just imagine my Orthodox grandparents worrying about making the seder come alive for their grandchildren.
For parents of squirmy kids, a Passover seder can seem longer than the 40 years our ancestors spent wandering through the desert. Fortunately, all it takes is a little forethought and creativity to keep the younger set from getting as jumpy as the frogs in Pharaoh's bed at the big event.
Many a great cook has been sent over the edge trying to produce some beautiful Passover baking.
Back in the day, Passover meant meat, matzah and potatoes for eight days of the Passover.
Following are pointers on livening up your Chanukah table from "Kosher by Design" by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah, 2003).
There were three acts to the small luncheon held last Sunday in a private dining room at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The first act was the only pleasant one.
Ten Los Angeles Jews gathered at the invitation of philanthropists and activists Stanley Sheinbaum and Alan Gleitsman to share a meal and views with Syrian Minister of Expatriots Dr. Buthaina Shaaban, an adviser to President Bashir Assad, and Dr. Imad Moustapha, Syria's acting ambassador to the United States, on what was their first official visit to Los Angeles.
The meeting was arranged at the initiative of Dr. Hazem Chehabi, a nuclear medicine specialist who also serves as Syria's honorary consul general in Southern California. The doctor attended the lunch along with his wife and two aides. The idea was to have a frank, cordial and completely on-the-record interchange of views between two groups who rarely, if ever, interact: American Jews and Syrian Muslims.
Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a time when Jews are required to fast for 24 hours. At the end of this period, family and friends gather for the traditional break-the-fast meal.
This year at the conclusion of services our family and friends will arrive at our home at various times, since they are coming from synagogues that stretch from San Fernando Valley to West Los Angeles.
The transition from fasting to feasting should be a gradual one. Light, simple food is best. These two quick recipes are perfect for the holiday. Just add a few side dishes to complete the menu.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a holiday for serious fasting -- no food or drink for 24 hours.
Although it might seem a little early for Passover discussions, Jewish law does mandate that one should begin studying the Passover laws and details at least 30 days before the actual holiday. This is probably because no holiday requires more detailed preparation than Passover. Most of the preparations for this holiday tend to focus on koshering our homes, kitchens and utensils, and, of course, the menu for the big seder meal. What we often seem to forget is that the seder is not a meal, per se, nor a gathering to sing Hebrew folk songs, but it is an educational experience that requires no less preparation than koshering your oven or preparing your main dish.
Rabbi Avrohom Czapnik, director of the Jewish Learning Exchange and assistant principal at Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn-Toras Emes, says the unity and friendship that results when we exchange gifts is a theme central to the Purim story.
Anybody can make a Shabbat meal that tastes good, but not everybody can make one that looks good. For a lot of people, holiday decorating begins and ends with a pair of candlesticks and a kiddush cup.
The affinity of Jews to Chinese food reaches its apotheosis in John Krich's "Won Ton Lust: Adventures in Search of the World's Best Chinese Restaurant" (Kodansha, $24). It's no outrageous stereotype to state that, as a people, American Jews seem to need a good Chinese meal to kick-start us into the week. It's nothing to be ashamed of;neither is it anything to take lightly.
An expert at Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center has invaluable advice for your Yom Kippur fast.
Tisha B'Av, the day of mourning in commemoration of the destruction of the two Temples, is notable for at least two reasons. For one, it may be the only holiday that Hallmark hasn't designed a card for. And it seems to be the one holiday that most Jews have heard of, but few seem to know much about. As with quarks and RNA and Rothko, we can drop "Tisha B'Av" into a conversation, hoping all the while that we won't be asked to actually explain it.
We arrived in New York at midnight, and by 1 a.m. my mother was serving us dinner. "It's too late, Mom," I say. "I'll just have some fruit."
A huge bowl of cut-up pineapple, strawberries and melon was already on the table, set for four, but that would not suffice. In our family, there is a ritual: No visit officially begins unless we sit down together to eat a full meal.