ebb anD Flow tapping into israel’s water tech

Face the FactS ten things you can do to end slavery
IssUe two

sprIng 2007

ShuShan uSa
a new rIte of passage

IranIan Jews In southern CalIfornIa

a year in Service
presentense $4.95


until you Don’t Know
short story

Dear Reader, We hope you enjoy this short selection of articles from PresenTense Issue Two—the full issue content being either available online in text form, or in full color and glory by order. PresenTense is a transdenominational, content-driven magazine committed to invigorating Hebrew culture and showcasing and analyzing the life and times of the Jewish People, by and for Jews in their 20s and 30s. Our first issue reached readers around the world, in cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, Moscow, Warsaw, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, and universities including Yale, Harvard, Brandeis, University of Chicago, and University of Oregon, to name just a few. As a volunteer-based nonprofit, PresenTense’s ability to publish depends on subscriptions from readers like you. Issues can be purchased individually—or, better yet, in bulk: PresenTense is making a special bulk order rate available to Hillels, Jewish student organizations on college campuses, JCCs and Synagogues. For orders of at least 50 magazines, we charge only $3 a copy. For more information, please contact Simi Hinden, our advertising and circulation manager – simi@presentensemagazine.org Also, PresenTense is more than just a magazine, hosting an average of three events a month – and we would love to work with you to organize salons, workshops, or lectures in your community or on your campus to further engage young Jews and inspire them to act. Feel free to contact us about how to make the content come alive through programming for your community. Hoping to hear from you soon, Ariel Beery Editor and Publisher editor@presentensemagazine.org

PresenTense Magazine (e) info@presentensemagazine.org (a) 214 Sullivan Street, Suite 2A, NYC 10012 www.presentensemagazine.org

editor and publisher Ariel Beery executive editor Beth S. PollAk senior editor eSther D. kuStAnowitz associate editor MiriAM r. hAier food columnist MiriAM SegurA theater critic lonnie SchwArtz contributing editors Ben BrofMAn, ADAM chAnDler, DeBorAh fiShMAn,
SArA frieD, ruvyM gilMAn, reBeccA BeBe leicht, nAtAShA roSenStock, tiferet ziMMerMAn-kAhAn


DamaGe rePort
the spring after
tiferet ziMMerMAn-kAhAn

assistant editors DAviD DABScheck, BrAunA DoiDge copy editors tAMAr Benzikry, DevorAh klein, MereDith MiShkin, SArAh
SunDBerg, AriellA SAPerStein


editorial staff John BecerrA, SuSAn JAcoBS, AAron SMAll, MichAl

PioneerinG a new PreSent
the periphery takes center stage
ABigAil JAnet AnD SArA frieD

art director linA tuv art team hillel SMith (cover), Peter oroSz (food comic) photography editor AvitAl Aronowitz photographers AvitAl Aronowitz, ShArone BonD, Ben fAulDing, Seth gArz, ..
MArtin griffithS, DAniellA kAhAne, roBert lotzko, DAniel SchuMMer, StePhAnie ShelAn, JuliAn voloJ


ebb anD Flow
leorA ADDiSon

tapping into israel’s water tech

programming director Polly zAvADivker advertising and circulation director SiMi hinDen business team leonArD PADer, SAMuel grilli
This work is licensed under The creaTive commons aT TribuTion-noncommercial-noderivs 2.5 license. To view a copy of This license, visiT hT Tp://creaTivecommons.org/licenses/by-ncnd/2.5/ or send a leT Ter To creaTive commons, 543 howard sTreeT, 5Th floor, san francisco, california, 94105, usa. cre ative commonS we Think The creaTive commons approach To conTenT is smarT because iT gives creaTors flexibiliT y in Their licensing choices and iT allows for seamless sharing of conTenT. aT presentense , our exclusive righTs To conTenT expire af Ter no more Than 120 days. aT ThaT Time, we encourage our auThors and phoTographers To adopT a cc license for Their work.


Farm FreSh
nAtAShA roSenStock

community supported agriculture


the Death oF eco-KoSher
ethics on the table
leAh koenig

www.PreSentenSe.orG PrinteD in canaDa


presentense is a grassroots effort to invigorate Jewish life and hebrew Culture made possible by a network of volunteers around the world. special thanks to: Bleecker and sullivan advertising, the Croitoroos, the hausmans, the Zavadivkers, the pollaks, lisa eisen, ariel foxman, Inbal freund, shelley gazin, Zach gelman, yossi Klein halevi, lindsay litowitz, Jonathan Mark, Jackie Miller, aylam orian, Mikhail rayzman, navit robkin, Chloe safier, susan weidman schneider, Jeff rubin, william rapfogel, roy sparrow, rachel travis and Daniel treiman. this issue is dedicated to the memory of Mikhail rayzman, who was a source of true enthusiasm and inspiration. presentense has 501(c)3 nonprofit status thanks to the fiscal sponsorship of the national foundation for Jewish culture, and supports itself by selling advertising and group subscriptions. if you would like to reach a young Jewish audience through our pages, please contact simi hinden at simi@presentensemagazine.org. presentense is also proud to collaborate on events with others of like cause, including the icc israel action grant project, supported by the avi chai foundation, the charles and lynn schusterman family foundation and morris b. squire, saveTheassistants.com and the edgar m. bronfman center of nyu. if you would like to support presentense in its mission to enrich Jewish life, please make checks payable to the national foundation for Jewish culture, noting “presentense” in the memo line. checks can be mailed to: presentense, 214 sullivan street, suite 2a, nyc, ny 10012 presentense accepts submissions, pitches and letters to the editor by email: editor@presentensemagazine.org

eDen reviSiteD
today’s jewish farmers
SiMon feil

39 39

it’S not eaSy beinG Green
SuSAn BoDnAr

cuiSine with a conScience
DyonnA ginSBurg

eDItorIal presentenseMagaZIne.org


features 3 6 7
20 when the Get GetS in the way
no spring fling
ABigAil PickuS

spring back

52 beyonD “wonDerFul”
art comes home
BenJAMin hAnAu

22 Face the FactS
lAyA MillMAn

ten things you can do to end slavery

to the editor

53 reality checK
lonnie SchwArtz

23 SeDer unPluGGeD
ADAM chAnDler

when personal becomes public

we wine, we dine, we recline, and then…

7 in the SPitz
british-jewish identity fusion
DAniel SilverStein

24 new orDer
SArA frieD

55 new albumS
MAt thue roth

the spring line-up

alternative haggadot

26 vineS anD wineS
four cups
neil BerMAn

56 on the horizon
new artists
Ben BrofMAn AnD MiriAM r. hAier

9 more than KuGel anD KniSheS
hillAry w. SteinBrook

harvard university’s sephardi society

10 another FreeDom
victor wiShnA


rememberance and redemption

ParaDiGm ShiFt
a year in Service a new rite of passage
Seth gArz



12 a German in tel aviv
closure in bauhaus
DAniel SchuMMer

57 Portrait oF an artiSt
dj handler
DeBorAh fiShMAn


13 ShuShan uSa
kArMel MelAMeD

Photo eSSay
clearinG the Path leading up north
eli vAlley

41 babel

iranian jews in southern california

yehuDA M. hAuSMAn

15 he SaiD
levi BArlAvi

my grandma and your grandma


24 Sonnet; converSation
DAnA weiSS




48 unDer the hammer anD SicKle
kosher in the ussr
rAchel levy

58 the criSPineSS oF comPromiSe
persian dill rice with limas (polo sabzi)
MiriAM SegurA
Short Story

16 inFormation SuPerchaiway
surfing the jewish web
leAh JoneS


51 curb your iDentity
larry david’s laundry
BezAlel Stern

60 until you Don’t Know
chArlie Buckholtz

18 mother ruth
reBeccA BeBe leicht

oldest young person in the world

64 milK anD honey
SAM AckerMAn


Issue two 2007

presentenseMagaZIne.org Contents


british-jewish identity fusion Daniel Silverstein
evening of Jewish and Israeli-based music, art and culture, hosted and headlined by Emunah, a London-based hip-hop and drum & bass band. Emunah is but one example of a wave of artists, writers and musicians who have connected with the desire of many young British Jews to create a new, more confident identity. The key to this identity is that it demands to be expressed and appreciated on its own terms, in contrast to the earlier deference of our forebears. Like many of our peers around the world, young British Jews hold a strong desire to participate as equals in the remolding of our society. Until a few years ago, events like Psychosemitic were scarce, and there was little alternative for young Jewish Brits from the dreaded meat-markets known as “Jewdo’s,” invariably replete with awful music and over-age sexual predators. Mark White from London’s klezmer-house innovators Ghettoplotz has ran several successful events which feed this new thirst for creativity and depth on the Jewish scene, as he told Time Out: “Everyone’s fed up with Jew-do’s”. Emunah, founded in 2002, is one of a wave of projects seeking to place Jewish identity on equal terms with our Asian and Black peers, whose music and art is embraced by the mainstream of British culture, and whose traditions are widely celebrated for their authenticity and depth. Since its inception, Emunah has grown organically in multi-cultural London, acquiring members along the way who are Pakistani, Russian, Armenian, Irish and Palestinian. This has helped the band sell itself as “international,” exposing new audiences to Jewish melodies, themes and texts, and provided ripe ground for exploring religious and political dialogues through music. Jonny Hornig, a young British Jew who recently saw Emunah live, describes how the band encouraged him to find a new confidence with his Jewish roots. “Putting Jewish melodies and lyrics from the bible together with ingredients from other cultures makes it so much more relevant, it brings it all back home.” This new wave of Jewish
Issue two 2007

in the SPitz

Emunah by Mar tin Grif fiths

he East End of London is in many ways analogous to the cultural resurgence on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Here in London, early waves of 19th-century Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe first landed and began their struggle in a new world. And here their great-grandchildren are rediscovering their roots, returning to and reinvigorating the area
here presentenseMagaZIne.org


their forebears left behind in the pursuit of material success and social acceptance. London’s Old Spitalfields Market, once home to countless Jewish traders, is now a renovated site of commerce and tourism. In its midst is The Spitz, a venue synonymous with London’s explosive world music scene. There, in April 2006, a crowd of 300 people gathered to experience Psychosemitic, an


art is challenging young British Jews to define themselves more creatively, to stand up and speak up for who they are rather than falling into the same cultural abyss as their forebears. British Jews are often held up as a model immigrant community who have integrated well into the tapestry of UK society. They have penetrated and excelled in all professional fields. For example, as recently as the 1970s, Jews still struggled to enter the top echelons of the legal world, but now Jewish judges, even senior ones, are commonplace. However, the accomplishments and material advancement of the Jewish community came at a steep price: a desiccated Jewish identity among the younger generation. Playing the role of the loyal, model Britons created a feeling that it’s better to “keep your heads down” or (to use the American parlance), promote a “don’t ask, don’t tell” Jewish identity. This state of mind was memorably characterized by Ned Temko, a former editor of the Jewish Chronicle, as “secretly expecting to flee on the next boat.” This is particularly telling when comparing the visibility and role of Jews in the United States to that in the United Kingdom. Of course, this dichotomy has much to do with the history and self-perception of the respective host countries. The United States is a relatively young society that has been created and shaped by successive waves of immigrants, while Britain is rather less confident in its own identity and struggles to fit minorities into the national narrative. Unsurprisingly, this leaves many British Jews living an uncomfortable balancing act, attempting to manage their dual identities without being seen as threatening by their non-Jewish peers. This precariousness has come into sharper relief with the failure of the Oslo process and the reigniting of the Arab-Israeli conflict in September 2000. Suddenly, Jewish identity became associated with the actions of the Israeli government and army, portrayed in the intelligent British media as aggressive, even blood-thirsty. To identify as a Jew was to expose oneself to all kinds of attack, from polite criticism to verbal and physical abuse. This imbroglio was manifested by a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents from 2000 onwards, and growing challenges to being Jewish on British campuses. The Union of Jewish Students has been forced to fight

a relentless defensive campaign against a coalition of left-wing and Muslim students, who seek to destroy Jewish societies. Individual Jewish students have been subject to increasing bouts of verbal and physical abuse. Meanwhile, UK academics have been leading the campaign to boycott Israeli universities. Ironically, young British Jews often look to their Asian peers, whose families immigrated to the UK far more recently, for a model of confident ethnic identity. The success of Asian Britons in carving a distinct and attractive niche for themselves in mainstream British culture is seen as a desirable model for emulation. For example, Emunah’s innovative fusion of traditional ethnic melodies with contemporary music forms owes as much to similar Asian pioneers, like Nitin Sawhney and Talvin Singh, as it does to any particular Jewish musical tradition. The undoubted trailblazers in this niche have been Oi Va Voi, who have inspired not just Ghettoplotz and Emunah but countless other projects in the UK and beyond with their intricate but accessible fusion of old and new sounds. At the Spitz gig, a mixed crowd of students and young professionals took in the Hebraic art, the breakbeat Carlebach niggunim—repetitive cantoral melodies—and the hip-hop re-working of ancient prophecies and prayers—all without visible signs of shock. This kind of event was long overdue. While the burgeoning Jewish youth culture in the UK seems promising, British Jewry stands at a critical juncture in its 350-year history. Demographically, the community is shrinking, as apathy and assimilation take their toll. A recent revival of anti-Semitism has made it increasingly problematic to be openly Jewish in British society. And yet, as with other communities worldwide, there have never been so many opportunities and outlets to celebrate and re-create Jewish identity and culture. Therefore, although our detractors would seek to make conflict the sole focus of Jewish identity, we will continue to display a tenacity for creative re-invention that bodes well for our future.
Daniel Silverstein is the co-founder and vocalist of Emunah, a London-based hip-hop and drum & bass band whose reper toire includes Jewish melodies, themes and texts. www.emunahmusic.com, www.myspace.com/emunahmusic

presentenseMagaZIne.org here

rememberance and redemption Victor Wishna

another FreeDom


Issue two 2007

presentenseMagaZIne.org Contents

ake NYC Transit’s E train to the end of the line, switch to the #4 bus, and 20 minutes later, you’re there. The Beth Elohim Hebrew Congregation occupies a storefront on Linden Boulevard in the St. Albans neighborhood in Queens; the building is nondescript except for the large Stars of David on the awning. Inside, the long, narrow space resembles a modest synagogue sanctuary, with a mahogany ark, carved chairs and pulpit. And like Jews around the world, the congregants of Beth Elohim annually mark Pesach, and its redemptive message of freedom following generations of bondage. While these ideas of persecution, slavery, liberation and self-determination touch the core of Jewish identity and faith, they have additional significance at this synagogue. Here, everyone—from the rabbis and Hebrew School teachers to the music director and down to the last member—is African-American. According to blackjews.org (a website administered by Rabbi Shlomo Ben Levy, Beth Elohim’s rabbi), there are approximately


by Julian Voloj

Elohim in 1983. But Chief Musician Raphael Ben Dan, who has released a CD of original Hebrew songs, was born a Baptist in Ohio and first converted to Islam before finding his place among the Israelites. A guest from Beth Shalom in Brooklyn, Rabbi Yeshurun Ben Israel, was a city transit worker before attending

whether talking about slavery in egypt or america, he refers to “our people.”
40,000 African-American Jews in the United States. These are not Ethiopian Jews, but Americans who have come to this interpretation of Judaism primarily in the 20th century. The majority of them observe most holidays, the rite of circumcision, and the laws of kashrut. God is invoked as Hashem; men and women sit separately on Shabbat; and when the evening begins with a rendition of “Hinei Ma Tov,” the tune is the same one many other American Jews learn in Sunday school and summer camp. Beth Elohim is part of a loosely affiliated movement of Hebrew congregations in Brooklyn, Harlem, Philadelphia, Chicago, and elsewhere. Unlike some more radical black sects that claim to be the only true Jews, these Black Jews—or Israelites or Hebrews, as they sometimes prefer—see Jews as co-religionists, despite differences in race and tradition. Rabbi Levy admits that most of his congregation is not Jewish according to halakhah, but points out that fewer than 10 percent of the 5.3 million white Jews in America observe halakhah themselves. Rabbi Levy was born into the community; his late father, Levi Ben Levy, founded Beth
here presentenseMagaZIne.org

Israelite Academy, the Queens-based institute that ordains the community’s rabbis. Like many other synagogues, on Tish’ah B’Av, Beth Elohim commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples, as well as a litany of other Jewish catastrophes. But this congregation adds one more date: August 8, 1444, when Portuguese traders embarked from Africa with a shipload of human cargo, marking the beginning of more than 400 years of slavery in the Americas. “The Torah gives us a way to commemorate the slavery in Egypt, but we needed to create a ceremony to convey our slavery in this country,” Rabbi Levy says. Whether talking about slavery in Egypt or America, he refers to “our people.” About 40 people gather; many of the men wear jeans and kippot, but most of the women are in colorful African robes and headdresses. The program is led by Assistant Rabbi Eliyahu, who makes a dramatic entrance in white Ethiopian robes and a goat-hair hat. On other days, he wears a sharp modern suit or a red velvet garment festooned with Stars of David. The congregation rises as Rabbi Yeshurun reads loudly from Deuteronomy, Chapter 28. “He will put a yoke of iron upon thy neck,” he

intones, pointing to the poster pinned to the podium: a 19th century daguerreotype of a slave on an auction block, his hands and legs chained, a large iron yoke around his neck. To everyone in the room, this passage is the Torah’s prediction of the Middle Passage, the long, middle leg of the Europe-to-Africa-toAmerica slave trade route. The ceremony includes a symbolic display not unlike a Passover table. Four colored candles represent four attributes of nature, and a Sederplate-inspired selection of seven foods (bread, rice, fish, corn, boiled egg, parsley, and water) signifies everything from sustenance to the bitterness of 400 years of slavery. “But 400 years can’t take away 40,000 years,” Rabbi Eliyahu exclaims. He implores the congregation to move forward from an enslaved mentality, to cast off that “chain on the brain.” “The Torah has the key to unraveling these problems,” he exclaims, eyes wide. “And we even heard it in this week’s Haftarah, remember? ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye, give comfort to my people…proclaim that their service is at an end!’ Isaiah said that. It’s all about moving on!” Later, Rabbi Eliyahu repeats his message, identifying the meeting place of Jewish traditions: “Torah is what it’s about and you all are the custodians of the Torah,” he says. “You kept it for 3,000 years. I tell my people to think about that. If it weren’t for you, we never would have been able to rediscover it.”
Victor Wishna and Julian Voloj are completing a book about black Jews, from which this piece is excerpted. Victor’s first book, In Their Company: Por traits of American Playwrights, was published last fall (www.intheircompany.com).

Issue two 2007



Blogs, podcasts, wikis, widgets, social Bookmarking, use
logs, podcasts, wikis, widgets, social bookmarking, usergenerated content, metaverse, aggregated content and social networking...don’t feel bad if you can’t define all (or any) of these terms. Technology is constantly evolving, and in almost every new mode of creating content, there are sites built by Jews for Jews. If you haven’t yet traveled the information superchaiway—or you are looking for a newish Jewish site to visit, here are a few worth your time right now—although it could all change tomorrow.
the Je wiSh mySPace


Taking the social media concept and Jewing it up a bit, Koolanoo.com, Shmooze. com, Chosennet.com and FrumHere.com—all competing to be the Jewish MySpace—offer familiar Friendster-like features allowing you to build a network, upload photos, and rekindle connections. When musician Jon Fursh was promoting his Hanukah song parody, “Latkelicious,” this winter, he created profiles on a number of social media sites. “Koolanoo certainly has potential; it has already laid the foundation for becoming a leader in the online Jewish community market —they offer a great service very similar to MySpace,” he said. “However Koolanoo still has some work to do.” The site still needs a critical mass of users to be useful as a social network. Opening new windows and instant messenging is clumsy, and the site doesn’t allow personalized pages.

Another site, Chosennet, is still in beta (a testing phase); it is free and has more than 1500 members in Southern California, 350 in New York and only 50 in Chicago. If Chosennet can follow the Craigslist model—starting in California and moving east—it might find a bright future. Instead of rekindling friendships or playing matchmaker, one new social networking company, SmartVolunteer.org, seeks to match non-profits to volunteers offering professional skills pro-bono. “SV embraces the fundamental principles of tzedakah (charity) by giving volunteers the opportunity to share their most precious commodity, time, in concert with their given and cultivated professional skill sets,” says Moshe Bellows, a co-founder of the site. Bellows envisions a time when “every organization—down to the smallest nonprofit —is using the site, growing its volunteer base and saving millions of dollars.” Already the site has registered more than 100 non-profits and received NYU’s Stern Business School’s and the Satter Fund’s Prestigious Entrepreneurship Award last year. Volunteers are calling it “the perfect networking device to assist in making a difference in the world.”
wiDGe tS

They provide everything from daily quotes and sports scores to event countdown clocks and tools to track water intake. Already familiar to Mac users, widgets will become even more ubiquitous in 2007; it shouldn’t take long for Jews to invent widgets that provide a Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) quote-of-the-day, a list of regional Jewish events, or a Hebrew date calculator.
Je w tube

YouTube made video-sharing easy and scalable (as accessible to one million people as it is to a hundred). Its flash videos, links and html scripts enabled enterprising Netizens to embed the video into their own blogs and websites to share with friends. If you want to enter the field, you might consider snapping up www.jewtube.com (on sale by an enterprising sitename squatter for the bargain price of ten grand), ensuring your place as the name brand in Jewish video content. Until then, check out the “Israeli YouTube,” www.Flix.co.il, for a sampler of Israeli videos, including TV clips, weekly horoscopes and numerology forecasts, and categories like “Don’t Try This at Home” (we won’t).

Many bloggers or users of Google’s personalized homepage, Yahoo! or MSN Live use small programs called widgets that stream content or information from a third-party site. Thousands of widgets are available, and can be run on a desktop or via website sidebar.

It could all change tomorrow.


Issue two 2007

presentenseMagaZIne.org now

inFormation SuPerChaiway

surfing the jewish web Leah Jones
and participating in new progressive Jewish organizations and projects.” Adam Shprintzen, a Chicago blogger, has his own idea of an ideal Jewish website: “Can there be a Jewish web application that DOESN’T have a banner ad for a Jewish dating site?” While the answer to that question seems a clear “no,” the Internet could provide many solutions for today’s Jews. Those who complain that the unaffiliated won’t come to them need to get online and go to the unaffiliated. The infrastructure for the Jewish future exists, if only we make the choice to embrace it.
Leah Jones is a writer in Chicago, blogs at AccidentallyJewish.com, and by day is a Conversation Analyst in the me2revolution at Edelman Public Relations. Leah also contributes to JewishFringe and Shebrew.

er-generated content...
PreDictionS For an interne t Je w-toPia

What precisely is the future of Jewish Internet tools? “I think they should be embraced and financially supported by the organized Jewish community to a much greater extent,” says Allison Kaplan Sommer,

a writer and editor for Israelity, a group blog about life in Israel. “Everyone’s always talking about ‘outreach’ and ‘continuity’ and ‘bringing in the unaffiliated.’ Well, here is your tool—and it should be used much, much more.” “I think the Internet will help progressive Jewish organizations and projects flourish,” predicts Aryeh Goldsmith, founder of blog aggregator JRants.com, social networking sites Twentyfoursix.com and Jewster.com, as well as the new JewishInnovation.org. “Online anonymity allows people to get acquainted with Judaism without feeling intimidated. It used to be ‘my way or the highway.’ Today it’s, ‘My way or the information super-highway.’ People who want to be Jewish but don’t identify with the established Jewish organizations of yesterday are the people who are starting

now presentenseMagaZIne.org

Issue two 2007


oldest young person in the world Rebecca Bebe Leicht
I’d bought sardines in fifty years. When I began taking them out of the can—proud that I’d opened the lid so easily—what I didn’t know was that I’d dripped oil all over the floor. Next thing I knew, I was sprawled on it.” She’s been in a cast for weeks, but that doesn’t stop her from working. Gruber’s living room doubles as her office, and, accented with an iMac desktop, it is wrapped, wall-to-ceiling, with an extensive book collection—a number of them books she authored (she will publish her nineteenth book in April 2007). Wall-space not covered with books is draped with awards, photography, and artwork from Gruber’s travels as a foreign correspondent. The long ivory couch in the center of the room is lined with colorful pillows depicting African life. “They are made by Ethiopian Jews-the Falasha—and they are all for sale,” says Gruber. “The proceeds from the pillows all go to charity for Ethiopians in need…aren’t they lovely?” The pillows pay tribute to Gruber’s coverage of airlifts of Ethiopian Jews from famine to safety in Israel.Gruber has tracked, traveled, and written about almost every wave of Jewish refugee migration—in fact, almost every significant moment in the recent history of the Jewish people. When reminded of her date, Gruber chuckles. “They didn’t have

mother ruth

Ruth Gruber by Daniella Kahane

n December 2005, as the Limmud conference dedicated to Jewish cultural study was winding down, a blonde woman with blushed, pink cheeks and tinted red lips was asked on a date. She accepted, though it was far past her bedtime. At the bar, the young man who had asked her to join him inquired, “What would you like to drink, Ruth?” Ruth Gruber replied, “Do you happen to have some warm milk?” By the time Gruber and her date sat down, a crowd gathered around them. This is how Gruber’s life seems to work—when she speaks, people listen. Especially those younger than her. And at 95 years old, almost everyone she meets is younger than her. “A day without an interview, writing, or teaching is a day wasted,” she says, sitting in a cushioned chair in the living room of her Central Park West apartment, resting her bruised arm on a pillow. Gruber is delicate and small, and covering the cast on her arm is a sleeve of tanned silk, to go with the taupe-and-beige scheme she’s chosen for the day. Gruber’s demeanor, like her clothing, is fluid and deliberate, evoking images of an elder Bette Davis without the cigarettes and damning personality. Gold slippers match the hoops in her ears, and one gets the feeling that’s no accident. A walker stands next to her chair, and its cumbersome, hard, metallic presence seems out of place—other than its durability, it has nothing in common with its owner. “It was the sardines that gave me the bruising,” Gruber explained. “I was at yoga, and I like the instructor so much that when he mentioned that we should eat sardines, I went out and bought some. I don’t think


those refugees, their children, and grandchildren still call her “Mother ruth.”
any warm milk, but they heated up some when they saw how many people I was attracting.” People listen to Gruber because she’s got lots of good stories to tell. Gruber has been writing for most of her years—initially as a student, which garnered her first New York Times story. Gruber’s name is generally found in bylines, but in 1931, she herself was the subject of a big story: according to the Times, at age twenty, Gruber was the youngest person in the world ever awarded a doctorate. She wrote her dissertation on Virginia Woolf while studying in Cologne, Germany, and it was there that Gruber believes she began changing focus. “I thought I would teach,” she says, “but I was living as an exchange student in Germany…and I tried to go to as many Hitler rallies as I could.” There, in an exhibition hall on the Rhine, Gruber saw Swastika banners waving in the packed hall, a stage adorned with Nazi flags, and heard anti-Semitic songs that charged the crowd with an “energy of hatred.” As Hitler chanted “Juda verecke,” (or, “may the Jew croak”), the crowd took up his cry. And it was there that Ruth Gruber, clutching her American passport in her bag, began to think of herself as a refugee. After a year in Germany, she moved back to her family’s home in Brooklyn, New York, and began to look for work. Gruber began sending pieces to the New York Times—and they bought one of her first articles for twenty-five dollars. “It was a lot of money in 1935,” she says.
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Issue two 2007

Gruber’s work as a journalist began in earnest when she was offered the chance to go back to Eastern Europe. Working as a foreign correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, she was determined to write about the danger of Hitler’s rise. It was in traveling around the region that she found her first scoop. Gruber was given the chance to travel to the Soviet Arctic, to Siberia and to the Gulag—the first woman, and the only Western journalist, to have that opportunity. “It was in the Siberian gold mines that I learned to write in the dark,” she writes in Inside of Time: My Journey from Alaska to Israel. After filing story after story from the Arctic, Gruber caught the attention of President Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes. Ickes hired her as his special assistant. Her first assignment was to survey Alaska for the Department. Later, when Roosevelt allowed a group of 1,000 Jewish refugees to take shelter in the United States, it was Gruber who was their official chaperone from Europe. In a long glass case in Gruber’s entranceway, opposite shelves upon shelves of memorabilia from all over the world, a tangible truth of this time sits on royal blue felt. It is a portion of the Safe Haven fence, behind which the refugees Gruber chaperoned to the United States were detained in Oswego, New York. Those refugees, their children, and grandchildren still call her “Mother Ruth.” It was on the Haven boat that Gruber recalls her most pointed moment of focus. “Give me words—words, words—I live by words and photos…these are my tools, and wherever there was injustice, I turned to my tools,” she said, recounting her crystallized and sustained

ambition. She asked the refugees to describe the horrors they had seen before being rescued. They described losing children, having their babies torn from their arms and hung on meat hooks, like cow carcasses, before their eyes. As Guber wrote, she “often had to stop, because tears were wiping out the words in my notebook.” After the Second World War, Gruber covered Displaced Person camps. She reported on official talks to allow more Jews into Palestine. She sat in on the Nuremberg trials. She wrote of the British “ban” on Holocaust survivors coming to Palestine. She published the stories of the Exodus, Israel’s War of Independence, and the migratory aftermath of “rivers of Jews” pouring into Israel from Europe, the Soviet Union, North Africa, and the Middle East. Her photography has been in more than twenty exhibits and documentaries. For Gruber, conflicts of the past are not a question of numbers and incidents. The human face peers out of every corner of her writing, and the horrors and triumphs of refugees become thoroughly real. So what more does Ruth Gruber want? “To continue to use my tools—words and images—to fight injustice wherever I see it. To wake up to the sun rising, to see it setting, and to never, never retire.” All this, and she still has time for warm milk with young men.
Rebecca Bebe Leicht is a graduate student at Columbia University and a writer for the Mayor of New York City. In her dreams, she writes good poetr y; in reality, she writes good policy.

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Issue two 2007


we wine, we dine, we recline, and then... Adam Chandler

SeDer unPluGGeD

by Avital Aronowitz

ow is this Texas-style Seder night different from all other nights? Well, four or more glasses of wine are imbibed; technically, no leavened bread is consumed; and there is reclining, albeit mostly kneeling over another celebrated deity made of porcelain. It’s freedom, right? Why not feel free to break the mold of the Seder, and reaffirm the importance of long-standing Passover traditions in new and inventive ways? “Alternative” traditions are simply sweeping the Jewish globe. (Alright, maybe not exactly “sweeping the Jewish globe,” but scattered deviations from the norm have brought new perspectives to religious observance).
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four questions redux
why haven’t you called me? what are you doing with your life? when are you going to get married


Did you know that Debbie wasserman is a (great) grandmother of two children already


Issue two 2007

Take Israel for example, where some have adopted the custom of not holding a Seder at all. Think about what kind of statement that makes in the Jewish State: that on every single day, Jews should commemorate their freedom and make Passover stand out no differently from any other day. Critics of this observance consider it to be an apostasy, but who are they to judge? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, say the striking words from the Gospel of John. (Which Jews don’t hold by, but we’ve made our point.) Other Israelis observe Passover by taking a “reverse Exodus” and going to the Sinai in Egypt. These pilgrims wander the desert without electricity and reenact the history of their oppression by sleeping in modest tents and playing paddle tennis by the water. While lambasted by adherents of more conventional Passover rituals, this tradition comes closer to literally re-emerging from the birth canal of Jewish freedom than any other. Jews who have chosen to keep having a Seder or two also have personalized their Passover traditions. For feminists, the ritual of placing an orange on the Seder plate has political significance. The story goes* that a rabbi once claimed that a woman belongs in the rabbinate like an orange belongs on a Seder plate. Perhaps by placing an orange on the Seder plate, some feminists believe that if Jewish women are able to scrub away the sticky citrus juice from the Seder plate then maybe the Jewish community will be sufficiently impressed to allow all women into the rabbinate. (*The “orange” story was recently revealed as an urban legend. Writer Susannah Heschel once heard someone say that a lesbian has as much place in Judaism as a crust of bread does on the Seder plate. Wanting to express solidarity with the gay Jewish community, but unwilling to put bread on her Seder plate, Heschel substituted an orange as a sign of fruitful support.) Another popular tradition which has emerged (I’m guessing from California or Colorado), uses a more lax or “chill” interpretation of what constitutes the “bitter herbs or bitter greens” on the Seder plate. This tradition also blunts the method by which Jews are supposed to ingest said “herbs” during the Seder. While causing a high increase in the excitement over the communal pursuit of that last munchy-crunchy piece of matzah, many observers of this tradition omit other cherished Passover traditions like the singing of Chad Gadya because of the new and sudden complexity of the task. When visiting home for the holiday, younger Jews who have recently moved out for college or life in the real world, often detect a difference in the Four Questions. They find that, instead of the youngest person at the Seder asking the Four Questions, suddenly it becomes the task of the oldest person at the Seder, usually the mother or bubbe, and the questions are no longer just sung but rather are “scream-sung” accordingly. By and large, these questions are not answered by the person who asks them; instead, the inquiries are often met with awkward silence or sporadic crying. From personal experience, it is not recommend that the “bitter greens” and the “going home” traditions are ever combined in the course of the same Seder, no matter how appealing they may seem as complementary interpretations.
Adam Chandler is a contributing editor of PresenTense Magazine. He currently lives and works in New York and is the founder and editor of TrustfundRepor ting.com.

alternative haggadot

ne w orDer
Sara Fried

sonnet; conversation
by Dana Weiss by Avital Aronowitz

they say that we are like indigent children so hungry, even for the pockets of air in our bread, the spaces between the letters; this is a metaphor we are familiar with. we are familiar with metaphors, the dreaded conventions of our speech; I don’t, like, speak to you like I talk to him, hesitatingly and kind of rushing like I’ve drunk a little too much of the coffee of exile; or maybe not enough.

hether you call it “Passover” or “Pesach,” the Jewish holiday that calls for spring cleaning, giving up most forms of carbs, and staying up late singing a song about a goat probably brings many fond memories to mind. While Passover lasts for eight days, the focal point of the celebration of the exodus from Egypt comes at the very beginning in the form of the Seder.
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Issue two 2007

What makes this night different from all other nights of Jewish feasting? The answer lies in the Haggadah, the book that leads us from enslavement, through the Exodus saga, and finally to a roaring rendition of L’shana ha’ba’ah b’Yerushalayim, a culminating hope to celebrate the Seder “next year in Jerusalem.” The Passover story can become a bit banal after retelling it in the exact same manner each year. Others feel that the Haggadah needs to be restructured to make it more politically correct. Fortunately, the nature of the Haggadah leaves room for us to tailor the Seder experience to our own needs. In recent years, the idea of creating alternative Haggadot surfaced as a solution to dissatisfaction with the norm. The commandment that we fulfill by having the Seder and retelling the exodus story rests in the words “V’ higadeta l’bincha bayom hahu… ,” “And you shall tell your children on that day...” (Shemot 13:8). Jews are not obligated to read from a Haggadah, but for centuries we have used Haggadot to both tell the Passover story and also gain a deeper understanding of how it relates to our lives. The contents of the Haggadah have evolved since it was first written. For example, the songs Dayeinu and Chad Gadya were only added around the 10th century, but who today could imagine a complete Seder without these classic jams? The metamorphosis of the traditional Haggadah continues. We do not simply add a new prayer or song, but instead we find new ways to make the Seder an evening of insight and learning. Both Jews and non-Jews alike have found messages of hope, freedom and strength in the Haggadah, and the newest editions create opportunities for people of all stripes to relate the exodus story to their lives. The Haggadah has been re-written as a work of feminist literature, humanist ideals and other incarnations. If Pesach is about retelling, and therefore reliving, the exodus then these Haggadot create a framework for ways that today’s Jews are actively discovering their connection to the Jewish nation, just as our ancestors did centuries ago.
hiPPie haGGaDah the SAntA cruz hAggADAh
By Karen Roekard

includes the traditional text with humorous cartoons, messages of Tikkun Olam (healing the world), and mystical or what some might call “new-age” thought. Check it out at www. santacruzhag.com.
veGetarian Journey of the liBerAteD lAMB: reflectionS on A vegetAriAn SeDer
By Roberta Kalechofsky

A Hip Hop Haggadah is a rock album. With tracks like “Pesach Zelt” and “Passout For Passover,” it is a great way for the hip-hop generation to celebrate their Passover love. Additional tracks retell parts of the exodus story. To add more Jewish-themed hip-hop to your playlist, check out Los Hip Hop Hoodios at www.hoodios.com.
Patriotic the AMericAn heritAge hAggADAh
Compiled by David Geffen

For many, the concept of enslavement refers not only to human beings, but also to animals as well. Whether you are a member of PETA, a pet owner, or just think sheep are too cute to sacrifice, then this Haggadah is right up your alley. In it you will be led through the Passover story by a lamb and learn about alternatives to ritualistic animal slaughters throughout Jewish history.
chilDren’S A Different night: the fAMily PArticiPAtion hAggADAh
By Noam Zion and David Dishon

At first read, the title of this Haggadah seems odd. What exactly would an American Haggadah contain? The answer is: Americana of course! Full of Passover advertisements from over the years, pictures of Haggadot produced by big-name companies, and entertaining stories of the history of Passover in America, this Haggadah is sure to delight anyone who loves to see American consumerism in all its glory, selling Passover to the Jewish masses.
cyber SeDer congregAtion eMAnu-el nyc For 11 years now, Congregation Emanu-El of New York City has been broadcasting a cyber-Seder which includes readings from A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah. If you are more of an audio learner than a visual one, this might be the right fit for you. You can find all the information at www.emanuelnyc.org/seder/seder.html. Happy listening!
Sara Fried was born and raised in Los Angeles and graduated from UC San Diego in 2005 with a BA in Art History. She is pursuing a career in magazine publishing, and currently lives in Israel studying Hebrew, interning at The Jerusalem Report and having a blast!

Choosing the best Haggadah for children is a daunting task. Many options consist of the traditional text with a few illustrations and questions to ponder. But with beautiful illustrations, rabbinic tales, Jewish history, and games alongside with the traditional text, A Different Night is a great Haggadah for both the young and the young at heart. For a supplementary children’s Passover book where Mother Goose meets matzah, Uncle Eli’s Special-for-Kids, Most Fun Ever, Underthe-Table Passover Haggadah can add some rhyming and laughter to the holiday.
muSical the So cAlleD SeDer: A hiP hoP hAggADAh Not an actual Haggadah, The So Called Seder:

“ah, Jews are very impatient with doing the same thing over and over again. It’s gotta be different!”
— arthur MIller, playwright

Santa Cruz is the birthplace of the Haggadah that claims to ensure “a Seder that is deep, high, and fun.” For anyone seeking a feel-good Seder night, this is the Haggadah for you. It
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Issue two 2007



DamaGe rePort
the spring after Tiferet Zimmerman-Kahan

oliticians have been trying to foster peace in the Middle East since the founding of the State of Israel, but last year’s violent Israel-Hizbullah conflict and the environmental toll it exacted on the region should urge world leaders to step up those efforts. Fighting during the hot summer of 2006 left a horrific scar on the land and sea. The harm after only two months of confrontation is a call to consider whether images of dead sea turtles, oil-coated beaches, or bare, parched land that once rooted a forest (now burnt down to stumps) serve as a warning against inciting another war.

the DamaGe : iSrael; loSS oF ForeSt In Israel, the most noteworthy damage is the loss of landscape and habitat due to fires ignited by Hizbullah-launched Katyusha rockets from southern Lebanon. According to a recent collaborative study by public Israeli agencies and the Jewish National Fund (JNF), more than 800 forest fires blazed in the northern region as a result of the war, during the driest season of the year. More than 2,900 acres of forest, mostly coniferous, burned. The JNF estimates that at least half a million trees (about 20% of the forests in the north) were the DamaGe : lebanon ; oil SPill lost. More than 16,000 acres of nature reserves, In mid-July, about 30 kilometers south national parks, and other conservation land of Beirut, the fuel storage at the Jiyeh power in the Galilee and Golan Heights regions also station was bombed. Many media sources burned. Areas sustaining the most concentrated reported that the Israeli Air Force carried out damage were in the Naftali Ridge (more than the strikes, but the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s 1800 acres, with 70% of the forested region Acting Deputy Director General for the burned) and near Tzfat in the Birya Forest. Middle East, Jacob Keidar, says it’s not Because of the soil type and other factors, clear whose bombs fell on the fuel tanks. rehabilitation of the Birya Forest might be What is clear, however, is that the strikes more complex than in other regions. resulted in a massive oil spill, releasing at Though fires can be part of a healthy least 15,000 tons of heavy fuel oil into the ecosystem cycle, 50-year-old coniferous trees eastern Mediterranean Sea according to burn up like matchsticks in unmanaged sources at Friends of the Earth Middle East, situations of such breadth, and burning will a regional NGO. lead to more far-reaching environmental Because of Israeli air and sea blockades as consequences. Bare, deforested land is much well as other military operations, volunteers more susceptible to soil erosion and landslides. were unable to address the spill immediately, Forest-dwelling wildlife (especially young) the most effective way to deal with it. is harmed or displaced, causing problems elsewhere. Loss of forests also decreases air quality and raises the average air temperatures, an especially important consideration during the hot summer Jewish texts accentuate a clear point in the Jewish tradition: we must be aware of affecting months.


Unfortunately, the oil spread 150 km north along the Lebanese shore, reaching the southern coast of Syria. By the end of August, Greenpeace Middle East said they detected fuel oil on the seabed and just below the surface. The effects of an oil spill can be profound: contamination of an ecosystem touches all species that are dependent on it for survival. In this case, the loggerhead turtle has been particularly threatened. This creature, already found on the endangered species list, nests along the Lebanese coast and depends on other sea life in the contaminated region for food. Migratory birds on their way south from Europe to Africa use the war-torn area as a popular flight route, and are now susceptible to poisoning. In a world where biodiversity is decreasing at unprecedented rates, this oil spill is just another example of the same old pattern of loss due to human activity. Our biosphere, however, is an intricate web of interdependent relationships between all species. The thinner the web gets, the faster it will completely collapse. Though the direct impact of this spill on humans is mostly economic, oil contaminant in natural systems can eventually cause humans physical harm. In August, the World Conservation Union, an environmental umbrella group, found cancer-causing substances—polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs for short—present in oil-slick samples. PAHs are known by scientists to persist in the ecosystem by accumulating in the organs of fish, causing fish populations to plummet. From now on,

people may need to think twice about eating fish caught in the eastern Mediterranean.

did you knoW?

god’s creations and have respect for them, while at the same time acknowledging that we have “dominion” over them (genesis 1:26). even if we must besiege a city, the torah commands us “not to destroy its trees by forcing an axe against them” (Deut. 20:19-20). the torah brings this extreme example of consciousness during wartime to teach that we should be even more aware and careful of our actions during calm periods. the concept of bal tashchit, not to be wasteful (derived from the verse above), is discussed at length in the talmud, showing the importance of understanding and observing this commandment fully. It is said that “one who covers an oil lamp (causing the flame to burn inefficiently) or uncovers a kerosene lamp (allowing fuel to evaporate faster) violates the prohibition of bal tashchit” (talmud Bavli, Masechet shabbat, p. 140 side b) this application of the law stresses the importance in our tradition of the conservation of resources and the wise use of what we are given.

remeDiation eFFortS— lebanon The Israeli Foreign Ministry insists that it is unclear whether the Jiyeh oil spill is a result of Israeli actions, and has not issued any statements apologizing for the damage caused or claiming responsibility for it.
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Issue two 2007

According to Keidar, Israel offered assistance to Lebanese authorities with cleaning equipment and expertise, but Lebanon has not responded. Rather, other international sources have contributed funding and expertise to Lebanon’s remediation efforts. A meeting in Athens in mid-August resulted in backing from the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) and International Maritime Organization of a $50-million (actually, about $66-million) action plan to initiate clean-up in Lebanon. By last November, some of the coordinated efforts taken by the UN environmental unit, together with the Lebanese Ministry of Environment, were already underway. The Joint Unit established an oil-spill cleanup management center, facilitated flights during the continued Israeli blockade to survey the damage, and set up a clearinghouse for coordination among groups providing environmental assistance. Longer-term recovery plans are meant to be addressed more fully by Lebanon itself, still enlisting the help of its foreign supporters. Greenpeace Middle East has also been involved in the clean-up effort. Its “Rainbow Warrior” naval station, anchored off the Lebanese coast, assisted with the beginning stages. An international team of crews and divers, working under the direction of the Central Institute for Marine Research in Italy, helped to map the extent of the oil spill and location of contamination in preparation for removing it completely. In a report released December 1, 2006, the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Center for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) laid out the progress of the clean-up efforts to date. Most of the NGO groups conducting clean-up along the shore have completed their efforts and are awaiting final inspection, or have turned over the responsibility of monitoring and follow-up to the Lebanese government. Submerged oil collection has been completed but, as of November 18, floating oil still remained on the surface mostly to the west of the Tabarja Beach Club, in the Tripoli region north of Beirut. REMPEC reports that “cleanup of the area is under consideration to avoid a recontamination of cleaned beaches north of Beirut, as the oil may be remobilized during winter storms.”
remeDiation eFFortS—iSr ael National government agencies and independent foundations within Israel
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donated by JNF

More than 2,900 acres of forest, mostly coniferous, burned.
have taken responsibility for clean-up and remediation efforts there. In September, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) launched a global, ten-year, $400-million plan to “rebuild and renew northern Israel and help make it home again for its residents,” hoping to redevelop and rejuvenate the North. Their plan includes reforestation efforts, preparing agricultural lands, creating incentives for families to move up North, and purchasing a fire fighting plane to assist in the case of a similar disaster. The forest fires destroyed mainly Jerusalem pines that had been planted in the years after the State’s founding, half a century ago. According to Paul Ginsberg, Director of the Forest Department of the JNF, the pine was chosen at the time because it is “a very adaptable species, [able to grow] in the moist, cool north, [as well as in] the dry south, in a large variety of soil types.” The JNF reforestation campaign plans to reintroduce more broad-leaf native species, such as eucalyptus, cypress and pistachio. Planting a larger variety of tree species this time around will, according to Ginsberg, allow for “a greater level of biological diversity of [the] forest inventory and a higher degree of resistance to fire and diseases. They will also contribute habitat and food sources for native wildlife.” The remediation projects in Israel will likely serve as a forum for scientific study and research on environmental repair and development as well.
movinG ForwarD Keidar, of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, recalls his experience on the front line. “Unfortunately, when you’re under attack,” he says, “the environmental issues seem to not be so important.” It is naïve at this point to hope that a country would choose wartime tactics that avoid harm to the environment rather than to respond to political needs. In a time of peace, however, it is reasonable to expect a country to act in its best interest environmentally. Environmental resources do not obey political boundaries, and securing safe access to these resources often entails cooperation
Issue two 2007


and did you knoW?
when the pioneers, known as the halutzim, first came to Israel, they focused on making the land habitable. they drained the swamps and planted fields, and formed kibbutzim that would rely on land-based income and sustenance. David Ben-gurion introduced and promoted the idea of “making the desert bloom” in hopes of increasing the arable land for Jewish inhabitants. since then, Israel has been an international leader in agricultural technologies. students come from developing countries in africa and elsewhere to learn water conservation techniques. Drip irrigation, which brings water directly to plant roots, limiting evaporation, was a technique invented by Israeli scientists and engineers. organic farmers in Israel have been focusing on growing food in a balanced way that aims to replenish the soil. nutrient-rich soil, like water, is a scarce commodity in Israel, and these farmers pride themselves in “growing soil” as much as in growing food. organic farming traditionally focuses on sustaining nutrient levels in the soil, unlike conventional farming methods, which concentrate on maximizing yields, often at the expense of environmental interests. small-scale farmers are looking to native drought-resistant crops rather than genetic engineering in order to deal with the lack of water. recently, an organization was founded teaching Israeli and palestinian farmers seed-saving techniques to decrease dependence on imported, non-adapted hybrid seeds that need to be replaced each year. the organic consciousness is growing as people realize the necessity of sustainable practices. see www.jerusalemcityfarmers.org for a good collection of sources and information.

between the countries that share them. Can mutual environmental interests establish a lasting peace between two political entities? Gidon Bromberg of Friends of the Earth Middle East insists that the environment can only “help strengthen the peace process, but it won’t be the environment alone”—a framework for peace and cooperation between the two nations must exist first. For example, a strong partnership is

maintained between Israel, Jordan and Egypt in the management of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea, built on the peace that exists between the participating nations. There, the countries share information and policies in working to prevent oil spills and other pollution problems, because the spot is an important tourist attraction as well as a unique ecosystem. Although relations between these countries are not always

warm, as political conflicts do occasionally erupt, Bromberg explains that the collaborative environmental initiatives “survive even through periods of renewed conflict because of the strong mutual interest.” As Israel and Lebanon work through the political fallout of their summer conflict, one would hope that shared environmental concerns can help bring them closer to a lasting peace upon which they could build future cooperation on environmental issues.
Tiferet Zimmerman-Kahan is a recent

college graduate committed to working in the environmental field.


Issue two 2007

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the Death oF eco-KoSher

ethics on the table Leah Koenig

by Avital Aronowitz

magine a bag of potato chips. We’re talking salty, savory potato chips that beg for a sandwich and dill pickle. On the bottom-right corner of the package, a small OU symbol proclaims the chips kosher, meaning they were processed and packaged in accordance to Jewish dietary laws. What the bag doesn’t say is that the potatoes used to make these chips were grown using synthetic pesticides. They were picked by migrant Mexican workers who were paid less than a living wage. Once picked, they were fried in trans-fat oils which make chips taste great, but are linked to increased heart disease. So here’s the million-dollar question: are the chips actually kosher? Beginning with the Torah’s prohibitions on certain animals and eating customs (primarily in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14), and continuing with the deliberations of the Talmudic and post-Talmudic Rabbis, the Jewish tradition has a long history of figuring out what is “fit” (the literal meaning of kosher) for Jews to eat. More recently, some contemporary Jews have started asking if their food is not only kosher, but “eco-kosher”. Originally coined by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in the late 1970s, eco-kashrut asks the question: can food really be fit for Jewish consumption if it harms individual health, weakens community, or damages the earth? In his book, “Down to Earth Judaism: Food, Sex, Money, and the Rest of Life,” Rabbi Arthur Waskow writes, “What if, by eco-kosher we mean a broader sense of good everyday practice that draws on the wellsprings of Jewish wisdom and tradition about the relationships between human beings and the earth?” It is hard to imagine, given these criteria, that the bag of potato chips would be eco-kosher. Neither would eggs from hens raised in battery cages nor, perhaps less obviously,


organic string beans flown from Guatemala to New York and wrapped in three layers of plastic on top of a Styrofoam container. For some Jews, the ideas behind eco-kashrut has greatly influenced the way they think about and purchase food. In 2004, Hazon (the organization for which I work), created the first Jewish CommunitySupported Agriculture (CSA) program, called Tuv Ha’Aretz. CSA connects local, organic farmers with urban and suburban Jews who pre-purchase an entire season’s worth of the farmer’s produce. The farmer benefits from a stable market of pre-paid customers. The members benefit from weekly deliveries of organic, locally-grown produce delivered to their synagogue or JCC. Tuv Ha’Aretz, which will be in 10 communities across the country and Israel in 2007, builds upon the CSA model by using it as a platform for innovative education and community building around issues of

Why Join a co-op?
1 know where your fruits and vegetables come from and how they are grown. 2 buy nutritious food for much less than you’re spending now. 3 have access to foods from all over the world. 4 support local farmers. 5 help the environment and be an eater, rather than a passive consumer.


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Why Join a csa?
1 it’s good for the farmer because it puts local purchasing power behind his or her produce. 2 it’s good for you and your family because healthy organic food is available consistently. 3 competitive prices. 4 reframes what it means to keep kosher in a more meaningful way. 5 provides an educational component between the community and farm, strengthening the community as a whole.

Why not Join a csa?
1 i would be committed every week and we may or may not be around enough to use all the produce. 2 i wouldn’t know in advance what i would be receiving and there may be weeks where we don’t like the majority of the items. 3 The quality of the produce is excellent, but i can get almost as fresh at a farmers’ market and i am only getting what i want and the amount that i need. 4 The need to pick up the share at a set time, and at a set location, which can sometimes be inconvenient (or i simply forget). 5 The feeling that i lose in spontaneity—for instance if i see an item at the store or farmer’s market that looks really good and want to try it—but i don’t because i have enough produce at home through the csa.

Jewish Telegraph Agency writer Sue Fishkoff quotes Orthodox Union Rabbi Menachem Genack, as saying “The Orthodox Union…ultimately decided that its mandate is simply to provide certification of what’s kosher according to halachah, not what’s ‘healthy’ or ‘ethical.” Coming from the leading Orthodox kosher certifier, the possibility for change within the system seems pretty dismal. But on a grassroots level, it is becoming increasingly possible for both traditionally observant, as well as non- or alternatively observant Jews to fully eat their values. In addition to Tuv Ha’Aretz, meat and poultry company, Wise Kosher, is “doubly certified,” both kosher and organic. New York City resident Simon Feil is creating a meat co-op, Kosher Conscience, which offers customers chicken and beef that was humanely raised and slaughtered by a certified kosher shochet (butcher). And the Conservative Movement recently announced its intention to create an ethical kosher certification that takes workers rights into account. Savage remains hopeful that the tide may shift for the Orthodox Union as well. “I think that in 50 years, it’s possible that an OU stamp of approval will not only mean that the animal was shechted in the proper way, but that it was treated ethically during its lifetime.” For the sake of the chickens, as well as the sake of Jewish tradition, I hope he’s right.
Leah Koenig works for Hazon (www.hazon.org), running their CommunitySuppor ted Agriculture Program, Tuv Ha’Aretz, and writing for their new blog, The Jew and the Carrot (www.jcarrot.org). She is also an assistant editor at Zeek (www.zeek.net).

health and sustainability. One explicit goal of Tuv Ha’Aretz is to encourage the Jewish community to think more deeply and broadly about what it means to keep kosher. That said, Hazon Executive Director Nigel Savage would not define the program as eco-kosher. Why? “I propose that we entirely stop using the word eco-kosher,” Savage argued at a recent Hazon-sponsored conference on the intersection of Jews, Food, and Contemporary Life. This was a gutsy statement, considering the conference participants included some of eco-kosher’s primary advocates. Adding the prefix “eco,” he suggested, inherently positions ethical food issues outside of the mainstream conversation around kashrut. Proponents of traditional kashrut, as well as the kashrut industry, can simply write off ethical considerations as not their concern. Savage suggests that Jews remove the notion that humane treatment of animals, locally-grown food, or fair labor practices are “eco,” and instead directly challenge the kashrut industry, since many of these underlying issues are central to Jewish tradition. But will the industry listen, or maintain that kashrut and social ethics are simply different categories?

adding the prefix “eco” inherently positions ethical food issues outside of the mainstream conversation around kashrut. proponents of traditional kashrut, as well as the kashrut industry, can simply write off ethical considerations as not of their concern.

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Issue two 2007



clearinG a Path
leading up north Eli Valley

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Issue two 2007


Immediately following the lebanon-Israel war in the summer of 2006, human rights groups and international aid agencies converged on northern Israel to aid communities that had been subject to crimes against humanity. the university of California at Berkeley sent a contingent of more than 500 human rights activists to renovate bomb shelters and uproot dead trees. progressive luminaries such as tony Judt and noam Chomsky marched hand-in-hand down the main thoroughfare in Metula, chanting “no more imperialism! Iran and syria out of lebanon!” before helping to dismantle undetonated bombs throughout northern Israel. Kofi annan chained himself to a tree on a hill overlooking Kiryat shemona, vocally defying the “party of god” to stop committing crimes against humanity.

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Just kidding! actually, not a single international human rights group came to Israel’s aid during or after the war crimes perpetrated by hizbullah. Instead came a different kind of aid: over the course of two weeks, 500 young Diaspora Jews participated in this winter’s leading up north service initiative, to help heal an area ravaged by war. one of the founding myths of Zionism was that Israel would not only be a safe haven for Jews, but that world Jewry could rely on Israel to come to its rescue. It went without saying that Israelis would be able to take care of themselves without physical assistance from the Diaspora untermenschen that Zion had come to replace. But with leading up north, Israel wasn’t aiding world Jewry; world Jewry crossed the Mediterranean to assist Israel.


Issue two 2007

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true, participants were not defusing bombs or paratrooping behind enemy lines. and the program did not transform the north into a utopian dreamscape. Indeed, some critics groused that the program’s cost of $1.5 million, funded by the Charles & lynn schusterman family foundation, could have been better spent in more direct aid to northern Israeli communities. But the criticism misses the point: the purpose of leading up north was to instill a tactile sense of shared experience and responsibility between Jews in a trying period of Israeli—and, by extension, Jewish—history. when Israelis suffer, all Jews suffer and it was the collective responsibility to help heal the trauma. perhaps the most important contribution of leading up north was the strengthening of the implicit bond between Diaspora Jews and Israel, through the magic ingredient of service. leading up north participants spent their days underground, in dilapidated bomb shelters, and on the ground, amid the roots of trees in burnt-out forests. through service, they literally burrowed into the ground of Israel—and, one might argue, into the substrata of Jewish history and experience—to connect to a familiar and yet not-too-familiar society that had been traumatized by war.

Eli Valley is the author of The Great Jewish Cities of Central and Eastern Europe. He is currently finishing his first novel.

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unDer the hammer anD SicKle
kosher in the ussr
y good friend Boris knows his Soviet history inside out. Whenever he travels back to the former Soviet Union where he was born, he catches up on months of deprivation of what he holds to be “proper” culture by attending the theater, concerts and ballets night after night. When his visit in his native country is finished, he returns to his new home in Amsterdam with a suitcase stuffed with Russian literature and music, because only Russian literature and music meet his standards of “decent cultural productions.” The other half of his suitcase is filled with Russian delicacies such as caviar and cuttle fish. Boris would never dream of marrying a Gentile girl and the vast majority of his friends are Jewish. He attends shul on practically all Jewish holidays. Yet, he does not believe God exists and because he believes in the truths of astrology, makes his life decisions based on the position of the stars. But Boris is not alone in his beliefs—in fact, it seems that many Russian Jews, who celebrate both Christmas and Chanukah, and reject even the basics of Jewish dietary laws eating pork and cuttle fish, are quite comfortable in their mode of Jewish life. But how did that come about? In her new book, Anna Sternshis, a


Rachel Levy
Moscow-born professor of Yiddish at the University of Toronto, tries to analyze the Soviet Jewish culture that formed after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The Soviet government that came to power enacted policies to eliminate perceived injustices from the tsarist regime and to turn its multiethnic empire into a Soviet nation. Soviet Jews were among the biggest beneficiaries of these new policies. Old pre-revolutionary laws that restricted Jews’ mobility and access to education were eliminated; this change caused a social revolution, with Jews migrating, both physically and metaphorically, to the centers of power in the cities. At the same time, the government engaged in a cultural revolution to create a new kind of Soviet Jew. In her new book, Shternshis tries to uncover the results of this social and cultural revolution. In more than 100 in-depth interviews on three continents, conducted over four years, Shternsis tried to determine what being Jewish meant to those who grew up in the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks were brazen when it came to agitating against religion, but also used religion when it suited their ideological goals. On Passover, Jews would gather to read “red Haggadahs” in which the traditional themes of slavery and freedom would be applied to the liberation from tsarist rule: “This year a revolution here; next year—a world revolution!” As Shternshis argues, the Bolsheviks essentially set up a parallel shtetl that preserved Jewish identity while convincing Jews that religious belief was not essential to it. Rather than having Jewish children taught in Russian, authorities insisted that they attend special Yiddish-language schools. Hundreds of synagogues were shut down, many of them transformed into clubhouses where former congregants were inculcated with a new set of beliefs. Local and visiting theatrical performances became the center of rural Jewish life; among the odder practices Shternshis describes were elaborate mock trials in which everything from literary heroes to Jewish holidays (the Sabbath, Yom Kippur) were put on the stand.

SoVIET AND KoSHER: JEWISH PoPuLAR CuLTuRE IN THE SoVIET uNIoN, 1923–1939 by Anna Shternshis 252 PP, Indiana University Press, $24.95, 2006.

Many russian Jews, who celebrate both Christmas and Chanukah, and reject even the basics of Jewish dietary laws eating pork and cuttle fish, are quite comfortable in their mode of Jewish life.
Issue two 2007

By 1939, the Sovietization of the Jews was considered complete and the cultural campaigns were on the decline. The changes within the Jewish community were astonishing: urban centers now accounted for 86.9 percent of the historically provincial community. From just 26 percent of Jews declaring Russian to be their mother tongue in 1926, the number had grown to 54 percent. But as Shternshis points out, not all cultural programs worked as planned; indeed, much of the Bolshevik propaganda was interpreted satirically, or plundered for information about the religion it criticized. By combining careful readings of newspapers, leaflets, songs and scripts with interviews of 225 people born between 1906 and 1930, Shternshis clearly shows how the reception of Soviet propaganda differed from the intended purpose. In the end, the harnessing of Jewish ritual for Soviet ends seems to have backfired. Regardless of the anti-religious message Soviet efforts attempted to communicate, the fact that they were still geared toward a Jewish
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audience helped to keep a Jewish identity intact in traditionally religious areas. The hundreds of thousands of Jews flocking to the cities had to cobble together an identity by other means. As the younger generation rejected their parents’ lifestyle and insisted, almost defiantly, on speaking Russian, their sources of information about Jewish culture dwindled to the output of sympathetic propaganda about Jews—films, books, songs—that was aimed at reducing anti-Semitism. Paradoxically, as Shternshis demonstrates in one of her more provocative arguments, it was largely through this propaganda directed at Gentiles that many urban Jews re-conceptualized their secular Soviet Jewish identity. Which brings us back to Boris and his cuttle fish who, in spite of the Soviets’ best efforts, would still never marry a non-Jewish girl.
Rachel Levy is a freelance journalist and editor for publications in Holland, America, and Israel.

For Further re aDinG

touGh JewS
the fierce provocations of the Jewish Defense League (JDL). Halevi’s tale sifts through his motivations in recounting the appeals of Rabbi Meir Kahane, and describing how he became a part of the JDL—and why he left. The author, who became an activist in the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry while just a boy living in Brooklyn, resembled many 1960s radicals, shifting restlessly as the decade progressed. Even as he questions his violent past, the sharpness of Halevi’s words cut deeply, fashioning a true examination of his place in the modern world.

PIoNEER JEWS: A NEW LIFE IN THE FAR WEST by Harriet and Fred Rochlin 272 PP, Houghton Mif flin, $30, 2000.

Confronting extreme weather was just the start of it—Jewish pioneers in the West were met with hardships unknown and unimagined by their European cousins and their brethren in crowded East Coast cities. Hostile Native Americans and the rigors of frontier life turned these pioneers into tough Jews. And still, removed from Old World rituals and biases, many settlers found success, starting dry-goods companies and blue-jeans empires. In this book, Harriet and Fred Rochlin give us wonderful, insightful anecdotes about the difficulties these trailblazers faced, like Denver couples who had to plan their weddings far in advance—in order to guarantee use of the city’s single chuppah.

EMMA LAZARuS: SELECTED PoEMS AND oTHER WRITINGS by Emma Lazarus 364 PP, Broadview Press, $21.95, 2002.

THE DREAM oF THE PoEM: HEBREW PoETRY FRoM MuSLIM AND CHRISTIAN SPAIN, 950-1492 by Peter Cole 576 PP, Princeton University Press, $24.95, 2007. The Dream of the Poem gives English-speakers a unique oppor tunity to explore Sephardic poetr y written in medieval Spain. The anthology includes about four hundred poems by fifty-four authors, making it an essential source of Hebrew literature and Jewish histor y. Translated, edited and introduced by Peter Cole, the volume also features an historical introduction, author biographies and notes. The full original poems in Hebrew can be found on the Princeton University Press website, press.princeton.edu. MEMoIRS oF A JEWISH ExTREMIST: AN AMERICAN SToRY by Yossi Klein Halevi 248 PP, Little Brown, $22.95, 1995.

Lazarus is perennially known as the author of the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But the forceful humanism of those bold lines also infuses the rest of her work. Born to an assimilated family in 1849, her discovery of Jewish history and literature— spurred by her activism on behalf of Russian refugees—earned Lazarus her place as the first important American Jewish poet. The poems in Songs of a Semite passionately defend the dignity of an oppressed people, presenting America as the land of Jewish freedom: in “1492,” she links the expulsion from Spain with the discovery of the New World, where “Falls each ancient barrier that the art / Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear / Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart!”

In this straightforward autobiography, journalist Yossi Klein Halevi brings to life the turbulent undercurrents sweeping young Jews to the fringe in post-Holocaust America. Beset by mirages of ‘Holocausts-on-the-verge,’ searching for a spiritual home in a changing world, Halevi channels his adolescent rage into

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A Jewish contemporary of Boadicea, Judith was best-known for wreaking havoc on the enemies of the Jews—specifically, the invading general Holofernes, who quite literally loses his head in her honeytrap. Don’t be deterred by words like epigrapha and pseudopigrapha: The Book of Judith is a gripping read for all post-feminist Jewish women, men, and anyone seeking a good dose of in-yourface heroism. Want to save the kingdom of Judea? Check her out.

TouGH JEWS: FATHERS, SoNS, AND GANGSTER DREAMS by Rich Cohen 304 PP, Random House, $13.95, 1999.

WITNESS by Ruth Gruber 288 PP, Schocken, $27.50, 2007.

Meyer Lansky. Bugsy Siegel. Louis Lepke, the self-effacing mastermind of Murder, Inc. Red Levine, the Orthodox hit man who refused to kill on the Sabbath. Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, who looked like a mama’s boy but once buried a rival alive. These are the looming figures of the Jewish mob, and Rich Cohen traces their steps from the candy stores of Brownsville to the clubhouses of the Lower East Side. Cohen gleans his sharply witty stories from research, government documents, and mostly, oral histories—his father grew up on New York City streets where Jewish gangsters controlled the neighborhoods with muscle and moxie. You can practically hear the rattle of gunfire and screeching tires.

When we say tough, we mean gutsy. A force of nature. In Witness, Ruth Gruber shows us not only her own daring adventures, but also new insights into some of the most dramatic events of the last century. Among the photographs and essays included are Gruber’s account of Exodus, the ship which, in 1947, tried to deliver 4,500 Jewish refugees—including 600 orphans to Israel. When it was attacked by five British destroyers and a cruiser, the Exodus refugees fought back with potatoes, sticks, and cans of kosher meat to plant their feet on Israel’s soil. More than tough—that’s simply inspiring.
Rebecca Bebe Leicht


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Matthue Roth

Klezmatics group wonder wheel album
The Klezmatics’ Wonder Wheel (winner of this year’s Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music Album) consists of twelve songs with new music composed from lyrics left behind by Woody Guthrie, the godfather of American folk music. This concept’s been tried before, in Mermaid Avenue and Mermaid Avenue II, a pair of similarly-premised albums released in 1998 by Billy Bragg and Wilco. Wilco and Bragg might have seemed like odd choices to carry on Guthrie’s legacy—one’s barely American, the other is barely folk— but the albums were a success critically and commercially, selling more copies than any of Guthrie’s albums ever had. Now the Klezmatics try the same experiment. Does it work? Sort of. The opening song, “Come When I Call You,” sets Guthrie’s words to a rollicking, sea-shanty rhythm, a little haunting and more than a little old-school. Lead singer Lorin Sklamberg’s vocals are note-perfect, and the whole group seems determined to make every minute of Wonder Wheel worth listening to. “Gonna Get Through This World” is eerie and sad; “Mermaid’s Avenue” swings in a way that we always imagined the ’20s did (circa the TV show Brooklyn Bridge, or Neil Simon-induced movies). But everything feels a little too perfect. Till We Outnumber ’Em, Ani Difranco’s Guthrie tribute featuring Bruce Springsteen, the Indigo Girls, and others, felt largely unrehearsed—just folks on acoustic guitars singing old Guthrie songs by heart. On Wonder Wheel, everything feels too polished, the lyrics treated with too much care—as though every moment has been meticulously planned. Guthrie and longtime collaborator Pete Seeger were famous for abducting other people’s songs and adding their own verses; you won’t find any of that here. The lyrics make Guthrie’s Mermaid Avenue hangout feel like a jolly, clean place, not the lowbrow, workingclass rumble of a party that it probably was. Songs like “Headdy Down” and “Goin’ Away to Sea” are sanitized and polished, the arrangements so perfect that they feel hollow, despite the Klezmatics’ best intentions. These are songs written about sailors and soldiers and penniless drunks, not Broadway theater-goers and armchair-klezmer Upper East Side yuppies. But there’s a lot about Wonder Wheel that’s undeniably good. The Klezmatics make these songs their own, putting klezmer violin segues and step-dancing rhythms in places where they shouldn’t fit, but always do. The clarinet-and-violin jams are executed masterfully, in a way that makes every moment feel like a Coney Island carnival sideshow. Not like the voice of the streets, but a voice to take us away from them. Maybe, even, like Woody would’ve wanted.

ta-Shma group come listen album
Ta-Shma is a supergroup of sorts—Hasidic MC and beatboxer Chunah Silverman, previously best known for freestyling on every corner of Crown Heights with anyone, at any time, combines his talents with Menachem Shapiro, another Chabad Hasid and “C.H.” scenester, and the production team of Twelve Tribes, a hip-hop beatmaking outfit best known for their work on Matisyahu’s first album. The result of their collaboration is Come Listen, a primer in Hasidic hip-hop and a mash-up of programmed beats and traditional Jewish songs like “Woman of Valor” and the Alter Rebbe’s wordless song, or niggun. The album’s opener, “Revolution,” starts with Shapiro and Silverman singing an original niggun a capella—a melding of two musical terms (respectively, “a slow, meditative Hasidic dirge” and “singing without instrumental accompaniment”) which are not commonly found in contemporary hip-hop. A deep, concentrated beat drops in, and before you know it, Shapiro and Silverman are going crazy over the music, spitting verses and trading rhymes while imploring listeners to “promise to be loyal and faithful” and “it’s not advice, it’s your life / tomorrow is permanent.” The album features the expected cameos by fellow Hasidic scene staples Matisyahu, who does his not-exactly-singing, not-exactlyrapping shtick, and up-and-coming Boro Park M.C. Y-Love, who rips it up with a song-stealing appearance on “Journeys.” Less expected is clarinetist Andy Statman’s appearance on two songs; along with several sampled Chabad nigguns and Ta-Shma’s uplifting, crowdfriendly lyrics, Statman’s participation transforms from just another appropriation of culture-specific music into a bona fide approbation on an existing form of cultural music. If there’s one major fault to the album, it’s that some tracks suffer from fuzzy production, and some of the songs—“Shine,” “Return Home,” “Jacob’s Ladder”—overdo the resonant themes of spiritual awakening, clinging to G-d, and the need for love. But, hell, it’s about time somebody said it. Ta-Shma is a group that could only come out of a place like Crown Heights—and, if Shapiro and Silverman keep doing their thing on the stage and in the streets, they could offer the neighborhood its best chance toward a much-needed multiracial dialogue and understanding.
Matthue Roth is a writer and per formance poet whose first novel, Never Mind the Goldbergs, just came out in paperback. Matthue also writes for Bitch Magazine, Zero, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and reads a lot of comic books. He and his wife live in Chicago.

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the criSPineSS oF comPromiSe
persian dill rice with limas (polo sabzi)
Miriam Segura
rowing up in Los Angeles, a community with a considerable Iranian-Jewish population, I had my first taste of the many sublime varieties of polo at the buffet of a lavish Persian wedding. My favorite was the polo sabzi, a pretty dish gaily adorned with dill and lima beans, the bright and muted greens contrasting with the golden, turmeric-scented rice, and, of course, the shatteringly crisp tadig on the top of the platter. The ambitious home cook who tries to replicate this wedding classic at home will find that there is more than a spurious connection between a good marriage and good rice. The intricate mechanics of Persian rice recipes contain valuable lessons for any relationship. All of the polo recipes, whether made by a wedding caterer or a housewife, follow the same basic principle. White basmati rice, thoroughly rinsed and par-cooked, is mounded into a steaming hot oil-water mixture at the bottom of a heavy pot. The oil crisps the bottom of the rice, forming the tadig layer, and the water bubbles up into steam that ensures that every grain is tender. Mixing oil and water and heat usually results in spatters, burns and chaos. However, just like in a good argument, where equal measures of listening and talking prevent hurt feelings, using equal amounts of oil and water mitigates this chaotic


by Avital Aronowitz

tendency, allowing the cooking properties of both liquids to integrate harmoniously. The seasonings add endless variety, and spice up the nourishing but otherwise plain rice, preventing boredom. The cooking rice requires constant attention and monitoring lest the bottom burn. The Vilna Gaon on the Aggadic portion of Berakhot 56b notes that a pot is a symbol of productive harmony. In order to make peace between fire and water, even your best cast-iron Le Creuset will have to suffer a little blackening and burning. A skillful interposition of rice

at this critical interface, however, creates a crispy delicacy that only serves to sharpen the old saw that the way to your beloved’s heart is through his/her stomach. While a pot of rice might not be the answer to all of your relationship woes, the attention and loving care symbolized by cooking for your loved ones certainly can’t hurt.
Miriam Segura is a Biotechnologist, a Foodie, and a Talmudist. Catch her trademark variety of cute snark at www.hungr yhungr yhippogirl.blogspot.com.

Dead in. The sages admonish, Isn’t it forbidden to end sentences with prepositions? Strunk & White The weight of Torah. How much does a Torah weigh? A rabbi once said, Torah is the weight of all that says yes. Although many contemporary authorities have approved prepositions at the end of sentences, was and all that will be, plus the expectations of one’s parents. Countered a parent, we don’t want to be many still cling to the ancient tradition. a burden, do what you think is best, as long as you’re happy. All Jews. Who is a Jew? birthright Israel says, one Jewish parent. Orthodox Jews say, if the womb is Nes, a miracle. What is a miracle? The Orthodox say, every aspect of our lives is a miracle, from the time Jewish, so is the baby. Mel Gibson says, police officers who cite him for DWI. we get up in the morning until we go to sleep. The Conservative say, life is a miracle but our choices are The word itself. What does the word sound like? Some say, it is like ‘blah.’ Others say, it reminds us of our own. The Reform say tikkun olam is our chance to create our own miracles. The Vatican countered, the second plague visited upon the Egyptians. it is not a miracle unless we so declare it. The Talmud. The Oral Law, made up of the Temporarily based. How many years makes Mishnah and the Gemara. a “temporary” dwelling? Existentialists say, all Accessible to everyone. Doesn’t open accessibility dwellings are temporary, because life is temporary. also open the document to error? Bill Gates says, Singles columnists say, while everything is “404 File Not Found.” temporary, a dwelling is temporary until it Springtime crocuses. Some people say, what of becomes a home filled with love. Parents say, even regions in which the frozen tundra prevents the if you are evicted from your apartment, you will sprouting of flowers, even in spring? And others always have a home with us. reply, this is not meant to be literal, but is a general Enhance. What parts of religious or social reference to the springtime season, whatever the institutions require enhancement? Synagogue actual impact to flora and fauna; rabbis say, it is written: “Our house is a house of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Nonprayer, and so it will be called among the nations.” dwellers inquire, And what of the other cities? The twentysomethings and thirtysomethings were Demographers note, not just in these three cities, sought but could not be reached for comment. but in any city containing a strong Jewish But PresenTense Magazine has written, Because population. current institutional structures do not permit Morphing into ‘the People of the Blog.’ People our generation to flourish—we need to create have asked, will the advent of blogging obviate spaces, in print, online and in-person, to carry the need for traditional journalism? Others have on the conversation. asked, what of books? Have they no place in the Generation Tech. Said the professors of media Jewish future? The answer is complex, and is studies, What is Generation Tech? Is it Generation debated by experts in other places. As it is written X or Generation Y? Wired Magazine replied, Two Jews, three opinions. That’s the shul I wouldn’t be caught dead in. I don’t in the book of Yul Brynner, “so it shall be written, X+Y=Tech, as it is written, “Those who have ‘hold by’ that rabbi. With a plethora of voices and myriad opportunities for and so it shall be done.” MySpace or Facebook accounts, or who engage in self-expression and dissent, blogging is the perfect venue for Jews with something Spiritual seekers. Entertainment Tonight asks, text messaging.” And if the parents should ask, to say. (Which means, of course, all Jews.) who is considered a spiritual seeker? The National what is the difference between text messaging and Enquirer says, If the embrace of spirituality is instant messaging, the children will respond, According to the Pew Internet Study, eight million American adults have started intended to deflect attention from their bomb of LOL. blogs. But for many (62 percent of the Internet-using population, according to the a movie career, they are not considered seekers. Conference on Jewish student identity. A third survey), blogging is still something foreign and feared; perhaps the word itself Rabbi Boteach says, Kabbalah for the sake of career conference will take place in March 2007. sounds too journalistically informal, or conveys the perception that blog access is not Kabbalah. Limited number. Some people meet their requires advanced technology. But after overcoming initial hesitations, Jews are spouses and cease their blogging. But others who meet via blogging go on to blog together in joint discovering the endless potential of blogging. Perhaps it’s because the format, in blogs about how much they love each other. Other which multiple opinions create an open conversation on a central text, already exists in the Jewish literary experience...it’s couples say, that’s so sweet. And singles say, if you’ll called the Talmud. excuse me, I have to go hurl. Sacrilegious as it might seem, realistically, it’s not much of a stretch. If the Talmud were being compiled today, instead of Blogger parties. The sages recall: there once was separate Babylonian and Jerusalem versions, we would likely have one Big Blog edition, a living document, constantly evolving in New York a blogger party at which bloggers wore stickers with funny phrases on them as through international, interdenominational discussion. No longer the private domain of rabbis and sages, this contemporary conversation pieces. And it came to pass that one Talmud would be accessible to everyone. blogger wore her sticker—which read “I take Where little Jewish life exists, blogs sprout like springtime crocuses, in metropolitan centers like New York, Los Angeles money from homeless people”—on her shirt for and Chicago. Where Jewish living thrives, so does Jewish blogging. From every denominational position, every new blogger the entire train ride from Murray Hill back to has a pulpit and a congregation. The face of Jewish identity and the nature of community itself is changing. ‘The People of the Upper West Side. Anonymous. The rabbis say, anonymity is the Book’ are morphing into ‘the People of the Blog’. deception, as it is written, “I am God.” As God Today’s spiritual seekers, rabbis, students, and the average Joe Jew are also reaching out through blogging, seeking identifies Godself, so should we identify ourselves. community and spiritual connection. “Some people write with searing honesty about why they rejected Orthodoxy, others But there are other rabbis who say, God is sometimes about why they embraced it. Others write about their courtships, their losses, their journeys, their love,” says blogger Rabbi hidden, as it is said, “I am that I am.” Another Neil Fleischmann. When she posted about lifting the Torah during a prayer service, Karen Perolman, a first-year-rabbinical rabbi points out, we learn from the Book of Esther that sometimes God is even more hidden. As God’s student in Jerusalem, recalls that she “really felt the weight of Torah and the weight I was going to carry my whole life as a name does not appear in the megillah, sometimes Jewish professional. When I read my old posts, I can see how much my Jewish identity has changed.” our names must be hidden in order to achieve Blogging has become the great equalizer, celebrating individuality and creating connections between the ostensibly dissimilar. miracles. For Orthodox screenwriter Robert Avrech, a self-proclaimed “hermit by nature,” the blog suddenly expanded his social horizons. Beit Hillel/Beit Shammai. Two opposing houses “For the first time in my life, I have close friends who are Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, atheist Jews, and many deeply of Jewish thought in the Talmudic era. Words are powerful. As the cliché says, “the pen religious Christians who read and comment. This is all something of a nes, a miracle.” is mightier than the sword.” As the writer says, “The more I looked around online, the more I found out about Judaism that I had no idea existed,” says YoYenta’s thirty“The word is mighty, and words can wound. Still, something Jessica Leigh, temporarily based in the San Francisco Bay area. “After reading so much about what I don’t know, opposite a sword, a smart writer would probably what I don’t practice, all the references and Hebrew quotations that I don’t get, I feel inclined to become more observant.” prefer another sword.” Especially in areas lacking a centralized, accessible Jewish community, Jews turn to the Internet for a personalized Judaism The conversation continues. Beyond the original document, as the editors of PresenTense that they design themselves, a la carte and online. “While blogs themselves won’t replace religious or social institutions, they have said, the articles are just the beginning can do much to enhance them,” says Oklahoma-based technology consultant Simon Fleischmann, 35, of Up-Load.com. “As of the conversation—the real goal is to create the Internet continues to grow, the use of blogs, and other community-builders like podcasts and online forums, will only multiple opportunities for young Jews to connect, expand in influence,” he predicts. as we continue to converse on the issues that are On the college campus, life happens on the Internet. Through LiveJournals, MySpace, Friendster blogs, and message boards, important to our generation.

TwO JEws, ThrEE blOgs

students pursue connection and community. And Jewish innovators are jumping on the campus blogwagon, using online communities to access the minds, hearts, and Jewish souls of Generation Tech. Southern California’s Beach Hillel runs an active online community featuring blogs, podcasts, and bulletin boards, has several MySpace profiles, and in 2005, launched a conference on Jewish student identity, with co-sponsorship from group blog Jewlicious (for which, full disclosure, I am also a contributor). The 2006 conference drew 350 participants from more than 40 schools: Jews from all over the political, religious, and creative map. And because the conference sprouted from blog roots, post-conference discussion has flourished online, through blog posts, Flickr picture sharing, and MySpace recollections. So far, there are a limited number of documented cases of bloggers who have met their spouses online. But there is an expectation of connection—reading someone’s writings provides a more solid foundation than meeting someone at a party or even online dating. Group blogs like Jewschool and Jewlicious, whose team members live in different geographical locations, spend so much time together online that the relationship often translates extremely well into offline reality. When bloggers travel, meetings with local bloggers are de rigeur and transition to bigger blogger parties, where people are introduced by bloghandle (“I’m Esther-JDaters Anonymous”) and where loyal readers and fellow bloggers can meet the people behind the posts. For those exploring Jewish identity, the option of anonymity is often a major draw. But others reject disguise. As Rabbi Fleischmann puts it, “By being myself I feel that I truly connect with people to a much greater degree than if I was completely anonymous.” Connection. Identity. Community. Self-expression. All of these are the goals of those who participate in the blogculture. But sometimes, these goals create conflict...turf wars can happen quicker than you can say “Beit Hillel versus Beit Shammai.” Once the gloves are off, leader loyalties are tested. Interblog conflicts utilize PhotoShopped images and text to engage rivals in everything from good-natured kidding to near-libelous reputation-skewering. Perhaps blog conflicts teach readers and commenters an important lesson: words are powerful, and once you send them out into the world, you cannot get them back. Or perhaps the lesson will go unheard and unheeded. Time will tell, but the Jblogosphere will surely be there to record it all—with posts and comments galore—as the conversation continues.

Original and commentary text by Esther D. Kustanowitz


Issue two 2007

presentenseMagaZIne.org arts

1 In a 4-quart Dutch oven, place 2 cups frozen lima beans in enough water or broth to cover. Add a generous shaking of turmeric, and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil and cook until tender but still firm. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. 2 In a colander, thoroughly wash 1-1 1/4 cups white basmati rice under cool running water, rinsing until the water runs clear to remove external starch. 3 Add rinsed rice to the reserved cooking liquid, which should cover the rice by an inch; add more water if needed. Add a bit more turmeric. Cover and bring to a boil, then drain in a colander. 4 Add the cooked limas to the drained, par-cooked rice, along with up to 1/2 a cup of dried dill. Toss together gently until combined. Set aside. 5 Add enough of a neutral oil (like canola or soybean) to cover the bottom of the Dutch oven. Heat on a medium flame, and add an equal quantity of water. Cover with lid, and let the oil/water come to a boil. Pour half of the oil/water mixture into a bowl and reserve. 6 Lightly mound the rice mixture in the pot in a cone-shaped pile. Poke a few holes in the pile with a fork to allow steam to permeate the rice. Cover, turning to medium high heat, until the rice begins to give off steam. Pour the reserved oil-water mixture over the rice pile. Carefully fold a kitchen towel into a square slightly larger than the mouth of the pot and place on top. Cover the towel and pot tightly with the pot lid. Checking by smell to ensure that the rice is not burning, simmer at medium-to-low heat for 20 minutes or slightly longer for maximum crispiness.


arts presentenseMagaZIne.org Issue two 2007

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Sam Ackerman

Sam Ackerman is an editorial cartoonist for the Brandeis University paper, The Justice, as well as an editor, writer, and illustrator for Chalav U’Dvash, Brandeis’ journal of Zionist thought.


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