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Ebb and Flow tapping into israel’s water tech Face the Facts ten things you can

an do to end slavery


Shushan USA
SPR I NG 2 0 0 7 Iranian Jews in Southern California

a year in service
a new rite of passage

presentense $4.95 Until You Don’t Know
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Dear Reader,

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Damage Report
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Pioneering a New Present
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photographers avital aronowitz, Sharone bond, ben faulding, seth garz,
tapping into israel’s water tech
martin griffiths, daniella kahane, Robert Lotzko, Daniel schummer, Leora Addison
stephanie shelan, Julian voloj

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It’s Not Easy Being Green
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3 20 When the Get Gets in the Way

no spring fling
52 Beyond “Wonderful”
Editorial Abigail Pickus art comes home
spring back Benjamin Hanau
22 Face the Facts
ten things you can do to end slavery
Laya Millman 53 Reality Check
Letters 23 Seder Unplugged
when personal becomes public
to the editor Lonnie Schwartz
we wine, we dine, we recline, and then…
Adam Chandler Music
7 55 New Albums
24 New Order the spring line-up
Here alternative haggadot Mat thue Roth
7 In the Spitz Sara Fried
british-jewish identity fusion Music

Daniel Silverstein 26 Vines and Wines 56 on the horizon

four cups new artists
9 More than Kugel and Knishes Neil Berman ben brofman and miriam r. haier
harvard university’s sephardi society
Hillary W. Steinbrook
42 57
10 Another Freedom paradigm shift arts
rememberance and redemption A Year in Service Music
Victor Wishna a new rite of passage 57 Portrait of an Artist
Seth Garz dj handler
12 A German in Tel Aviv
Deborah Fishman
closure in bauhaus
Daniel Schummer
44 Poetry
photo essay 41 Babel
13 Shushan USA Clearing the Path Yehuda M. Hausman
iranian jews in southern california leading up north
Karmel Melamed Eli Valley Poetry
24 sonnet; conversation
15 He Said
my grandma and your grandma 48 Dana Weiss

Levi Barlavi Reviews Food

Books 58 The Crispiness of Compromise
16 48 Under the Hammer and Sickle persian dill rice with limas (polo sabzi)
now kosher in the ussr
Rachel Levy
Miriam Segura

16 Information SuperChaiWay Short Story

surfing the jewish web Television 60 until you don’t know
Leah Jones 51 Curb Your Identity Charlie Buckholtz
larry david’s laundry
18 Mother Ruth Bezalel Stern Music
oldest young person in the world 64 milk and honey
Rebecca Bebe Leicht
Sam Ackerman

 issue two 2007 contents

In the Spitz
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 “Jew-
do’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,
Emunah by Mar tin Grif fiths themes and texts, and provided ripe ground

for exploring religious and political dialogues
he East End of London is in many their forebears left behind in the pursuit of through music.
ways analogous to the cultural material success and social acceptance. Jonny Hornig, a young British Jew who
resurgence on the Lower East Side London’s Old Spitalfields Market, once recently saw Emunah live, describes how
of Manhattan. Here in London, home to countless Jewish traders, is now a the band encouraged him to find a new
early waves of 19th-century Jewish immigrants renovated site of commerce and tourism. In confidence with his Jewish roots. “Putting
from Eastern Europe first landed and began its midst is The Spitz, a venue synonymous Jewish melodies and lyrics from the bible
their struggle in a new world. And here their with London’s explosive world music scene. together with ingredients from other cultures
great-grandchildren are rediscovering their There, in April 2006, a crowd of 300 people makes it so much more relevant, it brings
roots, returning to and reinvigorating the area gathered to experience Psychosemitic, an it all back home.” This new wave of Jewish

here issue two 2007 

art is challenging young British Jews to a relentless defensive campaign against a
define themselves more creatively, to stand coalition of left-wing and Muslim students,
up and speak up for who they are rather who seek to destroy Jewish societies. Individual
than falling into the same cultural abyss as Jewish students have been subject to increasing
their forebears. bouts of verbal and physical abuse. Meanwhile,
British Jews are often held up as a model UK academics have been leading the campaign
immigrant community who have integrated to boycott Israeli universities.
well into the tapestry of UK society. They have Ironically, young British Jews often
penetrated and excelled in all professional look to their Asian peers, whose families
fields. For example, as recently as the 1970s, immigrated to the UK far more recently,
Jews still struggled to enter the top echelons of for a model of confident ethnic identity.
the legal world, but now Jewish judges, even The success of Asian Britons in carving a
senior ones, are commonplace. However, the distinct and attractive niche for themselves
accomplishments and material advancement in mainstream British culture is seen as a
of the Jewish community came at a steep desirable model for emulation. For example,
price: a desiccated Jewish identity among Emunah’s innovative fusion of traditional
the younger generation. Playing the role of ethnic melodies with contemporary music
the loyal, model Britons created a feeling forms owes as much to similar Asian pioneers,
that it’s better to “keep your heads down” like Nitin Sawhney and Talvin Singh, as
or (to use the American parlance), promote it does to any particular Jewish musical
a “don’t ask, don’t tell” Jewish identity. This tradition. The undoubted trailblazers in
state of mind was memorably characterized this niche have been Oi Va Voi, who have
by Ned Temko, a former editor of the Jewish inspired not just Ghettoplotz and Emunah
Chronicle, as “secretly expecting to flee on but countless other projects in the UK and
the next boat.” beyond with their intricate but accessible
This is particularly telling when fusion of old and new sounds.
comparing the visibility and role of Jews in the At the Spitz gig, a mixed crowd of
United States to that in the United Kingdom. students and young professionals took in
Of course, this dichotomy has much to do the Hebraic art, the breakbeat Carlebach
with the history and self-perception of the niggunim—repetitive cantoral melodies—and
respective host countries. The United States is the hip-hop re-working of ancient prophecies
a relatively young society that has been created and prayers—all without visible signs of
and shaped by successive waves of immigrants, shock. This kind of event was long overdue.
while Britain is rather less confident in its own While the burgeoning Jewish youth culture
identity and struggles to fit minorities into the in the UK seems promising, British Jewry
national narrative. Unsurprisingly, this leaves stands at a critical juncture in its 350-year
many British Jews living an uncomfortable history. Demographically, the community is
balancing act, attempting to manage their dual shrinking, as apathy and assimilation take
identities without being seen as threatening their toll. A recent revival of anti-Semitism
by their non-Jewish peers. has made it increasingly problematic to be
This precariousness has come into sharper openly Jewish in British society. And yet, as
relief with the failure of the Oslo process and with other communities worldwide, there have
the reigniting of the Arab-Israeli conflict in never been so many opportunities and outlets
September 2000. Suddenly, Jewish identity to celebrate and re-create Jewish identity and
became associated with the actions of the culture. Therefore, although our detractors
Israeli government and army, portrayed in would seek to make conflict the sole focus of
the intelligent British media as aggressive, Jewish identity, we will continue to display a
even blood-thirsty. To identify as a Jew was to tenacity for creative re-invention that bodes
expose oneself to all kinds of attack, from polite well for our future.
criticism to verbal and physical abuse.
This imbroglio was manifested by a Daniel Silverstein is the co-founder and vocalist of
dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents from Emunah, a London-based hip-hop and drum & bass
2000 onwards, and growing challenges to band whose reper toire includes Jewish melodies,
being Jewish on British campuses. The Union themes and texts.,
of Jewish Students has been forced to fight here
Another Freedom
rememberance and redemption
Victor Wishna

10 issue two 2007 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 by Julian Voloj
the core of Jewish identity and faith, they have
additional significance at this synagogue. Here, Elohim in 1983. But Chief Musician Raphael
everyone—from the rabbis and Hebrew School Ben Dan, who has released a CD of original intones, pointing to the poster pinned to the
teachers to the music director and down to the Hebrew songs, was born a Baptist in Ohio podium: a 19th century daguerreotype of a
last member—is African-American. and first converted to Islam before finding his slave on an auction block, his hands and legs
According to (a website place among the Israelites. A guest from Beth chained, a large iron yoke around his neck.
administered by Rabbi Shlomo Ben Levy, Shalom in Brooklyn, Rabbi Yeshurun Ben To everyone in the room, this passage is the
Beth Elohim’s rabbi), there are approximately Israel, was a city transit worker before attending Torah’s prediction of the Middle Passage, the
long, middle leg of the Europe-to-Africa-to-
America slave trade route.
Whether talking about slavery in Egypt The ceremony includes a symbolic display
not unlike a Passover table. Four colored candles
or America, he refers to “our people.” represent four attributes of nature, and a Seder-
plate-inspired selection of seven foods (bread,
40,000 African-American Jews in the Israelite Academy, the Queens-based institute rice, fish, corn, boiled egg, parsley, and water)
United States. These are not Ethiopian that ordains the community’s rabbis. signifies everything from sustenance to the
Jews, but Americans who have come to this Like many other synagogues, on Tish’ah bitterness of 400 years of slavery. “But 400 years
interpretation of Judaism primarily in the B’Av, Beth Elohim commemorates the can’t take away 40,000 years,” Rabbi Eliyahu
20th century. The majority of them observe destruction of the first and second Temples, exclaims. He implores the congregation to move
most holidays, the rite of circumcision, and the as well as a litany of other Jewish catastrophes. forward from an enslaved mentality, to cast off
laws of kashrut. God is invoked as Hashem; But this congregation adds one more date: that “chain on the brain.” “The Torah has the
men and women sit separately on Shabbat; August 8, 1444, when Portuguese traders key to unraveling these problems,” he exclaims,
and when the evening begins with a rendition embarked from Africa with a shipload of eyes wide. “And we even heard it in this week’s
of “Hinei Ma Tov,” the tune is the same one human cargo, marking the beginning of more Haftarah, remember? ‘Comfort ye, comfort
many other American Jews learn in Sunday than 400 years of slavery in the Americas. ye, give comfort to my people…proclaim that
school and summer camp. “The Torah gives us a way to commemorate their service is at an end!’ Isaiah said that. It’s
Beth Elohim is part of a loosely affiliated the slavery in Egypt, but we needed to create a all about moving on!”
movement of Hebrew congregations in ceremony to convey our slavery in this country,” Later, Rabbi Eliyahu repeats his message,
Brooklyn, Harlem, Philadelphia, Chicago, Rabbi Levy says. Whether talking about slavery identifying the meeting place of Jewish
and elsewhere. Unlike some more radical black in Egypt or America, he refers to “our people.” traditions: “Torah is what it’s about and
sects that claim to be the only true Jews, these About 40 people gather; many of the men wear you all are the custodians of the Torah,”
Black Jews—or Israelites or Hebrews, as they jeans and kippot, but most of the women are he says. “You kept it for 3,000 years. I tell
sometimes prefer—see Jews as co-religionists, in colorful African robes and headdresses. The my people to think about that. If it weren’t
despite differences in race and tradition. Rabbi program is led by Assistant Rabbi Eliyahu, who for you, we never would have been able to
Levy admits that most of his congregation makes a dramatic entrance in white Ethiopian rediscover it.”
is not Jewish according to halakhah, but robes and a goat-hair hat. On other days, he
points out that fewer than 10 percent of the wears a sharp modern suit or a red velvet Victor Wishna and Julian Voloj are completing a
5.3 million white Jews in America observe garment festooned with Stars of David. book about black Jews, from which this piece is
halakhah themselves. The congregation rises as Rabbi Yeshurun excerpted. Victor’s first book, In Their Company:
Rabbi Levy was born into the community; reads loudly from Deuteronomy, Chapter 28. Por traits of American Playwrights, was published
his late father, Levi Ben Levy, founded Beth “He will put a yoke of iron upon thy neck,” he last fall (

here issue two 2007 11


Blogs, podcasts, wikis, widgets, social bookmarking, use

logs, podcasts, wikis, widgets, Another site, Chosennet, is still in beta (a They provide everything from daily quotes and
social bookmarking, user- testing phase); it is free and has more than 1500 sports scores to event countdown clocks and
generated content, metaverse, members in Southern California, 350 in New tools to track water intake. Already familiar
aggregated content and social York and only 50 in Chicago. If Chosennet to Mac users, widgets will become even more
networking...don’t feel bad if you can’t define can follow the Craigslist model—starting in ubiquitous in 2007; it shouldn’t take long for
all (or any) of these terms. Technology is California and moving east—it might find Jews to invent widgets that provide a Pirkei
constantly evolving, and in almost every new a bright future. Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) quote-of-the-day,
mode of creating content, there are sites built Instead of rekindling friendships a list of regional Jewish events, or a Hebrew
by Jews for Jews. If you haven’t yet traveled or playing matchmaker, one new social date calculator.
the information superchaiway—or you are networking company,,
looking for a newish Jewish site to visit, here are seeks to match non-profits to volunteers Je w Tube
a few worth your time right now—although offering professional skills pro-bono.
it could all change tomorrow. “SV embraces the fundamental principles
of tzedakah (charity) by giving volunteers the
The Je wish MySpace 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 YouTube made video-sharing easy and
Award last year. Volunteers are calling it “the scalable (as accessible to one million people as
perfect networking device to assist in making it is to a hundred). Its flash videos, links and
a difference in the world.” html scripts enabled enterprising Netizens
Taking the social media concept and to embed the video into their own blogs and
Jewing it up a bit,, Shmooze. Widge ts websites to share with friends. If you want to
com, and—all enter the field, you might consider snapping up
competing to be the Jewish MySpace—offer (on sale by an enterprising
familiar Friendster-like features allowing sitename squatter for the bargain price of ten
you to build a network, upload photos, and grand), ensuring your place as the name brand
rekindle connections. in Jewish video content. Until then, check out
When musician Jon Fursh was promoting the “Israeli YouTube,”, for a
his Hanukah song parody, “Latkelicious,” this sampler of Israeli videos, including TV clips,
winter, he created profiles on a number of weekly horoscopes and numerology forecasts,
social media sites. and categories like “Don’t Try This at Home”
“Koolanoo certainly has potential; it has (we won’t).
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 Many bloggers or users of Google’s It could all change
has some work to do.” personalized homepage, Yahoo! or MSN Live
The site still needs a critical mass of users use small programs called widgets that stream tomorrow.
to be useful as a social network. Opening new content or information from a third-party site.
windows and instant messenging is clumsy, Thousands of widgets are available, and can
and the site doesn’t allow personalized pages. be run on a desktop or via website sidebar.

16 issue two 2007 now

Information SuperChaiway
surfing the jewish web
er-generated content... Leah Jones

Predictions for an a writer and editor for Israelity, a group and participating in new progressive Jewish
Interne t Je w-topia blog about life in Israel. “Everyone’s always organizations and projects.”
talking about ‘outreach’ and ‘continuity’ and Adam Shprintzen, a Chicago blogger,
‘bringing in the unaffiliated.’ Well, here is has his own idea of an ideal Jewish website:
your tool—and it should be used much, “Can there be a Jewish web application that
much more.” DOESN’T have a banner ad for a Jewish
“I think the Internet will help progressive dating site?”
Jewish organizations and projects flourish,” While the answer to that question seems
predicts Aryeh Goldsmith, founder of blog a clear “no,” the Internet could provide many
aggregator, social networking solutions for today’s Jews. Those who complain
sites and, that the unaffiliated won’t come to them need
as well as the new to get online and go to the unaffiliated. The
“Online anonymity allows people to get infrastructure for the Jewish future exists, if
acquainted with Judaism without feeling only we make the choice to embrace it.
intimidated. It used to be ‘my way or
What precisely is the future of Jewish the highway.’ Today it’s, ‘My way or the Leah Jones is a writer in Chicago, blogs at
Internet tools? “I think they should be information super-highway.’ People who, and by day is a
embraced and financially supported by the want to be Jewish but don’t identify with Conversation Analyst in the me2revolution at
organized Jewish community to a much the established Jewish organizations of Edelman Public Relations. Leah also contributes
greater extent,” says Allison Kaplan Sommer, yesterday are the people who are starting to JewishFringe and Shebrew.

now issue two 2007 17

Mother ruth
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

Those refugees, their

Ruth Gruber by Daniella Kahane children, and grandchildren

n December 2005, as the Limmud conference dedicated to still call her “Mother Ruth.”
Jewish cultural study was winding down, a blonde woman
with blushed, pink cheeks and tinted red lips was asked on any warm milk, but they heated up some when they saw how many
a date. She accepted, though it was far past her bedtime. people I was attracting.”
At the bar, the young man who had asked her to join him inquired, People listen to Gruber because she’s got lots of good stories
“What would you like to drink, Ruth?” to tell. Gruber has been writing for most of her years—initially as
Ruth Gruber replied, “Do you happen to have some warm milk?” a student, which garnered her first New York Times story. Gruber’s
By the time Gruber and her date sat down, a crowd gathered name is generally found in bylines, but in 1931, she herself was the
around them. This is how Gruber’s life seems to work—when she subject of a big story: according to the Times, at age twenty, Gruber
speaks, people listen. Especially those younger than her. And at 95 was the youngest person in the world ever awarded a doctorate.
years old, almost everyone she meets is younger than her. She wrote her dissertation on Virginia Woolf while studying
“A day without an interview, writing, or teaching is a day wasted,” in Cologne, Germany, and it was there that Gruber believes she
she says, sitting in a cushioned chair in the living room of her Central began changing focus. “I thought I would teach,” she says, “but I
Park West apartment, resting her bruised arm on a pillow. was living as an exchange student in Germany…and I tried to go
Gruber is delicate and small, and covering the cast on her arm is to as many Hitler rallies as I could.” There, in an exhibition hall on
a sleeve of tanned silk, to go with the taupe-and-beige scheme she’s the Rhine, Gruber saw Swastika banners waving in the packed hall,
chosen for the day. Gruber’s demeanor, like her clothing, is fluid and a stage adorned with Nazi flags, and heard anti-Semitic songs that
deliberate, evoking images of an elder Bette Davis without the cigarettes charged the crowd with an “energy of hatred.” As Hitler chanted
and damning personality. Gold slippers match the hoops in her ears, and “Juda verecke,” (or, “may the Jew croak”), the crowd took up his cry.
one gets the feeling that’s no accident. A walker stands next to her chair, And it was there that Ruth Gruber, clutching her American passport
and its cumbersome, hard, metallic presence seems out of place—other in her bag, began to think of herself as a refugee.
than its durability, it has nothing in common with its owner. After a year in Germany, she moved back to her family’s home in
“It was the sardines that gave me the bruising,” Gruber explained. Brooklyn, New York, and began to look for work. Gruber began sending
“I was at yoga, and I like the instructor so much that when he mentioned pieces to the New York Times—and they bought one of her first articles
that we should eat sardines, I went out and bought some. I don’t think for twenty-five dollars. “It was a lot of money in 1935,” she says.

18 issue two 2007 now

Gruber’s work as a journalist began in earnest when she was ambition. She asked the refugees to describe the horrors they had
offered the chance to go back to Eastern Europe. Working as a foreign seen before being rescued. They described losing children, having
correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, she was determined their babies torn from their arms and hung on meat hooks, like cow
to write about the danger of Hitler’s rise. It was in traveling around carcasses, before their eyes. As Guber wrote, she “often had to stop,
the region that she found her first scoop. Gruber was given the chance because tears were wiping out the words in my notebook.”
to travel to the Soviet Arctic, to Siberia and to the Gulag—the first After the Second World War, Gruber covered Displaced Person
woman, and the only Western journalist, to have that opportunity. camps. She reported on official talks to allow more Jews into Palestine.
“It was in the Siberian gold mines that I learned to write in the dark,” She sat in on the Nuremberg trials. She wrote of the British “ban” on
she writes in Inside of Time: My Journey from Alaska to Israel. Holocaust survivors coming to Palestine. She published the stories of
After filing story after story from the Arctic, Gruber caught the the Exodus, Israel’s War of Independence, and the migratory aftermath
attention of President Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Interior, Harold of “rivers of Jews” pouring into Israel from Europe, the Soviet Union,
Ickes. Ickes hired her as his special assistant. Her first assignment was North Africa, and the Middle East. Her photography has been in
to survey Alaska for the Department. Later, when Roosevelt allowed more than twenty exhibits and documentaries.
a group of 1,000 Jewish refugees to take shelter in the United States, For Gruber, conflicts of the past are not a question of numbers
it was Gruber who was their official chaperone from Europe. and incidents. The human face peers out of every corner of her writing,
In a long glass case in Gruber’s entranceway, opposite shelves and the horrors and triumphs of refugees become thoroughly real.
upon shelves of memorabilia from all over the world, a tangible truth So what more does Ruth Gruber want?
of this time sits on royal blue felt. It is a portion of the Safe Haven “To continue to use my tools—words and images—to fight
fence, behind which the refugees Gruber chaperoned to the United injustice wherever I see it. To wake up to the sun rising, to see it
States were detained in Oswego, New York. Those refugees, their setting, and to never, never retire.”
children, and grandchildren still call her “Mother Ruth.” All this, and she still has time for warm milk with young men.
It was on the Haven boat that Gruber recalls her most pointed
moment of focus. “Give me words—words, words—I live by words Rebecca Bebe Leicht is a graduate student at Columbia University and a writer
and photos…these are my tools, and wherever there was injustice, I for the Mayor of New York City. In her dreams, she writes good poetr y; in reality,
turned to my tools,” she said, recounting her crystallized and sustained she writes good policy.

now issue two 2007 19

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

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
four questions redux
consumed; and there is reclining, albeit mostly
kneeling over another celebrated deity made of
Why haven’t you called me?
What are you doing with your life?
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 When are you going to get married
sweeping the Jewish globe. (Alright, maybe
Did you know that Debbie Wasserman is a
not exactly “sweeping the Jewish globe,” but
scattered deviations from the norm have brought
new perspectives to religious observance). (great) grandmother of two children already
now issue two 2007 23
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 Ne w Order
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 alternative haggadot
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.) Sara Fried
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

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

sonnet; conversation
by Dana Weiss by Avital Aronowitz

They say that we are like indigent children hether you call it “Passover”
so hungry, even for the pockets of air in our bread, or “Pesach,” the Jewish
the spaces between the letters; holiday that calls for spring
this is a metaphor we are familiar with. cleaning, giving up most
we are familiar with metaphors, forms of carbs, and staying up late singing a
the dreaded conventions of our speech; song about a goat probably brings many fond
I don’t, like, speak to You like I talk to him, memories to mind. While Passover lasts for
hesitatingly and kind of rushing like eight days, the focal point of the celebration
I’ve drunk a little too much of the coffee of exile; of the exodus from Egypt comes at the very
or maybe not enough. beginning in the form of the Seder.

24 issue two 2007 now

What makes this night different from all includes the traditional text with humorous A Hip Hop Haggadah is a rock album. With
other nights of Jewish feasting? The answer cartoons, messages of Tikkun Olam (healing tracks like “Pesach Zelt” and “Passout For
lies in the Haggadah, the book that leads us the world), and mystical or what some might Passover,” it is a great way for the hip-hop
from enslavement, through the Exodus saga, call “new-age” thought. Check it out at www. generation to celebrate their Passover love.
and finally to a roaring rendition of L’shana Additional tracks retell parts of the exodus
ha’ba’ah b’Yerushalayim, a culminating hope to story. To add more Jewish-themed hip-hop to
celebrate the Seder “next year in Jerusalem.” Vegetarian your playlist, check out Los Hip Hop Hoodios
The Passover story can become a bit banal Journey of the Liberated Lamb: at
after retelling it in the exact same manner Reflections on A Vegetarian Seder
each year. Others feel that the Haggadah By Roberta Kalechofsky Patriotic
needs to be restructured to make it more For many, the concept of enslavement refers The American Heritage Haggadah
politically correct. Fortunately, the nature of not only to human beings, but also to animals Compiled by David Geffen
the Haggadah leaves room for us to tailor the as well. Whether you are a member of PETA, At first read, the title of this Haggadah seems
Seder experience to our own needs. In recent a pet owner, or just think sheep are too cute to odd. What exactly would an American
years, the idea of creating alternative Haggadot sacrifice, then this Haggadah is right up your Haggadah contain? The answer is: Americana
surfaced as a solution to dissatisfaction with alley. In it you will be led through the Passover of course! Full of Passover advertisements from
the norm. story by a lamb and learn about alternatives over the years, pictures of Haggadot produced
The commandment that we fulfill by to ritualistic animal slaughters throughout by big-name companies, and entertaining
having the Seder and retelling the exodus story Jewish history. stories of the history of Passover in America,
rests in the words “V’ higadeta l’bincha bayom this Haggadah is sure to delight anyone who
hahu… ,” “And you shall tell your children Children’s loves to see American consumerism in all its
on that day...” (Shemot 13:8). Jews are not A Different Night: The Family glory, selling Passover to the Jewish masses.
obligated to read from a Haggadah, but for Participation Haggadah
centuries we have used Haggadot to both By Noam Zion and David Dishon Cyber Seder
tell the Passover story and also gain a deeper Choosing the best Haggadah for children Congregation Emanu-El NYC
understanding of how it relates to our lives. is a daunting task. Many options consist of For 11 years now, Congregation Emanu-El
The contents of the Haggadah have evolved the traditional text with a few illustrations of New York City has been broadcasting a
since it was first written. For example, the and questions to ponder. But with beautiful cyber-Seder which includes readings from
songs Dayeinu and Chad Gadya were only illustrations, rabbinic tales, Jewish history, A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah.
added around the 10th century, but who today and games alongside with the traditional If you are more of an audio learner than a
could imagine a complete Seder without these text, A Different Night is a great Haggadah visual one, this might be the right fit for
classic jams? for both the young and the young at heart. you. You can find all the information at
The metamorphosis of the traditional For a supplementary children’s Passover book
Haggadah continues. We do not simply add where Mother Goose meets matzah, Uncle Happy listening!
a new prayer or song, but instead we find new Eli’s Special-for-Kids, Most Fun Ever, Under-
ways to make the Seder an evening of insight the-Table Passover Haggadah can add some Sara Fried was born and raised in Los Angeles and
and learning. Both Jews and non-Jews alike rhyming and laughter to the holiday. graduated from UC San Diego in 2005 with a BA in
have found messages of hope, freedom and Art History. She is pursuing a career in magazine
strength in the Haggadah, and the newest Musical publishing, and currently lives in Israel studying
editions create opportunities for people of The So Called Seder: A Hip Hop Haggadah Hebrew, interning at The Jerusalem Report and
all stripes to relate the exodus story to their Not an actual Haggadah, The So Called Seder: having a blast!
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 “Ah, Jews are very impatient
ways that today’s Jews are actively discovering
their connection to the Jewish nation, just as with doing the same thing
our ancestors did centuries ago.
over and over again. It’s
Hippie Haggadah
The Santa Cruz Haggadah
gotta be different!”
By Karen Roekard
— 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

now issue two 2007 25

damage report
the spring after
Tiferet Zimmerman-Kahan

oliticians have been trying Unfortunately, the oil spread 150 km north people may need to think twice about eating
to foster peace in the Middle along the Lebanese shore, reaching the fish caught in the eastern Mediterranean.
East since the founding of the southern coast of Syria. By the end of August,
State of Israel, but last year’s Greenpeace Middle East said they detected fuel The Damage : Israel; Loss of Forest
violent Israel-Hizbullah conflict and the oil on the seabed and just below the surface. In Israel, the most noteworthy damage
environmental toll it exacted on the region The effects of an oil spill can be profound: is the loss of landscape and habitat due to
should urge world leaders to step up those contamination of an ecosystem touches all fires ignited by Hizbullah-launched Katyusha
efforts. Fighting during the hot summer of species that are dependent on it for survival. rockets from southern Lebanon. According to
2006 left a horrific scar on the land and sea. The In this case, the loggerhead turtle has been a recent collaborative study by public Israeli
harm after only two months of confrontation particularly threatened. This creature, already agencies and the Jewish National Fund
is a call to consider whether images of dead sea found on the endangered species list, nests (JNF), more than 800 forest fires blazed in
turtles, oil-coated beaches, or bare, parched along the Lebanese coast and depends on the northern region as a result of the war,
land that once rooted a forest (now burnt other sea life in the contaminated region for during the driest season of the year. More than
down to stumps) serve as a warning against food. Migratory birds on their way south from 2,900 acres of forest, mostly coniferous, burned.
inciting another war. Europe to Africa use the war-torn area as a The JNF estimates that at least half a million
popular flight route, and are now susceptible trees (about 20% of the forests in the north) were
The Damage : Lebanon ; Oil Spill to poisoning. In a world where biodiversity lost. More than 16,000 acres of nature reserves,
In mid-July, about 30 kilometers south is decreasing at unprecedented rates, this national parks, and other conservation land
of Beirut, the fuel storage at the Jiyeh power oil spill is just another example of the same in the Galilee and Golan Heights regions also
station was bombed. Many media sources old pattern of loss due to human activity. burned. Areas sustaining the most concentrated
reported that the Israeli Air Force carried out Our biosphere, however, is an intricate web damage were in the Naftali Ridge (more than
the strikes, but the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s of interdependent relationships between all 1800 acres, with 70% of the forested region
Acting Deputy Director General for the species. The thinner the web gets, the faster burned) and near Tzfat in the Birya Forest.
Middle East, Jacob Keidar, says it’s not it will completely collapse. Because of the soil type and other factors,
clear whose bombs fell on the fuel tanks. Though the direct impact of this spill on rehabilitation of the Birya Forest might be
What is clear, however, is that the strikes humans is mostly economic, oil contaminant more complex than in other regions.
resulted in a massive oil spill, releasing at in natural systems can eventually cause Though fires can be part of a healthy
least 15,000 tons of heavy fuel oil into the humans physical harm. In August, the World ecosystem cycle, 50-year-old coniferous trees
eastern Mediterranean Sea according to Conservation Union, an environmental umbrella burn up like matchsticks in unmanaged
sources at Friends of the Earth Middle East, group, found cancer-causing substances—poly- situations of such breadth, and burning will
a regional NGO. nuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs for lead to more far-reaching environmental
Because of Israeli air and sea blockades as short—present in oil-slick samples. PAHs are consequences. Bare, deforested land is much
well as other military operations, volunteers known by scientists to persist in the ecosystem more susceptible to soil erosion and landslides.
were unable to address the spill immediately, by accumulating in the organs of fish, causing Forest-dwelling wildlife (especially young)
the most effective way to deal with it. fish populations to plummet. From now on, is harmed or displaced, causing problems
elsewhere. Loss of forests also decreases

Did you know?

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.
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
Remediation Efforts—
extreme example of consciousness during wartime to teach that we should be even more aware Lebanon
and careful of our actions during calm periods. The concept of bal tashchit, not to be wasteful The Israeli Foreign Ministry
(derived from the verse above), is discussed at length in the Talmud, showing the importance of insists that it is unclear whether the
understanding and observing this commandment fully. It is said that “one who covers an oil lamp Jiyeh oil spill is a result of Israeli
(causing the flame to burn inefficiently) or uncovers a kerosene lamp (allowing fuel to evaporate actions, and has not issued any
faster) violates the prohibition of bal tashchit” (Talmud Bavli, Masechet Shabbat, p. 140 side statements apologizing for the damage
b) This application of the law stresses the importance in our tradition of the conservation of
caused or claiming responsibility for it.
resources and the wise use of what we are given.

28 issue two 2007 features

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 clean-
up 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 donated by JNF
Lebanese coast, assisted with the beginning
stages. An international team of crews and More than 2,900 acres of forest,
divers, working under the direction of the
Central Institute for Marine Research in Italy, mostly coniferous, burned.
helped to map the extent of the oil spill and
location of contamination in preparation for have taken responsibility for clean-up and time around will, according to Ginsberg, allow
removing it completely. remediation efforts there. In September, the for “a greater level of biological diversity of
In a report released December 1, 2006, Jewish National Fund (JNF) launched a global, [the] forest inventory and a higher degree of
the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency ten-year, $400-million plan to “rebuild and resistance to fire and diseases. They will also
Response Center for the Mediterranean renew northern Israel and help make it home contribute habitat and food sources for native
Sea (REMPEC) laid out the progress of the again for its residents,” hoping to redevelop wildlife.” The remediation projects in Israel
clean-up efforts to date. Most of the NGO and rejuvenate the North. Their plan includes will likely serve as a forum for scientific study
groups conducting clean-up along the shore reforestation efforts, preparing agricultural and research on environmental repair and
have completed their efforts and are awaiting lands, creating incentives for families to move development as well.
final inspection, or have turned over the up North, and purchasing a fire fighting plane
responsibility of monitoring and follow-up to assist in the case of a similar disaster. moving forward
to the Lebanese government. Submerged The forest fires destroyed mainly Keidar, of the Israeli Foreign Ministry,
oil collection has been completed but, as of Jerusalem pines that had been planted in recalls his experience on the front line.
November 18, floating oil still remained on the the years after the State’s founding, half a “Unfortunately, when you’re under attack,”
surface mostly to the west of the Tabarja Beach century ago. According to Paul Ginsberg, he says, “the environmental issues seem to not
Club, in the Tripoli region north of Beirut. Director of the Forest Department of the JNF, be so important.” It is naïve at this point to hope
REMPEC reports that “cleanup of the area is the pine was chosen at the time because it that a country would choose wartime tactics
under consideration to avoid a recontamination is “a very adaptable species, [able to grow] that avoid harm to the environment rather than
of cleaned beaches north of Beirut, as the oil in the moist, cool north, [as well as in] the to respond to political needs. In a time of peace,
may be remobilized during winter storms.” dry south, in a large variety of soil types.” however, it is reasonable to expect a country to
The JNF reforestation campaign plans to act in its best interest environmentally.
Remediation Efforts—Isr ael reintroduce more broad-leaf native species, Environmental resources do not obey
National government agencies and such as eucalyptus, cypress and pistachio. political boundaries, and securing safe access
independent foundations within Israel Planting a larger variety of tree species this to these resources often entails cooperation

features issue two 2007 29

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. warm, as political conflicts
Small-scale farmers are looking to native drought-resistant crops rather than genetic engineering in order to deal with do occasionally erupt,
the lack of water. Recently, an organization was founded teaching Israeli and Palestinian farmers seed-saving techniques
Bromberg explains that the
to decrease dependence on imported, non-adapted hybrid seeds that need to be replaced each year. The organic
collaborative environmental
consciousness is growing as people realize the necessity of sustainable practices. See
for a good collection of sources and information.
initiatives “survive even
through periods of renewed
conflict because of the
strong mutual interest.”
As Israel and Lebanon work
between the countries that share them. Can maintained between Israel, Jordan and through the political fallout
mutual environmental interests establish a Egypt in the management of the Gulf of of their summer conflict, one would hope
lasting peace between two political entities? Aqaba on the Red Sea, built on the peace that shared environmental concerns can help
Gidon Bromberg of Friends of the Earth that exists between the participating nations. bring them closer to a lasting peace upon
Middle East insists that the environment There, the countries share information and which they could build future cooperation
can only “help strengthen the peace process, policies in working to prevent oil spills and on environmental issues.
but it won’t be the environment alone”—a other pollution problems, because the spot
framework for peace and cooperation is an important tourist attraction as well Tiferet Zimmerman-Kahan is a recent
between the two nations must exist first. as a unique ecosystem. Although relations college graduate committed to working in the
For example, a strong partnership is between these countries are not always environmental field.

30 issue two 2007 contents

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 organic string beans flown from Guatemala to New York and wrapped
potato chips that beg for a sandwich and dill pickle. On the in three layers of plastic on top of a Styrofoam container.
bottom-right corner of the package, a small OU symbol For some Jews, the ideas behind eco-kashrut has greatly influenced
proclaims the chips kosher, meaning they were processed the way they think about and purchase food. In 2004, Hazon (the
and packaged in accordance to Jewish dietary laws. What the bag organization for which I work), created the first Jewish Community-
doesn’t say is that the potatoes used to make these chips were grown Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, called Tuv Ha’Aretz. CSA
using synthetic pesticides. They were picked by migrant Mexican connects local, organic farmers with urban and suburban Jews who
workers who were paid less than a living wage. Once picked, they pre-purchase an entire season’s worth of the farmer’s produce. The
were fried in trans-fat oils which make chips taste great, but are linked farmer benefits from a stable market of pre-paid customers. The
to increased heart disease. So here’s the million-dollar question: are members benefit from weekly deliveries of organic, locally-grown
the chips actually kosher? produce delivered to their synagogue or JCC.
Beginning with the Torah’s prohibitions on certain animals and Tuv Ha’Aretz, which will be in 10 communities across the country
eating customs (primarily in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14), and and Israel in 2007, builds upon the CSA model by using it as a platform
continuing with the deliberations of the Talmudic and post-Talmudic for innovative education and community building around issues of
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 WHY JOIN A CO-OP?
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in the late 1970s, eco-kashrut asks 1
the question: can food really be fit for Jewish consumption if it harms Know where your fruits and vegetables come from and how they are grown.
individual health, weakens community, or damages the earth? 2
In his book, “Down to Earth Judaism: Food, Sex, Money, and the Buy nutritious food for much less than you’re spending now.
Rest of Life,” Rabbi Arthur Waskow writes, “What if, by eco-kosher
Have access to foods from all over the world.
we mean a broader sense of good everyday practice that draws on the
wellsprings of Jewish wisdom and tradition about the relationships Support local farmers.
between human beings and the earth?” It is hard to imagine, given 5
these criteria, that the bag of potato chips would be eco-kosher. Neither Help the environment and be an eater, rather than a passive consumer.
would eggs from hens raised in battery cages nor, perhaps less obviously,

36 issue two 2007 contents

It’s good for the farmer because it puts local purchasing power behind his or
Jewish Telegraph Agency writer Sue Fishkoff quotes Orthodox
her produce.
Union Rabbi Menachem Genack, as saying “The Orthodox
It’s good for you and your family because healthy organic food is available Union…ultimately decided that its mandate is simply to provide
consistently. certification of what’s kosher according to halachah, not what’s
3 ‘healthy’ or ‘ethical.”
Competitive prices. Coming from the leading Orthodox kosher certifier, the
4 possibility for change within the system seems pretty dismal. But
Reframes what it means to keep kosher in a more meaningful way. on a grassroots level, it is becoming increasingly possible for both
5 traditionally observant, as well as non- or alternatively observant
Provides an educational component between the community and farm,
Jews to fully eat their values.
strengthening the community as a whole.
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
WHY NOT JOIN A CSA? Conscience, which offers customers chicken and beef that was
humanely raised and slaughtered by a certified kosher shochet
I would be committed every week and we may or may not be around enough
(butcher). And the Conservative Movement recently announced
to use all the produce. its intention to create an ethical kosher certification that takes
2 workers rights into account.
I wouldn’t know in advance what I would be receiving and there may be weeks Savage remains hopeful that the tide may shift for the
where we don’t like the majority of the items. Orthodox Union as well. “I think that in 50 years, it’s possible
3 that an OU stamp of approval will not only mean that the animal
The quality of the produce is excellent, but I can get almost as fresh at a was shechted in the proper way, but that it was treated ethically
farmers’ market and I am only getting what I want and the amount that I
during its lifetime.”
For the sake of the chickens, as well as the sake of Jewish
The need to pick up the share at a set time, and at a set location, which can
tradition, I hope he’s right.
sometimes be inconvenient (or I simply forget).
5 Leah Koenig works for Hazon (, running their Community-
The feeling that I lose in spontaneity—for instance if I see an item at the Suppor ted Agriculture Program, Tuv Ha’Aretz, and writing for their new
store or farmer’s market that looks really good and want to try it—but I don’t blog, The Jew and the Carrot ( She is also an assistant
because I have enough produce at home through the CSA. editor at Zeek (

Adding the prefix “eco”

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

features issue two 2007 37

clearing a path
leading up north
Eli Valley contents issue two 2007 44

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.

photoessay issue two 2007 45

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.

46 issue two 2007 photoessay

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.

photoessay issue two 2007 47


Under the Hammer and Sickle

kosher in the ussr
Rachel Levy

y good friend Boris knows Moscow-born professor of Yiddish at the
his Soviet history inside University of Toronto, tries to analyze the
out. Whenever he travels Soviet Jewish culture that formed after the
back to the former Soviet Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The Soviet
Union where he was born, he catches up on government that came to power enacted
months of deprivation of what he holds to policies to eliminate perceived injustices
be “proper” culture by attending the theater, from the tsarist regime and to turn its multi-
concerts and ballets night after night. When ethnic empire into a Soviet nation. Soviet
his visit in his native country is finished, he Jews were among the biggest beneficiaries of
returns to his new home in Amsterdam with these new policies. Old pre-revolutionary laws
a suitcase stuffed with Russian literature and that restricted Jews’ mobility and access to
music, because only Russian literature and education were eliminated; this change caused
music meet his standards of “decent cultural a social revolution, with Jews migrating, both
productions.” The other half of his suitcase is physically and metaphorically, to the centers
filled with Russian delicacies such as caviar of power in the cities. At the same time, the
and cuttle fish. government engaged in a cultural revolution
Boris would never dream of marrying a to create a new kind of Soviet Jew. In her new SOVIET AND KOSHER:
Gentile girl and the vast majority of his friends book, Shternshis tries to uncover the results of JEWISH POPULAR CULTURE
are Jewish. He attends shul on practically all this social and cultural revolution. In more than IN THE SOVIET UNION, 1923–1939
Jewish holidays. Yet, he does not believe God 100 in-depth interviews on three continents, by Anna Shternshis
exists and because he believes in the truths of conducted over four years, Shternsis tried to 252 PP, Indiana University Press,
astrology, makes his life decisions based on determine what being Jewish meant to those $24.95, 2006.
the position of the stars. who grew up in the Soviet Union.
But Boris is not alone in his beliefs—in The Bolsheviks were brazen when it
fact, it seems that many Russian Jews, who came to agitating against religion, but also By 1939, the Sovietization of the Jews
celebrate both Christmas and Chanukah, used religion when it suited their ideological was considered complete and the cultural
and reject even the basics of Jewish dietary goals. On Passover, Jews would gather to read campaigns were on the decline. The
laws eating pork and cuttle fish, are quite “red Haggadahs” in which the traditional changes within the Jewish community were
comfortable in their mode of Jewish life. But themes of slavery and freedom would be astonishing: urban centers now accounted
how did that come about? applied to the liberation from tsarist rule: for 86.9 percent of the historically provincial
In her new book, Anna Sternshis, a “This year a revolution here; next year—a community. From just 26 percent of Jews
world revolution!” As Shternshis argues, the declaring Russian to be their mother tongue
Bolsheviks essentially set up a parallel shtetl in 1926, the number had grown to 54 percent.
Many Russian Jews, who that preserved Jewish identity while convincing But as Shternshis points out, not all cultural
Jews that religious belief was not essential programs worked as planned; indeed, much
celebrate both Christmas to it. Rather than having Jewish children of the Bolshevik propaganda was interpreted
taught in Russian, authorities insisted that satirically, or plundered for information about
and Chanukah, and reject they attend special Yiddish-language schools. the religion it criticized. By combining careful
even the basics of Jewish Hundreds of synagogues were shut down, readings of newspapers, leaflets, songs and
many of them transformed into clubhouses scripts with interviews of 225 people born
dietary laws eating pork where former congregants were inculcated between 1906 and 1930, Shternshis clearly
with a new set of beliefs. Local and visiting shows how the reception of Soviet propaganda
and cuttle fish, are quite theatrical performances became the center of differed from the intended purpose.
rural Jewish life; among the odder practices In the end, the harnessing of Jewish
comfortable in their mode Shternshis describes were elaborate mock trials ritual for Soviet ends seems to have backfired.
of Jewish life. in which everything from literary heroes to
Jewish holidays (the Sabbath, Yom Kippur)
Regardless of the anti-religious message Soviet
efforts attempted to communicate, the fact
were put on the stand. that they were still geared toward a Jewish

48 issue two 2007 reviews

audience helped to keep a Jewish identity intact for further re ading
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
tough jews
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 the fierce provocations of the Jewish Defense
Jews—films, books, songs—that was aimed League (JDL). Halevi’s tale sifts through
at reducing anti-Semitism. Paradoxically, as his motivations in recounting the appeals of
Shternshis demonstrates in one of her more Rabbi Meir Kahane, and describing how he
provocative arguments, it was largely through became a part of the JDL—and why he left.
this propaganda directed at Gentiles that many The author, who became an activist in the
urban Jews re-conceptualized their secular Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry while just
Soviet Jewish identity. Which brings us back Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West a boy living in Brooklyn, resembled many
to Boris and his cuttle fish who, in spite of the by Harriet and Fred Rochlin 1960s radicals, shifting restlessly as the decade
Soviets’ best efforts, would still never marry 272 PP, Houghton Mif flin, $30, 2000. progressed. Even as he questions his violent
a non-Jewish girl. past, the sharpness of Halevi’s words cut
Confronting extreme weather was just the start deeply, fashioning a true examination of his
Rachel Levy is a freelance journalist and editor for of it—Jewish pioneers in the West were met place in the modern world.
publications in Holland, America, and Israel. 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 Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems
couples who had to plan their weddings far and Other Writings
in advance—in order to guarantee use of the by Emma Lazarus
city’s single chuppah. 364 PP, Broadview Press, $21.95, 2002.

Lazarus is perennially known as the author of

the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:
The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry
“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled
from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492
masses yearning to breathe free.” But the
by Peter Cole
forceful humanism of those bold lines also
576 PP, Princeton University Press, $24.95, 2007.
infuses the rest of her work.

The Dream of the Poem gives English-speakers a Born to an assimilated family in 1849, her
unique oppor tunity to explore Sephardic poetr y discovery of Jewish history and literature—
written in medieval Spain. The anthology includes Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist: spurred by her activism on behalf of Russian
about four hundred poems by fifty-four authors, An American Story refugees—earned Lazarus her place as the first
making it an essential source of Hebrew literature by Yossi Klein Halevi important American Jewish poet. The poems
and Jewish histor y. Translated, edited and 248 PP, Little Brown, $22.95, 1995. in Songs of a Semite passionately defend the
introduced by Peter Cole, the volume also features dignity of an oppressed people, presenting
an historical introduction, author biographies and In this straightforward autobiography, America as the land of Jewish freedom: in
notes. The full original poems in Hebrew can be journalist Yossi Klein Halevi brings to life “1492,” she links the expulsion from Spain
found on the Princeton University Press website, the turbulent undercurrents sweeping young with the discovery of the New World, where Jews to the fringe in post-Holocaust America. “Falls each ancient barrier that the art / Of
Beset by mirages of ‘Holocausts-on-the-verge,’ race or creed or rank devised, to rear / Grim
searching for a spiritual home in a changing bulwarked hatred between heart and heart!”
world, Halevi channels his adolescent rage into

reviews issue two 2007 49

The Book of Judith
Judith Beheading Holofernes
painting by Caravaggio

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-your-
face heroism. Want to save the kingdom of Judea? Check her out.

Tough Jews: Fathers, Sons, Witness

and Gangster Dreams by Ruth Gruber
by Rich Cohen 288 PP, Schocken, $27.50, 2007.
304 PP, Random House, $13.95, 1999.
When we say tough, we mean gutsy. A force of
Meyer Lansky. Bugsy Siegel. Louis Lepke, the nature. In Witness, Ruth Gruber shows us not
self-effacing mastermind of Murder, Inc. Red only her own daring adventures, but also new
Levine, the Orthodox hit man who refused to insights into some of the most dramatic events
kill on the Sabbath. Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, of the last century. Among the photographs
who looked like a mama’s boy but once buried and essays included are Gruber’s account
a rival alive. These are the looming figures of of Exodus, the ship which, in 1947, tried to
the Jewish mob, and Rich Cohen traces their deliver 4,500 Jewish refugees—including 600
steps from the candy stores of Brownsville to orphans to Israel. When it was attacked by
the clubhouses of the Lower East Side. Cohen five British destroyers and a cruiser, the Exodus
gleans his sharply witty stories from research, refugees fought back with potatoes, sticks, and
government documents, and mostly, oral cans of kosher meat to plant their feet on
histories—his father grew up on New York Israel’s soil. More than tough—that’s simply
City streets where Jewish gangsters controlled inspiring.
the neighborhoods with muscle and moxie.
You can practically hear the rattle of gunfire Rebecca Bebe Leicht
and screeching tires.

50 issue two 2007 reviews


Matthue Roth

Klezmatics group Ta-Shma group

Wonder Wheel album Come Listen album
The Klezmatics’ Wonder Wheel (winner of Ta-Shma is a supergroup of sorts—Hasidic
this year’s Grammy for Best Contempo- MC and beatboxer Chunah Silverman, pre-
rary World Music Album) consists of viously best known for freestyling on every
twelve songs with new music composed corner of Crown Heights with anyone, at
from lyrics left behind by Woody Guthrie, any time, combines his talents with Men-
the godfather of American folk music. This achem Shapiro, another Chabad Hasid and
concept’s been tried before, in Mermaid “C.H.” scenester, and the production team
Avenue and Mermaid Avenue II, a pair of of Twelve Tribes, a hip-hop beatmaking
similarly-premised albums released in 1998 by Billy Bragg and Wil- outfit best known for their work on Matisyahu’s first album. The re-
co. Wilco and Bragg might have seemed like odd choices to carry on sult of their collaboration is Come Listen, a primer in Hasidic hip-hop
Guthrie’s legacy—one’s barely American, the other is barely folk— and a mash-up of programmed beats and traditional Jewish songs like
but the albums were a success critically and commercially, selling “Woman of Valor” and the Alter Rebbe’s wordless song, or niggun.
more copies than any of Guthrie’s albums ever had. Now the Klez- The album’s opener, “Revolution,” starts with Shapiro and
matics try the same experiment. Does it work? Sort of. Silverman singing an original niggun a capella—a melding of two
The opening song, “Come When I Call You,” sets Guthrie’s musical terms (respectively, “a slow, meditative Hasidic dirge” and
words to a rollicking, sea-shanty rhythm, a little haunting and more “singing without instrumental accompaniment”) which are not
than a little old-school. Lead singer Lorin Sklamberg’s vocals are commonly found in contemporary hip-hop. A deep, concentrated
note-perfect, and the whole group seems determined to make every beat drops in, and before you know it, Shapiro and Silverman are
minute of Wonder Wheel worth listening to. “Gonna Get Through going crazy over the music, spitting verses and trading rhymes while
This World” is eerie and sad; “Mermaid’s Avenue” swings in a way imploring listeners to “promise to be loyal and faithful” and “it’s not
that we always imagined the ’20s did (circa the TV show Brooklyn advice, it’s your life / tomorrow is permanent.”
Bridge, or Neil Simon-induced movies). The album features the expected cameos by fellow Hasidic scene
But everything feels a little too perfect. Till We Outnumber staples Matisyahu, who does his not-exactly-singing, not-exactly-
’Em, Ani Difranco’s Guthrie tribute featuring Bruce Springsteen, rapping shtick, and up-and-coming Boro Park M.C. Y-Love, who rips
the Indigo Girls, and others, felt largely unrehearsed—just folks it up with a song-stealing appearance on “Journeys.” Less expected
on acoustic guitars singing old Guthrie songs by heart. On Wonder is clarinetist Andy Statman’s appearance on two songs; along with
Wheel, everything feels too polished, the lyrics treated with too much several sampled Chabad nigguns and Ta-Shma’s uplifting, crowd-
care—as though every moment has been meticulously planned. friendly lyrics, Statman’s participation transforms from just another
Guthrie and longtime collaborator Pete Seeger were famous appropriation of culture-specific music into a bona fide approbation
for abducting other people’s songs and adding their own verses; you on an existing form of cultural music.
won’t find any of that here. The lyrics make Guthrie’s Mermaid Avenue If there’s one major fault to the album, it’s that some tracks suffer
hangout feel like a jolly, clean place, not the lowbrow, working- from fuzzy production, and some of the songs—“Shine,” “Return
class rumble of a party that it probably was. Songs like “Headdy Home,” “Jacob’s Ladder”—overdo the resonant themes of spiritual
Down” and “Goin’ Away to Sea” are sanitized and polished, the awakening, clinging to G-d, and the need for love. But, hell, it’s about
arrangements so perfect that they feel hollow, despite the Klezmatics’ time somebody said it.
best intentions. These are songs written about sailors and soldiers and Ta-Shma is a group that could only come out of a place like
penniless drunks, not Broadway theater-goers and armchair-klezmer Crown Heights—and, if Shapiro and Silverman keep doing their
Upper East Side yuppies. thing on the stage and in the streets, they could offer the neighborhood
But there’s a lot about Wonder Wheel that’s undeniably good. its best chance toward a much-needed multiracial dialogue and
The Klezmatics make these songs their own, putting klezmer violin understanding.
segues and step-dancing rhythms in places where they shouldn’t fit,
but always do. The clarinet-and-violin jams are executed masterfully, Matthue Roth is a writer and per formance poet whose first novel, Never Mind
in a way that makes every moment feel like a Coney Island carnival the Goldbergs, just came out in paperback. Matthue also writes for Bitch
sideshow. Not like the voice of the streets, but a voice to take us away Magazine, Zero, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and reads a lot of comic
from them. Maybe, even, like Woody would’ve wanted. books. He and his wife live in Chicago.

reviews issue two 2007 55

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.
by Avital Aronowitz
All of the polo recipes, whether made
by a wedding caterer or a housewife, follow tendency, allowing the cooking properties at this critical interface, however, creates a
the same basic principle. White basmati of both liquids to integrate harmoniously. crispy delicacy that only serves to sharpen the
rice, thoroughly rinsed and par-cooked, The seasonings add endless variety, and old saw that the way to your beloved’s heart
is mounded into a steaming hot oil-water spice up the nourishing but otherwise plain is through his/her stomach. While a pot of
mixture at the bottom of a heavy pot. The oil rice, preventing boredom. The cooking rice rice might not be the answer to all of your
crisps the bottom of the rice, forming the tadig requires constant attention and monitoring relationship woes, the attention and loving
layer, and the water bubbles up into steam that lest the bottom burn. care symbolized by cooking for your loved
ensures that every grain is tender. Mixing oil The Vilna Gaon on the Aggadic portion ones certainly can’t hurt.
and water and heat usually results in spatters, of Berakhot 56b notes that a pot is a symbol of
burns and chaos. However, just like in a good productive harmony. In order to make peace Miriam Segura is a Biotechnologist, a Foodie, and
argument, where equal measures of listening between fire and water, even your best cast-iron a Talmudist. Catch her trademark variety of cute
and talking prevent hurt feelings, using equal Le Creuset will have to suffer a little blackening snark at www.hungr yhungr
amounts of oil and water mitigates this chaotic and burning. A skillful interposition of rice

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

TwO JEws,
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. Non-
dwellers inquire, And what of the other cities?
Demographers note, not just in these three cities,
but in any city containing a strong Jewish
ThrEE blOgs prayer, and so it will be called among the nations.”
The twentysomethings and thirtysomethings were
sought but could not be reached for comment.
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 Two Jews, three opinions. That’s the shul I wouldn’t be caught dead in. I don’t X or Generation Y? Wired Magazine replied,
in the book of Yul Brynner, “so it shall be written, X+Y=Tech, as it is written, “Those who have
and so it shall be done.” ‘hold by’ that rabbi. With a plethora of voices and myriad opportunities for MySpace or Facebook accounts, or who engage in
Spiritual seekers. Entertainment Tonight asks, self-expression and dissent, blogging is the perfect venue for Jews with something text messaging.” And if the parents should ask,
who is considered a spiritual seeker? The National to say. (Which means, of course, all Jews.) what is the difference between text messaging and
Enquirer says, If the embrace of spirituality is According to the Pew Internet Study, eight million American adults have started instant messaging, the children will respond,
intended to deflect attention from their bomb of blogs. But for many (62 percent of the Internet-using population, according to the LOL.
a movie career, they are not considered seekers. Conference on Jewish student identity. A third
Rabbi Boteach says, Kabbalah for the sake of career survey), blogging is still something foreign and feared; perhaps the word itself conference will take place in March 2007.
is not Kabbalah. sounds too journalistically informal, or conveys the perception that blog access Limited number. Some people meet their
requires advanced technology. But after overcoming initial hesitations, Jews are spouses and cease their blogging. But others who
discovering the endless potential of blogging. Perhaps it’s because the format, in meet via blogging go on to blog together in joint
which multiple opinions create an open conversation on a central text, already exists in the Jewish literary’s blogs about how much they love each other. Other
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
through international, interdenominational discussion. No longer the private domain of rabbis and sages, this contemporary wore stickers with funny phrases on them as
Talmud would be accessible to everyone. conversation pieces. And it came to pass that one
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.
the Book’ are morphing into ‘the People of the Blog’. Anonymous. The rabbis say, anonymity is
Today’s spiritual seekers, rabbis, students, and the average Joe Jew are also reaching out through blogging, seeking deception, as it is written, “I am God.” As God
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
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 that sometimes God is even more hidden. As God’s
Jewish professional. When I read my old posts, I can see how much my Jewish identity has changed.” name does not appear in the megillah, sometimes
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.
religious Christians who read and comment. This is all something of a nes, a miracle.” Words are powerful. As the cliché says, “the pen
“The more I looked around online, the more I found out about Judaism that I had no idea existed,” says YoYenta’s thirty- is mightier than the sword.” As the writer says,
“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
that they design themselves, a la carte and online. “While blogs themselves won’t replace religious or social institutions, they original document, as the editors of PresenTense
can do much to enhance them,” says Oklahoma-based technology consultant Simon Fleischmann, 35, of “As have said, the articles are just the beginning
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.
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

58 issue two 2007 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
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.

issue two 2007 contents
backpage 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.

64 issue two 2007 backpage

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