Pope Meets the Founder of Shavei Israel

SHAVEI-1Pope Francis met with Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund in Krakow. As part of his visit to Poland, Francis travelled to the former extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich introduced Pope Francis to Freund, whose organization, Shavei Israel, aims to strengthen the ties between the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world.

Francis and Freund discussed how a growing number of young Poles are rediscovering their Jewish roots. Today there are approximately 4,000 Jews registered as living in Poland, but experts suggest there may be tens of thousands of others throughout the country who are either hiding their identities or are simply unaware of their heritage. In recent years, a growing number of such people, popularly known as the “Hidden Jews of Poland” have begun to return to Judaism and to the Jewish people.

Ceviche: A Sephardic Gift to Peru

A Niche for Peruvian Fish Dish of Cevice at your Shabbat Tisch!

 

The origin of ceviche, the Peruvian national dish of fish in a citrus marinade, may be a Jewish Sabbath dish from the Iberian Peninsula. Some experts believe that a type of ceviche existed in Peru long before the Spanish arrived, in the form of raw fish flavored with fermented passionfruit juice. Escabeche is a type of fish dish that was typically served during Shabbat dinner in Spain, Portugal, and North Africa. The Jews adopted this method of preparation from the Persians. It was so well loved that it was even mentioned in “One Thousand and One Nights,” the collection of Arab folk tales.

To prepare escabeche, very fresh fish was cleaned and mixed with vinegar, olive oil, fresh laurel leaves, whole peppercorns, and wine. It was allowed to “cook” in this liquid for several hours. The escabeche was served cold. When America was colonized, many Sephardic Jews left the Iberian Peninsula to escape the Spanish Inquisition. They brought their recipes with them.

The conquistadores brought citrus fruits and onions with them to America. The recipes for escabeche were tweaked in the New World, and perhaps fused with the local Native Ameircan traditions. Sardines, Tuna, Mackerel, Hake, and Cod were used to make escabeche in Spain and Portugal. In Peru, Sea Bass and Flounder are popular choices in the preparation of ceviche. Instead of vinegar, fresh lime was used in the marinade.

This summer, try this refreshing way of preparing fish.

Photo by PROFoodie Buddha https://www.flickr.com/photos/foodiebuddha/

Photo by PROFoodie Buddha

Ceviche Clasico
Adapted from Pisco Trail

  • 1/4 Lb. very fresh sole or salmon (preferably sushi grade), cubed.
  • 1/2 tsp. salt.
  • 1/2 tsp. minced jalapeno pepper.
  • 1 tbsp. minced red onion.
  • 5 thin slices habanero pepper.
  • 1 boiled sweet potato, cubed.
  • Fresh coriander, minced.
  • 2 limes, juiced.
  1. Place the fish, salt, lime, onion, jalapeno and habanero peppers, sweet potato, and coriander in a bowl.
  2. Serve on a small plate.

Jerusalem Facts for the Democratic National Convention

The Democratic and Republican parties will meet soon in Philadelphia and Cleveland and adopt their party platforms. They will address questions about Jerusalem.

Before they make this important decision, it is important to make sure they have the facts straight. StandWithUs has created this educational fact sheet about Jerusalem to distribute to members of the platform committee as well as to other convention delegates and key policymakers:
[Read more…]

Citron & Rose Tavern & Market: Lower Merion’s Kosher Food Nirvana

11025692_1621998434689092_3865754117068636563_oThe famous kosher restaurant C&R Kitchen is reinventing itself to meet the needs of the community in a much more all-encompassing way. The renamed Citron & Rose Tavern & Market will morph into a kosher high-end restaurant, take-out market, and catering venue. Just in time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the former New Tavern Restaurant in Bala Cynwyd will be the destination of choice for prepared foods for the holiday table.

The restaurant will serve kosher versions of The New Tavern’s traditional menu such as soups and chicken Marsala, to appeal to every customer’s level of observance and budget. This restaurant will be inviting to the entire community, Jewish and non-Jewish, with its really good mainstream kosher food. It will have the highest level of dietary adherence and serve excellent contemporary food.
[Read more…]

Essen: A Little Jewish Bakery in South Philly

photo (7)As the aroma of freshly baked challah wafts down Passyunk Avenue, South Philly is returning to its Jewish roots. The source of the heavenly smell is Essen, a new Jewish bakery. “Essen,” which means, “eat!” in Yiddish, is the creation of Tova du Plessis.

Tova du Plessis, originally from Johannesburg, was dutifully studying to be a physician. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biology, she pivoted toward her true love and attended culinary school. Ms. du Plessis honed her craft at Citron & Rose, Le Bec Fin, and The Rittenhouse Hotel. After the birth of her first child, she felt ready for another new challenge, and decided to open her own shop.

Serendipitously, the proprietor of her local bakery decided to pursue other opportunities. Tova du Plessis was able to rent the bakery with all of its equipment. She tapped into the memories of preparing Shabbat dinners with her mother in South Africa. Then, she tweaked the recipes a little bit.

13122909_487661448094640_5776031625427631548_oThree types of challah are baked at Essen. There is a fragrant, slightly sweet plain challah, a saltier seeded challah, and an exotic za’atar challah. Fresh labaneh with olive oil and za’atar is available for purchase to pair with the za’atar challah. These challahs are soft, chewy, moist, and pareve. I bought all three for Shabbat dinner. When my father bit into the plain challah, he told my mother, “this is just like the ones you bake!”

Jewish apple cake, chocolate chip – sea salt cookies, and cheese cake with house made strawberry preserves are baked on the premises. The crowning cakes of the display case are the babkas. These delicious yeast cakes are baked with cinnamon and hazelnuts or chocolate and halva.

13112996_484225865104865_1420751969339691223_oI must confess that the chocolate-halva babka was so wickedly decadent that I knew that it would be a sin for me to tempt anyone who knows me with it. This is why I sat at a table in the corner of Essen’s cozy café and ate the whole delicious slice by myself.

Essen Bakery
Address: 1437 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone:(215) 271-2299
Hours:
Friday 8AM–6PM
Saturday 8AM–6PM
Sunday 8AM–3PM
Monday Closed
Tuesday Closed
Wednesday 8AM–6PM
Thursday 8AM–6PM
https://www.facebook.com/essenbakery/

The Wings Program: Advocates for Lone Soldiers

<a href=The Wings Program for Lone Soldiers, run by the Merage Foundation and the Jewish Agency for Israel, was represented last week in a caucus for lone soldiers in the Israeli Knesset. The caucus convened to discuss the issue of lone immigrant soldiers and their integration into Israeli society after their release from the IDF. [Read more…]

Grilled Pizza For Dad

Celebrate Father’s Day with individualized grilled pizzas. This meal is very easy to pull together, even if you have young children. You may purchase refrigerated pizza dough. Set out bowls with different toppings, such as olives, mushrooms, sliced onions, minced peppers, etc., and let the whole family have fun making the pizza of their choice.

Grilled Pizza

  • Refrigerated pizza dough
  • Olive oil
  • Tomato sauce
  • A selection of shredded cheeses such as: mozzarella, cheddar, Colby, Gruyere, Emmental, Edam, blue, or chevre
  1. Heat the grill.
  2. Rub the grates with olive oil.
  3. Flatten the pizza dough, and brush with olive oil.
  4. Place the pizza dough on the grill and cover.
  5. Cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Remove the pizza dough from the grill and turn it over.
  7. Spread some tomato sauce on the dough.
  8. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the tomato sauce.
  9. Place the pizza on the grill and cover.
  10. Cook for about 3 minutes.

Canaries in the Coal Mine: French Jews Face Anti-Semitism

Simone Rodan Benzaquen - Resized and Compressed“The French Jews are the canary in the coal mine,” Simone Rodan-Benzaquen told me. Ms. Benzaquen, the director of the American Jewish Committee in Europe, related that anti-Semitism in Western Europe is a very serious problem. Europe is the laboratory for how to contend with it in 2016. If the fight against anti-Semitism fails in Europe, it will fail in the United States as well.

Anti-Semitism is a crisis for liberal democracies. The members of the extreme left (anti-Zionists), the members of the extreme right, and some parts of the Muslim community have found common cause. They all hate Jews. This crisis starts with the Jews, but it doesn’t end there.

The Centrist parties are not discussing the problems within the Muslim community due to political correctness. The Populist parties are filling the void by asking the right questions. They are addressing the issues of integration, Islamism, and how to make Islam compatible with democratic values.

What can the Centrist parties do? Ms. Benzaquen suggested several solutions. First, they must speak out clearly. They need to call Islamist extremism what it is and identify the sources of the problems.

The educational system offers an opportunity to impact young pupils and shape the future adults of France. During the past several years, students have refused to learn about the Holocaust in certain neighborhoods. Their teachers retreated because they were afraid of being attacked. France needs to invest the resources to train teachers in new methodologies so they can deal with these issues. Holocaust education is important for them because it illustrates how a society can behave and how individuals can choose to behave. It is an opportunity to teach tolerance, and to accept diversity.

France does not recognize individual communities; everyone is French. In order to counter Islamic radicalization, the authorities must reach out to the Muslim community to spot signs of radicalization. It is only then that they can begin to contend with it.

One of the most effective ways that the Islamic radicals influence and recruit young people is with social media. In France, speech is free, within limits. The French government can shut down social media sites due to incitement. The platforms used by these Islamists are based in the United States. Initially, the US-based companies did not feel that they were obligated to comply with French laws. The European Commission passed a law that requires social media companies to follow European laws in order to be available there. This has made it easier for the French authorities to shut down sites dedicated to Islamic radicalization.

The signs in Europe point to a worrisome future in the United States. The Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) movement on university campuses and the expression of anti-Semitism online are creating a hostile environment for Jews. We live in a globalized world. There is no escaping anti-Semitism by moving from country to country. What kind of world do we want?

Israeli Cheesecake for Shavuot

Photo by Christian Guthier https://www.flickr.com/photos/wheatfields/

Photo: Christian Guthier

Shavuot is the celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is also an agricultural holiday marking the beginning of the wheat harvest in Israel. It is traditional to eat dairy products during Shavuot. Israelis celebrate Shavuot with an iconic cheesecake called Ugat Gvina (cheese cake). They can thank the German Templers for introducing the most important ingredient in this cake to Israel.

In 1868, the first group of these German Protestants settled at the foot of Mount Carmel. They established a colony there, followed by Sarona, near Jaffa, and the Valley of Refaim in Jerusalem. They were called “Templers” since they hoped to hasten the coming of the Messiah by facilitating the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Templers (no relation to the medieval Knights Templars) created the Jaffa orange brand and founded the first dairy farm with cows in Ottoman Palestine. Sheep and goats had exclusively provided milk up to this point. The Germans made one of their favorite dairy products at this dairy: quark cheese.

Quark cheese is a soft fresh cheese, traditionally made without rennet. It is popular throughout Northern Europe. Milk that has soured is slowly warmed until it curdles. The mix is strained through a cheesecloth, and then served. Quark cheese is lower fat than cream cheese. It has a lighter, drier, and grainier texture. The Vermont Creamery makes a kosher Quark cheese. This is the essential ingredient that gives Israeli cheesecake its light texture and distinctive flavor.

What I think of as “Israeli cheesecake” is really a German recipe introduced by the Templers.

Photo by kersy83 https://www.flickr.com/photos/kersy83/

Photo: kersy83

Israeli Cheesecake
Adapted from allrecipes

  • 18 oz. Quark cheese
  • 2 1/8 cups milk
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Vanilla sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Coat a 9 inch cake pan with oil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg, flour, and baking powder.
  4. Press into the bottom and sides of the cake pan.
  5. In a clean bowl, mix the quark cheese, vegetable oil, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla sugar, pudding mix, egg yolks, 1 egg, milk, and lemon juice.
  6. Pour the mixture over the crust.
  7. Bake for 60 minutes.

Lag BaOmer Poike

Photo by אסף.צ https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%A9%D7%AA%D7%9E%D7%A9:%D7%90%D7%A1%D7%A3.%D7%A6

Photo: אסף .צ

Israel owes one of its most popular Lag BaOmer traditions to the Jewish community of South Africa. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the proudly Zionist South African Jews provided it with the most financial support per capita of any other community in the diaspora. Just as importantly, the South African olim introduced the potjie (pronounced “poike”) to Israel. This special pot, and the stew named for it, is an indispensable part of the Israeli Lag BaOmer celebration.

A potjie is a type of Dutch oven that was brought to South Africa by the Boer colonists from the Netherlands in the 1800s. This cast iron cauldron means “little pot.” It has three small legs and a wire handle. It can be nestled among the coals of a campfire or suspended over a flame.

To prepare the potjie stew, a little oil is heated in the Dutch oven. Then, lamb cubes are browned. Some alcohol is added for flavor, usually beer, sherry, or dessert wine. The potjie chef seasons the stew, usually very conservatively. Amazingly, garlic is not a popular ingredient. The pot is covered tightly with the lid, and the stew is left to steam slowly. It is not customary to stir the contents of the pot, so that when the potjie is ready, there are layers of flavors in the stew.

Photo By Chrstphr.jones (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Chrstpher Jones

Lamb Potjie
Adapted from Joburg South
4 pounds cubed lamb
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 onions, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 potatoes, chopped
1/2 lb. green beans, with the ends cut off
2 fresh bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup red wine
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin

Heat the pot over medium hot coals.
Combine the flour, salt, cumin, and coriander.
Coat the lamb cubes with the flour mixture.
Heat the olive oil in the pot.
Brown the lamb cubes.
Take the lamb cubes out of the pot and set aside.
Place the onions and celery in the pot, and fry them a little bit.
Add the lamb cubes to the vegetables.
Pour in the stock, red wine, fresh thyme, and bay leaves.
Close the lid tightly and allow to cook for one hour.
Add the potatoes.
After 30 minutes, add the carrots.
Cook for 15 minutes, and add the green beans.
Wait 10 minutes.
Serve with rice, noodles, or fresh pita bread.