A New Way to Boost Children’s Hebrew and Ties to Israel

by Rebecca Modell

The Israeli-American Council’s  www.israeliamerican.org Sifriyat Pijama B’America (SP-BA), which together with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation provides free monthly Hebrew children’s books to families in the United States, has partnered with Storyly, a new online platform for children’s Hebrew stories, to offer Israeli parents across the United States an innovative, fun way to improve their children’s Hebrew language skills while nurturing a love of Israeli culture.
The Israeli-American Council (IAC), will sponsor free Storyly subscriptions to SP-BA members as part of this partnership. Storyly’s pioneering service allows children to have dozens of Hebrew books read to them online as audio e-books, or read to them by friends or relatives including grandparents, aunts or uncles, live on a shared online screen. Children can bond with loved ones far away while being excited by the Hebrew language through the rich world of Israeli children’s books. Please read more information on the partnership between SP-BA and Storyly, and subscribe.

SP-BA, the Hebrew version of PJ Library, offers Jewish children, ages 2-8, and their families an opportunity to create a tradition of reading stories in Hebrew together and enjoying meaningful conversations on Jewish topics and themes at home. The goal is to foster affinity for and knowledge of Jewish values from a young age while connecting them to Israel.

“Sifriyat Pijama B’America today brings free Hebrew children’s books to more than 10,000 families throughout the United States on a monthly basis,” said Adam Milstein, a board member of the Israeli-American Council and the co-founder of SP-BA. “Our partnership with Storyly enables us to substantially expand the reach of our free community building programs and puts us on the cutting-edge of our Israeli-American community, connecting our children to the Hebrew language, Israeli culture, and Jewish values in the digital age.  Now no matter where we are, our children can interact with family and friends in Israel while reading Hebrew stories together on their iPads or computers.”

“Storyly brings Israeli story time into our home in America. My kids love it as it offers great books, and I love that it feels like our family here and in Israel is sitting in one room and enjoying reading together,” said SP-BA and Storyly subscriber, Sharon Rechter of Los Angeles, mother to Noa, 7 and Neta, 4.
Get more information on registering for free SP-BA books and becoming eligible for a free Storyly subscription today!

“Israeli Rock Godfather” Arik Einstein Dies at 74

“You Can’t (Leave Me)” by Arik Einstein’s band, the “High Windows.”

— by Amir Shoam

The iconic Israeli folk singer and comedian Arik Einstein passed away suddenly at the age of 74.

Einstein introduced entire genres, including rock, to Israeli music. Imagining Israeli music without him is like imagining the NBA without Michael Jordan. He will be missed.

More praise for this Israel entertainment legend and videos of his music and comedy follow the jump.

Parody of Israeli immigration

Shawn Evenhaim, Chairman of the Israeli-American Council commented,

We are sad to hear about Arik Einstein’s death and send our condolences to his family, friends, fans, and to all Israelis. Einstein is an Israeli cultural legend and probably the greatest Israeli singer of all time, and we’re sure that every Israeli who lives in the U.S. today shares in the sadness of his passing. A major icon of Israeli culture has left us, but his memory and songs will stay with us forever.

International Bible Quiz parody

Song on Soviet invasion of Prague

Israeli Classic Rock on YouTube

“Your Forehead Is Adorned” by Arik Einstein, Korin Elal and Yehudit Ravitz

— by Ronit Treatman

Where can you find an amazing collection of vintage footage of Israeli rock music? On a YouTube channel created by Guy Alon, an Israeli music aficionado. The Hertzlia native tells me, “I grew up with Israeli Music, which always was in the background in my parents’ house.”

I especially remember old LPs by Chava Alberstein, Matti Caspi and Svika Pick. However, it was only when I became an adult that I realized how deep the Israeli music was inside me, and really started to read, listen and explore the nostalgic Israeli music. It was only in my early 30s that I became a true “Israeli Music fan.”

More after the jump.
Impressed by the selection offered by his channel, I asked Guy how he got so many videos. “My collection is a result of decades of preserving old VCR cassettes with original recordings from Israeli TV, mainly with Israeli Music,” he said.

After I started my new hobby, of uploading my materials and sharing them with the world, the rumor of what I did spread and got to many people, who generously donated their own collections, or just old VCR cassettes for the noble cause.

“I was overwhelmed with the number of responses I got.” Guy Alon

“I started my journey with a small, beautiful clip sang by Netan’ela — one of my favorites singers,” recalls Alon.

I uploaded it on August 2006, to share with some of my friends, and was overwhelmed with the huge number of responses I got, from within Israel, and Jewish people worldwide, asking for more materials from the good old Israeli music. Since then I decided to slowly share my collection with everyone, with a goal to upload one new clip every day, a task I am proud to say that I managed to achieve. Today, my YouTube channel has more than 2000 clips that I uploaded, and is one of the most popular private YouTube channels in Israel.

And how about personal favorites? “My favorite artist is Matti Caspi,” Alon says.

I think he is a true musical genius. One that if was born in another country would have become one of the most succesful artist in the world. His music is so rich and deep that I can never get enough of it. Another artist I love to hear is Idan Raichel. He is a very talented musician, with original material of his own. He is also seems to be a very nice and modest person.

Ruhama Raz and Manny Amrilio reharsing “In My Beloved Country”

South Philly/Old City Hidden City Festival And Mural Tour Highlights

— by Jenna Slowey

Hidden City Philadelphia and the Mural Arts Program are joining forces this weekend to offer a bus tour that visits Hidden City festival sites, as well as some of the city’s more prominent murals in South Philadelphia and Old City.  The tour will be held at 1:00 pm every day from Thursday, June 20 to Sunday, June 30. The tour costs $35 per person and includes a one-day Hidden City Festival Pass.

The tour begins at John Grass Wood Turning, 141 North 3rd Street, a legacy woodturning business started by Bavarian immigrant John Grass in 1863 that closed in 2003. The workshop has remained intact and essentially unchanged for a century. Located in America’s first manufacturing district (and crucible of Philadelphia’s “Workshop of the World”), the company made tool handles, flag poles and furniture — almost anything made of wood that needed to be turned on a lathe.

More after the jump.
The on-site Wood Shop project serves as a pilot project to introduce John Grass to the wider public, to exhibit handcrafted products created throughout its 160-year history and as a custom railing and balustrade by maker Joe McTeague, who will be incorporating found lathe-turned products created at John Grass.

Later, the tour visits Shivtei Yeshuron-Ezras Israel, a small converted storefront synagogue from 1909. In the century since, as Jewish South Philly grew then shrunk then grew again, this tiny synagogue has persisted, almost unchanged, as one of the last pre-World War I row house “shuls” of its kind.

Textile artist Andrew Dahlgren is working on site in his ADMK Knit Lab. He will meet visitors as he creates a knitted quilt that will cover the facade of the synagogue.

In between the two visits, several of the city’s murals will be visited.

“Marrying Philadelphia’s forgotten historical and architectural treasures with the far-ranging mural program is a natural fit,” Hidden City Creative Director Lee Tusman said. “This tour provides a sampling of the best of both worlds.”

The six-week Hidden City festival is a unique combination of art, history and architecture, as well as an exercise in building community and imagining new futures for vacant spaces. It will present the largest showing to date in Philadelphia — and one of the largest in the country — of what’s been called “social practice art,” a burgeoning grassroots movement recently spotlighted in The New York Times and also on Philly.com.

Shivtei Yeshuron-Ezras Israel
2015 South 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148

The nine Hidden City sites are located in a wide array of neighborhoods, including Center City, Germantown, Frankford, South Philadelphia and University City:

  1. Kelly Natatorium at Fairmount Park,
  2. Germantown Town Hall,
  3. The Athenaeum of Philadelphia,
  4. the Historical Society of Frankford,
  5. Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron-Ezras Israel,
  6. Hawthorne Hall,
  7. Fort Mifflin,
  8. John Grass Woodturning and
  9. Globe Dye Works.

Other highlights this week include:

  • Punk Jews screening, 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 20 at Shivtei Yeshuron-Ezras Israel, 2015 S. 4th St. Profiling Hassidic punk rockers, Yiddish street performers, African-American Jewish activists and more, Punk Jews explores an emerging movement of provocateurs and committed Jews who are asking, each in his or her own way, what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century. After the screening, co-producer Saul Saludin will hold a Q&A with the audience. Tickets are $10.
  • Independent Germantown Flagmaking Workshop, 12-7 p.m. Sunday at Germantown Town Hall, 5928 Germantown Ave. Come work with Katie Hargrave of the Think Tank that has yet to be named to design and create the new flag of independent Germantown. No prior knowledge required. Drop in any time to contribute.
  • Radical Jewish Music: A Concert Series — Uri Caine plays Moloch.  8 p.m. Monday at Shivtei Yeshuron-Ezras Israel, 2015 S. 4th St. Tickets are $25 online and $30 at the door. Caine is a musician of astonishing virtuosity and versatility. Coming out of the legendary Philly Jazz scene, his playing is an encyclopedia of styles. Ars Nova Workshop, in partnership with Hidden City Philadelphia, holds the third of its three-part concert series featuring the work of composer John Zorn inside this 19th century South Philly synagogue.

Tickets for Hidden City Philadelphia are available online at http://festival.hiddencityphil… or over the phone at 267-428-0575.

Tickets cost $20 for a one-day pass, $40 for a weekend pass and $70 for an all-festival pass. Hidden City members pay reduced rates of $15 for a one-day pass, $30 for a weekend pass and $50 for an all-festival pass.

About Hidden City Philadelphia
Hidden City Philadelphia pulls back the curtain on the city’s most remarkable places and connects them to new people, functions and resources. We celebrate the power of place and inspire social action to make our city a better place to live, work and play. We do this through four complementary programs: Hidden City Daily, our online magazine; Hidden City Tours & Events; immersive experiences of remarkable places; and Hidden City Festival, an award-winning and widely acclaimed artistic, historical and community event.

Written in Philadelphia, Bound for Broadway

— by Ronit Treatman

Last year, local talent Michael Bihovsky knocked our hypoallergenic socks off with his music parody video One Grain More. Now, he is launching a “fresh” new project.

Bihovsky is putting his collegiate experiences to music into “Fresh!” This musical follows Michael from the suburbs of Philadelphia to his new life as a freshman in New York City. Michael sings about his challenges and struggles, and shares the transformation he experiences.  

This is a show everyone can relate to, as it empathizes with the daily struggles many of us endure. In the end, both Michael and we emerge stronger.  

The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work/Life Success

— book review by Kristi Hughes

Teresa Taylor snuck home one workday at lunch to surprise her nanny. The music was blaring; the nanny was cooking while on her cell phone. Teresa’s infant son was asleep in a swing, with swollen eyes from crying, lying in a soiled diaper. Teresa fired her nanny on the spot but she was due back at work. Her son needed her but so did her coworkers.

More after the jump.
Taylor, a working mom who, after years of feeling like she was always failing someone — coworkers, kids, husband or friends, finally uncovered the simple truth: she would never achieve the mythical thing called ‘balance’ for which so many women (and men) spend their adult lives searching. In fact, searching for it only creates failure, disappointment and frustration. Thus, Taylor conceived the new book The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success.

Taylor is a nationally recognized telecom executive who teaches integrity, focus, and vision, to working women everywhere in her new book. Part memoir, part guide and part inspiration, The Balance Myth provides unique yet palpable solutions for women to simplify the complexities of a modern professional lifestyle-from parenting and married life to travel, friendship and business and more.

Each chapter includes intimate personal stories — from accepting suicide, to struggling with infertility, to the responsibility that comes with top-level government clearances – which will both inspire and provoke readers to successfully navigate their own overwhelming, personal and professional challenges.

“You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you react,” says Taylor. “By leaving behind the frustrating and useless idea of work-life balance, women can begin making positive work-life decisions.”.”

The Balance Myth explains that one really can’t have success in one area of their life without having success in the others. Women should abandon any feelings of ‘mommy guilt’ and start feeling ‘in power’ both inside the home and at the office. It suggests that life is all about creating alternatives, options, and backup plans, and it’s about asking for help. Further, The Balance Myth teaches women to respect, appreciate, and recognize their own professional AND personal accomplishments. Taylor has concluded that you can’t take the mother out of the career woman or the career out of the mother, and suggest that women use both to their advantage. The Balance Myth also includes the following themes:

  • Advice on overcoming adversity in the workplace
  • Time management because you are never off the clock
  • It’s impossible to live one life with two calendars
  • How to avoid daycare failure
  • How to implement a successful ‘layer’ system
  • How to manage a mommy meltdown
  • That you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room
  • The privileges of leadership as a mommy and an executive

Teresa Taylor serves on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem, Inc., a financial services holding company with $7.3 billion in assets, as well as the board of directors for NiSource, Inc., a Fortune 500 natural gas and electricity storage and transmission company. Additionally, Taylor is an executive adviser to Governor John Hickenlooper and serves on the Colorado Economic Development Commission. She also serves on the Global Leadership Council for Colorado State University’s College of Business and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Colorado Technology Association.

Previously, Ms Taylor was the COO at Qwest, a $12 billion telecommunications and media company, where she held numerous executive positions spanning a successful 23-year tenure. Taylor has been featured in a number of national business publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She is sought after as a speaker on topics including leadership, economic development, and innovation. She resides in Golden, Colorado, with her husband. She has two grown sons.

Summer With The School of Rock

— by Ronit Treatman

As the daughter of a classically trained pianist, I was extremely skeptical when my children told me they wanted to learn to play musical instruments at the Philadelphia School of Rock. I could just hear my grandmother snorting, “Feh, what kind of teaching is that?”

Much to my surprise, the system is outstanding. At the School of Rock, the students immediately begin to learn to play whatever they want. The instructors break down the songs, and the kids learn how to play them. No time is spent on tedious tasks like practicing scales.

More after the jump.
My son has been learning at the School of Rock for the past three years. He has learned how to play both electric and acoustic guitars. He has written and performed his own songs, and started a band. He  loves the way he connects with his teachers: “They have become my friends,” he told me. Many young people are enrolled at the School of Rock. Those who join the School of Rock’s bands have the opportunity to make meaningful new friendships.  

A great way to get a taste of the School of Rock is by enrolling in a summer camp session. It lasts long enough to understand what the School of Rock is all about. One of the coolest things about the School of Rock is that the professional bands on tour in Philadelphia drop in. When they do, they jam with the School of Rock’s students.  

The Last Sephardic Jew

— by Ronit Treatman

Just as there is a Yiddish revival, there is a Ladino renaissance occurring. Eliezer Papo, a rabbi, attorney, and novelist who is originally from Sarajevo is spearheading this movement. He teaches Ladino at the Ben Gurion University in Israel. He is featured in a documentary called “El Ultimo Sefardi” or “The Last Sephardic Jew.” In it he retraces the steps of the Sephardic diaspora from Toledo during the time of the expulsion to Jerusalem in the present. This award-winning film, made for Spanish television, is in Spanish and Ladino. You can see it with english subtitles here.


Summer Encounters With New York’s Theatrical Jewish Culture

This summer theater lovers will have an opportunity to participate in Tent: Theater, New York City. This is a seminar about Jews and the performing arts that lasts for one week. Participants will be able to meet playwrights, directors, and actors. The group will go to several Off-Broadway productions. The influence of Jewish performers on American theater will be examined. One of the highlights of the visit will be a Q and A session with Tony Kushner, Pulitzer prize winning author of Angels in America. Applications are due March 4.

Food Chat: Birthday Stollen

— by Hannah Lee

My birthday falls on December 26 on the Gregorian calendar and I choose not to celebrate with a double-layered cake with frosting. In recent years, I’ve been experimenting with ceremonial sweets of other cultures (namely, Christmas), so last year I procured the traditional spring form pan used to bake the Italian panettone.  This year, I had a hankering to try my hand at the German stollen, after my sister-in-law introduced the family to her father’s annual treat.

The full recipe after the jump.
One of my favorite food bloggers is David Lebovitz and in 2009, he wrote a post on his eponymous webpage about making stollen when the snow kept him indoors in his Paris apartment. His recipe is adapted from the New York Times from a recipe by Melissa Clark and Hans Röckenwagner. I liked it because it called for rye flour, which I had left over from a previous culinary adventure with Boston brown bread. I like fruitcake and this one is leavened by yeast. Unfortunately, I did not read the recipe closely and when I embarked on it in the morning, I realized that it called for five sessions of resting (“proofing”) the dough, resting it for an hour at a time. So, I had to time my activities, from a shiva call to Les Misérables, to tend to the dough.

The ultimate proof is in the tasting, so I took an early taste (before the two-day waiting period, another point I’d overlooked in my initial reading) and the slow rising yielded a tender bread, albeit not a lightweight one.  Caution, this is not for the butter-phobic, because it calls for a half kilo, or almost a pound of butter. In his post, Lebovitz reminisced about the time he was in the kitchen at Spago in Los Angeles, and he remembered Wolfgang Puck telling him how they used to make stollen when he was a kid and worked in a bakery in Austria: “Vee took a lot of butter, melted it in a veery veery beeg pot…” (making a big circular hoop with his arms to show us how big it was) “….and ve vood dunk zee whole loaves in it!”


Makes four individual loaves

  • 2/3 cup (110 g) dark raisins
  • 2/3 cup (110 g) golden raisins (sultanas)
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) dark rum or orange juice
  • 1 cup (160 g) slivered or sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 2 1/2 (one envelope, 20 g) teaspoons powdered yeast
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) milk (whole or low-fat), at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups (490 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) rye flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) plus 3 tablespoons (45 g) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest, preferably unsprayed
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1 cup (225 g), plus 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) diced candied citrus peel
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) powdered sugar, or more, if necessary
  1. Mix both kinds of raisins with the cranberries or cherries with the dark rum or orange juice, then cover. In another bowl, mix the almonds with the water, and cover. Let both sit at least an hour, or overnight.
  2. Pour the milk in a medium bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir briefly, then stir in 1 cup (140 g) of the flour until smooth to make a starter. Cover, and let rest one hour.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, or by hand, stir together the remaining 2 1/2 cups (350 g) flour, the rye flour, 3 tablespoons (45 g) sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the dried ginger, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, citrus zest, and vanilla. Pour in the 1 cup (8 ounces, 225 g) of the melted butter, honey, and the egg yolk, and mix on medium speed until the mixture is moistened uniformly.
  4. While mixing, add the yeasted starter, one-third at a time, mixing until thoroughly incorporated. Once added, continue to beat for about four minutes until almost smooth: it should resemble cookie dough. Add the dried fruits (and any liquid), candied ginger, citrus peel, and almonds, and beat until they’re well-distributed.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead a few times, then place back in the mixer bowl, cover, and let rest in a warm place for one hour.
  6. Remove the dough from the bowl, knead the dough again, then return it to the bowl. Let rest for another hour.
  7. Divide the dough into four pieces and shape each one into a oval, and place them evenly-spaced apart on an insulated baking sheet.
    (The original recipe says to stack two rimmed baking sheets on top of each other, so you can do that if you don’t have one.)
  8. Cover the loaves with a clean tea towel and let rest in a warm place for one hour.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Remove the tea towel and bake the loaves for 45 minutes, or until they’re deep golden brown. (Note: Recipe advises that when they’re done, the internal temperature should read 190F, 88C if using an instant-read thermometer.)
  10. While they loaves are baking, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar and 1 teaspoon dried ginger. When the breads come out of the oven, generously brush the remaining 3/4 cup (6 ounces, 170 g) melted butter over the hot loaves, letting the butter saturate the breads, repeating until all the butter is absorbed. (Lebovitz was a daredevil and lifted the loaves, to saturate the bottoms. Be careful not to break the loaves.)
  11. Rub the gingered sugar mixture over the top and side of each loaf then let rest on the baking sheet until room temperature.
  12. Sift the powdered sugar over, under, and around the breads, rubbing it in with your hands. They wrap the loaves on the baking sheet in a large plastic bag and let them sit for two days. After two days, the loaves are ready to eat, or can be wrapped as gifts. You may wish to sift additional powdered sugar over the top in case they need another dusting.

Storage: Stollen can be stored for at least a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. Or frozen for at least one month.