The Torathon: Evening of Learning And Fun Open To The Community

Temple Beth Hillel Beth El presents Torathon XXVII on the evening of Saturday, January 26, 2013. The Torathon, an evening of Jewish discovery, offers an enticing mix of Jewish Philadelphia’s finest scholars and leaders with three one-hour sessions of mini-courses on diverse topics that challenge the intellect and connect participants to Jewish religion, culture, and contemporary issues.

More after the jump.
So Who Goes to the Torathon? If you’ve been to one, you know. If you haven’t yet gone, read on! Is it for those who like to chime in with comments? Yes. And is it for those who want to sit back and just listen? Yep, that too. Is it for artsy folks who like poetry, drama, and music? Absolutely. What about the ones who want serious, scholarly discourse? Of course! Experiential sessions? Got it. Israel? Betach! (That’s Hebrew for “Certainly”!) The essential message is that the Torathon is for you, no matter what your interest.

The voices and points of access to our tradition are many — and that’s reflected in the offerings at our yearly Torathon. This is “Torah” writ large — “big tent” Torah that can encompass and draw in all of us.

Cast aside assumptions and feel the camaraderie that comes from sharing the experience of a special event. Put January 26 on the calendar and get someone to commit to coming with you.

The event offers a mix of Jewish Philadelphia’s finest presenters with three 50-minute mini-courses on diverse topics that stimulate the intellect and move the heart and connect participants with Jewish religion, culture and contemporary issues. While the final slate of sessions is subject to change, here’s a glimpse of what’s on tap from more than third presenters:

The Honorable Daniel Kutner, Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, will be featured at the keynote session. Cantor Eugene Rosner, Prof. Richard Freedman and the TBH-BE Choir are working on an interactive program of choral works that calls for audience impressions and analysis. Rabbi Ethan Franzel will lead an experience of Jewish/Hebrew chanting, while Rabbi Shraga Sherman will explore the key to accessing your mystical self. Rabbi Ben Richman will consider wisdom among the nations as he explores Jewish views on other religions. David Weinstein will look at Jerusalem and explore the city’s status under international law, while Dan Segal examines The New Israel Fund and democracy in Israel. Rabbi Yonah Gross will put Gilad Shalit front and center as he leads a discussion on the obligation to redeem captives. Rob Kitchenoff will keep you rooted as he speaks about rediscovering Jewish genealogy. Rabbi Chaim Galfand invites you to focus on your more immediate family and have your children age 6 through 12 join an interactive Jewish storytelling session where they play a role. (Save yourself the cost of a babysitter and have these same kids stay for ice cream and additional programming until 9 pm!) Dr. Sam Klausner will shed light on Lubavitch’s Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Rabbi Neil Cooper will bring his talent for text study to bear on familiar items from our liturgy as he focuses on the potentially contradictory descriptions of God found in two two well-known and often recited hymns, Yigdal and An’im Zemirot. Shulamith Caine and Adena Potok will take poetic license and share insights into the power of verse, as Deborah Baer Mozes guides you in releasing your inner playwright.

With so many different activities occurring simultaneously it is hard to know what to choose. Traditional as well as creative approaches to learning will be offered, so you’re sure to find much that interests you.

Registration at 6:00; Havdallah at 6:30; First session at 7:00. $10 admission, $5 for students, free to children 6-12. Light refreshments will be served.

Book Chat: Downton Abbey

— by Hannah Lee

The third season of the British drama series, Downton Abbey, premieres on this side of the Atlantic on Sunday. For the diehard fan, I recommend The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines (who also wrote The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook, which I reviewed last March). It contains recipes for the elaborate multi-course meals enjoyed by the aristocratic Crawley family as well as the homespun, simple meals partaken by the servants of the Grantham estate. Anglophiles would enjoy learning about the customs and etiquette of the Edwardian era. Language enthusiasts would delight in tidbits like how “red herring” became an iconic phrase in mystery novels, named for the diversionary tactic of British fugitives in rubbing the aromatic herring across their trails to confuse the bloodhounds used by detectives.

More after the jump.
Other books I’d recommend for the serious fan are: The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes (niece of Julian Fellowes, creator and writer of the Downton Abbey series) with its many lovely photographs of the cast and the sets used in the television series — I had to refrain from looking inside until I’d watched all the episodes to avoid any spoilers — and Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon. Published in November is The Chronicles of Downton Abbey: A New Era by Jessica Fellowes, Matthew Sturgis and Julian Fellowes, which examines the background and motivations of each cast member.

A chapter in the cookbook is on afternoon tea, customary served between 3 and 5 pm. This meal, Baines notes, is said to have been created for Queen Victoria to sustain her until the late elaborate dinner. It is no simple affair, consisting of several kinds of tea, finger sandwiches, scones, pastries, fruitcake and maybe even a layer cake as the finale. High tea, in contrast, is a working-class meal of meat, bread, and cheese and usually served between 5 and 7 pm. I have a fond memory of partaking afternoon tea at Harrods in London, where I was introduced to clotted cream. I cheered over the easy methods Baines gives for making clotted cream and golden syrup, which I have not read in any other book.

I learned that cream of barley soup was served on the Titanic on its fateful maiden trip across the Atlantic Ocean (and the beginning of the Downton Abbey saga with the death of the heir aboard that ship). And I would love to taste the Saxe-Coburg soup, which was perhaps created for Prince Albert incorporating his beloved Brussels sprouts or, notes Baines, it could have been named for Queen Victoria’s eldest son.

My dream menu for a Downton Abbey-themed dinner would include the rosemary oat crackers, the spicy mulligatawny (“pepper water”) soup, Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, and the roasted parsnips with horseradish, maple syrup and herb butter sauce. I’d serve the Edwardian chicken tikka masala, substituting seitan for the chicken to keep it kosher in a dish that also calls for heavy cream. Baines references the former Labor Secretary Robin Cook who made headlines in 2001 when he declared in a speech that this dish was “British’s true national dish.” For the finishing touch, I’d serve Eccles cakes and Bakewell tarts.

Much fish was consumed in the Victorian era, writes Baines, and salmon was one of the varieties affordable to the poor. So, for Shabbat for the family, I’d prepare the mustard salmon with lentils, which I could serve with the no-knead Sally Lunn bread and treacle tart.

The British love their biscuits, called digestive biscuits or digestives, both then and now. For the April 2011 wedding of Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton, I served to my family what was touted as Prince William’s favorite dessert. I substituted the kosher Kedem brand tea biscuits for the English brand, McVities.  Here is a recipe from Sense and Simplicity.

Prince William’s Chocolate Biscuit Cake
Serves 8

  • 4 tbsp (60 ml) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) granulated sugar
  • 4 oz (110 g) dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 8 oz (225 g) McVitie’s Rich Tea Biscuits, about 28 biscuits broken into almond-sized pieces
  • 8 oz (225 g) dark chocolate, chopped – for the icing
  1. Line bottom of 7-inch (18 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper and butter sides of the pan.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy using electric mixer on medium setting.
  3. In double boiler melt 4 oz chocolate.
  4. Stir in butter mixture.
  5. Stir in egg.
  6. Remove from heat and add biscuits, stirring until well mixed.
  7. Spoon mixture into springform pan filling all gaps and refrigerate for three hours until set.
  8. Remove pan and turn cake upside-down on cooling rack set over a parchment lined baking sheet.
  9. Melt 8 oz chocolate in double boiler.
  10. Pour the melted chocolate over the cake, smoothing it on the top and sides.
  11. Let stand for one hour until set.
  12. Carefully remove cake from the cooling racks and place on serving plate.

An Evening of Learning and Fun Open to the Community


The When, Who, and What of Beth Hillel-Beth El’s Torathon.

Temple Beth Hillel Beth El presents Torathon XXVI, An Evening of Discovery, on the evening of Saturday, January 21, 2012.

More after the jump.
So Who Goes to the Torathon? If you’ve been to one, you know. If you haven’t yet gone, read on! Is it for those who like to chime in with comments? Yes. And is it for those who want to sit back and just listen? Yep, that too. Is it for artsy folks who like poetry, drama, and music? Absolutely. What about the ones who want serious, scholarly discourse? Of course! Experiential sessions? Got it. Israel? Betach! (That’s Hebrew for “Certainly!) The essential message is that the Torathon is for you, no matter what your interest.

The voices and points of access to our tradition are many – and that’s reflected in the offerings at our yearly Torathon. This is “Torah” writ large – “big tent” Torah that can encompass and draw in all of us.

Cast aside assumptions and feel the camaraderie that comes from sharing the experience of a special event. Put January 21st on the calendar and get someone to commit to coming with you.

The event offers an enticing mix of Jewish Philadelphia’s finest presenters with three 50-minute mini-courses on diverse topics that stimulate the intellect and move the heart and connect participants with Jewish religion, culture and contemporary issues. While the final slate of sessions is subject to change, here’s a glimpse of what’s on tap from more than third presenters:

The Honorable Daniel Kutner, Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, will be featured at the keynote session. Cantor Eugene Rosner, Prof. Richard Freedman and the TBH-BE Choir are working on an interactive program of choral works that calls for audience impressions and analysis. Rabbi Ethan Franzel will lead an experience of Jewish/Hebrew chanting, while Rabbi Shraga Sherman will explore the key to accessing your mystical self. Rabbi Ben Richman will consider wisdom among the nations as he explores Jewish views on other religions. David Weinstein will look at Jerusalem and explore the city’s status under international law, while Dan Segal examines The New Israel Fund and democracy in Israel. Rabbi Yonah Gross will put Gilad Shalit front and center as he leads a discussion on the obligation to redeem captives. Rob Kitchenoff will keep you rooted as he speaks about rediscovering Jewish genealogy. Rabbi Chaim Galfand invites you to focus on your more immediate family and have your children age 6 through 12 join an interactive Jewish storytelling session where they play a role. (Save yourself the cost of a babysitter and have these same kids stay for ice cream and additional programming until 9 pm!) Dr. Sam Klausner will shed light on Lubavitch’s Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Rabbi Neil Cooper will bring his talent for text study to bear on familiar items from our liturgy as he focuses on the potentially contradictory descriptions of God found in two two well-known and often recited hymns, “Yigdal” and “An’im Zemirot.” Shulamith Caine and Adena Potok will take poetic license and share insights into the power of verse, as Deborah Baer Mozes guides you in releasing your inner playwright.

With so many different activities occurring simultaneously it is hard to know what to choose. Traditional as well as creative approaches to learning will be offered, so you’re sure to find much that interests you.

The Torathon is open to the community. Admission is $10 per person, $5 for students with ID, and free to children 6 through 12.

New Arts and Culture Editor!

Lisa GrunbergerI am honored to join the Jewish Voice as the new Arts and Culture Editor.  I welcome you to send me any news you might have regarding the vibrant arts and culture scene here in Philadelphia.  If you have books to review, theatre productions, music, museum exhibits please feel free to contact me at [email protected]

I moved to Philadelphia from Manhattan four years ago to work at Temple University where I am an Assistant Professor in English. I teach creative writing in poetry and literature.   I grew up in Long Island and always dreamed of moving to New York City, but to quote short story writer, Anne Beattie, “I became disenchanted with New York when I realized that I felt as if I had accomplished something when I picked up the laundry, and got the Times and a quart of milk.”   In Philadelphia, it’s just easier to get things done — a walkable, beautiful city brimming with culture and art.  

From the Israeli film festival to the new Jewish Museum, from the World Cafe to the Kimmel Center, I feel fortunate to call Philadelphia my home.  

Lisa Grunberger is the author of an illustrated humor book, Yiddish Yoga: Ruthie’s Adventures of Love, Loss and the Lotus Position (Newmarket Press, 2009) which she has adapted into a musical (stay tuned!).  She teaches yoga and writing classes in Philadelphia.