Khachapuri: Georgia’s Gift to Israel

The delicious aroma of a fresh cheesy pita wafts out of a hot tabun (brick oven), tantalizing the taste buds of every passerby on a Tel Aviv street. But this is no pita; this delicacy is called khachapuri, a specialty of the Gruzinim, the Jews of Georgia.

Jews have lived in Georgia, on the border between Asia and Europe, since Babylonian captivity in the sixth century BCE. The first Jews arrived after Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem. They were ruled successively by the Persians, Mongols, Russian tsars and the Soviet Union. They are neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardi. Georgian Jews have their own customs, language and practices. They were among the first Soviet Jews to make aliyah in the 1970s.

The Gruzinim introduced Georgia’s national dish, Khachapuri, to Israel. This staple of the Georgian diet is a bread baked with three types of cheese, and topped off with an egg at the end of the baking process. Georgians love this bread so much that they consume it more than pizza! In Israel, khachapuri is a very popular choice for brunch.

Khachapuri
(Adapted from Georgian Recipes )

For the dough:

  • 3 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp. yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  1. Heat the water and milk to 115 ℉.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Cover with a clean towel and put in a warm place.
  4. Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
  5. Punch the dough down, and allow it to rise again for 30 minutes.

For the filling:

  • 1 ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 ½ cup shredded muenster cheese
  • 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 5 eggs
  • Butter

Mix the three types of cheese together in a bowl.

To assemble the Khachapuri:

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 ℉.
  2. Roll out the dough.
  3. Cut out 4 ovals.
  4. Roll up the sides and pinch the ends to make your Khachapuri look like a canoe.
  5. Stuff each one with the cheese.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Take the khachapuri out of the oven.
  8. Beat one egg with 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash.
  9. Brush each Khachapuri with the egg wash.
  10. Break one egg in the center of each Khachapuri.
  11. Return the Khachapuri to the oven and bake for an additional 4 minutes or to taste.

Serve with a pad of butter. The butter and egg are mixed with a fork and knife, and then the crust is dipped into the egg, cheese and butter center.

Steve Berman Finds Silver Lining in Ossoff Defeat

In the hotly contested race in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, Republican Karen Handel beat out Democrat Jon Ossoff 52 to 48 percent for the vacated seat of current Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price.

Steve Berman

One of Ossoff’s earliest supporters was Steve Berman, co-founder of The Weber School and a leader in the Atlanta Jewish community. Berman worked with Ossoff’s campaign and helped to co-host campaign fundraisers.

Berman said that while Ossoff may have lost the election, there is still a silver lining:

Let’s keep things in perspective. Victories are better than moral victories, but we made up close to 20 points over what even Tom Price won by in November. So you have to keep your eye on progress, and this is real progress. So I would much prefer victory, but this is a teachable moment, and this is a doable moment.

He is right. Progress has been made for Democrats in trying to grab this seat, which has been held by Republicans since 1979 — and has been won with 20 percent or more of the vote over the past 20 years.

Berman was quick to notice the differing energy levels of the two campaigns:

I went to the headquarters last night for the gathering to watch the returns, and the enthusiasm was unbelievable, and it’s going to be carried on. The Republicans, if you watched their headquarters on television last night, they didn’t have a fraction of the enthusiasm.

Berman also pointed out that the Jewish community’s involvement in Ossoff’s campaign was greater than he had ever seen. He said, “There were more Jews getting involved than I know in canvasing for Ossoff and working for the campaign in ways that they have never done before.” He described people who had never been involved, who were going out and going door to door four days a week.

Jon Ossoff

According to Berman, Ossoff’s message evolved during the course of the campaign: Ossoff changed from being an anti-Trump candidate in the first round of voting to being a more well-rounded candidate in the runoffs. During the 16-person primary, Ossoff’s first tweet to the public focused on standing up to Trump, and Berman said that “Democrats coalesced around him very quickly.” But, Berman explained that Ossoff “pivoted away” from that position:

He understood that to get people from the middle or center right to consider voting for him, he had to show that as a person, he was willing to work with anybody, and he rarely, if ever, invoked Trump’s name after that.

Karen Handel

One of the perceived turning points in favor of the Democrats came during a debate between Handel and Ossoff a few weeks before the election. In a rebuttal, Handel said she does not support a living wage. Following the remark, many members of the media took this clip and ran with it, decrying how insensitive it was to those living on minimum wage. Handel later clarified her remark, saying that she meant she opposed a federally mandated wage. Berman said that the remark had no effect on the election:

Everybody realized she made a mistake, and she didn’t mean that, and that we should move on from that. That’s not something you can turn an election around on. Voters understood that she made a mistake. Cut her a break — she’s not my candidate, but I’m gonna give her a rain check on that.

For the Democrats to actually win elections in the future, Berman postulated that campaigns need to widen their demographic to include previously untapped areas:

We have to work on messaging. We have to work on identifying parts of the community that we are not getting through to and hear their concerns and respond to them, and I’m confident we will. I think that Republican voters in general think that Democrats don’t hear their concerns about taxes and government involvement with healthcare. You just have to show that your’re listening and your’re here, and that you’re responding in a thoughtful way — that’s half the battle right there.

Berman emphasized that Ossoff was very close to winning the seat, despite the high levels of gerrymandering in the 6th District. “This was a district drawn for Republicans,” argued Berman. “They can’t feel good about how close this was.”

 

Gefilte Is Not the Only Fish in Sea

Photo by David Keep

Photo by David Keep

Why do we always have to serve fish for Passover?

I get this question every year from the non-pescatarian participants in our Seder. They clearly do not share my childhood memories of preparing for the holiday of matzahs.

When I was a kid, purchasing and preparing the fish was an unforgettable experience. Serving fish during the Seder is a tradition that goes back to the Talmudic Era (70 BCE). At that time, fish was an affordable specialty that would elevate any celebration. No Passover or Shabbat table was considered complete without it.

My grandmother Devorah kept the traditions of her native Poland her whole life. Even though she had a perfectly good refrigerator in her kitchen in Israel, we would purchase a live carp on the day before the Seder. When we brought the fish home, our bathtub would be half filled with water. The carp was allowed to swim there, while the children played with it. Due to Israel’s water shortages, the fish was the only one who was ever allowed to take a bath! The rest of us very conscientiously showered, using the minimum amount of water necessary.

When the time came, my father would take his heaviest wrench, and slam the fish on the head, killing it with one blow. Then, he would slice it open, and remove its intestines and organs. He would fillet the fish, extricating the delicate flesh from the spine and skin. Carps have lots of tiny bones, so getting them all out was a lot of work. After rinsing the fish, he would hand-grind it. Now it was good enough for savta Devorah’s gefilte fish!

Despite all the jokes about gefilte fish, I have to admit that I loved hers. She mixed the freshly ground fish with chopped almonds, eggs, matzah meal, salt, black pepper and just a touch of sugar. She prepared a broth with fish heads she had purchased from the fishmonger, carrots and onions. The fish balls were poached in this broth. When they were ready, the delicate patties were removed from the broth with a slotted spoon. My savta would arrange them on a serving platter, decorating each with a carrot medallion from the pot. The broth was strained into a glass jar, and both the fish and the broth were refrigerated until the next day. After all the symbolic foods of the Seder were eaten, Shulchan Orech or “the festive meal” was announced. The first course to be served was the gefilte fish.

Savta Devorah’s gefilte fish would have been very familiar to the Jewish housewives of New York’s Lower East Side at the beginning of the 20th century. Because the bulk of Jewish immigrants came to the United States from Eastern Europe, American Jews immediately associate Passover with gefilte fish.

Ashkenazi Jews do not have a monopoly over the consumption of fish during the Seder. This Passover, you can be adventurous by trying fish recipes from different Jewish communities around the world.

For something exotic, you may experiment with the flavors of the Jewish community of Bombay. Merchant traders from Baghdad founded this community about 250 years ago. They adopted the foods of India, and added influences from Arabia, Turkey, and Persia. Here is a recipe for sardina, a fish served cold for Shabbat and Passover. You may prepare it a day or two in advance, and keep it ready to serve in the refrigerator.

Sardinaphoto (17)

Adapted from “Indian-Jewish Cooking” by Mavis Hyman.

  • 2 lbs. fish fillet
  • curry powder
  • olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
  • 2 mangoes, diced
  • 1 bunch scallion, chopped
  • 1 chili pepper, thinly sliced
  • salt
  • cashew nuts, shelled and toasted
  1. Sprinkle some curry powder and salt over the fish fillets.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan.
  3. Fry the fish on both sides until it flakes easily.
  4. Place the fish in a large bowl, and allow it to cool to room temperature.
  5. Flake the fish with a fork.
  6. Mix in the mangoes, scallions, tamarind concentrate, and chili pepper.
  7. Adjust the seasoning.
  8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  9. Serve cold, garnished with cashew nuts.

One of the most ancient Jewish communities in the world is in Georgia, in the Caucasus. The Jews fled to Georgia during the Babylonian Exile, in the sixth Century BCE. Georgia is blessed with a mild climate and rich soil. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts grow abundantly, and are featured in Georgian cuisine. One of the most popular ways of preparing fish in Georgia is with a rich walnut sauce. It is served cold, garnished with pomegranate seeds.

Fish Satsivi

Adapted from Georgian Cuisine by T. Sulakvelidze.

  • lb. fish fillet
  • 1 cup shelled walnuts
  • 1/2 cup wine vinegar
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • saffron
  • salt
  • dry chili pepper
  • ground black pepper
  • Khmeli-Suneli Georgian spice mix (optional)photo (15)
  • pomegranate seeds
  1. Place the fish fillets in a heavy pot. Cover them with cold water.
  2. Add the bay leaves and allspice berries.
  3. Bring the pot to a boil, and then simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon to a casserole dish.
  5. Place the walnuts, garlic, chili pepper, saffron, ground coriander and salt in a food processor.
  6. Grind the nut mixture.
  7. Empty the nut paste into a pot.
  8. Add just enough fish broth to get a creamy consistency.
  9. Add the chopped onions.
  10. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes.
  11. Add the vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper and Khmeli-Suneli.
  12. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
  13. Pour the sauce over the fish.
  14. Cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  15. Serve cold, garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Sad Day For The Atlanta Jewish Community

Atlanta Jewish Times proposed assassination of the President of the United States of America.


— by Annette Powers

The leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) uniformly and vehemently denounces the column penned by Atlanta Jewish Times Publisher Andrew Adler. In a bizarre missive that referenced Alice in Wonderland, a Star Trek movie and fiction writer Tom Clancy, Adler laid out potential scenarios for Israel’s leadership to avoid a multilateral war, including assassination of President Barack Obama.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the URJ said:

That any publication in the United States would call for the assassination of the President is despicable. That a newspaper owner could even consider publishing this irresponsible and hateful column is beyond belief.  Worse still, Adler used the platform of this respected Jewish community paper to espouse such disrespectful language and ideas that have, sadly, become far too common in today’s political discourse.

URJ Chairman, Steve Sacks said

Aside from the monumental misjudgment by the publisher to print such inflammatory beliefs, Adler has furthermore embarrassed not only himself but his paper, his community and the larger Jewish community. His article marked a sad day for the Jewish community in Atlanta as their once vibrant newspaper has been tainted with rhetoric that serves neither Israel’s interests nor those of Atlanta’s Jews.

While welcoming the news that Mr. Adler will no longer be at the helm of the paper, Religious Action Center Director Rabbi David Saperstein said

It is not enough for the American Jewish community to only condemn this editorial in the strongest possible terms. We must reclaim the public dialogue around Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship from those who launch attacks for partisan political gain.

Video interview of Andrew Adler on Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV follows the jump.

More Court Ethics, Less Clarence Thomas

–by Bruce Ticker

Clarence Thomas’s close relationship with a wealthy conservative activist points up why the Supreme Court’s appointment process must be reconsidered.

‘There’s no difference between a white snake and a black snake. They’ll both bite’

– the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1991

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s shameless, in-your-face, violation of judicial ethics cries out for a better way to choose justices and keep them accountable.

Literally, he is above the law that spells out ethics rules for federal judges who serve on the lower courts, but he should have known better than to get so cozy with Harlan Crow, a major donor to conservative causes and real-estate magnate from Dallas.

When he announced his retirement in 1991, the legendary Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall accurately predicted that President Bush (the elder one) might replace him with another African-American nominee who would betray the primary aspirations of the black community. I even recall observing Marshall on television he offered this prediction during his retirement announcement.

More after the jump.
After Marshall called his then-generic successor a “black snake” then, Thomas’s subsequent tenure openly mocked Marshall’s lifelong struggle to advocate for the concerns of the black community, not to mention concerns that affect all Americans.

Thomas is the product of a system that protects Supreme Court justices from any reasonable accountability and was selected through a literally undemocratic process.

To be clear, Thomas and his eight colleagues on the Supreme Court are not bound by the code of conduct for federal judges on grounds that a panel of judges who rank below the justices is charged with enforcing said code.

Maybe that’s why Thomas felt free to flout the code’s provision requiring that judges “should not personally participate” in raising funds for charitable initiatives. Authors of the code were concerned that contributors might feel pressured to donate or entitled to favored treatment by the judge, and judges are not supposed to be aware of who contributes to projects which honor them.

The New York Times’s Mike McIntire chronicled a series of instances which has or might have compromised Thomas’s performance on the court.

Thomas violated the code for federal judges by seeking Crow’s help in financing the multi-million-dollar purchase and restoration of a former seafood cannery in Pin Point, Ga., where his mother was employed. Thomas has made it a pet project to establish a museum about the culture and history of Pin Point.

According to the Times, this venture began a few years before when Thomas encountered Algernon Varn, whose grandfather operated the cannery, during a visit to Pin Point, the justice’s birthplace near Savannah. Thomas asked about plans for the property and Varn said he wanted to preserve it. The justice then informed Varn of a friend he would “put you in touch with.” That friend is Crow, who consented to provide financial support.

Deborah L. Rhode, a Stanford University law professor, told the Times that Thomas “should not be directly involved in fund-raising activities, no matter how worthy they are whether he’s being centrally honored by the museum.”

At Common Cause, attorney Arn Pearson said, “The code of conduct is quite clear that judges are not supposed to be soliciting money for their pet projects or charities, period. If any other federal judge was doing that, he could face disciplinary action.”

    The plot thickens:

  • Thomas was the lone dissenter in 2006 when the Project on Fair Representation challenged federal voting rights laws. The project is sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, and Crow is an AEI trustee.
  • In 2001, AEI presented Thomas with a bust of Abraham Lincoln valued at $15,000 and praised his judicial performance at an awards gala. The suit was litigated – pro bono – by a former clerk for Thomas.

    Such a cozy circle.

  • MSNBC TV host Rachel Maddow – expanding on the Times piece – listed eight cases in which Thomas voted in favor of positions taken by organizations tied to Crow.
  • According to the Times, Crow has hosted Thomas aboard his 161-foot yacht and his private jet, at his California retreat and at his 105-acre summer estate in the Adirondacks.
  • Crow also reportedly contributed $500,000 to the founding of Liberty Central, a tea party-affiliated group launched by Virginia Thomas, wife of the justice.

Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer testified before Congress in April 2011 that they follow the code of conduct. Is that good enough?

More than 100 law professors urged Congress last February 2011 to impose the ethics code on Supreme Court justices. Legislation to address this concern was introduced.

Deeper systemic issues fuel the potential for abuse. Two clauses in the Constitution align to allow the possibility for justices to be appointed by a minority of voters.

Because a president is not subject to the popular vote, s/he can be elected by a minority. A majority of senators must confirm judicial nominees, but such a majority vote does not necessarily represent the majority of the people because each state – no matter how low their population — is represented by the same number of senators. A justice can be confirmed by senators representing the 26 least populous states.

President Bush did not win the popular election in 2000, but he won the majority in 2004 before nominating Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. President Clinton never won a majority in either election because of third-party candidates; he nominated Breyer and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The framers of the Constitution invited trouble by creating lifetime tenure for the justices’ positions. Of course, this provision should preclude the justices from ruling on cases in which they might later have ties to some of the parties involved.

The framers might have expected that only honorable people would reach such a lofty position after struggling through law school, practicing law for many years and earning the trust of the president and the majority of the Senate.

Thomas would hardly be the first to blow this theory apart. Justice Abe Fortas resigned in 1969 because he accepted money from a convicted financier while on the court. Justice James Clark McReynolds – a racist, sexist and anti-Semite – snubbed Justice Louis Brandeis, the first Jew to join the court.

Besides, plenty of judges retire while still in their professional prime and use their past connections to return to the practice of law or find other jobs.

The system must be reconsidered. The American people, through our political leaders, must ensure that only the best people are elevated to the court and keep them honest.

Bruce S. Ticker blogs at www.constitutioncon.blogspot.com.

Storm-tossed South rises… for more government

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: “It should have some spending cuts as a down payment on controlling the size of our federal government.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Richmond, Virginia: “We’ve had to bring this president kicking and screaming to the table to cut spending.”

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio: “It’s time for us to get serious about how we’re spending the nation’s money.”

These Republicans, along with others in Congress and statehouses like Trenton and Madison, demand smaller government and lower spending, yet they have not complained about the federal government’s aid to the Republican-dominated Southern states ravaged by storms and tornadoes that left 350 people dead.

More after the jump.
“They have been very proactive and very reactive to our requests,” Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, a northern Alabama Republican, told The New York Times.

Aderholt was praising the Obama administration’s response to the storms, mainly through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. When the president visited Tuscaloosa, Ala., the hardest hit area in the region, Obama said, “We’re going to make sure that you’re not forgotten and that we do everything we can make sure that we rebuild.”

Obama signed a disaster declaration for Alabama on Thursday, April 28, 2011, and subsequently signed disaster declarations for Georgia and Mississippi.

FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate explained that the declarations sought by these states mean that the federal government will pay 75 percent of the uninsured costs to repair public buildings; that residents can qualify for modest recovery grants; and that businesses can apply for low-interest loans.

FEMA also assigned liaison officers to Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, a spokesman said.

Aderholt, a veteran House member who seems more reasonable than extremist Republicans, is not resisting the government’s aid to Alabama and the other southern states. Most of them are represented by Republicans in the Senate, the House and their respective governor’s offices.

Probably some people wish that Obama had rejected these disaster declarations in the spirit of shrinking government. If Republicans want less government, why would they accept federal aid for storm relief?

Back in Washington, the GOP House and Senate members from these states have been plotting to eliminate programs that help all Americans generally and big cities specifically.

Never did they express such urgent concern when they voted to invade two fragmented countries one after the other and cut taxes for the wealthy.

The hypocrisy is glaring, but the disasters plaguing the South show that even southern states need government. The only effective means of resolving America’s many problems is to involve government, directly or indirectly.

We all certainly recognize that there are many problems with government.

Ronald Reagan’s proclamation that “Government is the problem” distorts the situation. Government is “a” problem when it does not carry out its responsibilities properly. Did Reagan do his job or was he “the problem” for eight years?

The same question can posed to Boehner, Cantor and Graham.