Potluck Seudah Shlishit

The Temple Beth Hillel Beth El Havurah invites you, along with friends, to a Mincha (afternoon service), potluck Seudah Shlishit (3rd Shabbat meal), Torah discussion and Havdalah.

The Seudah Shlishit will be a kosher, dairy/parve meal. Please RSVP through this evite, and indicate your contribution to the potluck dinner in the comments. If you do not have a kosher kitchen, please bring kosher pre-packaged food or drinks. Thank you in advance for contributing!

“The Modern Kosher Kitchen” by Ronnie Fein

Recipes in The Modern Kosher Kitchen Book-Kosher-Kitchenby Ronnie Fein offer gourmet training wheels for the aspiring Kosher cook. In our lifetime a revolution has taken place in Kosher recipe books and cooking. The bland kosher recipe books on the shelves of all-too-many Ashkenazi parents and grandparents were also problematic due to high fat and sugar content.

For those unaccustomed to the pedal-to-the-metal spice revolution of our times, The Modern Kosher Kitchen offers opportunities to explore creative contemporary additions such as Siriracha sauce (a chili sauce named after the coastal city of Si Racha, in Chonburi Province of eastern Thailand), that helps kosher cooks to bridge the bland/sweet divide.

For example: White Bean and Vegetable Hurry-Up Salad

  • 1 can (15 oz or 425 g) white beans
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced thin
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup (130 g) frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup (15 g) chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup (24 g) chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) lemon juice
  • Salt, to taste

Rinse the white beans under cold running water; let drain and place them in a bowl. Add the carrots, avocado, peas, onion, parsley, mint, cumin, and cayenne pepper and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly.

Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss again to coat the ingredients. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste. Let rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

Serving Suggestions and Variations: Use chickpeas or black beans instead of white beans; use any cooked chopped green vegetable (such as broccoli, green string beans, thawed frozen lima beans, or edamame) instead of peas.

And secure many happy dining comments at your meal by making halibut or salmon on the grill and serving atop:

Spicy Marinated Pineapple

  • 1 whole pineapple
  • 3 tablespoons (60 g) honey
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) siriracha
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) lime juice
  • Kosher salt or Maldon sea salt
  • Mint, for garnish

Cut the leaves off the pineapple. Remove the outer fibrous rind. Cut the peeled pineapple in slices about 3/4-inch (1.9 cm) thick. Set aside in a single layer in a pan. Heat the honey with the vegetable oil and siriracha in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the ingredients are well mixed. Add the time juice. Pour over the pineapple slices. Coat the pineapples slices on both sides and let marinate at least 1 hour (and as long as 12 hours). Preheat an outdoor grill to medium (or use a grill pan or the oven broiler.) Grill the slices for about 4 minutes per side or until well glazed and tender, brushing occasionally with some of the honey mixture. Serve sprinkled lightly with salt. Garnish with fresh mint. You can make these ahead and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature or reheat to warm in a pre-heated 350°F (190°C, or gas mark 4) oven for a few minutes.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Serving Suggestions and Variations: Grilled, speed pineapple lens monumental flavor to mild main-course foods such as fish and chicken.

Your family and guests will delight in the evolution of Kosher cuisine, combined, as has been the case throughout Jewish history, with the elements of the cultures among which Jewish people dwell. I bought our sriracha sauce at an International Market while visiting family who live in Passaic and it’s available on line, too. The Modern Kosher Kitchen by Ronnie Fein definitely and deftly adds spice to life!

Kosher Cannabis Available for Medical Use in New York

Medical cannabis products designated as kosher

Kosher medical cannabis

On December 30, 2015, Vireo Health of New York became the first company in the world to receive kosher certification for its medical cannabis products from the Orthodox Union (OU), the largest and most well-known kosher certification agency. While many have questioned the OU’s action, the organization stands by its decision.

Update: Today, November 22, Vireo Health is opening the first medical cannabis dispensary in Queens. It is located at 89-55 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst. They are one of only five companies licensed to sell marijuana in New York State. Their White Plains dispensary opened on January 7, the first day of New York’s medical cannabis program. [Read more…]

Vegging Out at Miss Rachel’s Pantry

Miss Rachel's Pantry

Miss Rachel’s Pantry
1938 South Chadwick Street
Philadelphia, PA 19145
Hours: Friday 7am-6pm, Saturday 8am-3pm, Sunday 8am-3pm, Closed Monday-Thursday


South Philly is home to a kosher vegan treasure. It is Miss Rachel’s Pantry. This establishment is a market, a catering company, a host of communal dinners, and a cooking school. Chef-owner Rachel Klein and her team prepare and deliver meals to homes as well.

The specialties of the house include “cheeses” made from cultured cashew nuts. I had never tasted nut “cheese” before. I smeared some cashew butter “cream cheese” on a bagel. It tasted surprisingly cream cheesy.

Miss Rachel’s serves creative homemade soups. I tried the honey crisp apple and celery root bisque and the tomato bisque. Both use vegan creme fraiche to achieve the right consistency. The flavor combinations were unexpected, sweet and tart and creamy all at the same time.

11951929_1083286115032390_1707358112680740726_nFor dessert, I had the house baked vegan sticky buns. I got them fresh out of the oven, hot, fragrant, sweet, and yeasty. I don’t know how they turned out so well without eggs or butter. To conclude my meal, I had a fresh cup of Green Street Organic coffee with some almond milk. The coffee was piping hot, with a rich mellow flavor. It was the perfect end to a delicious meal.

The pantry is certified kosher by the International Kosher Council. The restaurant is BYOB, and diners are encouraged to bring wine, beer, sparkling juice, or kombucha (a type of fermented, effervescent sweet tea).

Shavuot To Go From The Dairy Café

The Dairy Café 321 Montgomery Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, PA (610) 808-9045 Hours Sun – Thurs: 7am to 9 pm Friday: 7 am to 4 pm (Saturday coming soon)

The Dairy Café
321 Montgomery Avenue, Bala Cynwyd, PA
(610) 808-9045
Hours: Sun–Thurs: 7am-9pm
Friday: 7am-4pm
(Saturday coming soon)

The Ancient Israelites did not receive the laws of Kashrut until G-d gave them the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is traditional to eat dairy foods during the Jewish holiday Shavuot which commemorates the anniversary of this event. One explanation is that until they could kosher all of their dishes and utensils, the Ancient Israelites ate dairy foods. This year, it is easier than ever to follow this tradition. All you have to do is go to The Dairy Café.

The Dairy Café is a casual eatery located on Montgomery Avenue in Narberth, PA. It is both dairy and kosher. I parked effortlessly in the adjacent parking lot. The light and airy two-story restaurant is an inviting space, with free WiFi, sofas, and even a “quiet room.” The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the service quick and efficient. It feels like a Starbucks, with really good food.

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast features an impressive array of omelets, sandwiches, blintzes, and pancakes. I stopped by for lunch. The first thing I noticed was the refrigerated case of freshly prepared, ready to go foods and drinks.

10527273_657793144323099_1659056034654098322_nSince I was famished, I picked one of their fresh, crispy prepackaged salade niçoise salads; Shredded broiled tuna, a hard boiled egg, and steamed green beans were nestled in a bed of spring greens, and coated with a lemony dressing made from scratch. A crunchy sesame bagel in the display case proved irresistible. I ordered it on the side. The bagel, and all the other breads and pastries, are baked by Six Points Kosher Events in their commissary.

The Dairy Café features artisanal pizzas, with local names such as the “Gladwyne” and the “Bala Cynwyd.” The cheese for the pizza is made in–house, with milk sourced from a Lancaster County dairy. The sauce is cooked from ripe tomatoes and fresh herbs. I tried the “Gladwyne,” and was impressed by the ample portion, the rustic crust, the aromatic roasted garlic and mushrooms, and the creamy cheese. It was delicious!

This is not the place to pass up dessert and coffee! I ordered a cup of cappuccino. It was extracted from beans roasted by Rival Brothers Coffee in Philadelphia. The beans were a rich, medium roast, and the cappuccino came with lots of delicious foam.

The Dairy Café produces its own line of gelato and sorbets. The sorbets are dairy-free. I ordered the dark chocolate gelato and passion fruit sorbet. The rich, semi-bitter chocolate was perfectly complemented by the bracing tartness of the passion fruit. In the near future, it will be possible to buy them by the quart to take home.

photo (19)In honor of Shavuot, I had to try the cheesecake. It is a rich, New York style cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. This cake is perfect exactly as it is. All it needed was that cup of coffee to go with it.

This Shavuot can be effortless. All you need to do is order your cheesecake in advance from The Dairy Café. You can order the rest of the food to go. Just add some good company, and it’s a party!

Ukrainian Jewish Women Undertake Urgent Activism

Last Wednesday, a Jewish retiree was killed in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk when shells fired by pro-Russian insurgents hit her home.

Over 300,000 Jews live in Ukraine. To see how they are responding since my previous contact with them in November, I contacted Project Kesher, an organization active in helping women in the region restore their Jewish identity that also provides training in leadership and social activism towards building a civil society. (Full disclosure: This is an organization that I support and have taught for overseas and in the U.S.) Their executive director Karyn Gershon responded:

I just returned from Israel, where I saw several Project Kesher leaders from eastern Ukraine who have made aliyah [immigrated to Israel]. I was really moved to know that they left the support of the Project Kesher network in Ukraine and arrived immediately into the arms of the Project Kesher network in Israel. Those who live in the rest of Ukraine are worried about family and friends throughout the country who have been harmed by the war. But, they have not expressed any interest in leaving. They remain perpetually optimistic, but realistic, about the will of Europe and the U.S. to stabilize their country and work for a peaceful resolution.

Activist Torah Study Leads to Response-Ability

Project Kesher organizes used Torahs for their groups to share in their communities.

Project Kesher organizes used Torahs for their groups to share in their communities.

At a Project Kesher briefing for supporters in late November, we learned about their “activist Torah study” approach, which has inspired Eastern European Jewish women to make caring visits to displaced Ukrainian refugees, as well as to hold tolerance-building meetings between Russian and Ukrainians. When Torah is this fulfilling, the yearning to hold and have a kosher Torah scroll within your community becomes a value. Project Kesher also organizes used Torahs for their groups to share in their communities.

Irina Skaliankina is a resident of Tula, Russia who heads Project Kesher’s Beit Binah “Text to Activism” program of Jewish learning and living. “Everything we do is because of Torah,” she said. “Torah inspires our lives and supports us through painful times.”


Irina Skaliankina (left) and Vlada Bystrova Nedak.

Skaliankina was holding reconditioned Torah, an extra one that had been sitting unused in the ark, gifted from an American congregation to a town in her region. She hugged the Torah in her arms with passion born of experiencing the love that comes from such learning.

Vlada Bystrova Nedak is a Project Kesher activist and resident of Krivoy Rog, Ukraine, a city of 80,000 where she estimates 12,000 Jewish reside, with about half active in the Jewish communnity. She stood to Skaliankina’s left, also holding a Torah similarly destined, when described how Irina’s ability to use stories from Torah and other Jewish sacred sources to help her spirits when challenging times get her down.

Ignoring “Us” and “Them”

Skliankina demonstrated the current Text to Activism model during a break out session. First she brought everyone’s fullness of spirit into the room in a manner rich in grace and enthusiasm, asking us, “What does shalom mean to you?”

Our answers included “Hello, goodbye and peace” and went beyond to include “wholeness”, “equanimity,” “a worldwide condition of safe, respectful, inclusive living for all” and more. Only then, did she turn to the text (translated here):

Our sages taught that the creation of the first human as a solitary being was to show the greatness of God. For when a human prints many coins from one mold, they are all alike, but the Holy One, blessed Be, imprints humans so that not one resembles the other.

— Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 38a

Skliankina asked, “What do you take from this?” Her simple invitation to share from our hearts led to ripples of growing, shared understanding.

We understood the passage to mean each human is intentionally created a unique individual. This requires us to respect and care for each other regardless of “we” or “them”; to appreciate that no one human is inherently more loved by “God” from birth than any other. We understood that wherever in the spectrum of gender, race or health, we are each given our unique divine imprint.

This imprint, it was suggested, might feel less like a printing press and more like the imprint of a divine kiss of life, just as midrash, Jewish commentary, describes the death of Moses as God taking his soul away with a kiss. Or that God could be understood as our source code, which is shared by all of us, leading to our experience of the unity of all being; and unique to all of us, giving life meaning as we work for a kind, inclusive world. Irina’s text study reinforced our activism for the good of all. Afterward, there was vocal resistance to the idea of “all.”

The program for the day continued with a trip to the Ukrainian Museum in Manhattan. On the buses, some questioned why: “Didn’t they hate us and kill us? Don’t they still? Why give any credibility or attention to that culture?”

The Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls taught that resistance is where the greatest potential for growth exists. The Ukrainian Museum was its own answer. At every turn, the ways in which Jewish and Ukrainian cultural traditions are interwoven were made manifest: the braided bread for greeting guests, the sacred embroidery on garments carrying meaning for leaving, the fabric with symbols that was hung beside doorways much as a mezuzah is, the matchmaker traditions, and more.

The respectful docent, who had advanced education, patiently and brilliantly took us through the exhibition. She was born in the Carpathian Mountains, and felt like a full landswoman. So much is possible when fears are relaxed and communication and understanding commence. Project Kesher had worked its magic again.

Blackbird Pizzeria: A Fresh Perspective on Vegan Food

— by Ronit Treatman

How good can vegan pizza possibly be?  

Skeptical omnivore that I am, I was sure that I would leave Blackbird Pizzeria not feeling satisfied. I must admit that I was wrong.

I discovered the pizzeria’s kosher food last year, when I presented at Hazon’s Philadelphia Food Conference, where the restaurant’s offerings were featured at the lunch. My lunch was so good that it inspired me to visit the restaurant.

Full review after the jump.
The restaurant reminded me of the pizzerias I had gone to in Vermont. Everything is made from scratch, using only the finest ingredients.

The chefs are fanatical about the quality of the food they prepare. While conversing with them, I discovered that they are all vegans at home as well.

My pizza and salad were prepared to the highest standards. The chefs use the finest quality high-gluten flour for their pizza crusts, and fresh ingredients for their sauces.

The secret to their success is the Daiya vegan “cheese.” This product is kosher and free of all animal products. The “cheese” on my pizza melted like dairy mozzarella. It had great mouth feel, and I loved the flavor. Their specialty pizza menu is very creative, borrowing flavors from the Far East, Mexico, and Italy.

The restaurant also offers a wide array of vegetarian sandwiches. The bread is very fresh, and each sandwich is layered with crisp vegetables, daiya cheese, seitan, or tofu. It also offers seitan “chicken wings,” which have a wonderfully crunchy exterior, and are very spicy.

The salads at the restaurant are composed of mainly raw vegetables, which taste as though they were all sourced from a local farmer’s market.

I tried the beet salad. It was a beautiful combination of red and golden beets over arugula. Orange segments and smoked shallots added to the flavors, and pumpkin seeds were sprinkled over it for crunch. It came with a delicious shallot-thyme vinaigrette.  

The final surprise came when I tasted their brownie. Although it was baked without eggs or butter, it had a very dense, decadent chocolate flavor. I don’t know how they did it, but I will definitely come back for more!

Blackbird Pizzeria
507 South 6th Street

Hours: Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Phone number: (215)625-6660
Website: blackbirdpizzeria.com

Hashgacha (supervision): International Kosher Council (IKC)

Kosher Pretzels? Philly’s Got Them!

— by Ronit Treatman

The Amish introduced the tradition of baking fresh soft pretzels to America when they immigrated from Germany in the 18th century. What started out as a reward for children who learned their prayers in European monasteries has been transformed into a kosher snack.

The proprietor of Center City Soft Pretzel in South Philadelphia, Anthony Tonelli, has put his pretzel bakery through the rigorous inspection process of the Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia.

Tonelli said that the idea to make his bakery kosher came from an Israeli man who sells him flour. “Then we started getting calls from Jewish temples who wanted to order our pretzels for Hebrew school and Bnei Mitzvahs,” he said.

More after the jump.

Open: Monday-Friday midnight to noon; Saturday 4 a.m. to noon; Sunday 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Address: 816 Washington Ave., Philadelphia
Phone: (215) 463-5664
Email: [email protected]

“Our pretzels are made with only three ingredients: wheat, yeast, and water,” Tonelli said. “We sprinkle salt on top if that is what the customer wants.”

Those pretzels turn out to be a superb product. Unlike many of his competitors, Tonelli uses an Old World recipe which calls for very high gluten flour. The aromatic treat rolls off the conveyor belt of a specialty oven. The crust is golden brown, flecked with salt, and the inside is dense, yeasty, and chewy. It tastes as a pretzel should, not as bread masquerading as a pretzel.

One pretzel costs 35¢, and three pretzels cost $1.00. That is much cheaper than what is offered at my neighborhood pretzel bakery, which charges 80¢ for one pretzel of similar weight, and $2.25 for three pretzels.

Tonelli admitted that he did not know anything about the laws of Kashrut before he placed his bakery under the supervision of Community Kashrus. “The most confusing aspect of it was when customers asked if our pretzels are Pas Yisroel,” he said. “We had no idea what people were asking us. The people at Community Kashrus helped explain everything to our customers.”

This has been a fruitful endeavor for Tonelli’s bakery. “Kosher caterers started ordering specialty pretzels from us,” he said. “My son hand shapes stars of David and Hebrew letters for them.”  

In the shtetl, it was traditional to smear honey over the Aleph when a child started to learn. At the nearby Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill, Hebrew school students are greeted by a soft pretzel Aleph purchased from Center City Soft Pretzel.

Yosl’s Kosher Frozen Yogurt Parlor

— by Ronit Treatman

As I was driving along Montgomery Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, a new establishment caught my eye.  It is a fun, brightly colored frozen yogurt shop.  The name is a little unusual: Yosl’s.  Who gives a name like that?

Yosl’s is a kosher operation.  Working in the frozen confection business runs in the family.  When the family lived in South Philadelphia a couple of generations ago, they ran an ice cream parlor on Catharine Street.  Yos’l was the grandfather who owned it.  According to their website “All of our yogurt carries the OU-D Kosher Certified Seal.”  Rabbi Shmidman of Lower Merion Synagogue and Rabbi Avraham Steinberg of Young Israel of the Main Line are in charge of the kosher supervision.  According to Mark Rubenstein, the proprietor, “They supervise not just the frozen yogurt, but also all of the toppings.”

More after the jump.

Yosl’s Frozen Yogust
137 Montgomery Ave.
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (610) 664-9675

I stepped in with my daughter to check it out.  They had just had their grand opening.  The place was immaculate, especially the rest room.  A young man plied me with free samples.  I helped myself to the tart, unflavored frozen yogurt.  I topped it with freshly cut mango, pineapple, strawberries, and blueberries.  My daughter had a combination of the coconut and plain frozen yogurt topped with Oreo crumbs.  It was refreshing, healthy (kind of), and really delicious!  I must confess that my favorite frozen yogurt establishment is Whirled Peace in Manayunk.  As compared to their products, there was no compromise with the flavor at Yosl’s.

Much to my surprise, the kosher frozen yogurt was not more expensive.  I paid the same amount for two servings of frozen yogurt with toppings as I would have at Whirled Peace.  

The service was very friendly.  On a sunny spring afternoon, the frozen yogurt parlor was full.  Young families, teenagers, and adults were all enjoying the icy treats.  The outdoor seating was especially enjoyable.

The location is auspicious, right across the street from the Starbucks.  There is parking in the front and back.  As the weather heats up, live a little!  Stop by to cool off at Yosl’s.