Create a Labor Day With Meaning: Minimum Wage Matters

— by Stuart Appelbaum

It’s not that often when Labor Day and Rosh Hashana fall so close together on the calendar. This year, there’s one pressing Labor Day issue that should concern the entire Jewish community of the United States — the pitiful state of the federal minimum wage.

It’s not a secret that the federal minimum wage isn’t a living wage. At $7.25 an hour, today’s full-time minimum wage worker makes just $15,080 a year. Even with two people working minimum wage jobs, the income is hovering at the poverty level — if they are even lucky enough to have full-time jobs.

More after the jump including this year’s Presidential Labor Day Proclamation.
Moreover, the makeup of minimum wage workers has changed. James Surowiecki, writing in The New Yorker, noted that:

a recent study by the economists John Schmitt and Janelle Jones has shown [that] low-wage workers are older and better educated than ever. More important, more of them are relying on their paychecks not … to pay for Friday-night dates but, rather, to support families.


History of the federal minimum wage under the 1938 act in nominal dollars (dark purple) and adjusted for inflation (light purple). (Source: Nominal wages from the Department of Labor. Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The purchasing power of minimum wage plummeted in the 1980s, when the Federal rate did not increase from January 1981 to April 1990. Six years ago, in 2007, Congress raised the Federal minimum wage by $2.10 per hour — to $7.25 per hour — as a first step toward restoring its historical value. But for the minimum wage to have the same purchasing power it had back in 1968, it would have to be more than $10 per hour now.

Jews across the United States should remember the situation confronting so many of our ancestors as they came to this country where all they could earn were poverty wages in the garment trades and other sectors.

The challenges confronting those who earn the minimum wage today are no less daunting. They are the workers who care for our elderly parents, wash our cars, pick our produce, clean our offices, and work at fast food restaurants. The vast majority of them work multiple minimum wage jobs to support their families; they are still struggling. They are faced with terrible choices, over which bills to pay every month — rent or heat, groceries or medicine that none among us should be forced to make.

Presidential Proclamation — Labor Day, 2013

On September 5, 1882, in what is thought to be the first Labor Day event, thousands of working Americans gathered to march in a New York City parade. In the 131 years since, America has called on our workers time and again — to raise and connect our cities; to feed, heal, and educate our Nation; to forge the latest technological revolution. On Labor Day, we celebrate these enduring contributions and honor all the men and women who make up the world’s greatest workforce.

America is what it is today because workers began to organize — to demand fair pay, decent hours, safe working conditions, and the dignity of a secure retirement. Through decades upon decades of struggle, they won many of the rights and benefits we too often take for granted today, from the 40-hour work week and minimum wage to safety standards, workers’ compensation, and health insurance. These basic protections allowed the middle class to flourish. They formed the basis of the American dream and offered a better life to anyone willing to work for it.

Yet over the past decades, that promise began to erode. People were working harder for less, and good jobs became more difficult to find. My Administration remains committed to restoring the basic bargain at the heart of the American story. We are bringing good jobs back to the United States. We are expanding programs that train workers in tomorrow’s industries, and we eliminated tax breaks that benefited the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class. In the years to come, I will continue to support collective bargaining rights that strengthen the middle class and give voice to workers across our Nation. And I will keep pushing for a higher minimum wage — because in America, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.

Thanks to the grit and resilience of the American worker, we have cleared away the rubble of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Now is the time to reward that hard work. Today, as America celebrates working people everywhere, we unite behind good jobs in growing industries, and we strengthen our resolve to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2, 2013, as Labor Day. I call upon all public officials and people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that honor the contributions and resilience of working Americans.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

A comprehensive study by the Economic Policy Institute points out the benefits of raising the minimum wage:

Increasing the Federal minimum wage to $10.10 by July 1, 2015, would raise the wages of about 30 million workers, who would receive over $51 billion in additional wages over the phase-in period.

Across the phase-in period of the minimum-wage increase, GDP would increase by roughly $32.6 billion, resulting in the creation of approximately 140,000 net new jobs (and 284,000 job years) over that period.

It would not — as many conservatives claim — kill jobs. Moreover, it would be an important first step in closing the widening income gap.

So we need to raise the Federal minimum wage. Yet, much of the business sector and its allies continue to stymie even modest attempts to lift minimum wage workers out of poverty.

Why? Essentially, because they can — and that fact makes even some conservatives uneasy. Two years ago, former Smith Barney director Desmond Lachman told The New York Times:

Corporations are taking huge advantage of the slack in the labor market — they are in a very strong position and workers are in a very weak position. They are using that bargaining power to cut benefits and wages, and to shorten hours.

Of course not all the blame for low-wage workers lies with the businesses that employ them. The consuming public has a role in it as well. Too often, we fail to make the link between low prices and widespread poverty.

Some states, frustrated at the inability of Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, have raised the minimum wage locally. But this needs to be done nationally, and now.

The Torah proclaims, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” (Deut. 16:20) If we are to provide a measure of justice where it counts to the least-well paid among us, we have to all do our part to support an increase in the federal minimum wage.

It’s the right and just thing to do.

We must partner with others to ensure that this happens. We need to talk about it with our friends, families and neighbors. We in the Jewish Labor Committee are proud to be part of this campaign, and we encourage you to do so as well. In the Greater Philadelphia area, a good start would be to contact Michael Hersch, the Philadelphia Regional Director of the Jewish Labor Committee, via phone at 215-587-6822 (cell: 215-668-5454), or via email at [email protected].

Stuart Appelbaum is president of the Jewish Labor Committee and president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW.

 

Obama: “We Must Stand for the Security of Our Allies”

In his 2013 video message for the High Holy Days, President Obama said:

Fifty years ago last week, Rabbi Joachim Prinz stood with Dr. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Representing the thousands of Jews there that day, he told the marchers, “When God created man, he created him as everybody’s neighbor. Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept.”

For millions of Jews, this moral concept is at the heart of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As the high holidays begin, it’s a chance not just to celebrate with friends and family, but to ask some of life’s most piercing questions. Am I treating strangers with kindness? Am I living not just for myself, but for others? Am I doing my part to repair the world? Where we fall short, the New Year is a new opportunity to get things right.

And where we still have work to do, the New Year is a chance to reaffirm our commitments. At home, we must continue building an economy that gives all people willing to work hard a fair shot at a middle-class life. Beyond our borders, we must stand for the security of our allies, even as we take new steps in the pursuit of peace. I was proud to visit Israel earlier this year to renew the unbreakable bond between our two countries, and to talk directly with young Israelis about the future we share.

Just like the generations that came before us, we live in challenging times. But I know that if we work together we can make this moment one of hope for all our neighbors — in America, in Israel, and around the world. In that spirit, Michelle and I wish you and your family a sweet, happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year.

Slow Roasted Short Ribs in Pomegranate Juice

— by Michelle Kemp-Nordell

Over the years, I have shared many recipes for slow cooking. This stems from my dream, to have an outdoor brick oven for making pizza, bread and clay pots, filled with some slow-simmering concoction. Slow cooking takes me back to my childhood: I used to watch my great-grandmother make lovely baked goods, stewed fruits, and gooey, browned chicken, which she made in a crusty old enameled pot that she brought with her from Germany in 1935.

Oma used her body and soul to make plum cakes, lebkuchen, butter cookies, spiced plums, and stewed figs. She did not have any food processor, and thus made everything from scratch. Her hands and arms were the whisk, wielding a wooden spoon. She knew when something was mixed enough, and did not concern herself with weights and measurements. She never bothered worrying about the oven temperature — she always knew when it was as hot as it should be. She made everything by sight, touch, taste, and feel.
I was thinking a lot about Oma while I was preparing my mise en place (setup) for our Rosh Hashanah dinner. I felt her watching over me, reassuring me that I had enough onions, garlic, and carrots, and telling me that I should be careful not to burn anything. It is at times like this, especially when I am making an old family recipe, that I wish I could bring Oma back here, for just a few hours, to give me pointers on how to not make butter cookies spread out, or so that I can ask them if I made their dish to their standards.

Slow Roasted Short Ribs in Pomegranate Juice
Adapted from Eli Landau and Haim Cohen

  • 6 pounds short ribs, cut into sections
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thinly
  • 8 small shallots, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 head of garlic separated into cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 cups of pomegranate juice
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • Seeds from 1 pomegranate
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add the short ribs, and brown them on all sides. Place them on a plate and set aside.
  3. Add the pomegranate juice, chicken stock, salt, and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add the meat, bring to a boil, and then cover the pot, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  5. Place the pot in the oven for approximately 3 1/2 hours. Occasionally baste the meat.
  6. When the meat is cooked, almost falling off the bone, place it on a serving platter. Return the pot to the burner, and cook the sauce down until it thickens. Pour some sauce over the meat. Sprinkle with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Michelle Kemp-Nordell is the creator of Baroness Tapuzina. She is a foodie who grew up in a “house of weird vegetables.” Follow her adventures as she experiments with exotic vegetables from her garden and spices from around the world.

Shana Tova!

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice wishes you a good and sweet New Year. May it be written and may it be sealed that this new year brings you good health, peace, renewal, prosperity, and all the wonderful things life has to offer.  

Cartoons courtesy of The Cartoon Kronicles @ http://cartoonkronicles.com and Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen http://www.drybonesblog.blogsp…

Updating the Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake

— by Margo Sugarman

I am not a huge fan of the honey cake. I have rarely tasted one that was not dry or sticking in the throat. The recipe that I had been using for honey cake all these years was “okay,” but nothing more. Now I decided it was time to update my recipe and give it a twist. Why not cupcakes? They are so in fashion that a honey cake version almost demands being made this Rosh Hashanah. So after a few less-than-successful attempts at adjusting my recipe and making it cupcake-friendly, I think I have done it. My loyal testers (my husband and kids) gave them a hearty thumbs up, and that is all I needed to proceed to the next step — sharing the recipe.

Full recipe after the jump.
This recipe is still based on the cake we used to eat at home, which my mother called “ginger cake,” and not “honey cake.” The reason was that she flavored it liberally with ginger powder, which gave the cake a really fragrant spicy taste, which I love. This recipe is still heavy on the ginger.

I made two different frostings to go with the cupcakes, another update to the traditionally dry cake. One is a honey glaze, and the other is a tofu cream cheese frosting (which is my favorite).

I have made the cupcakes parve, but you can use butter instead of margarine for a slightly creamier flavor, and you can use regular cream cheese instead of the tofu version.

Honey Cupcakes With Two Frostings

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup margarine/butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 2 teaspoons ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt

How to do it

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Line two muffin tins with #5 size cupcake liners.
  3. Whisk the sugar and margarine in a mixer on high speed until creamy. Add the eggs and whisk for a few minutes, until the mixture has lightened and has a fluffy consistency.
  4. Add the honey, and mix on medium speed to combine.
  5. Add all the dry ingredients, and mix on slow speed until just combined. (Resist the urge to eat all the batter…)
  6. Using a tablespoon, fill the cupcake liners no more than halfway up — the batter rises quite high in the oven, but does drop afterwards.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick can come out of the center of a cupcake clean.

Makes about 22 cupcakes

Frostings

Honey Glaze

  1. Mix together 8 tablespoons honey, 8 tablespoons icing sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Slowly add hot water, until you reach a runny consistency — the mixture will be slightly translucent.
  2. Using a tablespoon, you can glaze the cupcakes when they are still warm, and they will absorb the glaze to become slightly sticky. You can also wait until they are cool, and then glaze.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Mix together 2/3 cup Tofutti cream cheese and 3 teaspoons of honey until smooth. Gradually add about 5-6 cups of icing sugar, until you reach a spreading consistency. (Note: With the Tofutti cheese, you will always have a slightly runny consistency. If you use regular cream cheese, you will achieve a consistency that is more stable, and can easily be piped out of a bag if required. If you want to pipe the frosting, you will need a larger quantity of it.)
  2. Spread frosting on completely cooled cupcakes.

Margo Sugarman is the creator of The Kosher Blogger, a website of keeping kosher and loving good food.

Duvshaniot: Israeli Rosh Hashanah Honey Cookies

— by Ronit Treatman

There is a charming Rosh Hashanah tradition in Israel: Family members and friends send baskets of sweet goodies to each other, with wishes for a happy new year. One of the most ubiquitous Rosh Hashanah treats is a round cookie, flavored with honey and spices. It is called a duvshanit (“small honeyed cookie”), and no gift basket is complete without it.

Full recipe after the jump.
The Ancient Egyptians were the first known bakers of duvshaniot. They prepared honey and ginger cookies for ceremonial use. In the 11th century, the crusaders brought ginger from the Middle East to Europe. The ginger was transported encased with honey and spices, so it would not get spoiled. Initially, only the very wealthy were able to experiment with ginger in their kitchens.  

Gregory of Nicopolis, an Armenian monk, brought the recipe for honey-ginger cookies to the French monasteries. In French, these cookies were called pain d’épices (spice bread). At first, these biscuits were considered medicinal, and sold as digestives in medieval pharmacies. In the 18th Century, the cost of importing ginger decreased, making it more widely accessible. Honey-ginger cookies became traditional at the Christmas markets all over Europe, where they were called “gingerbread.”  

In my family, we had never baked our own duvshaniot until this year. My mother insisted on buying the ones that she considered to be the best. They were imported from a German monastery, and called lebkuchen. This year, I decided to bake my own duvshaniot. I found a recipe in an Israeli baking blog called The Hopping Rolling Pin.


“The Gingerbread Baker” by Hans Buel, 1520.

Duvshaniot

  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Mix all ingredients, except for the powdered sugar, in a bowl.
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on a plate.
  6. Retrieve the cookie dough from the refrigerator. Pinch a walnut sized piece of dough, and roll it between your palms to make a ball.
  7. Roll the dough ball around in the powdered sugar, and place on the parchment paper. Make sure to space your cookies, as they will expand during baking.
  8. When all the cookies have been formed, bake them for about 11 minutes.  

Interactive Map Connects Young Adults to High Holiday Opportunities

— by Jason Edelstein

To help Birthright Israel alumni and their friends connect to communities and create their own meaningful experiences during the High Holidays, NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation today launched its 2013 High Holidays Initiative. With an interactive online map of High Holiday services and events around the country, along with the first-time offering of resources and small subsidies to host Rosh Hashanah meals and Yom Kippur break-the-fasts, the initiative empowers young Jewish adults to form communities of meaning with one another, and to celebrate the High Holidays in ways that are accessible and authentic.

More after the jump.
According to NEXT’s CEO Morlie Levin:

Taglit-Birthright participants have returned from their summer trips – joining the hundreds of thousands of alumni from past years – with a personal connection to Judaism, Israel, and the Jewish people. Now is the time to build on that connection and help make Jewish opportunities and communities more accessible. We’ve found that Birthright Israel alumni are particularly interested in celebrating holidays with their friends, and the High Holidays Initiative offers them the opportunity to both create these experiences themselves and connect to community events they find meaningful.

More than 250 services and events in 145 U.S. cities were represented on the interactive map when it launched on August 5, with an increase expected in the coming weeks. Users can easily find events in their city and browse event details, including whether discounted or free tickets are offered. A new feature this year will enable users to filter events based on their preferences for things like egalitarian services, LGBT-friendly events, and more. This is the third year NEXT is offering this online tool.

The resources and subsidies for Birthright Israel alumni to create their own High Holiday experiences are being offered for the first time after the success of NEXT’s Passover Seder initiative. On NEXT’s website, alumni will be able to access traditional and modern insights on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Tools that will help them host High Holiday meals-including Pinterest boards featuring recipes, table setting ideas, and fun High Holiday themes-will also be available. NEXT will additionally offer small subsidies to cover the cost of food for these meals.

The High Holidays Initiative is part of NEXT’s year-round efforts to create opportunities for Birthright Israel alumni and their peers to engage in experiences that deepen their connection to Judaism, Jewish communities, the Jewish people, and Israel. NEXT also consults with local communities and individuals on the most effective strategies for young Jewish adult engagement.

Levin adds:

We have an incredible opportunity to help young Jewish adults turn a ten day trip into a lifelong Jewish journey. Whether by empowering Birthright Israel alumni to find or create meaningful Jewish experiences, or collaborating with local communities and engagement professionals on best strategies to engage this demographic, NEXT is intent on helping young Jewish adults explore deeper Jewish living and learning, as well as their connection to the Jewish people.

NEXT’s other “do-it-yourself” offerings similarly aim to make Jewish experiences more accessible to Birthright Israel alumni. NEXT’s flagship initiative, NEXT Shabbat, has helped more than 7,000 Birthright Israel alumni host more than 16,800 Shabbat experiences for their friends, creating Jewish opportunities that have drawn a total attendance of over 235,000 young adults.

New Year’s Fruit Salad

— by Challah Maidel

Rosh Hashana marks the Jewish new year, which starts in four days. Thankfully, I am covered for most of the meals. On Rosh Hashana, we eat foods that symbolize good things we hope for in the coming year. Apples and honey hint of a sweet year, while fish hint of a prosperous year to come.

Apples and pomegranates are some the many symbolic fruits that are featured in this fruit salad recipe. That is why I dubbed it “new year’s fruit salad.” The title is predictable, but the flavors have a surprise factor. I purposely selected these ingredients, as they give this fruit salad recipe a semblance of festivities.

Full recipe after the jump.
Sometimes, an Asian pear would be presented at our table. Our family tradition was to present and serve fruits that we normally do not eat on a regular basis. An Asian pear, or a pyrus pyrifolia, looks like a cross between an apple and a pear. Its tree species is native to China, Japan, and Korea. Also known as “apple pears,” Asian pears are low-calorie fruits that are high in fiber and vitamins. This fruit’s skin is thin enough for eating the fruit raw like an apple, without peeling, but easily removed with a sharp paring knife to reveal creamy white flesh.  

You can also add in star fruit, dates, or walnuts if you prefer. I have included a lemon honey dressing for this salad. A bit of ginger adds a nice touch as well. After all, given that much of the time during the Jewish new year holiday is spent either sitting in synagogue praying, or sitting around the dining room table eating, it is a good idea to include salads on the Rosh Hashanah menu.


An Asian pear looks like a cross between an apple and a pear.

New Year’s Fruit Salad

  • 3 Asian pears, sliced
  • 3-4 sour apples, sliced
  • 1 cup of pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

Place all of the ingredients in a salad bowl, and toss. If not serving immediately, securely cover salad with plastic wrap so the fruit won’t oxidize.

Yields 4-6 servings.

Challah Maidel is a blog about healthy kosher eating.  

Easy Sesame-Date Rosh Hashanah Strudel

— by Ronit Treatman

Would you like to impress your family and friends with an exotic strudel for Rosh Hashanah, that’s also economical and easy to make? Known as a traditional Viennese pastry, apple strudel originated with Romanian and Hungarian Jews as a food for the Jewish New Year. This recipe is a unique Israeli fusion of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Rosh Hashanah customs.

Dates are one of the simanim, or symbolic foods, of the Sephardic Rosh Hashanah Seder. The word for date in Hebrew is תמר “tamar,” which contains the verb תם “tam” (to end). In the Sephardic Rosh Hashanah Seder, dates are eaten with the prayer (below the jump) that our enemies be consumed. For this strudel, flaky puff pastry is layered with creamy sesame paste, crunchy walnuts, and velvety date puree. You can bake it yourself in a few easy steps. All you need is frozen puff pastry, Medjool dates, raw sesame paste, and chopped nuts.

Prayers and Full recipe after the jump.
Sesame-Date Strudel

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates  
  • 1 cup raw sesame paste
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 egg
  • Confectioner’s sugar for garnishing
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
  3. Process the pitted dates in a blender, with a bit of boiling water, until they form a thick paste.
  4. Unfold the puff pastry onto the parchment paper.
  5. Spread 1 cup of raw sesame paste on the pastry.
  6. Spread 1 1/2 cups of date paste over the sesame paste.
  7. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the date paste.
  8. Fold the pastry over the filling.
  9. Pinch the edges shut.
  10. Beat the egg with one tablespoon of cold water.
  11. Brush the pastry with the egg wash.
  12. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the strudel is golden-brown.
  13. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Prayers over dates

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָעֵץ
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה’ אֱלֹהינוּ וֵאלֵֹהי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶׁיִּתַּמּוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ וְשׂוֹנְאֵינוּ וְכָל מְבַקְשֵׁי רָעָתֵנוּ
May it be Your will, Lord our G‑d and the G‑d of our fathers, that there come an end to our enemies, haters and those who wish evil upon us.

Source: Chabad.