A Midsummer’s Eve: Celebrating Life, Love, and Tu B’Av

Join the Young Friends of the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) for our annual summer event celebrating the joyous holiday of Tu B’av. Historically, Tu B’av marked the beginning of the grape harvest, the day that people dressed in all white garments and went out to dance in the vineyards. Today, it is a celebration of love.

At the NMAJH celebration, enjoy yourself with beer, wine, a specialty cocktail and a dessert bar, as well as an amazing view of Independence Mall from our terrace.

Guests are encouraged to wear white.

Ticket prices vary. The VIP ticket includes a love-themed tour starting at 7 pm, a private bar and a unique Museum takeaway.

Find Love With Israeli Sponge Cake

Doves. Photo by Robert Taylor https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobolink/

Doves. Photo by Robert Taylor

What does it take to find lasting love? Tu B’Av, the 15th of the month of Av (the 24 hours following the evening of Aug. 6, 2017) is the Jewish holiday of love, an auspicious day for single Jews to meet their bashert or soulmate. Resilience, flexibility, and steadfastness are three attributes of people who maintain successful marriages. The lekach or sponge cake is like a long marriage. It has been baked in Israel since before the foundation of the modern state in 1948. This simple, honest pastry reflects what a true and lasting love should be. [Read more…]

Lure Your Bashert with Roasted Grapes

640px-PikiWiki_Israel_3078_Ein_HahoreshSince the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, single women celebrated the beginning of the grape harvest by wearing white dresses and dancing in the vineyards. They were hoping to attract the attention of potential husbands. If pleasing the eye did not prove to be enough, some of them could try to reach their man’s heart through his stomach. An easy and delicious dish that was prepared during the grape harvest in Ancient Israel was freshly picked grapes, sprinkled with whatever herbs were growing in the vicinity, and roasted over an open fire. This was a savory treat, enjoyed with freshly baked flatbread. Its heady aroma could attract the men that may have been oblivious to the beauty of the Israelite women.

This tradition continues — in a more modernized form — in Israel today. When the sun sets this year on August 18, it will mark the beginning of the holiday of Tu b’Av, the Jewish celebration of love. Men and women dress in white and participate in various community events in the hopes of meeting their bashert (soulmate).

A fun activity you can try is to visit a farm that will let you pick your own grapes. If that is not possible, visit a farmer’s market, and buy the freshest grapes you can find. Roast them on your barbecue grill or in your oven.

Photo credit: F Delventhal

Photo credit: F Delventhal

Roasted Grapes

  • 1 cup fresh grapes
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 °F.
  2. Mix all the ingredients.
  3. Place in an oven-safe dish.
  4. Roast for 15 minutes.
  5. Serve with fresh pita bread, Israeli goat cheese and olives.

Adapted from The View from Great Island

3 Love Potions for Tu B’Av

By dvdp.tumblr.com

By dvdp.tumblr.com

Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love, is believed to be a fortuitous time to find one’s bashert, or “soulmate.”

Throughout history, people have tried to help move the process along by concocting love potions.

This year, the holiday begins at sunset on August 11. Below are three of the most popular “love potions.” [Read more…]

Glazed Almonds: a Love Potion for Tu B’Av

— by Ronit Treatman

From the depths of despair experienced on Tisha B’Av, we are elevated by the pursuit of love on Tu B’Av (July 22 this year). According to the Talmud (Ta’anit 30b), on the fifteenth day of Av, “the daughters of Jerusalem would go dance in the vineyards,” and “whoever did not have a wife would go there,” to find a bride. Those maidens would wear white dresses, and dance under a full moon. If you were searching for your bashert, how could you ignite the passions of the person you desire? Maybe you could prepare a Biblical “love potion.”  

Since ancient times, almonds have been used as an aphrodisiac. Samson courted Delilah with fragrant almond blossoms. It is believed that their perfume arouses women’s passions. The omega-3 fatty acids in almonds boost the production of testosterone in men, enhancing their virility. Perhaps as a result of this, candy-coated almonds are traditional in many Jewish weddings. To entice your love interest, cook up a batch of glazed almonds.

Recipe after the jump.
Glazed Almonds

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup rose or orange blossom water
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Place the water, sugar, and rose/orange blossom water in a pan.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Boil for about 15 minutes, to make the liquid into a syrup.  
  4. Heat a heavy skillet.
  5. Roast the almonds, stirring constantly.
  6. Pour in the syrup and mix it in to coat the almonds.  
  7. Place the glazed almonds on a piece of parchment paper and allow them to cool.  
  8. Break apart the almonds that are stuck together.

The old-fashioned way of presenting these roasted almonds is to place them in a small paper bag. If your love interest likes his or her snacks crunchy and sweet, with a hint of floral essence, this “love potion” may cast a spell on them.  

I am Nothing without Them: Holocaust Olympics Solidarity Tattoo

Today is the Jewish festival of Tu b’Av, which after Tisha b’Av, brings the message that we can overcome trauma, live again and find. First, we have to love ourselves and have inner strength and conviction we merit existence and support. The photos chosen for this article show an expression of love, remembrance and resistance. I never thought a tattoo could bring me to tears again after seeing number tattoos on Shoah survivors. But these photos are powerful, too, because they are about resistance.

More after the jump.
We are called by to holy resistance in the Torah, to act as the midwives did when they refused to follow a murderous edict of Pharaoh to murder the male Israelite infants. And so you can see a wonderful example of resistance, love and memory in this article’s accompany photos, on the arm of swimmer Fabien Gilot of the French team at this year’s Olympics. The tattoo began as a tribute to his grandmother’s Jewish husband, Max Goldschmidt, an Auschwitz survivor and a huge influence on his life.

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat also engaged in an important act of resistance in the face of the refusal of the Olympic Committee to offer a main event memorial to the members of the Israeli Olympic team who were taken hostage and eventually killed by the Palestinian group Black September at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Bavaria, in southern West Germany.

The Palestinian Olympic Committee called the idea of such a memorial “racism”!?

Here’s what JTA reported:

The head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee called the campaign to hold a minute of silence for the 11 Israelis murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics “racism.”

In a letter written to International Olympic Committee head Jacques Rogge, Jibril Rajoub wrote that “Sports are a bridge for love, communication and the spreading of peace between nations and should not be used for divisiveness and the spread of racism,” according to the Times of Israel, citing the media watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch.

Rogge has declined numerous requests to hold the minute of silence at the opening ceremony of the London Games on Friday. He held a minute of silence in memory of the athletes at a small ceremony in the Olympic Village on Monday.

In my humble opinion, the Palestinians are shooting themselves in the foot with such objections. I am an advocate for the Palestinians to experience the opportunity to try for ethical nationhood in a land of their own, just as Israel now has this opportunity. This behavior in their name and also by the Olympic Committee is brings dishonor to their cause. I was so sad to read it.

I’ve always adhered to the Jewish tradition that the body is the instrument on which the soul plays life for God and they we aren’t to add any cosmetic holes or engravings to it. But these images remind me of what the midwifes in denying Pharaoh’s edict in the Exodus story, this is an example of a kind of resistance to terror and we can all contemplate it, and then find our own particular creative manifestation of holy resistance.

Another wonderful example on this matter is found in the transcript of a radio interview with Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat at the beginning of the week:

Despite all the appeals from parliaments and heads of state, including Obama, Romney and Clinton, the heads of the International Olympic Committee decided not to honor this request to stand for a minute’s silence during the opening ceremony. Therefore, I think it is fitting that I make this protest in the name of the State of Israel. I did it by standing in the section of the sports ministers. I stood up, I bowed my head. I wore a black band on my left arm, which was very noticeable. It was aimed at precisely when [IOC President Jacques] Rogge was speaking.

It was very crowded in the gallery, and anyone who wanted to come over to me and say he was supportive – it was extremely difficult for him to get to me. Even so, there were a very few around me who did express support. We mentioned the massacre of the 11. The terrible massacre that took place. Yesterday the Syrian delegation marched here, and no one uttered a peep. Nothing. People are being slaughtered by the regime and no one voices so much as a chirp in protest. It’s business as usual for the world, like nothing happened. So everything here is sheer hypocrisy.

Because it is Shabbat here, and I don’t want to desecrate the Sabbath in an event of this kind, and it is also Tisha B’Av, I walked during the morning to the only place that is walking distance here, which is the swimming complex. Unfortunately, they did not succeed in making it to the finals, more’s the pity. Tomorrow night I am already returning to Israel, and I will return here again for the commemoration of the 11, which will be held at the [Israeli] Embassy on August 6.

Shabbat, Tisha b’Av and resistance. That is pure Jewish chutzpah klapei shamaya — holy and healthy courageous audacity, the Jewish way. No one was blown up, tortured or defamed, this was resistance done honorably in the face of Olympic Committee decision against remembering murdered Olympic athletes. Add your voice, every way you can. One day may we all treat each other with kindness and all live under their own fig tree on a square of land to call their own.

Tu B’Av: Finding Your Bashert

— by Ronit Treatman

When is your bashert selected for you?  According to the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Sotah 2a), forty days before a Jewish child is born, G-d chooses that child’s future spouse.  This person is called a bashert.  A bashert is one’s soul mate.  In the Jewish tradition, if you have not yet been united with your bashert, you have a very auspicious day to look for that person.  That day is Tu Be’Av.

More after the jump.
Last of the figsTu Be’Av, the fifteenth day of the month of Av, was the holiday of the grape harvest during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem (957 BCE — 70 CE).  On this day, marking the beginning of the grape harvest, there was a grape festival called Hag Hakeramim, the holiday of the vineyards.  Unmarried young women would wear white dresses and dance in the vineyards, hoping to attract a husband (Babylonian Talmud, tractate Ta’anit 30b-31a).  This holiday has been revived in modern Israel as Hag HaAhava, the holiday of love.

This year, Tu Be’Av begins at sunset on August third.  You can bring the magic of Ancient Israel’s vineyards into your life with a romantic Tu Be’Av dinner.  

Set the festive tone by serving good wine since, “wine gladdens the heart of the human being”  (Psalms 104:5).  For this very special Tu Be’Av dinner, I wanted to make sure that I would recommend the right wines to accompany the food.  I turned to Reuven Ribiat, the proprietor of Rosenberg Judaica and Wine for advice.  His store offers one of the best international selections of kosher wines that I have seen in the greater Philadelphia area.  Reuven is very knowledgeable.  He selects all the wines sold at the store, and often visits the wineries he sources them from during his travels.  

Begin your Tu Be’Av dance in the vineyard with an appetizer of figs and goat cheese.  The fig is an ancient symbol of fertility, sweetness, and abundance for Jews.  Call out to your intended with this roasted fig appetizer.

Roasted Figs With Goat Cheese
Adapted from Mark Bittman

  • 8 Fresh Figs
  • Soft goat cheese
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  1. Rub the figs with olive oil.
  2. Cut an “X” at the top of each fig.
  3. Dribble a few drops of balsamic vinegar inside the “X.”
  4. Scoop a tablespoon of goat cheese into the fig.
  5. Bake in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for about ten minutes, or grill on a barbecue.

Serve with a bottle of chilled Chenin Blanc.  

Fish in Tahini Sauce
Adapted from The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey by Janna Gur

  • 2 Lbs. Flounder fillets
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Olive oil
  • ½ cup tahini
  • Salt
  • Warm water
  • 2 lemons

baked cod with tahini sauce, chickpea salad and saffron riceContinue your dance by serving a dish which symbolizes fertility and good luck in the Jewish tradition.  For the main course, serve a Mediterranean fish, enveloped in a seductive tahini sauce.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Brush the fish with olive oil, and sprinkle some salt on it.
  3. Bake the flounder for 15 minutes.
  4. Take the fish out of the oven, and let it rest while you prepare the tahini sauce.
  5. In a bowl, mix the tahini with about two tablespoons of warm water.
  6. Beat in the crushed garlic.
  7. Add one tablespoon of olive oil.
  8. Whisk in the juice of the two lemons.
  9. Taste the tahini to see if you like it.  Adjust the seasonings.
  10. Spread the tahini sauce over the fish.
  11. Cover the fish with the onion slices.
  12. Bake for 25 minutes in a 325 degree Fahrenheit oven.

Serve with rice, a green salad, and chilled Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.

Conclude your dance by melding some of the world’s greatest known aphrodisiacs together in one dish.  Chocolate, brandy, and nuts combined into one sensational cake!  This cake is best baked in advance to allow all the flavors to develop.

Golden Grand Marnier Cake
Adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 1-cup sugar
  • 1-cup butter
  • ½ cup ground almonds
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1-cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. grated orange zest
  • ¼ tsp. Grand Marnier or Brandy

Mini Chocolate Bundt Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Pour into a baking pan that has been rubbed with butter and sprinkled with flour.  
  4. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes.

Grand Marnier Syrup

  • 1/3 cup Grand Marnier or Brandy
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a pot.  Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Do not boil.
  2. As soon as you pull the cake out of the oven, invert the pan onto a cooling rack.
  3. Poke holes all over the cake.
  4. Brush half the Grand Marnier Syrup on the cake.
  5. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.
  6. Brush the rest of the syrup on the cake.
  7. Allow to cool completely at room temperature.

Chocolate Cream Glaze

  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. Brandy
  • 1-cup heavy cream
  1. Place the chocolate chips in a bowl.
  2. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave.
  3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips.
  4. Mix vigorously.
  5. Whisk in the Brandy.
  6. Spread over the cake.
  7. Seal the cake in an airtight container, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

If this day turns out to be propitious and you should meet your bashert, how can you end your celebratory meal?  Reuven Ribiat tells me that champagne is the wine of love. Raise a glass of your favorite white or rose champagne. L’Chaim!  May you be blessed with chuppah!

What Do You Know about Love?

— by Goldie Milgram

The setting is Sheila Gogol’s Amsterdam salon, in preparation for Tu b’Av, the Jewish holiday of love.  I always feel so fortunate to teach here, knowing the loving curiosity and wisdom those present will contribute. We begin with  the Tikkunei Zohar approach – a soul needs two wings to fly. In Europe, one wing – yira, is readily accessible – respect for the awe/fearsome nature of the Godfield. To fly, in the balanced way to which Jewish tradition would have us aspire, we need the other wing – ahava, love.  

More after the jump.
     Sheila has convened many cultural creatives – artists, authors, poets, musicians, scholars, healers… Skillfully guiding us in sacred chant is one of the first women cantors of the Netherlands, now further ordained as Rabbi Nava Tehila. Our host has brought in a young filmmaker too, who recorded the salon for a possible bit of televised documentary. There is some chutzpah to having love as our topic, because it will likely first evoke for some the holes in love caused by the murder of over 100,000 Dutch Jews — their parents, siblings, partners, children and more — by the Nazis and some Dutch collaborators. Among those attending the salon, I knew to be those who, as toddlers, had seen their parents shot before their eyes, hidden Jews fostered as children among gentiles, and more. Present also are American, Canadian, South African and other ex-pats and some who are not Jewish and are drawn to the topic, and also those who sense they are born with Jewish souls because not enough Jewish women survived the war to bear all the returning souls, as well as loving partners

    In preparation for this session, Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi, whom I serve on shlichut (as his personal emissary), pointed me to The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis, indeed a good conceptual trans civilizational grounding. Our salon begins with the direction that if the Jewish mission is to live mitzvah-centered, rather than self-centered lives, (kedoshim tihiyu), then the healthy evolution and alignment of self is essential for our entelechy of avodah, sacred service in life, to be realized.

    Next level – (the complexity of) love within families. On the road over the years to come, b”H, many of you will hear the example story I shared at this point, true and newly minted for telling. For me, it was rather what Sheila shared that blew the Ruach HaKodesh through the room. She described a never- opened box of family pictures, from before the Shoah, in the bottom of a closet, I believe it was near a four-year old granddaughter’s doll house. A box that no family member’s soul could bear opening. I, and others, nodded; we, too, have such boxes at home. One day she entered the room to discover her granddaughter had found the box, opened it and arrayed the pictures within her play. “Look at my family!” with such love she yet includes them, marveled her grandmother. Gasps of joy resounded to this incredible, holy sharing. This, I believe, is what Rabbis David Wolfe-Blank, z’l and Elliot Ginsberg (in his essay in the volume Seeking and Soaring) would view as the ultimate expression of the miracle of lifsoakh, leaping over- the Pesach consciousness that releases parts of us once enslaved.

    Europe is so different this visit. Jewish grandchildren are being born here; young marrieds and singles identify and meet; new minyanim, programs, and synagogues are here. Alive! hah!! We Jews are soooo alive. I just had to write that out loud.

    The next level is based on a quote I first saw in a teaching of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, z’l: “When love of each other is practiced by the Jewish people, the heart of the Shechinah is healthy.” Here my Hubbatzin Barry offered a true story of how he shifted a ChaBaD tefillin ambush from an I-It to an I-Thou encounter. With every variety of Jew in the room, the respect necessary for emerging into Tu b’Av the next day from these levels of love was present already and heightened in this study of his story. Barry’s story will appear in the next Reclaiming Judaism Press book: Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning (with 60 contributing authors and edited by yours truly and Ellen Frankel, with Peninnah Schram, Cherie Karo Schwartz, and Arthur Strimling). (Release date is Nov. 6, 2012).

    So from where is love derived? Ahavah and Yirah are, indeed, foundational mitzvot. Our dear friend, the profound healer, mashpi’ah, artist and author, Carola de Vries Robles now brought us to Rabbi Shefa’s Gold’s chant of the tefillin/ Jewish wedding verses from Hosea, the v’eirastich li. I loved her idea and so shifted to guide our study of how the seven core phrases of this prayer might be a pathway of love that leads us through relationship to “know God.”  

    Now we chanted Amar Rabbi Akiva which emphasizes the mitzvah of loving others… to “love one’s neighbor as one might best love oneself.” We were almost up to appreciations (among them a young man, Edgar, sketched our portraits brilliantly. I will forward his website when I can get into my Facebook page where he wrote to us). So we committed to walk the streets of Dutch life on Tu b’Av not as icy-hurting Jews, nor as dangerous fiery zealots, rather as “warm cubes, our souls flying with aware Yirah and radiant Ahavah – the kind that  within our body/mind/spirit such that Ahavah and Yirah meld beyond earthly struggles to where “Adonai echad u’shemo echad.”

Hopefully during our seven weeks here in Europe we will have time for more installments. Do write back if you wish, and feel free to forward this posting with proper attribution. With love and prayers for safety and healing in the wake of US storms, earthquakes and for all everywhere who face life’s many joys and challenges.