Creating a new project with Sarah Rabin Spira, Director of Family Enrichment and Community Outreach

By Dr. Marion Usher
DCJCC Interfaith Connections, and Director of Jewish Interfaith Couples

(Cross-posted from JewishInterfaithCouples.com)

There is nothing that brings a bigger smile to my face than a gurgling baby.

So when Sarah and her beautiful daughter came into my house last Monday, I was delighted to see them both. In a nanosecond, we were settled around my kitchen table, and the baby was cooing away and batting her precious little hand at the toy suspended from her carrying basket. What a wonderful way to start the week!

Sarah and I were meeting to see how we could do some programming together. She is now the DCJCC’s Director of Family Enrichment and Community Outreach, and she was very interested in providing more services to the interfaith families that use our JCC.

I was thrilled to hear of her interest.

After reviewing many ideas and options, we settled on doing a “hands-on” project for families that included both the parents and the children, had a learning component, and also a “take home” for both the parents as well as the children. I love these kinds of projects, where the activity will be appealing to families that already use the DCJCC AND also to new families who have not yet stepped into the building.

With that in mind, we brainstormed about all the social media available to us including the DC parent list-servs, blogs, Google ads, our own DCJCC website, my website and many other web locations that might get to our target audience of interfaith families.

Here’s to more great collaborations and programs that reflect the beautiful diversity of our Jewish community!

 

Make Room for Matzah


Make Room For Matzah

Families Together Learning about the Passover Seder
March 17, 2013 |10:30 am–Noon
Ages 2 and up

Come and learn how to create a fun Passover experience for your family!

Parents will leave this experience with new ideas to implement and a complete book of tried and true recipes. Children will take home special hand make objects to use during the Seder.

We welcome all families with young children, especially interfaith families.

Facilitated by Sarah Rabin Spira, Director of Family Enrichment and Community Outreach and Marion L. Usher, Ph.D., creator of “Love and Religion: An Interfaith Workshop for Jews and Their Partners.”

(Learn more and register)

Recipes: Symbolic Rosh Hashana Foods and Russian Tea Biscuits

By Jean Graubart, Director of Jewish Living and Learning

Rosh Hashanah, which begins on Sunday night September 16, is right around the corner.*

Every year, as I prepare my menu to share with family and friends, I think of ways to add meaning to the meal.It is the beginning of our New Year and a time we think about our hopes and desires for the year to come, dreams for ourselves, those we love and the world around us.

There are foods we can add to our table that symbolically add good wishes for the new year!

Dates dipped in powdered sugar and served along with the more familiar apples and honey, bring sweetness to the new year.
A prayer to accompany the eating of dates: “As we eat this date, may we ‘date’ the New Year that is beginning, as one of happiness and blessing and peace for all the world.”

Pomegranates are said to contain exactly 613 seeds, the same number of mitzvot, the biblical commandments. These beautiful fruits often decorate the holiday table but cut open and eaten bring a year filled with as many good deeds at the pomegranate seeds.
A prayer said as seeds are tasted: “In the coming year, may we be rich and replete with acts inspired by religion and piety, as this pomegranate is rich and replete with seeds.”

Pumpkin is often served in some form in Sephardic homes to express the hope that, as this vegetable has been protected by a thick covering, we too will be protected. Our family ate the seeds toasted and salted by my nona.
Prayer for eating pumpkin: “May the coming year grow as a gourd in fulness of blessing.  In the year to come, may this pumpkin guard us from enemies.”

Leek is considered a food for luck, something we all need.  In Sephardic cooking, leek is as common as the onion and is cooked and added to meat for keftes, small burgers made with boiled leeks chopped, ground beef or turkey, eggs, matzo meal and salt and pepper to taste, then fried lightly in oil, cooked in tomato sauce with lemon or baked in the oven. For a vegetable side dish or for vegetarians, boiled and chopped to mix with chopped spinach, matzo meal, eggs and salt and pepper and cooked like the meat.
A prayer for this lovely vegetable: “As we eat this leek may our luck never lack in the year to come.”

Beets are a prime vegetable at this time of year.  Roasted with a little olive oil (wrapped in foil and baked at 450 for 40 minutes until soft) or boiled, beets are a beautifully colorful addition to the Rosh Hashanah table. They can be served cold in salad or alone with a little balsamic vinegar.
While enjoying, recite: “As we bite this beet, may those who in the past have beaten us or sought our harm, be beaten in the coming year.”

Recently a friend told me to be sure and add celery and raisins to the holiday table.  This is an easy one, since celery is good in salad and a must in chicken soup, a tradition at the holiday table. For the raisins, add to your favorite apple cake or make these delicious Russian Tea Biscuits, a recipe brought from the “old country” (this time from eastern Europe, an Ashkanazi treat) and filled with raisins and nuts.  Why raisins and celery?  For a raise in salary!

Russian Tea Biscuits

4 1/2 cups flour (begin with a little less)
1 stick parve margarine (butter if for dairy meal)
1/4 cup oil
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sweet wine
1/4 cup club soda (this was made when baking soda was not to be found)
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix margarine, oil and sugar
Add eggs and mix
Add dry ingredients and mix
Put in wine and club soda and mix with wooden spoon
Add flour as needed for dough you can roll out easily
Divide dough into 4 pieces
Roll each into rectangle on floured board or table

Fill, using what you like from below, all or some. This is for you to enjoy, put your signature on it!
Fillings:
2 jars preserves spread on the dough
Chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)
Raisins (yellow or black)
Dried shredded coconut

Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top of filling
Roll like a jelly roll, tuck top and bottom under
With a spatula, place on greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper)
Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle crumbs on top made with 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar and1/2 cup margarine mixed together
Cut half way through the dough, about 1/2 inch apart

Bake 325 (preheated oven) for 1 hour
Cool and slice through
Place in cupcake papers
Can be frozen if made in advance.

As these are very full, we hope for a full and satisfying life. Enjoy as the finish of a wonderful and meaningful Rosh Hashanah meal.

Shana tova, and hopes for a year of sweetness and satisfaction to you and your loved ones!

 

*While this post was supposed to go up a few weeks ago, it mysteriously disappeared into the bloggy ether… Enjoy all the festive foods during these Days of Awe!

Shabbat Surfing: What’s New?

Suze Orman thinks you should be going to a cool Jewish summer camp.
Image (c) suzeorman.com

Shana tova!

We’re days away from the Jewish New Year and it seemed the right time to focus on all things both Jewish and new.

Because it’s hard to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Suze Orman just making lanyards…
New Camp: Four new Jewish summer camps are gearing up to create more memorable overnight camp experiences for underserved populations, thanks to the Foundation for Jewish Camp, in the areas of business and entrepreneurship, health and wellness, sports, and science and technology.

Because it’s about time…
New Name: “Jew Pond” in New Hampshire, named as a pejorative in the 1920s when the hotel to which it was connected was bought by two Jewish businessmen from Boston, has been officially renamed Carleton Pond.

Because sexism and agism are so passe…
New Shofar Blowers: DC Congregations, including Adas Israel and Tifereth Israel, are seeing more and more women, plus young and older adults who want to blow the shofar, and are learning for these High Holidays.

Because we notice when one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Middle East is denied the right to worship…
New Place Without a Minyan: “For the first time in some 2,000 years, Alexandria [Egypt] will not have a minyan,” as Egyptian authorities cancel services at Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue and deny visas.

Because welcoming all Jewish families is a core value…
New Info on Interfaith Families: With interfaith relationships making up a not-insignificant amount of the Jewish community, new survey data helps Jewish organizations engage these families, who are looking for outlandish things like a welcoming attitude, invitations to learn about Judaism, and events for interfaith families.

 

Recipes: Summer Desserts – Plum Torte and Ice Cream Strudel

By Jean Graubart, Director of Jewish Living and Learning

I always thought that baking was one of those skills (some say, talents) that skips a generation.

My Ashkanazi grandmother Evelyn made the most delicious pastries stuffed with raisins and cinnamon, which I can still taste so many years later.  My Sephardic grandmother Molly, rolled out wonderful biscochos, always found in her oven (she stored them there) for the grandkids to grab.

But my mother burnt Sara Lee, and at best would make a Duncan Hines cake so dry, it only worked with layers of ice cream in the middle and on top, and we thought this was gourmet.  Who knew?

I would gather recipes from friends, claiming them as my own and giving them a family history.  By making a change or 2, they became my recipe, and have been enjoyed and passed on.

Since it is so terribly hot in the summer, I rarely bake, not wanting to heat the house.  But there are exceptions…

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Summer is when we get the best plums, and I love this plum torte.

Plum Torte

12 Italian or purple plums halved…if large, quarter (and who says you can’t use green or red plums?)
1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter (I use parve margarine so we can enjoy this with any meal)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Lemon juice to taste

Cream butter and sugar together
Add eggs and mix well (hand mixing or electric are fine)
Add flour, baking powder and mix to combine
Spoon into a lightly greased pie pan and cover the bottom and a little way up the sides
Place plums, skin side up, on top of batter, all around
Squeeze lemon on top  to cover and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon

Bake 350 for an hour.
Cool and serve, warm or next day, with ice cream, whipped cream or plain.
This torte can stay in the refrigerator several days, covered (can heat before serving, though I like it cold)
Freezes very nicely, wrapped tightly.  Can defrost on 300 for a few minutes.

My friend has a plum tree and makes this in a square brownie pan with the plums cut up and mixed in.  Since that has worked so well and the cake is so easy to make with 1 bowl only, we have made it with other fruits.

It is great (pie style) with apples or pears on top for Rosh Hashanah.

For more summer treats, use peaches on top if you have a basket from the farm waiting to be used.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

When I was in graduate school, I tasted this delicious strudel which I never thought I could duplicate, but then realized how easy it was.  Why is it summer food?  The main ingredient is ice cream!

Ice Cream Strudel

2 1/2 cup flour
1/2 pound sweet butter
1/2 pint strawberry, peach or any fruit flavored ice cream (I have used vanilla too)  – very soft, almost melted

Blend and refrigerate above over night.
Preheat oven to 325.
Divide into 4 balls and roll in rectangle on floured table (can use powdered sugar instead).
Spread with jam, nuts, raisins, coconut, cinnamon and sugar (Use whatever you like: currants, raisins, mini chocolate chips).
Roll up like a jelly roll, and cut ¾” apart, and ¾ of the way through (seam side down).
Bake at 325 for 30 minutes on greased cookie sheet, seam side down.
When cooled and ready to serve, cut all the way through and put in cupcake holders and freeze in a cookie tin or serve and enjoy with iced tea.

So when those fruity ice cream flavors tempt you, have a bowlful and then prepare this rich and lovely dough.

This is a great dough! You can do anything with it. (It also makes a great dough to cover apples in apple dumplings or baked apples.)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Yes, summertime and the livin’ is easy, the salads are tasty and the fruit is delicious.

These treats help to balance out the calories and are truly good all year.  They are easy, different and a pleasure to share at a picnic or BBQ.

_________________________

Want to check out past recipes from Jean? Click here!

Shabbat Surfing: Tu B’Av – It’s All About the Love!

If you’re feeling an extra bit love and affection floating around today, it’s the effects of Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love.

(Or as other Jewish denominations pronounce it, lurve.)

If you want to pass along the love, you can send a free Tu B’Av ecard to your special someones, designed by contest winner, Rachel Scheer.

Tu B'Av ecard by Rachel ScheerAnd isn’t a Day of Love the perfect time for a Kiss-In?

The Jewish community was recently polled to find that 81% support equal marriage for all. Some will be celebrating the today with National Same-Sex Kiss Day, in support of equality for all, and in response to Chik-Fil-A’s Chickens for Bigotry* campaign. It seems all expressions of affection (kisses, hugs, holding hands) will be welcome, as will as any and all who would like to come and kiss.
*Not the actual name

Whether you are celebrating with a quiet dinner at home, or a huge white party with hundreds of your nearest and dearest, our Tu B’Av wish is that you know how much we love our readers and all who join us at the DCJCC.

Shabbat Surfing: When the Lights Went Out in DC

While Europe was discovering the power of the universe with the Higgs boson breakthrough, back here in DC, many of us spent days without power in the aftermath of the storm – including a simcha or two that went forward even without electricity.

If the storm had you all shaken up, that’s okay, as we learn in the Arty Semite’s post this week, because Jews are awesome at anxiety – recognizing it, dramatizing it, grasping it, differentiating it, talking about it, and even dealing with it.

Dan Fishback, who joined us last year at the Washington Jewish Music Festival, is taking that anxiety and putting it to productive use in The Material World, which “features an anachronistic cast of neurotic Jews, all trying to save the planet. (…) And unlike other pop musicals about Madonna and socialism, this play has scenes in Yiddish.”

For those still feeling unsettled and needing more assurances about the future, Jewcy has begun prognosticating, introducing Jewcy Horoscopes, and explaining the Jewish astrological tradition, which has been around for centuries, apparently.

Since my horoscope is warning against ruining things by over-analyzing, I’ll sign off with a final Shabbat wish: may your A/C be humming, your summer salads be chilly, your swimming pools open for everyone.

 

Shabbat Surfing: Summertime and the Living is Groovy

Prehensile-tailed Porcupine

The National Zoo recommends fruitsicles. As do we.

Now that we can turn from serious conversations about healthcare for just a moment, this heat is keeping us on some lighter, more summery topics.

Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn – aka Rabbi Reefer* – is among the first to be opening a medical marijuana dispensary in DC, after an epic process. “Our midlife quest for a new way to make a positive difference in people’s lives and a lifelong commitment to pushing the envelope to help others made this the obvious path to follow.” (*Okay, no one has actually called him that before now.)

If you come up with a better nickname than I did and it catches on worldwide, you might be the first winner of the new million-dollar “Jewish Nobel Prize,” actually called the Genesis Prize. “The international prize will be awarded to Jews who win global recognition for their achievements in the fields of science and the arts.” I suppose “good nicknaming” doesn’t really count as an achievement in the arts…

However, creative labeling might be: Hebrew National is under fire for its kosher hotdogs not being quite so kosher… as Jon Stewart reported on The Daily Show.

And if it’s all too much, follow Nora Ephron’s advice. As she once told an audience, “I’m very into denial.” Hide out inside with the a/c this weekend, pop in “When Harry Met Sally,” and dream up how you’re going to win that million dollars.

 

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