Monday Media: The Maccabeats “Shine”

Two years ago The Maccabeats took the Jewish world by storm with Candlelight, which, to date, has been viewed over 8 million times on Youtube (and on the stage of the 2010 Washington Jewish Music Festival). This Chanukah they’re debuting their first original song. What do you think?

All Jazzed Up

I love music events in our Community Hall performance space. They’re so intimate…when else in my life will I get to see a professional opera singer or a member of the National Symphony Orchestra performing just a few feet from me? I also love the mix of people who take advantage of our affordable concert series–from preschoolers (feeling the music in their own hilarious way), to young couples on dates, to retirees. That’s why I’m so excited for our post-Chanukah concert with the Roy Assaf Trio on December 19.  Here’s a sneak peak of what’s in store:

Chanukah Recipe: Bimuelos (Sephardic Hanukkah Fritters)

bimuelosBy Jean Graubart, Director of the Center for Jewish Living and Learning

Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah, come light the menorah

Along with the songs we remember from childhood and enjoy hearing in the sweet little voices of children everywhere, we also remember what we eat during every Jewish holiday.

“And on the 25th day of Kislev….The sanctuary of G-d was dedicated anew with song and music…moreover, Judah the Maccabean and his brethren, with the whole congregation of Israel, ordained that the day of the dedication of the altar should be celebrated from year to year for eight days in gladness and thanksgiving.”
APOCRYPHA- I MACCABEES 4:52-59

Chanukah known to us as the festival of lights, is a joyous holiday that celebrates an ancient victory for freedom and peace.  It is still marked by the lighting of candles on the menorah, traditional fried foods, singing and a (hopefully) “lighthearted” exchange of gifts.

In my family of origin, my mother always had a few extra little gifts wrapped (all of our gifts were little, just a token of giving) in case and in hopes that we would bring a friend or two home for dinner and candle lighting.  Gifts were socks for the winter (prettier ones than we would normally buy), knit gloves or a scarf (in other words, things we were going to need), and, for extra pleasure, a book.  I remember opening the next volume of a Trixie Belden mystery book and could hardly wait to get into my bed and read.  Chanukah was a family time, fun because all the cousins got together, each aunt handed us a $5 bill, and we sang and played dreidel, knowing that the Sunday during Chanukah was our gathering.

My Sephardic grandmother never heard of latkas and always said the Yiddish food is not authentic.  We were treated to BIMUELOS, a fritter fried and sweetened.  Latkes were eaten in the privacy of our home, so nona didn’t know that we had a taste for the Eshkanazi.  She was proud of her culture and history, and made that clear every time we were with her.

BIMUELOS

1 1/3 cup warm water
2 envelopes of yeast
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable, canola or corn oil
3 cups flour
cinnamon for sprinkling
oil to deep fry

SYRUP

1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar, boiled and stirred
Mix 1 24-ounce jar of honey and 1/4 cup of water heated  (My nona said honey was not authentic, just as she made a syrup of sugar/water for her baklava because honey was too expensive and not the way it was done by “mama.”)

DIRECTIONS

Combine sugar and water or honey and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water
Add beaten egg, salt and oil to mixture
Add flour all at once and stir
Take remaining water and add gradually, mixing thoroughly
Allow to rise at least an hour, covered with clean towel in warm place
Heat oil in deep frying pan or saucepan to 375 degrees (test to see if ready by dropping a tiny bit of dough and seeing if it puffs up)
Drop dough into the hot oil from a tablespoon dipped in oil
Bimuelos puff up and need to be turned over until golden all over
Drain on paper toweling, removing with a slotted spoon
Dip into warm syrup immediately and sprinkle with cinnamon
If not serving right away, dip and sprinkle when serving

Makes about four dozen.  Everyone will eat 2-3, except those on diets or gluten free.  It is a different world from my nona’s.

Enjoy as you read a lovely Chanukah story with friends or family.  Stop at the DCJCC gift shop to buy a book you will all enjoy and have for years to come!

Chanukah brings light into our home as the menorah glows, brighter each night.  It is my sincere hope that these lights will bring lightness to your lives and to the world we live in, sometimes seeming so very dark.  And may Israel celebrate with the light of peace and hope.

Monday Media: Jews & Christmas Songs

Did you know that some of the world’s most beloved Christmas songs were actually written by Jews? What’s that all about?

InterfaithFamily.com takes a look at this surprising phenomenon in this article. You can also learn about the Jewish songwriters of Christmas and more at A Kosher Christmas on December 17!

And on the flip side, did you know “I Had a Little Dreidel” was written by a Christian songwriter?*

*No, not really.

Monday Media: A Genetic History of the Jewish People

Are Jews a people, an ethnic group, or a family? Medical geneticist Harry Ostrer explores this fascinating issue. Still have questions? Ask him in person on December 5!

Bi-Partisan Pecan Pumpkin Pie for the Kosher Thanksgiving Table

By Jean Graubart, Director of  the Leo & Anna Smilow Center for Jewish Living and Learning

November is always reminiscent of family, food and memories.

Thanksgiving is a holiday we enjoy with Americans of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, taking time to be with people who matter and eating delicious foods.  There is a traditional menu set out by the Pilgrims, or so we are told, but each community and family adds their own personal flavors to the general idea of what to have on the table.

Pumpkin pie, because it is generally made with evaporated milk or other dairy product, has been a problem for the kosher meat table.  Years ago, I found Nancy Reagan’s Simple (the key word) Pecan Pumpkin Pie and was delighted that it would be both pareve and combine 2 favorite flavors for pie.  For at least 25 years, this pie has been a part of our dessert table and relished by my guests.  Since today is election day and we are all thinking of the White House, I thought it would be appropriate to add a pie from this auspicious address to your Thanksgiving recipes.  And it is a bi-partisan pie, enjoyed by all of all parties!

Nancy Reagan’s Simple Pecan Pumpkin Pie

INGREDIENTS:
4 eggs
2 cups pumpkin (canned or fresh)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 unbaked (9-inch) pie shell
1 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Break eggs into large bowl. Beat with wire whip. Add pumpkin, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt. Stir until sugar is dissolved and ingredients are well blended. Pour into pie shell and cover pie with pecans. Bake for 40 minutes, or until filling is set (knife inserted in center of pie comes out clean).  Can be baked a day ahead and refrigerated for the big day.

And while we are into “P” recipes (pecan pumpkin pie), add this “P” recipe to your Thanksgiving repertoire.  Perfect for the kosher table:

Mashed Potatoes

INGREDIENTS:
5 pounds potatoes (any kind, size or shape–I like Yukon Gold but red and russet are good or mix them up)
6 onions

DIRECTIONS:
Boil potatoes with skins. In frying pan,  heat olive oil. Dice 6 onions and sauté until golden brown.

Mash potatoes with skins on ( they add nutrients and taste and texture) in a large bowl with hand masher, the kind your mother or grandmother used.  Mix in the onions and all the oil and add salt and plenty of pepper to taste.

Use a large rectangular pan and grease with oil all around.  Put potatoes mixed with onions and seasoned into the pan and heat before dinner on 350 or 375 or whatever your oven is on until golden on top.

ENJOY!  They taste like the filling in the best knish you ever had.  And they are Perfect (there’s that P again) with natural turkey sauce (that means no added flour or thickener) and alongside the vegetables (steamed or roasted are best since everything else is so flavorful and their natural taste brings balance to this meal).

Hoping this Thanksgiving, you all celebrate with people who matter, and take the time to count the blessings that make your life meaningful, and may these blessings be bountiful!  CHAG SAMEACH!

Monday Media: Woody Guthrie’s America

Like many of you, I sang “This Land is Your Land” as a young child in public school, and always assumed that it was more “Workin’ on the Railroad” than “We Shall Overcome.”  But this iconic song was actually written as a sarcastic response to “God Bless America,” and packs a revolutionary punch–this land belongs to you and me includes everyone, be they black or white, rich or poor, young or old. The blessings of America belong to all of us, not just a select few. This was Woody’s message.

To learn more about “This Land is Your Land” and Woody Guthrie check out this great episode of Studio 360‘s American Icons Series  or Theater J’s upcoming show Woody Sez: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie.

And whether you live near the Redwood forests or the Gulf Stream waters, get out and vote tomorrow!

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