Commentary, contributions, creative work and more from our staff, clergy, congregants and community members.
Hosted by MALA: Muslim American Leadership Alliance
Tomorrow there will be a virtual screening of this moving 37-minute film, which will be followed by a discussion and Q & A with the filmmaker, Laura Seltzer-Duny, S.A. Ibrahim Co-Chair of the Center for Interreligious Understanding & contributor to the film, and Annette Lachmann Holocaust survivor featured in the film.
This has been a year unlike any other and B’ShERT has proven itself to be a haven of Jewish community at a very lonely and disconnected time. If you’re feeling, this year especially, that you want to see your community at B’ShERT continue to thrive, you can help out just by… buying yourself or your loved ones a Hanukkah gift!
Two artisans have graciously partnered with B’ShERT to offer YOU a unique, safe buying opportunity for the holidays. Visit these two websites on Etsy and 10% of your purchases will be donated back to the Temple.
At this challenging time, when you cannot be with friends & family, show that you are thinking of them with a handmade one-of-a-kind gift, shipped directly to their door, wrapped with love and that extra special personal touch!
Faith Oland Pottery
and Centered Vessel
Upon Check Out make sure to include in the message box to the seller that you are ordering from B’ShERT to ensure that your donation is credited.
Happy shopping and happy holidays. Should you have any questions, please call the Temple Office or
Karen Eichel at 917-856-9912.
Learn more about these talented artisans:
Faith Oland was born and grew up in Brooklyn, NY. She studied Art at SUNY New Paltz, graduating with a BS and an MS in Art Education. She taught for many years in Putnam Valley, Yorktown, and Mahopac School districts. Her favorite job was at the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester, where she taught in their Middle and High School, specializing in Ceramics. She is the mother of three daughters, and grandmother to five. She opened her Etsy shop in July of 2020 and has successfully been selling her ceramic pieces.
Maxine Oland – “I am a potter, an archaeologist, a student of yoga, a partner, a mother. My craft keeps me connected to the earth, grounded and centered.”
With Thanksgiving this week, another fall holiday is on the horizon and, sadly, we cannot be together in person for this one.
Looking back over this odd season of a year unlike any other, I am so grateful that, back in October, our Temple congregants and custodians came together to safely assemble our B’ShERT sukkah!
Sukkot proved to be a uniquely CDC-compliant holiday.
We were able to gather together, outdoors, in masks, to decorate a sukkah with everything from pumpkins and fairy lights to inflated latex gloves that we hung from the ceiling with a jewel in the middle, to ward off the Evil Eye and Covid. It was a very 2020 sukkah.
There was plenty of crafting, ingenuity, and hand sanitizer.
Take a look at the fruits of our creative labor!
My name is Lela Wang and I’m a 10th grader and B’ShERT congregant. When Emma Tattenbaum-Fine, Digital Media and Youth Outreach Coordinator, sent out information about the URJ Religious Action Center (RAC) Teen Justice Fellowship in August, I signed up. The RAC has worked to mobilize the Reform Jewish Movement to advocate for social justice. It was a wonderful program, and greatly helped me to do a civic engagement project. The RAC helped me learn about community organizing, how to start a movement and how to make change.
For the fellowship, I did a non-partisan voting advocacy project. I asked volunteers to make a voting sign to display in a window in either their home or a business. If the sign was displayed in a business, volunteers would ask that business about their history and struggles in this difficult year. Then everyone answered the question, “Does one vote matter, and why?” I think it is very important that everybody votes because that’s the foundation of our democracy; we get to choose the people that lead our local government, state government, and our country.
There were many challenges. At first, it was difficult to start this project, and get enough volunteers. I found there were a lot of issues with businesses who were unwilling to participate, or took signs down after agreeing. They were reluctant to do anything remotely political, even if it was non-partisan. I also discovered that many people really didn’t believe one vote mattered. I found the political divide in our community was much bigger than I thought. With the election rapidly approaching, I had to make it all happen and compile all the responses.
There were also successes. There were some really inspiring things that were said and I am so happy with the result of this project. I think something as simple as spreading the word and encouraging voting through posters can make a difference, especially because all the signs were individually made, expressing unique and community-based work. I found this was also a tactic that was used when I did postcarding this summer, encouraging people to register to vote. The postcards had to be hand-written, which was quite tedious but much more personal. The posters were all very creative and I think that the project was a success. You can see the results on my project website “Your Vote, Your Voice” here: https://sites.google.com/view/vote-2020/home
Through this fellowship, I learned about community organizing and the many challenges involved. Civic engagement is difficult, but this was definitely a great learning experience and made me a more confident community organizer. I also learned a lot about different political views and I realized there are many people in my neighborhood and in my community who think differently—they aren’t just in states I have never been to or places far away. They are people just like you and me who just think differently and that is okay. We must spread kindness no matter what and work to better the world together.
By Alan Zarrow
In honor of Election Day, I am concentrating this month’s Walking Tour segment on some very strange political stories and the people associated with them.
We begin at Green-Wood Cemetery and our first stop is NYC Mayor William Jay Gaynor (Section 7) who was the victim of an attempted assassination on August 9, 1910 (8-9-10 for all of you numbers people) and amazingly survived a bullet in the neck. Although he was considered a highly-regarded candidate for either governor or even president, he was not even put up for nomination by his party for another term as mayor. He died in office in 1913 from an apparent heart attack – not from his wound. Someone else who died in office — on February 11, 1828 in Albany — was New York Governor DeWitt Clinton (Clinton Dell section), shown behind yours truly. His uncle, George Clinton, while serving as the nation’s fourth vice president, also died in office. Hmmmmm. Bad genes? DeWitt was originally buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in New Windsor, NY, along with his uncle George, but was re-interred at Green-Wood.
John Young McKane (Section 146) was known as the “Czar of Coney Island” and his exploits could fill a book. He was a strong supporter of Grover Cleveland in the 1884 presidential race and it was widely suspected that he had a hand in some election irregularities. He was eventually convicted in 1894 of election fraud in the local Brooklyn contests of 1893. (THIS guy’s biography should be a story for one of Ron Schweiger’s future talks – hint, hint.) Grover Cleveland (the only president to be elected to two NON-consecutive terms) is buried in Princeton (NJ) Cemetery along with Vice President (and dueler of Alexander Hamilton) Aaron Burr and university founder Paul Tulane. Ron Schweiger is shown here in front of the Leonard Walter Jerome’s Green-Wood mausoleum (Section 37). Who is Leonard Jerome and why are we talking about him in an article about politics? Leonard was the father of Jenny Jerome, who was the mother of Sir Winston Churchill.
We will take our leave of Green-Wood with the story of Teresa Sickles. While she was not in politics herself, her husband, US Representative from New York Daniel Sickles, was. The Sickleses lived in a row of houses across from the White House facing Lafayette Park (in the same row of houses as Henry Reid Rathbone, the army officer who accompanied Abraham Lincoln to Ford’s Theatre). Daniel found out that Teresa was having an affair with Philip Barton Key (son of Francis Scott) and publicly shot Key in front of the Key residence located on the other side of Lafayette Park (near the home of William Seward, who was gravely wounded the night Lincoln was shot). Daniel was tried and found not guilty by reason of insanity — the first successful use of such a defense in a case like this — and went on to have a command at the battle of Gettysburg, where his leg was shattered and ultimately amputated. He donated his leg to the US Army Medical Museum (where it is still on display – just ask Bonnie Greenbaum) and it was said that he visited his leg on every anniversary of the amputation. Teresa died in 1867 and was buried in an unmarked grave in the Sickles plot here at Green-Wood. Unmarked, that is, until just this past summer when a marker suddenly appeared – pointed out to me by the sharp eyes of our own Lori Pandolfo.
Moving from Green-Wood to upper Manhattan, we meet the one and only NYC Mayor Ed Koch (“How’m I doing?”). Koch is buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery Uptown on Broadway and 155th Street in the section that houses the cathedral. Also in that part of the cemetery is bird expert John James Audubon. On the other side of Broadway you will find the Astor family, Clement Clarke Moore (“T’was the night before…”), and Jerry Orbach.
We come back across the East River to Calvary Cemetery in Queens, where we have Carmine DeSapio (Section 27), who was known as the last real boss of Tammany Hall. During his tenure, he was accused of having ties to organized crime and was influential in replacing unpopular mayor Vincent Impellitteri with Robert Wagner. The Wagner family is also in Calvary (Section 45), approximately 50 yards to the right from Governor Alfred E. Smith. Our final stop this month is New Montefiore Cemetery in Farmingdale, where we find Abe Beame (Section 4, Block 6), NYC’s first Jewish mayor and Ed Koch’s predecessor. Unfortunately, he was on the receiving end of the now-famous headline, “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Yep – some strange stories. Again, I can’t thank enough the people who came with me on my journeys, and thank you to the folks at Green-Wood, who encouraged people to do the walking from the beginning.
(Text and photos by Alan Zarrow. The photo of Alan with DeWitt Clinton is by Miriam Mishkin)
My mother was a superb baker, having learned from her Austro-Hungarian mother all the specialties of that vanquished empire. She made a variety of “Pitter Kichen” (Butter Cookies) that were outstanding and Chocolate and Nuts Tortes and a basic yeast dough that she would transform into half-a-dozen different things.
She was particular though. She would make an exceptional Date and Nut Bread, but she would only bake it in recycled Campbell’s Soup cans. If we hadn’t eaten enough soup to provide the requisite number of cans for the recipe, it didn’t get made. Someone once suggested that she make it as a loaf, in a big pan, and she looked at them like they had two heads.
Things were only done the way they were done.
She was a good cook, but not exceptional. Like many housewives she had a routine of two or three dozen recipes, most of which she repeated over the course of the month. On the third Monday, we would invariably have some fried fish, flat flounder fillets, whole smelts, and thick cod steaks. Very good.
Also, like many women of her generation, she guarded her recipes closely.
Even from her family.
Mom made a really good mayonnaise-less potato salad. And after I’d gotten married and moved away, I missed it and asked her for the recipe.
“Sure,” she said: “I’ll give it to you now. Are you ready?
Take a batch of potatoes. Peel them, boil them until they’re tender, and let them cool.
After they’re cooled, cut them into chunks and put them in a big bowl. Then pour on the lemon juice.”
“How much lemon juice, mom?”
“Enough until you think you’ve spoiled it.”
Mind you, my mother was a home economics teacher. She knew from recipes, but that didn’t mean she was going to give them to you.
My mother was an excellent cook and baker who, unfortunately, never instructed my sister, Bambi, or me how to prepare her delectable dishes.
After her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and when she was no longer able to make my family’s favorite stuffing recipe, we got used to having a “Stove Top” substitute because somehow we subliminally believed that she would magically be able to provide us with the recipe.
After she died, the need to have this recipe and bring her memory alive, at least through food, became paramount. Bambi made the first attempt. It wasn’t bad but it just wasn’t the recipe. She tried again, and although we appreciated her efforts to have it on the table again it fell short of our expectations and made us sad that this wasn’t what we loved eating all of these years. But it did help us to realize just how important having her stuffing was to our family. So what to do?
Finally on one rainy fall day, I decided to buy an insanely large number of bags of Pepperidge Farm Seasoned Stuffing mix, the main ingredient, and was determined to keep making stuffing all day until it tasted like Mom’s Thanksgiving stuffing and deserved to be on our table.
So I rolled up my sleeves, and started to open up the first bag of stuffing when my eye caught some words on the back of the bag that seemed strangely familiar to me; and why not, it was Mama Schnall’s Thanksgiving Stuffing recipe on that bag, verbatim!
It has been a whirlwind, getting Open Mic up and running, something like now you don’t see it, and then yes, you do. You could have gotten whiplash. First there were not enough performers, now, our program is brimming with talent.
For a while, it was touch and go, thinking that we would not have enough acts to give it a go. I guess that people have summer brain, and suddenly they woke up, and climbed on board.
The most exciting thing to me, was the dry run on this past Tuesday night. In true Temple fashion, dry run was scheduled at the same time as a Jewish Cultural event. Lucky for us, we could test out Linda Feller early, so she could make the event, and then she signed back in, when the Jewish Cultural event was over.
Most everyone performing live, came to the dry run, including Cassi Kail from CA, and Penrose Hoover, father of Rabbi Heidi Hoover, coming from PA. Gail Levine drove home from a trip, 2 and ½ hours to make rehearsal. Jan Lisa Huttner, also needed to leave early, and had her voice check right after Linda’s.
It was great to hear the support and the camaraderie of the performers. Gene Guskin and Maria Deutscher had never met until the dry run and seemed to hit if off very well. Gene can talk a blue streak. Just wait until you hear him. I am thinking that Maria will make a good “second banana” to Gene. By the way, does that term have to be updated, and does anyone have suggestions?
Teddy Moskowitz is a gem of a guy, and very understated. He has an awesome reading voice and loves that book. Bill Schaffer is also reading from Dr Seuss and is very funny. Naz is so lucky to have such talented parents.
The Schaffer Family is making a great contribution of their talent. We look forward to the Schaffer Family Band, which will feature Naz. He certainly loves being a part of this event, with his family. Joanie has taught herself ukulele, and will also send us “Downtown” to the 60’s via Petula Clark, and Mama Cass with “Dream A Little Dream of Me. I can hear that song ringing in my ear.
Gail Levine is also playing guitar and singing a Yiddish song, and “Que Sera Sera”, made famous by Doris Day. In addition to bringing us Yiddish, she is honoring her mother by singing the song made famous by Doris Day. What a wonderful way to honor one’s parent.
Jane Gleiberman, who is a member of the choir is singing “Sunrise, Sunset”, as a tie in to one of Jan Lisa Huttner’s stories. Rusty, her parrot made an appearance, too. He is small, green and has a loud voice. I guess that’s why Jane is so quiet. During dry run, I said to Jane “Sing out, Louise” since she does sing so quietly, and I want you all to hear her.
Joel Moss, in his deadpan fashion, is bringing us comedy that is sorely needed, and looks good, in this setting. We were all laughing at his sample of jokes.
We will be brought back to Ireland, twice, once by Barry Katz reading a Yeats poem, and by an Irish Choir, of which Debra Davies is a member. Hurrah to them both. Look at the talent that we have imported.
Kyle McGee is performing a Rashtaman Chant, which will also carry us, via drum, to another dimension, and as of this writing there is a performance by Emma Tattenbaum-Fine of a little known Leonard Bernstein song. Looking forward to discovering something new by him.
So, I have to say, all sound checks were made and commented upon, and some lighting was worked out.
The reason that this worked so well is that, during the dry run, everyone pulled together by giving valuable and wanted advice for the sound and visual tech. All advice was greatly appreciated. It was wonderful to see everyone working together, striving towards one goal, to make everyone look and sound great. No divas here.
I love this team and can’t wait to see them on Saturday.
Last fall, my son’s third grade class did a unit on culture and family. One of the discussions in class centered around family recipes, and my son came home waving his assignment, asking if we had any family recipes. I paused. By the time I knew my grandmother, she was relatively elderly, retired in West Palm Beach, and passed the stage of hosting Thanksgiving and Passover, so I have no idea if she was a good cook. In fact, I only recall her having a legendary reputation for two dishes: Cream of Wheat (yes, the hot cereal) and rugelach.
I obviously couldn’t present Cream of Wheat to my son as a family recipe (although I think the amount of milk, salt and butter my grandmother used are far beyond any instructions on the box) so that left the rugelach as the one and only option.
Luckily, my grandmother’s rugelach are chewy bites of deliciousness, and I remember learning to make them from my mother, as she learned from my grandmother. They were always far more delicious than any store-bought rugelach, and since they were incredibly labor-intensive to make, we only did so once or twice a year, making them a very special occasion cookie.
I went looking for the recipe. You may be imagining some hand-written index card in my grandmother’s handwriting. Nope. My mother typed up the recipe in Word and emailed it out to me and my sisters in 2018. I also found a typed version I emailed to myself back in 2002. Perhaps I took dictation over the phone from my mom, or copied and pasted from her Word document while home for a visit. My son copied the recipe onto his homework worksheet, and I assumed my work was done.
The end of the culture unit arrived, and his class had a celebration, where each family was supposed to bring in homemade food from their culture. And my son was committed to bringing in the rugelach, even though he had never tasted them.
The weekend before the celebration we baked the rugelach together. I took over the role of my mother in mixing the dough, rolling it out and cutting it into triangles, and my son took over my childhood role, as I showed him how to roll the filling into the cookies. It was the first time I realized that my mother had of course once been the child, learning how to fill and roll the dough from her mother. It’s the essence of l’dor v’dor, of course (Hebrew for “from generation to generation”).
Even in this first effort, we were already having our own way with the recipe. For instance, the filling in my grandmother’s rugelach is sugar, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts. I detest raisins, and am not much of a fan of walnuts (almonds are so much better!) so when my mother baked the rugelach she would always make a handful with just cinnamon and sugar for my twin sister and I to eat. Now that I was in control of the kitchen, there were no raisins or walnuts in sight. But my son wasn’t keen on the idea of cinnamon and sugar, and asked if we could fill them with chocolate. I bought a bar of baking chocolate, which I chopped into tiny pieces, and we filled half the rugelach with chocolate, and half with cinnamon and sugar.
The chocolate version turned out delicious, as did the cinnamon-sugar, and they were a hit with the third graders in my son’s class.
Now in June, the days of bringing family recipes into a New York City public school have evaporated, but the hours available for baking have multiplied. My son has helped me bake many batches of soft rolled sugar cookies (seriously, there are no better sugar cookies out there), and I’ve started baking bread: challah, baguettes, and now rustic loaves from a book called “Flower, Water, Salt and Yeast.”
Through all of this baking I’ve built up knowledge on the chemistry of baking: what makes a cookie have a certain flavor or consistency, or how to get the right kind of crust on a loaf of bread. In contrast to last December, I feel like a fairly knowledgeable home baker.
Sadly, while my technical skills are improving, my emotional satisfaction from baking has slumped, knowing the result won’t go any further than my own kitchen. I’ve taken to driving over to my mom’s apartment and meeting her outside her building to give her a freshly baked challah, or zipping over to a colleague’s building to drop off coffee cake or cookies.
Meanwhile my son kept nagging me: When are we going to bake rugelach? I tried to explain that rugelach and quarantine don’t mix, because these rugelach are for sharing, giving as gifts, or serving at the end of a festive meal. They are far too much work to be an everyday cookie, eaten by the three of us at home.
Finally he wore me down, and I got out the recipe again. I also decided with all my honed baking skills, the time had come to print the recipe out and put some notes and adjustments on it.
Once I printed it out, with the aim of adding more detail to the instructions, I started thinking about how strange the recipe looks to my modern eyes, starting with the order of her steps. Her recipe starts by mixing the eggs and half the milk into the flour. Most modern cookie recipes call for whipping the shortening together with the sugar, then adding the liquids (eggs and milk in this case) and only then mixing in the flour. These rugelach follow the style of scones, which also start with flour, and have a heavier, flakier dough.
Both scones and this rugelach recipe, even if they were being made on the opposite sides of Europe, come from a time and place where electric mixers weren’t available or common. How excruciating it would have been to “whip” the butter or mix the sugar with it, all with a hand whisk, or your actual hands. Impossible!
I rolled out half the rugelach dough and filled them with chocolate. My sous-chef son was nowhere in sight—perhaps he also prefers baking for an audience—so I was able to roll and bake them quickly. I think the dough needed more flour, but they were tasty. I ran out of steam halfway through, and froze the remaining dough.
A few weeks later, when I was inspired to bake for my extended family before a July trip upstate, I left the rugelach dough in the freezer and made two loaves of rustic rye bread. I’ll try to teach my son how to bake bread too—it can’t hurt to have more than one family recipe. One from late nineteenth century Eastern Europe, and one from the New York City Coronavirus quarantine.