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Last week Israeli actress and all-around superwoman Gal Gadot went on the The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon while she was in New York appearing on Saturday Night Live. Jimmy Fallon had discovered she had never tasted a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, and so challenged her to try one. Gal Gadot’s response? Time for Jimmy Fallon to try out some Israeli pop rocks chocolate — you know, that kind that crackles in your mouth when you eat it.
No surprise, he loved it, and they shared with the audience the unique crackling pop sounds the chocolate makes. Watch the full clip below, and if you’re suddenly craving some Mekupelet, Krembos or other treats, here are some of our favorite Israeli gourmet chocolates to enjoy. You can also find Elite chocolate bars in most major grocery stores in the Kosher section and most kosher markets will carry a pretty decent selection of Israeli chocolate.
#MeToo. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of women are saying it. I’ve said it too, in this blog.
I’ve told stories about home invasion. Police laughing at our report. An attacker on the ferry. A rude boss with an onion fetish.
These aren’t easy stories to tell. For 20 years I was afraid to sleep, afraid of my own bed. But I can speak now.
Because 20 more years have passed. My body no longer recoils when I remember.
And because these stories are straightforward. Even the most judgmental critics could agree. I was exactly where I should be: home, work, and public transit. Wearing what I should wear: pajamas, long-sleeves, a heavy coat. Doing what I should be doing: writing, sleeping, stacking boxes.
But I’ve got other stories, too. More recent stories. Stories I’m ashamed to tell – because I’m not sure they would be viewed as assaults. When I tell them, I second guess myself. They took place in men’s homes, offices and cars. Places I could have chosen not to go. Offers of hospitality I could have declined. By being a guest, did I implicitly consent?
No, says the Torah. No, no, no. A host may not assault a guest. Remember the story of Sodom? A city so horrid God planned to destroy it?
Two men — traveling angels in disguise — arrive in town. Through their eyes, we see the horror: Sodom has a culture of rape. No one but Lot will shelter the travelers overnight. A mob storms Lot’s house, yelling, “Give us the men so we can rape them!” Lot knows he ought not to surrender his guests. So he says, “Take my daughters instead.” The angels stop him and strike the mob with blindness. Early the next morning, they grab Lot’s wife and daughters and run. They save Lot too — an incomprehensible move until you read the conclusion of this grim fable.
Fire and brimstone rain down on the city. Mrs. Lot dies. Lot and daughters set up camp in a cave. Surely by now, Lot’s daughters hate him. “I wouldn’t want you as the grandfather of my children unless you were the last man on earth!” they must think. But guess what? Recent experience tells them he is the last man on earth. So they drug him and rape him — to harvest his sperm. Thus, they believe, they save the human race.
What’s the sin of Sodom? Our prophets Amos, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah offer interpretations. Oppression. Idolatry. Arrogance. Adultery. But the peshat, the simple text of the story, is less delicate.
Sodom is a rape culture. Enter the city at your own risk. Accept hospitality and you’ve invited assault. One ethical man lives there. But he’s a rapist too. And he’s initiated his children into the culture.
I want to believe that we aren’t in Sodom. That women, men, and children are safe from sexual assault. That hospitality is sacred. That if my host attacks me, he, not I, has sinned. I want to believe.
But I don’t believe it yet. Because #MeToo keeps rolling in. We’re still discovering the painful truth. Too many of us feel we are in Sodom — unable to see the way out.
I am very aware of the blessings in my life. I have a wonderful family, great friends, a job I enjoy and, thank God, my health. I know how lucky I am to be a cancer survivor. I know how lucky I am to have health insurance that covered the extra tests that detected my cancer at an extremely early stage. I know how lucky I am that my treatment plan was what it was and that it was not protracted or more physically challenging. I know how lucky I am. I am so grateful. I am humbled. And, I feel guilty.
The gratitude mixed with humility and guilt has hit me hard on two separate occasions: on a recent trip to Israel visiting the Western Wall saying a prayer of thanksgiving to God, and upon learning of a friend’s recent cancer diagnosis. While her journey will be different than mine and I cannot truly know what she will be experiencing, I feel deep empathy for what she is facing. And, for some inexplicable reason, I feel guilt. My journey was not as difficult as she is preparing for hers to be.
I know it is ridiculous that I am plagued by a strange sense of guilt for not enduring a more difficult struggle through my diagnosis and treatment. My experience was my experience. My emotions were legitimate. My fears were valid. My future, in the same way that every person’s is, is still uncertain. I hope and pray my cancer won’t return, but there are no guarantees.
I was speaking with another friend of mine who recently went through a similar experience with breast cancer. She gets it. She, too, feels incredibly fortunate and is mindful that her experience was not as difficult, medically speaking, as many other people that she knows. Why can’t we just feel the gratitude without the guilt? I really don’t know. There is something inside us that is ready to dismiss our own experiences because our treatment is over and it wasn’t as invasive or prolonged a journey as it could have been.
I pray for my friend with the recent diagnosis. I pray her path will be similar to mine and the results the same. I pray for people I don’t even know who are suffering for whom I wish similar journeys. And all the while, I will try to keep the guilt at bay.
Instead, I will focus on gratitude and redirect the guilt into compassion. I will embrace the middah (Jewish virtue) of Simcha (joy), for expressing gratitude and acknowledging life’s blessings should lead to increased joy.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. …get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
I will try to live life in radical amazement. I will seize upon my profound sense of gratitude instead of guilty tears, and I will refocus my energies to easing the journeys of others and being supportive along the way.
Few things can easily pull a fasting person out of their annual Yom Kippur drowsiness. But this year, as guests at Beth Sholom Synagogue in Memphis, Tennessee, we were lucky enough to find one of those rare, attention-grabbing topics.
Still a little groggy, we filed into the sanctuary that afternoon and saw a healthy crowd of congregants—far more than we were expecting for the scheduled Yom Kippur symposium. Taking this as a good sign, we sat down and prepared to listen. We were there for a talk given by Dr. Aram Goudsouzian, the chair of the History Department at the University of Memphis. It was titled “Monuments and Mountaintops: Race, Politics, and Historical Memory in Memphis,” and clearly we were not the only ones intrigued by the subject matter.
Dr. Goudsouzian began his talk by discussing a local monument built to Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate lieutenant general and early member of the Ku Klux Klan, in the early 1900s. In demonstrating the ways that historical figures’ legacies can shift over time, he set the stage to discuss Memphis’ civil rights history over the past century. As he traced the city’s leaders through time, he highlighted how Memphis’ peaceful and tolerant exterior had at times hidden inequality and hatred under the surface. He offered a concise and powerful history of the city, all the while connecting it to today’s discussion around monuments of Confederate figures. As non-Memphians, we found this history powerful and informative.
Beth Sholom Synagogue has a longstanding tradition of having a symposium before the Mincha service on Yom Kippur each year. On such an introspective holiday, the synagogue wants to include something educational and thought-provoking for its congregants between services. The Life Long Jewish Learning Committee chooses the topic each time, and throughout the years, the topics have ranged from Israel to the Syrian refugee crisis to forgiveness. Speakers have run the gamut: the mayor of Memphis and other politicians, community members and activists, thought leaders, and professors from local universities have all led sessions.
Rachel Shankman, who is not only the education chair of the Life Long Jewish Learning Committee but was also the founding director of Memphis’ Facing History and Ourselves office, explained how the synagogue wants congregants to see their place in the larger community and look outside of the Jewish sphere, even in the midst of Yom Kippur. Through looking at hard topics on a scholarly level, symposium attendees can explore Memphis’s rich history and ask critical questions to learn more about their community. While the conversations at the symposium are rich and meaningful, the synagogue doesn’t stop there. Often, the topics discussed at symposiums have led to further work about that issue. Throughout the years, congregants have started tikkun olam projects and raised money to support issues discussed at the symposiums.
As Jewish educators who aim to connect our programs to the world around us, we found this program deeply meaningful. Yom Kippur is about atoning — not just for the wrong we have done, but also for the wrong our community has done. Though we may not be Memphians, the idea of reckoning with your city’s history on this day of atonement is a powerful one. Ashamnu, the idea that we—not merely “I”—have transgressed, applies to our Jewish community as well as the other communities we are a part of. Beth Sholom’s symposium provides the knowledge to deepen this sense of communal responsibility, and the tikkun olam that it leads to is a way for congregants to act on it.
So, after the holidays… what actions are you contemplating taking in your communities? We would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below!
For generations, Jewish grandmothers have spent hours and hours chained to their stoves perfecting their family chicken soup recipes. The prevailing thought was that the longer the soup simmered, the more flavorful the result. Fortunately for the current generation, technology has created new ways that we can achieve that slow-cooked flavor in a much shorter time frame. With the Instant Pot, or an electric pressure cooker, we’ve cut down the cook time without sacrificing flavor.
By using pressure, the Instant Pot helps to infuse the chicken with flavor, while tenderizing the meat at the same time, which results in a deeply flavorful soup in a fraction of the time. It’s also a very economical way to make a soup, as you can reserve half of the cooked chicken to make other meals later on. My favorite includes popping the chicken under the broiler for a few minutes until it gets nice and brown. Serve that with a side of veggies, and you’ve got yourself quite a Shabbat dinner! Other favorites include chicken salad, wraps or even chicken pot pie.
If you’re all about that slow-cooked flavor, but don’t have the time or patience, you’ll want to try the Instant Pot and this recipe.
Note: you can find whole allspice berries in the spice aisle. You can also substitute 1/2 tsp ground allspice.
Over the weekend, as hashtag #MeToo was trending, I was putting the final touches on a class about King David and Batsheva. The biblical story has the king spying the beautiful Batsheva bathing on her rooftop. Liking what he sees, he summons her, sleeps with her and has her husband killed before making Batsheva his wife. If Batsheva had had the chance, the tweet would have written itself, but we never heard her side of the story.
In many ways, there is nothing new about #MeToo. The abuse of power and women’s bodies is as timeless as the biblical story. But in contrast to the biblical story, where women were rarely afforded the opportunity to speak out, today women’s voices are being heard and amplified.
Most notably, almost every woman has something to say, because almost every woman has experienced harassment or assault. The range of experiences varies greatly, from the truly laughable —cases where men harassed women and the women literally laughed it off — to the truly horrific. Some experiences were limited, others ongoing. Some involved strangers, others men who were well known. But what is clear is that these experiences and the continual threat of these experiences shape how women walk through life and how women navigate the everyday.
I understand the temptation of some women, like Mayim Bialik, to imagine that adhering to codes of modest dress or conduct will help avoid the messy unpredictable bad behavior of some men. Even as such musings play into the narratives that blame victims who do not follow the modesty script, they provide an illusion of control — providing women with some hope that there may be a way to avoid the #MeToo scenarios that abound. Similarly being “too young” or “too old” to be sexy can sometimes be seen ways of avoiding the ongoing threat of harassment or abuse. If one ever had any doubt, the #MeToo stories lay bare the futility of this sort of wishful thinking. There is no situation, age, behavior, dress or personal stance that can guarantee women protection or a real time-out from the threat of male aggression. Living with that understanding is a heavy burden.
I have read posts by women who are angry that men are not doing more, that yet again women have to prove themselves and do the heavy lifting when it comes to change. I have read posts that rail against men for taking up space responding to the Weinstein situation. Honestly, I myself have wondered about the number of Jewish news outlets that have handed the coverage over to men. But this is not a case of the men can’t win, this is a case of a complicated messy situation which men have created, perpetuated and now cannot easily unravel. Not all men are intentionally culpable by any means, but far too many men have stood aside when lesser infractions have taken place. If this is uncomfortable for men in this particular moment, this limited male discomfort is one fraction of what women have to live with on an ongoing basis.
#MeToo is not a uniquely Jewish problem but it is a Jewish problem too. A recent highly problematic piece penned by a Jewish man about the horrendous abuse of power perpetrated by Harvey Weinstein played right into the hands of anti-Semitic tropes that have long claimed that Jewish men are oversexed. That trope is the mirror image of the one that downplays Jewish men’s sexuality either portraying them as impotent or woman-like (which is also highly problematic) or so nice they would never drink/gamble/abuse/harass. Both approaches demean the humanity of Jewish men just as abuse and harassment demean the humanity of women.
But the existence of anti-Semitism directed at Jewish men does not excuse them from the from the discussion of #MeToo. Jewish men are neither the devil nor asexual wimps. Jewish men are simply men. Some are fabulous. Some are horrendous. Most are somewhere in between. Their bad behavior towards women — of all religions — should neither be overemphasized nor overlooked.
Within Jewish spaces, we can address the David and Batsheva problem. We can talk with children of all genders, from a very young age, not of the uncontrollable sexual urges that will one day overtake the males but of the responsibility of every human to respect the embodied humanity of all beings. We can hold discussions with our b’nai mitzvah (bar/bat mitzvah) students that talk not only about date rape and abuse but also the power of language to shame and demean the potential of peers. We can train our camp staff not to blindly endorse coupling up for the unspoken goal of ensuring Jewish continuity but instead help teens navigate their sexuality with respect. We can train our Jewish professionals to take seriously and report claims of sexual misconduct so that the victimhood is not compounded by disbelief. Male rabbis can cede their pulpits to women to allow them to fill sacred spaces and teach the Torah of the female experience of harassment and assault without shame.
Jewish tradition teaches us time and again of the power of speech to create reality and of listening to affirm the importance of the sacred. We cannot go back in time and rewrite the story of David and Batsheva but we do have the power to learn from the silence of Batsheva’s experience and truly listen to what the roar of #MeToo is teaching us.
Over the last several days, all of social media has been overtaken by a flood of posts: “#MeToo.” One article commenting on it had noted that the count was at 12 million “me too” posts. I’m sure that’s not even close, as the flood of posts continues, and that was yesterday, by the time this is posted, maybe a couple of days. I’ve seen several men noting that nearly every woman they knew had posted. My own feeds are full, and I continue to see friends posting, sometimes their stories, sometimes just the bare words, “Me, too.”
The Jewish tradition is very clear that all sexual encounters require explicit consent (Talmud Eruvin 100b), Maimonides (Deuteronomy 5:4) explains that not only must one’s partner explicitly consent and be neither asleep nor drunk, but that even if the woman is anxious or hanging back, he shouldn’t proceed, and in fact, not only that, but even the way he speaks to her should be modest and kind, and that even in the midst of a sexual encounter, he should never use obscene language.
But the reality is that the flood of “#MeToo,” isn’t really about sex. At least not directly. In our society, sex has become disconnected from sanctity and affection, and instead, it has turned into an occupation that is often done simply for physical satisfaction and expressed too often through an exercise of power. This has led us to a place where sex is seen as a right, and the opportunity to have sex with anyone one has power over, implicitly, is perfectly acceptable.
But Judaism tells us something different. Appetites are not to be quashed entirely but sanctified. The Yetzer Hara – the evil inclination — is considered to be the source of a person’s appetites. But despite its name, it isn’t actually evil. The sages tell us, “Were it not for the evil inclination, a person would not build houses, would not marry and would not bear children.” (Bereshit Rabbah 9:7)
In other words, the Yetzer Hara is a drive. It urges us to create, to be ambitious, to reproduce. None of these things are bad in themselves – it is only when we give them free rein and allow ourselves to think that in themselves, sex or money or power are ultimate goals that we have a right to indulge freely, that they become evil. The Jewish tradition makes clear that it is when we believe that we have a right to indulge our appetites that we come to ruin and destruction and bring others to despair and harm. Much of Jewish law exists to remind us that it is not that we have rights, but that we have obligations to others and to God.
To make the world a fit place, we sanctify and circumscribe our natural behaviors, curbing our tendencies to make ourselves the center and disregard the pain and needs of others.
Even God reins Godself in: In the Jewish mystical tradition, it is explained that for humanity to exist, God has to do tzimtzum – to contract Godself. When God is fully expansive, there is no room for anything else. For creation to come to be, to grow and develop, God has to make room. Without that tzimtzum, God is alone – there is only perfect self-regard in stasis.
Similarly with humanity: Whenever someone with power thinks that appetites are to be indulged and fully expressed, desire becomes destruction and isolation. For humans, when we – especially those of us with power — fail to regard the reality of others, to make space for them and ensure that we understand the completeness of others and our obligations to them, then our power becomes dust, our creation, stagnation, our desires, evil.
I am glad that the High Holidays are over, but not for the reasons that you might think. Even though I ate apples and honey, this holiday season was not filled with easy joy for me. On Erev Rosh Hashanah, the day before the New Year, I was doing my last-minute Rosh Hashanah runaround, but this time it was so different. My family in Puerto Rico was sitting in dark, hot rooms, with supplies they gathered days before.
When I should have turned my attention to prayer and reflection, I found myself calling my family members each in turn: Tio Carlos, Titi Ivette, Titi Betty, Titi Carmen, Titi Juning. But I could not get through. The whole island lost all communications. There was no way for me or my mom to know if my family were surviving the monster, Maria. As the holiday season began, I sat at the dinner table not knowing.
My mother-in-law served the traditional Ashkenazi fare of roasted chicken, sweet noodle and potato kugels, and sautéed vegetables. The table was completely full. As the steam came off the food, I felt a massive amount of guilt in the pit of my stomach. How could I sit down with all this hot food in front of me when I didn’t even know if my family survived the hurricane?
There is a Jewish community in Puerto Rico with established synagogues. They have all been impacted by Maria. Though I have chosen Judaism and dedicated my life to Jewish education, my family in Puerto Rico is Christian. Through the holidays, as I reflected on the Jewish values of community, charity and helping others, I could not help but consider on how many of these values are shared and lived by my Puerto Rican Christian relatives.
My Titi –Aunt — Ivette has engaged in a lifetime of community outreach. In the past, after other tropical storms, Titi Ivette would climb up mountains, cutting down branches to clear paths so that food could be brought to people cut off from the world. Today, she doesn’t have any running water or anyone who is able to help her. Weeks after the storm, she still cannot count on having a hot meal each day.
Tio — Uncle — Carlos, was a school teacher and is a pastor. I admire his spirit and he respects my choice of being a Jew. He is always so supportive, particularly when he attended my son’s brit milah. He has dedicated his entire life to helping clothe the poor, feed the hungry and counsel those in despair. Maria completely destroyed his home. Despite his situation, losing his home and not having fresh water, he continues to do his work with so much love.
As a Jewish educator who leads services, during the High Holy Days, I was faced with the task of publicly appearing happy while internally, I was consumed by helplessness. This helpless feeling was a heavy burden to carry because I could not do anything for my family or communities in Puerto Rico.
Eventually I was able to reach my family members but still, I could not do anything. My uncle’s home is gone. My aunts and their families are isolated with little food and no electricity. I was overwhelmed by guilt, when eating a hot meal for Rosh Hashanah dinner with my family and hearing complaints that it was “too hot” in the apartment – all the while my family in Puerto Rico were literally trapped in their homes with no air conditioning, sweltering, too afraid to go outside because of roaming gangs of desperate people.
It seems to me that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma got more attention in the Jewish community. Maybe it was simply the timing of Hurricane Maria — hitting as we prepared for the High Holidays — maybe it was because people are not aware of the impact on the Jewish communities of Puerto Rico. But now that the holidays are over, I hope that as Jews we will be able to find time and space to remember our fellow Americans (yes, Puerto Ricans are American citizens) and help the island’s citizens, of all faiths, rebuild. I am hoping people will donate and will get in touch with their representatives to encourage them to help our American sisters and brothers on the islands.
Let us not forget the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. I know, I cannot.
The post A Puerto Rican Jew and the Aftermath of Hurricane Maria appeared first on My Jewish Learning.
This recipe is excerpted with permission from SWEET by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, copyright © 2017. Photography by Peden + Munk. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
These cookies were introduced by Jim Webb, an original member of the Ottolenghi team along with Sami, Noam and Yotam. Jim mostly worked on pastry, bringing with him some brilliant ideas, along with a serious knowledge of bread and viennoiserie (pastry in the Vienna style). It was Jim’s suggestion to add banana to the dough here, both for the moisture and distinct flavor it brings. Pecans are classic, but walnuts can be used if you prefer.
The secret here is to slightly under-bake the cookies, which keeps them soft and fudgy. It’s for this reason that they’ve never become a feature in the shops, particularly in the summer, when they’d bend and break after an hour or two piled up in a bowl. There are worse things to happen, though, than to be told you need to eat a whole batch of cookies within a day or so of them being baked.
Make Ahead: Once the unbaked dough has been rolled into balls, they can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. You can also bake them from frozen; you’ll just need to add an extra minute of cooking time.
Storage: These cookies are best eaten within a day of being baked.