Archive for the ‘Judaisme’ Category

Jews

February 8, 2011

 

The video everybody should see, let alone Jews.

I OWN THE DELI – I AM A JEW

December 27, 2010
Click Here for “The Deli Song” :
http://www.savethedeli.com/2010/12/09/i-own-a-deli-i-am-jew/

A Dairy Chanukah

November 28, 2010

A Dairy Chanukah.

Part of the great Chanukah miracle came about because of a courageous Jewish woman named Yehudit. She went alone into the Greek army general’s tent, fed him cheese to make him thirsty and then wine to ‘quench’ his thirst. In so doing, he became so drunk that he fell into a deep sleep and she was able to kill him, becoming God’s agent in facilitating the eventual Jewish victory over the mighty Greek army. In her honor many have the custom to serve dairy foods on Chanukah.

Mushroom Quiche

This one is a classic hit every time and is a welcome diversion to all the overly sweet things usually served at parties. Plus, it’s lighter on the oil than latkes are, as well as faster to prepare!

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 cup canned or fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 & 1/4 cups grated yellow cheese of any kind
  • 1 cup cottage cheese or cream cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F/ 180°C.

In a large frying pan, place the oil and onions and begin to sauté. When they are light brown, add in the mushrooms, curry, pepper, salt and garlic powder and stir for about five minutes. Turn off the fire.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a fork and then add in the mushroom mixture. Stir. Add cottage cheese and half of yellow cheese; pour into a disposable pie pan of about 7-8 ” . Top with remaining cheese and bake uncovered for 45 minutes, until the top is light brown and the quiche is firm. If you happen to have any leftovers, it is also great cold the next day, or can be frozen and reheated for a different day.

Cheese and Vegetable Salad

Makes 4 average servings

  • 1 head bug-free iceberg or romaine lettuce, washed and shredded
  • (or you can of course take a shortcut and use one of those bags of pre-washed and checked bug-free shredded lettuce)
  • 1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
  • 2 tomatoes, cubed
  • 2 cucumbers, unpeeled, washed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive rings, optional
  • 2 pickles, diced, optional
  • 1 can tuna, drained
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds or coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (in Israel, the tastier Tzafatit)

This recipe looks most appetizing when you take the time to lay it out properly in each person’s bowl individually.

In each bowl layer in this order:

Shredded lettuce – shredded cabbage – cubed tomato pieces – cucumber pieces – olive rings and/or pickle pieces – some tuna – some sliced egg – crumple some white cheese over all – then add nuts to top of each plate for garnish. Serve with a choice of dressings of your choice in the center of the table for each person to choose from.

For a healthier idea other than store bought dressings, drizzle on a bit of olive oil and fresh lemon juice to each plate. Combined with the crumbly cheese, you will usually find that this is quite tasty and no additional ‘salad dressings’ are necessary. Some also enjoy it with “zhatar” spice sprinkled on top of everything.

I couldn’t resist adding in this next recipe, really more of an idea, but it’s milchig, the kids love it, and well, it’s a nice treat on a Chanukah afternoon…

Fizzy Milk Foam

Serves: as many people as you have tall glasses for!

It’s best to use a glass that is tall, and is a bit larger than 8oz. for this one so that if it fizzes upwards, it will hopefully not go all over the place!

Ingredients:

  • Chocolate syrup, (I’ll let you buy the store bought kind this time!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 1/2 cup, about 4 oz. of cold milk
  • 1/2 cup soda water
  • Ice cubes
  • Straws
  • Cocoa powder for dusting
  • Chocolate shavings or chocolate sprinkles for garnishing

In each glass layer the ‘ingredients’ as follows:

    Pour in a nice squirt of chocolate syrup 

    Sprinkle on the 1/2 teaspoon of instant coffee. Powder will dissolve faster than large granules will.

    Pour in the 1/2 cup of milk.

    Pour in the soda water.

    It should now begin to fizz…

    Quickly dust some cocoa powder on the top of the foam, sprinkle on the chocolate shavings and/or the sprinkles, dip in the straw, stir a bit…and enjoy!

Zucchini Cheese Potato Latkes

Well, it is Chanukah after all, so I just had to include some kind of latke. These are a nice twist off of the usual plain potato ones and are a bit less oily than the customary potato-only cousins.

This makes enough for about four hungry people or six regular people, all depending on how long ago they ate before you started to fry these up…

  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 medium zucchinis, unpeeled, scrubbed and washed well
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons flour or potato starch
  • 1/2 cup yellow cheese such as parmesan or mozzarella, shredded
  • 2 stalks fresh parsley, chopped, optional **see note below
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • oil baking spray

In a food processor fitted with the sharp metal “S” blade, process the onion until it is completely pureed. Add the eggs and process one more minute. Change the blade to the shredding device. Shred the zucchinis and potatoes onto the onion mixture.

Pour this vegetable mixture out into a large bowl and add the potato starch, cheese, and fresh parsley. (**Adding it in really adds to the nice look and taste of this recipe. I only wrote it’s optional in case you have fussy little people who won’t eat them if they see ‘those green things’ coming out of their latkes…) Add in the salt and pepper. Mix well by hand.

Take out a large frying pan and spray it well with a thin coating of baking spray. Add 1 Tablespoon of oil to this and start to heat it on a medium to high flame. You will use the other tablespoon of oil when frying up the second batch. At most, you may need to add one more additional tablespoon of oil in between batches, but normally, with a good quality pan, the 2 tablespoons is more than enough.

Form small patties out of the cheese/vegetable mixture with the help of a milchig tablespoon and place them by spoonfuls onto the hot pan. Using your spoon, shape them a bit more to make them look nice while they are on the pan. Flatten slightly with a spatula. Let them sizzle until browned on the first side, then flip and do the same to the other side. You’ll be nicely surprised to see that this small amount of oil is sufficient to do the trick of ‘frying’ your latkes to a nice crunchiness. When they are done, lay them out on a flat plate that is lined with one or two paper towels, to drain them of the outside oil a bit more.

On the other hand, they may not get too much time to drain as your family will most likely enjoy them just as soon as they smell them coming off the frying pan…

See more recipes like this one in my gluten free (kosher for Passover as well) cookbook entitled “Pesach – Anything’s Possible!” from where this recipe & photo was taken.

With best wishes for a very Happy Chanukah to all!

Tamar Ansh

For this year’s Chanukah season, Tamar’s new website has a great EIGHT DAY giveaway! See www.TasteofChallah.com for more details

Jerusalem – Light of the Universe

July 6, 2010

What We Can Learn From the Jewish Genome – Newsweek

June 7, 2010

What We Can Learn From the Jewish Genome – Newsweek.

The DNA of Abraham’s Children

Analysis of Jewish genomes refutes the Khazar claim.

Menahem Kahana / AFP-Getty

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men in front of the Tomb of the Patriarch, where Old Testament prophet Abraham and his son Isaac are thought to be buried.

Jews have historically considered themselves “people of the book” (am hasefer in Hebrew), referring to sacred tomes, but the phrase is turning out to have an equally powerful, if unintended, meaning: scientists are able to read Jewish genomes like a history book. The latest DNA volume weighs in on the controversial, centuries-old (and now revived in a 2008 book) claim that European Jews are all the descendants of Khazars, a Turkic group of the north Caucasus who converted to Judaism in the late eighth and early ninth century. The DNA has spoken: no.

In the wake of studies in the 1990s that supported biblically based notions of a priestly caste descended from Aaron, brother of Moses, an ambitious new project to analyze genomes collected from Jewish volunteers has yielded its first discoveries. In a paper with the kind of catchy title you rarely see in science journals—“Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era”—scientists report that the Jews of the Diaspora share a set of telltale genetic markers, supporting the traditional belief that Jews scattered around the world have a common ancestry. But various Diaspora populations have their own distinct genetic signatures, shedding light on their origins and history. In addition to the age-old question of whether Jews are simply people who share a religion or are a distinct population, the scientific verdict is settling on the latter.

Although the origin of the Jews has been traced, archeologically, to the Middle East in the second millennium B.C.E., what happened next has been more opaque. To sort it out, researchers collected DNA from Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, and Ashkenazi Jews around New York City; Turkish Sephardic Jews in Seattle; Greek Sephardic Jews in Thessaloniki and Athens; and Italian Jews in Rome as part of the Jewish HapMap Project. (All four grandparents of each participant had to have come from the same community.) As the scientists will report in the next issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, the analysis shows that “each of the Jewish populations formed its own distinctive cluster, indicating the shared ancestry and relative genetic isolation of the members of each of those groups.”

Jewish populations, that is, have retained their genetic coherence just as they have retained their cultural and religious traditions, despite migrations from the Middle East into Europe, North Africa, and beyond over the centuries, says geneticist Harry Ostrer of NYU Langone Medical Center, who led the study. Each Diaspora group has distinctive genetic features “representative of each group’s genetic history,” he says, but each also “shares a set of common genetic threads” dating back to their common origin in the Middle East. “Each of the Jewish populations formed its own distinctive cluster, indicating the shared ancestry and relative genetic isolation of the members of each of those groups.”

The various Jewish groups were more related to each other than to non-Jews, as well. Within every Jewish group, individuals shared as much of their genome as two fourth or fifth cousins, with Italian, Syrian, Iranian, and Iraqi Jews the most inbred, in the sense that they married within the small, close-knit community. In general, the genetic similarity of any two groups was larger the closer they lived to one another, but there was an exception: Turkish and Italian Jews were most closely related genetically, but are quite separated geographically.

Historical records suggest that Iranian and Iraqi Jews date from communities that formed in Persia and Babylon, respectively, in the fourth to sixth centuries B.C.E., and the DNA confirms that. The genetic signatures of these groups show that they remained relatively isolated—inbred—for some 3,000 years. The DNA also reveals that these Middle Eastern Jews diverged from the ancestors of today’s European Jews about 100 to 150 generations ago, or sometime during the first millennium B.C.E.

That’s when the Jewish communities in Italy, the Balkans, and North Africa originated, from Jews who migrated or were expelled from Palestine and from people who converted to Judaism during Hellenic times. During that period Jews proselytized with an effectiveness that would put today’s Mormons to shame: at the height of the Roman Empire, as the Roman historian Josephus chronicled, mass conversions produced 6 million practicing Jews, or 10 percent of the population of the Roman Empire. The conversions brought in DNA that had not been part of the original gene pool in the land of Abraham.

The DNA analysis undermines the claim that most of today’s Jews, particularly the Ashkenazi, are the direct lineal descendants of converted Khazars—which has angered many in the Jewish community as an implicit attack on the Jews’ claim to the land of Israel, since it implies that today’s Jews have no blood ties to the original Jews of the Middle East. Instead, find the scientists, at most there was “limited admixture with local populations, including Khazars and Slavs … during the 1,000-year (second millennium) history of the European Jews.”

Of the non-Jewish Europeans, northern Italians were most genetically similar to the Jews, followed by the Sardinians and French. The Druze, Bedouins, and Palestinians were closest to the Iranian, Iraqi, and Syrian Jews. That is evidence of “a shared genetic history of related Middle Eastern and non-Semitic Mediterranean ancestors who chose different religious and tribal affiliations.” Adds Ostrer, “the study supports the idea of a Jewish people linked by a shared genetic history. Yet the admixture with European people explains why so many European and Syrian Jews have blue eyes and blond hair.”

Southern Europeans were the closest genetic cousins of Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Italian Jews, reflecting the large-scale conversion of these Southern European populations to Judaism some 2,000 years ago, when European Jewry was forming. The Sephardic groups share genetic makers with North Africans, probably a result of marriages between Moors and Jews in Spain from 711 to 1492.

Several details of the Ashkenazi genome imply that centuries ago, the population experienced a severe bottleneck, in which the size of a group plummets, followed by a rapid expansion. That jibes with the historical record showing that the Jewish population in Western and Eastern Europe bottomed out at about 50,000 in the Middle Ages and then soared to 500,000 by the 19th century, growing at twice the rate of non-Jews—something called “the demographic miracle.”

Analysis of Jewish genomes has been yielding fascinating findings for more than a decade. A pioneer in this field, Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona, made the first big splash when he discovered that genetics supports the biblical account of a priestly family, the Cohanim, descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses: one specific genetic marker on the Y chromosome (which is passed on from father to son, as membership in the priestly family would be) is found in 98.5 percent of people who self-identify as Cohanim, he and colleagues reported in a 1997 paper in Nature (the PBS science series Nova did a nice segment on that work, summarized here). The Cohanim DNA has been found in both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, evidence that it predates the time when the two groups diverged, about 1,000 years ago. DNA can also be used to infer when particular genetic markers appeared, and suggests that the Cohanim emerged about 106 generations ago, making it fall during what is thought to be the period of the exodus from Egypt, and thus Aaron’s lifetime.

Sharon Begley is NEWSWEEK’s science editor and author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves.

Jewish legacy inscribed on genes? – latimes.com

June 5, 2010

Jewish legacy inscribed on genes? – latimes.com.

Ashkenazi Jews have a higher rate of some deadly genetic diseases — and of high IQs. Scientists Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending say that’s no coincidence.

Karen Kaplan Los Angeles Times Staff WriterApril 18, 2009

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Gregory Cochran has always been drawn to puzzles. This one had been gnawing at him for several years: Why are European Jews prone to so many deadly genetic diseases?

Tay-Sachs disease. Canavan disease. More than a dozen more.

It offended Cochran’s sense of logic. Natural selection, the self-taught genetics buff knew, should flush dangerous DNA from the gene pool. Perhaps the mutations causing these diseases had some other, beneficial purpose. But what?

At 3:17 one morning, after a long night searching a database of scientific journals from his disheveled home office in Albuquerque, Cochran fired off an e-mail to his collaborator Henry Harpending, a distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

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“I’ve figured it out, I think,” Cochran typed. “Pardon my crazed excitement.”

The “faulty” genes, Cochran concluded, make Jews smarter.

That provocative — some would say inflammatory — hypothesis has landed Cochran and Harpending in the middle of a charged debate about the link between IQ and DNA.

They have been sneered at by colleagues and excoriated on Internet forums. They have been welcomed to speak at a synagogue and a Jewish medical society. They were asked to write a book; that effort, “The 10,000 Year Explosion,” was published early this year.

Scientists are increasingly finding that propensities for human behaviors — for addiction, aggression, risk-taking and more — are written in our genes. But the idea that some groups of people are inherently smarter is troubling to many. Some scientists say it has such racist implications it’s unworthy of consideration.

“What are their theories about those on the opposite end of the spectrum?” asked Neil Risch, director of the Institute for Human Genetics at UC San Francisco, who finds the matter so offensive he can barely discuss it without raising his voice. “Do they have genetic theories about why Latinos and African Americans perform worse academically?”

The biological basis for intelligence can be a thankless arena of inquiry. The authors of “The Bell Curve” were vilified 15 years ago for suggesting genes played a role in IQ differences among racial groups.

But Cochran, 55, and Harpending, 65, say there’s no question that as a whole, Ashkenazi Jews — those of European descent — have an abundance of brain power. (Neither man is Jewish.)

Psychologists and educational researchers have pegged their average IQ at 107.5 to 115. That’s only modestly higher than the overall European average of 100, but the gap is large enough to produce a huge difference in the proportion of geniuses. When a group’s average IQ is 100, the percentage of people above 140 is 0.4%; when the average is 110, the genius rate is 2.3%.

Though Jews make up less than 3% of the U.S. population, they have won more than 25% of the Nobel Prizes awarded to American scientists since 1950, account for 20% of this country’s chief executives and make up 22% of Ivy League students, the pair write.

“People are perfectly willing to admit that some people are taller or some people are shorter,” Cochran said. “But no one wants to say ‘This group is smarter.’ ”

Once Cochran gets talking, it’s hard to get him to stop. He jumps from idea to idea, beginning new sentences before finishing old ones. In e-mail discussion groups, where he befriended Harpending, he thrives on debating people and proving them wrong.

A PhD physicist, he started out in El Segundo, developing satellite imaging systems and other optics hardware for Hughes Aircraft in the 1980s. As the Cold War ended and defense budgets shrank, Cochran moved his family to Albuquerque and became an optics consultant while indulging his amateur interest in biology.

He worked for a while with evolutionary biologist Paul Ewald on theories that germs cause common disorders like heart disease and Alzheimer’s. The pair courted controversy by postulating that some unidentified pathogen prompts a hormonal imbalance that makes babies more likely to become gay.

Cochran read more than 15 genetics textbooks and became intrigued by the deadly diseases that disproportionately afflict Ashkenazi Jews: Tay-Sachs, a neurological disorder that debilitates children before killing them, usually by age 4. Canavan disease, which turns the brain into spongy tissue and typically claims its victims before they can start kindergarten. Niemann-Pick disease Type A, in which babies accumulate dangerous amounts of fats in various organs and suffer profound brain damage and death before their second birthday.

He was struck by the fact that so many of the diseases involved problems with processing sphingolipids, the fat molecules that transmit nerve signals.

This seemed an unlikely coincidence. Genetically isolated groups often have higher rates of certain diseases. But of the more than 20,000 human genes, only 108 are known to be involved in sphingolipid metabolism. The odds of Ashkenazi Jews having four sphingolipid storage disorders by random chance are less than 1 in 100,000, he calculated.

He talked it over with Harpending, an expert in human population genetics. They came to believe this was an example of heterozygote advantage — where having two copies of a mutated gene can mean disaster but one copy is helpful.

The most famous example of this is sickle cell anemia, which strikes people of African descent who have two defective copies of the hemoglobin B gene. As a result, they make red blood cells that are too curvy to carry oxygen to critical organs.

People who have only one bad copy make useful red blood cells that are deformed just enough to protect them from the malaria parasite, insulating them against the disease.

Instead of sickle cell anemia, Ashkenazi Jews had to contend with Tay-Sachs, Niemann-Pick and other diseases.

Instead of malaria resistance, Cochran and Harpending reasoned, Jews got an IQ boost.

The idea didn’t come out of nowhere. Researchers have been drawn to the question of Jewish intelligence and genetic diseases at least since the 1920s, when some of the disorders were first being studied. Many physicians remarked on the unusual intelligence of their patients.

One of the first to conduct a systematic study was Dr. Roswell Eldridge, a neurogeneticist at the National Institutes of Health. He compared IQs of 14 children with torsion dystonia — a neurological disorder afflicting Ashkenazi Jews that twists the body through uncontrollable muscle contractions — against 10 of their healthy siblings and against unrelated Jewish students matched by age, sex and school.

The patients had an average IQ score of 121, compared with 111 for the control students, he found. Siblings had an average IQ of 119, compared with 112 for their matched controls. The results were published in 1970 in the medical journal Lancet.

Dr. Ari Zimran, director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center’s Gaucher Clinic in Jerusalem, thought he would get similar results by studying the very bright patients he treated for Gaucher disease, another Ashkenazi genetic disorder in which excessive amounts of a fatty substance build up in certain organs, causing pain, fatigue and other symptoms.

His small study in the 1980s found no difference between IQs of patients and unaffected relatives. A larger study might have done so, Zimran said. But he decided not to pursue it.

“There is enough anti-Semitism,” he said.

Cochran and Harpending are the first to make a broad case linking multiple Jewish genetic diseases to intelligence. Their theory draws on history, statistics, neurobiology and population genetics.

Jews first came to Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries, long before they were known for intellectual prowess, Cochran and Harpending say. They worked as traders before taking financial jobs made available by Christians who were forbidden by the Church from charging interest. By 1100, local registries listed most Ashkenazi Jews as lenders.

That set the stage for natural selection to do its work, Cochran and Harpending theorized. Jews didn’t intermarry, keeping their gene pool closed. They were subjected to periodic persecution, which kept the population from outgrowing its professional niche.

According to the theory, the smartest individuals made the most money, and the wealthiest families had the most surviving children. The genes of the most intelligent Jews spread most, slowly raising the average IQ of the entire group.

Over 40 generations — roughly 1,000 years — an increase of just 0.3 points per generation would have added up to a cumulative advantage of 12 points, Cochran and Harpending theorized. Some of their other models projected a benefit of 16 to 20 IQ points.

They wrote up their theory and sent it off to a journal. It was rejected.

Harpending said he gave it to an anthropologist friend, editor of another journal, who asked to publish it there. That plan was called off. The friend, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said the paper was clearly controversial and its extraordinary claims required extraordinary evidence — which was lacking.

The paper found a home in a 2006 issue of the Journal of Biosocial Science, published by Cambridge University, after its release online in 2005.

The theory quickly spread among anthropologists and geneticists.

Within a few months, “every academic I came in contact with knew about this,” said R. Brian Ferguson, an anthropologist at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. Many found it irresistible. A young colleague told Ferguson that the paper convinced him of the power of using genetics to study behavioral differences among people.

To Ferguson, that was a dangerous idea. There may indeed be versions of genes that are unique to Ashkenazi Jews, but it would be impossible, he said, to prove that those genes are responsible for higher IQs.

“This is not a legitimate area of research,” he said.

Others are more receptive to the theory, despite its thorny implications.

Dr. Melvin Konner, a biological anthropologist at Emory University in Atlanta, said he’s impressed by the theory’s ability to explain why all the Ashkenazi diseases are clustered “on about five pages of a biochemistry textbook.” But, he added, Cochran and Harpending still have to show that the genes play a direct role in brain development.

“There’s evidence that some of them do,” he said. “It’s not a crazy idea. It’s just not nearly a proven idea.”

It would be easy to test the theory, said Steven Pinker, a Harvard cognition researcher: “See if carriers of the Ashkenazi-typical genetic mutations score higher on IQ tests than their noncarrier siblings.”

Cochran and Harpending readily acknowledge the need for such experiments. But they have no plans to do them. They say their role as theorists is to generate hypotheses that others can test.

“One criticism about our paper is ‘It can’t mean anything because they didn’t do any new experiments,’ ” Cochran said. “OK, then I guess Einstein’s papers didn’t mean anything either.”

When I ask myself

May 2, 2010

When I ask myself “Who am I”?
I’m a little Sphardi, a little Ashkenazi
A little Israeli, a tiny drop of galuti (exile),
maybe I’m religious, maybe secular
But to myself,
I am a Jew and that’ special.
Not better than another, not worse,
Simply a Jew.

Sometimes a soldier, sometimes a student,
I have a lot of past and see future.
Sometimes a Mitnaged, and sometimes a Chasid,
Maybe materialistic, maybe spiritual, but always, always
I am a Jew and that is special.
Not worse, not better, a bit different,
Simple a Jew Jewish.

Suddenly I came back from afar, so we can be here together.
I will be secure, I’ll return to laugh,
live comfortably without fear.
I am a Jew and that is special.
Not worse, not better, a bit different,
Just a Jew.

Nothing will break me my brother,
My soul is a part of Eternal Light Above.
To repair the world – that’s my motto,
I was born this way. I am a Jew.

Basically, Jews, just like other religions,
have festivals, Shabbatot, customs and Mitzvot.
Even though everyone says that He is right
In the end we are all Jews before the Heavenly Throne.

I am very afraid of baseless hatred,
Love my land and love my nation.
I was here and there all over the world,
I have two opinions on what to ask and a third opinion,
Because I am a Jew and that is unique.
Not worse, not better, a bit different,

Simply a Jew

Miriam’s Cup

March 29, 2010

Miriam’s Cup – A Ritual for Women/A Ritual for Us All
Tomado de United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism

The Passover haggadah is one of the most widely dispersed and read of all Jewish texts. Ironically, the story leading up to the Exodus from slavery contains one of the most femalerich narratives in the Bible, yet the haggadah is devoid of a single female personality; Joheved, Miriam, Shifra, Puah, and Pharaoh’s daughter never appear in its pages.

To provide women with a place in the Passover ritual, many households have begun to place kos Miryam, Miriam’s cup, on the seder table beside the cup of Elijah. It is a reminder of the midrashic tale of Miriam’s well, a miraculous source of water in the desert. As a symbol of women’s presence at the exodus, the kos Miryam reflects a contemporary desire for the inclusion of all Jews at the seder.

Miriam’s cup is an evolving ritual. Some fill it at the beginning of the seder, others after the 10 plagues are read before dayyenu. Others use it in conjunction with Elijah’s cup at the end of the evening. It may be passed around for everyone to take a sip, or pour its contents into individual glasses. Whatever your preference, Miriam’s cup provides a thoughtful ritual to enhance your celebration.

For ideas on crafting your own kos Miryam, creating a women’s seder, and other seder enhancements, go to the Women’s League website, http://www.wlcj.org.

Haggadah

March 26, 2010

It is hard to think of another classic Jewish text reprinted, rewritten, and re-imagined as often, or as divergently, as the Haggadah. The Passover Seder is the most ubiquitous Jewish observance—fully three-quarters of American Jews participate in a Seder of some kind, as do 80–95 percent of Israelis. The abundance of Haggadot, in other words, reflects the ubiquity of the observance.

Of course, the Haggadah has long been a mirror of Jewish history. Once its text had stabilized by the dawn of the Middle Ages, it became the object of lavish and continuing attention on the part of commentators, illuminators, illustrators, and translators. The advent of printing made it even more available and even more open to interpretation. Because the basic text and structure have remained more or less in place, the many versions offer snapshots of their times and places.

Today that historical diversity is in overdrive. The number of new Haggadot produced every year is overwhelming. Even more dazzling, or dizzying, is the range of perspectives they exhibit: rabbinic, academic, New Age, feminist, ecological, neo-Hasidic, and on and on.

Through the Haggadah and the Seder, wrote the late Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, “the memory of the nation is annually revived and replenished, and the collective hope sustained.” Yet precisely that sense of the collective, not to mention its celebration, seems absent from many of today’s Haggadot, even the best of them. Instead, the journey of Passover is increasingly, intensely, presented as personal and subjective. Here again the Haggadah serves as a mirror of the times.

If today’s radically diverse Haggadot seem to strain Jewish collectivity to the breaking point, will tomorrow’s witness a rebound? There are grounds for hoping so, provided the shared center holds: the calendar, the set of practices, and the old text itself, read, interpreted, reinterpreted, and then read—and sung—once again.

http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/

PBS presents ‘God on Trial’ in Auschwitz

March 20, 2010

By Tom Tugend

The prosecutor reads the charges against God: murder, collaboration with the enemy, breach of contract with His chosen people.

Setting: A barrack in Auschwitz, with some 20 Jewish prisoners, half of whom will be gassed in the morning.

Time: evening, sometime during the Holocaust.

So opens “God on Trial,” an intellectual and emotional masterpiece, airing on PBS stations on Sunday evening, Nov. 9, the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

A half-Jew, once a respected judge in Germany, presides over the trial. A young prisoner is the prosecutor, while his father speaks for the defense. A rabbi, who has committed the entire Torah to memory, cites chapter and verse. Other inmates break in occasionally, drawing on their own experiences to accuse or defend the Almighty.

In his opening statement, the prosecutor recites the history of Jewish persecution, from Babylon to the Romans to Czarist Russia, to show that God has habitually broken his covenant with the children of Israel.

No, counters the defense, it is the Jews who are the contract breakers, because they forgot the Torah.

Prosecutor: Why did God disperse the Jews?

Defense: To spread knowledge of His word throughout the world.

The defense argues that God, like a surgeon, must occasionally remove the gangrene to purify the body and usher in the golden age.

Are you saying that Mengele and Hitler are doing God’s work? the prosecution asks. Do you say that only the righteous will survive? Not true. Only the cunning and shameless will survive — and will these build the nation of Israel?

A former physicist from France asks for rational reasoning. It’s not about faith, it’s about who has the power, he argues.

A cynical inmate notes that the buckles on the belts of German soldiers carry the motto “Gott Mit Uns” — God Is With Us — and suggests that the Almighty has decided to transfer his covenant to someone else.

The nonreligious judge tells the “jury” that the Nazis want to strip them not just of their lives, but also their dignity, and warns that “Now they also want to take away your God, even a foolish god.”

These few examples only hint as the depth and conviction of the give-and-take, which make our customary debates about the existence and belief in God sound like high-school exercises.

It would be wrong to give away the final verdict, or the heart-stopping closing scene, but suffice that both atheists and believers will find some satisfaction and solace.

“God on Trial” was first aired by the BBC and features a superb cast of mostly British actors, including Antony Sher, Rupert Graves, Dominic Cooper, Stellan Skarsgard and Jack Shepherd.

Persistent reports over 60 years have it that something resembling such a trial actually took place in Auschwitz, with Elie Wiesel frequently cited as the authority for the report.

Wiesel himself, speaking from New York, set the record straight.

“When I was in Auschwitz, the former head of a yeshiva and I worked together for about two weeks, carrying bricks,” Wiesel recounted.

When they had a chance to talk together, the rabbi would speculate on the idea of bringing God before a rabbinical court on charges of abandoning his people.

The verdict might be guilty or, at least, that God owed the Jews an explanation for the Holocaust, said Wiesel, who lost track of the rabbi, but presumes he was killed by the Germans. Wiesel doesn’t know whether the rabbi was ever able to realize his idea.

Executive producer Mark Redhead (“Bloody Sunday”) and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce (“Welcome to Sarajevo”) are Christians and, speaking from London, admitted to some trepidation in tackling so sensitive and Jewish a subject.

Cottrell Boyce, a devout Catholic, said, “I first talked to a number of rabbis and was assured that Jews had a long tradition of arguing with God. That impressed me, because Christians would never put God on trial.

“One point I wanted to make is that the spirit of the Jews was not completely crushed by the Holocaust, that they were more than walking skeletons.”

But, essentially, the teleplay is not about the Holocaust, but about God, he said. “Since 9/11 and the tsunami, God seems to be back on the scene again.”

Asked whether the arguments about God’s guilt had shaken his own Catholic faith, he responded, “Sure, it’s shaken all the time, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Redhead went one step further, proposing that the drama is not about the existence of God, “but more about the nature of faith, how we conduct ourselves in the face of savagery, how we try to find solid ground in a bottomless swamp.”

He added, “We are asking about the meaning of life, because if the Holocaust had no meaning, then nothing has any meaning.”

KCET will air “God on Trial” on Masterpiece Contemporary at 9 p.m. on Nov. 9.

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PBS presents ‘God on Trial’ in Auschwitz

By Tom Tugend

http://www.jewishjournal.com/ television/article/pbs_presents_god_on_trial_in_auschwitz_20081106/

The prosecutor reads the charges against God: murder, collaboration with the enemy, breach of contract with His chosen people.

Setting: A barrack in Auschwitz, with some 20 Jewish prisoners, half of whom will be gassed in the morning.

Time: evening, sometime during the Holocaust.

So opens “God on Trial,” an intellectual and emotional masterpiece, airing on PBS stations on Sunday evening, Nov. 9, the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

A half-Jew, once a respected judge in Germany, presides over the trial. A young prisoner is the prosecutor, while his father speaks for the defense. A rabbi, who has committed the entire Torah to memory, cites chapter and verse. Other inmates break in occasionally, drawing on their own experiences to accuse or defend the Almighty.

In his opening statement, the prosecutor recites the history of Jewish persecution, from Babylon to the Romans to Czarist Russia, to show that God has habitually broken his covenant with the children of Israel.

No, counters the defense, it is the Jews who are the contract breakers, because they forgot the Torah.

Prosecutor: Why did God disperse the Jews?

Defense: To spread knowledge of His word throughout the world.

The defense argues that God, like a surgeon, must occasionally remove the gangrene to purify the body and usher in the golden age.

Are you saying that Mengele and Hitler are doing God’s work? the prosecution asks. Do you say that only the righteous will survive? Not true. Only the cunning and shameless will survive — and will these build the nation of Israel?

A former physicist from France asks for rational reasoning. It’s not about faith, it’s about who has the power, he argues.

A cynical inmate notes that the buckles on the belts of German soldiers carry the motto “Gott Mit Uns” — God Is With Us — and suggests that the Almighty has decided to transfer his covenant to someone else.

The nonreligious judge tells the “jury” that the Nazis want to strip them not just of their lives, but also their dignity, and warns that “Now they also want to take away your God, even a foolish god.”

These few examples only hint as the depth and conviction of the give-and-take, which make our customary debates about the existence and belief in God sound like high-school exercises.

It would be wrong to give away the final verdict, or the heart-stopping closing scene, but suffice that both atheists and believers will find some satisfaction and solace.

“God on Trial” was first aired by the BBC and features a superb cast of mostly British actors, including Antony Sher, Rupert Graves, Dominic Cooper, Stellan Skarsgard and Jack Shepherd.

Persistent reports over 60 years have it that something resembling such a trial actually took place in Auschwitz, with Elie Wiesel frequently cited as the authority for the report.

Wiesel himself, speaking from New York, set the record straight.

“When I was in Auschwitz, the former head of a yeshiva and I worked together for about two weeks, carrying bricks,” Wiesel recounted.

When they had a chance to talk together, the rabbi would speculate on the idea of bringing God before a rabbinical court on charges of abandoning his people.

The verdict might be guilty or, at least, that God owed the Jews an explanation for the Holocaust, said Wiesel, who lost track of the rabbi, but presumes he was killed by the Germans. Wiesel doesn’t know whether the rabbi was ever able to realize his idea.

Executive producer Mark Redhead (“Bloody Sunday”) and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce (“Welcome to Sarajevo”) are Christians and, speaking from London, admitted to some trepidation in tackling so sensitive and Jewish a subject.

Cottrell Boyce, a devout Catholic, said, “I first talked to a number of rabbis and was assured that Jews had a long tradition of arguing with God. That impressed me, because Christians would never put God on trial.

“One point I wanted to make is that the spirit of the Jews was not completely crushed by the Holocaust, that they were more than walking skeletons.”

But, essentially, the teleplay is not about the Holocaust, but about God, he said. “Since 9/11 and the tsunami, God seems to be back on the scene again.”

Asked whether the arguments about God’s guilt had shaken his own Catholic faith, he responded, “Sure, it’s shaken all the time, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Redhead went one step further, proposing that the drama is not about the existence of God, “but more about the nature of faith, how we conduct ourselves in the face of savagery, how we try to find solid ground in a bottomless swamp.”

He added, “We are asking about the meaning of life, because if the Holocaust had no meaning, then nothing has any meaning.”

KCET will air “God on Trial” on Masterpiece Contemporary at 9 p.m. on Nov. 9.

http://www.jewishjournal.com/ television/article/pbs_presents_god_on_trial_in_auschwitz_20081106/