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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘idea’

Score! Susie Fishbein Strikes Again

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Your mother may have taught you how to separate an egg and how to dice a mango, but I am willing to bet your mother never taught you to spatchcock a chicken.

No, that is not a typographical error.

And no, your mother, like mine, was not being negligent in neglecting to teach you how to cut out the backbone of a chicken and press it flat in order to produce a crispy, delicious chicken in a record time amount of cooking time.

Chances are that spatchcocking was just one cooking technique that your mother, and mine, never learned from their own mothers.

But with the introduction of her eighth cookbook, Kosher By Design Cooking Coach, kitchen diva Susie Fishbein is about to change all that, with a stunning new volume designed to turn readers into culinary stars, by teaching techniques as basic as dicing salad ingredients and as unfamiliar as spatchcocking a chicken.

While Cooking Coach continues the now ten year old Kosher By Design brand with a mouth watering selection of 120 recipes that look so good that I am practically drooling as I write this article (Chocolate Peanut Butter Molten Cakes anyone?), what sets this cookbook apart from so many others is that it contains page after page of kitchen techniques, giving readers the opportunity to learn all the tricks of the trade. In fact, Fishbein herself has had no professional culinary training and she is hoping that this new book will give readers an understanding of cooking techniques and ingredients so that they can spread their own culinary wings and really fly on their own.

“If you can read, you can cook. Anyone can do this,” explained Fishbein. “My real job as a teacher is to free people from cookbooks, both mine and others, and inspire them with new ideas. By learning the proper cooking techniques, it frees you to use them how you want, with the foods and ingredients that you like.”

The idea for KBD Cooking Coach came to Fishbein while she was teaching new recipes in her cooking classes – what her students really wanted was to learn the basics.

“People loved the recipes that I demoed but it was the tips and techniques that went along with those recipes that they were really interested in,” recalled Fishbein. “I started thinking that maybe a ten year milestone was the right time to share this knowledge with the public.”

Dicing, mincing, making a chiffonade – Fishbein gives clear step by step illustrated instructions, as well as an overview of kitchen knives. No need to spend large sums on an endless array of knives when, according to Fishbein, just three well chosen knives – a chef’s knife, a serrated knife and a paring knife – will suffice. The book includes an illustrated guide to three different techniques for knife sharpening. Fishbein also offers practical guidance on buying pots, pans, baking equipment and kitchen appliances including food processors, blenders, mixers and immersion blenders.

Each chapter is preceded by a “Game Plan,” an informative prelude detailing fundamental cooking techniques, advice and other tidbits, designed to help the reader better understand their ingredients and hopefully hone their own cooking instincts. The chapter on meat contains not only a full guide to the different cuts of meat and the best cooking techniques for each cut, but also explains how to tell when meat is done, how to properly slice it and how to create grill marks on steaks and hamburgers. The fish section teaches readers how to tell if a fish is fresh, the advantages of fresh versus frozen and how to pin bone and skin a fish. The side dish chapter gives a quick primer on storing fresh produce as well as an introduction to chili peppers.

All of the above adds up to not only better kitchen skills, but some serious savings of both time and money on several different levels. Learn how to dice an onion properly (Fishbein admits to wearing goggles while performing this task in order to prevent tearing up) and you may be surprised how much easier and faster the job will go. Learn how to sweat vegetables for a soup and you will maximize their flavor, getting the most bang for your buck. Learn how to zest a lemon with a microplane and you will never overpay for dried (and less flavorful) lemon zest ever again. Learn the best place to store nuts (in the freezer) and your days of dealing with rancid (and extremely unappetizing, trust me on that one) nuts will finally be over.

Gaming the System

Monday, November 5th, 2012

One of the more troubling issues for me about the current right-wing push for all of their students to learn Torah full time for as long as possible (well into their marriage and long after having a number of children to support) is the way in which this is financed.

I have long ago expressed my disagreement with this policy as it is currently applied. The idea of directing every single male in all of Jewry into a life of Torah study as the ideal (to the exclusion of any other productive endeavor) is anathema to the very idea of a Jewish nation.

I am not going to go into the details as to why I feel that way in this post other than to say that I do not believe God wants His people to not fully utilize all the individually different talents He has granted them. Every individual Jew is different with talents in a broad range of different fields. They ought to choose those fields where their talents lie.

For those whose talents are uniquely geared to Torah study – that is the best use of their time. But for those whose talents are suited elsewhere, they should find out what they are, utilize them that way and thus make a far greater contribution to God, Judaism, and the Jewish people.

The Lakewood ideal is to sublimate those talents into full time Torah study.

One of the terrible consequences of this push for every male to spend his life learning Torah is the material cost. This is most acutely felt in Israel. But Americans who do this aren’t exactly living the good life either. Learning full time means they do not earn any money outside of a meager stipend a Yeshiva like Lakewood pays. Those funds cannot possibly support them enough to put a roof over their heads, put food on the table, send their children to private religious schools (even those with very low tuition) and other expenses required just to live a bare-bones modest lifestyle.

While it is true that many Kollel wives work to support their husbands they rarely make enough to support their very large families. Sometimes there are parents and in-laws that help. But that too is not enough, and is drying up a source of income with every succeeding generation. More than ever young people are being convinced to spend their lives in a Beis HaMedrash well into their prime earning years.

One of the ways Lakewood helps its Avreichim is by teaching them how to game the system. By this I mean applying for every possible federal dollar available to students who need financial aid to continue their advanced studies beyond high school. One of the most commonly used federal programs is the Pell Grant.

The Pell Grant was created 40 years ago by then Senator Claiborne Pell to provide financial aid to low income students enabling them to access higher education. While these Avrechim do apparently qualify under Pell Grant guidelines I nevertheless find this to be a misuse of the system.

I do not accuse them of stealing from the government. But there is no way that the Pell grant was ever intended to be used as supplemental income. Which is for the most part how it is used.

A lengthy article in the Forward has taken a closer look at this situation. Here are some of their troubling observations.

Said Heather Valentine, vice president of public policy at the Council for Opportunity in Education put it:

“It’s not just about creating the access to higher education… It’s about making sure that students are… graduating and getting placed in jobs.”

I think that Lakewood and the rest of the Yeshiva world that promotes full time learning understands this. This is how they have addressed the issue:

Proponents of yeshiva education point out that critical thinking and argumentative skills that develop while poring over Talmud — not to mention grueling day-long study sessions broken only for prayer and meals — serve students well for careers in many professions, particularly business and law.

In her book, “Heart of the Stranger: A Portrait of Lakewood’s Orthodox Community,” Botein-Furrevig said the current CEO of BMG (Lakewood), Kotler’s grandson Aaron Kotler, told her that BMG has “a successful job placement service” for graduates and that many students go on to careers in “business, the rabbinate, academia, medicine, finance, law or technology.”

Is this not Gneivas Daas (deception)? I have no doubt that there have been and still are students who have attended Yeshivos like Lakewood and have gone on to a wide variety of successful careers like those mentioned by Lakewood CEO, Rabbi Aaron Kotler.

But to imply that they have a successful job placement service in the fields of medicine, law and technology when that is not the case is simply wrong.

I believe the opposite is true. With the exception of helping their students find jobs in Chinuch or similar jobs, they do nothing to support students seeking careers in any of those fields.

They don’t even approve of schools like Touro and consider a lifestyle outside of learning to be less than desirable. I will never forget the remarks Lakewood Rosh HaYeshiva Rav Malkiel Kotler made along those lines about Dr. Bernard Lander – founder of Touro upon his passing

I understand the need for Lakewood and similar Yeshivos to help their students find legitimate and legal sources of financial aid. But I do not understand misleading the public about how these schools live up to the expectations of helping their students find decent careers – when doing so is anathema to its philosophy.

If that isn’t Genivas Daas, I do know what is. Need based stealing does not justify doing it. Even if it is done for the lofty goal of learning Torah.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

PLO Official Suggests Confederation with Jordan

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Reported by the Jerusalem Post:

Farouk Kaddoumi, a veteran PLO official, dropped a political bombshell Wednesday with a call for “returning” the West Bank to Jordan. Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunisia, said he supported the idea of a federation or confederation between the West Bank and Jordan. His remarks, which came during an interview with the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, are the first of their kind to be voiced by a senior PLO figure in decades…He added, nevertheless, that the Palestinians should not drop their demand for a right to return to Israel proper. “We launched our revolution for all of Palestine, and that’s why we need to be very cautious,” Kaddoumi said. “We must safeguard our people’s right to return,” he stressed. “We must insist on the right of return for all refugees, because this is the minimum that we could accept.”

Well, isn’t that an interesting statement.

A confederation has been an Israeli suggestion for decades and now they are finally getting around to discussing it.

But, if the “minimum” is swamping Israel with “refugees”, that seems to be a reverse “Two Banks Has The Jordan” concept – Israel and Jordan disappear.

Visit My Right Word.

Blackout

Thursday, November 1st, 2012
In Union Square the chess players sit alone under the statue of George Washington waiting for a game. A Latino family, father, mother and son, sit on the sidewalk holding cardboard signs and singing. “I’ll be your friend, when you’re not strong.”  The big chain stores are closed but the bodegas are open and Muslim and Chinese storekeepers charge up to ten dollars for a gallon of water. New York City in blackout, in short, is much like New York City as usual.
The electronics stores are closed and the wine stores are open. A chalk sign outside one darkened store reads, “Screw electricity.”  NYU students crowd the bus stops and French tourists elbow their way through the crowd on the way to a cheaply expensive hotel. A massive ancient tree lies torn out of the earth in the old 16thStreet park and residents crowd around sticking their iPhones through the 19thCentury ironwork of the shuttered park to get a photo. A photo of devastation.
Recording disaster has become instinct. I saw dozens of people taking photos on September 11 and the number would have increased by a factor of x10 If the modern smartphone with its 8 megapixel camera had been present in 2001. A click of a touchscreen and the photo is uploaded to Facebook to be shared around the world with people who like gawking at broken things.
The departure of the internet accompanies the return of drive time news radio and the shocking reminder of what the media is really like. On WINS a cheerful male anchor runs through the list of catastrophes. “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” he says about a flooded town, almost chuckling at the joke. “The town of Little Ferry sure lived up to its name,” he says of another.  The obscenities repeat themselves every 10 minutes intersecting with audio clips of survivors who only have a few seconds to mention the water or how much they lost before the whole things cut to a commercial.
With a million Con Edison customers out of power, the commercial is naturally for Con Edison, but it isn’t one of those, “We’re working as hard as we can” ads that utilities run while their customers curse them in the dark, instead it’s an ad touting Con Edison’s Diversity Supplier Program which distributes supplier contracts based on race, instead of competence. Even liberals would not have been reassured by the timing.
Chris Christie is everywhere, flying around in the helicopter and landing just long enough to survey the destruction. A few minutes later he is launching into an anecdote about jet skiers rescuing 80 year old ladies on jet skis. “All they wanted was a photo with me and then they were off,” he says, reminding the audience that while the governor is trying to be the Rudy Guiliani of this news cycle, he isn’t Rudy.
While shopping for supplies, Senator Schumer comes on the radio and in his best oily voice, informs beleaguered shoppers that he has gotten calls from Republicans and Democrats and assures us that this issue will not be politicized. Unlike Hurricane Katrina, an unseen heckler supplies in the rugs and mops aisle.
An hour of this is enough to remind me of how unprofessional professional news is and how much better Sean Hannity was at this during the last blackout through the simple expedient of jettisoning the formula and supplying helpful information. There is no helpful information on AM news anymore, with the brief exceptions of traffic and weather, just ghoulish exploitation of tragedy in the same cheerful voice that is then used to sell Carbonite, computer backup for only 59.99 a year.
The NYPD is doing what it does best, cutting off streets and telling people where to go. A pile of ordure in the morning acts as evidence that the mounted police were deployed at some point during the night. But the amount of actual crime appears negligible. One store window is lightly broken, more likely a result of the storm than casual vandalism. But being cut off from collective news sources also acts as a reminder of how news shapes perceptions.
Without a news report, I have no idea if the blackout and storm were accompanied by a massive crime wave or hardly any crime at all. As people did a century ago and as many still do, I can only judge larger events by my perceptions. The status of crime in New York City is determined entirely by the number of unbroken store windows that I pass among the darkened stores selling handbags, artisanal cookies and neck massages on my quest to find working internet. But the moment I pass along that perception, then I am once again creating news and the entire cycle of collective perception repeats itself again.
Past 40th Street on the East Side and 26th Street on the West Side, there is power and I recognize the phenomenon first through the sight of distant red traffic lights. “Do Not Walk,” they say, and I walk on. On the radio a politician talks about revisiting the unity of September 11, but that’s a cheerful story to sandwich between commercials for motor oil and a reality show about Texas bachelorettes.
On September 11, we briefly came to the awareness of a common enemy, but now we remain in our old divisions, those who have and those who have not, those who define themselves by race and those who do not, the woman screaming loudly about how Bush did not find any Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq four years past the point when that kind of thing was fashionable and the young girl in duck boots saying, “Omigod,” over and over again into a cellphone until it becomes its own mantra.
We are on an island and we are islands. The prosperous smiling natives paying 10 dollars for a quart of sink water reprocessed in Michigan bottling plants and paying double to travel downtown in a taxi and the immigrants who take their money, but hardly ever smile. There are the gangs who plot looting sprees on Twitter and the Long Island cops who leave behind their families to drive around the streets telling them to go home. There are the people in flooded homes and the news anchors cheerfully asking them how it felt to lose everything they have.
The finance expert with a Lithuanian accent tells his broker over a shaky connection in an internet café to sell the dollar and a male model named Justice chats about San Francisco. They are all New York and they aren’t New York, because New York City is an idea and it can be hard to live inside an idea. New York is immigrant neighborhoods full of people who want to live just like they did back home while making more money and having access to free social services. New York is British brokers straight out of the City putting in their time before they go somewhere glamorous, like Dubai.
New York is the remnants of its working class, hiding out deep in Brooklyn or leaving city limits for Long Island or New Jersey. New York is the place that you see in movies which shoot on every block, tangling their cables like snakes around fire hydrants while their refreshment tables full of sliced avocados stretch on forever.
New York is the idea of the Everycity, the city that never stops because it is always busy doing things and being things. It is the idea that we can leave behind our roots and our histories to create a new glamorous history out of the fragments of everyone else trying to do the same thing at the same time. And when I look back, surrounded by the floor to sky video screens of Times Square as the darkness grows, all I see are the outlines of dark towers and the lights of the endless traffic of secretaries, brokers, cops and doctors, professors, porters, drug dealers, antiques appraisers, actors and drivers, prowling through the night.
Originally published at Sultan Knish.

I Want to have Your Baby, Sarah Silverman

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

For the record, I’m a huge fan of Sarah Silverman and have been following her career forever, watched her Jesus movie on Netflix, followed two seasons of her sitcom on Comedy Central, absolutely loved her bit on the Aristocrats movie, and caught her act whenever possible. Unlike, say, Jon Stewart, or Adam Sandler, whose entire Jewish thing is about making funny cheh sounds, and Jerry Seinfeld, whose Jewish thing is, basically, Presbyterian, I believe Silverman is on a par with the serious Jewish-American comics of the day, Larry David and Richard Lewis.

This is because all three comics have pain in their comedy, and they use it to make us laugh so hard, our kishkes get shpilkes in our shkolniks.

Jewish Author Shalom Aleichem was funny because he took the repression and poverty of life in the pale of settlement in Czarist Russia and turned them into hilarious scenes. We laugh because it’s so sad. That’s Jewish comedy.

When Larry David’s dad doesn’t invite him to his mom’s funeral because he didn’t want to bother him, he’s so busy – that’s Jewish pain. When Richard Lewis, clad in black, is fearful of life itself for the mean things it has in store for him – that’s Jewish pain. When Sarah Silverman depicts herself as a mega-narcissistic LA girl, bereft of empathy or even an awareness of others – that’s Jewish pain.

And so, to start, I believe Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt missed the point when he was attempting to counsel Sarah Silverman on how to become happy and fulfilled as a woman. Because if our comics had any idea at all, or the inclination, really, to be happy and fulfilled, they wouldn’t be exposing themselves on a bare stage with nothing but a mike and a cutting tongue to protect them from drunken hecklers at two in the morning.

I tried it one summer in New York, I have no idea if the good rabbi ever did. Believe me, I have good reasons to admire Sarah Silverman, but to expect her to be a happy mother is like expecting (insert funny noun) to be happy (insert inappropriate verb).

And although I agree that the You Tube clip attempting to seduce Billionaire Sheldon Adelson was offensive, it was also funny and angry and a legitimate political attack. What folks on the right should do is come up with equally funny and effective clips — may I suggest a certain aging Hollywood star who enjoys talking to empty chairs.

Having said that, let’s talk about motherhood and babies, because, soon enough, the 170 comments on Rabbi Rosenblatt’s article veered away from dealing with the gifted comic and settled on the idea of compulsory child bearing for modern American women.

Or at least that’s what you’d think Rosenblatt was advocating, to judge by those comments. Which, of course, he didn’t. He only suggested (I’m paraphrasing because it’s more fun that way) that women by nature are hard-wired to be married and bear children, which is why some young girls start planning their weddings at age 7 and have the albums to show for it.

Put aside sentiment and politics, let’s talk economics. Here are a few of the leading countries in the world in terms of real Gross Domestic Product growth annually.

There’s Argentina, with 8.8 real GDP growth rate, and 17.34 births per 1000, as opposed to 7.36 deaths per 1000.

I propose that Argentina’s astonishing growth economically has everything to do with the fact that it has three times more people being born than dying.

In Turkey, there’s 8.5 real GDP growth rate, with 17.58 births per 1000, with only 6.1 Deaths per 1000.

India is another great example: 7.8 real GDP growth rate, births per 1000: 20.6 Deaths: 7.43

Even Israel, with a very good 4.8 real GDP growth rate, shows the same healthy trend: with 18.97 births per 1000 and only 5.5 deaths. In fact, Israel’s situation is even better than most because of its excellent medical services. Also, Israel isn’t showing the same stunning growth rate as, say, India, because our economy here has been pretty fabulous for some time, and so we are higher up the bell curve.

Now check out some liberal Western democracies, with self-fulfilled, emancipated women who have better things to do than get married and pregnant:

The Upsherin

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Have you ever been to an upsherin, a hair-cutting ceremony?

I had never been to one until I was invited by my gentleman friend, Sy, to attend one in honor of his great-grandson, Gabriel, given by his grandparents, Steve and Robin Kerzer. Even Sy, an Orthodox Jew, had not heard of it. Both of us knew it was the custom not to cut a boy’s hair until he was three years old, but we had no idea what was involved. It was common to hear “Oy, he looks just like a little girl” until the parents of the poor child must have been ready to plotz. To make such a party was definitely new to us, not to mention its expense. Invitations had been sent to numerous people. Out-of-town guests, including Sy’s two physician sons from Rhode Island, came in for the simcha. And what a simcha it was.

We drove with Sy’s sister and brother-in-law to the Young Israel of Emerald Isles for the Sunday event. We arrived on time to a cacophony of voices. There must have been more than 200 people in attendance, most of them gathered around the buffet table – ready to snatch a hearty nosh. A table close to the entrance was piled high with colorfully wrapped gifts for Gabby, the day’s guest of honor. I added to the stack with gifts for him and his two-year-old brother. I spotted the latter sleeping peacefully in his stroller, oblivious to his surroundings. Good for him, I thought, as I observed the other children running wildly in the hall – as little children will do.

After mazel tovs and other greetings were expressed, we settled at a table as far away from the noise as possible. There, we were joined by some family members and had the pleasure of receiving a kiss from Gabby, who indeed looked like a little girl with his long red curls. Only he was wearing tzitzis.

Included in the delicious food offerings was an enormous chocolate-covered birthday and hair-cutting cake. It was decorated with a huge pair of scissors made out of white icing.

I began to wonder where the barber was when the rabbi rose to speak. Through the noise, I learned that everyone would receive a lock of Gabby’s hair. How could that be, I thought – so many people, so little hair. But when Yossi, Gabby’s father, spoke, it all became clear.

“Everyone who wants a lock of Gabby’s hair [should] come and help with the cutting,” he announced. It appeared that the guests were the barbers.

Sy and I were honored to take the podium first, where Gabby was sitting calmly on his mother Farah’s lap. With a small pair of scissors, we both clipped off a lock of the ginger curls. That was our fond souvenir.

In his younger days, Sy had bright red wavy hair. His four sons, several grandchildren and, so far, his one great-grandchild inherited it. It was like a reincarnation of what he looked like at that age. It made for a strange sensation. And when he held the strands of red locks between his now snow-white hair he laughed and said, “The old and the new.”

As we prepared to head home, the happy parents’ parting words were: “Same time next year.”

It would be Zachary’s turn.

How To Make Resolutions Into A Habit

Friday, September 28th, 2012

There is a long laundry list of personal goals running through my head that I want to work on. I love taking advantage of a celebratory date to select one of these pressing items and promise myself that this time, I really will begin to do whatever it is that will make my life better. Yet, somehow, after the birthday or New Year passes, my fervent declarations are quickly forgotten and I lapse into my old behavior.

Somehow, though, when I meet someone who laments their lack of organization, I know all the right things say. I am quick to blurt out helpful tips and beneficial chores to achieve a smoothly run household, even as my audience is tuning me out. It’s hard for me to empathize, because organization is just something that comes naturally to me. The lists in my head are already segmented and in chronological order. This is not something I taught to myself; it’s a gift Hashem gave me. But perhaps, I can use the same process that gives me the quality of organization to achieve other worthwhile virtues, like the middah of shmiras haloshon, careful talk.

Using some research material I had available, I broke down a step-by-step plan to help someone become more organized, and tried to utilize those same techniques to help me achieve my own personal goals.

The first step in changing any behavior is to make the decision that you want to change. That would mean committing to the ideal of a smoothly functional household or in my case, only saying pleasant things. Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l, in his series of classes, 48 Ways of Wisdom, talked about making daily choices between what you want and what you feel like doing. What you want to do is, obviously, what you want to be doing, and what you feel like doing is the immediate gratification that you will regret come tomorrow, when you are reconsidering your decision to finish that great book instead of tackling the burgeoning laundry pile or indulging in that juicy piece of gossip instead of taking the higher road and protecting that friend’s feelings.

The familiar concept of the yetzer hara vs. the yetzer tov has within it the notion that although we may be of two minds, we are fully capable of listening only to the yetzer tov regardless of how enticing the yetzer hara may be. We only need to look at our past actions and how they have affected our life. How has the desire to procrastinate helped in the long run?

The second step is to pre-commit. In Daniel Akst’s phenomenal new book, We Have Met the Enemy, he talks about this concept. Pre-committing is when you limit choices in advance to deter temptation: don’t turn on the computer until your allotted chores for the evening are done or put Facebook on the blocked list if it’s causing negative middos. This has to be a binding commitment, one that you will be forced to carry out even if you lose your initial enthusiasm for the idea. Tell your spouse or children about your plan so that you will be held accountable.

Set goals for yourself on a daily basis, for example: wash and fold one load of laundry every day, or no lashon hara during the morning commute. It’s important to break a big project into small manageable parts, otherwise, it gets overwhelming and you’ll just push it off. This is why I wouldn’t recommend washing five loads on laundry in one day or no lashon hara during the lunch break when you are just starting. It would be too hard to maintain, making it tempting to just drop the whole project.

Of course, if you don’t meet your goals, there must be consequences. This is the last but most vital step. Set up a chart in a public place, and chart your habits. If you meet your goal for the night and week, you get a reward, but if not…

For example, unplug the phone if there’s a lashon hara slip-up. Or, if you don’t clean up after breakfast, there won’t be any sugar in your coffee at lunch time. Promising money to charity is popular, but an even better choice is to promise money to an anti-charity, which is donating money to an organization you hate. Rav Weinberg’s method is to hire a friendly “nudnik” to keep you honest. This person will check up on you to see if you have met your commitment, and if not, you have to give them money or do something for them. If you’re really committed to changing your behavior, check out this great website, StickK.com. You can set up a legally binding contract to change any bad habit. This had been proven to be especially effective at getting people to lose weight.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/for-the-home/how-to-make-resolutions-into-a-habit/2012/09/28/

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