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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘North American’

Online Kosher: A Brave New World

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Once upon a time, your bubbie would have cooked up her flavorful masterpieces by throwing in a pinch of this, a handful of that, recreating recipes passed down from her own bubbie, which she had learned at her mother’s side.

In my mother’s generation, Jewish women collected cookbooks, which would wear out as they lovingly thumbed through pages, searching for the next family favorite.

My mother didn’t really cook, so looking through cookbooks was as far as she got (she didn’t want to feel left out).

When it came to my turn, I was cast adrift. I wrote Quick & Kosher – Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing because, seriously, I knew nothing. And I had married a man who came from a family of inspired cooks. These were people who expected to eat delicious home-cooked meals and they expected me to cook some of them.

Despite being a “champion eater” and the first to suggest a restaurant as the prime evening activity, I was clueless how to produce in my own kitchen.Then I had my infomercial moment there’s got to be a better way: Exquisite kosher meals prepared in 15 minutes!

The cookbook came out in 2007. Now, just two years later, publishing has been radically transformed and cooking is online. We’re not only hitting the Internet for shopping, social networking and entertainment, but also for food, cooking advice and recipes. And the kosher culinary world is no different.

Not that bubbie’s recipes aren’t still a treasured yerusha, but the Internet has added new vistas to our kosher heritage. There’s no question that the American kosher palate has become more international, refined and diverse over the past few decades. And the Web has enhanced this trend; we can now explore the world through our fingertips, even ordering ingredients from around the world that may not be available in our local kosher supermarkets.

But the appetite (actually, for some people it’s more of an addiction!) for food and cooking information is infinite, so websites have had to do much more to meet demand. The Web lets people explore culinary avenues not available to them in the past. The availability of new and different products makes it possible to cook in ways that our bubbies would find dizzying (though my bubbies could definitely hold their own).

Take fish for example. In many kosher communities, sushi has even taken the place of gefilte fish as a fish course for some people. When we were first married, we lived in Far Rockaway and shared a two-family house with the most wonderful young couple. We were all in our mid-twenties and were great friends. They were chassidish – granted baalei teshuvah chassidish – and used to splurge on sushi as the Shabbos fish course. We loved being invited to their house.

Now almost every kosher food establishment serves sushi, whether it is a Chinese restaurant, dairy eatery or steak house. It seems you can’t shop in a kosher supermarket worth its weight in salt if it doesn’t have a sushi counter. My grandmothers passed away 14 years ago and I can’t say for certain, but there’s a 99.9% chance they did so without a piece of sushi ever passing their lips. I imagine it was not regular fare in the cities, towns and shtetlach where they grew up in Transylvania.

Food sites are also transitioning from being online stores to being lifestyle destinations. Nowadays consumers want a “place” where they feel comfortable – a destination they can trust to deliver sound cooking advice and the latest cooking trends alongside their groceries. That’s why I sometimes think of the Internet as my very own personal “Cyber Bubbie.”

Your Choice, Your Life

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

        I recently received an e-mail from a woman who, based on her skillful command of English, is surely a North American living in Israel. She took issue with a statement I made in an earlier column (June 23) in which I wrote, “In many households when a child, especially a daughter, enters the shidduch parsha, apprehension and a gnawing anxiety fill the household – a situation that can almost be likened to the just-below-the surface angst an Israeli family experiences when their son is drafted.” The writer let me know in no uncertain terms that the worry Israelis feel is not below the surface – it’s real and palpable and as far as she knew, “No American parent needed to care for an injured chassan or kallah as a result of the shidduch parsha or bury their children because of it.” She concluded with what she felt was a lack of appreciation for “our children’s sacrifices – that Americans could go shopping, get manicures and surround themselves with gashmius because “our children” were risking their lives to protect the Jewish state.

 

         There are two issues here that I want to address – validation, and taking responsibility for one’s choices.

 

         The writer was aghast how I could compare the anxiety experienced by parents over their children’s shidduch experiences to the anxiety racking Israeli parents whose children are in the army. Of course the situations are not on the same level in terms of being life-threatening, but the worry and concern is just as real and heart- wrenching for both sets of parents. It is extremely important for people to validate a person’s feelings – even if they think the situation is trivial and the feelings or reactions unjustified.

 

         For example, a two-year-old child has a favorite blanket that falls off the stroller one day and he is inconsolable. His mother pooh poohs the loss saying, ” It was only an old rag of a blanket, frayed, torn and faded. Yet to the child his loss and grief is just as strong and consuming as the grief and loss experienced by a widow who lost the engagement ring her late husband gave to her decades ago.

 

         On a casual level the situations don’t compare, but in terms of the emotions that surface, they are on the same level. And it is crucial to validate these feelings. The wise mother will commiserate with her child and console him for his loss. If she doesn’t, and this lack of validation continues as he grows up, he will get two ego-crippling messages – his feelings don’t count; therefore, he is not of any value. Ultimately he may grow up not trusting his judgment, very likely rendering him unable to make a decision, and tragically make him ripe to one day fall into the clutches of controlling, possibly abusive persons. People need validation for their emotional well-being. Couples who don’t validate each other’s feelings often have a severe lack of shalom bayis.

 

         To the woman in Israel I say that, of course, there is a big difference between sending a child to the army (although I remember when it was once an extreme source of pride for the parents, something to brag about if he got into an elite unit) and having a child in the shidduch parsha, but the anxiety, fear and despair is just as potent. Many may feel it is not justified, but like a boy whose beloved dog is killed, his heartbreak and loss is as strong as someone who (G-d forbid) loses a child. Everyone’s reality is relative, but one should not diminish or minimize the other person’s view of his/her world.

 

         I also want to address what I feel is her anger and resentment towards North Americans Jews who she feels, ” don’t appreciate our children’s sacrifice.” Firstly, I want to reassure her that Jews everywhere totally are aware of and deeply appreciate and admire the misirat nefesh of the Jews of Israel, and every loss of life is deeply felt and mourned.

 

         But part of making choices is taking responsibility for the outcome of these choices and not resenting those who made different ones or feel that anything is owed to them by virtue of their choices. For example, a girl who chooses a kollel life style, and has to work and make do with less, has no right to resent her sister who married an “earner” who can afford a more affluent lifestyle. Likewise, the wife of the earner should not envy her sister for having a husband who is more learned and respected in the community as a talmid chacham.

 

         My guess, based on the letter writer’s mastery of English is that she or her parents were North Americans who made aliyah, and as such she has American or Canadian citizenship. She chose to either move to or stay in Israel. She must take responsibility for the outcome of her choices – the good and the bad – for with all choices, there are pros and cons. By choosing to live in Israel, her children will eventually serve in the Israeli military and must deal with the risks of doing so. At the same time, she and her family are living a life that on a daily basis is imbued with spirituality and meaningfulness that is beyond the experience of Diaspora Jews.

 

         One should enjoy the benefits of one’s choices and deal with the drawbacks, but not resent those who took a different path for they too must deal with the good and the bad that is the outcome of their choice. To do otherwise leads to sinat chinam – to everyone’s detriment.

A Jewish Wedding In 1787

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813), a physician and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, “was the most striking, the most impressive, and the most controversial figure in North American medicine of his day. Brilliant and well educated, he was a restless soul, impatient and impulsive, quick to make decisions and to defend them against all disagreement. Nor did he confine his attention, solely to medicine: he was interested in every phase of life about him; and he was an ardent proponent of inoculation, and later, of vaccination, against smallpox. His work on mental illnesses was the standard for a half century.”[i]

Dr. Rush was a prolific letter writer,[ii]and his letters give us keen insight into life during colonial times and after the Revolutionary War.

In 1787 Dr. Rush, who lived in Philadelphia, treated the family of Rebecca (Machado) and Jonas Phillips. (See http://jewishpress.com/page.do/17894/Glimpses_Into_American_Jewish_History_%28Part_13%29.html.) On the morning of Tuesday, June 27, 1787, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips invited Dr. Rush, who was not Jewish, to attend the wedding of their daughter, Rachel, to Michael Levy, who was from Virginia. After attending the wedding Dr. Rush wrote a letter[iii]to his wife, Julia, describing the chasuna. The reader will no doubt find it interesting to contrast the chasuna Dr. Rush attended with the chasunas of today:

I accepted the invitation with great pleasure, for you know I love to be in the way of adding to my stock of ideas upon all subjects. At 1 o’clock the company, consisting of 30 or 40 men, assembled in Mr. Philips’ common parlor, which was accommodated with benches for the purpose. The ceremony began with prayers in the Hebrew language, which were chaunted by an old rabbi and in which he was followed by the whole company. As I did not understand a word except now and then an Amen or Hallelujah, my attention was directed to the haste with which they covered their heads with their hats as soon as the prayers began, and to the freedom with which some of them conversed with each other during the whole time of this part of their worship.

As soon as these prayers were ended, which took up about 20 minutes, a small piece of parchment was produced, written in Hebrew, which contained a deed of settlement and which the groom subscribed in the presence of four witnesses. In this deed he conveyed a part of his fortune to his bride, by which she was provided for after his death in case she survived him.

This ceremony was followed by the erection of a beautiful canopy composed of white and red silk in the middle of the floor. It was supported by four young men (by means of four poles), who put on white gloves for the purpose. As soon as this canopy was fixed, the bride, accompanied with her mother, sister, and a long train of female relations, came downstairs. Her face was covered with a veil which reached halfways down her body. She was handsome at all times, but the occasion and her dress rendered her in a peculiar manner a most lovely and affecting object. I gazed with delight upon her. Innocence, modesty, fear, respect, and devotion appeared all at once in her countenance.

She was led by her two bridesmaids under the canopy. Two young men led the bridegroom after her and placed him, not by her side, but directly opposite to her. The priest now began again to chaunt an Hebrew prayer, in which he was followed by part of the company. After this he gave to the groom and bride a glass full of wine, from which they each sipped about a teaspoonful. Another prayer followed this act, after which he took a ring and directed the groom to place it upon the finger of his bride in the same manner as is practised in the marriage service of the Church of England. This ceremony was followed by handing the wine to the father of the bride and then a second time to the bride and groom. The groom after sipping the wine took the glass in his hand and threw it upon a large pewter dish which was suddenly placed at his feet. Upon its breaking into a number of small pieces, there was a general shout of joy and a declaration that the ceremony was over. The groom now saluted his bride, and kisses and congratulations became general through the room.

I asked the meaning, after the ceremony was over, of the canopy and of the drinking of the wine and breaking of the glass. I was told by one of the company that in Europe they generally marry in the open air, and that the canopy was introduced to defend the bride and groom from the action of the sun and from rain. Their mutually partaking of the same glass of wine was intended to denote the mutuality of their goods, and the breaking of the glass at the conclusion of the business was designed to teach them the brittleness and uncertainty of human life and the certainty of death, and thereby to temper and moderate their present joys.

Mr. Phillips pressed me to stay and dine with the company, but business and Dr. Hall’s departure, which was to take place in the afternoon, forbade it. I stayed, however, to eat some wedding cake and to drink a glass of wine with the guests. Upon going into one of the rooms upstairs to ask how Mrs. Philips did, who had fainted downstairs under the pressure of the heat (for she was weak from a previous indisposition), I discovered the bride and groom supping a bowl of broth together. Mrs. Phillips apologized for them by telling me they had eaten nothing (agreeably to the custom prescribed by their religion) since the night before.

Upon my taking leave of the company, Mrs. Phillips put a large piece of cake into my pocket for you, which she begged I would present to you with her best compliments. She says you are an old New York acquaintance of hers.

During the whole of this new and curious scene my mind was not idle. I was carried back to the ancient world and was led to contemplate the Passovers, the sacrifices, the jubilees, and other ceremonies of the Jewish Church. After this, I was led forward into futurity and anticipated the time foretold by the prophets when this once-beloved race of men shall again be restored to the divine favor.

Dr. Yitzchok Levine, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.

[i] http://dodd.cmcvellore.ac.in/hom/21%20-%20Benjamin.html

[ii] Letters of Benjamin Rush, volumes I and II, edited by L. H. Butterfield Volume I 1761-1792, published by the American Philosophical Society by Princeton University Press, 1951

[iii] Ibid., pages 429 – 432.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/a-jewish-wedding-in-1787/2006/08/02/

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