web analytics
April 28, 2015 / 9 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Spanish’

Sefira And The Battle With Our Evil Inclination

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

During Pesach we experience liberation from slavery, followed by the dramatic encounter with Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea. Then we trek through the desert to the great moment at Har Sinai.

This sequence anticipates what our Sages tell us will happen at the Final Redemption. The Chofetz Chaim is quoted as having said that “we can learn about the end of our exile from what happened at the end of our exile in Egypt” (Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman, zt”l, as noted in Redemption Unfolding by A. A. Mandelbaum).

It is well to have this in mind, because we are going to need all the help we can get in the days before Mashiach arrives.

Today the foundations and pillars of our civilization are shaking, just as the foundations and pillars of ancient Egypt shook during the Ten Plagues. The people and the land of Israel are surrounded today, just as we were surrounded at the Red Sea.

When Hashem took us out of Egypt, we were at Mem Tes Sha’are Tumah, almost completely submerged in the quicksand of Egyptian idolatry and immorality. As Rashi tells us (Shemos 13:18), only one-fifth of our people made it out of Egypt at all; the rest had become so assimilated that they disappeared during the Plague of Darkness.

Even those who left with Moshe Rabbeinu were redeemed only through Hashem’s mercy. Extrapolating from that, we can assume that Hashem will redeem us at the time of Mashiach not because we are deserving, but out of chesed. As we say in Shemoneh Esrei, God will send a Redeemer “l’ma’an shemo b’ahavah…for His sake, with love.”

But if we were on such a low level, how did we become worthy to receive the Torah? What happened between Egypt and Sinai?

The answer is that during that seven-week march through the desert, our job was to elevate ourselves so that we would retroactively merit our liberation and try to become worthy of receiving the Torah.

Today, we refer to those seven weeks as the days of Sefiras HaOmer, and our job is not simply to count the days between Pesach and Shavuos but to use each passing day to elevate ourselves. Just as we had to climb from the depths of impurity in Egypt to try to merit standing before God at Mount Sinai, so today we try to prepare ourselves for receiving the Torah once again by working on our middos during these seven weeks.

And so too we are preparing for the Great Day on which we will be redeemed forever from Exile. As we say, “Master of the Universe, You commanded us…to count the Omer in order to cleanse us from our encrustations of evil and from our contaminations….In the merit of the Omer Count…may there be corrected whatever blemish I have caused in the sefira….May I be cleansed and sanctified…and may it correct our lives, spirits and souls from all sediment and blemish….”

* * * * *

Since the Source of our protection throughout our long and challenging history is the Torah, and since we are now in the process of preparing once again to receive the Torah, I would suggest we concentrate very deeply in the weeks ahead on the spiritual program called Sefiras HaOmer, the crash course in self-improvement that this period affords us. After all, we are doing nothing less than ensuring our own personal and national survival – in fact, the survival of the entire world.

I think it is fitting here to quote from the words of Mrs. Chava Sandler, wife and mother of the recent martyrs of Toulouse, France: “To all those who wish to bring consolation to our family and contentment to the souls of the departed: Let’s continue their lives on this earth. Parents, please kiss your children. Tell them how much you love them, and how dear it is to your heart that they be living examples of our Torah, imbued with the fear of Heaven and love of their fellow man. Please increase your study of Torah, whether on your own or with your family and friends. Help others who may find study difficult to achieve alone. Please bring more light into the world by kindling the Sabbath candles this and every Friday night.”

These are the words of a woman from whom so much was taken. Instead of drowning in bitterness, she gave us the message we need in these challenging times. She encouraged all of the Children of Israel to cleave to the One Source of strength, consolation and direction we possess in this world.

If you have read my book From Central Park To Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul, you know I was raised in a home devoid of Torah. Both my parents were Jewish. They were also great people, and we lived in a metropolis filled with Jews, but there was no Jewisness in our life.

My Machberes

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Madrid's vice mayor with Rabbi Elyakum Schlesinger and Jules (Yitzchok) Fleischer.

Jews And Spain

Jewish history in Spain dates back more than 2,000 years. Jewish scholarship began to flourish there beginning in the 8th century. Spanish rulers, whether Christian or Muslim, valued their Jewish subjects and, with fluctuations, generally granted them wide tolerance. Torah scholarship was valued and codification of Jewish law began there. Sadly, the Edict of Expulsion of 1492 brought an end to Jewish communal life in Spain.

Today, Jewish communities, which were bolstered in the 1970s by a considerable influx of Argentinian Jews, mainly Ashkenazim, are multiplying in Spain.

The Jewish Cemetery of Toledo

Efforts to contain defilement at the Jewish cemetery in Toledo have achieved notable success. Dating back more than 700 years, the Jewish cemetery there, like cemeteries in other Spanish cities, are snapshots of the Golden Era of Jewry prior to the expulsion of 1492 and the subsequent inquisitions. Several hundred such cemeteries are known to exist, none of which has had a new interment since those times.

When the municipality of Toledo decided to expand the facility of a school constructed in the 1980s, human bones were unearthed during construction. Upon further examination and investigation, the ground was determined to be that of a Jewish cemetery. Experts further ascertained that several leading Torah scholars were interred in that cemetery.

A number of international campaigns focused on convincing the local Spanish municipality, as well as the federal Spanish government, of the unique sanctified character of Jewish cemeteries. Violating a Jewish cemetery is sacrilege. Unless a grave is in physical danger, re-interment is never a consideration.

Some of the campaigns overlapped and actually hampered communications with Spanish governmental officials. What should have been campaigns of education and negotiation sometimes lapsed into condemnations and confrontations. Denouncing potentially cooperative officials, whether at the local or federal level, is counter-productive. Receptive Spanish officials suddenly found themselves being publicly vilified.

The Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (CPJCE) is the international organization led by the widely respected London rosh yeshiva Rabbi Elyakum Schlesinger. Beginning in the summer of 2008, when the defiled cemetery was determined to be Jewish, CPJCE began its outreach to Spanish governmental representatives in Spain, England, Israel, and the United States.

In December of that year, the Jewish federation of Spain, consisting of 13 traditional and Orthodox congregations and operating three Jewish day schools, contacted CPJCE by letter, asking for help in the matter of the Jewish cemetery in Toledo. Using its decades-long diplomatic connections, PJCE established a dialogue with parties both in the local government as well as on the federal level.

L-R: Rabbi Sholom Eliezer Teitelbaum, Hon. Fernando Villalonga, and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum.

Bones unearthed from graves in the cemetery were placed into sealed containers for later disposition. A noted historian and cemetery expert from Israel came to Toledo to study the situation. The historian is also a greatly respected architect. The building efforts were put on hold until a mutually satisfactory agreement could be reached by all parties.

The Jewish cemetery, because it had not been used for more than 600 years, was not on any register of sensitive sites. Further, some in the local municipality insisted that the school’s immediate need for more space superseded what many considered an unimportant, old, out-of-service, undocumented burial ground. The historian-architect who determined that it was, indeed, an important old Jewish community cemetery, submitted a redesign of the school expansion that would not be desecrating the cemetery.

The architectural redesign was acceptable; however it had an additional cost of $1.3 million, which the local underfunded municipality could not possibly provide. After protracted negotiations, the Spanish federal government announced it was willing to underwrite half of the additional cost.

Meetings In New York

A New York Congressman arranged for a meeting between representatives of UJCare of Williamsburg, the Hon. Jules (Yitzchok) Fleischer, member of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, and Spain’s then-Ambassador to the United States to meet in May 2009 with Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, Satmar Rebbe, at his study in Kiryas Yoel.

The then-Spanish Ambassador, Fernando Villalonga, advised the Satmar Rebbe that the Spanish government was developing an agreement with municipalities on a protocol to follow should similar issues arise in the future. Villalonga also told the Rebbe that the Spanish federal government was in the process of returning all remains from the Toledo cemetery for reburial before the end of June 2009.

Rabbi Elyakum Schlesinger was in Brooklyn at that time and met at Beis Medrash Vayoel Moshe in Williamsburg with a number of rabbis involved in the negotiation process, and favorably reviewed a report by Rabbi Moshe Hershaft, a London member of CPJCE, stating that he had personally visited the Toledo cemetery and inspected and approved the designated places in the cemetery where reburial of the exhumed bones would be re-interred; visited the safeguarded bones that were being kept in sealed containers in an honored and secure storeroom under guard; and received a certificate of authority to remove and re-inter the bones.

Shavuos And The Reality Of Redemption

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Having walked through the Valley of Death, I feel I can understand Shavuos better.

My wife and I just returned from Auschwitz and other tragic sites in Poland. We were never there before and I had thought we never would be, but an opportunity arose and we took it.

What does this have to do with Shavuos?

Everything.

Once upon a time, we were slaves in Egypt. Hashem took us out and we marched for seven weeks through the desert. We arrived at Mount Sinai, where we became one with Him. Our kesubah is called the Torah.

Our rabbis teach us that the Final Redemption will resemble the Redemption from Egypt. Mitzraim was real; Har Sinai was real. Auschwitz was real. And so, it is clear, the Final Redemption will be real. If the impossibly bad could happen, the impossibly good can happen.

Having felt the reality of Auschwitz, I think I understand better what Egypt was, how real it was, how terrifying it was, how endless and all-encompassing it seemed.

I have seen the gas chambers. I stood under the “showers.” I have seen the ovens. I have seen a “lake” of ashes, all that physically remains of uncounted thousands of children and their mothers. I stood on the platform where Mengele pointed, right or left. I have seen the torture cells. I have stood where our brethren stood, in their filthy striped rags, for up to nineteen hours during “roll call,” in the brutal sun and freezing cold.

Hitler, may his name be ground to dust, did not torture and kill us in order to conquer the world. He tried to conquer the world in order to kill and torture us.

For the thousands of non-Jews who come there, Auschwitz is a museum. For us, lehavdil, it is reality, a plague that is still killing us.

At the site of the crematoria, I thought about Yom Hadin, the Final Day of Judgment, and the words of the Av Harachamim prayer:

“Father of compassion, who dwells on high, in His powerful compassion may He recall with compassion the devout, the upright, and the perfect ones, the holy congregations who gave their lives for the sanctification of the Name . May He, before our eyes, exact retribution for the spilled blood of His servants ”

In Egypt we dropped down to within a hair’s breadth of eternal destruction, and Hashem lifted us to within a hair’s breadth of Shamayim. When Nachshon ben Aminodov entered the Red Sea up to his nostrils, the sea split for him and for his people.

At Auschwitz, we fell into the cesspool of the world, up to our nostrils in the filth of the nations that hated us. At the Final Redemption, Hashem will lift us high, high, higher than the heavens.

“Anyone who mourns over Jerusalem will merit to see it in its joy” (Taanis 30b).

This Shavuos, let us understand that it is all real. As Rabbi Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, told me years ago, before our first trip to the Holy Land: “You should know that we can learn the truth even from the English language: Israelis real.

Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, came from the depravity of Moab, just as we have emerged from the depravity of Auschwitz. This is the way of Hashem. “He raises the needy from the dust, from the trash heaps He lifts the destitute” (Psalm 113).

In the third chapter of Megillas Ruth, Boaz wakes up on the threshing floor and sees a strange woman lying at his feet. Ruth explains to him why she is there. He replies, “And now, my daughter, do not fear. Whatever you say, I will do for you . Now while it is true that I am a redeemer, there is also a redeemer closer than I. Stay the night. Then in the morning, if he will redeem you, fine. Let him redeem. But if he does not want to redeem you, then [I swear that] as Hashem lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.”

The Ben Ish Chai explains that these are not only the words of Boaz speaking to Ruth, but also of Hashem speaking to His People. Hashem is saying to Am Yisrael: “Stay through the long night of Exile. Don’t give up. The morning will come. When it does, you have a ‘closer redeemer,’ your own mitzvos and good deeds. Perhaps they will be sufficient to redeem you when Mashiach comes. But if not – even if you do not have sufficient mitzvos and good deeds to save you on that Great Day – if you have been loyal to Me, then I swear that I Myself will redeem you. Do not fear!”

Think Amalek

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Someone asked me what we should have in mind on Purim.

I would answer with one word: Amalek.

You want simcha?

You want geulah?

Think Amalek!

Chazal stipulated that we read Parshas Amalek directly before Purim. Why? Because without understanding the threat there is no liberation.

Without understanding the reality of Amalek there is no reality in Purim.

“Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt, that he happened upon you on the way and he struck those of you who were hindmost, all the weaklings at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear God. It shall be that when Hashem, your God, gives you rest from all your enemies all around, in the Land that Hashem, your God, gives you as an inheritance to possess it, you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven – you shall not forget.” (Devarim 25:17-19)

Imagine the scenario. We have just been liberated from Egypt. God is guiding us through the desert. Our enemies seem to have vanished under the Red Sea. We have nothing to worry about. We can take it easy now.

BOOM!

Out of nowhere comes the worst threat of all. The nation that “did not fear God,” whose entire existence is focused onhatred of us, whose jealousy of the Children of Israel is a consuming passion, suddenly appears with murderous malice and threatens us with complete annihilation, God forbid. Just when we thought everything was perfect.

Twice a day, at least, we say the following words:

“And it will come to pass that if you continually hearken to My commandments that I will provide rain for your land that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. I will provide grass in your field for your cattle and you will eat and be satisfied .”(Shema/Devarim 11)

Beautiful. Perfect. We are satisfied and well fed in our beautiful land.

What comes next?

“Beware lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and bow to them. Then the wrath of Hashem will blaze against you and you will swiftly be banished from the goodly land that Hashem gives you.”

What happened? We were so secure. Why were we suddenly banished?

Leaving Egypt is not enough. Sitting complacently in our land is not enough. “Not by bread alone does man live” (Devarim 8:3).

When we walk the road of life complacently, that is when Amalek strikes. And he is deadly.

Like everything else in our holy Torah, Purim has direct meaning this very day, this moment. “Ma’ase avos siman l’banim – what happened to our fathers is a sign for the children.”

Look around. The world is in flames. Israel is surrounded. We are all surrounded.

And what are we doing? We are sitting at the table of Achashveirosh, eating and drinking.

We are satisfied. All is good. The banquet is glatt kosher!

This is the most dangerous moment, right now. The moment when we believe we are secure. We live in a bounteous land, a land that has treated us well. We are free citizens, able to pursue any path we desire. We are comfortable.

But the footsteps of Amalek can be heard.

How did Moshe Rabbeinu battle Amalek? It sounds unbelievable:

“Moshe, Aharon and Hur ascended to the top of the hill. It happened that when Moshe raised his hand Israel was stronger, and when he lowered his hand Amalek was stronger. Moshe’s hands grew heavy, so they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it, and Aharon and Hur supported his hands, one on this side and one on that side, and he remained with his hands in faithful prayer until sunset.” (Shemos 17:10-12)

How can this be? Moshe Rabbeinu defeated Amalek by raising his hands? Come on! We are trying to deal with reality here.

But this is reality. This is our only way out.

Beware the banquet. It’s a trick.

Do you think we are secure? Do you think we can “eat and be satisfied”? The time has not yet come. We will be secure only when we raise our hands and understand that our security comes from the One Above. We must pray with all our heart and soul. And if our hands are “heavy,” we must help each other. We must hold our friend’s hands up in the air and help him pray, help him learn Torah. And he in turn will help us.

Spain To Israel: Do As We Say, Not As We Do

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

The anti-terror campaign made a mockery out of any concern for human rights. Collateral damage and injury to innocent bystanders were regular and common features of the campaign. Anti-terror paramilitary fighters and forces routinely engaged in torture of captured terrorists.
 
Numerous death squads sought out the terrorists and their supporters, quietly exterminating them behind the scenes. The government pretended to have no knowledge of their actions. Government anti-terror personnel kidnapped terrorists and held them without any regard for habeas corpus. Anti-terror militias routinely crossed the borders and snatched terrorists hiding in neighboring countries or killed them there. Bombs were planted in order to kill the terrorists.
 
Many of those killed or tortured were not members of or connected with any terrorist groups. Many of the anti-terror operations took place in violation of international law and even of national laws. To suppress the terror, the government pressured other countries to crack down on the refugees and to deport them.
 
The above three paragraphs describe the anti-terror crackdown by the democratic country of Spain in the last years of the twentieth century. Spain has been fighting against Basque separatist terrorism for decades and especially against the ETA organization, which seeks secession of the Basque territories from Spain. ETA is considered responsible for the deaths of more than 800 people in Spain, a number that pales in comparison with Palestinian barbarism. (And Spain has a population almost six times that of Israel.)
 
The long bloody war by Spain against its own terrorists is of interest in light of the decision by a Spanish court, in response to a lawsuit brought by a Palestinian group, to indict Israeli army officers and political leaders for the “crime” of fighting terrorism and protecting Israeli civilians.
 
Just what did these Israelis do that persuaded the Spanish court it was necessary to prosecute them – and in Spain, no less? In 2002 Israel bombed a building in Gaza where one of Hamas’s worst terror leaders, Salah Shahade, was hiding. The building was destroyed and the arch-terrorist and 14 other people were killed, including his wife and nine children.
 
Shahade was responsible for endless rocket and bombing attacks against Israeli civilians. It was arguably the most morally justified assassination since the killing of Admiral Yamamoto during World War II, and it is Hamas itself, due to its policy of sheltering terrorists behind children and civilians, that bears responsibility for the deaths of any alleged non-combatants in that and in all other Israeli retaliatory strikes.
 
Ah, Spain – the country whose legacy of crimes against Jews is topped only by that of Germany.
 
Put aside for the moment the impudence of a country like Spain – with its centuries of ethnic cleansing, fascism, Inquisitions, intolerance, and collaboration with Hitler – morally hectoring Israel about its behavior in its war against terrorism. One need not recall the centuries of Spanish history to see the Orwellian absurdity in all this.
 
In the 21th century Spain is stillfighting terrorism, using tactics that make Israel’s anti-terror operations look positively milquetoast by comparison. Yet it thinks Israel must limit its war against Islamofascist terrorism to goodwill concessions and constructive programs of capitulation.
 
The Basques are an ancient people, unlike the Palestinians. The Basques repeatedly gained and lost political independence throughout history. They suffered from aggression by the fascist forces loyal to Franco during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and Guernica, the city famously devastated by Nazi planes sent by Hitler to aid Franco, was Basque.
 
While Basques enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy, Basque separatists set up a number of groups after World War II. The most notorious and most violent is ETA, a Marxist-Leninist group founded in 1959 to fight for complete independence and separation from Spain. ETA is on the American and Canadian official lists of terrorist groups.
 
Concern and respect for human rights never interfered with the merciless Spanish pursuit of ETA terrorists. The war against Basque terrorism was led in the 1980s by GAL or Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberaci?n (Antiterrorist Liberation Groups) – little more than death squads illegally set up and run by officials within the Spanish government to fight ETA.
 
GAL was financed and protected by Spain’s Interior Ministry. It attacked Basques living in and operating out of France, as well as those inside Spain. Several Spanish government officials were convicted in 1997 for their role in the illegal campaign against the Basque terrorists. Among them was a former interior minister in the government of Socialist prime minister Felipe Gonz?lez. The prime minister publicly defended the anti-terror campaign, claiming that “democracy is defended in the sewers as well as in the salons.”
 
On April 19 of this year, France, under pressure from Spain, arrested several ETA leaders, including Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso, the head of ETA. There are more than 600 ETA members now rotting in Spanish prisons, with 150 more jailed in France.
 
Spain’s hypocrisy is evident not only in its doctrine of “fight terrorism as we say and not as we do,” pontificated when it comes to Jews defending themselves. It is no less outrageous when Spain lectures Israel about its “occupied territories” and security fence.
 
It happens that Spain occupies enclaves of territory on the northern Africa coast, Ceuta and Melilla, surrounded by Morocco, home to Spanish settlers. Morocco does not recognize the legitimacy of these Spanish settlements on its land. The Spanish interlopers in Morocco are walled in by – yes, you guessed it – a high security fence. Africans are not let in and in fact a number have been killed trying to sneak through.
 

The legitimacy of Spain’s possession of these occupied territories is flimsy at best, and they are completely unnecessary for Spanish security. But don’t expect the UN or Western “peace activists” to utter a peep about that anytime soon.

 

 

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com 

Kosher Food And Wine Experience

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

   Kosher wines have improved greatly in the last 20 years. Much of the credit can be given to the Golan Heights winery in Israel, which ignited the quality wine revolution when they released their first wines in 1983. Stateside, however, it has been the Herzog family and their Royal Wine Corporation that has introduced U.S.-based kosher consumers to premium wines.

 

   Recently, Royal Wine began to host an event known as the “Kosher Food and Wine Experience” to showcase their numerous offerings. On February 23, the third annual event was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street in New York City.

 

   From Spain, a new winery in the Royal portfolio is Elvi Wines, which began producing kosher wines in 2002 with the leadership of consulting winemaker and agronomist Dr. Moises Cohen.

 

   Elvi produces a Spanish sparkling wine known as “Cava.” They are set to release their first white wine, a blend of sauvignon blanc and muscatel that has beautiful aromas of flowers, tropical fruit and bubble gum. But Elvi has become known for their Spanish-style red wines. I tasted six reds, including the 2007 Elvi Classico, their first mevushal wine. One of them is the 2005 EL 26, a wine I would be proud to pour at my Seder. A blend of five varietals, the EL 26 features a combination of aromas from mint and wood smoke to dark fruit and forest pine. This velvety wine has an excellent structure and long finish (aftertaste) and is a perfect pairing for roasts made with Mediterranean spices.

 

   Moving around the world we land in New Zealand where Goose Bay is producing world-class wines under the guidance of winemaker Philip Jones.

 

   Goose Bay wines are mevushal (flash pasteurized) and the only kosher wine made in New Zealand. Clean, crisp, and refreshing are not words one might associate with mevushal wines, but Jones’s wines prove otherwise. He furthermore believes that his method to quickly bring the juice (before it is fermented) up to 187 degrees and then quickly back down to 75 degrees helps to bring out some of the fabulous aromas his wines possess. The event featured the crisp 2007 Pinot Gris with its fruity pear aromas and the subtly elegant 2007 Pinot Noir, a delicious light-bodied wine with red forest fruit aromas and flavors. But when one thinks about New Zealand wines it is sauvignon blanc that first comes to mind, and the 2007 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc does not disappoint. This light straw, almost clear wine has lovely citrus and grassy aromas. Lemon zest flavors and a zippy acidity make it a terrific match for spicy foods as well as sushi.

 

   Israel’s wines have gained recognition of late, following extensive tastings by Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator magazines. While the larger wineries in Israel produce most of the country’s wine, they are outnumbered by the boutique wineries more than 20 to 1. The small family-run winery Castel is the darling of the boutiques.

 

   Castel is represented by patriarch and winemaker Eli Ben Zaken and his son and COO Eytan Ben Zaken, who make wines that they love to drink: a white from chardonnay, known as C Blanc du Castel, made in the style of a French white burgundy; two reds, both bordeaux blends; and the highly sought after flagship wine, the Grand Vin, and its little brother, the Petit Castel.

 

   They were pouring both the 2006 as well as the 2003 C Blanc du Castel. The 2006 had a big tropical fruit nose, but I preferred the 2003 that also possessed toasty and tropical aromas but was at this point in its life more subtle and elegant.

 

   They also poured two vintages of the Grand Vin. The recently released 2006 and the 2005 from a double magnum, which is three liters or the equivalent of four bottles. The 2006 Grand Vin seemed a bit young while the 2005 Grand Vin was delicious with black cherry, spice and earthy characteristics.

 

   But it was the 2006 Petit Castel that stood out. Made from 50 percent merlot, 45 percent cabernet sauvignon and five percent petit verdot, this wine had aromas of herbs and eucalyptus and lovely red and black fruit flavors. At about half the cost of its big brother, the Petit might not age as gracefully or pack the same punch, but it was showing very nicely and I would recommend popping the cork of a Petit with a steak or lamb stew.

 

   The show was a clear success, evidenced by the guest’s reluctance to leave. They were savoring the desserts and final sips of their wine until the lights went out and the final curtain closed on the 2009 Kosher Food and Wine Experience.

 

   Gary Landsman, a.k.a. the “wine tasting guy,” makes, sells, writes about and, of course, tastes wines. Visit his blog at www.winetastingguy.com or contact him with any wine related questions at gary@winetastingguy.com.

Kosher Food And Wine Experience

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

   Kosher wines have improved greatly in the last 20 years. Much of the credit can be given to the Golan Heights winery in Israel, which ignited the quality wine revolution when they released their first wines in 1983. Stateside, however, it has been the Herzog family and their Royal Wine Corporation that has introduced U.S.-based kosher consumers to premium wines.

 

   Recently, Royal Wine began to host an event known as the “Kosher Food and Wine Experience” to showcase their numerous offerings. On February 23, the third annual event was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street in New York City.

 

   From Spain, a new winery in the Royal portfolio is Elvi Wines, which began producing kosher wines in 2002 with the leadership of consulting winemaker and agronomist Dr. Moises Cohen.

 

   Elvi produces a Spanish sparkling wine known as “Cava.” They are set to release their first white wine, a blend of sauvignon blanc and muscatel that has beautiful aromas of flowers, tropical fruit and bubble gum. But Elvi has become known for their Spanish-style red wines. I tasted six reds, including the 2007 Elvi Classico, their first mevushal wine. One of them is the 2005 EL 26, a wine I would be proud to pour at my Seder. A blend of five varietals, the EL 26 features a combination of aromas from mint and wood smoke to dark fruit and forest pine. This velvety wine has an excellent structure and long finish (aftertaste) and is a perfect pairing for roasts made with Mediterranean spices.

 

   Moving around the world we land in New Zealand where Goose Bay is producing world-class wines under the guidance of winemaker Philip Jones.

 

   Goose Bay wines are mevushal (flash pasteurized) and the only kosher wine made in New Zealand. Clean, crisp, and refreshing are not words one might associate with mevushal wines, but Jones’s wines prove otherwise. He furthermore believes that his method to quickly bring the juice (before it is fermented) up to 187 degrees and then quickly back down to 75 degrees helps to bring out some of the fabulous aromas his wines possess. The event featured the crisp 2007 Pinot Gris with its fruity pear aromas and the subtly elegant 2007 Pinot Noir, a delicious light-bodied wine with red forest fruit aromas and flavors. But when one thinks about New Zealand wines it is sauvignon blanc that first comes to mind, and the 2007 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc does not disappoint. This light straw, almost clear wine has lovely citrus and grassy aromas. Lemon zest flavors and a zippy acidity make it a terrific match for spicy foods as well as sushi.

 

   Israel’s wines have gained recognition of late, following extensive tastings by Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator magazines. While the larger wineries in Israel produce most of the country’s wine, they are outnumbered by the boutique wineries more than 20 to 1. The small family-run winery Castel is the darling of the boutiques.

 

   Castel is represented by patriarch and winemaker Eli Ben Zaken and his son and COO Eytan Ben Zaken, who make wines that they love to drink: a white from chardonnay, known as C Blanc du Castel, made in the style of a French white burgundy; two reds, both bordeaux blends; and the highly sought after flagship wine, the Grand Vin, and its little brother, the Petit Castel.

 

   They were pouring both the 2006 as well as the 2003 C Blanc du Castel. The 2006 had a big tropical fruit nose, but I preferred the 2003 that also possessed toasty and tropical aromas but was at this point in its life more subtle and elegant.

 

   They also poured two vintages of the Grand Vin. The recently released 2006 and the 2005 from a double magnum, which is three liters or the equivalent of four bottles. The 2006 Grand Vin seemed a bit young while the 2005 Grand Vin was delicious with black cherry, spice and earthy characteristics.

 

   But it was the 2006 Petit Castel that stood out. Made from 50 percent merlot, 45 percent cabernet sauvignon and five percent petit verdot, this wine had aromas of herbs and eucalyptus and lovely red and black fruit flavors. At about half the cost of its big brother, the Petit might not age as gracefully or pack the same punch, but it was showing very nicely and I would recommend popping the cork of a Petit with a steak or lamb stew.

 

   The show was a clear success, evidenced by the guest’s reluctance to leave. They were savoring the desserts and final sips of their wine until the lights went out and the final curtain closed on the 2009 Kosher Food and Wine Experience.


 


   Gary Landsman, a.k.a. the “wine tasting guy,” makes, sells, writes about and, of course, tastes wines. Visit his blog at www.winetastingguy.com or contact him with any wine related questions at gary@winetastingguy.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/food/kosher-food-and-wine-experience/2009/03/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: