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How to Pair Wine with Chanukah

wine and latkesChanukah is here, and while many of us are observing the holiday away from home, there's no reason not to enjoy a latke or two while hitting the beach or the slopes! And, if you are a wine geek like me, you may be wondering what wines go well with those latkes.

First and foremost, acidity is key when matching wine with fried foods. Your wine must be able to cut through the intense flavors of potatoes, salt, onion, egg and matzo meal – crispness does the trick. Find a great Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Sancerre, Pouilly sur Loire or California. The aroma will be very different from all these areas, but the underlying key factor – crisp acidity and forward fruit – will offer you a wonderful match for your special recipe or store bought/restaurant prepared latke.

If you are a Riesling nut (as I am), try a wine from the Mosel Valley, which will offer great green apple acidity. If your meal has some apple components in the salad or side dish, this is a wonderful selection.

Finding a wine with strong acidity can help if your meal includes a meat main course. A Barolo, which is made from the Nebbiolo grape, or a Pinot Noir can be toe tappers while also matching perfectly with latkes.

The traditional desserts of Chanukah, sufganiyot and chocolate gelt, offer challenging wine matches, but my go-to would be a nice California Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to hit the chocolate component. Softer tannins, those acid flavors you taste on the sides of your mouth with red wines, are important for matching with chocolate and can be found in well-aged wines. But really, when playing dreidel with the kids or your adult friends, a nice bourbon sipper with one ice cube works best for me. One ice cube will bring out the complexity without changing the flavor or temperature of the bourbon. And bourbons are traditionally slightly sweeter than Scotch whisky, which will help with chocolate gelt and sufganiyot.

L’Chaim, L’Shalom - and Happy Chanukah!

by Am Shalom President and Resident Wine Expert, Greg Miller

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Grammy Marcia's Latkes









6 potatoes, peeled
1 onion, finely chopped
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. salt


Grate the potatoes into a bowl of cold water (to prevent darkening). Drain thoroughly; squeeze out excess water with a towel. Stir in onion, eggs, flour and salt. Beat until blended. Fry in hot oil or in non-stick pan until brown and crisp. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

Recipe courtesy of Rabbi Steven Stark Lowenstein

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First Grade Learns about God

Today at Sunday school on 10/29/16

Ms. Kara's students learned about the difference between what God created versus what humans created. They drew a line down the middle of the page and drew pictures of different items that God made on one side and items that humans made on the other. The students also made invites for the 1st grade family day, which will be taking place on Sunday November 6th, 2016.  See you there. 

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You Like It, We Build It!

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 The Glencoe Community Garden is kicking off a new initiative in response to excitement over our newly designed Vertical Gardens. Beautifully handcrafted from cedar and designed by GCG volunteers, these space saving home planters can be placed in most patios and yards for easy home gardening. Just out your door enjoy fresh lettuce, greens, peppers and herbs every summer night along with gorgeous flowers! Plus cedar is naturally rot and mildew resistant, and will last for years without treating.

The GCG's handsome Vertical Garden Planters are installed with the most economical watering system both in terms of cost and water use. The Drip Irrigation System may be easily attached to a timer making the "Living Wall" even more cost effective and simpler to maintain. 

We are excited over the many benefits of vertical gardening: it maximizes limited space while promoting plant diversity and healthy life styles; it is easier to tend as the physical stress of bending and kneeling is greatly reduced; it has fewer weeds and pest problems; it helps reduce our carbon footprint; and it helps beautify small areas. Living Walls are a great way for people to grow their own food, expand the organic food choices in their family's diet and improve our environment. Enjoy adding a unique focal point for your home garden!  

As part of this exciting new initiative, the GCG is forming a Design and Build Team.  Come be part of a great community movement to inspire more sustainable lifestyles.  Not much of your time for a big impact.  

You like it and we'll build it! Contact the GCG at for more information.  

As a community-wide social service project for people of all ages and abilities, the Glencoe Community Garden is a 10,000 square foot sustainable, organic practicing mini farm and composting collaborative.  Built 100% by volunteers, the GCG demonstrates a drip irrigation system, a rain barrel collection, multi-use solar panels, cold greenhouse growing and hydroponics, and a strong community composting start-up.  Since it began in 2012 by Am Shalom as a gift to the community in honor of its 40th Anniversary, the Garden has donated 100% of its harvests to those in need totaling over 10,000 pounds of fresh organic produce.  Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Instagram.  We Grow it, Give it to those in Need and Compost the Rest!  Come Farm and Compost with Us! 

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Feeding the Hungry

by Mitch Rogatz

hungryThe Fanchon Simons Feeding the Hungry program is uplifting, easy and fun.

It's made so much easier because its leaders - Nina Schroeder, Jackie Stein, Linda Ginsburg and Dermid Eagen - have done the heavy lifting of coordinating and obtaining all the components of the meals in advance.

We show up at 9:00am on the third Sunday of each month, roll up our sleeves, and assume our places on the 'assembly line' in the Am Shalom kitchen. We make sandwiches, and then pack balanced meals that include a piece of fruit, a bag of chips and a dessert.

For about half an hour, we each work on our “duties” that ultimately result in about 400 lunches. It's just a short window of time - you're in and you’re out, but it’s a wonderful jump-start for your Sunday. It's a great way of coming together and connecting with big-hearted people who genuinely appreciate the opportunity to pitch in and help others.

For those that have more time on Sunday morning, we bring the lunches to the Bethlehem Healing Temple on the near West Side. There we have the chance to work with a handful of committed volunteers to distribute the food. We meet and interact with a variety of people - young, old, men, women, and even some kids come to the church parking lot from blocks away to appreciatively receive the meals. They are so thankful, and we have some fun with many of them as well.

Fanchon Simons' Feeding the Hungry takes place at 9:00am on the third Sunday of each month at the Am Shalom kitchen. All are welcome - families, too - to join us for this meaningful volunteer opportunity.

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Jewish Bluegrass at Am Shalom

Nefesh MountainA series of fortunate events brought Jewish spiritual bluegrass band Nefesh Mountain to Am Shalom on Monday, August 1, for an outdoor concert in the beautiful Perlmutter Courtyard, according to Cantor Andrea Rae Markowicz.

Am Shalom Board President Greg Miller saw them perform at the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial and told Cantor Markowicz she just had to bring them in for a show. Rabbi Phyllis noticed they'd be in Chicago for a conference and asked Cantor Markowicz if it would be possible to bring them in for a show. Serendipitously, Cantor already was working on bringing them in for A Midsummer Night's Dream, Am Shalom's annual outdoor concert.

Rabbi Steve, Cantor Markowicz, and Rabbi Pam kicked off the evening with some Hee Haw-inspired humor (I recently decided to sell my vacuum cleaner - all it was doing was gathering dust), then Nefesh Mountain took the stage. Their spiritual bluegrass hybrid got toes tapping and hands clapping! They were joined for select songs by Cantor Markowicz and Am Shalom teen Sam Powers; some Am Shalom members also had a chance to get up on stage and join the fun!

Concertgoers enjoyed pizza, salad, and snacks after the show.

Check out more event photos here!, and watch our video montage here!


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If We Build This World From Love

"Whoever you are, wherever you come from, stand up and be counted."

On Friday, July 15th, Am Shalom invited the greater Glencoe community to mourn, pray, and heal together following the tragic deaths of Alton B. Sterling, Philando Castile, Dallas Police Officers Lorne Ahrens, Wayne Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarippa.

We were joined by Reverend Norris Jackson of St. Paul's AME Church, Reverend David Wood of Glencoe Union Church, Reverend Barbara Javore of North Shore United Methodist Church, and Glencoe Public Safety Director Cary Lewandowski.

Reverend Jackson spoke of a hummingbird he spotted on his way to Am Shalom, and how it was chasing something that seemed to be just out of reach, and just out of his sight. And like our community's hopes for peace, though we seek it, it eludes us. "We want peace," said Reverend Jackson. "We want justice. We want to be viewed as being human and loved...truly we all came from one." He implored the community to see past how the media paints the black male, and to see past how the world views the black community in general.

"Oh God keep us ever aware of the wonder of humanity and the threats to the sanctity of human life," said Public Safety Director Lewandowski. "May we never be lazy in the work of peace nor complacent in our relative safety. May we honor those who have died in defense of our ideals, and may we acknowledge threats, some of our own making, to those ideals… Help us all to appreciate one another and the variety of viewpoints in this community and beyond. And teach us to respect the many ways we may serve...Help us to be the change we hope to see, soon and in our lifetimes."

Before adjourning to a community conversation, the clergy stood together for a call to action, asking those gathered to stand up as one against racism and violence, and to come together white and black, Jew and Christian, law enforcement and civilian, to hear the call of the Shofar and take action. 


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Sh'lach L'cha - Promised Land Ahead: Proceed with Caution

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Sh'lach L'cha

Numbers 138:1-15:41

Recap: In last week’s portion, B’haalot'cha, the Israelites traveled from the Sinai desert to the Paran desert, moving with the cloud that had settled over the tabernacle. They complained about not having meat and Moses became frustrated. God gave them quail and they feasted, but God killed the gluttonous people. Miriam and Aaron reproached Moses about marrying a Kushite woman. Miriam was infected with a skin disease, tzara’at, and spent seven days healing outside the camp.

Cast of Characters: God, Moses, the 12 Spies (featuring Caleb and Joshua,) and the Israelites

Setting: Desert of Paran

Summary: God told Moses to send out men, one from each of the twelve tribes, to explore the land of Canaan, the Promised Land.  At the end of their forty-day journey, ten of the spies reported that Canaan is full of bounty but also full of “giants” and fortified cities. They felt like “grasshoppers” in comparison! Joshua and Caleb, two of the spies, touted God’s loyalty and insisted that they should go into the land. Yet, the people trusted the pessimistic spies and God became furious. God annihilated the ten spies and their offspring, but saved Joshua and Caleb’s families. 

God told Moses to instruct the people that, when they enter Canaan, they must give offerings to God and treat the stranger with respect. God detailed the punishment for disobeying the instructions: being cut off from the community. God tells Moses to instruct the people regarding wearing blue fringes on the corners of their garments. By gazing upon the fringes, they will remember God’s commandments and loyalty throughout the ages.

Big Questions:

What prompts Caleb and Joshua to speak out against the other spies?
Does God’s punishment of the ten pessimistic spies fit their crime?
How does the punishment of separation from the community relate to the crime of disrespecting the stranger?
How did the commandment to wear fringes of blue evolve into our custom of wearing tallitot?


Have you ever felt so eager for a new experience, only to be discouraged when you realized how daunting your task actually was? Perhaps the hill on your beautiful new cycling route was steeper than you felt able to handle. Or maybe an exciting new project at work became more tedious work than you expected. If you’ve had such an experience, you’re not alone. In this week’s Torah portion, Sh'lach L’cha, the Israelites encounter a similar situation.

The Israelites were almost at Canaan, the Promised Land, and their emotions were running high! Imagine how they might have felt after so many years of journeying through the wilderness. Sensing this emotional rollercoaster, God instructed Moses to send twelve spies to scout out the land. When the spies entered Canaan, they saw a land flowing with milk and honey. They took in the scent of grapes, pomegranates, and figs. I imagine that they were mesmerized by the bounty of the land! And then, they noticed the powerful residents, their fortified cities, and a few of their historical enemy tribes. Suddenly, their feelings of elation morphed into fear. Ten of the twelve spies allowed their fear to prevail over their faith in God and themselves. Those ten fearful spies caused the entire community to lose faith and were punished --they were destined to die in the desert and never enter Canaan, while Joshua and Caleb, the two spies that maintained faith, were permitted to enter the Promised Land.

This story, though dramatized, is incredibly relatable. We too may feel that we cannot face the hill in front of us, the project before us, or the powerful people around us. Like the ten spies who felt like “grasshoppers” in comparison to the powerful people of the land, we may feel inadequate to complete the challenge ahead. Yet, if we allow fear to overcome faith, we are far less likely to enter our personal “promised land.” May we emulate Caleb and Joshua, facing our challenges with courage, confidence, and certainty in ourselves and God.

Written by second-year Rabbinical Student, Sarah Rosenbaum, who served as the Am Shalom Summer Rabbinic Intern in 2015.

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B'chukotai - Blessings, Curses, and Questions Still Debated


B'chukotai, Leviticus 26:3-27:34

Recap: In last week’s Parashat Behar, we learned about the shmitah, the 7th-year rest for the land in Israel, and its accompanying laws regarding debts and release of slaves. The portion also detailed laws about selling land, treatment of slaves, and treatment of one’s brother in need.

Cast of Characters:
God, Moses, and the Israelites

The Sinai desert

Summary: Parashat Bechukotai begins with God’s reassurance to the Israelites; if they follow God’s commandments, they will prosper and live peacefully. However, if they reject God’s covenant, they will be punished. The text outlines these specific rewards and punishments, which relate primarily to agriculture and security. At the end of the punishments, the text clarifies that God will not abandon the Israelites completely while they are in the lands of other nations because God made a covenant with their ancestors and took them out of Egypt to be their God. The text describes the price of making a vow to God, assessing the value of humans, animals, possessions, and land. This includes the tithing of produce and livestock to God.

Big Questions:

How can we understand the text’s theology that following the commandments reaps reward, and straying from them reaps punishment?
After all of the punishments detailed in this portion, why does God say that God will not abandon the Israelites?
What is tithing, and what’s its modern application?


This parasha, the last one of Leviticus, presents a theology that we hear time and time again throughout the Torah and is known as the Deuteronomistic theology. The Deuteronomistic theology states that, although God established a “covenant for all time” with the Israelites, the covenant is conditional: If the Israelites follow God’s commandments, they will be blessed with land, fertility, and prosperity. However, if they stray from God’s statutes, they will be punished.

The Deuteronomistic theology can be challenging for us modern Jews. It may be comforting to know that our ancestors struggled with this idea too. Jewish sages throughout the ages have grappled with the ideas of reward and punishment presented in Bechukotai. Maimonides, one of our most prolific medieval commentators, suggests that rewards for living a good life are not limited to this world. Those who follow God’s ways may be rewarded in olam haba, the world to come. He states: “Whoever, fulfills what is written therein and knows it with a complete and correct knowledge will attain thereby life in the world to come.” Maimonides was not alone; many medieval philosophers, who lived a life of subjugation and violence at the hands of their rulers, found comfort in the idea that all rewards and punishments would be reconciled after death.

The Deuteronomistic theology is directly related to the question of theodicy, why evil exists in the world, which is an essential question for modern Judaism. If you’re interested in further reading about this topic, I highly recommend Rabbi Harold Kushner’s book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Kushner’s book offers an enlightening and alternative approach to Deuteronomistic theology. It is avaiilable on Amazon in print and kindle editions. (Click here for further information.)

Written by second-year Rabbinical Student, Sarah Rosenbaum, who served as the Am Shalom Summer Rabbinic Intern.

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