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840 Vernon: The Blog of Am Shalom

This is the blog of Am Shalom, Reform congregation in Glencoe, Illinois.

Rabbi Phyllis's Summer Reading List

Here's what Rabbi Phyllis will be reading this summer! If you pick up one of these titles, let her know what you think!

The Cloister
by James Carroll

A priest and a Holocaust survivor find their perspectives and senses of identity reshaped by their shared investigation into the classic romance between discredited religious scholar Peter Abelard and his intellectual paramour, Héloïse.

The Immortalists
by Chloe Benjamin

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness sneak out to hear their fortunes.The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

Sadness is a White Bird
by Moriel Rothman-Zecher

In this lyrical and searing debut novel written by a rising literary star and MacDowell Fellow, a young man is preparing to serve in the Israeli army while also trying to reconcile his close relationship to two Palestinian siblings with his deeply ingrained loyalties to family and country.

The story begins in an Israeli military jail, where—four days after his nineteenth birthday—Jonathan stares up at the fluorescent lights of his cell, and recalls the series of events that led him there. 

Two years earlier: Moving back to Israel after several years in Pennsylvania, Jonathan is ready to fight to preserve and defend the Jewish state, which his grandfather—a Salonican Jew whose community was wiped out by the Nazis—helped establish. But he is also conflicted about the possibility of having to monitor the occupied Palestinian territories, a concern that grows deeper and more urgent when he meets Nimreen and Laith—the twin daughter and son of his mother’s friend.

From that winter morning on, the three become inseparable: wandering the streets on weekends, piling onto buses toward new discoveries, laughing uncontrollably. They share joints on the beach, trading snippets of poems, intimate secrets, family histories, resentments, and dreams. But with his draft date rapidly approaching, Jonathan wrestles with the question of what it means to be proud of your heritage and loyal to your people, while also feeling love for those outside of your own tribal family. And then that fateful day arrives, the one that lands Jonathan in prison and changes his relationship with the twins forever.

The Other Woman
by Daniel Silva

In an isolated village in the mountains of Andalusia, a mysterious Frenchwoman begins work on a dangerous memoir. It is the story of a man she once loved in the Beirut of old, and a child taken from her in treason’s name. The woman is the keeper of the Kremlin’s most closely guarded secret. Long ago, the KGB inserted a mole into the heart of the West—a mole who stands on the doorstep of ultimate power.

Only one man can unravel the conspiracy: Gabriel Allon, the legendary art restorer and assassin who serves as the chief of Israel’s vaunted secret intelligence service. Gabriel has battled the dark forces of the new Russia before, at great personal cost. Now he and the Russians will engage in a final epic showdown, with the fate of the postwar global order hanging in the balance.

 

 

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KOL Q&A: Doris & Bill Gould

GouldsDoris and Bill Gould met as students at Miami University in Ohio. Bill went on to run his family business while Doris's degree in Zoology led her first to work in a hospital research unit, and ultimately as a librarian thanks to her expertise in classification. The Northfield couple has two children and three grandchildren.

How do you like to spend your time?

Doris: I like volunteering in the library. We go to Monday Night at the Movies, we’re at Friday night services. Bill likes to go to Saturday morning Torah study. We try to take a meal to a family when that’s happening. We go to the soup kitchen if we can. We work with one of the refugee families. 

What is the best advice you ever received? 

Doris: Judge favorably and be kind. You can’t put too much kindness in the world. There’s so much nastiness and gossip – it doesn’t contribute anything to the world or to your life personally.

Bill: Don’t burn bridges. Be nice to people. You’d be amazed at how many times some one disappears for twenty years and then comes back into your life.

What brought you to Am Shalom?

Bill: When I was growing up I was a member of North Shore. When Doris and I came back from college, I went to the rabbi and said I want to get married. He sent me to Rabbi Kudan. We met Rabbi Kudan, took classes, and he became kind of central to us. One day we read in the Pioneer Press a story about Harold Kudan starting a congregation. We went to an open house and we signed up. We have been here since the beginning.

What keeps you coming back?

Doris: It’s just everything. Torah study, services, there’s very little that is put on here that we don’t enjoy doing. Through the years we’ve done different things. When our kids were little, we were involved in different things. I find that when you’re retired, doing something to mark Shabbat is more important than ever. You need something to define what a week is, you need something that makes time special. We try to come to services on Friday night whenever we can. Otherwise, every day is Wednesday.

What is your favorite Jewish thing to do?

Bill: I think it’s coming here! Doris: Because our kids don’t live in the area and don’t even live in the same direction, when I have all of my children and grandchildren home, like at Passover, being able to sit down at Seder and have my children there is a very special thing.

 

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Home Cooking

Am Shalom’s Syrian families brought tastes for the foods of their homeland—like Syrian Shawarma and Chicken Mashawi—ways of spicing, a sense of what a meal is, and the importance of certain foods, recipes, and techniques that are Syrian but also distinctly Kurdish, from their village of Efrin, near Aleppo.

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Top 10 Benefits of Gardening (and Joining the GCG's Early Risers Team)

Gardening is just plain good for you ~ scientific studies help support that gardening boosts yours overall wellness. At the Glencoe Community Garden, we Grow, we Care and we Give. In addition to the satisfaction of growing organic veggies and herbs that improve people’s diets and providing these nutritious veggies and herbs to those less fortunate, we’ve discovered there are many significant health benefits to gardening that improve your body, mind and spirit. So while we are actively trying to help repair the world by our acts of loving-kindness early on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the Garden, we are also helping to repair ourselves.

Here are our top 10 benefits to Gardening and joining the GCG’s Early Risers Team.

  • Moods Boost and Stress Dissipates

Gardening has been found to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, reduce your mental fatigue and enhance your mood. The GCG naturally reduces your stress and puts you in a better mood. Come and find out!

  • Aerobic Exercise without the Sweat

Gardening helps with your flexibility, strength and stamina as you twist, plant, pull and reach, not to mention walk, lift and bend. Why go to the gym when you can have fun while “working out” at the GCG?

  • Vitamin D Rises with Sunlight

Outdoor gardening elevates your Vitamin D, which increases your calcium levels that in turn benefit your bones and immune system. Of course, we wear our sunscreen and sunglasses!

  • Stay Sharp with a Healthy Heart and Mind

Physical activity including gardening could reduce the possibility of the incidence of dementia as you age as well as heart disease and diabetes. Fresh air, sunlight and physical activity can all be found at the GCG. The Garden provides a positive impact on your overall wellbeing.

  • Connecting with the Earth

Gardening helps improve your mental health as it connects you with the natural world. Stave off a “nature-deficit disorder” by helping out at the GCG.

  • Reduce Anxiety and Increase Positive Thinking

Being outside and getting your hands in the dirt reduces anxiety and promotes inner tranquility. The Garden helps improve your sleep quality as your anxiety and stress levels decrease and your physical activity increases. Happiness grows at the GCG!

  • Inspires the Cycle of Life

In gardening, we witness the renewal of the lifecycle of growing, dying and growing again. At the GCG, we marvel at the rebirth of the Garden at the beginning of each new season. Join us our Season 7.

  • Contributions and Accomplishments Happen

When you garden, you accomplish something every time whether it is weeding, planting, watering or harvesting. Your nurturing makes the Garden a success. It also makes you feel better, increases your compassion, and improves your mental health. The Early Risers Team helps make the Garden a success.

  • Nature is Relaxing

Freud once said, “Flowers are restful to look at. They have no emotions or conflict”. Vegetation has a natural calming effect on most people.   At the GCG, we put our other responsibilities aside as we focus on our peaceful work at hand and the beauty around us.

  • All ages and abilities are welcome

Digging in the dirt is healthy for everyone.

Join the Early Risers Team on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 7:30 am to 9:00am.   You are welcome with no long-term commitment. Just stop by, help out and see how you like it. Come as often as you like it and bring your family and friends. Please contact us at gcgarden18@gmail.com Like us on Facebook and Instagram.

The Glencoe Community Garden is a sustainable, organic-practicing, food producing mini-farm and garden. It was established in 2012 as a North Shore community-wide service and educational project by Am Shalom to honor its 40th anniversary. The GCG is built and cared for by volunteers. The Garden’s mission is altruistic, educational, and exploratory. The GCG provides fresh vegetables and herbs to those in need and composts the rest; it offers education on the hows and whys of growing food for healthy life style choices and care of the environment; it showcases initiatives of water conservation, alternative energy sources, composting and vertical gardening; it has multiple opportunities for organizations and groups to participate in Service Days; and it builds community. Each season approximately 3,000 pounds of fresh food is harvested and donated to local social service organization that share the dream of food security for all and the mindfulness for our environment. Come be part of GCG’s efforts ~ we need you and it’s good for you too!

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Kitchen Lessons

rokan and her niece lamisCooking in a small kitchen that is not tailor-made for Instagram, where the single oven is packed with pans and foodstuffs like dates, there are two eager cooks, 20-something sisters, waiting to begin my “lesson plans” so that they’ll pass the online ServSafe exam, the industry standard.

Congregant Peggy Wolff is working with Rokan and Rokhash as they prepare to launch their business, R&R Catering. Follow their journey through Peggy's blog, Whisk & Pen.

 

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Youseff's Big Day

youseffawardresized1Last week, Youseff received an award for being a student with good character that works hard. Only three students from each class received an award. Unbeknownst to Yourseff, his mom, Rokhash, came to school for the ceremony with Am Shalom member and refugee family lead mentor, Esther Kusy-Leavitt. When he turned around and saw his mom, he grinned from ear to ear. He told his classmates near him that Rokhash and Esther were there for him. It was a wonderful celebration for everyone!

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Happy Birthday, Maryam!

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Maryam’s 6th birthday, her first since arriving in the US, was her BEST DAY EVER!

Her celebration started with her kindergarten classmates, who made her a birthday crown, sang Happy Birthday and enjoyed cupcakes (from Am Shalom) with red heart rings (which were a BIG hit)!

After school, her parents invited their Am Shalom tutors and mentors to celebrate with delicious homemade baba ganoush and fattoush salad, amazing baklava and knafeh (all items from their catering menu btw!) and of course, a Frozen themed birthday cake. Maryam greeted us all at the door with a big smile and hugs for everyone while wearing her favorite pink tulle party dress with satin roses that she has been saving to wear for her special day.

While everyone was happy to celebrate Maryam and the life for which they are so grateful in the United States, it was bittersweet for her parents and aunt and uncle, who were all worried about their family still living in northwest Syria. They shared a video sent by friends of the bombing in their neighborhood from the night before.

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Fun at Kiddie Kingdom

KiddieKingdom4Sunday afternoon I took Maryam and Hussein, along with their mom, Rokan, to Kiddie Kingdom. The kids very much enjoyed all the action and sounds, and I was so impressed by how they knew how to operate the games and were able to figure out the ones that were a little trickier.

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Mentor Journal 12.12.17 - Zoo Lights

KhelosZooLightsRokash, Lamis and Youssef went to the zoo with mentor Deb Weil last week! It was really cold, but they walked around, saw some of the animals and enjoyed the zoo lights!

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Mentor Journal November 30 - Thanksgiving!

We are always late, because juggling food, people and cars x5 is never timely-- so when i got a text from Rokhash "I am in the way!" (Yes, you read that right.) -- I laughed and worried simultaneously that they would get there ahead of us! They did, but I had warned my friend Elaine to collect them from outside and encourage them to come inside and make themselves comfortable. Elaine's daughter, Allison, speaks Arabic, so I was relieved to find them inside being introduced when we finally got there.


They nibbled on appetizers, and smiled a lot while we tried to offer various foods. Allison chatted about how she came to know Arabic and about her archaeological work in Jordan and Turkey. When it came time to sit at the table, place cards had been written with everyone's name -- and everyone was encouraged to find their seat. Yousef had never seen his name written in cursive so he was convinced that he was being encouraged to sit in someone else's seat and became quite adamant about it. He recovered very nicely by telling us all that he knew something about the tooth fairy that we did not and proceeded to lead a hilarious guessing game for the next half hour. We all enjoyed the game including Lamis -- who guessed correctly -- and Aziz and Rokhash who find their son's ability to communicate and entertain in English, amazing! They left a bit early, I suspect, because they were tired, but I think they enjoyed themselves. We certainly enjoyed having them.

-Submitted by Deb Weil

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Mentor Journal November 7, 2017

I see the biggest challenge facing this family right now as learning English. Both Rokan and Abdulrahman are working hard in class and with tutors to master our challenging language. The ability to speak, read and write is going to be key in obtaining jobs and becoming independent. This is not an easy task but the entire family is now moving forward and getting better each day. Maryam has picked up the language fairly quickly and even Hussein speaks English words randomly like “I did it” when he completes a puzzle, one of his favorite activities.

For me the most amazing part of being on this team is the generosity of spirit I feel from the Abdulqaders. I went into this process thinking I had something to offer the family and could help them. However, every single time I have been with the Abdulqaders I get so much more than I give. I have seen Hussein go from not speaking much or interacting with outsiders to smiling, laughing and talking in English. Words cannot express the joy I feel as he smiles when I walk in the door. The hospitality of the Abdulqaders' culture is amazing. I have never been to their apartment without receiving some sort of sustenance. Rokan is insistent on giving of herself which means enjoying the fruits of her labor in the kitchen. You can feel the love and appreciation inside every bite.

-Submitted by Margie Pines

 
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Mentor Journal October 31, 2017

 

It is the very first Halloween for the Khelo and Abdulqader families and everyone is in the spirit!

Yousef is a zombie and ready to yell trick-or-treat for the very first time on his street in Skokie. His sister Lamis will be a witch, with a special witch’s hat! Maryam will be stepping out as a princess and of course Hussein her little brother will be none other than his favorite character… Elmo!

The families had so much fun carving pumpkins with us. Off they will go tonight for a devilishly fun experience (and WAY too much candy!)

- Submitted by Julie Stark

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Mentor Journal October 21, 2017

We have been working with Rokhash and Abdulrahman to prepare them for interviewing questions in the healthcare industry. We are interested in jobs in housekeeping and maintenance because that will allow for the earliest entry into a flexible job market with the English skills they have in place. It’s very difficult for everyone involved because often questions are complex and more subtle and outside the scope of basic English. That said, our friends throw themselves into the language thicket daily and have made (over the 6/9 months that they have been here) amazing progress. Rokhash, I am usually convinced, understands most of my simple conversation. But sometimes I get a glimpse of how it feels to put together basic words in a conversation as you interpret. You can end up with quite a word salad and very shy of the actual meaning.

I am amazed and very impressed at their courage and ability to face everyday with optimism and a good attitude but sometimes I see the tears behind their smiles.

- Submitted by Deb Weil

 
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Help Temple Emanuel in Beaumont, TX

by Am Shalom members Suzye and Steve Doblin

Temple Emanuel in Beaumont, Texas, was our congregation for fourteen years before we moved to Glenview and joined Am Shalom. We were both quite involved, participating actively in services, committees and leadership roles. 

The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey was not only in Houston, but also reached Beaumont. The city was flooded and people could neither enter nor leave for several days. The city’s water pumps became inoperable, and even today there is no drinkable water in Beaumont other than what rescuers have been able to bring in. Thousands of people suffered significant damage to their homes and property, and many lost their homes and everything they owned.

Suzye has been in contact with Allison Getz, the president of Temple Emanuel. Unfortunately, Rabbi Joshua Taub recently had a stem cell transplant and is recovering from cancer. Several congregants, including senior families on fixed incomes, widows and a young family with a father sick with mesothelioma had substantial damage, lost everything and had to be evacuated. We know these people personally, which makes this even more difficult to bear.

President Getz believes that the greatest need is for gift cards, since the specific situations and needs are so varied. With that in mind, we are asking the Am Shalom community to help Temple Emanuel by contributing Target and/or Walmart gift cards. Any amount is appreciated. The gift cards can be dropped off at the Am Shalom office, or digital gift cards can be emailed to Suzye at suzye.doblin@comcast.net, and she will make sure they get into the hands and inboxes of those that need them.

Thank you, in advance, for helping a temple community that means so much to us, and so much to our Reform Jewish community. If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at 847.834.0096.

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The Book Is Better

This article by library volunteers Barbara Breakstone and Doris Gould originally appeared in the August 2017 KOL.

We got into a conversation about books made into movies recently.  

zookeepers wifeBB: I had just seen The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017) and thought it trivialized the Holocaust. The non-fiction book by Diane Ackerman was about a woman who ran a zoo in Warsaw during World War II and was able to shelter about 300 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto. Mainly, I thought Jessica Chastain was just too perfect, never a missed step, angelic with the
animals, saintly with the refugees, perhaps sacrificial with the German zoo keeper who wants a “relationship.” No sense of the horrors of the Holocaust in this movie, a sanitized version of the book.

 

 

 

exodusDG: I remember Exodus (1960) as the earliest movie from a book, by Leon Uris, that I read and saw. Oh, those long descriptions of UN debates and diplomatic maneuvering in the book! But, the movie concentrated on the compelling blue eyes of Paul Newman and his character Ari Ben-Canaan, the major hero of the story.  Sal Mineo, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Peter Lawford – great cast – acting in a movie whose script was written by Dalton Trumbo. The Am Shalom book group discussed Exodus a few years ago – it’s held up surprisingly well.

DG: This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper, became a movie in 2014. The story is of a fairly secular Jewish family whose husband/father has died and the mother asks her four children and their partners to not only come back for the funeral (of course), but to also have a full seven day shiva, which of course is beset with all kinds of sibling and other relationship goings-on. We both thought the characters and relationships were more nuanced and real in the book.

DG: The June Am Shalom book group discussed The Chosen, by Chaim Potok.  The book is celebrating its 50th anniversary and we found the story of two Jewish boys, one Hasidic and one Modern Orthodox, in post-World War II New York City, certainly stood the test of time. In the movie, made in 1981, Robby Benson and Rod Steiger are the Hasidic boy and his father (who is the leader of this particular Hasidic sect); Barry Miller and Maximilian Schell play the Modern Orthodox
characters. In addition to contrasting Hasidism and Modern Orthodoxy, the book brought the boys together in friendship based on like interests and
provided some insight to post-WWII American history and the founding of Israel.

gentlemans agreementBB: One of the older movies (1947) adapted from a book is Gentleman’s Agreement, by Laura Z. Hobson. Gregory Peck plays a journalist who is asked to write a series of articles in post-WWII America on anti-Semitism. Peck decides to post as a Jew and experiences all sorts of anti-Semitism, both blatant and veiled. Gentleman’s Agreement won three Oscars, including Best Picture. I have not read the book nor seen the movie for years, but I remember them as extremely compelling.

Finally, how can we write this column without mentioning Shindler’s List, the 1993 movie adapted from the book of the same title, in which Oskar Shindler, a German businessman, starts a company that makes cookware and utensils in World War II Poland and ends up saving the lives of over 1,100 Jews who worked at his factory. Both Thomas Keneally’s book and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation and direction were outstanding.

So many other movie adaptations exist. Go to http://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/subject-reading-list/books-that-inspired-films, for examples of other adaptions. While you are there, search around the Jewish Book Council site; lots of good stuff exists there.

We hope you are having a terrific summer, with lots of good books and lots of good movies! Stop by the library and check out a book for summer reading! Thanks to our volunteers, who labor, even in the summer, to keep the library organized and interesting. And thank you to all of you who make donations to the Library and Technology Fund – that is where the money for new books comes from!

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Brett Zaslavsky: Israel Advocate, Student, TV Binger

brett zaslavsky smallGlencoe native Brett Zaslavsky is headed to the University of Michigan this fall, but he took a detour to Jerusalem earlier this summer for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, thanks to his involvement with the American Jewish Committee's Leaders for Tomorrow program (that's him on the Prime Minister's right!). The discussion left a lasting impact on the incoming college student, who takes seriously his role of defending and supporting Israel on campus. Brett's spending part of his summer in Ann Arbor but he took a few moments to answer Am Shalom's Q&A.

1. How do you like to spend your time?

I’m a big TV guy—The West Wing and The Office have got to be my two favorites, so I’ve spent a lot of time watching and rewatching those shows. I’m also a huge fan of watching the news and reading biographies - George Stephanopoulos' All Too Human and Senator Al Franken's Giant of the Senate have got to be my two favorites. 

2. What is the best advice you ever received?

There’s a poem called the Desiderata that is, hands down, the most incredible advice I’ve ever read. Look it up — you won’t regret it. It’s a little lengthy (so heads up), but it talks about compassion for people, the importance of hard work and the value of confidence. I think it’s pretty awesome.

3. What is your favorite memory of religious school at Am Shalom?

The Purim Carnival was always a highlight, of course. Who doesn't love the Purim Carnival?

4. Got any advice for today’s religious school students?

Ask questions!  Religious school is a unique opportunity to challenge your beliefs, understand the principles of Judaism, and meet people you otherwise probably wouldn't. I know I wish I took advantage of it more, so if it's not too late – go for it. Also, if the opportunity arises to get confirmed - do it! I know I was initially only in it because my parents wanted me to do it, but I'm so glad I did. The discussions were fascinating and engaging, and I learned a lot about Judaism on a more sophisticated level. 

5. What is your favorite Jewish thing to do?

Breaking the fast every year, no question. Quick shoutout to my mom - best sweet potato casserole in the state. I'll defend that any day. 

 

 

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Catching Up with Our Refugee Family

kidsatschoolconferencesWednesday was parent teacher conferences for Lamis and Yousef. Both children work with an English Language Learner (ELL) aide, who led the conferences. 

Lamis’ aide couldn’t say enough wonderful things about her – she is studious, well-behaved and contributes to class every day. Her aide has even decreased the amount of time that she works with Lamis outside of the classroom, since she’s already near the top of her class in math! She also shared that Lamis is making friends at school. 

 

yousefprojectYousef’s teacher and aide said that he’s eager to participate in class, though he sometimes becomes frustrated when he can’t express himself. Check out this project he worked on about elephants! Yousef is also doing great in math.

Aziz is very excited because he just received word that ORT is providing funds to train him on a new technical skill. He is looking forward to learning something new and the possibility of a new job.

Rokhash is an incredible cook (and Laura Horn can attest to this – she was invited to dinner!). She’s so good, in fact, that she’s contemplating going into business!

Have you joined Am Shalom’s Welcome Wagon? Click here to join our Facebook group and leave a message for the family!

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Caramel-Apple Hamantaschen

Hamantaschen Dough

Ingredients

2 sticks margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
6 eggs
5 to 6 cups flour
4 rounded teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Pre-sift together flour and baking powder. Begin with 5 cups.

3. Beat margarine and sugar til creamy. Add eggs one at a time. Add 5 cups pre-sifted flour and baking powder. Add 6th cup of flour if necessary. Add vanilla. Mix well.

4. Roll dough very thin on wooden board with rolling pin.

5. Cut rolled dough into circles with the rim of a glass or a round cookie cutter.

6. Place filling in the middle of the circle - about a scant teaspoon for the small size. If larger circles, use more filling. Pinch the circle to create a three cornered shape.

7. Place on cookie sheet and bake until light brown. Watch your oven - do not over-bake!

Caramel-Apple Filling

Ingredients

1 apple
1/2 cup Prepared caramel sauce

1. Grate the apple. Squeeze out excess juice.

2. Mix the caramel into the grated apple.

Recipe courtesy of Rabbi Phyllis' great-aunt Dora.

 

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Am Shalom's Civil Rights Journey

civilrights4Just a couple of weeks ago, 32 of us from Am Shalom traveled to Atlanta, Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery on a transformational journey led perfectly by Rabbi Steven Lowenstein and Cantor Andrea Rae Markowicz. We experienced not just the narratives of a history most of us had read about and some of us had lived firsthand, but also the soundtrack of a movement. From This Land is Your Land being sung by demonstrators in Atlanta's Hartsfield airport to If You Miss Me At the Back of the Bus to I Shall Not Be Moved to We Shall Overcome, we sang and sang and sang. We joined Bishop Calvin Wallace Woods, Sr. in song, an 83-year-old Civil Rights pioneer and pastor, as we chanted aloud in Freedom Park in view of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham (where young girls Addie, Cynthia, Carole, and Carol were killed in the infamous bombing). We joined congregants in song during a Rise Up Sunday service in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. We sang If I Had A Hammer, and Hiney Mah Tov on our bus. We sang out the pain of memory and the joy of enlightenment.

In Montgomery, we learned about the Southern Poverty Law Center. We stood across the street around a water fountain memorial that commemorated 40 events reflective of the trials, struggles, murders, legal cases, and successes of a few decades of our Civil Rights history.  We grew silent as we heard of the open spaces the memorial’s architect purposely left vacant to house unknown future events that will need to be added…  We spent quality time at Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative learning about how 25% of all people on Death Row live in Alabama, about their work on trying to improve prison conditions, about their efforts to exonerate wrongfully imprisoned Death Row inmates, about their work to change laws regarding the treatment of children who were being incarcerated in adult prisons, about their documentation of lynching in the south, and about their non-litigation work around issues of race and poverty.

civilrights11On the bus en route to the Rosa Parks Museum, we listened to Billie Holiday’s haunting Strange Fruit as we reflected and anticipated.  We learned the stories of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott that went beyond the sound bytes many of us grew up reading about without truly understanding.

Welcomed warmly by Rabbi Elliot Stevens and by everyone at Congregation Beth Or, we sang, chanted, prayed, and learned together. We joined Cantor Andrea as she participated so beautifully in the congregation in which she had served years before as a student cantor. We shared dinner and stories as Rabbi Steve guided us through an inspiring evening. We embraced Shabbat as one community of friends.

The next day, we were on the road to Selma, now paved West 80, but just a dirt road during the time of the March. We quietly approached a place on the side of the highway.  We walked across the road to view Maya Lin’s 1991 memorial to Viola Liuzzo, the civil rights activist murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1965 for simply driving a black man from Montgomery to Selma.  On the somber bus ride to Selma, we listened to Joan Baez’s One Tin Soldier, to John Legend and Common’s Glory, to a video interview with Representative John Lewis.  We listened.

We arrived at Selma’s Mishkan Synagogue, which had been the spiritual home of one of our fellow travelers.  We heard his personal memories of the joys and the struggles of growing up in the congregation, and in Selma, during the height of unrest.  We asked questions.  And we listened.  And we prayed.

civilrights6We met Jo Ann Bland and heard her testimony of growing up in Selma as a young girl baffled by not being legally permitted to sit at the lunch counter in her town and ultimately joining her grandmother in activism.  She marched for voting rights.  And she marched across the Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, on Turn-around Tuesday, and again two weeks later.  She shared details of her incarceration, of the beatings, of the terror.  And we all walked across the Pettus Bridge, imagining the horror and grateful to be together in those moments.

Ask any of us to tell you more.  Ask us to tell you about the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum.  Ask us to tell you about Bishop Woods sharing the details behind why Birmingham, originally called “The Magic City” was then dubbed “The Tragic City” and “Bombingham.”  Ask us to tell you about the fire hoses, about the dogs, about the children, about the attention finally paid.  Ask us how it felt to hear him say, “We had the ingredient of prayer.  People would pray until they got happy.”  Ask us to tell you about our late-night ride back to Atlanta, each of us looking back and wondering.

Ask us about our last day in Atlanta, about viewing the reflecting pool and tombs of Martin Luther King, Jr. and of Coretta Scott King.  Ask us about sitting in the small Ebenezer Baptist Church hearing Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in his own taped words.  Ask us about our participating with the gospel singers and musicians and preachers in a moving Sunday morning service at the larger across-the-street Ebenezer Baptist Church and about the sermon delivered by The Reverend Raphael G. Warnock, Ph.D.  And ask us about our stop at The Names Project, about the AIDS Quilt, about what we learned about civil rights and the politics, then and now, of AIDS in America.

civilrights8Ask us about this journey, and let us all be inspired to sing out, to shout out, to speak out with conviction and intentionality toward building a world of wholeness, compassion, and justice. And if you need a little lift, listen to 15-year-old Royce Mann sing out his poem just a few weeks ago at that same church in Atlanta. We are not in this alone.  

In Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words: 

            If you can’t fly, then run.

            If you can’t run, then walk.

            If you can’t walk, then crawl.

            But, whatever you do,

            You have to keep moving forward.

 

Contributed by Guest Blogger and Am Shalom Member, Kerry Leaf

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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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