Monthly Archives: August 2012

Shabbat at 11,000 Feet

You may remember Brian from  his post about LimmudPhilly, or, if you live in Philly, from just about every Jewish event and organization there is.  It’s obviously not  his style to write about a “typical” Shabbat, so this one involved an exciting outdoor adventure, mountain climbing, and soup. 

3 days. 16 miles. 3000 foot elevation gain. That was my experience over Shabbat this past weekend. I flew out to Colorado with five good friends from my summer camp (shoutout to Camp Galil) to meet up with a sixth and climb up a mountain over the day of rest. It might sound like the opposite of what some would want but I can tell you the serenity of being on top of a mountain is quite amazing.We hiked up the mountain on Thursday with all our bags (probably 40 pounds of material each), including all the food for each meal. Lunches were simple (pita, cheese, avocado, or PB & J). We spent Friday exploring even more of the mountain with the same. But the best meal was by far Shabbat dinner. My friend Alon is a soup connoisseur and so brought the supplies for a split pea soup that was to die for. We spent two and a half hours preparing Shabbat dinner while watching the sun set through the pine trees outside of our cabin. With no electricity even possible in this cabin, it made me think of how it must have been decades ago to celebrate the weekly holiday.

Dinner was made even more festive by the surprise of our local contact and friend, Evan, who secretly hiked up with two wine bottles, re-packed in compactable plastic containers, of course. We sang. We ate. We swapped stories. We were in bed by 10pm. Evan is also a sleep researcher and was fond of telling us about the amazing thing that is the cyrcadian rhythm. I only hope to take some of the relaxing lessons from this weekend to heart in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

And to climb more mountains.

Recipe for soup:

1 pound split peas (sift through to ensure no rocks)

4 large carrots
1 bunch of celery
2 onions
6 cloves garlic
1 potato
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Thyme, salt, pepper to taste
1) Boil split peas for two hours (watch out for elevation !)
 2) Dice all vegetables and saute them in olive oil
3) Add vegetables into the peas and all spices
4) Boil until tasty

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Maimonides Shabbat Dinner

In addition to cooking me dinner on Friday, Shira was also nice enough to let me talk her into writing about it!  This dinner was a great example of how to be welcoming, how to build community, and how to make sure all the guests leave dinner with just a little bit of chocolate still on their faces.

The Friday at the end of the first week back to school was a welcome sight foreveryone. There is more to the wonder of Friday than it simply being the end of the work-week or the school week, because Friday means the coming of Shabbat. This past Friday night the Maimonides society at Drexel med hosted a Shabbat dinner. The dinner was an Italian themed Shabbat with salad, eggplant lasagna, pasta with marinara sauce, and an amazing dessert of s’mores bars. Of course, there were the traditional Shabbat staples of challah and wine.

It was wonderful to have so many med students from years 1-4 coming together for a Shabbat dinner. It was a great way for the new first years to get to know classmates better (ones that they may or may not have already met during orientation) as well as a way for them to meet members of the other years. For the members of other years it was a chance to catch up with people they had not seen in a while and also to get to know students from the other years better. Everyone was taking the time to enjoy the homemade Shabbat meal and talk. Hopefully as the year continues and the Maimonides Society hosts future events for the various holidays the people who came out to this first Shabbat dinner will remember the great time they had and they will come again, leading to the development of a welcoming, strong and connected Jewish community at Drexel med.

For me personally there was an added bonus besides the wonderful group of people to celebrate Shabbat with. My younger brother came to visit for the weekend. I enjoyed giving him a taste of the med school life and having him spend Shabbat dinner with my classmates.  Overall the Shabbat dinner was a success and a wonderful way to start of the year.  Hopefully the future Friday night dinners and other events will go as well!

S’mores Bars

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.

Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. 2 king-sized Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick. Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme or fluff. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small shingles and laying them together).

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

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Gary, West Virginia

Jonathan and I got to know each other while he was in grad school in Philly. I’m so glad we’re still connected and that he’s guest blogging this week, sharing a really interesting experience he had on a service learning trip run out of DC. 

I experienced Shabbat in a new place this past week. Or rather, an old place. A closed school in Gary, West Virginia, in an area that was once prosperous from coal mining but is now one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest states in the country. The school building has been taken over by a Christian missionary group that coordinates service projects for visiting volunteers. Some of the classrooms have bunkbeds, and two others have had showers installed. Nothing fancy, but it works.

I was in Gary for a long weekend service trip with a group of 18 people from 2239, the young professionals group of Washington Hebrew Congregation, through the congregation’s ARK (Acts of Religious Kindness) initiative. My understanding is that we were the first Jewish group to ever work with
with School for Life, the organization on the ground in Gary, and possibly also the first with Experience Mission, which coordinates thousands of volunteers around the world each year. Obviously we were not trying to spread Judaism (or Christianity!) to the people we were working with; we were there because
these organizations do good work in a place where it is desperately needed.

After a day in which part of our group worked to fix up the grounds of an old abandoned church that is being turned into a community center, and the rest of the group started work building a new patio for a family’s home, we returned to the school for Shabbat dinner and services. For logistical
reasons, we started with Hamotzi and Kiddush, then had dinner, then did the text study we call “A Shot of Torah,” and then had a Kabbalat Shabbat service.

At least some of the Gary natives who we encountered had never met a Jewish person before. One of them, 21-year-old James, who helped to coordinate volunteers, joined us for the initial prayers through the text study. He found the experience to be very different from anything he’d been exposed
to in the past, and he particularly liked the challah.

Other than the challah and wine, we had the same dinner that others at the school had that night: pieces of chicken breast in Sweet Baby Ray’s barbeque sauce, corn, rolls, salad, and watermelon. I don’t have any recipes for you, but Sweet Baby Ray’s is excellent.

The next day I got a chance to talk to James’ 19-year-old sister, Alicia, who also had never met any Jews before. Her knowledge of Judaism came from a cartoon, though she couldn’t remember which one. She said she knew two things about Jews: “You have the funny hats and the parties.” It was easy enough to figure out what funny hats referred to. With some follow up questions, I figured out the parties were Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. She asked me what Jews believe. I deferred to the rabbi on the trip, Aaron Miller, who I figured has been trained to explain Judaism to Christians in various degrees of

For those of you who may find yourselves in a similar situation, I’ll note his three points. First, of course, Jews do not believe Jesus to be the Messiah. Second, Jews do not believe in original sin. Third, Jewish thinkers and communities have developed many traditions and ways of living over time that are not reflected in Christian communities.

Of course, this summary only goes so far. We weren’t providing a full sense of what it means to be Jewish, but that wasn’t the purpose of our trip. We were there to serve, and the fact that we were a Jewish group was secondary. James told me we were the best group that they had all summer – and that’s a first impression we can be proud of.



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Kibbutz-Style Shabbat

Jen is the latest in the amazing series of “strangers I’m meeting through 25×52,” and I’m delighted to share her post about her family’s Shabbat traditions in Israel. There is more undefined Hebrew than usual, but I think you can get a lot of it through context (or google). This puts us one week out of order, so I’ll be doubling back to post about last week’s Shabbat, all in good time. Oh, and a spoiler alert: pictures of cute kids below!

When we lived in the States, Shabbat was something other Jewish people observed. The folks who wore kippot all the time and went to grown up services on Saturday morning, not the abbreviated Tot Shabbat downstairs.

Shabbat was for rabbis or Jewish educators or more Jewishy Jews than us. People who kept kosher in the house and knew the entire Birkat HaMazon by heart. Other Jews.

Before we made Aliyah, my husband and I were Jews with one foot in and one foot out, despite coming from reasonably observant Jewish upbringings. (He went to Schechter. I was in USY. That kind of observant.) When we lived in New Jersey, our three kids went to a synagogue preschool, and once every
few months we went to a Family Potluck Shabbat dinner. But until we moved to Israel, we hardly ever said the word Shabbat let alone kept it. Since we moved to a pluralistic, Masorti kibbutz in the Lower Galilee, however, Shabbat has become synonymous with “the weekend” and Kabbalat Shabbat has
become a ritual for my family.

For us, Kabbalat Shabbat means handsome clothes and dresses. It means combed hair and a touch of mommy’s lipstick on my 4 four year old’s lips. It means walking up the hill to meet our friends in the Beit Knesset so together we may open up Shabbat singing harmonies to Yedid Nefesh and Lecha Dodi.
It means the smells of meatballs simmering and chocolate cake baking in our house, or it means the surprise of an unfamiliar fragrance at someone else’s.

We typically alternate Friday night dinners: One Friday at my husband’s parents’ house in a nearby moshav; and the other on Hannaton, with a family or two from the kibbutz.

What’s great about this from a social perspective is that we actually get to have dinner and wine with our friends on a regular basis, without the need for a babysitter. What’s great about this practice from a cultural perspective is that my children get to experience different types of ritual inside the ritual we have created for ourselves. One friend’s abba might open the meal with Shalom Aleichem, while another will begin with a blessing for his children. One family always starts the meal with chicken soup, while the other is vegetarian. Living on a pluralistic kibbutz also means varying levels of keeping Shabbat. We cook on Shabbat, for instance, but some of our friends don’t. And to be sensitive to our guests, we’ve tried out a lot of crock pot recipes.

We’ve still yet to master cholent (I can’t get the beef to the right texture), but we’ve taken a favorite family recipe and transformed it into a successful crock pot meal for kids and adults alike.

Jen’s Modified Bubbi’s Meatballs:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3/4 cups bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
2 carrots, chopped finely (you replace or mix/match zucchini, spinach or squash)
1 egg, beaten
1 (28 ounce) jar tomato sauce
1 (16 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14.25 ounce) can tomato puree


Sautee the onion, garlic, and carrots for five minutes. Let stand for ten minutes. In a bowl, mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, and cooled sautéed vegetable mixture. Shape the meat mixture into balls. (Makes 14 – 25 depending on how big you roll ‘em.)

In a slow cooker, mix the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato puree. Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. NOTE: Sometimes I brown the meatballs before I put them in the slow cooker to ensure they hold up well. But if quantity doesn’t matter, you can just put the
meatballs right in without browning.


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