Different Families

Debbie has been my colleague (and friend!) for nearly a decade now, and it’s an honor to have her share her Shabbat experiences here. Silent supporter no longer, and just in time, with only two weeks remaining in the blog after this week!

I’ve been anonymously following this blog since its inception.  Reading it not only gives me a window into others’ Shabbat tables and recipes, but it also pushes me to reflect on my most recent Shabbat experiences, and it’s nice to have the chance to put my reflections down on paper (ok, typed into a Word doc).  Each week, I find myself in one of a variety of settings, and the two constants are my broadening concept of family, and my focus on Shabbat as an opportunity to appreciate differences.  Sometimes my Shabbat family is students at Penn, sometimes it’s a group of friends, and sometimes it’s just me and my husband at home for a quiet meal at the end of a hectic week.  Sometimes (gasp!) Shabbat even includes my actual family; with me in Philly and my immediate family in Boston, these are moments that I especially cherish.   So, blog readers, here are two accounts of recent Shabbatot with different families.

The diversity and vibrancy of my extended family at Penn Hillel on Shabbat blows me away every time.  This past Friday, as soon as I made sure we had a fire extinguisher close by to the huge table of Shabbat and Hanukkah candles (no fires!  Yay!), I was able to focus on my favorite Hillel Shabbat activity: with student leaders, greeting everyone who walks in the door and wishing them a hearty ‘Shabbat Shalom!’ or ‘Good Shabbos!’  When I am standing in the lobby, I can see students approaching Hillel from several walkways leading from different parts of campus, and I am reminded of all of the angles through which I see students approach Judaism.  This sight is always the perfect visual to succinctly explain why working at Hillel inspires me.

My other regular highlight from Shabbat at Penn Hillel is related.  From different dorms and off-campus apartments, different services and no prayer services, different academic schools, and different upbringings, students of all backgrounds gather in the dining hall each week for a community Shabbat meal.  Our menu this past week was what I can only describe as potato-tastic!  Potato kugel, potato latkes, and baked potatoes with chicken made for a monochromatic but tasty plate of food that we probably would only eat on the Shabbat during Hanukkah.  Over dinner, I had meaningful conversations about life and silly conversations about linguistics (did you know that people like me, from Massachusetts, pronounce ‘cot’ and ‘caught’ the same way?!), and overall just a wonderful Friday night enjoying students’ company and learning from them like I always do.  I also watched students come together after tragedy in CT this past Friday.  From themed readings in the Reform service I attended to a moment of silence in the dining hall, our differences that we usually celebrate were put aside for a few moments so that we could focus on uniting around the unexplainable.

Shabbat at Hillel is a macrocosm (no, I have never used that word before) for Shabbat at my parents’ house in the Boston suburbs, where people come together from different places to form a different type of supportive community.  While there is not a series of walkways from which we each approach my parents’ house, everyone around the table is literally coming from a different place to join for a family meal.  Whether it was coming home from work or coming in from Philly, we each bring our recent life experiences and love for each other to share around the table.  For me, Shabbat is always about taking a step back from our regularly scheduled programming so that we can do our best to appreciate each other.  How can we appreciate each other?  By taking the time to hear how we are doing, by asking questions, and by having the time and presence of mind to listen.  The Shabbat table is a place that always makes these charges easier for me, and Shabbat dinner at my parents’ house a couple of weeks ago was no different.

My husband and I drove up for a belated Thanksgiving visit and were greeted with a delicious Shabbat meal and wonderful company.  Dinner was a mixture of fall flavors, which I vow to hold onto well into winter!  We enjoyed carrot ginger soup, green beans, challah we picked up from Rein’s Deli during our lunch stop, and chicken.  I am sure this recipe had a name somewhere, but I’ve never known it, so today is its first day with a name.  Let’s just call it familiar and delicious, and even better over some jasmine rice to soak up the sauce!  As a bonus, it’s pretty easy and quick to make so when you’re looking to impress some guests and don’t have a ton of time, this can be your go-to recipe.

When you make this recipe, which I hope you will, don’t forget to add a hearty portion of whoever you call family and a huge dollop of appreciation and understanding for those around you.

My Mom’s Familiar, Sweet and Delicious Chicken

3 whole boneless/skinless chicken breasts, halved and pounded
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs (panko or regular!)
2 Tbsp seasame seeds
¼ tsp garlic powder (this is a minimum!  Feel free to add more)
1 egg
6 Tbsp soy sauce
6-8 oz jar apricot jam
2 Tbsp peanut oil

Preheat oven to 425, with a 9×13 bake dish, with peanut oil in the dish, for 5 minutes.  Beat egg with 2 Tbsp soy sauce and a little water.  Mix bread crumbs, sesame seeds, garlic powder and salt.  Dredge chicken breasts in egg/soy sauce mixture, then coat with bread crumb mixture.  Place in heated baking dish and bake 20 minutes. Turn chicken and bake another 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness.  Heat apricot jam and remaining 4 Tbsp soy sauce until almost boiling.  Baste chicken after turning, and serve!

photo (13)


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