Book reading

Please join us this Sunday morning at 11 AM for a book reading of a recently published autobiography “My Songs of Now and Then: A Memoir” by our very own Sisterhood member, Rachel Siegel.

My songs cover

Rachel was born in 1924 as Rachel Josefowitz in Germany, then moving to Switzerland in the ’30s to escape the Nazi regime. In 1938 she left Europe for New York.  Rachel attended Simmons College in Boston and  has lived in Ithaca since 1949, working as a Psychotherapist for Family and Children’s Services for many years.  At the age of 55, Rachel decided to take up writing and this memoir is been the culmination of her efforts, including her membership in Irene Zahava’s writing group at Tompkins County Library, and her most recent compilation of reminisces while living at Kendal.

rachel journey diagram

The book reading will take place in the upstairs Dining Room in the Annex this Sunday morning, March 3rd at 11 AM. Books will be available for purchase (and author signing) with $5 of the purchase being donated to TBE. Softcovers will be $20 (retail $21.95) and hardcover $30 (retail $31.95). Buy early and buy often!

All TBE members are welcome.

Here is a link to an article written about Rachel and her Memoir published recently in the Ithaca Times.



Purim Carnival & PJ Library Party

Sunday was a very busy day for our family. It started at 9 am, with the TBE Nitzanim class (Hebrew school for the preschool set). If you’ve never watched a dozen 3-5 year olds enthralled by their own re-enactment of the Purim story, you’ve missed out. Their teacher, Nancy, working from her handmade scroll, helped them with the story. An hour flew by, and the kids really learned the story by acting it out.

Afterwards, we listened to the magillah reading for a second time (we’d been at Saturday night services, too). My four year old made it alllllmost all the way through this time.

Then there was the TBE Purim carnival, complete with games like fishing for a “rotten egg” in a bucket of shaving cream and kids could win a prize for answering three questions about Purim correctly. I’m happy to say my daughter won a prize. See, I told you that they learned the story!

Making groggers

Making groggers

Then it was off to lunch, and on to our next adventure: If you don’t know about PJ Library, and you have a child 7 or under (or 8, in some places), it’s definitely worth learning about. PJ Library sends free (yes, free!) Jewish-themed books and music to kids. You sign up, they send you books. In Ithaca, the Ithaca Area United Jewish Community is the sponsor, sharing in the costs to keep it free for local families.

Making crowns

Making crowns

After the TBE party, we went to the Tompkins County Public Library, along with about 70 other people, for the PJ Library party. “Admission” was canned goods, to be donated to a local food bank. There were crafts for the kids, like making groggers, making crowns, and Purim baskets, along with live music and a magician. It was fantastic. And exhausting!


Purim Rice

This wonderful recipe was contributed by our good friend Yael Saar, TBE member, mom, and creator of Mama’s Comfort Camp. Thanks, Yael!

The lovely poppyseed and coconut combination is very comforting and festive. I came up with this idea 4 years ago when I had left over poppyseeds after baking Hamantaschen. Since then I’ve been bringing this dish with us to the Israeli Purim Potluck party, where it is always a big hit.

1.5 cups rice
1/4 cup poppyseeds
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins or other chopped dried fruits (optional)
1 Tbsp olive oil or butter
4 cups liquid: 1 or 2 cans of coconut milk, the rest water. Use 2 cans of coconut milk for a very rich flavor.

Place all ingredients except the liquid in a saucepan and mix together over medium heat, coating the grains and seeds in the oil.
After about 3 minutes add the liquid and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat source and let stand for 5-10 more minutes.
Fluff with a fork, and serve.

TBE Sisterhood תודה רבה

A very special Toda Raba תודה רבה, thank you to the TBE sisterhood.

There’s a knock at the door and a gracious volunteer hands you a wonderful Mishloach Manot משלוח מנות package. This package is organized, coordinated, packed and delivered by TBE Sisterhood. The annual Mishloach Manot drive is one of the major fundraising events for our community.

Happy Purim bag

It is a wonderful special feeling to receive such a present and to know that there are members of our congregation who generously give one of these to every single member.

And what a package! It can only be described as Mishloach Manot “swag”.

Wow, wow, wow, superlatives escape me:

swagA very special thanks to all the members of TBE Sisterhood (headed by our wonderful Sisterhood President, Gale Halpern), who baked the hamantaschen, who shopped, who packed the bags, who wrote the cards, who delivered the packages. A special thank you to Esther, our super route organizer.

And thank you also to those kind individuals who sponsored the Mishloach Manot bags, thank you, thank you, thank you.

That Tree! The Eggs! The Bunny!

When my daughter was 3, her preschool celebrated many of the winter holidays by studying different traditions, and putting on a winter celebration. My daughter’s class did a short Kwanzaa skit, singing a song and lighting the Kwanzaa candles, which she, of course, referred to as a “menorah.” The year before, at 2, she had a stuffed menorah toy, and would demonstrate putting  “da ‘mash in da ‘norah.” It was incredibly cute.

By the age of four, things had changed. Friends at preschool celebrated Christmas. She noticed the lights on neighbors’ trees. Her best friend had a big tree in her living room, complete with all the things a girly little girl likes: sparkly tinsel, twinkling lights, little dangling figures, and, of course, gifts under the tree.

And now, Easter is coming. The stores are full of chocolate bunnies (and who can say no to chocolate or a bunny, let alone both?), a rainbow of pastel eggs, egg decorating kits, and all the rest.Colored eggs

Sometimes, a quick trip to the drug store feels like a mine field. “No, honey. We don’t celebrate Easter. We’re not getting chocolate bunnies… no, no colored eggs… no, no chocolate shaped like a cross…”

And, actually, she’s pretty good about it. She usually takes “no” well. Sometimes, I point out that we have Purim, and hamantaschen at home (though I’m not sure that’s ideal). But even so, she asks, about the eggs, and about the you-know-what tree, still, months later. I’ve begun to realize that she isn’t asking because she’s longing for those things.

It’s more subtle. She wants to know if the answer is still the same, and why. We still can’t have a tree, right? But what if I want one when I grow up?

She’s too young to understand the theological differences, and I don’t want to get into the habit of implying that our holidays are somehow better than those her friends celebrate. After all, I wouldn’t want someone telling her that Christmas is better than Hanukkah. But I do want her to focus on our traditions, and our customs, and our way of doing things, without feeling like she’s missing out on what her friends have.

It’s a dilemma that I’m sure I’ll face over and over through the years, in a thousand situations far more serious than those a 4-year-old brings up. This year, it’s coloring eggs. She has already asked if we can do it, and I asked for time to think about it. And so I consider it: It’s a co-opted pagan fertility symbol–not something I particularly want her indulge in, but not something with deep, competing theological significance, either. It’s something her friends are likely to do and talk about, and an absolute prohibition probably gives it more importance than it deserves.

And so, after giving it thought: I’ve decided that if her best friend asks her over to color eggs, I’ll say, “Yes.”  Just as I’d be happy to have her friend over for Shabbat, and lots of non-Jews sit at our seders, it’s totally fine for her to learn about her friends’ families’ customs–at their house. But her friends aren’t going to light Shabbat candles in their homes, and we’re not coloring eggs in ours.