Rosetta Stone Anyone?

My daughter, now 5 and a half, has been asking to learn Hebrew for about a year now. We started teaching her the aleph bet when she was about 2–in fact, I have an adorable video of her toddler self repeating the Hebrew letters as she watches Oy Baby. Still, we weren’t sure where to go with it after that. I know some Hebrew, and my husband none, so neither of us could speak Hebrew to her and help her learn the way a native speaker would.

First we tried the Little Pim videos–they’re cute, and teach some basic vocabulary, but again, I wasn’t sure where to go after that. How can I reinforce that vocabulary, since we don’t speak Hebrew at home?

Now we’re trying Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone is computer-based immersion that includes voice recognition to teach and correct pronunciation. My daughter was too young for it a year ago, but now the immersion method is working better for her, and the voice recognition is managing to understand her childish voice–something it didn’t do well even a few months ago. Because you can have multiple accounts, I created one for myself and one for her; the plan for now is for her to study, and for me to review and relearn, and perhaps she and I can start having short conversation in Hebrew, or start using nouns we both know, or otherwise reinforce what she learns. She also has Israeli friends her own age, and that might help as well, when she gets further along.

Of course, the only way to really learn a foreign language for most people is true immersion–at my daughter’s age, a year in Israel would make all the difference.



Music boost

An upbeat tune with catchy melodies and uplifting lyrics can really invigorate one’s mood on these short winter days.

Everyone in the family is enjoying bopping along to this great song from Ari Goldwag. It’s the title track from his new album עם אחד Am Echad.

Ari Goldwag

Click on picture for the link to the official YouTube video.


Academics and Israel

As a student in the UK, I witnessed first-hand how negative memes about Israel gain rapid traction in campus settings.

The nature of these “academic” debates have generated a climate where a significant fraction of British society sees nothing untoward about the following image, taken from a rally held in the heart of London:

Trafalgar Square, London, 21st August 2011

Trafalgar Square, London, 21st August 2011

With the recent news of the ASA vote to boycott Israel it is concerning that a campuses in the US are embarking on a similar journey. Although the US is very different to the UK, it would seem prudent not to be complacent.

As a college town, Ithaca can expect to be ensnared in these debates (see this recent editorial in the The Ithacan for a classic example of misinformation).

What can you do? If you are an academic, you can join the effort to contact the academic institutions who are members or support the ASA so they can take an appropriate stand against academia being hijacked in this discriminatory manner. This response is being coordinated through the Legal Insurrection blog.

As community members and parents, we should be cogniscent of the fact that our college-bound children will increasingly be required to address issues arising from the activities of those who seek to delegitimize Israel.

Now is the time to pay attention to our children’s education and strengthen their connections with Israel. Let’s make sure that our children have the historical facts and understanding that will enable them to rebut anti-Israel propaganda and stay confident and secure in their minority identity.



Eyewitness testimony

This month marks the 75th anniversary of the first Kindertransport, described as “one of the great humanitarian missions of modern times”.

Most of the 10,000 children rescued from the clutches of Nazi Germany never saw their families again. As adults, the kindertransport children would go on to make incredible contributions to the world, including four Nobel prizewinners.  Their eyewitness testimony and willingness to share their stories has a special resonance for children who can experience history as it happened to other children.

We were very fortunate that our Sisterhood president, Gale H. bought her mother Lore Jacobs to talk to some of the RFARS students as part of their Holocaust studies. Lore was rescued from Germany on a kindertransport. Her visit made a strong impression on the students. She described living through Kristallnacht, the terrifying feeling as the Nazi intimidation increased and the experience saying goodbye to her parents as a 13 year old and never seeing them again. Not only could they listen to her experience and ask questions but she also bought an album of photographs and other documents that enriched the presentation.

For more about Lore Jacobs check out the CBC news article on her story here.

Lore Jacobs meets with RFARS students

Lore Jacobs meets with RFARS students

Many thanks to Lore for sharing her story and to Gale for arranging the visit.

As an adult listening to the story, one is especially moved by the loving kindness of strangers, especially the Methodists and Quakers, who took it upon themselves to take in a Jewish child from another country at a time when there were strong anti-Semitic sentiments in British society in general. These individuals took the leap of extending themselves personally in sharing their home, and also made sacrifices financially as each host family was required to provide a significant financial sum as a guarantee. The sum was 50 GBP, about $450 in today’s money, at a time when the median annual income was worth around $3000.

Eyewitness testimony is so important and powerful in keeping memory alive and transmitting experience down the generations. We are told “Remember when you were a slave in Egypt”, but how does one accomplish “memory”? When this was mentioned last Pesach my youngest replied indignantly “but I was never a slave in Egypt!”. Being able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and share experience vicariously is greatly facilitated by personal contact.

I used to be concerned that our children would not have the opportunities to talk to Holocaust survivors in a direct fashion. But not any more. We are fortunate that through the work of historians and others, more individuals who were very young during the war are being put in touch with their past and able to provide a living witness to this period. Additionally, we have new types of testimonies emerging from the perspectives of the generation that bridges direct experience of the Holocaust to the present. The movie Nicky’s Family, a documentary about Nicholas Winton by the Slovakian director Matej Mináč, vividly connects the lessons of the history to the present day using the actions of Nicholas Winton as an inspirational figure for ethical behavior. Another example is the utterly remarkable and moving testimony of Dr Bernd Wollschlaeger as he recounts his personal struggle to understand history as the son of a Nazi Wehrmacht officer.


Dr Bernd Wollschlaeger shares his personal testimony (approx 1 hour)
Click on photo for link to video

I would be very interested to hear from other parents about how they approached the subject of their children’s Holocaust education.


Reminder for Kitchen Cupboard collection

A reminder that the Temple Beth El Social Action Committee will be collecting nonperishable food items at this Sunday’s showing of Nicky’s Family.

Canned goods of all sorts (vegetables, fruit, main dish meals, tuna, etc.), pasta and jars of sauces, cereal, cooking oil – all are welcome and will be gratefully received by the Kitchen Cupboard’s clients.

When you come to the theatre, please bring a FOOD DONATION (canned or boxed) and place it in the collection box marked “For KITCHEN CUPBOARD.” The Social Action Committee will deliver those donations to the Kitchen Cupboard.

Also ongoing is the Social Action Committee’s Chanukah Tzedakah Project “Watch the Oil Grow”.

The latke, the watke and the botke

The TBE latke party was a huge success and an uplifting festive occasion.

Here is a photo of the hungry crowd queueing for latkes:

hungry crowd

And, in a what I think of as a journalistic scoop, with the very gracious permission of the man himself, here is Jerry’s “Secret Latke Recipe”:

Potato Latkes 

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups Yukon Gold Potatoes (shredded & drained)
  • 4 tablespoons grated onion
  • 1  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons matzoh meal (a bit more if you like a drier latke)

This is truly a fabulous latke recipe.

And now I can report on two latke innovations. The first is from our friend Yael who used the waffle maker with the latke mixture to generate a waffle latke, we are terming this the “watke“. I didn’t manage to get a photo of this but it looks like a pale waffle and of course has the advantage (and disadvantage) of being a low calorie version of a latke.


The second of these innovations we are calling the “botke“.

The genesis of the botke is as follows. When shredding the potatoes for our latkes, I decided to use the fine shredder disc on the food processor. We were overwhelmed by the massive amount of liquid pouring out of our finely shredded potatoes. We tried to drain off as much as possible and to soak up the excess liquid we ended up adding far too much matzoh meal to the mix.

The resulting latkes were pretty tasteless when fried as the mixture had ended up being more matzoh ball than latke in terms of ingredients.

This gave my daughter the bright idea of boiling the mix like one would a regular matzoh ball.

So we boiled the latke mix, creating “botkes“. The botkes turned out absolutely delicious, one of those rare occasions where one can snatch culinary triumph from the jaws of disaster..

The botkes ended up being kind of like a Jewish gnocchi so we paired it with a rich tomato sauce for a very satisfying, hearty dish.

botkeThe only other recommendations from this year’s culinary latke adventures are that I heartily recommend a deep fat fryer as a great piece of equipment, and also that soybean oil appears to give a better result than frying in corn oil.

To be continued next year . . .