Happy New Year 5775

Because of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 2014 war with Hamas, postings have recently shifted to Facebook to enable more interactive dialog. Please PM me if you are interested in joining the conversation.

Meantime, I want to wish everybody שנה טובה ומתוקה. May you be inscribed for a sweet, happy and productive and all round fabulous 5775.

We’re having a Muppet phase in our house right now so I’ll let the softies have the last word for now. (click on photo for link).

muppet Shana Tova


I need a new standby

This is my standby cheesecake.

It is the classic American cheesecake adapted from the recipe on the back of the box when you buy 6 Philadelphia cream cheese packets at once.

But seriously, take a look at the ingredients:

cheesecake ingredients

This recipe uses a whopping 5 packets of Philadelphia cream cheese alone, in addition to all the other high indulgence ingredients. It’s like the recipe was sponsored by the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor industry!

I made the traditional cheesecake with the graham cracker crust and a pear vanilla flavoring.

I also created another cake with lemon and golden raisins and no crust for a gluten free version as requested by some guests. What was very apparent was the way the ultra-high fat content of the cake mixture dwarfed the flavoring note. To accentuate the lemon taste I ended up using fresh lemon juice, lemon zest AND a large glug of lemon extract.

lemon extract

Here’s a picture of the cake right out of the oven. Not very photogenic but will be covered up with some sliced apricots and will look as delicious as it will taste.

cheesecake with sultanas

But I think for next year I need a new standby. I am all ears for lighter cheesecake recipe suggestions. Please send them my way.




Israel Independence Day 2014

There are so many wonderful articles, moving stories and pictures of happy people celebrating the wonderful Jewish State of Israel.

Israel at 66

I’m would like to share this deeply moving article (originally published in Israel National News)

This is the Shabbat Drasha of Rav Avihu Schwartz, Ram at the Beit El Yeshiva, on the Sabbath preceding Yom Haatzmaut 2014, at the Nitzanit Synagogue in Beit El:

The Talmud tells of the love that our Rabbis had for Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel:  “Rabbi Abba used to kiss the stones of Acco. Rabbi Chanina would remove rocks from the roads, so that no one would be damaged by them and thereby have a complaint against the Holy Land”(Ketuvot 112a).

There was a great Talmid Chacham in the last century, Rabbi Yissachar Tamar, who wrote the book Alei Tamar, a commentary on the Talmud Yerushalmi. Regarding the above Gemara, the Alei Tamar brings the following story about the hassidic Rebbe of Sadigur (Alei Tamar, p69, on Tract. Sheviis, Ch4 Halacha 7):

“Every Yom Ha’Atzmaut, the Rebbe made his way to the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv. There he would join the other congregants praying Hallel with great joy. After the services, the Rebbe would join the dancing throngs outside in the streets, clasping hands and dancing with enthusiasm and happiness. It was always obvious that the Rebbi of Sadigur felt a special joy on Yom Haatzmaut.

One year, one of his hassidim got up the nerve to have a personal audience with the Rebbe and question him about his Yom Haatzmaut behavior. The answer he received tells us how many light-years ahead of his contemporaries, and some of ours, stood the Rebbi of Sadigur:

‘In March,1938, the Nazis (may their name and memory be blotted out) swallowed up Austria, and entered Vienna. Their first move was to accomplish the degradation of the Jews, and as the Rabbi of the Jewish community, they chose me, giving me a big broom and had me sweep the streets of Vienna. As I did that work, I prayed: ‘Ribbono Shel Olam, may it be Thy will that I merit to take a broom and sweep the streets of Eretz Yisrael’.

‘Obviously, it is not fitting for your Rebbe to be seen in the streets of Tel Aviv sweeping in front of everybody. So, on Yom Haatzmaut I get up at 3 am, take a big broom and with great שמחה I sweep the streets of my neighborhood.

After sweeping in Vienna, the Nazis יש’וזכרם  (may their name be blotted out) shoved  a Nazi flag in my hands and made me climb to the top of a tall building and plant their swastika atop the roof. As I climbed, I turned to the Creator and said:

‘Ribbono Shel Olam, may I yet merit to wave the flag of Israel in a high spot in the Land of Israel’. And so I plant on my roof the flag of Israel on Yom Haatzmaut, with happiness and התלהבות, thanking the Lord that He accepted my prayers’.

To this the Alei Tamar adds: “May those who love His Land hear this, understand the issues, and add to his wisdom”.

To which I would underscore that understanding the issues is as important as ever. This article by Gideon Israel, “Israel at peace, Palestinians at war” is a great place to start for a succinct and objective commentary on the reality of Israel’s prospects for peace.

Enjoy celebrating Yom Haazmaut, Israel’s 66th Independence Day!

Reminding ourselves of the future Pesach 5774

A very Happy Pesach to US Navy Junior Officer Jeremy Ball, 27 on board the U.S.S. New Mexico.

The U.S.S. New Mexico. Picture credit The New York Times

The U.S.S. New Mexico.
Picture credit The New York Times

Sir, thank you for defending our freedom especially at this time as we celebrate the Jewish people’s freedom from slavery.

I learned of Jeremy Ball from Thomas Friedman’s article in the NYT “Parallel Parking in the Arctic“.

About Jeremy Ball he writes:

Remind me again what we’re doing in Washington these days to deserve such young people?


Another inspiring example from our next generation of leaders is Justin Hayet, an undergraduate at Binghamton University. Read his eloquent and passionate open letter to Foreign Minister Liberman.


And also the group of Cornell University students who showed such exceptional leadership in combating BDS on the University campus. Read about their effort at Legal Insurrection.

To all these terrific young people who are showing so much inspiring leadership and promise – may your Pesach be extra specially wonderful.




the Pesach on-ramp

New recipe!!!! “English” Charoset

  • ~10 dates
  • equivalent volume raisins
  • a few dried Bing cherries
  • 1 apple peeled and finely chopped
  • handful of almonds

Cook all ingredients except almonds with a little water until the apples are soft, Grind almonds in food processor, add cooked ingredients and pulse until mixture reaches desired texture.

I’m calling this “English” Charoset as this is inspired by a very famous English recipe that I happen to adore. I’m not to going to mention the name of this recipe publicly because it is not the type of recipe that one would normally use for Jewish cuisine inspiration. Those of you who know me well will will know what this is, and anybody who really needs to know the answer should message me and I will fill you in.

Even the pet rats are getting into the swing of things, enjoying their chometz-free environment and getting used to egg matzo.


Binky pesach copy


Wine and Charoset pairing

You’ve heard of a wine and cheese tasting, now Sisterhood of Temple Beth-El invites you to a wine and charoset tasting!

wine tasting

This super fun event will take place this coming Sunday March 30th 3-5PM. The sommelier of the event will be local wine expert David Sparrow of Sparrows Fine Wines of Ithaca, New York.

Selected Kosher for Pesach wines will be presented together with a variety of charoset recipes prepared by Sisterhood of Temple Beth-El members.

Tickets are $10 and can be obtained at http://tbeithaca.org/wine-tasting/ or by calling the Temple office 273-5775.

vineyard Israel

Vineyard in the Ela valley, Israel. Picture credit Yehoshua Halevi for the Jerusalem Post