“Latkes and Vodka” (Dec., 2013)

Pics from “Latkes and Vodka,” B’nai Torah’s adult Chanukah celebration.

Food for Body, Mind and Spirit

Welcome to my first blog post!

When I was one, my father began his rabbinical studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. (He was ordained from HUC-JIR, NY in 1966). My late mother told me that one of my favorite activities was to play: “Don’t bother me, I’m writing a sermon!”

Me at age 2, playing "rabbi" with my baby brother.
Me at age 2, playing “rabbi” with my baby brother.

I grew up with the synagogue as my second home, feeling just as comfortable running around on the bima, as I felt running around my own house.

I loved being involved in my father’s Temple. It touched something deep inside of me. I was president of my youth group, I started our congregation’s Soviet Jewry Committee, I went to Israel for the first time the summer after I became Bat Mitzvah.

My parents instilled within us the values of Tikkun Olam – Social Justice. They took us marching in rallies for Soviet Jewry, Viet Nam and Israel in New York City and Washington, DC. They taught us the Talmudic teaching: “once the eye has seen and the ear has heard, you can no longer pretend to be uninvolved or unaffected.” And they taught us to use our voices to speak up for those who could not speak for themselves.

My parents and grandparents also taught us the value of “audacious welcoming and hospitality”. My paternal grandmother was a gourmet chef who was renowned for everything that came out of her kitchen.

My mother taught us early in life how to bake challah and other kinds of homemade bread (although when we were growing up, we did not appreciate bringing our lunches to school on thickly-sliced homemade whole grain bread. Why couldn’t we have WonderBread like the other kids?!).

As the oldest of six children, (I have four younger brothers and a younger sister), I quickly learned how to take care of things in the kitchen. I also learned how to experiment with my cooking and baking.

And I learned that I could combine my love of Judaism and my “audacious hospitality” to create community and strong relationships.

Dr. Ron Wolfson, in his new book, Relational Judaism, writes: “What really matters is that we care about the people we seek to engage. When we genuinely care about people, we will not only welcome them, we listen to their stories, we will share ours, and we will join together to build a Jewish community that enriches our lives.”

Throughout my 25 years in the rabbinate, I have created strong and vibrant relationships wherever I have been. I have nurtured and sustained those relationships through teaching, listening, sharing, healing…by doing all those things that rabbis do. But I also enhance those relationships by welcoming people into my home. By sharing myself and my love of cooking and food with my friends and guests, I hope to transform my relationships into something stronger and deeper.

I do agree with Dr. Ron Wolfson that Judaism is all about creating relationships, nurturing those relationships and strengthening them. Shabbat Shalom!

This blog will sometimes share my Jewish views, sometimes my recipes and thoughts on “audacious hospitality” and sometimes, this blog will combine the two. You will find sections for my sermons and divrei Torah (“sermonettes”) and sections for my recipes. I welcome all comments and will try to respond as I am able.

I want to thank Jennifer Lask for all her help in setting this up for me. Jen – you are terrific and I so appreciate your help! The “appearance” is still “in process” so please be patient as we get it going.

Ride4Reform Bike Ride in Israel (March, 2013)

Iri and Saralee Kassel. Iri is the former Exec.Director of the Israeli Reform Movement and they are dear friends.
Iri and Saralee Kassel. Iri is the former executive director of the Israeli Reform Movement and they are dear friends.

In March 2013, I went to Israel to participate in the Israeli Reform Movement’s “Ride4Reform” bike ride. This was my 8th time participating in this event. I have the distinction of being the top fundraiser for this bike ride. All funds raised are used to support the programs of the Israeli Reform Movement.

This bike ride is a five-day off-road ride. Each year, it follows a different route. This year we starts in the northern Golan and ended in Caesarea.

I also attended the Bat Mitzvah of my dear friend, Hannah Goodman, from Toronto. Part of her family lives in Israel. She celebrated in Toronto on Monday morning at her home congregation (Holy Blossom Temple), then flew to Israel and we celebrated again at Robinson’s arch in Jerusalem on Thursday morning.