Women Who Made History


Laurel Ulrich, a historian of early America and not Jewish said, “Women who behave rarely make history,”

As we approach the end of March, Women’s History Month, and move towards the onset of Passover, it’s appropriate to highlight some of the unsung women of the Passover story and beyond-those women who helps to free the Jewish people at the time of the Exodus and later brought greater freedom to women and people in general. And who didn’t behave as they were expected to.  Continue reading

For a Sweet Pesach: Recipes for Passover and Beyond

Easy No-Bake Chocolate Matzah Cake

Easy No-Bake Chocolate Matzah Cake

Passover is almost here. If you are like me, you either cook old family favorites or look for new ideas for the seder and beyond.

Here are a few recipes that I’m going to try this year. After Passover, we can compare notes.

Let’s start with dessert since that seems to be the hardest course to make satisfying . Here’s a no-bake, make ahead, three ingredient cake that takes its inspiration from old fashioned icebox cake. Continue reading

Stinginess or Generosity: Parashat Tzav/Shabbat Ha-Gadol


(Sculpture, “The Immigrants” by Luis Sanguino, Battery Park, NYC)

Parashat Tzav/Shabbat Ha-Gadol
Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36

A special prophetic reading is chanted this Shabbat, for it is the Shabbat immediately before Passover. It is called “Shabbat Ha-Gadol – The Great Shabbat.” This haftarah(concluding prophetic reading) seeks to ready us for the redemption that we will celebrate at Passover, a redemption that serves as the basis for our commitment to complete the work of redeeming the world in the present and on into the future. Thus, we should not necessarily expect any connection between this haftarah and the Torah reading scheduled for this Shabbat, Tzav.

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Waning, Waxing: Parashat Vayiqra/Shabbat Ha-Chodesh/Rosh Chodesh


Parashat Vayiqra/Shabbat Ha-Hodesh/Rosh Hodesh
Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26

“To you my heart has said: ‘Seek my face’;
Your Face, Eternal One, shall I seek.”
(Psalm 27:8)

The Psalmist hears his own heart calling. But from his response we learn that his own heart is none other than The Eternal One, calling out to him to reach out and seek God’s Face. Just two weeks ago we read in the Torah that God has refused Moses permission to see God ‘s Face. Yet, the Psalmist hears God calling, through the beating of his own heart, begging the psalmist to seek God’s Face. The Psalmist refuses to hear God’s refusal and hears God’s summoning, instead.

Moses has stopped at the threshold of the Tabernacle, unable to enter it. This is the house that Moses had Israel build for God. Moses had it built at God’s bidding. Yet, now that the work was done, now that the house was built, Moses could not seem to enter it. Until he heard God calling: “And He called to Moses, and the Eternal spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting…” (Lev. 1:1)

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An Uplifting Evening – A Photo Gallery


How do you really fix a broken pipe?  You get together with a hundred and thirty of your friends and focus on something that matters! Such was the case last Saturday night as Shomrei honored Dale Russakoff and the volunteers of the Mensch Squad and IHN (Interfaith Hospitality Network). (See the lists of all honorees below).  Dale co-chairs Shomrei’s chapter of IHN and she leads the Mensch Squad. Continue reading

Jews and Resistance in France

w-oesterreicher-080612-1425717712Close to twenty years ago, my daughter Rebecca spent a semester in France. After college she returned to France, eventually meeting Jerome. Now a house, a husband, two kids and several cats later, Rebecca and her family live in Lille, a city in northern France, close to the Belgian border.

All this is prelude to sharing a program I attended just few days ago at Seton Hall University. Titled “Jews and Resistance in France during World War II,” this program investigated the role of French Catholic individuals in saving Jews during the war. It was presented under the aegis of the Jewish-Christian Studies Graduate Program with funding from the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust and Genocide Education and Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher Endowment. Continue reading

Generosity of Heart: Parashat Vayaq’hel-P’qudei/Shabbat Parah


Parashat Vayaq’hel-P’qudei/Shabbat Parah 
Exodus 35:1 – 40:38

Moses gathers the entire community (-vayaq’hel) to organize them for their national project of creating a sacred home in which God will dwell among them. He calls to everyone who is generous of heart to contribute their materials and their time and effort toward realizing this goal. Then the Torah tells us a seemingly simple fact: “And all of the community of Israel exited from before Moses’ presence.” (Ex. 35:20) While this report sounds unremarkable, it is really exceptional. In all the many times that the Torah tells us of Moses instructing the Israelites – throughout the Torah – we are never told of the  prosaic fact that the Israelites then leave after Moses is finished speaking! Of course they leave! We understand that they will go to their homes or other places and resume their lives after hearing Moses. Why, here, is it necessary to tell us this obvious fact?

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