Kitchen Therapy

90898907_10157093345801370_8068704009566814208_oThese are unusual times. We usually active-even frenetic-individuals are stuck inside. Our calendar pages are blank or filled with strike outs for cancelled events.

We need to rediscover and reinvent ways to make the time pass. Stores report that sales of puzzles and games, personal exercise equipment and craft supplies have risen.

The market shelves are bare of flour, sugar and other baking items. As my daughter, the baker says: when stuck inside, the baking genes become dominant.

We have reverted to the activities that our parents and grandparents used to pass the time.

Here are some easy recipes for when that cooking gene strikes. They can all be made from kitchen staples. Don’t be afraid to substitute if one ingredient is not available. BATAYAVON!

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Refugee Assistant Group Update 3/21/20

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We have reached out to the refugee families that we have been assisting during the past three years to find out how they are faring in the coronavirus crisis. Many have had severe setbacks to what had previously been a slow but steady assimilation to their new lives in the United States.  A number of the men who had jobs as drivers have lost those jobs; one who had a steady job for three years delivering for a restaurant was let go because he had a seasonal cough.  Some of the schoolchildren who had depended on the schools for breakfast are now going without that meal.
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Passover Message

DSC_0213-EditAs we continue to wander in an uncharted wilderness of caution and concern, we are called to meet so many responsibilities to ourselves and to others. I am moved by the dedication and caring exhibited by all members of the Shomrei community, professional and lay members, both. I am very grateful to be part of this strong and healthy community!

An additional challenge facing us is to prepare for and to celebrate the holiday of Passover (Pesach), the first of our sacred festivals. This is a time when we usually feel the full weight of our traditions, religious and familial. These traditions add special significance to our lives and special sweetness. We have invested much energy and creativity over the years to find ways to honor those traditions while we also add our creativity and add novel (- a word that has taken on a dark resonance these days!) customs, songs, insights and foods to our seder. After all, this is the Festival of our Freedom!

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Making Space: Parashat Vayiqra

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Parashat Vayiqra (5780 – 2020)
Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26 

“And He called out to Moses; and the Eternally Present One spoke to him from out of the Tent of Meeting, saying.” (Lev. 1:1) The fascinating beginning of this third book of the Torah has elicited many questions, commentaries and musings. I have returned to ponder it many times. God calls out to Moses! And God calls out from inside a modest tent. Can we imagine that God is really in that small structure? As Solomon asked when he celebrated the dedication of a far greater shrine, the First Temple: “Could it be, indeed, that the Almighty would dwell on earth? Look here! The heavens and the heavens’ heavens cannot encompass You, so how could this house that I built?” (1Kings 8:27)

So, among the many discussions I have devoted to this text over the years, in one of them (Sparks 2013) I have pointed to the concept of tzimtzum – contraction and shrinkage. It is a concept highlighted in kabbalistic thought. It is a way of imagining how the infinite God could be present in our finite world. Some see this concept alluded to in the special way that the first word of this Torah portion is written. The last letter of the word, vayiqra, is written smaller than the rest (- like this – vayiqra), signaling God’s contraction while calling out to Moses.
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Passover in the Age of Zoom

Microscopic view of Coronavirus, a pathogen that attacks the respiratory tract. Analysis and test, experimentation. Sars

Being cooped up at home can either be a curse or a blessing. I do miss my routine which gives purpose and markers to my days. However, the extra unscheduled times has allowed me to catch up on reading (I recommend The Convert by Hermans), organize my Rolodex ( I can’t give it up), and think about cleaning the closets. More importantly it has given me the opportunity to participate in some thoughtful webinars and online classes.

Some of these have been organized around the upcoming Passover holiday. In ordinary times, most of us would be planning our seders, making lists, freezing the gallons of chicken soup, and deciding which haggadah to use. These are not ordinary times; even my super organized brother hasn’t thought about Passover yet.  Continue reading

MESH Report Mar 24, 2020

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Because of the “lock down”, our usual guests at the Carol Starr Cafe are experiencing more food challenges than the normal week.  MESH is making an effort to supply take away meals for all who need.

The Chaos Crew took the “Meal” challenge last night.  We decided to perform a double mitzvah, feed our usual guests and support a local restaurant which is struggling to stay open.  Jackie’s Grillette will not close their doors as long as they break even daily.  They do not want to lay off any of their employees who need their paycheck to feed their own families.  Jackie’s rose to the challenge and supplied 30 individual bags with a very hearty sandwich, cole slaw, and a bottle of water.

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Astounding Resilience: Parashat Vayaq’hel-P’qudei/Ha-Hodesh

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Parashat Vayaq’hel-P’qudei/Ha-Hodesh (5780-2020)
Exodus 35:1 – 40:38

How to respond to a crisis? We struggle during this difficult time to find a balance between navigating unique circumstances and yet holding on to our tried-and-true routines. All our places of social gathering have been closed and we sense a great responsibility to be cautious and caring. It is disorienting for some and comforting for others – and for some of us it may be both at the same time – that certain rhythms, such as those determined by the Jewish ritual calendar, just keep on going on, no matter what.
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Prayers for Our Time

DSC_0213-EditPrayer is a deep response to crisis, even as it can also be a profound vehicle for expressing gratitude for the blessings we still enjoy, and it can be a strong reminder of the values we hold precious and that make our lives sacred. Many find prayer a way  to ground the self and calm the spirit.

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Storytime Lives

happy-family-reading-book-together-vector-illustration-cartoon-mother-father-son-childs-drawing-126432566Books are an important part of our kids’ school-and hopefully home- lives. What do we do when we’ve read all the books in our houses a thousand and one times, don’t want to order another thing from Amazon, and can’t go to the library or bookstore because they are closed?

While I’m investigating how to perhaps present an online library story time to our currently closed preschool, parents and kids of preschoolers and other picture book lovers might want to log on to Storyline Online.  Continue reading