Newsletter Issue # 18 February 22, 2012

A camera crew stopped to film the exhibition of hasidic art organized by Rabbi Yitzchok Moully in Brooklyn during Sukkot last year, he was pleased. When they mentioned that they were working with Oprah Winfrey on her documentary about hasidic life, he was, he said, intrigued — but not particularly excited. “It was cool that they were interested. I don’t think the art fitted the mold they were expecting, and I was pretty sure it wouldn’t make it on the air,” he said. But in fact  the second episode of the show wherein he and his exhibition were featured.

After successfully completing a three-day training seminar in Krakow, 17 Polish Jews were officially certified as Kosher supervisors last week. The first time since the Holocaust The course, conducted by Rabbi Dov Landau and run by the Jerusalem-based organization, Shavei Israel, taught forty participants the specifics of preparing food according to the laws of kashrut.

Rabbis of the extreme Eda Haredit faction have waged war against a new technological enemy: Smartphones in general, and Apple products in particular. Religious ads or Pashkevilim published in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods last weekend, the rabbis are claiming the iPod, iPad, Blackberry and iPhone may deteriorate children’s education to “bottomless pits”. The rabbis are lashing out at the devices as they allow people to connect to the Internet, which they believe contains “a great amount of destruction”.

Readers of the “At Home” supplement of the haredi newspaper Mevaser were invited to submit recipes for the competition, held at the newspaper’s annual consumer fair for ultra-Orthodox women. More than 1,500 applicants for the grand cook-off sent in their signature dishes, three of whom were selected to battle it out in Monday’s competition at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. The three haredi women served up a veritable feast of culinary delights in a competition to find the most delectable dish in Israel for today’s large ultra-Orthodox families and bustling homes.

Valentine’s Day is not a Jewish holiday. It’s a secular holiday associated with flowers, candy hearts, and, best of all, chocolate. Don’t expect to find a Jewish connection to Valentine’s Day, but looking through my copy of Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,I discovered the that Jews actually played a significant role in the history of the chocolate trade. Chocolate is created by fermenting, drying and roasting the beans of the evergreen cacao tree. The Aztecs, in whose culture chocolate played a central role, drank an unsweetened chocolate beverage that they called xocolatl (bitter water). Considered to be an aphrodisiac, they flavored it with red chilies and vanilla.

No, Jeremy Lin  is not a Jew. David Brooks quotes our teacher Rav Soloveitchik to explain the “problem” facing Knick basketball player and religious person Jeremy Lin. The matter merits some Talmudic analysis. First, we don’t have a clue what Brooks means in the essay. Although it has something to do with being religious and being a sports star.

Finally a book review of the Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots. It is unorthodox. It is a rejection. But I did not find it scandalous. Not at all. The story is unremarkable. the story is about a girl raised by her grandparents because her mother is a lesbian who left the community and her father is mentally ill has high anxiety and feels constrained by the limiting lifestyle of her community eventually leaves the community. It’s not a story we haven’t heard before nor is it a story we will not hear again.

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