JBuzz Musings November 28, 2013: American Jews far and wide celebrating Thanksgivukkah phenomenon

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American Jews far and wide celebrating Thanksgivukkah phenomenon

By Bonnie K. Goodman

All over the United States American Jews and Jews worldwide celebrated the first light of Hanukkah on the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. The next day on Thursday, Nov. 28, American Jews celebrated a rare convergence of two holidays…READ MORE
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JBuzz Politics November 27, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Hanukkah

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Statement by the President on Hanukkah

Source: WH, 11-27-13 

Michelle and I send warm wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah.

For the first time since the late 1800s – and for the last time until some 70,000 years from now – the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving.  It’s an event so rare some have even coined it “Thanksgivukkah.”  As we gather with loved ones around the turkey, the menorah, or both, we celebrate some fortunate timing and give thanks for miracles both great and small.

Like the Pilgrims, the Maccabees at the center of the Hanukkah story made tremendous sacrifices so they could practice their religion in peace.  In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, they reclaimed their historic homeland.  But the true miracle of Hanukkah was what came after those victories almost 2200 years ago – the Jewish Temple was cleansed and consecrated, and the oil that was sufficient for only one day lasted for eight.  As the first Hanukkah candle is lit, we are reminded that our task is not only to secure the blessing of freedom, but to make the most of that blessing once it is secure.

In that spirit Michelle and I look forward to joining members of the Jewish community in America, in the State of Israel, and around the world as we work together to build a future that is bright and full of hope.  From my family to yours, Chag Sameach.

JBuzz Features November 27, 2013: Eight ways to celebrate Thanksgivukkah

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Eight ways to celebrate Thanksgivukkah

Source: CNN (blog), 11-27-13

Break out the menurkeys and sweet potato latkes, people, it’s time to celebrate Thanksgivukkah, a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. A calendrical quirk brings the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving together this Thursday for the first time since 1888….READ MORE

JBuzz Features November 26, 2013: Calendar makes new holiday: Thanksgivukkah

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Calendar makes new holiday: Thanksgivukkah

It’s time to carve the turkey. . . and light the menorah. It’s Thanksgivukkah! An extremely rare convergence this year of Thanksgiving and the start of Hanukkah has created a holiday frenzy….READ MORE

JBuzz News November 27, 2013: Wednesday marks first night of Hanukkah

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Wednesday marks first night of Hanukkah

Source: CityNews, 11-27-13

Wednesday marks the beginning of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. For the first time in over a hundred years, the eight-day holiday will overlap with American Thanksgiving, which is Thursday….READ MORE

JBuzz Features November 27, 2013: Thanksgivukkah, a modern holiday foretold in scripture

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Thanksgivukkah, a modern holiday foretold in scripture

Source: Haaretz (blog), 11-27-13

Thanksgivukkah is a brand-new word, but its origins stretch back to antiquity. So as the once-in-a-lifetime holiday draws near, let us follow the etymological trail of its name from the dawn of civilization to the 21st century − in reverse….READ MORE

National Menorah lit on first day of Hanukkah

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National Menorah lit on first day of Hanukkah

National Menorah lit on first day of Hanukkah

Thousands turned out for a special ceremony marking the first night of Hanukkah. “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band performed as the National Menorah, situated on the Ellipse near the White House, was lit. (Dec. 20)

Israel Political Brief December 20, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Hanukkah Statement

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Statement by the President on Hanukkah

Source: WH, 12-20-11

Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah around the world.

This Hanukkah season we remember the powerful story of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people, only to discover that the oil left in their desecrated temple – which should have been enough for only one night – ended up lasting for eight.

It’s a timeless story of right over might and faith over doubt – one that has given hope to Jewish people everywhere for over 2,000 years.  And tonight, as families and friends come together to light the menorah, it is a story that reminds us to count our blessings, to honor the sacrifices of our ancestors, and to believe that through faith and determination, we can work together to build a brighter, better world for generations to come.

From our family to the Jewish Community around the world, Chag Sameach.

Chabad: Hanukkah Basics — Story, Songs, Blessings & Recipes

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Source: Chabad, 12-20-11

Celebrate Hanukkah 2011

On Tuesday evening (Dec. 20) light one candle on your menorah

Menorah Lighting Instructions »»

Chanukah Basics

Chanukah Hanukkah Story
Chanukah How To
Chanukah Hanukkah Insights and Inspiration

Additional Links

Hanukkah Kids Zone
Hanukkah Recipes
Hanukkah Cards
Hanukkah Shopping
Chanukkah Tidbits
Menorah Gallery
Chanukah News

Menorahs lighted in New York, nation’s capital

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Menorahs lighted in New York, nation’s capital

New Yorkers light a massive menorah in Manhattan on Tuesday to mark the beginning of Hanukkah.
New Yorkers light a massive menorah in Manhattan on Tuesday to mark the beginning of Hanukkah.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The world’s largest menorah is lighted in New York
  • The nine-branched candelabra is 32 feet tall, 28 feet wide and weighs 4,000 pounds
  • A menorah also is lighted in Washington
  • The White House menorah lighting dates to 1979 with President Jimmy Carter

From big balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to a big Christmas tree at Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center, the Big Apple is known for going big around the holidays. And on Tuesday, the first night of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, New Yorkers went big again, lighting a massive menorah outside the south side of Central Park.

The nine-branched candelabra is 32 feet tall, 28 feet wide, weighs 4,000 pounds, and is considered the world’s biggest, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman, director of the city’s Lubavitch Youth Organization, said the gold-colored steel structure is equipped with oil lamps and has special glass chimneys to protect the flames from wind.

The Brooklyn-based group has coordinated the lighting ceremony since it began in 1977, then coinciding with the administration of Abraham David Beam, the first Jewish mayor of New York City.

The massive structure was designed by renowned Jewish artist Yaacov Agam, according to Butman.

During the celebration, one candle is lighted the first night, and an additional candle is lighted each subsequent night for eight nights, earning Hanukkah the name “The Festival of Lights.”

“The menorah is a symbol of inspiration not only for the Jewish people, but all people, regardless of race, color or creed,” Butman said.

In the nation’s capital, a special lighting ceremony near the White House also marked the start of the holiday.

“Tonight, as families and friends come together to light the menorah, it is a story that reminds us to count our blessings, to honor the sacrifices of our ancestors,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “To believe that through faith and determination, we can work together to build a brighter, better world for generations to come.”

The White House menorah lighting dates to 1979 with President Jimmy Carter.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: The 411 on Hanukkah and Why It Matters for Jews and for America

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Rabbi Brad Hirschfield: The 411 on Hanukkah and Why It Matters for Jews and for America

Source: Fox News, 12-20-11

What is Hanukkah and does it really matter? What if you’re not Jewish? Does it still matter? The answer is yes to all of the above. First some basic information.

Hanukkah 2011 begins on the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which corresponds, this year to sundown on the evening of December 20th. Why does the holiday begin then – not at midnight? Because in the Jewish calendar, the day begins at sundown.

It’s actually pretty cool to imagine that something is beginning when most people think its ending. It’s about asserting new possibilities when others may not see them. It’s related to Christmas too, but more on that below.

What is the story of Hanukkah? The story of Hanukkah is that of a four-year war in the land of Israel, which lasted from 167 BCE – 163 BCE. Some accounts portray a battle between oppressed Jews and the imperialist descendants of Alexander the Great, when the latter became increasingly harsh with those living under their rule. Other accounts tell of what was essentially a civil war between those Jews who collaborated with their Pagan masters and those who did not. Either way, the holiday story culminates in the re-taking of the Jerusalem Temple and the re-establishment of its sacred service.

Why is Hanukkah eight days long? Hanukkah lasts eight days for two reasons, one well-known, and the other much less so. According the better known story, the holiday lasts eight days in honor of the eight days that oil, which should have lasted only one day, continued to burn in the newly re-dedicated Jerusalem Temple’s menorah (sanctuary candelabrum).

According to a lesser known account in the Book of Maccabees (part of the Apocrypha — writings which are part of the biblical canon for Catholics, but not for Jews and Protestants), when the Temple was taken back by the Jews, they celebrated the eight day holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles), which they had not been able to observe when Pagans controlled the institution. There is a good possibility that was the basis for declaring the new holiday of Hanukkah as an eight day festival….READ MORE

Aish.com: ABC’s of Chanukah (Hanukkah)

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ABC’s of Chanukah (Hanukkah)

Everything you need to know about the holiday of Chanukah – Hanukkah.

Source: Aish.com

Chanukah (Hanukkah), the Festival of Lights, begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, and lasts for eight days. On the secular calendar, Chanukah generally falls out in December.

This primer will explore:

(1) A Bit of History
(2) Lighting Instructions
(3) Other Customs
The Blessings

 Watch animation of how to light the Menorah

 Listen to the blessings for lighting the Menorah

 Print formatted text of this blessing
Other Customs

After lighting the Chanukah menorah, families enjoy sitting in the glow, singing and recalling the miracles of yesterday and today. The first song traditionally sung after lighting the candles is Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages). (click for audio and lyrics)

A number of other customs have developed, including:

  • eating “oily” foods like fried potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), in commemoration of the miracle of the oil
  • giving Chanukah gelt (coins) to children
  • spinning the dreidel, a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side (sivivon in Hebrew)

 

National Menorah to be lit near White House for 1st night of Hanukkah

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National Menorah to be lit near White House for 1st night of Hanukkah

Source: AP, 12-20-11

https://i2.wp.com/i.usatoday.net/yourlife/_photos/2011/12/15/Hanukkah-celebrates-tradition-C6NAUJT-x.jpgA special lighting ceremony is planned for the National Hanukkah Menorah near the White House on the first night of the eight-day Jewish holiday.

On Tuesday, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew will be a special guest to help light the menorah on the Ellipse. The lighting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Organizers say thousands of people are scheduled to attend. “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band will perform.

The national menorah lighting dates to 1979 when President Jimmy Carter. President Ronald Reagan dubbed it the “National Menorah.”

Online:  http://www.nationalmenorah.org/

 

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky: Why Hanukkah Is the Most Celebrated Jewish Holiday in America

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Why Hanukkah Is the Most Celebrated Jewish Holiday in America

Source: Time, 12-20-11

Hanukkah lacks the restrictions of holidays like Passover and Yom Kippur. That, combined with secular culture in the U.S., has made it so popular
Getty Images

Getty Images

Even though listed officially as a “minor” Jewish holiday, Hanukkah has turned into the most celebrated Jewish holiday in the U.S. There’s nothing minor about Hanukkah anymore.

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky, executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute in New York City, says the notion of calling Hanukkah “minor” really presents a misnomer and it is only a term used when discussing holidays that impart major restrictions on people’s behavior.

Major holidays include Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and require restrictions on eating and other behavior, giving them titles of major holidays. But just because Hanukkah offers a festival void of the restrictions, it doesn’t make it any less important, Olitzky says. “Outside of the technical framework of Jewish law, Hanukkah is a major Jewish holiday,” he says. “We have really done ourselves a disservice by using the term minor.”

(LIST: Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Hanukkah)

Hanukkah means rededication, and it and offers Jews a reminder of three distinct points regarding light, freedom and dedication. The lack of strict rules make the holiday easy — and fun — to celebrate, which may be why research now shows Hanukkah is more celebrated — whether through the lighting of candles, gift giving, attending a party or a full celebration of the festival in Jewish practice — than even Passover…. READ MORE

Rabbi Yaakov T. Rapoport: Dual theme is reflected in Hanukkah; often repeated prayer reflects the meaning

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Rabbi Yaakov T. Rapoport: Dual theme is reflected in this holiday; often repeated prayer reflects the meaning

Source: Syracuse Post Standard, 12-20-11

Rabbi Yaakov Rapoport, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Central New York in Syracuse.

Hanukkah occurred after the conclusion of the Hebrew Bible during the period of the Second Temple, approximately 200 BC. It being called A “minor” holiday means that it is not part the five books of Moses and does not have the Biblical restrictions of the Sabbath and other Holy Days. “Minor” does not mean that it is unimportant.

The emphasis of Hanukkah is on the Jews recapturing the Holy Temple, which the Syrian Greeks had desecrated, and the miracle of finding just one vial of oil sealed with the seal of the high priest, and the oil burning miraculously for eight days, until new oil could be procured. Even so, the rabbis and Jewish tradition have made strong reference to the battles that were waged against the Syrian Greeks, as we see in original Hebrew sources.

Maimonides — the greatest codifier of all of Jewish Law — in his laws of Hanukkah states clearly that the festive meals that are eaten during Hanukkah are to commemorate the battles won.

Also in the ancient Al Hanissim prayer, written shortly after the Hanukkah Miracle, that is recited four to five times a day during Hanukkah , we read, “In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanancq the high priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against your people Israel to make them forget your Torah, and violate your will … You waged their battles, You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few … the wicked into the hands of the righteous. You made a great and holy name for yourself in your world and effected a great deliverance and redemption.” It is only after this lengthy description of the battles, does the prayer continue to describe the miracle of the oil….READ MORE

Zachary Braiterman: Hanukkah moves Jewish people today with the universal civic ideals of freedom, identity and citizenship, SU professor says

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Zachary Braiterman: Hanukkah moves Jewish people today with the universal civic ideals of freedom, identity and citizenship, SU professor says

Source: Syracuse Post Standard, 12-20-11

zach.jpg
David Lassman / The Post-Standard Syracuse University associate professor Zachary Braiterman, a member of the Religion Department, poses at the Hall of Languages.

Zachary Braiterman is an associate professor at Syracuse University in the Department of Religion. His research interests are in the areas of modern Jewish thought and culture; medieval Jewish philosophy; classical Jewish sources and art history. Hanukkah begins at sunset today and The Post-Standard asked him to write about the history and meaning of the holiday and how it plays out today.

Funny things have happened to the holiday of Hannukah.

With no basis in Hebrew scripture, Hanukah was once a minor festival that became a big deal in America. It is an eight day festival celebrated by the lighting of candles of a special menorah or candelabrum, holiday parties at home and in the synagogue, the eating of fried potato pancakes with sour cream or apple sauce, and a game played with the famous spinning dreidel top. From modern Israel comes the custom of eating sugary, jelly doughnuts. In America, lavish gifts are given to assuage Jewish children for Christmas.

The basic storyline chronicles ancient Judean politics. Soon after the death of Alexander the Great, ancient Judea was ruled by a Greek imperial state based in modern day Syria. According to the story, the emperor Antiochos turned the Temple in Jerusalem into a pagan shrine and proscribed the practice of Judaism. Under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, the Jews rebelled against Greek rule, retook the Temple, and rededicated it to the service of God.

In the twentieth century, historians began to shed new light on these events. Historians no longer view the Maccabean revolt as simply a struggle between Jewish monotheism versus Greek paganism. In this newer version, the Syrian Greeks exploited a conflict within ancient Jewish society between those Jews who sought to resist Greek culture versus those Jews who sought to assimilate or accommodate it. With the Temple service now secure thanks to the revolt, the successors to the Maccabees became active promoters of the very Greek culture against which the Maccabees rebelled.

In this historical light, Hanukah actually celebrates the conclusion of a civil war in ancient Judea. Indeed, civil strife fueled by palace and Temple politics marked the entire period following liberation from Greek rule. But no one today really remembers any of this, at least not practically….READ MORE

Hanukkah recipes: How to build better latkes

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Hanukkah recipes: How to build better latkes

You don’t have to celebrate Hanukkah to love latkes, which are sometimes referred to as potato pancakes. Done right, the traditional versions made of potato, onion and a

If you’re looking to learn or improve basic techniques, consider these tips:

* Start with older potatoes, which may contain less moisture. Be sure to squeeze out as much moisture as possible from the grated potatoes.

* Add potato starch instead of flour; this will keep them gluten-free and create good texture.

* A self-rising flour may help produce a drier potato-onion mixture.

* Don’t peel all the potatoes you’re going to grate, for a deeper flavor and interesting texture.

* Combine potato with other grated, raw root vegetables, such as celeriac (celery root), beets and yams.

* If you’re frying in a fair amount of oil, test the temperature with one latke. If the oil around it bubbles too vigorously, adjust the heat. Conversely, if there’s hardly any bubbling around the latke, increase the heat slightly.

* Speaking of oil, you can fry latkes in a relatively small amount of it — especially when you use an electric skillet or griddle.

* Instead of draining the latkes on layers of paper towels, transfer just-cooked ones to a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. You can can keep them warm in the oven this way and they’ll stand a better chance of remaining crisp all around.

* Latkes take well to reheating at 350 degrees (on a rack or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, even if they’re frozen.

* Serve with a nice, soft ricotta instead of sour cream (earning bonus points for incorporating another symbolic ingredient of the holiday).

Check out the roundup of latkes from our Recipe Finder archive after the jump, along with appropriate sides and a few of our favorite briskets.

What kind of problems or successes have you had with latkes? We’d like to hear about them. Submit comments below.

Washington cookbook author Joan Nathan, Washington caterer Vered Guttman and Fairfax blogger, recipe developer, cooking instructor and food photographer Shulie Madnick contributed to this post.

Cabbage Latkes. Egg whites keep the batter light.

Crisp Latkes. Once you achieve the right shoestring thickness on the potatoes, there’s no need to squeeze out extra moisture.

Fire-Pit Latkes. A version of the cooked-potato method that starts on the grill.

Frankenstein Latkes. No bolts; just big and tasty.

Indian-Inspired Latkes. Yellow-gold and flecked with green, thanks to the turmeric, cumin, jalapeno and cilantro mixed in.

Leek and Beef Latkes With Beet Salad. A true, hearty meal.

Sweet Potato Latkes. Lightly spiced, these caught on years ago; scallions may be substituted for the chopped onion.

Swiss Chard Latkes. A standard dish on Sephardic Rosh Hashanah spreads. Why not go green for Hanukkah?

You could serve them with . . .

Gingered Applesauce. Healthful, kid-friendly, gluten-free.

Luxury Applesauce. Onion, almonds, winter spices and orange zest; it all works.

Roasted Mashed Apple-Pear Sauce. My personal favorite; the flavor of pear is a great complement.

Smoked Applesauce. Goes great with Fire-Pit Latkes, of course.

Grandma Rubenstein’s Brisket. Beer’s involved; go figure.

Brisket Nina. A winner.

Abigail’s Top-Secret Brisket of Beef. The fruity components of the sauce can stand in for any applesauce-y side dish.

Brisket With Onion Gravy. A great match for particularly onion-y latkes.

8 modern Hanukkah songs

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8 modern Hanukkah songs

Source: Metro Canada, 12-18-11

While the songbook for Judaism’s festival of lights still lags well behind Christmas, the holiday has been punching above its weight class in recent years. Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song, originally performed on SNL’s Weekend Update in 1994, really got the wax spinning on the modern age of Hanukkah tuneage. Get your Hanukkah groove on with one modern track for each night of the celebration.1. CANDLELIGHT by Maccabeats
This clever parody of Dynamite by Taio Cruz has racked up more than 5.7 million views on YouTube. The Maccabeats, an a cappella group composed of students from New York’s Yeshiva University, have performed at Madison Square Garden and The White House.

2. MIRACLE by Matisyahu
The Hasidic reggae star known for his prodigious beat-boxing skills brings us a sweet and spiritual holiday ballad. And in the video, Matisyahu showcases his lighter side by getting hip-checked on a skating rink and having a surreal daydream where he tangles with King Antiochus, some random hockey goons and the Nutcracker.

3. LONELY JEW ON CHRISTMAS by Trey Parker

Kyle Broflovski’s tender yet occasionally potty-mouthed tour de force from South Park’s famous Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo episode from season one. Thanks to Kyle and Mr. Hankey, the denizens of the fictional Colorado town learn that Christmas and Chanukah can coexist.

4. HOW DO YOU SPELL CHANNUKKAHH? by The LeeVees
The holiday is spelled a few ways, with Hanukkah and Chanukah being the most popular. This is the most memorable track off 2005’s Hanukkah Rocks album, a collaboration between Guster’s Adam Gardner and The Zambonis’ Dave Schneider.

5. FEAST OF LIGHTS by They Might Be Giants
These quirky indie rock darlings known for the catchy geek anthems Birdhouse In Your Soul and Malcolm in the Middle theme song Boss Of Me concoct a downbeat ode to the holiday blahs.

6. MEMORIES OF A WINTER’S NIGHT by David Koz
The lone instrumental Chanukah track on our list comes courtesy of butter-smooth saxophone player Koz, the heir apparent to Kenny G. The twinkling piano and vibrant sax solos are very seasonal

7. HANUKKAH BLESSINGS by Barenaked Ladies
One of a trio of Hanukkah tracks on BNL’s Barenaked for the Holidays album from 2004. On this earnest medley, Stephen Page weaves both of Hanukkah’s candle-lighting blessings into the song, adding religious heft to the tune.

8. LOVE YOU BETTER by The Maccabees
While these Brighton-based Brit-poppers claim they picked their band name by randomly skimming the Bible, by adopting the namesake of the heroes of Chanukah, the small yet determined Jewish rebel army who rose up against their Syrian-Greek oppressors, their music is certainly holiday appropriate.

Jon D. Levenson: The Meaning of Hanukkah

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Jon D. Levenson: The Meaning of Hanukkah

A celebration of religious freedom, the holiday fits well with the American political tradition.

Source: WSJ, 12-16-11

The eight-day festival of Hanukkah, which Jews world-wide will begin celebrating Tuesday night, is one of the better known of the Jewish holidays but also one of the less important.

The emphasis placed on it now is mostly due to timing: Hanukkah offers Jews an opportunity for celebration and commercialization comparable to what their Christian neighbors experience at Christmas, and it gives Christians the opportunity to include Jews in their holiday greetings and parties. What’s more, the observances associated with Hanukkah are few, relatively undemanding, and even appealing to children.

The story of Hanukkah also fits the political culture of the United States. Its underlying narrative recalls that of the Pilgrims: A persecuted religious minority, at great cost, breaks free of their oppressors. It wasn’t separatist Protestants seeking freedom from the Church of England in 1620, but Jews in the land of Israel triumphing over their Hellenistic overlord in 167–164 B.C., reclaiming and purifying their holiest site, the Jerusalem Temple.

Examined too casually, the stories of Plymouth Colony and Hanukkah seem to show heroes fighting for universal religious freedom. But the heroes of the Jewish story fought not only against a foreign persecutor. They also fought against fellow Jews who—perhaps more attracted to the cosmopolitan and sophisticated Greek culture than to the ways of their ancestors—cooperated with their rulers.

The revolt begins, in fact, when the patriarch of the Maccabees (as the family that led the campaign came to be known) kills a fellow Jew who was in the act of obeying the king’s decree to perform a sacrifice forbidden in the Torah. The Maccabean hero also kills the king’s officer and tears down the illicit altar. These were blows struck for Jewish traditionalism, and arguably for Jewish survival and authenticity, but not for religious freedom.

Over time, the stories of the persecutions that led to this war came to serve as models of Jewish faithfulness under excruciating persecution. In the most memorable instance, seven brothers and their mother all choose, successively, to die at the hands of their torturers rather than to yield to the demand to eat pork as a public disavowal of the God of Israel and his commandments.

To the martyrs, breaking faith with God is worse than death. In one version, their deaths are interpreted as “an atoning sacrifice” through which God sustained the Jewish people in their travail….READ MORE

White House Hanukkah Reception: Overnight Makeover for a Kosher First Kitchen

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Overnight Makeover for a Kosher First Kitchen

Source: NYT, 12-13-11

Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

Rabbi Levi Shemtov oversees a team, including Tommy Kurpradit, second from left, the White House executive sous-chef, in koshering the kitchen for a party.

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Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

Gavriel Steinmetz, a rabbinical intern, with koshered flatware.

FIRST, spritz the kitchen’s stainless steel counters with disinfectant. Scrub vigorously.

Next, wrap counters in tinfoil, tight, tight, tight.

Now stretch plastic wrap over the foil and seal with masking tape.

Then repeat for every surface that could possibly come into contact with food — yes, even the hanging pot rack.

And so began the fastidious frenzy to make the White House’s kitchen kosher last week, a nearly four-hour drill that started at 10 p.m. Wednesday. A deadline approached: a truckload of kosher food was due Thursday at 10 a.m.

The Obama administration’s holiday reception season was in full swing. Leftovers from a party earlier Wednesday evening had already been removed.

The following night would bring the Hanukkah party for 550 guests, politicians and Supreme Court justices among them. Rigorous koshering (sometimes called kashering) would ensure that the kitchen would be in compliance with Jewish dietary laws. Guests could eat without qualms, knowing their religious commitment had been respected….READ MORE

Rabbi John Rosove: Reinvention of Hanukkah in the 20th Century: A Jewish Cultural Civil War

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Rabbi John Rosove: Reinvention of Hanukkah in the 20th Century: A Jewish Cultural Civil War

Source: Jewish Journal, 12-11-11

Last week I was privileged to hear a presentation on Hanukkah by Noam Zion, a fellow of and the senior educator at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, who led 40 Rabbis of the Southern California Board of Rabbis in a superb 2-hour conversation entitled:

“Reinvention of Hanukkah in the 20th Century: A Jewish Cultural Civil War between Zionists, Liberal American Judaism and Habad –  Who Are the Children of Light and Who of Darkness?”

Noam offered us a comprehensive view of Hanukkah from its beginnings (© 165 B.C.E.) through history and how it is understood and celebrated today by Israelis, American liberal non-Hareidim Jews and Habad. Based on Hanukkah’s tendentious history and the vast corpus of sermons written by rabbis through the centuries, Noam noted three questions that are consistently asked: ‘Who are the children of light and darkness?’ ‘Who are our people’s earliest heroes and what made them heroic?’ ‘What relevance can we find in Hanukkah today?’

Though religiously a “minor holyday” (Hanukkah is not biblically based, nor do the restrictions apply that are associated with Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Succot, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur), Hanukkah occupies a place in each of the ideologies of the State of Israel, American liberal Judaism and Habad.

For example, before and after the establishment of the State of Israel the Maccabees served as a potent symbol for “Political Zionism” for those laboring to create a modern Jewish state. The early Zionists rejected God’s role in bringing about the miracle of Jewish victory during Hasmonean times. Rather, such leaders as Max Nordau, Theodor Herzl, David Ben Gurion, Chaim Weizmann, Jacob Klatzkin, and A.D. Gordon emphasized that Jews themselves are the central actors in our people’s restoration of Jewish sovereignty on the ancient land, not God.

For 20th century liberal American Jews Hanukkah came to represent Judaism’s aspirations for religious freedom consistent with the American value of religious freedom as affirmed by the first Amendment of the US Constitution. Even as the holiday of Hanukkah reflects universal aspirations, the Hanukkiah remains a particular symbol of Jewish pride and identity for American Jews and their children living in a dominant Christian culture.

For Habad, Hanukkah embodies the essence of religious identity on the one hand, and symbolizes the mission of Jews on the other. Each Hassid is to be “a streetlamp lighter” who goes out into the public square and kindles the nearly extinguished flame of individual Jewish souls, one soul at a time (per Rebbe Sholom Dov-Ber). This is why Habad strives to place a Hanukkiah in public places and why Hassidim offer to help Jews don t’filin. Every fulfilled mitzvah kindles the flame of a soul and restores it to God.

Noam concluded his shiur (lesson) by noting that the cultural war being played out in contemporary Jewish life is based in the different responses to the central and historic question that has always given context to Hanukkah – ‘Which Jews are destroying Jewish life and threatening Judaism itself?’…READ MORE

JBuzz: Hanukkah Special, Party at the Obama White House

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By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of JBuzz. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Judaic Studies at Concordia University.

Menorah Lighting

Ben Retik lights the Menorah as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the Hanukkah Candle Lighting ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2010 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

HANUKKAH 2010

IN FOCUS

  • The first night of Chanukah at the National Menorah Washington, DCLubavitch.com
  • The Festival of Lights: Hanukkah Stories From Across the Nation – PBS Newshour, 12-3-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House hosts Hanukkah party: President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted a party Thursday marking the second day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Obama offered condolences to those who have died in a forest fire in northern Israel before recounting the story of the Maccabees fighting in the Temple in Jersualem watching a day’s worth of oil burn for eight.
    “That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair,” Obama said. “As the Talmud teaches us, so long as a person has life, he should not abandon faith.”
    Among those attending was Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, who replied, “we’re still talking,” when asked about the status of tax-cut legislation. When asked what night of Hanukkah a deal would be reached, Lew replied: “Aren’t we lucky to have a whole week?”
    The party featured a menorah from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, which was found caked in dirt and mold after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Obama said. Its candles were lit by Susan Retik, whose husband died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and her family…. – Politico, 12-3-10
  • President Obama’s Hanukkah Celebration: The President and First Lady hosted a little gathering Thursday night in the East Room to celebrate Hanukkah. Included on the list of 500 guests, one-third of the Supreme Court justices- Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan. Several Jewish members of Congress and other elected officials and members of the military were there too. The menorah for the event was loaned to the White House by New Orleans’s Congregation Beth Israel. It was one of very few items to survive Hurricane Katrina. It was found by cleanup crews in horrible condition but was restored and re-lit for the first time three years ago…. – CNN, 12-3-10
  • Menorah retrieved from Hurricane Katrina muck in Lakeview is part of White House Hanukkah celebration: Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of Jewish survival, and on Thursday, President Barack Obama and some 500 notables, mostly Jewish, celebrated the second of the holiday’s eight nights by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview after Hurricane Katrina.
    Describing the Hanukkah candles as tiny reminders of “the importance of faith and perseverance,” the president told the festive assemblage in the East Room that “the menorah we’re using tonight, and the family who is going to help us light it, both stand as powerful symbols of that faith.” “This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans,” Obama said. “Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.”… – The candles were lit by Susan Retik and her family…. – Times-Picayune, 12-2-10
  • White House Hanukkah ceremony features menorah salvaged from Lakeview: President Barack Obama and dozens of guests tonight will celebrate the second night of Hanukkah by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview. But for a few bits of ornamental silver that once decorated its ruined Torahs, the blackened menorah was the only sacred object in ritual use the congregation was able to save, said Rabbi Uri Topolosky, who will attend the ceremony with his wife, Dahlia.
    At Beth Israel, the restored menorah has become precious — the sign of their own ordeal and recovery, Topolosky said. The congregation also saved a display menorah, now at the Presbytere, Topolosky said. But the 53-year-old restored menorah at the White House — technically, it is a nine-branched “hanukiah” — is the one the congregation uses to commemorate ancient Jews’ recovery and reconsecration of their temple in Jerusalem…. – NOLA, 12-2-10
  • Gov. Schwarzenegger Joins Chanukah Celebration at Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and local leaders of the Jewish community today joined Chabad of Sacramento to celebrate Chanukah at the 17th Annual Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony.
    “The message of Chanukah is ‘light’ and is about optimism and hope, even in the face of darkness and crisis. That is especially meaningful to me because I am a big believer in the spirit of optimism and hope,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “We all know there is darkness in the world, especially in these challenging times, but one tiny candle can light a room, and one act of kindness can change a life. It is so important that we reach out and help each other through these tough times.”
    This year, guests at the Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony participated in a “reverse toy drive.” The Governor joined West Coast Chabad Director Rabbi Shlomo Cunin in passing the gifts out for the toy drive during today’s ceremony. Chabad has asked guests of the ceremony to present these gifts to children in need…. – Lubavitch, 12-3-10

QUOTES

  • President Obama Hosts A Hanukkah Celebration at the White House: Remarks by the President at a Hanukkah Reception:
    Now, tonight, we gather to celebrate a story as simple as it is timeless. It’s a story of ancient Israel, suffering under the yoke of empire, where Jews were forbidden to practice their religion openly, and the Holy Temple — including the holy of holies — had been desecrated.
    It was then that a small band of believers, led by Judah Maccabee, rose up to take back their city and free their people. And when the Maccabees entered the temple, the oil that should have lasted for a single night ended up burning for eight.
    That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair. And in the 2,000 years since, in every corner of the world, the tiny candles of Hanukkah have reminded us of the importance of faith and perseverance. They have illuminated a path for us when the way forward was shrouded in darkness.
    And as we prepare to light another candle on the menorah, let us remember the sacrifices that others have made so that we may all be free. Let us pray for the members of our military who guard that freedom every day, and who may be spending this holiday far away from home.
    Let us also think of those for whom these candles represent not just a triumph of the past, but also hope for the future — the men, women and children of all faiths who still suffer under tyranny and oppression.
    That’s why families everywhere are taught to place the menorah in public view, so the entire world can see its light. Because, as the Talmud teaches us, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.”
    This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans. Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.
    And that feeling is shared by Susan Retik. It’s a feeling they know all too well. After her husband, David, was killed on September 11th, Susan could have easily lost herself in feelings of hopelessness and grief. But instead, she turned her personal loss into a humanitarian mission — co-founding “Beyond the 11th,” a group that reaches out to Afghan widows facing their own struggles.
    So on this second night of Hanukkah, let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy. Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is “a confirmation of what is possible.” –
    WH, 12-2-10WH, 12-2-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: This Hanukka let’s celebrate Liberalism and Zionism: Let’s face it. Although Hanukka’s basic plot has not changed for 2,000 years, the Hanukka we know and love is a twentieth-century invention. Hanukka’s themes of heroism and power, both physical and spiritual, were Zionist ideas; traditionally, the Rabbis thanked God for the eight-day oil miracle. When the Zionist revolution reevaluated Judaism a century ago, the Maccabees’ story proved that Jewish history was not just about anti-Semites oppressing us and rabbis teaching us but our own warriors defending us. The Maccabees were hometown heroes, rooted in Israel’s ancient soil, willing to fight, if necessary, for their homeland, their beliefs, their freedom. At the same time, our festival of lights became our popular response to the seasonal malady of Christmas envy. Boasting eight nights, meaning eight gift-giving opportunities, Hanukka helped Jews trump their Christian neighbors.
    Considering that pedigree, this Hanukka we should celebrate the happy marriage of liberalism and Zionism. We can fight the trendy claim that liberalism and Zionism are increasingly incompatible without doing violence to the Maccabean story. Emphasizing a liberal-Zionist rift, in a world fighting the dark clouds of Islamic totalitarianism, ignores the shared enlightenment past of both Zionism and liberalism, as well as the light liberal Zionism can generate today….
    There is yet another added bonus that can result from rededicating our commitment to both liberalism and Zionism this Hanukka. Both modern liberalism and modern Zionism struggle with the tension between materialism and altruism, the selfishness of the “I” and the self-sacrifice of the “us,” the desire to take and the need to give. As Hanukka, like its seasonal partner Christmas, has degenerated into what the historian Daniel Boorstin called “festivals of consumption,” the question “what did you get” has eclipsed the more important holiday questions “what does this mean?” and “did you grow?”
    Traditionally, during Hanukka Jewish communities rededicated themselves to Jewish education. In that spirit, parents gave children “gelt” or coins to sweeten the experience of Torah study. In the early 1900s, many Jews used Hanukka as an opportunity to donate the modern equivalent of the “shekel,” the Biblical coin representing the power of responsibility, the importance of being counted, to the Zionist cause. This Hanukka let’s remember the best of both the liberal and Zionist traditions. This Hanukka, let’s look for opportunities to give not just get. This Hanukka, by doing that, we can redeem not just these two noble movements, but ourselves. – Jerusalem Post, 12-3-10
  • HOWARD JACOBSON: Hanukkah, Rekindled: TONIGHT, Hanukkah begins. The word — Hanukkah — is lovely, but what’s the festival itself for? What does it do? But Hanukkah?
    Everyone knows the bare bones of the story. At Hanukkah we celebrate the Maccabees, also known as the Hasmoneans, who defeated the might of the Syrian-Greek army in 165 B.C., recapturing the desecrated Temple and reconsecrating it with oil that ought to have run out in a day but lasted eight. Indeed, Hanukkah means “consecration,” and when we light those candles we are remembering the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
    But how many Jews truly feel this narrative as their own? I’m not asking for contemporary relevance. History is history: whatever happens to a people is important to them. But Hanukkah — at least the way it’s told — struggles to find a path to Jewish hearts.
    Those Hasmoneans, for example …. The Maccabees are fair enough: they sound Jewish. Scottish Jewish but still Jewish. There was a sports and social club called the Maccabi round the corner from where I was brought up in North Manchester, and as a boy I imagined the Maccabees as stocky, short-legged, hairy men like the all-conquering Maccabi table tennis team. But “Hasmoneans” rang and rings no bells.
    Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Hanukkah doesn’t draw on events described in the Hebrew Bible. The Book of Maccabees, from which the story comes, is in the Apocrypha, the non-canonical, more esoteric books of sacred scripture. There’s a reason it never made it out of there: I won’t say it’s spurious, but it doesn’t quite feel authentic…. – NYT, 12-1-10
  • Latke vs. Hamantaschen: An Age-Old Debate: It’s a debate that’s spanned the centuries – at least about half of one – and brought professors, writers and philosophers to the table to argue their cases on one of the most essential questions in modern scholarly discourse. Which one is better: the latke or the hamantaschen?
    The famed latke-hamantash debate first launched at the University of Chicago in 1946, and since then it’s been argued at such esteemed academic institutions as Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins. First conceived as a way to shore up a sense of Jewish community, nowadays the debate is as a way for scholars to blow off some steam, poke fun at academia and support their favorite potato- or flour-based foodstuff…. – Patch.com, 12-3-10
  • Hanukkah in public spaces: Although many people have come to identify public menorahs with Hanukkah itself, a recently published book argues that the holiday’s celebration today has been largely defined by just one slice of the Jewish population.
    “Whatever people associate with Hanukkah in the public space is Chabad,” says Maya Balakirsky Katz, associate professor of art history at Touro College in New York and author of The Visual Culture of Chabad. “In the last few decades, Chabad has provided the public image of Hanukkah in America, possibly in the world.” According to Katz, many Jews balk at Chabad’s conspicuous display of religion in the diaspora and consider it “embarrassing, if not also dangerous.” “They pushed religion into the public space and presented it as the Jewish image,” Katz says. “Before Jews even had a chance to react, it became the Jewish holiday image. I think the only people really invested in challenging Chabad’s right to light are other Jews.”
    “Chabad emissaries take comparisons between their giant menorahs and Christmas trees in stride,” Katz says. “Comparisons between their menorahs and the Israeli national symbol make them more nervous.” Katz’s book devotes an entire chapter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s decision to promote menorahs with diagonal branches in sharp contrast to the arced, half-moon branches of the menorah on the Israeli national emblem. The Rebbe claimed his inspiration was an argument by the medieval theologian and physician Maimonides that the original Temple menorah had diagonal branches.
    “For Houston Jews and Jews everywhere, I think the Rebbe initiated a rebirth to diasporist culture; you can proudly be a diaspora Jew and have a whole other material culture that’s not only connected to Israel,” Katz says. “That is definitely going to be part of his legacy. He gave birth to a very proud religious diaspora material culture.”
    Whereas Katz’s book addresses Chabad’s appropriation of Hanukkah as a means to forge an American-Jewish religious material culture, Zaklikofsky focuses on the mitzvah, commandment, of lighting the menorah as a testimony to what he considers a historically documented miracle…. – Houston Chronicle, 12-2-10
  • Southern Jews Put Their Spin On Soul Food: The eight-day Jewish holiday of Hannukah began earlier this week and with it comes culinary traditions of the season. A new book describes how Jews in the American south have blended traditional Jewish fare enjoyed around the holidays with southern cuisine. Host Michel Martin speaks with Marci Cohen Ferris, author of “Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South”…. – NPR, 12-3-10 Download MP3
  • Dianne Ashton: American Hanukkah Traditions Focus on Children: Newswise — Hanukkah isn’t a hugely important holiday on the Jewish calendar, but modern day celebrations of the Festival of Lights do work to get today’s children–and adults–excited about Judaism, according to Dianne Ashton, a professor of religion studies at Rowan University. Author of a book on Hanukkah in America to be released next year by New York University Press, Ashton says two Cincinnati rabbis led a movement to “Americanize” Judaism in the 1860s. That movement included promoting the idea of a fun holiday festival for Jewish children.
    “One of the rabbis said Jewish children shall have a grand and glorious Hanukkah, a festival as nice as any Christmas, with songs, dramatics, candle lighting, ice cream and candy,” says Ashton, whose book examines Hanukkah from 1860-2000. “This really shifted Hanukkah from primarily an observance of Jewish adults to a festival seen as particularly important for Jewish children, a way to keep them interested in Judaism.”… – Newswise, 11-30-10
  • Rethinking the “Jewish Christmas”: Hanuka is back! Perhaps some wonder when it ever was gone. According to Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and professor of history at George Washington University, “Well into the 1880s, Chanukah fared poorly in America, a victim of neglect.” She quotes the despairing voices of 19th century American rabbis, in an article for Reform Judaism magazine (Winter 2008): “‘The customary candles disappear more and more from Jewish homes,’ lamented Rabbi Gustav Gottheil in 1884. ‘Kindle the Chanukah lights anew, modern Israelite!’ declared Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler just a few years later. ‘Make the festival more than ever before radiant with the brightness and beauty of love and charity.'” Instead of kindling Hanuka candles, Americans “were adorning their homes with greenery and parlor illuminations and eagerly exchanging gifts in the spirit of Christmas. The purchase of Christmas gifts, commented the Jewish Daily Forward in 1904, ‘is one of the first things that proves one is no longer a greenhorn,'” the Jewish studies professor writes….
    The historian continues her survey of the festival’s rise, noting that in the 1950s, “American Jews no longer had to dread the ‘cruel month’ of December. Chanukah’s accoutrements had grown to include paper decorations, greeting cards, napkins, wrapping paper, ribbons, and phonograph records. And in the years following World War II, the outside world increasingly freighted Chanukah with the same cultural and social significance as Christmas, yoking the two together in demonstration of America’s ‘cultural oneness.’ Public school educators in particular convened a ‘holiday assembly’ on a ‘compromise date’ in December in which a Christmas tree and a ‘Menorah candle’ as well as the singing of Chanukah hymns and Christmas carols figured prominently.”… – American Jewish World, 11-26-10