My dad recently
turned 60, and it was a beautiful weekend-long celebration. I could be biased,
but his life is one worth celebrating. I’m thankful for my dad for many
reasons, one of them being that he’s taught me so much about life. I wrote him
the usual birthday card on his big day, but I don’t think even that encompassed
how blessed I feel that he’s my dad. So in honor of his 60th, I’m sharing the
wisdom he has taught me about life.
1. Slow down
While people are
pacing from place to place, my dad is captivated in conversation with an acquaintance.
My dad is the busiest
person I know, but you would never know that because of the way he embraces
people into conversation. I consider him a professional schmoozer. It’s rare
for acquaintances that pass on the street to hold a conversation for longer
than a “hello.” That’s not the case for my dad. He always asks with genuine
interest the details of people’s lives – their children, grandchildren and professions.
2. Never stop learning
The only times
my dad watches TV is when I happen to be watching Family Guy, one of our favorite TV shows. He’ll stare at me until I
move over. Then, we’ll spend the next 30 minutes in hysteria. Other than that,
you’re guaranteed to find him sitting at the kitchen table catching up on a
hefty stack of Chicago Tribunes and Wall Street Journals. He has
a passion for learning and staying educated on current events. If I ever have a
question, he almost always knows the answer. If he doesn’t, his usual response
is, “I’m honored you think I know everything, which I usually do.”
3. Family first
I’m inspired by
my dad’s love of family. He genuinely wants to hang out with his children, and
it’s always a blast when he hangs out with my brothers and me. We’re constantly
laughing and learning new things about the world. Someday, I want to be the
type of parent he has been to us – always making us laugh, being honest and
sharing his wisdom.
approached by people who tell me my dad is [insert good quality]. I respond
with a simple “thank you” along with a smile. I don’t want to kvell – that’s what this post is for –
but they’re right. And, I’m the lucky one who gets to call him Dad.
So majestic and powerful to the
point where I am almost blinded by the beauty. A humble graciousness arises. I
just landed in Israel and the feeling has no words.
As I touched the ground, the
soil, the Holy Land, I felt empowered. There were so few reasons as to why I
shouldn’t have done this sooner. My grandmother pushed, and pushed, and I
always found a way to get by and say, “Maybe next year, Nonny!”
Why? Why did I wait for such an
amazing opportunity? Such a precious gift was upon me, and I was now ready to
Traveling on two planes, being
away from home, packing for 10 days, all included in one slightly anxious
bound. “I have never done this before” kept running through my mind. Meeting
new people is one of my favorite things, but how was I going to meet over 50
people, and not feel overwhelmed?
As I was going around, telling
everyone about myself, I noticed similarities, not the stereotypes I had pictured
in my head. “Hi, my name is Veronica, and I like to paint, bake, and swim.” I
kept it basic; I didn’t know everyone, but I was excited. Never in my life did
I think for one moment that I would make such a difference in lives, in Israel,
in people that I did not know. Everyone was so welcoming, free-spirited and
Staying at the kibbutz, for three
nights was beautiful. It was like living amongst your people, your heritage –
and contributing to each other. Everything was communal including where we ate.
This is where I got to know everyone. Who knew food would bring us all closer?
The Israeli scenery appeared more
gorgeous every single time I looked at it, even in a different perspective.
Palm trees, water, even rocks – all stunning. As I looked at the sky over the Western
Wall, or even looking at the Dead Sea, I felt surreal; I felt at home.
Every part of Israel had a
special story. As hard as it may be to describe the power and empathy I had at
Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum, I felt sad yet curious. How
could this happen? Never again. There was no sign of what would or could happen
next in those times. Questions arose, people cried – I cried – and I felt like
it was okay to cry. It was okay to understand each other, to experience our
emotions together as a group and as a family.
I don’t have a favorite part of
my trip, I loved every single moment. There are no words to describe how close
I felt to Israel and the people. Did I mention the Israelis on our trip? If it
weren’t for them, I would not know how to say, “Lama-makara!” also known as, “But why?” Even though they may have
taught us some funny phrases, they made the trip. I appreciate every moment I
spent with every Israeli because of their enthusiasm and love for Israel.
As our tour guide, Yossi took us
everywhere: upside-down, sideways and anywhere else he could think of to open
our minds through Israel. He knew how to create a social atmosphere that
connected all of us and our differences. I will never, ever forget him and how
he made my trip, just like the Israelis and the group did.
My trip on bus 217 was the most
amazing decision I have made in my life. I miss everyone, and even though most
of the group surrounds me in Chicago, I really miss being together, especially
singing our morning song every day. In the song, when we got to, “the dew falls
away,” that’s how we all knew we were awake and having fun.
This trip – this gift – changed
my life as a Jewish woman in America. All of the news in the U.S., all of the
things people say may be true, but once you are in Israel, and once you see it
for yourself, you understand the feeling that everyone has been talking about, and
you tend to gather your own opinion.
Israel changed my life, and my
heart. I have a new passion and love for a country, history, people, heritage
and more. I fell in love and never want to break that bond. With that said,
Israel, you may have challenged me, but I will always love you.
recently returned from her Taglit-Birthright
Israel: Shorashim-JUF Chicago Community trip in December, a life-changing trip for
Jewish 18-26 year olds that also provides participants with an incredible
network and connection to the Jewish community in Chicago upon returning home.
This summer, all Chicago community trip flights will be departing from Chicago,
making it easier, cheaper, and more convenient than ever to get to Israel for
free from Chicago. Shorashim is the only Taglit-Birthright Israel trip provider
with flights leaving from Chicago, so make sure to tell your friends and
family to register for
a community trip!
for new applicants on Tuesday, Feb. 3 at 9 a.m. CST and for returning
applicants on Monday, Feb. 2 at 11 a.m. CST at israelwithisraelis.com. With many trip dates and trip options, it's easy to find the trip that is the best
fit for you! Questions? Contact Shorashim at email@example.com or (312) 267-0677.
There are few things more awkward in this wide world of ours
than having a meeting with a new person in a coffee shop.
Yes, it’s great to meet in neutral territory — otherwise,
one of you would have to be behind your desk, with your silver name plate and
family photos establishing that you are the king of this meeting — but
logistically, it’s challenging.
As my fiance and I jump into the wedding planning process,
we’ve had some wonderful meetings with photographers, videographers, and
coordinators in coffee shops — but the few minutes before the meetings begin, I
feel uneasy and stressed. Why? Because I don’t really know what this unknown
person looks like. Here’s the process.
Pre-meeting stalking. If possible, I try to look up my
meeting-mate in advance on Facebook, Google, or their website. Often, this is
helpful, giving me a general idea of whether it’s a man or a woman and
generally the shape of his or her head. However, these pictures are often
five-year-old pictures that were professionally taken, and this person has
recently cut her hair or is wearing a different outfit — how dare she! Plus, in
these winter months, no one looks like their beautiful picture on Facebook or
their website — everyone in Chicago looks like an Eskimo. I rely on the fact
that thanks to this blog, my open-to-all Facebook profile, and various websites
I own, my picture is all over the internet, so hopefully they’ve stalked me,
Reserving a table. I’ve been trying to arrive at these
meetings early, often killing time by working on my grad school thesis paper —
or, let’s be honest, looking at wedding bouquets on Pinterest. When I get there
early, I try to save a table that can fit three of us, but then I become that
horrible person who’s hogging the community table all by her lonesome. I spread
out backpacks and scarves and paperwork to make it look like something very
serious is about to happen, but inside, I feel like a one-woman army trying to
protect my table from siege — and my only weapon is my adorable, apologetic
Saying hi to everyone who walks in the door. I’m early, but
chances are that our would-be vendor will want to impress us by being early,
too. So for the half hour leading up to our meeting, there I am, flashing that
smile at everyone who walks in the door. I pretend to be busy on my laptop, but
not too busy. As people walk in, I try to catch their eye — if they just go straight
to the counter, they’re probably not my person. But if they look around the
room, I wonder, could it be her? Is this our wedding photographer? Do I feel a
magical vibe from inside my soul, whispering that she’s “the one”? Nope, it’s
just a college student doing homework, sorry.
Describing myself. Once or twice, I’ve said, “I’ll be near a
red laptop and wearing a purple coat, and my fiancé has curly red hair.” I feel
like I’m writing a “Missed Connections” ad: “I was holding my grande drink. You
wore white earmuffs. You said to the barista, ‘Only three pumps of peppermint,
please.’ Are you my [wedding videography] soul mate?” Often I wonder if I
should put out a sign with their name, like at the airport. Dorky? Or
Who’s buying? Okay, we’ve finally identified each other
through one of these means, we’ve pulled two tables together, and our Eskimo
coats are off. It’s time for the coffee dance. “I’m going to get a coffee —
would you like anything?” Does that mean you’re buying? Or should I pay you back?
Can’t we each just go up to the line separately? But then does that mean we
have to chit chat about how much we do or do not like seasonal pumpkin-flavored
drinks? In this department, I usually buy my chai tea latte well in advance of
their arrival, or just say I’m not thirsty. Not worth starting out our meeting
with the dance.
You know what? I think the next time I meet with a vendor,
I’m going to ask if I can just meet at their office. Sorry, Starbucks.
Jewish people love two things above all else: guilt and food. I
tend to pay homage to both of these cultural pillars simultaneously—particularly
around the new year.
My day job revolves entirely around food, food writing and the
sampling of food-related products. In my free time, I’m always thinking
about food, whether I’m looking for my next restaurant
adventure, surfing/posting food photos on Instagram, or browsing my Facebook
feed for recipe ideas. It is thus with great hubris that I declared in December
that I would give up both refined sugar and Diet Coke simultaneously in the new
year. Last year, I cut sugar out of my diet for a solid six months, before I
dipped my toe into the culinary infidelity pond. This year, I’ve
been struggling with a one-day-at-a-time tug of war between the great forces of
my sugar and Diet Coke dependencies and my will power since New Year’s
I have a caffeine problem, and I’m the first to
admit it. I need a couple of cups of steaming coffee in the morning to
jumpstart my day, and I normally rely on a refreshing, cold can of Diet Coke in
the afternoon to pick me back up. This regime is mostly one I follow at work,
as I tend to actually sleep enough on the weekends to cut my caffeine intake. I’ve
now been living in a Diet-Coke-less world, in which the feint echoes of a
crisp, cold can opening ring through my head, as I drowsily fight that “2
o’clock feeling” each weekday afternoon. With great
determination, I’ve replaced that afternoon Coke with
more water, and sometimes caffeinated tea or an extra cup of coffee. I’m
not reducing my caffeine intake, per se, but I am trying to cut out Diet Coke,
which is reportedly
toxic for many reasons.
I’ve been less strict with my sugar
intake since January 1, namely because I’ve justified a
chocolate nosh here and there as part of my self-care regime during a flu-ridden
month. In between battling my sugar/caffeine demons, I’ve had the
respiratory flu bug that everyone seems to have and can’t shake. Knocked
down twice by this sucker and still coughing a month later, I’ve
spent a considerable amount of time locked in my apartment, slurping down
chicken soup—a.k.a. Jewish penicillin. For a majority of the month, I’ve
been living on chicken soup, chocolate, and orange juice—otherwise known as
my “Jewish diet.”
My first bout of the flu hit me around Hannukah/Christmas time,
when like most Jews, I was thinking of nothing but Chinese food. At the time, I
happened upon what is now one of my favorite Jewish food blogs, WhatJewWannaEat.com.
Blogger Amy Kritzer is my
Jewish food hero. I love her blog so much, I’m actually angry I
didn’t think of it first. Not only is the blog name genius, but
her playful and creative content makes Jewish food exciting and fresh for
younger audiences, including both holiday and everyday fare. With a nod to
Jewish food’s longtime tie to “the old world,” her
blog tagline is “This ain’t yo bubbe’s
blog,” which is painted across a unicorn logo. One of the first
recipes I noted on her blog at the time, was a reimagined chicken soup recipe
for Egg Drop Matzo Ball Soup. With this single recipe,
Kritzer stole my heart, combining my great loves: Chinese food and Jewish
comfort food. Little did I know at the time, her blog was filled with these
hybrid treasures, including Chai Tea Challah Bread, Mexican Chocolate Latkes with Cinnamon Whipped Cream,
Beer Battered Deep Fried Brisket Fritters with Horseradish
Ailoi and so many more… Kritzer’s blog is truly a
Jewish foodie’s paradise.
Kritzer is not the first to conjure up new visions of Jewish
cuisine. In fact, in a May 2014 New York Times article titled “Everything
New Is Old Again,” writer Julia Moskin claims that Jewish
food is seeing a reinvention revival.
“Artisanal gefilte fish. Slow-fermented bagels. Organic
chopped liver. Sustainable schmaltz. These aren’t
punch lines to a fresh crop of Jewish jokes,” Moskin
said. “They are real foods that recently arrived on New York City’s food scene. And they are proof of a
sudden and strong movement among young cooks, mostly Jewish-Americans, to
embrace and redeem the foods of their forebears.”
Similarly, there are a crop of young food bloggers who are
reinventing/reviving the Jewish palette.
While the new year might be a time when many of us are trying to
temper our over-indulgent tendencies, it’s also a fabulous
time to explore new foods and experiences. In the spirit of culinary
exploration, I wanted to share some of my favorite Jewish food blogs to sample
in the new year.
12 Jewish-Themed Food Blogs to Sample This Year:
3. SmittenKitchen (not officially a Jewish blog,
but blogger Deb Perelman includes many Jewish recipes)
4. The Shiksa in the Kitchen (A Jewish convert and
blogger, Tori Avery explores Jewish food with a fresh perspective)
Jew & The Carrot
6. Kosher Camembert
7. Sephardic Food
8. Kosher in the Kitch
9. Itsy Bitsy Balebusta
10. Joy of Kosher
11. Not Derby Pie
12. This American
Ess gesunt! - Eat in good health!
Breakfast is apparently the most important meal of the day. Everyone
loves to say that. I’m not sure who decided breakfast was the most important,
and I don’t know if it’s a true statement. I do hear about it a lot, though. “You
can’t skip breakfast; it’s the most important meal of your day.” “You’re eating THAT for breakfast? …you know
breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Everyone has an opinion on
breakfast, and I sometimes have to remind the breakfast police that being
Jewish means that each and every meal I get to have is the most important meal
of the day.
I am not a morning person. I set my alarm early enough so
that I can grab a giant bucket of coffee and sit quietly on my couch and stare
at the walls. After a few minutes I slowly start to become human and move on to
reading the newspaper (i.e. Facebook). Most mornings my Internet time goes on
far too long and then I’m running around getting ready and rushing out the door
as fast as I can. What this means is that breakfast usually takes a backseat.
Some mornings I can get myself together enough for yogurt
and granola, but usually a Kind Bar is as about as exciting as breakfast gets
for me. Breakfast is hard! During the week, breakfast might be the only time of
day where eating is not my first priority. I’ve never understood how someone can
wake up, prepare an actual meal and also arrive at work on time with matching
shoes. I’m not fully functional until about 10 am, and only if I’ve had copious
amounts of coffee.
I am excited to report that I may have found an answer to my
morning breakfast troubles. Over winter-break I visited a friend in South Carolina.
It’s a little known fact that Southerners are food experts. To my delight, my
friend made slow-cooker oatmeal one morning. I felt like I was witnessing food
magic. You just throw a bunch of healthy food into a crockpot before you go to
bed and wake up to a morning miracle. Who knew breakfast could be this
easy? We’ll see if I can remember to
actually put this together before bed.
8 ½ cups water
2 cups steel-cut oats
1 (14 oz) can unsweetened coconut milk or 1 ¾ cups whole
¼ cup packaged light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Coat the insert of the slow cooker with a thin layer of
butter. Add the water, oats, coconut or whole milk, brown sugar, and salt and
stir to combine. Cover and cook on low until the oats are cooked through and
creamy, about 7 to 8 hours. Stir in the vanilla and serve immediately.
This is a public service announcement to Bulls fans
everywhere. In the words of Aaron Rogers: “R-E-L-A-X”
Okay, maybe quoting the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback to
address the Bulls’ current struggles seems a bit unconventional. Sinful,
perhaps. But it worked for them so why not us, right? For one simple reason –
this Bulls team is very good, and it is normal for good teams to struggle in
the regular season. To help support my point, let’s look back on the last
couple seasons at times when the fan bases of other teams prematurely panicked.
Last season’s NBA champs, the San Antonio Spurs. The team we
should have learned to never count out and yet we continue to when they don’t
just roll through the regular season. But last year, on their way to an NBA
championship and an amazing 62-20 record, the Spurs went through a stretch in
January that was quite unkind. They lost to two other Western Conference
contenders, the Trail Blazers and the Thunder and went on a three game losing
streak (their longest of the season). In February, they lost to
bad/middle-of-the-road teams Detroit, Brooklyn and Phoenix during a streak where
they lost five of seven games. How did they respond? With a 19-game winning
streak in March on their way to the title.
In the year before, the Miami Heat started January by losing
four of six games, with losses to contenders like the Bulls and Pacers, but
also losses to the Jazz, Bucks and Pistons at the end of December and beginning
of January. How did they respond? With a 27-game win streak in February-March,
which was very memorably broken by the Bulls.
Great teams know that championships are not won during the
regular season. And the veteran teams and players know that in order to be
ready to peak in May and June, you need to pace yourself in January and
February. They know that losing to a bad team every now and then or losing a
series to a conference rival means nothing when the playoffs begin. Look at the
Miami Heat. During their championship seasons, the Bulls had their regular
season number. And with every regular season win, Bulls fans went nuts, excited
that we were better than Miami. But what happened with the playoffs came
around? The better team won.
So should we worry about losing to teams like the Jazz,
Celtics and Magic? Should we worry about losing two straight to a conference
rival like the Wizards? Maybe, but not right now. The ONLY thing we need to
worry about is staying healthy. The Bulls need their complete team ready and
healthy when the playoffs begin. The loss of just one of any of the Bulls’ core
players could be enough to remove them from contention. This is a team built to
win as a team. They do not have any one player who can carry them on their
backs. The success of each player depends on the success of the others, and the
biggest issue so far to me has been that they have just not gelled as a
complete unit yet. Jimmy will play a great game, but Rose will be out. Pau will
play well, but Noah will struggle. There is no LeBron, no Durant, no Melo on
this team. They need to succeed as a group. So far, they have struggled to do
Yes, I’m tired of watching the Bulls lose at home, I’m tired
of them losing to teams they should beat and I’m tired of the musical chairs
they have had to play with their starting lineup. I’m worried some about their
struggles on defense so far. But – the Bulls have the best defensive coach and
two of the best defensive players in the NBA. This is no longer the young,
up-and-coming try-hard bunch we’ve seen over the last few years. The
adjustments they need to make to turn some of these losses into wins are minor.
This is a legit NBA championship contender. So, as long as they can all stay
healthy, I still believe the Bulls could be the best team in the NBA.
When insects are discussed in the Torah, they are usually portrayed negatively. In Parshat Bo, we learn that locusts were one of the ten plagues brought upon Egypt. During the eighth plague, locusts descended on Egypt, devouring all the crops, destroying all the vegetation and literally casting a shadow over the land as they swarmed the sky. Later on in Parshat Shemini, we learn that almost all bugs are not kosher, as they are viewed to be dirty and unclean.
I am one of those weird people who has always loved bugs. Not only can bugs be pretty cute, but they’re also really important. Bees, for example, pollinate flowers and give us honey, while other insects have powerful venoms that have been known to cure different ailments. We also have microorganisms, or tiny insects, living on or in us every day. So why do most people think bugs are gross when in reality they could actually be our secret wonder drug?
Albert Einstein once said, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” And he wasn’t really exaggerating: we depend on the flowers and plants that bees pollinate to survive, and bee honey is said to have the ability to heal wounds, kill bacteria, and cure colds. Recently Washington University in St. Louis did a study on bee venom and HIV patients. The bee venom was able to kill the HIV virus without harming the surrounding cells. Bees and other insects might be the cures for many of the common diseases that scientists have been overlooking.
Chinese medicine uses all types of insects just as it uses herbs. Centipedes, earthworms, and scorpions are just a few types of insects used as Chinese medicinals. They are used for problems following a stroke, help to treat bell’s palsy, kidney stones, and reduce the numbness and tingling from diabetes. However, almost all of the bugs being used in Chinese medicinals are for serious conditions, so if you tell your practitioner that you keep kosher, they will make sure not to put them in your formula. Insects and their venoms have helped people in China with life-threatening conditions for years, and more research might need to be done to see what else they can cure.
Microorganisms are also vital to our health. We will never see them or feel them, but we need them. A lot of the microorganisms are destroyed by the food we eat and others are flushed out by antibiotics. This destroys our gut flora (the collection of these microorganisms in our digestive tracts) and leaves us with ailments such as stomachaches, colds and candida.
To ensure that we stay healthy, we need to take probiotics. Probiotics are bacteria and fungi that help repopulate your gut flora, which makes you happy and strengthens your immune system. I recommend probiotics to all of my patients, no matter what their condition is. We have all eaten something in our lives that we wish we hadn’t and probiotics will protect our stomachs from our mistakes.
So, while the Torah may not have too many positive things to say about bugs, we know they are essential to our health, environment and the advancement of science. Consider taking a probiotic every day, and the next time you see you a creepy crawler or a bumblebee buzzing by, contemplate the health benefits this insect can and is providing us.
Sites We Like
Registration opens on 2/3 for new applicants and 2/2 for returning applicants
Spend 10 days in Israel this summer for free on the Ultimate Adventure With Israelis! All Taglit-Birthright Israel: Shorashim-JUF Chicago Community Trips will be departing from Chicago this summer, making it easier and more convenient than ever for you to get to Israel for free.
Shorashim is the community trip provider for Chicago area young adults, ages 18-26, and the only provider with flights departing from Chicago. Every Shorashim group has Israelis for all 10 days, ensuring that your experience is awesome and authentic!
For more information on the ultimate adventure with Israelis, visit israelwithisraelis.com or contact Shorashim at (312) 267-0677 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know anyone else who is interested? Refer them here!
Torah Learning Center of Northbrook, 2548 Jasper Court, Northbrook (Northbrook Community Synagogue Building
Sunday, February 8 | 1 p.m.
The Sidney & Frances Avner Torah Learning Center of Northbrook and KESHET Present the Firth Annual Jack Ogron Memorial Program.
PANEL DISCUSSION with local experts covering all areas of expertise and Q&A
This event is free, however reservations are greatly appreciated. Email email@example.com or call 847.272.7255 to RSVP. For more information go to tlcnb.com. Call today to inquire about securing a table for your business or organization.