Thursday, December 25, 2008

Jews + Christmas = Chinese Food!

The Jewish/Chinese Food connection has been, I'm sure, the subject of many a sociological thesis. For today, I bring you an NPR report, "A Fine Day for Chinese Food." You can listen to an interview with Donald Siegel, the author of From Lokshen to Lo Mein, a Kosher-Chinese cookbook. You'll find a couple of recipes there as well.

I admit to a fondness for what I would call the "original" Jewish Kosher Chinese cookbook published in 1963, The Chinese-Kosher Cookbook by Ruth & Bob Grossman--who wrote a series of these books, including a French-Kosher & an Italian-Kosher. It has been a re-released and you can find copies of the original on used book sites. I've already put in my dibs on the copy my mom has, bought when it first came out. The recipes may or not be great, but the names were great. I can't remember or find any of the names from the Chinese-Kosher book, but these names from the others will give you the idea: Filet Minyan, Pate de Foie Schmaltz, Blintz Suzette, Shicker Chicken Kiev.

So as I head off to my mah jongg game, also appropriate, I think, for a Jew on Christmas, take a listen, and have a nosh--an eggroll, perhaps.......

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Musical Interlude

In Hanukkah seasons past I have posted some photos, games, and videos as presents to any readers who come to this blog. Click "hanukkah" in the categories list in the sidebar to see any of those.

Here's something new for this year. It's an updated version of the Dreidle Song arranged by Erran Baron Cohen, the brother of Sasha Baron Cohen of Ali G and Borat fame. You can read and hear about him in this NPR piece from this past Saturday's Weekend Edition.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Close Encounters of a Hanukkah Kind

After minyan today I went to visit my friend Mitzi Wilner, who is back in the hospital dealing with her deteriorating heart. She has a strong spirit, which I hope will keep her with us for a while longer, but time with her right now is precious.

Not wanting to get there too early, I had a cup of coffee at Peets on Fillmore Street before heading up to CPMC on Webster Street. There I ran into another Marilyn--an elder San Franciscan who occasionally stops into events and services at Beth Sholom and at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. I don't know much about here--where and how she lives, what she has been through in her life. I only know that she always shows up with a smile on her face, happy to participate in and with the community. We had a nice talk. She shared a story about her time in Israel, and we laughed about the color of my hair--with it's turquoise and orange streaks (by request from the last bar mitzvah at Beth Sholom).

When I got to Mitzi's room in the Cardiac Unit, there was Rabbi Mimi Weisel, a Jewish chaplain visiting Mitzi. She brought a Hanukkah packet from the Bay Area Healing Center, including a menorah where you can "light" the candles using stickers. Mitzi is a woman of deep faith as well as having large practical streak--two virtues that help keep her alive in Poland during the Holocaust. Rather than being depressed about what she couldn't do, she was glad to be able to keep the spirit of Hanukkah.

I spent some time alone with Mitzi after the Rabbi moved on to her rounds, staying until her doctor came for some tests. I got into an elevator, joining a large African-American women in a bright red coat. As I turned around to face the door, I saw a couple people approaching the elevator as the doors began to close. I stopped for a moment, then, at the same time as the other woman in the elevator, reached for the "open door" button---but it was too late, and the doors closed. The woman and I paused, then said in unison, "Well, we tried" We looked at each other and laughed our united, albeit unsuccessful effort. We gave each other a hug and said "Happy Holidays."

With each of these encounters, I shared moments with others, both inside and outside of my sphere. Each of us was open to the joined experience. Does this happen always, or was is there something to be said for the universal spirit that is being spread around this week? Ultimately, it doesn't matter what the reason---it was nice to be in the stream.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On the First Day of Hannukah....

I came back to my blog. I've got to accept that there are times I will take a hiatus from writing and can do that without any guilt. After all, this is a personal project, not a job. So it's okay to be away, and it's even better to be back.

There's a convergence of ritual this week within the three Abrahamic religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Last night marked the start of Hanukkah, the Jewish "Festival of Lights," which will last eight days. Thursday is Christmas day, and today is the start of Islamic month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, and one of the four sacred months when it is forbidden to wage war. It seems that there is a lot of peace and light to go around at this time, and I hope many of us can plug into this stream.

There's a combination of hope and fear in the air these days. There is much to fear--major global economic collapse, seemingly endless and unresolvable conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, and damage to our planet that may not be undone. Our hope seems to rest on the shoulders of Barack Obama and the changes he will bring to our socially and economically ailing country.

In this time of bringing light to our darkest days, I choose to see hope in the next generations. I've been spending some time with the 10-14 year old set and although they are young, they are aware of the challenges facing the world. I believe they will not ignore the challenges, instead taking them on with the freshness that comes from youth. I need to believe they will succeed in healing our world.