What Kind of Cheesecake Are You?

  • In May we celebrate the festival of Shavuot, commemorating when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai. On Shavuot, we traditionally eat dairy, and as with most Jewish customs, there are a variety of explanations for why we do what we do. Some say it is because the Jews didn’t know how to slaughter kosher animals before receiving the Torah. Others ascribe it to the Torah being likened to milk and honey. There are explanations that reference the gematria or the shoresh of different dairy-related words. And just as there are many reasons for why we eat dairy, there are also many dairy foods to choose from. But one in particular has emerged as the most beloved Shavuot treat of all…the mighty cheesecake.

    Now cheesecakes, like Jews, come in all shapes, sizes and colors. And it is this time of year that we must ask ourselves, “what is the perfect cheesecake for me?” To find out, we are going to have to dig deep, ask some hard questions. But it will be worth it. Because in the end, you will know what cheesecake is right for you. Let’s begin.

  • If you were competing on the hit TV series Iron Chef, which of the following would you most hope would be the mystery ingredient? “Allez cuisine!”

Oscars-Shmoscars

Back in December, we asked Judy Goldsmith to share her short, sweet and to the point (and never with any spoilers) brand of movie reviews for our readers who were heading to the theater over the holiday season. It was a hit! So with the Academy Awards only a week away, we had to know who she thought should be taking home an Oscar (or two, or three) this year. Take it away Judy…

Since 2010, I’ve mostly ignored the Academy Awards. That was the year The Hurt Locker beat out Avatar for best picture. It was such an egregious error that it has colored my perception of this iconic Hollywood self-congratulatory party. Therefore, it is with trepidation that I present my BEST PICTURE list (in no particular order). These are my personal favorites from a year of uneven movie making. And while I hope that they will get the recognition they deserve on the big night, win or no win, these are the films of 2015 that I highly recommend everyone see. I’d also like to note that as of this writing, I have not yet seen Son of Saul.

Cinderella

It would seem that there are no new ways to produce this story, and yet this movie was wonderful. Lily James was a perfect Cinderella and the whole cast was great. I will definitely watch this again because it was just so perfectly done.

A

Ex Machina

I was completely enthralled with Alicia Vikander’s performance, and together with good work by Oscar Isaac, this sci-fi futuristic movie was compelling and thought provoking. If she isn’t nominated for a best supporting Oscar, I will be surprised and disappointed.

A-

Mad Max: Fury Road

The effects, make-up and vehicles were so cool I honestly didn’t know what to look at first. Charlize Theron shines but will probably be overlooked at the Oscars, which is a shame. See this on the big screen and be prepared to be amazed.

A+

Love and Mercy

I absolutely adored Love and Mercy — a gut wrenching journey into Brian Wilson’s life. Enjoy the amazing performances by Paul Dano, John Cusack and Paul Giamatti.

A

Inside Out

I simply loved this clever portrayal of how our emotions work. Definitely not for children under the age of 10. In fact, I need to see it again as it speeds along and I missed some of the snappy dialogue.

A++

Straight Outta Compton

It took me a day to process Straight Outta Compton — tons of “n” and “f” words and violence. That being said, it is a good movie and does a nice job dramatizing a compelling story. At 2 hours and 27 minutes it’s a bit long, and it’s not for everyone, but if rap is your thing, you’ll like it.

A-

Meet the Patels

Meet the Patels is a culturally rich film that will hit home for all religions and backgrounds. It’s funny and sweet and not to be missed— despite having one politically incorrect line.

A

Grandma

A tiny, adorable story about commitment to those we love. See it for a wonderful performance by Lily Tomlin and for a beautiful story about selflessness.

A-

The Martian

Pure science… pure fiction … pure Damon… pure magic.

A

Sicario

Sicario is a dark drama. Expect lots of blood and dead bodies. Otherwise it’s decent to watch, but not necessary right now. Stream away.

B+

Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies combines the intrigue of past cold war films (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or The Spy Who Came in From the Cold) and does a good job of telling the story of this scary time in world history. See it for the compelling story, fabulous casting, acting and cinematography…and for the Oscars it will receive.

A

Brooklyn

One of the best movies I’ve seen about the immigrant experience and one of the best films this year. Saoirse Ronan was ethereal and her performance was perfection; the rest of the cast were wonderful. You’ll no doubt be hearing about this gem at the Oscars.

A+

Anomalisa

If you are a Charlie Kaufman fan, you will thoroughly enjoy Anomalisa. If not, skip it. You wouldn’t think an animated (stop action) film could be so human, but it is. This is an adult film exploring the human condition in a fresh and unique manner. The film zips by and at the end you’ll want to see more.

A-

Spotlight

I am a sucker for journalism movies, and Spotlight doesn’t disappoint. This film purports to be about the child abuse scandal in the Catholic church, but it is really about investigative journalism at its finest. Ruffalo and Keaton, along with Slattery and Schreiber, keep this movie humming along. It will definitely be on someone’s Oscar list.

A-

Joy

True to its title, the movie Joy will bring you pure happiness. It’s wonderfully written and so well cast you’ll be totally engrossed. Watch for a fun performance by a well-known soap opera actress and solid work by Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro. I’d watch this gem again.

A

Star Wars VII

A movie that definitely needs to be seen on the big screen, and you won’t be disappointed. Perfectly cast, flawless script, great new characters and a sense of humor. The Force Awakens will cause many, including me, to see it at least twice.

A+

The Hateful Eight

Strap yourself in for another wild Tarantino ride…and definitely skip the popcorn because eating during The Hateful Eight is nearly impossible. In his latest exploration of new ways to blow peoples’ heads off, Tarantino presents a two hour and 47 minute foray into the wild, and I mean wild, west. There are twists and turns, as expected, and in the end you may find yourself wondering “was it worth it?” I concluded yes. It feels like an old time western, and yet, not at all. There are two potential Oscars here — Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L. Jackson.

B+

The Revenant

I had to look up the word “revenant” and in doing so I decided it was a perfect monicker for the latest Iñárritu production. I really enjoyed this unorthodox western, and I won’t see it again because it was exhausting to watch. But DiCaprio’s performance was flawless and he may earn an Oscar. Go with the expectation that you will have to look away from the screen a few times but the beautiful cinematography and solid casting make it a worthwhile.

A-

Concussion

Keeping with the football theme, the movie Concussion had four distinct “quarters.” The first and second were quite compelling, third was a bit slow and the fourth was good. Will Smith’s performance was near perfect, and one of my favorite male performances of the year.

B+


Debunking the Jewish Concept of Beshert

Before we really get into it, let’s begin with a story from way back in the day, around the second century.

A Roman matron asked Rabbi Yosei bar Chalafta, “In how many days did G‑d create His world?” “In six days,” the Rabbi replied. “And what has He been doing ever since?” she asked. “G‑d sits and matches couples,” Rabbi Yosei told her.
“Is this G‑d’s occupation?” she asked derisively, “I could do that too! I possess a great number of men servants and maid servants and would be able to pair all of them off in one hour!”
“You may think it is easy, but for G‑d, it is as difficult as parting the Red Sea,” he said.

After Rabbi Yosei left, the matron formed rows of her men servants and maid servants, a thousand in each row, and said to them, “This man shall marry this woman,” pairing them off as she walked down the line. But when they returned to work the next morning, one had an injured head, one was missing an eye and one had a broken foot.
“What is going on here?” the matron asked.
“I don’t want this one,” they all said. She saying, “I will not take him”; he saying, “I will not take her.”
She sent for Rabbi Yosei and told him, “There is no G‑d like your G‑d. When you explained to me that G‑d is busy making matches, you spoke wisely.”

In Jewish culture, we often use the word “beshert” to mean “soulmate,” but the literal translation from Yiddish is “destiny.” The concept of beshert, for those who believe in it, is much more than finding love by being at the right place at the right time. It is, in essence, fulfilling your personal destiny, thereby playing your part in the destiny of the world. Here are nine beliefs surrounding the concept of beshert that may surprise you:

  1. Who will marry who is decided in Heaven long before either individual in a couple is born. At the time of conception, an angel asks G-d, “who should this soul be matched with?” and G-d gives an answer. Yup, even before you were a fetus, it was decided who your beshert would be.
  2. When the angel asks who you should marry, there are a bunch of souls who raise their hand and start yelling, “Pick me, pick me!” The more souls that want to be in the running, the more dates you will go on in the physical life. If you end up going on a lot of dates before you meet “the one” that just means that your soul was super popular in Heaven. Go you.
  3. Another way to think about beshert is this: imagine you are sitting at your kitchen table with a bushel of apples, and you split them all in half. You mix all the halves up and then try to fit them back together, looking for the halves that fit so perfectly that you can’t even tell the apple was ever split. A true beshert marriage is not a union of two parts, but a reunion of two halves. Just like the first human was a composition of male and female, so too each soul has a counter part. When we come into the physical world, we are separated, and now we look to reunite with our other half.
  4. But, as good of an anology as this is…a soul is not an apple. A soul has a lot of elasticity. Apples are rigid, so in the example above, there is only one possibility for a perfect match. But souls are malleable, and they can modify themselves through behavior or prayer or commitment, thereby creating a perfect fit with another soul that may not have been the original half.
  5. You and your beshert will meet each other, it’s well…beshert. So there’s no need to worry. But you can speed up the process and try to make it less painful by praying to G-d. Begging really. Or nagging, depending how you look at it. Yes, nagging G-d helps moves the process along.
  6. Every date you go on is beshert. You are meant to meet that person at Starbucks and have awkward conversation. But while it may be beshert that you go out with a person once, or even more than once, that doesn’t mean he or she is the beshert you should marry. Your decision to marry and who to marry is a free choice, which brings us to our next fun fact…
  7. The answer to the angel’s question is not a decree, but more of a strong suggestion based on the soulmates’ natural compatibility. This may seem like a total contradiction from what we’ve gone over so far, but it’s really not. Two souls’ inherent nature predisposes them and makes it easier to choose each other, but in the end they must make the choice to choose. You can think of it this way: say you are born with a gene that increases your chance of having a certain disease. Just because you have the gene doesn’t mean you will get the disease, and your behavior and lifestyle can even reduce the chance of you having the disease. And yes, we just compared a soulmate to a disease.
  8. What if you don’t get it right the first time? Do you just get one chance? The answer is no. And not because you got it wrong or because G-d got it wrong. Remember, Jews believe in divorce for good reasons. While G-d might have a plan for us, the fact that humans have free will still remains. People can behave in a multitude of ways that weaken and eventually break up their relationships. Even besherts.
  9. Divorce is a choice, at least by one person. But what does it mean if you are happily married and your spouse passes away? If you get separated by death or divorce, remember that there was a pool of souls that raised their hands to be with you. And they are still there for you. Beshert is not only a concept that is applicable to a soulmate, but it applies to every aspect of our lives — you may know it by the name “divine providence.” And if you were married to a person and it didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean that that time of your life was not meant to be. In fact, your time with that person was preparing you for the next beshert, whether that’s a new relationship with another person or a completely different chapter in your life.

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A Sukkah Showcase of Metro Detroit

They come in all shapes and sizes and are made out of everything from recycled doors and repurposed shipping containers to flowing fabric and wooden planks. Sukkahs are popping up all over Metro Detroit to celebrate the festival of Sukkot. And as you can see, we have some seriously skilled sukkah builders and decorators in our community.

Show off your sukkah in our gallery! Email photos with a brief description to sukkahs@jfmd.org.

 


Rosh Hashanah Guide

Shanah Tova and Happy New Year!

The Fall Holidays are a time of celebration and renewal, of introspection and repentance, of giving and receiving forgiveness, of family and friends and being connected to the local and worldwide Jewish community. We take time to enjoy the celebrations while remembering the true importance of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — that we all make mistakes but can take time to correct them and ask for forgiveness. How wonderful when you can say, “I am sorry,” and hear someone answer, “I forgive you.”

Tap below to hear the sounds of the Shofar

Click below to hear the sounds of the Shofar

Tekiah
תק’עה

Shevarim
שבר’ם

Teruah
תרועה

Tekiah Gedolah
תק’עה גדולה

Rosh Hashanah

ראש השנה

räsh-(h)ə-ˈshä-nə –

The “Head of the Year” begins the Ten Days of Atonement. Also known as Yom Teruah, the Day of Sounding the Shofar; Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembering; and Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgement.

Yom Kippur

יום כפור

yōm-ki-ˈpu̇r –

A day of repentance when Jews everywhere look to be sealed in the Book of Life. The day carries a special power to cleanse the mistakes of the Jewish people, both individually and collectively.

Start the New Year Right

Here’s a list of ritual items to welcome in the Jewish year.
Mouse over each item to learn more.

Sweet Challah and Challah Cover

For Rosh Hashanah, we traditionally eat a round challah with raisins baked in it. The round shape symbolizes the cycle of life, which we are highly aware at this time. The raisins symbolize sweetness for the new year ahead. To make it even sweeter, we dip the challah in honey.

Sweet Challah and Challah Cover

For Rosh Hashanah, we traditionally eat a round challah with raisins baked in it. The round shape symbolizes the cycle of life, which we are highly aware at this time. The raisins symbolize sweetness for the new year ahead. To make it even sweeter, we dip the challah in honey.

Apples and Honey

We dip apples in honey to signify our wish for a sweet new year. The apple, in addition to being a primary fruit of the season, symbolizes the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, which is often referred to as an apple orchard in kabbalistic literature. The apple also recalls the initial understanding of right and wrong in the Garden of Eden and reminds us that we have the choice to choose between the two.

Apples and Honey

We dip apples in honey to signify our wish for a sweet new year. The apple, in addition to being a primary fruit of the season, symbolizes the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, which is often referred to as an apple orchard in kabbalistic literature. The apple also recalls the initial understanding of right and wrong in the Garden of Eden and reminds us that we have the choice to choose between the two.

Honey Cake and Other Sweets

Honey cake and other sweet treats are eaten at our festive Rosh Hashanah meals to symbolize our wish for a sweet new year.

Honey Cake and Other Sweets

Honey cake and other sweet treats are eaten at our festive Rosh Hashanah meals to symbolize our wish for a sweet new year.

Candles and Candle Sticks

Candles are lit before sunset to usher in the holiday, and beautiful candle sticks visually and spiritually enhance the mitzvah of lighting the candles.

Candles and Candle Sticks

Candles are lit before sunset to usher in the holiday, and beautiful candle sticks visually and spiritually enhance the mitzvah of lighting the candles.

Kiddush Cup and Wine or Grape Juice

We sanctify the holiday by reciting kiddush over wine or grape juice.

Kiddush Cup and Wine or Grape Juice

We sanctify the holiday by reciting kiddush over wine or grape juice.

A Machzor, High Holiday Prayer Book

A special prayer book is used on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for the services we complete on those days and includes piyyutim, liturgical poems.

A Machzor, High Holiday Prayer Book

A special prayer book is used on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for the services we complete on those days and includes piyyutim, liturgical poems.

A Special First Fruit

A round fruit, not yet eaten that season, is tasted on the second night of Rosh Hashanah to make sure that the second day of the holiday has something new about it so that we can say the Shehechiyanu, a prayer of thanksgiving thanksgiving for a special or new experience.

A Special First Fruit

A round fruit, not yet eaten that season, is tasted on the second night of Rosh Hashanah to make sure that the second day of the holiday has something new about it so that we can say the Shehechiyanu, a prayer of thanksgiving thanksgiving for a special or new experience.

White Table Cloth

The color white traditionally symbolizing purity and new beginnings, so it’s fitting to set our new year’s table with linens that signify a fresh start.

White Table Cloth

The color white traditionally symbolizing purity and new beginnings, so it’s fitting to set our new year’s table with linens that signify a fresh start.

Sneakers

In addition to fasting on Yom Kippur, there are several things we abstain from, which include but are not limited to bathing, using perfume or cologne and wearing leather shoes. Thus, non-leather sneakers have become the Yom Kippur footwear of choice in many Jewish communities.

Sneakers

In addition to fasting on Yom Kippur, there are several things we abstain from, which include but are not limited to bathing, using perfume or cologne and wearing leather shoes. Thus, non-leather sneakers have become the Yom Kippur footwear of choice in many Jewish communities.

What’s for dinner?

Sure, there are apples dipped in honey, round challah and honey cake, but beyond all the treats that symbolize a sweet new year, there are many other foods that take on a spiritual meaning during the High Holidays. Tap below to see a few foods you can incorporate into your holiday meals this year.Click below to see a few foods you can incorporate into your holiday meals this year.

  • Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds

    The word for squash, kera, is phonetically related to the Hebrew words to “to rip/tear” and “to read.” We hope that any bad things we have done will be ripped from G-d’s book. And we say, “May You tear up our negative judgement,” or “May You read our good merits.”

  • Pomegranate

    Every pomegranate, it is said, has exactly 613 seeds, precisely the number of mitzvot. As we eat this fruit, we pray that the coming year will be filled with as many good deeds as the pomegranate has seeds. We say, “In the coming year, may we be rich and replete with acts inspired by religion and piety as this pomegranate is rich and replete with seeds.”

  • Leeks

    In Aramaic, the word for leeks is karsi, which sounds like yikarsu, the word for “cut off” or “destroy.” We eat leeks in hopes that our misdeeds and spiritual enemies will be cut down.

  • Dates

    Tamarim, or dates, sounds like the Hebrew word sheyitamu, which means “May they be consumed.” Guess who we wish to be consumed? You got it, our enemies. But in English speaking countries we also eat dates as a way to say, “May we date the new year as a beginning of happiness and blessing and peace for all people.”

  • Beets

    In Aramaic, the word for beet is silka similar to the Hebrew word salak, which means to “go away.” We eat beets to express our hope that our enemies will disappear.

  • Sheep or Fish Head

    Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year.” The sheep or fish head symbolizes the hope that each of us will be at the head of whatever we do, rather than at the tail end.

  • Carrots

    For Sephardic Jews, carrots are symbolic of the phrase yikaretu oyveychem, which means “May your enemies be cut down.” We ask that those who wish bad things for us do not get their wish. For Ashkenazi Jews, carrots symbolize the Yiddish word merren, which means “more.” We want more of all the good things in life — more health, more happiness, more success.

Get punny!

When planning your Rosh Hashanah menu, get creative and develop your own English puns. You might try peas in hopes of increased peace. Get it? Or maybe your salad says “Lettuce find happiness in this new year.” And don’t forget to say “Olive you” to friends and family. Get family and friends involved and have fun creating your own puns and building a menu around your newly symbolic foods.

Tradition

Time spent in prayer and festive family meals are often what first come to mind when thinking about the High Holidays. But there are many traditions that bring meaning to this auspicious time of year. Consider taking on a new family tradition, or if you already practice one of the traditions suggested below, think about inviting friends and other family members to join you!

Tashlich

Tashlich is the service when we symbolically cast our sins into a running body of water in hopes that the water will carry our sins away. The practice is based on a verse from the book of the Prophet Michah that says, “And thou wilt cast all your sins into the depths of the sea.”

Kaparot

Kaparot is a ritual done by taking a live chicken (don’t worry, you can also use money) and waving it around your head three times. The chicken is then slaughtered and given to charity, or if you go with the money option, the money is donated. While swinging the chicken (or money) above your head, say “This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement. This chicken is going to die (or this money is going to be given away), but I am going to a good, long life and to peace.”

Tshuvah Tracker

Doing tshuvah, a word often translated to “repentance” but literally meaning “return” is something we focus on in the month of Elul before the holidays actually begin in Tishrei. As a family, sit and and make a plan of ways to make the New Year better. Asking the following questions is a great way to start thinking about self improvement for the year to come: What have I done wrong? What do I need to apologize for? What can I change for the better?

Wearing White

White is a symbol of purity, cleanliness and new beginnings. Because of this symbolism, many Jews wear white clothing during Rosh Hashanah. Some people wear a kittle, a white robe that is similar to a Jewish burial shroud and reminds us of our mortality. Another explanation for wearing white is that it emulates the ministering angels that surround us during this time.

Shana tova!