The ProsenPeople

Passover for Non-Bolivians

Wednesday, April 04, 2012 | Permalink
Aviva Kanoff is the author of The No-Potato Passover. Check back on Friday for her next post for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

By now, most people have heard of quinoa, the superfood. With plenty of fiber, protein and vitamins it sounds like a super idea. The problem arises when the time comes to actually prepare this somewhat unfamiliar item and poses a special problem during the upcoming holiday of Passover. Jewish people tend to favor foods from their particular part of the Diaspora during these eight days. And really, how many Jews are actually from Bolivia?  But never fear, we Jews are a glorious melting pot! We may have been kicked out of many places but we wind up taking the menus with us.


I have recently traveled around the country to do cooking demonstrations in response to my new book, The No-Potato Passover, and I have found that people have a fear and mistrust of this simple Bolivian staple.

But what exactly is quinoa?

Is it a grain? A seed? A vegetable? Help!

Quinoa (pronounced "keen-whah") is often mistaken for a grain, but it's actually a seed — one that originated thousands of years ago in the Andes Mountains. Dubbed "the gold of the Incas," it's treasured because of it's nutritive value. Quinoa actually has more protein than any other grain or seed and offers a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies can't make on their own. It's also a great source of calcium and is high in lysine, the B vitamins and iron. To top it off, the seed is easy to digest and gluten free! If you are counting carbs or just want to eat healthier quinoa is your new best friend.

Why has this tiny seed brought forth such huge confusion?

For starters, misinformation, or don't believe the bag!! Typically, the label will state to boil for 15 minutes. In my experience, quinoa is not ready for consumption before 20- 25 minutes of cooking time. Only when the seed “pops” and it is soft, is it ready to be eaten.

But it doesn't taste like anything.

Aha! thats where you come in. The wonder of quinoa is that you can make it taste like anything you want. Think of the biblical mana that fell from heaven. 

Do you like savory flavors? Reach for the pepper and garlic. Middle Eastern more your style? How about cumin and safron?  Use different colored vegetables and tangy fruit to add more texture and “zing” and soon you too will be singing the praises of quinoa. It will supply the wonderful canvas to bring out your inner culinary artist.

Mixed Berry Quinoa with Roasted Almonds


• 1 cup red quinoa
• 1 cup slivered almonds
• 1 cup white quinoa
• 5-6 medium mushrooms, chopped
• 1 cup golden raisins
• 1 Vidalia onion, diced
• 1 cup Craisins
• 2 tbsp. canola oil
• salt and pepper to taste


1. Cook quinoa according to package.
2. In a separate skillet, sauté onions in canola oil until golden brown.
3. Add chopped mushrooms and sauté for one minute.
4. Add raisins, craisins and almonds, and sauté for another minute.
5. When quinoa is ready, add to pan and mix with other ingredients.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe from The No Potato Passover (Brio Books; 2012 Hardcover $29.95)

Aviva Kanoff paints, teaches a mixed media art class, and dabbles in photography. Her creative approach to life led her to artistic experimentation with food, and after years of creating her own recipes and working as a personal chef, she wrote The No-Potato Passover.

Yiddish Flashcards

Tuesday, April 03, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

In honor of the publication of Leela Corman's Unterzakhn today, Schocken Books created some handy Yiddish flashcards. We've shared a few below, but check out the complete set + a great Pinterest board in honor of the book here. Plus, check out our review.

Moshe Kasher Responds to Critics

Tuesday, April 03, 2012 | Permalink

Moshe Kasher is the author of Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16. He is blogging here today for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

To whoever is reading–

I’ve had some complaints regarding my recent appearance on Conan, promoting my new book, Kasher In The Rye: The True Tale Of A White Boy From Oakland Who Became A Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient…And Then Turned Sixteen. Some Jews (I’m assuming here) were a little offended by my poking fun at my experiences with childhood Haredi life. I said they looked like fat Amish penguins and that they were weird. But seriously, I mean is any of that in dispute?

Now, normally, I try and pay anonymous complaints no heed as I have long since come to terms with the fact that when you make jokes, especially sharp prickly ones, you will invariably bruise the tender sensibilities of someone and that the anonymous and instantly accessible nature of the internet gives those bruised peaches an instant platform to lodge their grievances. But I’ve been thinking about it and I thought, since I’m being asked to blog for MyJewishLearning and Jewish Book Council, that I might try and clarify myself and my jokes and my Jewishness.

I grew up in a bifurcated existence, floating between the supernatural realms of Chassidus and the concrete pragmatism of secularization. I’m an anomaly. A rare breed that is both “frum from birth” and “off the derech” in sharp strong veins that ran, right next to one another, interweaving themselves into a confusing rope almost long enough to hang myself with.

My father moved to Seagate, and married into a Satmar family when it became clear that my mother – who took us on a “vacation” to Oakland early in my life- was not going to return. He was a unique man, a brilliant dynamo who painted and performed in the lower east side and according to family legend was asked by Marcel Marceau, seeing his pantomime genius, to join him as a “mime in training.” All the messy blurs of the art world were turned into sharp edges when he found Chassidus and returned to the shtark world of frumkeit.

My mother, who stole us away in the night, kept that mess and turned it into kindling for a bright jumbled fire that illuminated our home and kept us warm. Her relationship with Judaism was casual and ambivalent, no doubt poisoned a bit by her rocky marriage to my father.

I was born in the middle ground. To my left was modernism, to my right was minhag. The runoff of both experiences was churning white water that I had to learn how to paddledown, desperate to keep my head above water. Eventually, I learned how to make jokes about all of it and those jokes became flotation devices. They buoyed me and kept me breathing.

And though, if you read the book you will see how deeply and severely I sank later on, I used those jokes to keep me as afloat as I could be, even as I got smacked around on the rocks. Kasher In The Rye is a book where I expose my soft underbelly to the world and tell the tale of my teenage descent into drug addiction, violence, insanity and crime. But it’s a comedy. How can such dark fodder be funny?

My God, how can it not?

If I hadn’t learned to laugh at it, all of it, it would have swallowed me whole and I’d probably not be your blogger this week. I’d likely be dead. So you’ll forgive me if I laugh at you. I’m really just laughing at myself. It never occurred to me that my childhood wasn’t my own to joke about. But I see now that, when bringing that childhood into the public for everyone to enjoy and , hopefully to relate to, that I’m joking about your childhood too. If I offend anyone with my gallows humor, please know that I was born on a gallows and and I’m telling jokes to stave off execution. If you’d like to take my place up here you are welcome.

This isn’t an apology. God forbid. I’m not sorry at all for turning my experiences into jokes, it’s what I do. This is a clarification. I love Jews and Jewishness. I love Chassidus and tradition. I love it sincerely and I love to make fun of it too. Honestly if you don’t think there is anything hilarious about living in 21st century America but pretending fashion wise that its 1820′s Hungary, then you take yourself too damn seriously. I think the Baal Shem Tov would probably agree with me but who the f*ck am I to speak for him? I’m just a clown. But I think we need clowns as much as we need rebbes.

Moshe Kasher is the author of Kasher In The Rye: The True Tale Of A White Boy From Oakland Who Became A Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient...And Then Turned Sixteen. He is an L.A.-based comedian who was named iTunes Comedian of the Year. He is a regularly featured guest on E's Chelsea Lately, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Comedy Central.

Book Cover of the Week: Harry Lipkin, Private Eye

Tuesday, April 03, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Meet Harry Lipkin, the world's oldest private detective: part Sam Spade, part Woody Allen, all mensch.

With a tagline like that, who could resist? Harry Lipkin, Private Eye (Barry Fantoni) will be published by Doubleday in July.

Harry Lipkin is a tough-talking, soft-chewing, rough-around-the-edges, slow-around-the-corners private investigator who carries a .38 along with a spare set of dentures. Harry specializes in the sort of cases that cops can't be bothered with, but knows where to find good chopped liver for a fair price. He might not be the best P.I. in Miami, but at 87, he's certainly the oldest.

His latest client, Mrs. Norma Weinberger, has a problem. Someone in her home is stealing sentimental trinkets and the occasional priceless jewel from her; someone she employs, trusts, cares for, and treats like family. With the stakes so low and blood pressure that's a little too high, Harry Lipkin must figure out whodunit before the thief strikes again.

Waiting Too Long to Teach about Israel

Monday, April 02, 2012 | Permalink

Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 22 books including Israel Matters: Understand the Past - Look to the Future and The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America's Interests in the Middle EastHe is blogging here today for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

I had an all too familiar conversation with someone the other day who was talking about a community Jewish high school that offered only one course on Israel, in 12th grade, that was optional. Several years ago, when my kids were in day school, I had been shocked to learn that I was paying a fortune for a Jewish education that I took for granted includedcourses on Israel but had only one poorly taught elective course on Zionism offered the semester before graduation. After that epiphany, I learned that this was common in many day schools. And parents wonder why Jewish students are ill-equipped to respond to Israel’s detractors in college.

The truth is the Jewish community has been asleep at the wheel for decades. Since at least the 1960s, people have written about the lack of preparation of our young people and yet little has been done since then to educate them. In the last ten years, especially, the community has thrown a lot of money into Israel advocacy training for college students. This has been very important; however, it is also very late to first introduce young Jews to the Aleph-Bet of Israeli history, politics and culture.

It is certainly not the kids’ fault that they are ignorant. Where would they get the necessary background if not in day schools? They certainly don’t get it in public schools or after school Hebrew schools that barely have the time to teach basic Judaism.

I recently attended a meeting of educators and donors that seemed to, at long last, recognize the crisis in Israel education. Not surprisingly, there is a multiplicity of opinions as to how to address the problem. Still, a few areas of consensus were clear. These included:

• The need to integrate Israel education in an age-appropriate manner from kindergarten through high school.

• That Jewish summer camps offer opportunities to teach Israel to large numbers of students, especially those who do not attend day schools.

• The importance of training teachers to teach about Israel.

People have certainly talked about teaching Israel for a long time and a lot of curricula have been developed over the years. Shockingly, however, no textbooks were available to teach basic Israeli history to high school students. A typical course would be in a loose-leaf binder and contain a hodgepodge of information, articles and maps. The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles used something like this in a unique program they developed for educating students in Catholic schools about Israel. The organizers of this Holy Land Democracy Project recognized that something more was needed and asked me to write a book that would cover what everyone should know about Israel.

Having written the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict, I had experience in explaining the complexities of the history and politics of Israel for a lay audience. My goal with this new book was to help readers get to better know Israel and Israelis, to teach them the essential history, lay out some of the dilemmas the nation faces and to ensure they have the information they need to feel knowledgeable. Of course, one book cannot provide all the answers. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise publishes the bookMyths and Facts to address more specific issues that frequently arise on college campuses such as attacks on Zionism, critiques of Israeli security measures and canards about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

The new book, Israel Matters: Understand the Past – Look to the Future (Behrman House), does provide an overview and context that enables readers to understand how history, politics, religion, geography and psychology influence Israelis and the policies of their government. Through profiles of important figures in Israeli history, and descriptions of typical young Israelis, I hope that readers will also get a better sense of the people who live in Israel.

One of the problems with Israel education has been to present an idyllic portrayal of the Jewish State. Students today are too sophisticated to see Israel through rose-colored glasses. They are sensitive to what appears to them to be propaganda. They are correct in recognizing that Israel is a complex place that aspires to be a light unto the nations but is not perfect. Part of our challenge as educators is to give them the background they need to wrestle with Israel, to see it, warts and all, and to reach their own conclusions.

Given the proper education, I am confident that young Jews will become passionate Zionists who will know how to respond to the detractors inside and outside college classrooms and, ultimately, become active members of the pro-Israel community.

Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.

National Poetry Month

Friday, March 30, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Learn more about National Poetry Month here and check out more Jewish-interest poets here.



Where the Debate on Modern Judaism Really Began

Friday, March 30, 2012 | Permalink
Earlier this week, Rabbi Barry Schwartz wrote about needing more Jewish debate and the first Jewish debate. He will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

The mid-19th century in Germany is, to my mind, the most unappreciated period in Jewish history. The reason is simple: modern Judaism as we know it was born then and there. Do I exaggerate? I think not. Spinoza’s revolutionary thought in the mid-17th century certainly paved the way for new thinking (see Chapter VIII of my book). Mendelssohn’s attempts in the late 18th century to reconcile faith and reason lay the groundwork within the Jewish community. The early reforms of Israel Jacobson, along with the responses of the Parisian Sanhedrin to Napoleon in the first decade of the 19th century mark the irreversible first steps of putting theory into practice.

But modernity hits its stride in Judaism in the second decade of the 19th century. In 1817 the Hamburg Temple embraces reform of Judaism as its raison-de-entre. In 1819 Leopold Zunz establishes the pioneering Society for the Culture and Science of Judaism, which advocates for the academic study of our sacred texts and religious heritage. The same year a leading traditionalist rabbi, Moses Sofer, castigates this approach in his broadside Eleh Divrei Habrit. The grounds for the great debate have been set.

The debate truly unfolds over a ten year period (1836-1846) between three giants of modern Judaism who were contemporaries, and actually knew and liked each other (until their disagreements drove them apart). Rabbi Abraham Geiger began arguing that Judaism has always evolved and should continue to change with the times. He called for radical shifts to meet the demands of modernity, including the critical study of Torah, the elimination of outdated prayers and customs, and the equal treatment of men and women. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, while acknowledging the need to engage in secular learning in the new age, contended that Judaism’s truths and law was eternal and not subject to evolution. Rabbi Zecharias Frankel, an advocate of “moderate reform” famously stormed out of an 1845 conference in Frankfort over the elimination of Hebrew from some of the liturgy.

Rabbis Geiger, Hirsch, and Frankel became known, respectfully, as the “fathers” of Reform, Orthodox, and Conservative Judaism. The spectrum of modern denominational Judaism was born in that time and place. Chapter IX of my book chronicles this remarkable debate. While the central locale of the debate would soon shift to America it was these three German Jewish leaders, through their sermons, books, and organizational activities who set the stage. Though hardly household names in the Jewish community today we owe a debt of gratitude to their great debate. I once taught a course about them called “The Three Tenors of Modern Judaism.” Their magnificent voices created the opera we sing today.

Rabbi Barry Schwartz is director of The Jewish Publication Society in Philadelphia and rabbi of Congregation Adas Emuno in Leonia, NJ. He is the author of Judaism’s Great Debates (Behrman House, March 2012 student edition; Jewish Publication Society, May, 2012 adult edition).

New Book Club Theme: Jews in America

Thursday, March 29, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

A partial list is below. To view the complete list, please click here.


The First Jewish Debate

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Rabbi Barry Schwartz wrote about needing more Jewish debate. He will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

The first Jewish debate never ceases to amaze me. I am of course referring to the great debate between Abraham and God as recorded in Chapter 18 of Genesis. While Abraham’s epic story is remarkable, there is nothing in the prior (or subsequent) biblical narrative to indicate that the patriarch will challenge so boldly the God who commands his life so thoroughly. This is the quintessential man of faith, after all, who unquestioningly sets forth to a new land and submits even to the command to sacrifice his beloved son with nary a word of objection.

So when quite suddenly “Abraham came forward” (18:23) and dares God to morally justify the collective punishment of Sodom-well that is astonishing! “Will You sweep away the innocent with the guilty?” he pointedly asks in the same verse. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” he passionately exclaims two verses later. Abraham holds his ground as the debate goes back and forth concerning the minimum number of innocent people it would take to save the city.

The abrupt and apparently truncated conclusion to the debate (see 18:33) shifts the enigma of Abraham to the enigma of God. Does the Judge of all the earth in fact act justly? Do some innocent perish with the wicked? Were the wicked beyond repentance and mercy? Were the ordinary citizens of Sodom equally evil?

Who, then, won this debate? Certainly Abraham leaves quite a legacy. Abraham could easily have looked the other way. He could have idly stood by. Instead he decides to stand up to God no less, his guide and protector. In the words of Naomi Rosenblatt this story is about “the power of one man of integrity to be the conscience of the world.” In the words of Elie Wiesel “the Jew opts for Abraham-who questions- and for God-who is questioned…knowing that he may oppose God as long as he does so in defense of His creation.”

The Sages coined an expression for challenging God in the spirit of Abraham, “hutzpah k’lape shmaya- boldness (even nerviness) toward heaven.” This legacy of “holy hutzpah” finds expression throughout Jewish literature, but especially in Eastern European Hasidic tales like Rabbi Levi Yitzhak’s “Din Torah mit Got-Lawsuit with God,” and in another tale where he tells a simple tailor who challenged the Almighty in prayer, “Why did you let God off so easily? You might have forced God to save all of Israel!”

Rabbi Barry Schwartz is director of The Jewish Publication Society in Philadelphia and rabbi of Congregation Adas Emuno in Leonia, NJ. He is the author of Judaism’s Great Debates (Behrman House, March 2012 student edition; Jewish Publication Society, May, 2012 adult edition). 

Chaim Grade on Yiddish Literature

Tuesday, March 27, 2012 | Permalink
Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

The National Yiddish Book Center just passed along this great video of Chaim Grande on Yiddish Literature. Plus, check out YBC's upcoming weekend course on Grade, with Justin Cammy, Joseph Berger of the Times, and others here.