Fish Hamsa
I’m standing at the counter talking to the sales person and preparing to pay for my purchase. Another sales person (the stereotypical little Bubbe type) standing behind the counter notices my star of david necklace:
Bubbe type: “Oh, there’s a star of david.”
me: (sigh, here we go again) “Well, yes, I am Jewish.”
Bubbe: “Yeah? I’m from New York. You see a lot of them in New York. But not too many in Philadelphia. The Acme where I shop has a big kosher department. I see a lot of them there.”
Me: “Hmmm, a lot of who?”
Bubbe type: “Uh, you know, uhhh, the orthodox!”
Me: “Oh, the orthodox. I thought you were talking about Jews of color.”
Bubbe type: “Ohhh, is that what you call them?”
Me: (chuckling) Yes, that’s what we’re called. But, just so you know, there are Orthodox Jews of color too.”
Bubbe type: “Ooooh. Well I’m not.”
Me: “Not what?”
Bubbe type: “Orthodox!”
(some of this stuff you just can’t make up!)

Hamsa Heart

Pesach was lovely! What a rare treat & pleasure it was to spend time with my Jewish sisters of color! We all met on ShalomSistah-Friends, a yahoo discussion group for Jewish Women of Color and we’ve all developed meaningful & supportive friendships. They came in from NJ, Chi-Town & LA. We went on a driving tour of the Philly neighborhoods of East & West Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill, Valley Green, Germantown, Roxborough, Manayunk, East Falls, drove down Kelly Drive to Art Museum area then back via the long stretch of Broad Street & Germantown Avenue. They are Yofi! Their visit made my Pesach less lonely & more special.


I walked into the jewelry store on South Street looking for silver chains for my hamsa pendants. The storekeeper and I go back and forth about one chain or another & eventually I decide on a couple of them. We have a bit of small talk. I said something about Israel and he asked, “You’re Jewish?” I say, “Yeasss I am (holding my breath).” And he says, “Me too! I’m from Casablanca. My wife cooks for the Sephardic synagogue.” I’d visited the synagogue he spoke of and tell him, “I know your wife’s cooking! She makes the delicious meatballs for the Oneg,” I also told him she should write a cookbook and that I would buy it hot off the press. He was pleased that I knew of his wife’s cooking and obviously proud of her skills. And I was proud of him, and pleased not be treated with the usual scoff and skepticism.

…and so I’m standing at a jewelry vendor in the middle of the mall checking out the hamsa necklaces. A woman, who was checking out the same vendor notices the hamsa necklace I’m wearing. “Oh look, your hamsa has a star of david and you’re not even Jewish.” (Oy yoy yoy, here we go again.) “Actually, I am,” I respond, “Are YOU?” Completely and utterly taken aback she sputters, “Well, yes! Of course I am!” And I responded, “Really. And how would I have known?”


Kaifeng Jews

A Jewish businessman was traveling in China. One erev Shabbes he was surprised to find that the city he was visiting had an ancient synagogue. So he hurried to get there before sunset.

When he got to the shul he was astonished to find out that the entire congregation was Chinese. People stared at him and whispered as he put on his kippa and pulled out a prayer book.

An elderly man came up to him and said, “Excuse me. I’m Rabbi Li-Wei. Are you Jewish?”

The business man nodded and said, “Why yes. I’m Jewish.”

The rabbi shook his head. “That’s funny. You sure don’t look Jewish.”

(I know. I know. It’s a throw back going way back. But really, think about it. It’s exactly the same thing that Ethiopian Jews said to Prof. Joseph Halevi in 1877 when he “discovered” them. In case you don’t know what the Ethiopian Jews said: When Halevi told them he was Jewish, they didn’t believe him. They said, “You don’t look Jewish.” Ever thought about why they said HE didn’t look Jewish? Because they’d never seen a white Jew. The only Jews they ever saw were Jews that looked like them. Hmmm…sounds like some folks I know).

hamsa2Painting from the Hamsa Gallery by Rossanna Nagil

Just near the Carmel Market on the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian walk.
Arts & Crafts Fair on Tuesdays and Fridays when the artists themselves are offering their creations.

My forever favorite artist (so far) in Tel Aviv is Chantal. While strolling up and down the Nahalat Binyamin Art & Crafts Market, I found myself immediately drawn to a vendor with hanging hand painted glass Hamsas. I love hamsas and have a very fine collection, but these, these were very special. I tell Chantal that I love her work, “Yofi, Yofi!”, (beautiful) I say to her. I continued to gush on & on about how intricately detailed her work is and how I could never steady my hands to do such tiny exquisite paintings. Chantal, never missing a stroke of her paint brush, looks up at me and says, in that typical “straight forward” manner of the Israelis that I’ve grown to love, “Well, yes, that is the thing, isn’t it.” (um, Yea-ah, having a (very) steady hand and the creativity is the “thing” that makes her work uniquely Chantal’s.

Hanging Hand painted Glass by Chantal


We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary and renewed our wedding vows at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Shalom in Montréal, Canada. Montréalers say they have the best bagels in the world. I don’t about know about that, but while we were there we did have the best french toast bagels I’ve ever eaten. I’ve attempted to duplicate the recipe. I did a pretty good job too!

French Toast Bagels ala Montréal

6 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 cups half-and-half or milk
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)
1 teaspoon ground *cinnamon (optional)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon good honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 bagels or 1 large loaf challah
Unsalted butter
Vegetable oil

To serve:
Fresh fruit: bananas, strawberries (or any assortment of berries & other fruit to your liking) with Yogurt & Honey
Pure maple syrup (optional)
Good raspberry preserves (optional)
Sifted confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

1. In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs & *cinnamon first, then add half-and-half, orange zest, vanilla, honey, and salt. Carefully slice bagels in half, horizontally. Add bagels to egg mixture, turning to coat evenly, set aside for 15 minutes. For challah: Slice the challah in 1-1/2 inch thick slices. Soak as many slices in the egg mixture as possible for 1 minute, turning once. (*This keeps the cinnamon from floating on top)

2. Heat 4 tablespoon butter and 4 tablespoon oil in a very large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the soaked bread and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned and crispy. Place the cooked French toast on a sheet pan and keep it warm in the oven. Fry the remaining soaked bread slices, adding butter and oil as needed, until it’s all cooked. Serve hot with bananas & strawberries with yogurt & honey, or maple syrup or raspberry preserves & confectioners’ sugar.

Yogurt & Honey Sauce
1 cup Plain Yogurt
¼ cup honey

Gently mix together yogurt and honey. Serve over french toast with fresh fruit. Guten Appetit! Es Gezunterhayt! B’tayavon! Enjoy!!

30th Wedding Anniversary Ketubah

Intertwined by Claire Carter
Two are stronger than one, but how much stronger when God, the third strand, weaves the two together. Day and night are intertwined visually with the three strands, representing the joining of a couple in marriage. The concept is taken from one of the artist’s favorite verses in the book of Ecclesiastes.

La-La-Licious Sweet Kugel

(This is by far the best kugel I’ve ever made!)
KUGEL is a famous Jewish dish, made especially by the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe. The word is Yiddish for ball, but it is sometimes translated as pudding or casserole, and related to the German Gugelhupf. Evidence exists that the dish was made over 800 years ago, though it has gradually been modified and improved upon over time. Many are used to thinking of kugel as a dessert, and you will certainly find lots of kugel dessert recipes. It can also be made as an unsweet savory side dish or entrée using different types of cheeses, mushrooms, etc. Kugels are a mainstay of festive meals in Ashkenazi Jewish (Jews of Eastern European descent) homes, particularly on the Jewish Sabbath and other Jewish holidays.

16 oz Wide Egg Noodles
2-8oz bars of cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1 pint sour cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional-gives a slight marzipan flavor)
6 eggs
1 stick of butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins or my preference – golden raisins (optional)

Cook noodles following package instructions. Drain & set aside. In a (very) large bowl mix together all ingredients until cream cheese resembles cottage cheese. Add noodles. Mix well. Oil spray 9×13 inch pan or one of your choosing and pour in mixture. (Optional-sprinkle top lightly with cinnamon.) Bake @ 350 degrees F for at least one hour or until lightly golden brown and firm in the center.

I usually freeze 1/2 of the kugel for later use. I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but the last thing I need to do is gain additional pounds from nibbling on the luscious thing all week until it’s all gone. It can be prepared weeks in advance, baked, and frozen. It need not be thawed before going straight into a 350 degree oven for an hour. I recommend covering it with foil before re-heating it in the oven.

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