Archive for the 'Judaism' Category

A Muslim and A Jew on Christmas Eve

Friday, December 31st, 2010


There’s a tradition where Jews go out to Chinese food and a movie on Christmas.  I don’t remember my family doing the Chinese food much, but we did go to movies sometimes.  The last time we tried it, though, the theater was so packed we barely got in.  I’m pretty sure there aren’t that many Jews in Evanston.

Shama told me how she liked to drive around downtown late at night on Christmas because it was totally deserted, so this Christmas Eve, around midnight, Shama and I drove down to Northerly Island and the Planetarium.  It was snowing, silent, completely empty, and beautiful.  Plus, we could just drive up and park wherever we wanted, which was kind of wild.

I hope this becomes our new Christmas tradition.

Bubbie and Zadie Kvelling Over A Spiel

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Months ago, when I got back from building a bridge in Guatemala, my grandmother asked me if I would come to her chavurah and talk about the trip. A chavurah is an extra-curricular activity group for Jews. Loosely translated from the Aramaic it means, “Is this mandel bread parve?” My grandparents have been getting together with their chavurah for years. I’ve known several of them since I was a kid.

I, of course, agreed to be a speaker — can’t say no to grandma — and we set a date. Then I got a phone call telling me I had been bumped for another speaker.They must have gotten Henry Kissinger or Bono or something. We set another date and I got bumped again. Finally, last night, they settled for me. Now I know how Abe Vigoda feels when he gets that last-minute call to fill in for canceled guests on Conan.

I arrived to a multi-tiered, 20-minute argument/discussion on how to buzz into my grandparents’ apartment. Did you push pound? — I pushed three — Wait, did you dial the number? — No, I scrolled through the names? — And then pushed seven? — Someone with a dog opened the door for me — I need to call you? — Someone called — Do I need a cell phone? — Yes, then you push nine.

Eventually everyone made it inside. I gave my spiel, showed some slides, and it went over very well. I had a really great time. They even made a donation to EWB and gave me some chocolate babka, so all in all a pretty nice day.

A Very Important “I”

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Jimimininny Crickets! It’s Passover again — that time of year when Jews all over the world go on the Atkins diet for a week.

Last night was the second Seder, a long, fun, loud, ridiculous meal during which Jews retell the story of their Exodus from Egypt. The story is told by reading from a book called the Hagaddah. Often, the group goes around the table with each person reading a passage so everyone gets to participate.  Reading aloud can get a little tricky when Hebrew, Aramaic and English words are all sprinkled together… not to mention some difficult-to-pronounce names.  (Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah?)  It’s not uncommon for people to stumble over some of the words.

One passage discussed the peculiar absence of Moses from the Hagaddah:

Some suggest that Moses is intentionally marginalized in order to avoid any deification and to suggest that ultimately it is God who brought us out of Egypt, not Moses or any other human being.

Me: I’m glad I didn’t get that passage.
Aric: Yeah, there’s a very important “i” in “deification.”
Me: I definitely would have read that wrong.

Doughnut Pancakes

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Look at these freakin’ things! Do you know what these are? They’re freakin’ Doughnut Pancakes! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

There was a bit of a brew-ha-ha over what we should do for our Jellyvision holiday party. I was pushing hard for indoor go-karts, and when “dinner at a fancy restaurant” won the final vote, I told everyone we were turning into an old fogey company. I might have stormed out of the room.

The “fancy restaurant” turned out to be a place called Moto. Now, I’m not really a fancy food guy, but Moto was the most amazing food experience I’ve ever had — includingWok’s Up.”

There are other writers who can better explain how imaginative, fun, and slightly freaky Moto is. What blew me away was the service. I kind of keep kosher and I figured I wouldn’t be able to eat half of the items on the fixed menu. After all, fancy chefs love tentacles almost as much as they enjoy wrapping things in bacon. But before the meal started, our server asked if anyone had any dietary restrictions. A couple of folks in our group had miscellaneous allergies and I told him about my not-so-strict kosherness.

When the first dish came out (a bowl of tentacles) I was brought something different (and amazing — daikon, I think — a word I had previously heard only on Iron Chef.) When Moto’s version of pork and beans was presented, my pork was replaced with Mahi Mahi. Each time the server would quietly explain to me what was different about my dish. At the end of our 5 hour meal, I thanked the server for being so accommodating. “It’s something we’re very proud of,” he told me, and then explained how they once did a 20 course menu for a strict vegan. “That was a challenging night in the kitchen.”

A couple days later, we received an e-mail from Moto thanking us for having our party there. Included in the e-mail was a recipe for “doughnut pancakes.” Basically you blend doughnuts, eggs and some other stuff together and then fry them like pancakes. My friend Claire, a nutritionist, called them, “A dietician’s worst nightmare.” Maybe, but they were damn yummy.


Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

At some point in my life I became a minimalist as far as the word “Hanukah” was concerned: No “C” one “N” and one “K.” Simple. Elegant. And, as far as I knew, an approved spelling. But now that Firefox has built-in spell checking, I’m told that “Hanukah” is actually misspelled. “Hanukkah” is the only approved spelling. “Chanukah?” Misspelled. “Hannukkah?” Misspelled. “Grabjorblart?” Misspelled.

As a result, I’ve actually changed my behavior. I hate those dotted red underlines so much that I now spell Hanukkah with two k’s. Happy 8th night of Hanukkah everyone! Take it away, LeeVees:

I Mean, Really, How Often Do You Look at a Man’s Shoes?

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, begins tonight with a somber service called Kol Nidre. Then for the next 25 hours or so, many Jews like me will be attending services and fasting to atone for the sins we (and all Jews) have committed over the past year. Fasting on this holiday involves refraining from more than just food and drink, however. For example, we’re not supposed to “anoint ourselves with oil” either. It’s hard to give that up, but I manage. We are also supposed to abstain from wearing leather. I’ve always liked that custom. During Yom Kippur we’re supposed to think about how we’ve hurt others, even the cows that were made into our shoes.

The problem is I only have one pair of nice shoes and they’re made of leather. Even my gym shoes are made of leather (I think.) I have some rubber sandals that I wore to synagogue in college, but they wouldn’t pass muster with my mom so I always end up wearing the leather shoes.

Not tonight! After Yom Kippur last year I decided I’d get some kicks that weren’t made of leather for precisely this purpose. I got some weird hippie shoes made from recycled dreadlocks or something. They’re great. In fact, I’ve gotten more compliments on these shoes than any other piece of clothing I’ve ever owned, with the exception of my suit. Unfortunately recycled tires and jute only hold together for so long. A year later the shoes are ripped and frayed, but I’m wearing them anyway. It’s the thought that counts, and these holey shoes seem appropriate on this holiest day of the year.