Tag: Judaism

I Want this Book

A cache of ancient Jewish recipes dating back to the inquisition has been found in Miami.

It has been published, and I want a copy:

A few years ago, Genie Milgrom came across a treasure trove of old recipes stashed away in her elderly mother’s kitchen drawers. There were hundreds of them — some in tattered notebooks, others scribbled on crumbling scraps of paper.

Upon closer examination, it became apparent to Milgrom that these were the handwritten notations of generations of women in her family. The recipes had traveled as an intact, ever-growing collection from Spain to Portugal to Cuba to the United States, reflecting not only the lives of Milgrom’s ancestors, but also the hidden heritage they had for the most part unknowingly safeguarded since the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

Milgrom, who grew up devoutly Roman Catholic in Havana and Miami, has Crypto-Jewish roots. Her ancestors were Jews who practiced Judaism in secret while outwardly living as Christians to avoid being expelled, tortured, or killed by the Church. They were Crypto-Jews until the late 17th century, and lived as Catholics from then on. Through a decade-long, intense genealogical search, Milgrom discovered that she has an unbroken Jewish maternal lineage going back 22 generations to 1405 pre-Inquisition Spain and Portugal.

Her new kosher cookbook, “Recipes of My 15 Grandmothers: Unique Recipes and Stories from the Times of the Crypto-Jews during the Spanish Inquisition,” is a tribute to those female relatives who repressed or forgot their Jewish identity over hundreds of years, but managed to preserve vestiges of it through their food.

This is is awesome.

Do Not Make the Torah into a Crown with Which to Aggrandize Yourself or a Spade with Which to Dig*

The state of affairs in New York Yeshivas is scandalous, with many children not receiving even the most basic secular education.

In a New York Times OP/ED Shulem Deen talks about the real world consequences of this:

Last Friday, as observant Jews hurried with last-minute preparations for Passover, one Orthodox Jew was in Albany, holding up the New York State budget. He was insisting that this roughly $168 billion package include a special provision that would allow religious schools to meet the state’s educational requirements by using their long hours of religious instruction.

In recent years, education activists, among them former Hasidic yeshiva graduates, have pushed aggressively to bring the yeshivas into compliance with the state’s education laws. Simcha Felder, the state senator from Brooklyn who represents the heavily ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood, was on a mission to get legal permission for the state to turn a blind eye to the near-absence of secular instruction in many yeshivas. The upshot? Tens of thousands of children would continue to graduate without the most basic skills.

I know about the cost. I was one of those kids.


During my senior year of high school, a common sight in our study hall was of students learning to sign their names in English, practicing for their marriage license. For many, it was the first time writing their names in anything but Yiddish or Hebrew.

When I was in my 20s, already a father of three, I had no marketable skills, despite 18 years of schooling. I could rely only on an ill-paid position as a teacher of religious studies at the local boys’ yeshiva, which required no special training or certification. As our family grew steadily — birth control, or even basic sexual education, wasn’t part of the curriculum — my then-wife and I struggled, even with food stamps, Medicaid and Section 8 housing vouchers, which are officially factored into the budgets of many of New York’s Hasidic families.

I remember feeling both shame and anger. Shame for being unable to provide for those who relied on me. Anger at those responsible for educating me who had failed me so colossally.

A woman I know works as a physician at Maimonides Medical Center, in heavily Hasidic Borough Park in Brooklyn, and often sees adult male patients who can barely communicate to her what ails them. “It’s not just that they’re like immigrants, barely able to speak the language,” she told me. “It’s also a lack of knowledge of basic physiology. They can barely name their own body parts.”


According to New York State law, nonpublic schools are required to offer a curriculum that is “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools. But when it comes to Hasidic yeshivas, this law has gone unenforced for decades. The result is a community crippled by poverty and a systemic reliance on government funding for virtually all aspects of life.


According to a report by Yaffed, or Young Advocates for Fair Education, an organization that advocates for improved general studies in Hasidic yeshivas, an estimated 59 percent of Hasidic households are poor or near-poor. According to United States Census figures, the all-Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, an hour north of New York City, is the poorest in the country, with median family income less than $18,000.


Knowing all of this, it takes a special kind of audacity on Mr. Felder’s part to successfully strong-arm the state’s highest legislative body to legally deprive his own constituents’ children of an education and a future. Some might call this chutzpah. In Borough Park, it would be more properly called a Chillul Hashem: a desecration of God’s name.

I think that Deen does a fantastic job of describing the real world consequences that salutary neglect has had on the Orthodox Jewish community, but, unsurprisingly given that it is an editorial in the
Times, he does not go into the deeper theological issues beyond calling this state of affairs a Chillul Hashem.

I would argue that the current state of affairs in places like Kiryas Joel is more than a disservice to the members of the community and the taxpayers of New York, I would argue that it is in direct opposition to the basic tenets of Judaism.

The scriptural quote in the title of this post, is just one such example, and the behavior of these leaders constitutes both self-aggrandizement and an attempt to make the study of Torah remunerative, largely by gaming the state welfare system, which is clearly prohibited.

There is more to it than that though:  A Jew is REQUIRED to engage the world in order to make it a better place, to be, “A light unto the nations.” (Or LaGoyim)

More generally, we as Jews are placed on this broken world to mend it. This is frequently called Tikkun Olam.

In order to fix this world, one has to understand it on some level beyond that of signing one’s name on a wedding license or application for food stamps.

One needs to do more that take from society, one has to give back to society.

This is more than a Chillul Hashem, is is a Shanda fur die Goyim.  Their behavior shames the whole Jewish community.

*Perkei Avote, Ch. 4:3.
“I the LORD have called unto you in righteousness, and have taken hold of your hand, and submitted you as the people’s covenant, as a light unto the nations” Isaiah 42:6, among others.

What a Surprise

That Jewish lawyer that Kayla Moore invoked to defend her husband, Roy Moore from accusations of anti Semitism is not Jewish:

Kayla Moore, the wife of failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, has revealed the identity of the Jewish attorney she cited to defend her husband from anti-Semitism charges — and that attorney is a Christian.

The identity of the lawyer was the subject of intense curiosity in the Jewish community ever since Kayla Moore proclaimed at a campaign rally last month, “One of our attorneys is a Jew.”

Moore told local news website AL.com on Thursday that she was referring to Martin Wishnatsky, a staff lawyer at the Foundation for Moral Law, which she runs.


Wishnatsky, who got a doctorate in political science from Harvard University in 1975, says that he accepted Jesus Christ as the son of God two years later. He first started exploring Mormonism, but later distanced himself from it; he went on to write a book called “Mormonism: A Latter Day Deception.” He now identifies as a Messianic Jew.


After two decades in North Dakota, Wishnatsky went on to graduate from law school at Liberty University before clerking for Roy Moore in the Alabama Supreme Court, then working for the Moores’ foundation, where he writes friend-of-the-court briefs.

Wishnatsky’s personal website includes links to poetry, books and legal briefs he has written, as well as coverage of his exploits in church musical performances, talent show competitions and community theater.


Kayla Moore had also said last month that she and her husband “have very close friends that are Jewish and rabbis and we also fellowship with them.” According to Southern Jewish Life magazine, she was referring to leaders at Beth Hallel, a Messianic Jewish congregation in Birmingham.

What a surprise. 

She’s either lying through her teeth, or has no conception as to what Judaism is.

The Term Here is Mensch

Alexander Rapaport is an Orthodox Jew who runs a soup kitchens in and around Borough Park.

He expressed support for the plight of immigrants shut out by Trump’s now enjoined immigrant ban, and what followed was an exodus of donors who turned out to be bigots:

Alexander Rapaport, a Brooklyn Hasid, says his experience being the victim of anti-Semitism forces him to call out hatred against others. So Rapaport, who runs a network of kosher soup kitchens, helped organize a communal show of support last week for a local Yemeni-owned bodega in reaction to President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Not everyone was happy about the gesture.

“I received your solicitation letter in the mail along with this phone number,” read a text message he received Wednesday. “After seeing, though, that you protested President Trump’s executive order, and thus shamefully sided with those who are putting American lives in danger, I am no longer able to donate to your organization.”


Rapaport, who lives in the strongly Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood, said that other donors approached him in the street to complain about his stance on immigration following his show of support for the shop. Last week, after Yemeni-American bodega owners organized a strike to protest the president’s temporary travel ban, Rapaport showed his support by going to a local store with other community members and pasting Post-it notes with “messages of love and solidarity” on its storefront.


The 38-year-old father of seven has gotten complaints after he spoke up for immigrants previously and lost funders who were unhappy that the strictly kosher soup kitchen serves anyone who wants a meal, regardless of religious background.

In December 2015, Rapaport attended a protest at New York City Hall following a call by Trump, then a presidential candidate, for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

While Rapaport has considered being less outspoken, he said hiding his views wouldn’t be honest.

“I don’t want to take anyone’s money under false pretense. Yes, I am personally very pro-immigrant, and if that makes me unqualified for your donation, please don’t give it to me,” he told JTA.

Rapaport has received support from many parts of the Orthodox community, but I have a message for those parts of the community who seem determined to allow their personal bigotries rule their actions:

The stranger who sojourns with you shall be as a native from among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God.

:כְּאֶזְרָח מִכֶּם יִהְיֶה לָכֶם הַגֵּר | הַגָּר אִתְּכֶם וְאָהַבְתָּ לוֹ כָּמוֹךָ כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲנִי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

Drops mic.