Apple Jam for a Sweet Year

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This is not any old apple jam, this is “Marabba” – one of the culinary treasures of the Jews of Baghdad. Originally invented for New Year use as an alternative to the Ashkenazi custom of apple in honey, due to a kabbalistic aversion to using honey, Marabba is sinfully sweet and absolutely delicious. The amber-coloured pieces of apple are soft and succulent. It merits special mention in the writings of Rabbi Yoseph Haim (“Ben Ish Hai”) and has become an essential feature of many people’s New Year’s Eve meal.   Continue reading

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The seven circuits

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Judaism has many rituals to help transition the body and soul of the deceased, and no doubt also to help the living come to terms with their loss.

In the Sephardi world one of the important places where these rituals took place was the “House of the Circuits” (Casa de Rodeos or Rodeamentos). This building served the same purpose as the House of Tahara in Ashkenazi cemeteries, and was where the ritual washing of the body was performed. In the Sephardi tradition, after the body has been purified, the burial service starts with the men present walking seven times around the body. Continue reading

Elegy on the Holocaust

Rabbi Simon SchwabRabbi Simon Schwab (1908-95), sion of Hirsch’s “Torah and Derekh Eretz” Community in Frankfurt, and leader of Khal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights, USA, composed a moving Elegy on the tragedy of the Holocaust, for inclusion among the others traditionally chanted on the Fast of Av, the saddest day of the Jewish Year.

R. Schwab’s elegy is structured like the well-known kinah “Betseiti Mimitzrayim” (also known by its opening words “Esh Tukad”), and intended to be chanted to the same chant. The S&P chant for “Esh Tukad” also fits the R. Schwab’s kinah well. Continue reading

Recordings from the past

ProductImageHistorical recordings of a service of thanksgiving held 58 years ago at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London, in celebration of the 300th Anniversary of the resettlement of the Jews in Britain are now available online, and on an inexpensive CD. For more details click here.

Recordings from the service held 50 years later, for the 350th Anniversary, can be heard here.

Beha’alotecha: Black is beautiful

black is beautifulWas the biblical Miriam guilty of racial prejudice?

We feel uncomfortable with that idea somehow.

Rashi as he often does, tries to resolve the problem by adding things into the text or deleting things from the text, or re-reading the verse. He has no problem with changing a word’s meaning to solve a problem. For example in this week’s parasha when Miriam talks about Moshe’s Kushi wife, and Rashi does not understand who the Kushi wife is, since the only wife we know about is Tzipora, a Midianite, Rashi changes the meaning of the word. Continue reading

Keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEProblem keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries that use different calendars?

There are apps that help, but I wanted a physical book – like the birthdays books that used to be popular in my Gran’s day, but with Hebrew and Gregorian dates. I also needed more space than Gran’s little book had. So I designed this. Open it at the Hebrew end for Hebrew dates; English end for Gregorian dates. Problem solved! (Yes, you’ll need TWO bookmarks.) Continue reading

Never Again

Candles_0Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) in Israel. The date was chosen because of it’s position between the Anniversary of the Waraw Ghetto Uprising and Israel Independence Day, and indeed in Hebrew the full name of the day is Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laGvura (Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day). There is a clear “angle” here, but then different points of view are fine as long as we recognise them as such.  Continue reading