Monday, April 30, 2018

A Look at Honesty

In honor of Honesty Day (created by M. Hirsh Goldberg in the 1990s), Jewish Treats presents some fascinating insights into the Jewish view on the importance of honesty.

Much of what Jewish law has to say about honesty and its opposite, falsehood, comes by way of commandments that guide a person to living an honest life. For instance, there are prohibitions against bearing false witness and tampering with weights and measures. However, there are also examples in the Torah where it is apparent that a “little white lie” is sometimes appropriate. God doesn’t tell Abraham that Sarah said he was old because He chose to omit the hurtful part (Genesis 18:12 -13). Still and all, the Torah does enjoin that one keep themselves far from false matters (Exodus 23:7).

The Hebrew word for falsehood is sheker, spelled with the Hebrew letters shin, kuf and reish, which are the three letters (not in consecutive order) before the last letter of the Aleph Bet. This is in contrast to the emet, which means truth and whose letters are aleph, mem and tav, the first, middle and last letters of the Aleph Bet. The sages stated: Why are the letters of sheker close together, while those of emet are far apart? Falsehood is frequent, truth is rare. And why does falsehood stand on one foot (referring to the shape of each of its three letters) while truth has a brick-like foundation? Truth can stand, falsehood cannot” (Talmud Shabbat 104a).

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.


Always choose your words with care.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Second Passover

On the first anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt, the Children of Israel prepared to celebrate their first Passover as free people. God decreed that they should eat matzah and maror (bitter herbs) in commemoration of the great event, and, most importantly, that the Israelites should all partake of the Passover sacrifice (lamb).

On the eve of that second Passover, Moses was approached by a group of distraught men. “We are unclean because of the dead body of a man; why are we being held back so that we cannot bring the offering to God in its appointed time among the children of Israel?” (Numbers 9:7).

Contact with the dead renders a person tamei, spiritually impure, and any person who was tamei was forbidden to partake of the Paschal lamb.

In response to their plea, Moses sought instruction from God. God responded that anyone who was tamei due to contact with death or who was on a far-away journey at the time of the Passover offering (14th of Nisan), would then offer the Pascal lamb one month later, on the 14th of Iyar. Those celebrating “Pesach Shaynee” (Second Passover) had to eat the meat of the sacrifice together with matzah and maror, exactly as on a regular Passover.

Today, without a Temple, no one is able to bring a Passover sacrifice. Thus the laws of Pesach Shaynee have little practical effect in day to day Jewish life. However, there is a custom to eat some matzah on the 14th of Iyar to mark the date of Pesach Shaynee for ourselves and for future generations.

2018: The 14th of Iyar this year begins on Saturday night and ends on Sunday at nightfall. 

This Treat is retreated annually.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Creative Matzah

Be creative in serving a bit of matzah on Sunday in honor of Pesach Shaynee.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Importance of Fences

Transmitting words of wisdom to leaders of future generations, the Men of the Great Assembly advised: “Make a fence for the Torah” (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 1:1), which alludes to the additional “protective” communal rules enacted by the sages that make it difficult for people to transgress actual Torah law. The great sage Rabbi Akiva noted, in a later citation of Pirkei Avot, that the Torah also contains fences meant to protect the Jewish people.

They are listed thus (Avot 3:17):

“Tradition is a fence for the Torah.” Tradition, in this case, is masorah, the Oral Torah that was transmitted from sage to sage through the generations until it was first redacted in the Mishna. Without the masorah, one would be unable to understand the laws of the written Torah.

“Tithes are a fence for wealth.” Tithes refer to the Torah obligation to give portions of one’s earnings to support the kohanim (priests) and the poor. Tithes not only raise one’s awareness of the needs of others, but they establish a person’s sense of gratitude for the success with which they have been blessed. This sense of gratitude is key to Torah’s definition of a wealthy person, “one who is happy with his lot” (Pirkei Avot 4:1).

“Vows are a fence to abstinence.” The Torah does not generally demand abstinence from the pleasures of life, and the details of halacha are intended to help a person live a well-balanced life. However, when a person chooses to withdraw from certain physical activities in order to draw closer to spirituality, falling back into bad habits can be severely dispiriting. Making a vow, a very serious act in halacha, fortifies one’s resolve.

“A fence to wisdom is silence.” This final statement of Avot 3:17 is, perhaps, best understood in connection with the Mishna’s first statement: “Joking and foolishness acclimate one to immorality.” Being wise, often means making the choice to restrain from interacting with people who will encourage unbecoming behavior.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Good to Ask

When you have questions on Jewish law or custom, ask a rabbi for guidance.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Is There Jewish DNA?

Do you remember learning about genes and DNA, about inherited  traits and Gregor Mendel’s pea plants? It has long been known and accepted as scientific fact that each person’s DNA makes them, on a physical level, who they are, and unique from everyone else. In recent decades, as genetic science advances and becomes more accessible to the general populace, droves of people are experimenting with genetic testing to understand who they are - at least from a heritage point of view.

On April 25, officially known as National DNA Day, Jewish Treats presents a very brief overview of the idea of Jewish DNA and its implications for the Jewish people.

As unlocking ethnic heritage became possible via genetics, it is not surprising that researchers chose to study the Jewish people. Here they had a large, multi-national group of people claiming common ancestry. Even more interesting is that even among Jews, those claiming to be kohanim (Cohen, of the priestly descent) are, according to the Torah, all descendants of Aaron.

Studies of Kohanim showed that a significant percentage of those claiming to be part of the priestly caste, whether Ashkenazi, Sephardi or other, shared a unique haplotype on the Y chromosome, consistently transmitted from father to son. While studies of the Jewish population in general were not quite as specific, studies have recognized distinct links that even cross continental borders.

What does all this mean for the 21st century Jewish community? The Jewish people have never been 100% homogeneous. Even in Biblical days, the Jewish people accepted converts (Jethro, Ruth), and in the many millennia since then there have been Jews of every race and ethnicity. Since, according to traditional Jewish law, a person is Jewish if born of a Jewish mother (unless one converts), questions have been raised as to whether DNA can be used to establish Jewish identity. Jewish Treats humbly leaves that question to real experts in Jewish law.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

History Down

If you don't have a written record of your family history, take the time to write one for posterity.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sophie Udin, An Energy to Organize

There are some people who are born with a natural energy to do and to organize. Sophie Udin (1896 - 1960) was just such a woman. She was still a young child when her parents emigrated from Zhinkav, Ukraine, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As soon as she completed high school, however, Udin moved to New York to enroll in the New York Public Library’s Library School while she also joined their staff. She continued to serve on the New York Public Staff while she earned her BS in education from Columbia’s Teachers College and a Masters from Columbia’s School of Library Science.

Udin chose to pursue a career as a librarian because it was one of the few professions open to women. Little did she know how much that choice would affect that which was her real passion - Zionism. Udin joined the American Poale Zion when she was 14, and in 1918 she helped organize the American Magen David Adom and served as its first national secretary.

In the 1920s, Udin traveled twice to British Mandate Palestine. During her second visit, she worked at the newly formed Jewish National and Hebrew University Library, convincing them to use the Dewey-Decimal system and Anglo-American Cataloguing.

Back in America, Udin married Pinchas Ginguld, who was a fellow activist in Poale Zion. Shortly thereafter, with six other women from the organization, in response to a call for funds from Rachel Ben-Tzvi to help obtain water for trees in a nursery, Udin created the Women’s Organization for Pioneer Women in Palestine, which eventually became Na’amat USA. She also established and organized the Zionist Archives and Library in New York.

In 1949, Udin, along with her son and daughter (Ginguld stayed in New York) made Aliyah. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion immediately set her to work establishing and organizing the Israel State Archives (now the National Archives). In 1951, Udin was one of the founders of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel, which helped new immigrants resettle.

Sophie Udin passed away on April 24, 1960.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Before Summer

Before summer arrives, check out Jewish camp options for the children in your life.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Importance of English Books

In honor of April 23, which the United Nations has declared English Language Day, Jewish Treats presents a history of the Jewish Publication Society (JPS), the oldest not-for-profit, non-denominational Jewish publisher in North America.

The JPS that is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year is actually the third organization of that name in America. The first was created in 1845, but in 1851 its building, with all of its stock, burned down. The second was created in 1873, bot only lasted until 1875

The modern JPS was created in 1888, at the behest of Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf, the new rabbi of Philadelphia’s Congregation Keneseth Israel. He called a meeting of 100 rabbis and presented to them the great need of the American Jewish community for Jewish books in English. The Jewish Publication Society of America was thus recreated with a start-up budget of $5,000 from Jacob Schiff, $5,000 from Meyer Guggenheim, and money raised through the offer of a subscription service. At its helm, as editor-in-chief, was Henrietta Szold. Its first publication was Outlines of Jewish History by Lady Katie Magnus.

The foremost project of the JPS was an English translation of the Bible. It was completed in 1917, and copies were distributed to Jewish soldiers heading to battle in the Great War. In 1965, it was re-issued with a more modern translation. In 1985, the JPS Tanaak was published as a three volume set: Torah (Five Books of Moses), N’viim (Prophets) and K’tuvim (Writings).

In 2012, JPS reached a collaborative publishing arrangement with the University of Nebraska Press. Since its founding, Jewish Publication Society books have received numerous awards. It has worked with such well known writers and scholars as Chaim Potok and Marcus Jastrow and was responsible for such well-known publications as The Jewish Catalogue, The American Jewish Yearbook and The Legend of the Jews.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Jewish Books

If you have Jewish books that you love, share them with friends and family. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Keeping Ethical

Pirkei Avot is commonly translated as Ethics of Our Fathers because many of its statements focus on ethical behavior. For those striving to be ethical, “Nittai the Arbelite says: Keep far from an evil neighbor, do not associate with a wicked man, and do not abandon the belief in retribution” (1:7).

Let’s take a closer look at these suggestions:

“Keep far away from an evil neighbor.” When a person is looking for a place to live, it is important to know more than just whether the house or apartment is nice, or structurally sound. “Location, location, location” from an ethical perspective does not mean an easy commute or a good school district, but rather living near upstanding neighbors.

Why keep far away from evil neighbors? Firstly, so that we will not be influenced to follow in their evil ways. More subtly, however, is because the negative feelings that develop due to bad neighbor experiences can have a deleterious effect on one’s own character (anger, being judgmental, holding a grudge, etc.)

“Do not befriend a wicked person.” While this appears to be a reiteration of the first warning, its slight difference in nuance is significant. No matter how much we would like to, we cannot always choose our neighbors, our co-workers or even family members. We do not, however, need to be close to people who do not share our ethical goals.

“Do not abandon the belief in retribution.” At first glance, this may seem unconnected, but when one watches evil people who seemingly get away with behaving unethically, it is important to remember that one of the basic tenants of Jewish belief is reward and punishment. Ultimately, whether in this world or the world to come, the scales of justice are balanced.

This Treat was last posted on May 16, 2012.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Shabbat Social

This Shabbat, surround yourself with people with whom you enjoy celebrating the holy day.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The History of the Knesset

The founders of the State of Israel did not have much time to set up and plan the specifics of government, and so it is not surprising that the country emerged from its fight for Independence with a parliamentary governing system very similar to that of the British. Like the British Parliament, Israel’s Knesset is a unicameral legislative body. It is a complex arm of government that is composed of many political parties who must work together to form coalitions in order to create a functioning government, including determining who will lead the country as Prime Minister.

Plans for development of the Knesset began prior to the withdrawal of the British Mandate troops. In April 1948, the leaders of the Jewish settlement in Israel created the Moetzet Ha’am (People’s Council). When independence was declared, this became the Provisional State Council. Elections for legislators were finally able to be held in mid-January 1949, and on February 14th, the first elected Knesset officially began.

At first, the Knesset had no home and met in a wide variety of locations, including the Kesseim Theater in Tel Aviv. At the beginning of 1950, the Knesset set itself up in the Froumin Building on Jerusalem’s King George Street. Plans, however, were already in the works for a more permanent solution. A location was chosen and architectural designs were submitted when James de Rothschild offered to finance the construction. Its cornerstone was laid in October 1958, and it was finally completed on August 31, 1966.

Elected legislators are known as Members of Knesset (MKs). There are 120 MKs, a reflection of the 120 members of the Anshei Knesset Hagadolah (Men of the Great Assembly) that was established by Ezra after the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile (516 BCE).

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Yom Ha'atzma'ut - Israel's Independence Day

On the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, in the year 5708, corresponding to May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was born. On that day, the British Mandate was terminated and David Ben-Gurion declared:

...This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.

Accordingly, we, members of the people's council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement, are here assembled on the day of the termination of the British Mandate over Eretz-Israel and, by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.

Within minutes, U.S. President Harry Truman recognized the new Jewish state. The Soviet Union was the second nation to recognize Israel.

Within hours, five Arab countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq) declared war and launched an attack. Thus began Israel’s War of Independence. Israel had no established army, no central command, no air force of which to speak and not enough weapons to arm its fighting force, which was composed of both sabras (native born Israelis) and refugees.

Miraculously, the Israelis gained the upper-hand in battle and, in 1949, the attacking nations signed armistice agreements with Israel.

The celebration of Israel Independence Day, Yom Ha’atzma’ut, begins at sunset immediately following Yom Ha’zikaron (Memorial Day). Yom Ha’atzma’ut is marked in Israel by a special ceremony on Mount Herzl, a general atmosphere of celebration, and the bestowal of the Israel Prize upon Israeli citizens or organizations that have demonstrated excellence in their field(s) or have made vital contributions to Israeli culture.

*When the 5th of Iyar begins on Thursday night, as it does this year, the observation of Yom Ha'zikaron is moved to the 3rd of Iyar and Yom Ha'atzma'ut is celebrated on the 4th. 


Jewish Treats and NJOP wish Israel a happy seventieth birthday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Latrun: Battles for the Hilltop

Today, the hilltop of Latrun, just 15 kilometers west of Jerusalem, is a popular commemorative site that features an armored corp museum. This landmark, which was once the location of a Templar castle and later a monastery, before becoming a British controlled police base and detention center, represents the not-always-victorious battles during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.

According to the United Nations partition plan, the area of Latrun was to be in Arab territory. However, from Latrun, Arab irregular forces were constantly attacking convoys and blockading access to Jerusalem. In an effort to eliminate this blockade, Operation Maccabi was launched just days before the official British withdrawal. The Jewish soldiers made significant headway, but were unprepared to hold the territory. When they retreated, unbeknownst to the Israelies, the Arab Legion, a British trained force with British commanders, joined the Arab forces and reclaimed the location.

When Independence was declared, Arab armies invaded and the new government had to quickly organize and prioritize. Knowing how important it was to break the Jerusalem blockade, David Ben-Gurion ordered another attempt to capture Latrun. The resulting Operation Bin Nun Alef was a disaster, with a planned midnight assault delayed until near dawn and the failure of reconnaissance to learn of the presence of the Arab Legion. (Among the many injured on May 25, 1948, was future Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was shot in the stomach.) Four days later, Operation Bin Nun Bet tried again, and they were again repelled.

Jerusalem was starving. While Yigal Allon led Operation Yoran against Latrun on June 9th, American Colonal “Aluf” Mickey Marcus, secretly directed the creation of the “Burma Road” to serve as an alternate supply route for the city.

Operation Danny, in mid-July, was the last unsuccessful attempt to take Latrun. The strategic hill remained in Jordanian hands until the 1967 Six Day War.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Israel's Memorial Day

The State of Israel's independence, as well as its continued survival, is a modern day miracle. But, it has come at great cost in human lives to its citizens. (There have been over 24,000 fallen soldiers since the State of Israel was founded.) Therefore, before Israel celebrates its independence, Israel honors the memory of those who gave their lives for their country. On the 4th of Iyar,* Yom Ha'zikaron, Memorial Day is observed.

Memorial Day in Israel is not a day of picnics, fairs and fireworks. To honor the fallen soldiers, sirens are sounded simultaneously throughout the entire country, once in the evening and once in the morning. As the alarm pierces the air, all traffic comes to a halt and everyone stands for a moment of silence in honor of those who have fallen.

What is the purpose of silence? Speech is one of humankind’s most powerful tools and is one of the traits that humanity “shares” with God. It was with the power of speech that God created the world. (“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”) People use their power of speech to connect with each other. Observing a minute of silence forces us to disconnect from those around us and to reflect on both the void created by these great losses, and the miracle of our own survival.

*When the 5th of Iyar begins on Thursday night, as it does this year, the observation of Yom Ha'zikaron is moved to the 3rd of Iyar and Yom Ha'atzma'ut is celebrated on the 4th. 

Your Own Moment

Take a moment out of your own life to honor those who gave their lives to form a safe haven for the Jewish people.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Family’s Blood

Today is World Hemophilia Day, designated to raise awareness of the hereditary blood disorder that prevents one’s blood from clotting.  Most forms of hemophilia are passed from mother to son, which poses a great risk for Jewish parents who wished to fulfill the mitzvah of Brit Milah (circumcision) on the eighth day of a boy’s life.

In olden times, the only way to know if a child was a hemophiliac was through its tragic results. Aware of a familial relationship in people who bled to death too easily, a condition they then referred to as having “loose blood,” the following two situations are cited in the Talmud: First the Talmud discusses a woman whose first two sons died due to circumcision, and it was stated that she need not circumcise her next son. (Rabbi Simon ben Gamliel said “three” sons, but not the fourth, but most opinions followed the more compassionate ruling of not the third.) The second situation recognized that the condition had a broader familial relationship. A woman from Tzipori whose three sisters had already lost their sons during the ritual came to Rabbi Simon ben Gamliel and was told that the child need not undergo Brit Milah* (Talmud Yevamot 64b).

Although the majority of halachic discussions concerning hemophilia and Brit Milah focus on the history of the mother, some rabbis also said that there was a similar ruling for the son of a father who had lost two sons at circumcision. In 1953, researchers discovered Hemophilia C, a bleeding disorder that is transmitted from either parent and can affect a child of either gender. Hemophilia C is not a common condition, but of those affected, there is a high percentage of Ashkenazi and Iraqi Jews.

Medical knowledge has changed greatly since the days of the sages. Today, genetic testing and medical intervention for blood coagulation have a direct impact on the halacha regarding circumcising a child from a family with a history of hemophilia. As with all questions of Jewish law, one should consult a rabbi before making any decisions.

*The Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch) states that the circumcision is postponed until the child matures and his strength grows, at which point the child's health situation is reassessed.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Body Care

If you have not done so recently, schedule a physical.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Radak

Torah Scholars regularly immerse themselves in a process of study that is thousands of years old. Each scholar studies not just the sacred texts, but the enriching commentary of the preceding generations, and then adds to that scholarship their own unique enrichments. One such significant commentator is generally referred to as the RaDaK, the initials of Rabbi David Kimchi.

Born in 1160, in the region of Narbonne (France), Kimchi came from a family of scholars. His father, Joseph, who passed away when he was a child, was a noted grammarian, as was Moses, his older brother who raised and educated him. Upon reaching adulthood, Kimchi supported himself as a teacher of the Talmud.

Building upon the scholastic heritage of his father and his brother, Kimchi published Michlol (Book of Completeness), which was both a study of Hebrew grammar and a lexicon. Later publications divided the two parts into separate books, the latter of which was titled Sefer Hashorashim (Book of Roots).  An abridged version, Et Sofer, became a popular grammar guide for Biblical scholars.

Much of the Radak’s Biblical commentary was based on grammar and etymology. His commentary is found most prominently in the Books of the Prophets, as well as in Genesis, Psalms and the Books of Chronicles.

In addition to his scholarly work, Rabbi David Kimchi was also involved in refuting Christian attacks on Judaism. He also weighed in on the Maimonidean controversy as a defender of Rabbi Moses Maimonides’ philosophical works. He even tried to travel to Spain to take part in the controversy personally, but he died, in 1235, before reaching his destination.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Coin Carry

Carry spare change to use for giving charity. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Book Respect

Because of  the centrality of the Torah in Jewish life, the Jewish people are known as “The People of the Book.” Perhaps the Jewish people could also be known as “The People of the Books,” for books, in general, are central to Jewish life.

It is not just that Jewish scholars have produced countless books - on Jewish law, midrash, traditions, biblical commentary and more - but it is also the way Judaism prescribes that books, particularly sefarim (holy volumes) be treated with utmost reverence. In traditional circles, the Hebrew word for book, sefer (sefarim in plural) is used to refer to religious works. In most traditional Jewish homes, a bookshelf filled with sefarim is situated in a central place in the house.

Traditionally, there are basic practices for how one should care for their sefarim. One of the most common and noticeable customs is that if a sefer falls on the floor, it should be picked up immediately, and many are in the habit of kissing it (as a sign of one’s love for the volume’s contents and for Judaism) before returning it to its proper place. Similarly, some people will lightly kiss a sefer before and after use. Placement of sefarim is also important. A sefer should not be left upside down either on a shelf (with the words reversed on the spine) or on a table (with the cover face down). Many people are also careful not to place a sefer down on the same surface (e.g. a chair or bench) on which a person is sitting.

Traditionally, one refrains from placing items or secular books on top of the holy sefarim. It is also interesting to note that there is a hierarchy in the placement of sefarim. Rabbinic writing, including Talmudic volumes, should not be placed on top of books of Tanaach (the 24 books of the Bible): Five Books of Moses, Books of Prophets, Books of Writing). If one makes a pile of books of Tanaach, the Five Books of Moses should be placed on top of Books of the Prophets or the Writings.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

There's a Key in My Challah

It's a fact that many people spend much time thinking and even worrying about par'nassah (livelihood).

Jewish tradition teaches that different seasons have different spiritual strengths. Certain times are regarded as propitious to pray for rain, while other times are considered appropriate to petition for forgiveness. (Of course, these things may also be prayed for at other times of the year!) So too, our spiritual leaders have noted that there are certain times on the Jewish calendar when it is propitious to focus on praying for par'nassah. One such time is the Shabbat immediately following Passover, when it is a custom in some Jewish communities to make what is known as shlissel (Yiddish for key) challah.

There are a number of reasons suggested for this custom. Due to space limitations, Jewish Treats will present only a few:

1) A "key" serves as a symbol to remind us that our prayers have the power to open the Gates of Heaven.

2) The Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 2:2) states that on Passover the world is allocated its grain harvest for the coming year.

3) The Jews celebrated Passover just before entering the land of Canaan, at which point there was no more manna (the heavenly food of the wilderness). Henceforth, the Jewish nation needed to generate its own par'nassah.

There are different ways to perform this custom. Some people bake an actual key (scrubbed clean or wrapped in foil/parchment paper) into the challah, while others mold their challah into the shape of a key. One custom mentions using a key to knead the dough, and there are still other customs as well.

Whatever one’s custom, the symbolic message does not preclude the need for prayer and hishtadlut (personal effort).

This Treat was last posted on April 17, 2015.
Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved

It's Challah Time

Shabbat is almost here! Enjoy your challah!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Anne Frank’s Diary

In 1952, Doubleday released the American edition of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. For many Americans, the contents of the book were a disturbing introduction to the horrific atrocities that had occurred in Europe.

Anne Frank, who was born on June 12, 1929, did not live to see the war's end. She died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in March 1945. The camp was liberated on April 15, 1945.

Of the eight people who hid with Anne, only her father, Otto, survived. After the war, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam and lived with Miep and Jan Gies, his former employees who had been instrumental in hiding the Frank family. It was Miep who had found and safeguarded (but not read) Anne’s diary after the Nazis had deported the hidden Jews. Miep had two versions of the diary: Anne’s first draft and the revised version that Anne had created in 1944, after Gerrit Bolkestein (a member of the Dutch government in exile) encouraged people to keep records of their experiences for the future.

Two years after his return, in 1947, Otto Frank transcribed and published some of the diary for his relatives in Switzerland. The diary came to the attention of the Dutch publishing house Contact Publishing, who brought it to market in June 1947 (under the title Het Achterhuis-the back house). By 1950, the diary was in its sixth edition and was being translated into English and German. Shortly thereafter it was translated into Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Greek and most other languages.

In 1953, only a year after its U.S. release, The Diary of Anne Frank was adapted into a Broadway play. The play received the Pulitzer Prize for theater, the Tony Award and the New York Critics Circle Award for Best Play. The Hollywood script and feature length movie that followed in 1959 won three Oscars.

This Treat was last posted on June 12, 2012. 

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day

Today, the 27th of Nissan, Jews around the world are marking Yom Ha’shoah (Officially Yom Ha’zikaron La’shoah V’la’g'vurah, which translates to The Day of Memorial for the Holocaust and the Heroism, generally shortened to Yom Ha’shoah). In Israel, the day is marked by official ceremonies, flags at half mast and, most famously, by a siren marking a moment of silence during which traffic comes to a standstill.

When World War II ended and the world was finally clearly aware of the incredible devastation wrought in Europe, there were no words. While mourning for their own nation’s soldiers, the world was faced with accepting the fact that the Nazis had purposefully and systematically murdered six million Jewish men, women and children as well as several million others whom they classified as lesser human beings.

The term “Holocaust” is a word of Greek origin used to describe massacres. As it came to be applied to the events in Europe in the 1940s, the term emerged as the name for this highly specific genocide. This was strengthened by the release of the 1978 NBC mini-series of the same title.

In Hebrew, the Holocaust is referred to as Ha’shoah. Shoah means calamity. Similar to the term Holocaust, the term shoah gained further usage after the release of the 1985 French documentary entitled“Shoah.” The film condensed over 300 hours worth of interviews into 9.5 hours and brought the hard-hitting facts of the Holocaust into reality.

In traditional communities, the events of the Holocaust are referred to as "Churban Europe" or "the Churban," a term which parallels the destruction of the Torah learning centers in Europe with the destruction of the Holy Temple. Many traditional communities also mark a day of mourning for the victims of the Holocaust on an already established day of universal mourning, either the Tenth of Tevet or the Ninth of Av.

This Treat is reposted annually

By Valley2city [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.


Spend time with survivors and hear their stories.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Transporting the Children

Of all the rescue efforts that occurred during the Holocaust, perhaps the most well-known is the Kindertransport, the famous program that moved thousands of children out of Nazi territory. In honor of the observance of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), which begins at sunset tonight, Jewish Treats presents a brief history of the Kindertransport.

The idea, approval and planning of the Kindertransport happened after Kristallnacht (November 9/10, 1938). Several organizations were involved, most prominently the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany (later renamed Refugee Children’s Movement - RCM). The British government agreed to allow legal entry to England for unaccompanied children without limit. The children’s care and support was to be paid for by private citizens. On November 25, the BBC aired an appeal for foster homes and received hundreds of responses.

The first Kindertransport left Germany on December 1st and arrived the next day at the port of Harwich with 200 children, most of whom were from an orphanage that was destroyed on Kristallnacht. Over the next nine months, thousands of children from Germany and German-occupied territories were absorbed into private homes or sent to live in hostels or on designated farms.

Life was not simple for the Kindertransport children. They arrived with only one suitcase, no valuables and little money. Most did not know English, and their foster family’s were often very culturally different. The children expected to return home in a few months, but the months turned into years and far too many children never saw their parents again. Close to 1,000 Kindertransport youth, upon reaching adulthood, were sent to internment camps as possible enemy aliens. However, a large number of these children also served in the war effort.

England was not the only Kindertransport destination. Some children were brought to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, or Sweden. Unfortunately, many later had to flee again as the Nazis marched in to those countries as well. The last Germany-to-England Kindertransport left on September 1, 1939 - the day Germany invaded Poland. The last of all Kindertransports was on May 14, 1940 from the Netherlands - the day before the Netherlands surrendered to Germany.

Kindertransport Monument in Liverpool, England
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In Rememberance

Mark Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) by discussing tolerance and history with friends and family.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Ray Frank - An American Preacher

Ray (Rachel) Frank did not set out to be titled “Jewess in the Pulpit” or “Latter Day Deborah.” Frank’s famous career as a Jewish female preacher began in 1890, when, on a trip to write for a local California paper about the boom towns of the Northwest, she discovered that the Jewish community of Spokane Falls, Washington, had no High Holiday services scheduled due to community infighting. When a local offered to organize a service on condition that Frank would speak, she agreed. Her Rosh Hashana sermon, which focused on Jews as citizens and the need for unity, was so well received that she was asked to speak again the next day and on Yom Kippur, for which she received newspaper coverage.

Frank, who was born in San Francisco on April 10, 1861, began her career as an educator shortly after graduating Sacramento High School, when she took a teaching position in Ruby Hill, Nevada, a silver mining town where she also learned about living in a small Jewish community. In 1885, Frank moved to Oakland, California, to her family home. She took philosophy classes at University of California-Berkeley and offered lessons in literature and elocution. Most significantly, she began teaching at the Sabbath School of Oakland’s First Hebrew Congregation, where her lessons were so successful that adults began attending. Not long thereafter, she became the principal of the Sabbath School.

Frank was also a correspondent for several local newspapers, and she wrote letters to the editors of national Jewish publications about the state of American Jewry, which is how she was recognized when she ended up in Spokane Falls in 1890.

In the 1890s, Frank traveled throughout western North America speaking at Bnai Brith lodges, talking to synagogue groups and giving official sermons. In 1893, she delivered the opening and closing benedictions at the first Jewish Women’s Congress. While there was much speculation, Frank never had an interest in seeking ordination or taking the title of rabbi.

In 1898, worn out from her extensive travel schedule, Frank went to Europe to rest. There she met and married Simon Litman, with whom she returned to California in 1902. While he taught at the University of California, Ray Frank chose a quiet life and accepted few speaking engagements. In 1908, Litman accepted a position at the University of Illinois at Champaign. Once settled, Frank began working in the local Jewish community and studying Jewish topics with students. She and her husband were involved in the organization of the first Hillel Foundation in 1923.

Ray Frank Litman passed away on October 10, 1948. Her brief speaking career has been an inspiration for many Jewish women.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.


Share your passion for Jewish life with others.

Monday, April 9, 2018

A Brief History of the Jews of Georgia

Located between Russia and Turkey, at the intersection of Europe and Asia, Georgia was, until the mid-1800s, a place of relatively little anti-Semitism. According to tradition, Jews first arrived in Georgia in ancient times, either with the banishment of the Ten Tribes (722 BCE) or shortly after the destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE).

Situated on a narrow strip of land between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, Georgia’s history is rife with conquest. In the 6th century it was controlled by the Byzantines in the west and the Persians in the east. Then the Muslims came and ruled the area until the 12th century, when the Mongols invaded from the east. Most of Georgia’s Jews, along with many others, relocated west and south. There they formed small, impoverished communities along the Black Sea. This poverty led to the Jews becoming serfs (Kamani). Under the complete control of their feudal landlords, they were often “sold” or “gifted” between territorial rulers. Their lowly status, however, had little to do with differences in faith, but rather with the social-economic structure of society.

The Russian annexation of Georgia in 1801 marked a new era for the country and for Georgian Jews. While the Russians eventually abolished serfdom, the Georgian population was deeply resentful of the annexation, and anti-Semitism became an outlet for their anger. There were six prominent blood libels in Georgia between 1852 and 1884. Additionally, Russian Ashkenazi Jews, who were mostly secular, were forced to resettle in Georgia, creating an antagonism with the more traditional Georgian Jews.

From 1918 until 1921, Georgia was briefly independent until the Red Army invaded. There were several more blood libels. In 1927, the Soviet government attempted to establish a number of Jewish collective farms, but dismantled them after several years when they realized that the traditional Georgian Jews were using the farms as shelters in which to pursue Jewish studies unobserved.

Georgia gained its independence on April 9, 1991. By then, many of its Jews had already made Aliyah to Israel.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Spirit of Passover

Carry the spirit of Passover into the rest of the year by placing focus on the importance of spiritual freedom.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

What Not To Buy

The joyous holiday of Passover is now over. While one’s instinct might be to immediately run out to the supermarket and restock the pantry shelves with bread, snacks and all the desserts that were missed over the holiday, it is important to be aware of the issues that apply to buying and selling chametz (leaven products) that might have been owned by a Jew over Passover.

The Torah’s instructions for the celebration of Passover state: “Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses” (Exodus 12:19), which is understood to mean that Jewish homes must be free of all chametz prior to the holiday. This can be achieved by either eating the chametz, destroying it, throwing it out or selling the chametz to a non-Jew. The sale of chametz is a specific process that is generally handled by a rabbi well-versed in these specific laws. After the holiday, the buyer sells the chametz back. The sale is completely legitimate and the non-Jew may, theoretically, take ownership of the purchased chametz on Passover or after the holiday by paying the full value of the chametz (although this rarely, if ever, occurs). The sale of chametz can be done for both individuals and businesses.

Since benefit from chametz owned by a Jew during Passover is forbidden, buying chametz products after Passover becomes an issue. Small, Jewish-owned stores that cater to the Jewish community generally take care to properly sell their chametz. Large supermarkets, however, are often owned by larger corporations or conglomerates. If the ownership is at least 51% non-Jewish, there is no problem purchasing chametz immediately after Passover. However, if the majority ownership is Jewish, one is advised to wait for the average length of time it takes for the product inventory to turn-over (times may vary by product) and be restocked. Local rabbis can generally provide the necessary information for their communities. 

This Treat is reposted in honor of Passover.

 Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved

What is Isru Chag?

The day after vacation is often a time of distraction and disorientation. The same is true of the day following a religious holiday, especially after one of the week-long holidays (Passover and Sukkot) during which one focuses for an entire week on spiritual, rather than mundane, matters. 

In recognition of the challenge of transitioning from a religious festival to everyday life, a semi-holiday known as Isru Chag follows each of the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.) Translated literally as "bind the festival," the term Isru Chag comes from Psalms 118:27, which reads "Bind the festival offering with boughs to the corners of the altar." From this verse, the sages determined that, "Whoever makes an addition to the festival by eating and drinking is regarded by scripture as though he had built an altar and offered a sacrifice" (Talmud Sukkah 45b).

In truth, the celebration of Isru Chag has little effect on the day-to-day conduct of most people...unless one is a parent of a child in a religious school (which may be closed for Isru Chag). Isru Chag also affects some aspects of the daily prayer service, in that tachanun (a supplicatory prayer) as well as memorial prayers are omitted, and private fasts are generally not permitted. (Example of a private fast: an Ashkenazi couple who is to wed on Isru Chag will not observe the custom of fasting before the chuppah). 

The idea of Isru Chag is that one draws some of the holiness of the festival celebration into the less spiritually elevated reality of everyday life. Since feasting is one of the ways in which Jews celebrate festivals, it became customary to eat and drink a little something extra on Isru Chag to continue the feeling of celebration.

This Treat is reposted in honor of Isru Chag Passover.


Use restocking after Passover as a reason to shop at your local kosher grocery.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Song of Songs

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine. Because of the fragrance of your goodly oils, your name is ‘oil poured forth.’ Therefore, the maidens loved you. Draw me, we will run after you... (Song of Songs 1:2-4).

And people say the Bible is boring...

Shir Ha'shirim, The Song Of Songs, the Biblical love song attributed to King Solomon, is understood by the rabbis to be a prophetic allegory about the relationship of God and the Jewish people.

The poetic work describes a beautiful maiden who loves, and is loved by, a handsome youth. When he pursues her, however, she sends him away with various excuses, only to realize too late that he was her true love. Devastated at the thought that she has alienated and probably lost him, she wanders through the city streets looking for her lost lover and, in the process, suffers shame and embarrassment. Finally, the lovers are reunited and are joined by their sincere love.

Shir Ha'shirim is one of the five megillot (scrolls of canonical works) from the Ketuvim (Writings) section of the Bible. On the Shabbat of Chol Ha'moed* Passover, it is customary for Shir Ha'shirim to be read in the synagogue.

Shir Ha'shirim was chosen as the Passover reading because the story of the Exodus demonstrates God’s patience with His beloved--the Jewish people, as represented by the maiden. Despite having witnessed the many miracles that God performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, the Jews strayed from their commitment to God. Eventually, God withdrew His favor from the Jews (Hester Panim), and they have since wandered the world trying to make amends for the damage caused to the relationship. The reunion of the lovers is a prophecy for the Messianic era, yet to be fulfilled.

*Passover is an 8 day holiday. The first two days and last two days are Yamim Tovim - days that are observed like Sabbath (except that one may cook on an existing flame, and carry in public areas). In Israel, Passover is only 7 days, and only the 1st and 7th day are Yamim Tovim. The in-between days are known as Chol Ha'moed - weekdays of the festival. If there is no Shabbat Chol Ha'moed, Shir Ha'shirim is read on the 7th day of Passover.

This Treat is reposted in honor of Passover.

Copyright © 2017 NJOP. All rights reserved


Jews rejoice on Passover to celebrate their redemption from slavery in Egypt. Because of Passover’s connection to redemption, there is much hope that the final redemption will soon be at hand (thus the inclusion of Elijah’s cup at the Seder). At the end of the week-long holiday, on the day after Passover, in order to prolong the rejoicing and, many say, as a means of asserting their faith in the final redemption, Jews of North African origin celebrate a unique holiday known as “Mimouna.”

While some have suggested that the name Mimouna derives from ma’amoun, the Arabic word for wealth and good fortune, others connect it to the Hebrew word emunah, faith. Taking the latter opinion one step further, the name may be an Arabic adaptation of the phrase, “Ani Ma’amin” (I believe).

Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides, Rambam, 1135-1204) set forth the Thirteen Principles of Faith,
 which are poetically recited with the opening phrase "Ani Ma'amin." The twelfth statement of faith is: “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah; and even though he may tarry, nonetheless, I wait every day for his coming.” The connection between the Thirteen Maimonidean Principles of Faith and Mimouna is further confirmed since Mimouna is celebrated on the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Maimon ben Joseph, the Rambam’s father (a great scholar in his own right).

The Mimouna holiday, which is most often associated with Moroccan Jews but is customary among many North African communities, has no specific halachot (laws). The customs, however, reflect the community’s exuberant, joyful nature. Tables are decorated, often with symbols of luck and fertility (golden rings hidden in bowls of flour, items set out in sets of five, and sometimes live fish in bowls). Sweet delicacies (made of chametz) are served, particularly mofletta, a special pancake served with honey.

This Treat is reposted in honor of Passover.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved

Time Off To Think

Designate time during the holiday to contemplate the relationship between God and the Jewish people.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Two Days of Festival

Leviticus 23:34-36: On the fifteenth day of the seventh month is the Feast of Tabernacles ... On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no manner of creative labor. For seven days you will bring a fire offering to God; on the eighth day shall be a holy convocation for you ... it is a day of solemn assembly; you shall do no manner of creative labor.

According to Leviticus 23, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot, including Shmini Atzeret) lasts for eight days. Creative labor, however, is prohibited only on the first and the eighth days. Why then will Jews around the world (except in Israel) celebrate the first two days and the eighth and ninth days as festival days, refraining from creative labor?

The rabbinically ordained Yom Tov Shaynee Shel Galuyot (the second festival day of the diaspora) is the result of our people’s geographic spread. As Jews moved farther from the sphere of influence of Jerusalem (considered what would then have been a ten day journey), maintaining an accurate Jewish calendar became more difficult.
Before the Jewish calendar was fixed by mathematical calculation in 350 C.E. (approximately), the new month was determined by the Sanhedrin based on the testimony of witnesses who had seen the new moon. As the diaspora spread, it became impossible to inform all distant communities when the new month had been declared, so a precautionary second day was added for those distant locations. Far better to sanctify the extra day than to risk violating a day that was actually Yom Tov.

After the calendar was set, it was decided that the institution of Yom Tov Shaynee Shel Galuyot be honored by remaining in practice. To this day, Jews in Israel celebrate one day of Yom Tov, while Jews throughout the rest of the world celebrate two. This difference between Israel and outside of Israel affects the holidays of SukkotShemini AtzeretPassover and Shavuot.

This Treat was originally posted in May 2012.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved.

Seven Days to the Sea

The Passover celebration lasts seven days (eight days, outside of Israel). The first day (and second, outside of Israel) is a Yom Tov, festival day, on which the seder is celebrated. However, the Torah also explicitly commands “and in the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation to you” (Exodus 12:16).

The Seventh Day of Passover (and eighth, outside of Israel) is the only Jewish festival that is distinctly not distinct. This is most noticeable by the fact that on every other Yom Tov (festival day), the special Sheh’heh’cheh’yanu blessing, which praises God for keeping us alive and allowing us to celebrate the holiday again this year, is recited either when one lights candles or following the recitation of kiddush (the blessing of sanctification over wine/grape juice).

The simplest explanation that Sheh'heh'cheh'yanu is not recited on the Seventh Day is that the offerings of the day were no different than those on the interim days of Passover. However, it should also be noted that the Seventh Day of Passover marks the anniversary of the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, an event that was already praised during the seder. After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, he followed God’s directions “that they turn and encamp before Pi-Ha'chirot, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-Zephon: you shall encamp before the sea” (Exodus 14:2). 

By the time they encamped before the sea, Pharaoh had changed his mind about freeing the Israelite slaves and led his army after them. At the moment of greatest peril, Moses stretched his staff over the waters, and God sent a strong east wind to split the sea, enabling the Israelites to cross on dry land. When the Egyptians tried to follow them, the watery walls crashed down upon them and the entire Egyptian army drowned. Since the entire holiday is a celebration of redemption, the story is not retold again in any grand ceremony on the Seventh Day. But, because of its importance, God gave His people the gift of an extra day of Yom Tov and elevated the day in commemoration of that glorious event. The additional festival day acknowledges that seven days after they left Egypt, the Israelites were once again miraculously redeemed and that the entire Passover holiday is a time of redemption.

This Treat is reposted in honor of Passover.

Copyright © 2018 NJOP. All rights reserved

Invite Plan

Invite local friends to celebrate the final festival meals with you.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Ten Sephirot

Most people associate kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) with the Zohar (Book of Splendor). However, the earliest text to which the sages refer is Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation).* The exact origin of this text is unknown, but it is referenced as early as the 1st century C.E.

According to Sefer Yetzirah, God, who is referred to as Ain Sof (Eternal, Unlimited, With No End), created the world with the “building blocks” of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the 10 sephirot. 

The sephirot are referred to in Sefer Yetzirah as “Ten sephirot of nothingness” (Eser sephirot bli mah). From this it is understood that the sephirot are both intangible and yet are the powers that serve to bind the structure of the world together (reading bli mah as blimah, binding). 

The ten sephirot are:
1) Keter - Crown 2) Chachma - Wisdom 
3) Binah/Daat - Understanding/Knowledge 4) Chesed - Lovingkindness 
5) Gevurah - Strength 6) Tiferet - Beauty 
7) Netzach - Victory 8) Hod - Splendor 
9) Yesod - Foundation 10) Malchut - Kingship 

While the sephirot of keter, chachma and binah (daat) are considered beyond the range of human emulation, the remaining seven lower sephirot are given special acknowledgment during the 49 days of Sefirat Ha’Omer, the counting of the days between Passover and Shavuot. One week is dedicated to each sephirah’s interaction with the other six. 

The foundation of the first week of the Omer is Chesed, Lovingkindness, the most absolute expression of emotion. Chesed, is often thought of as compassionate giving, but it is really about reaching beyond one’s self to be both a giver and a receiver. Beyond all other traits that should be emulated, developing one’s spirit of chesed, is considered the most comprehensive way to relate to God.

*The essence of Sefer Yetzirah, and of kabbalah in general, is of a depth best left for study with an expert. Jewish Treats provides only a superficial and basic explanation of these concepts.

This Treat was last posted on April 8, 2010.