Turkey and Beans; thanks for what we have

Operation Pillar of Defense did more than force southern Israel to cancel school. It also forced the Southern Branch of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) – for which I volunteer – to cancel its annual Thanksgiving Dinner. For the past couple of years, AACI has joined up with Beer Sova – a local soup kitchen serving hundreds of Beer Sheva’s needy – to cook up a Thanksgiving meal that just about any American can be proud of. Being Canadian, it’s all lost on me, but it’s good fun, and the money raised is split between the two organizations.

This year, however, Thanksgiving landed right at the end of the week of bombs, and we had to postpone the dinner.

It was important to us to postpone and not to cancel because Beer Sova served meals to record amounts of people during the week of the war. They served the elderly who couldn’t leave their homes. They served people who lost income because of lost business, or closed businesses. They served children and mothers, Arabs and Jews. All who needed were given hot, nutritious meals, no questions asked.
AACI members were also disappointed at the postponement, and hoped we would have the dinner later. It seems people miss a taste of the old country, especially when it comes to turkey with all the trimmings.

After the war, we settled on a new date, which was last night. Several volunteers came to the kitchen of Beer Sova to prepare a three-course meal of soup, turkey and dessert.

Situated in an old run-down building in the town center, Beer Sova’s kitchen hosts industrial size ovens, stoves, and fridges. You can bathe a pony in one of their pots. (It’s even possible that someone had.) Clean and well-kept, the kitchen’s appearance clearly shows the hard work that goes on there regularly, almost entirely by volunteers, to feed and serve between 70-100 people daily in their dining room, and several 100 or so by home delivery. It also clearly shows how much they need donations to continue their holy work.

I got to the kitchen to help with the cooking a bit late. I used, as I always do, my daughter as an excuse for being late, but really, I just hate cooking. The kitchen was already a beehive of activity. I stood a minute and watched five wonderful women rush around the rooms looking, for all the world, like five whirlwinds that the Tasmanian devil from the Bugs Bunny cartoon makes (but without the grouchiness). ZOOM chop. ZOOM chop chop chop. ZOOM splash. MORE SALT! I NEED SOME SUGAR! ZOOM.

Tasmanian Devil

Within four hours these women (and one man who expertly checked and washed five lettuces [lettuci?] – but didn’t go rushing around) boiled up a witch’s cauldron of pumpkin soup, stuffed and cooked 6 turkeys, broiled 10 kilo of potatoes, made two gargantuan sweet potato pies, mixed up three humongous pots of three different salads, boiled up some cranberry sauce and apple compote, and baked four sets of brownies. I, meanwhile, stirred some beans. Expertly, I might add. I even added a bit of garlic.


Just over 40 people met later at the dining room of Beer Sova, which is separate from the kitchen. It was really a lovely dinner, complete with music and wine. Seeing as how I was an expert in bean stirring, I also decided I would give a short speech thanking people.
Here’s a copy – with illustrations, something those at the dinner didn’t get.

“Welcome everyone to our AACI/Beer Sova Thanksgiving dinner.

Beer Sova was established in 1999 by a group volunteers, to supply hot, nutritious, healthy meals for the needy in Beer Sheva and the surrounding area, and it was the first and remains the only kitchen preparing freshly cooked meals daily.

AACI encourages Aliyah of Americans and Canadians and assists its members to be absorbed into Israeli society and participate in the life of the Country.
AACI accepts everyone regardless of their religion or political opinions.
AACI is an a-political, a-religious organization.

But I’m not.

Last year at the AACI Thanksgiving dinner, someone told me that the Canadian Thanksgiving was actually established before the American Thanksgiving. I didn’t even know that there was a Canadian Thanksgiving, so I looked it up.

Indeed, Martin Frobisher established Thanksgiving in 1578 after returning safely home to Newfoundland after failing to find the Northwestern Passage through Canada to the Pacific Ocean.

Sir Martin Frobisher

The American Thanksgiving celebrates having survived a winter and near-starvation, but were able to produce a bountiful harvest and, therefore, show thanks with a big meal with lots of food – 43 years after Martin Frobisher gave thanks – in 1621. The Canadian Thanksgiving is one of homecoming and no food is actually involved; which is why the Canadian Thanksgiving has been more or less forgotten.

An American Thanksgiving

However, the Jewish Thanksgiving goes back even further than 1578. And it was from them that both the Canadians and Americans got the idea. And, as most things Jewish, it involves food.

A Jewish meal

During the times of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a person who survived a potentially dangerous situation – which in those days meant crossing the desert or sea, imprisonment, or illness – brought a Sacrificial Offering of Thanksgiving (korban todah) to the Temple, to show gratitude to G-d for saving him.

This sacrifice was different than others in that it had to be eaten by the person giving it on the same day. There was a great deal of food involved: The animal sacrificed – either a bull, a calf, a ram, a sheep, or a goat (each according to his ability) – 30 loaves of unleavened bread – a kind of matzah – and 10 loaves of regular bread – or challot.

This was a tremendous amount of food that had to be eaten in a very limited time. The person, therefore, would invite lots of people to come with him to eat of the sacrifice. The rabbis say that in this way the miracle of the person’s survival was publicized, his or her gratitude to G-d was made known to all, and G-d’s compassion and mercy was publicly proclaimed.

Today, we don’t have a Temple, or sacrifices. So instead, today, when we survive a potentially dangerous situation, we make a ‘seudat Hodaya’ a Meal of Thanks, where we invite a lot of people, and eat a lot of food.
In addition, say the sages it is right to give tzdaka – charity – in the amount of cost of the animal to be sacrificed – or in the amount of a meal.

And that is what we are doing here tonight – however inadvertently. We are gathered here in a group to give thanks for the things that we have. We have all donated money tonight to two organizations, AACI and Beer Sova.

We have a great deal to be thankful for tonight; our friends and family; a wonderful supportive community, for which I am grateful every day; a beautiful Land in which we have been blessed to make our home and which is populated by more heroes than I can count; the IAF and the IDF, and most of all G-d, for nudging those missiles just a bit and having most of them land in open areas. 176 missiles over the skies of Beer Sheva and there were no fatalities. This is a great miracle that needs to be acknowledged and publicized over and over again.

In addition, I would like to thank those that, with the help of G-d, organized this wonderful evening; the volunteers that cooked and set up; the go-between for AACI and Beer Sova, those at Beer Sova, especially those who helped with all the shopping, and most of all thanks to two superladies who planned and prepared the event from soup to nuts – except that there aren’t any nuts, but there’s cake.”

(names have been left out to protect those who only stirred the beans.)

It appeared that everyone had a good time and came out stuffed to the gills. We raised a small amount of money for both organizations – not nearly enough, but it’s a start.

The best part of the evening, however, was that the Canadian bean stirrer won the raffle – a stuffed turkey.

Now I don’t have to cook much for Shabbat. There’s something to be thankful for!!

AACI is the home for English Speakers in Israel with offices in Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva and Haifa.

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center

Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall) Talpiot, Jerusalem

MAP of Jerusalem Location

Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.

(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.


AACI is celebrating July 4th/Canada Day

We're inviting you to participate on July 4th

We’re inviting you to participate on July 4th

AACI VLOG July 4th / Canada Day Celebration – Yard Sale and Raffle

There is still time to reserve your table at the AACI Yard Sale on July 4th in the German Colony in Jerusalem.
And time to buy your raffle tickets to win a chance for 2 round-trip tickets to New York.
For more information about July 4th…

Hope you enjoy the latest episode in the AACI VLOG.

Happy 65th Birthday Israel!

Special thanks to Reesa Stone for this post in honor of Israel’s 65th birthday celebration.

Reams and reams are written in the days before Israel Independence Day about how wonderful it is to live in Israel. Indeed, Israelis have just been ranked the seventh happiest people in the world. This, despite the wars, the growing isolation and anti-Zionism in the world, the terrorist and missile attacks. I’ve decided to add to the list from my own perspective as an immigrant ex-Winnipeger, a veteran resident of 28 years in Beer Sheva, and an observant Jew, in no particular order, my 65 facts (one for each year of modern State of Israel’s existence) that still make my heart flutter and why I thank G-d every day that I live in Israel:

  1. Everyone has two birthdays, a Gregorian and a Jewish one. (editor’s note – this is because we have the Gregorian calendar that most of the world uses plus the Hebrew calendar that informs the Jewish and Israeli people of the timing of the Jewish holidays, birthdays and yahrtzeits, which are anniversaries of the death of a loved one that are observed by the family.)


    with thanks to http://www.squidoo.com/hanukkah-begin for this graphic

  2. In some years, there is as much as a month between the two birthdays. We call this period the birthday ‘Chol Hamoed’ (a term used for the intermediary days of Passover and Sukkot), and reserve the right to celebrate anytime.
  3. There is only one possible three-day holiday. In Israel, only the first and last days of Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) are chagim (holidays) and not the first and last two days, as is the case everywhere else in the world. The only holiday that is two days is Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year), so when it falls on Thursday and Friday, we add Shabbat and have a three-day holiday. We never have to worry about Sukkot or Pesach. Which means that

  4. We have only one seder (traditional Passover festive ritual meal). If there is no other reason to live in Israel, this is it. We have one seder on Pesach and finished.
  5. Bread is VERY hard to find during Pesach.
  6. Jewish holidays are national holidays. We don’t have to ask for extra time off work, or to postpone exams for Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) or Pesach, or for Shabbat (Sabbath) for that matter. The country shuts down automatically.
  7. It is understood that you will take off from work on the day your child is drafted into the army (editor’s note – and that you go with your child to the induction center to take photos and see him or her off).
  8. Israel is such a small country that it is possible to visit many different places in a short period of time.
  9. It’s even possible to literally walk the country’s length and breadth.
  10. Not only is it possible to walk Israel’s length and breadth, it’s considered a mitzvah to do so. During vacation times, attractions, holy and historic sites, walking trails, and nature reserves are clogged with people touring, visiting, picnicking and enjoying.
  11. Falafel (little fried balls made of chick peas) is available everywhere, all the time. And it’s cheap.
  12. Ice cream is available everywhere, most of the time. It’s still an Israeli trait not to eat ice cream in the winter. This quaint trait, however, is changing.

  13. Pita and laffa (Iraqi bread) are considered staple foods and are available in any supermarket.
  14. Most supermarkets are kosher and are closed on Shabbat. Those few shops that provide non-kosher food (usually meats and shellfish) have signs on them proclaiming they are not kosher.
  15. The sunsets are not only beautiful, but mark, not the end of another day, but the beginning of a new one. (Editor’s note – In the Hebrew calendar, the days go from sunset to sunset instead of sunrise to sunrise)
  16. Snow days are almost national holidays. It’s a given that if snow falls anywhere in the country, people are going to take the day and go visit it.
  17. Snow days are very rare. Even after living here for so many years, I really don’t miss the snow.
  18. From May to October, you can plan any event outdoors and not worry about it being rained out.

  19. The Hoopoe is Israel’s national bird – not the mosquito.
  20. The Hoopoe, (doochifat in Hebrew) like all things Israeli, comes with its own story. It is said to have carried King Solomon’s invitation to the Queen of Sheba to visit Jerusalem. The rest, as they say, is history.
  21. Neot Kedumim, a park located not far from Jerusalem, is dedicated to educating Israelis about the natural flora of Israel. All plants and trees mentioned in the Bible have been planted there, often in the same arrangements as recorded. This gives one an idea of what was meant when in Sefer VaYikra (Leviticus) it is said that the Kohen is to take the ‘cedar of Lebanon and the hyssop’…
  22. The Jerusalem zoo is home to all the animals mentioned in the Bible (along with many that aren’t).
  23. The shoemaker to whom I take my shoes to fix is one of the liberators of Beer Sheva who fought in the War of Independence in 1948-49.
  24. Heroes are everywhere and dress up as ordinary people.
  25. After the liberation of Beer Sheva in 1949, the first park that was built was called Allenby Park, named after Field Marshal Edmund Allenby, who liberated the city from the Turks during the First World War in 1917.
  26. Every year, there is a ceremony in Beer Sheva on October 31 marking ANZAC day. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps. October 31 is the day in 1917 that Allenby and his troops made up of Australians and New Zealanders liberated Beer Sheva.
  27. A few years ago, Allenby Park was re-dedicated and a new statue of Allenby was unveiled. Not only did the British ambassador come for the ceremony, so did Edmund Allenby’s grandson and family.
  28. Israeli universities have a second sitting for all exams. This practice was adopted for those students who had army reserve duty during the first exam period.
  29. During the Lebanon War in 1982, a third exam sitting was implemented, for those students who missed both the first and second sittings due to the war. ‘Moed gimmel’, as it’s called, is still available for those who need it. Sam with pluga at kotel
  30. When my son was in the army, I sent out an email on the Beer Sheva email list requesting information on where to find some equipment he requested I buy. Not only did I receive dozens of replies with the information, I also received offers to borrow the equipment, or even just to take it for free.
  31. Many of those emails also included words along the line of “I am including your son in my daily prayers for the welfare of our soldiers”.
  32. Some of those people who added my son to their prayers needed to first ask me his name, as they were complete strangers. But that didn’t matter because
  33. Soldiers, no matter their age, are everybody’s children.
  34. A lecturer in one of the colleges was fired when he did not admit a student in army uniform to his class. It was a unanimous decision.
  35. Various presidents, prime ministers, and members of Knesset (Israeli Parliament) speak (or spoke) Hebrew with a foreign accent.
  36. When people comment on my accent, I mention the above to them. It always makes them smile. yom-hazikaron580-330_0_0
  37. When there was a chance that the Israeli national basketball team might qualify to play in the European championship a few years ago, a national debate ensued as to whether they should play or not. The final game of the championship was scheduled for the evening of Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism). It seemed inappropriate to play a championship game on that night.
  38. The Europeans agreed that if Israel did qualify to play in the final game, they would move the game to the afternoon hours, so it would finish before sunset and not conflict with Remembrance Day. The Israeli team did qualify, and the game was moved to the afternoon.
  39. The Israeli team agreed that if they won the championship, there would be no celebrating that night. (They lost anyway…)
  40. In previous years, Israel has not participated in the Eurovision Song Contest because it was held on Yom HaZikaron.
  41. Verses from the Bible or the commentators have become idioms in everyday Hebrew. Rashi’s “What’s the sabbatical year to Mt. Sinai?” roughly translates to “what’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?”
  42. In Hebrew, anything outside of Israel is called “outside the Land. As in “she went outside the Land for a vacation.” Because, for us, there is only one Land. (editor’s note – this is known as “chutz l’aretz” in Hebrew, abbreviated as “chul.”
  43. Part of the state education curriculum is trips to various areas of the country.
  44. Most schools have a siddur (prayer book) party at the end of Grade one, celebrating the children’s ability to read from the siddur.
  45. Most schools also have a chumash (Bible) party at the end of Grade 2, celebrating the children’s ability to learn Torah.
  46. My children’s schools took the kids to Jerusalem for their chumash party. What better place to celebrate learning Torah?
  47. Streets in Israel are often named after Jewish and Israeli figures.
  48. In Beer Sheva, each neighborhood has a theme for its street names. In one neighborhood, all the streets are named for animals found in Israel, another for pre-state historical figures, while in my neighborhood all the streets are named for places in Israel.
  49. The main street in my neighborhood is Jerusalem Street.
  50. There is one older neighborhood where each street is named for one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
  51. When that neighborhood grew and more names were needed, the new street was given the name Osnat. Osnat was the wife of Joseph, son of Jacob.
  52. If a street is named after a person, the street sign often comes with little explanations of who the person was. Explanations such as “medieval Jewish commentator,” “Supreme court judge,” and “Chief Rabbi of the IDF” make walking down the street an educational experience.
  53. When there is a pigua (terrorist attack) or a grad missile attack, the phone lines crash within five minutes. This is because everyone across the country is phoning everyone to make sure everyone is ok.
  54. It is not unusual for thousands of people to attend a funeral of a terror victim or a soldier killed in battle.
  55. It is also not unusual for thousands of people to visit the families of a terror victim or a soldier during the shiva period. (editor’s note – shiva is the 7 day mourning period immediately following the burial of the family member)
  56. It is also not unusual for thousands of people to pray for the quick recovery of wounded soldiers or terror victims or send presents or even come visit.
  57. Then, when a family of a killed or wounded soldier or terror victim celebrates a wedding or a birth or a bar mitzvah, thousands of people follow their simcha (celebration) and rejoice with them. This is because
  58. Kol hayehudim eravim zeh lazeh-All Jews are responsible for each other, in sorrow and in joy.
  59. Strangers passing you on the street will greet you with Erev Tov (good evening), or Shabbat Shalom (Peaceful Sabbath – have a good Sabbath), or Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday).
  60. Flowers are everywhere. All year round.
  61. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where I work, is a world leader in research in water use, de-desertification, and agriculture.
  62. One of the smaller BGU campuses in the city is dotted with experimental fruits, thorn-free sabra plants, and one-of-a-kind trees.
  63. When asked, our very secular neighbor happily joins us to make a tenth in a minyan (10 men together needed to say certain prayers)
  64. We know when mincha (afternoon prayers) is on Shabbat at the neighborhood synagogue by watching for groups of men walking down the street.
  65. My children are all sabras (native-born Israelis).

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.


Come Join Us: AACI’s Succot Walking Tours

Well, here it is – the end of September and the beginning of a new year according to the Jewish calendar. Summer is ending, the season is changing, and I for one am delighted … although I must admit I do feel a little off kilter. I still associate autumn with the splendid displays of red and gold and orange foliage of my old North American home (although some leaves do turn color in the Israeli autumn, the preponderance of evergreens tends overshadow them). I remember the brand new first apples of the season appearing on the trees and adding further to the glorious color scheme. The pleasure of these magnificent sights was somewhat allayed by the anticipation of winter, which in eastern Canada is not to be taken lightly.

In Israel, fall means something entirely different to me. The cooler days of autumn signify to me, not that snow will soon be falling, but that I can finally breathe.

And that is why I feel out of step.

The children of my neighborhood are heading off to school dressed in jackets and hats, while I am at last feeling comfortable going for a walk in my summer clothes … in the middle of the day! I no longer have to plan to get to the supermarket the minute it opens in the morning to make the long trek home, schlepping my shopping cart, somewhat bearable.

I remember years ago in my old neighborhood in Beit Shemesh, where the weather is much warmer even than in Jerusalem, being amused when the Israeli-born mothers began to dress their infants in snowsuits. It usually happened when the temperature plummeted from 40 down to a frigid 28 degrees C (that’s from 104 degrees Fahrenheit down to about 82).  My kids were still running around in shorts at that point, because I knew what snowsuits were for – to bundle up babies when the weather was below freezing, and the snow was too thick to push a stroller through, so instead we used mini baby sleds pulled by polar bears … hmm, wait, I think I’m getting carried away here.

Anyway, my point – and I do have one, as the comedian said – is that autumn in Israel, in addition to a whole holiday season, brings the loveliest weather. Perfect weather for all us, tourist or local, olim chadashim or vatikim, to get out, walk around, and enjoy this amazing country of ours. And what better way to do that than by taking part in one or more of AACI’s Succot Walking Tours?

Explore some new sights or revisit favorite sites. The tours are generally more walks than hikes, and last only a few hours, allowing all members of the family to participate. Prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is relaxed yet festive. Come join us. And enjoy the beauty of Israel in the fall.

You will be welcome whether you choose to wear a short sleeved T-shirt or a full-length winter coat!

AACI’s Succot Walking Tours are offered from September 28 through October 10, 2012. Click here for details and a full schedule. Please call the tour guide for confirmation of the tour and to find out the meeting place.

Chag Sameach! Happy Fall!

For a Good & Sweet Year: Rosh Hashanah recipes

As a follow up to the post of two weeks ago calling for Rosh Hashanah recipes, here are a few favorites.


by Elisheva Lahav

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  This is the only honey cake that my late mother, Janet Ha-Levi, who passed away in May 2009, ever made. It is also the only honey cake that I have ever made. Why even try anything else? When you’ve got a winner, stick with it! Also, neither of us ever made it when it wasn’t Rosh Hashanah. Who eats honey cake on Purim or Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July?

What’s really good about this cake is that it’s not too sweet and not too dry.

Shana tova u’mevorechet (a good and blessed year) to all AACI members and blog readers.

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).

Separate 3 eggs and whip whites until stiff.

Sift together into a large bowl:

3 ½ cups flour

1 cup brown sugar

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. allspice

2 ½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

¾ cup chopped nuts or raisins (optional)

Make a well in the center and add:

1⅓ cups honey

3 egg yolks

¼ cup oil

1 ⅓ cups cool black coffee (can also be decaf)

Blend all ingredients together thoroughly, and gently fold in egg whites.

Don’t worry that you’ve done something wrong if the batter is very thin!

Bake in a lightly greased 10” tube pan for approximately 1 hour.

ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR:  Elisheva Lahav is a volunteer at AACI Jerusalem, responsible for staffing the front desk.  She says:

The front desk is the interface between the AACI and its clients and the rest of the world.  All phone calls come through the front desk, and all visitors to the AACI’s offices pass by it.  Approximately 20 volunteers staff the desk, two each morning and two each afternoon, five days a week.
I, myself, had been a member of the AACI board for several years, but until I began volunteering here about 8 ½ years ago (right after my very, very, very early retirement), I quickly realized that I hadn’t really known what AACI was or what it did.  Only by speaking with the callers, or welcoming them as they come in, or signing them up for membership or for the myriad activities, or trying to answer questions on a plethora of topics (or, often, transferring their calls to whichever staff member deals with the particular topic), was I able to get a feel for AACI’s invaluable work – for which I have tremendous esteem.  I never cease to be amazed at how AACI helps English-speaking newcomers (or more veteran immigrants) to Israel find their way in the crazy, confusing, complicated world in which we have chosen to rebuild our homes.
On behalf of the AACI’s front desk volunteers in Jerusalem, I wish all AACI’s members and their families a very happy and healthy New Year.

ASSURE (Bulgur/Chickpea/Pomegranate Side Dish)

by Daniel Ashkenazi

This dish is traditional all over the Sephardic Balkans and Turkey. This variation is from Salonika (a frequent destination on our Kosher cruises), eaten on Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot and Tu B’Shvat.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I personally sampled – well, more than sampled – this dish, prepared by Daniel, last Rosh Hashanah. It is amazingly flavorful; the ingredients combine and contrast delightfully.

You need:

– ½ cup of Bulgur per Person

– Chickpeas to taste (about 1/4 of the total weight)

– fresh pomegranate seeds (same quantity as the chickpeas)

– onion and fresh garlic to taste

– Extra Virgin Olive Oil

– Chopped Parsley

Soak the chickpeas overnight and cook until tender. Let them dry in a sifter or spread them on paper towels. When dried, fry them in Olive oil until golden-brown. Put aside.

Fry the chopped onion and garlic in lots of olive oil till brown, add the Bulgur and fry while constantly stirring for a few minutes. Cover with warm water and reduce heat. Let it simmer until tender, or till all liquid was absorbed.

Take off the fire and mix in the chickpeas while still hot. Add the pomegranate seeds right before serving and sprinkle the chopped parsley on top.

Buen Provezo (Ladino) or Kali Orexi (Greek).

ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR: My name is Daniel Ashkenazi, I grew up on the Greek island of Kos, near Rhodes, (also  oftentimes AACI Kosher Cruise destinations http://www.aaci.org.il/articlenav.php?id=43) and studied in Salonika before I made Aliyah 6 years ago. I live with my wife in Jerusalem. I work in tourism and as a book binder.

Anyada Buena i klara skritos en el libro del vida! A Good New Year and a sure inscription into the Book of Life!



by Bryna Lee Jacobson

A Jacobson family favorite,shared by dear friends (and the friend’s Mom) from Skokie, Illinois.
Super easy to make and also freezes well. I usually cook rice to go with it. For a very elegant and beautiful presentation, my friend serves portions of 3 meatballs in stemmed dessert dishes.


Meatball mixture

Grate by hand or with food processer:

1 potato and 1 onion

Mix in:

1 kilo ground meat. I use beef.

2 eggs

Mix this together. Add some salt and pepper or other seasonings at this point if you like.

Sauce ingredients for 1 kilo meat

1 ½ cup ketchup

2 cup water

2 8-oz cans tomato sauce (not paste)

1 tsp sour salt

1 tsp salt

1 bay leaf (optional)

¾ cup sugar

Bring sauce to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven that is big enough to hold the sauce and the meatballs you will add to it. When the sauce is boiling, start gently placing the raw meatballs into the sauce. NO STIRRING! Reduce flame and shake the pan a little to cover the meatballs. It doesn’t look like it will be enough sauce but trust me – that it is enough liquid. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 60-90 minutes. 

ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR: Bryna Lee works in AACI Jerusalem’s Development. department. She made aliyah from the Chicago area 3 years ago and now lives in Ma’ale Adumim.


by Tehillah Hessler (adapted from Mishpacha magazine)

I start with a batter:

1 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
 1tsp paprika
dash pepper
½ cup beer or water
2 tbsp oil
2 eggs

Coat the chicken – 1 ½ kg boneless chicken breasts cut into nuggets – in the batter and fry until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and place in a deep casserole dish.

Fry – 1 pkg (approx 250 g) pastrami cut into½ inch strips –  in the same oil that was used for the chicken. Remove from pan when brown and crispy on the edges and add to the casserole dish.

1 can of pineapple chunks (reserve the juice)

Toss the pineapple chunks in the hot oiled pan and stir until seared.


Juice from the pineapple (¾ cup)
1 cup of duck sauce or apricot jam
add any desired spices if you want it to have a bite (for example, chili powder or cayenne pepper, chili sauce, sriracha sauce, minced jalapeno)

Heat to boiling, then reduce to a simmer. Stir in:

1 TSP cornstarch dissolved in ½ cup cold water

Cook and stir till mixture thickens. Pour over the chicken/pastrami mixture and toss.
Serve with rice or noodles.


PUMPKIN TWO WAYS (Soup or Salad)

by Laura Firszt (adapted from Phyllis Glazer’s Cumin-Scented Pumpkin Soup)

Erev Rosh Hashana is a busy time for cooks. who need to prepare the equivalent of four (!!!) Thanksgiving dinners for the holiday. Besides being tasty, this dish can save you time and stress by doing double duty. Serve it as a siman and/or side dish the first night of Rosh Hashanah. Then transform it into a soup for another of the festive meals. Can be prepared in advance and frozen.

Have a good and sweet year!

2 large onions

4-5 cloves garlic

1 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp or more turmeric

1 tsp cumin

2 tsp soy sauce (optional but gives much richer flavor)

5 cups pumpkin, shredded

1 large potato, shredded

1 large carrot, shredded

½ cup vegetable stock or water

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pkg fresh coriander or parsley, coarsely chopped

Mince the onion and garlic. Cook in olive oil over low heat until deep brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in the spices, then add soy sauce and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining vegetables and the liquid. Raise heat, bring to a boil, then lower heat once again. Cover the mixture and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until pumpkin is very tender.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Puree if desired and serve hot or at room temperature as a side dish. Stir in the fresh herbs before serving.

To transform this into pumpkin soup, add another 6-7 cups liquid. I like to add a package of fresh spinach, chopped, to the soup for the last 10 or so minutes of cooking.

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center
Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2 (across from Hadar Mall)
Talpiot, Jerusalem
Buses # 10, 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop  at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
(02) 566-1181 for more information about any programs or to register.


What’s Cooking for Rosh Hashana? You Tell Us!

Rosh Hashana is just around the corner, and all over Israel, folks are digging out their old family recipes — or wracking their brains for new and exciting ideas — for holiday foods.

We at AACI would like to hear from YOU. Which special dishes are a traditional part of  your New Year celebration? What new Rosh Hashana food traditions have you adopted since coming to Israel?

Please send us your descriptions, recipes and photos (as JPG files) of Rosh Hashana favorites to bjacobson@aaci.org.il (Please include your phone number and/or email.) Deadline 5 PM, Wednesday, September 5, 2012.

We will then share recipes from both blog readers and AACI staffers in time for your holiday cooking.

Here’s one of my time-tested recipes to get you started:

Tangy Carrot-Herb Salad

10 medium carrots, peeled, sliced, & simmered till tender (you could skip peeling them if they are very young and sweet)

Cool, drain and buzz in the food processor with:

2-3 cloves fresh garlic
a big handful of fresh cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, or other fresh herb of your choice (stems & all)
3 TBSP olive oil
lemon juice & salt to taste 

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

I like this with a still-slightly chunky texture, but that’s up to you. This may be used as one of the simanim (symbolic foods for a good year) at the Rosh Hashana evening meal; it’s an interesting change from carrot-and-raisin salad. It can also be made for Passover … but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves :-).


Party Time! A Week of Celebration with AACI

They say the world is divided into two types of people – those who think the world is divided into two types of people and those who don’t.

This same theory could be applied to people living in Israel. There is one ideology that says we are all Israelis, and that immigrants should make every effort to fit in, by single-mindedly adopting the majority language and culture. Others believe that we olim can be committed to our chosen country, while still fondly remembering our former places of residence and some of our old customs.

It is in the spirit of the second school of thought that AACI is offering a week of exciting events to celebrate two national birthdays, Canada Day (July 1) and American Independence Day (July 4).

What an interesting line-up! Advertised as offering “something for everyone,” the celebration certainly lives up to its billing.

Sunday, July 1, Irwin Cotler, Justice and Human Rights critic for the Canadian Liberal party is speaking on “Freedom of Expression.”  What does a Canadian politician have to do with Israel? Well, for starters, his wife, Ariela, is a native Jerusalemite. In addition, Cotler has been working against anti-Semitism for years. In a speech before the Canadian House of Commons earlier this month, he called for a moment of silence at this summer’s Olympic Games in memory of the Israeli athletes z”l who were murdered at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

Monday, July 2, we will celebrate the festive opening of a new art exhibit by Glen Shear, as part of AACI’s ongoing program of exhibitions in our Jerusalem headquarters, the Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center. His work crackles with the energy and color of American pop culture, featuring an occasional Israeli twist. http://www.gotshear.com

Tuesday, July 3 (note new date),  HaHafuch, Israel’s premier English-speaking comedy troupe, will present their zany take on the lighter side of living in Israel. A group of olim from around the world, these improv artists live their philosophy, “Israel is funny.”

Wednesday, July 4, is American movie night, with a screening of the classic Frank Capra film, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Starring that quintessentially American actor, Jimmy Stewart, this film, which describes one citizen’s effect on the American political system, was highly controversial when it was first released in 1939. Gary Levine will provide an informative introduction.

All events will be held at the AACI Jerusalem Max & Gianna Glassman Family Center.

For full details of times and prices, click here.

Well, it’s quite an eclectic schedule, but isn’t that as it should be? After all, we Israelis, olim and Sabras alike, are a very eclectic group — not just two types of people but many, all jumbled together in a colorful mosaic . And that’s what can make life in this country so much fun.

AACI Jerusalem – Dr. Max and Gianna Glassman Family Center, Pierre Koenig 37, corner of Poalei Tzedek 2, Talpiot    MAP
Buses # 21 & 49 stop on Pierre Koenig across from AACI; 71, 72, 74 & 75 stop  at Tzomet Habankim, a 10-minute walk away.
For information, please call (02)566-1181.