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The varied culinary traditions of Hanukkah – Worcester Telegram

Posted By on November 30, 2021

Carol Goodman Kaufman| Correspondent

Growing up in a small town in Western Massachusetts, my Hebrew School circle of friends consisted of kids who, like me, were the grandchildren of Ashkenazim, Eastern European immigrants. At Hanukkah we decorated with construction paper chains (no lights or tinsel for us). We lit multicolored candles on thehanukkiyah, the Hanukkah candelabra, that my maternal grandmother had carried from Lithuania. Those candles came from the same little blue boxes you can buy at the supermarket today. No fancy schmancy, hand-dipped candles in those days.

Gifts were simple, too, but to raise the excitement level my parents hid them throughout the house. I can still remember the thrill of finding a John Gnagy Learn to Draw set under the den sofa. (Unfortunately, despite Mr. Gnagy's valiant efforts, I never did learn to draw.)

And the food: latkes, potato pancakes, with applesauce or sour cream, and tiny yellow mesh bags filled with gold-foil-covered gelt, chocolate coins.

That was it for Hanukkah.

Then I moved to Israel and landed at KibbutzMalkiya, so far north that it sat right on the border with Lebanon. The kibbutzniks were mostlyMizrahim, immigrants from Arab countries, and their gastronomic offerings were quite different from those to which I was accustomed. Vegetable salad, olives, and yogurt for breakfast, anyone?

When Hanukkah came around, I was working in one of the kindergarten houses, where I expected to see crispy, golden latkes served to the children. No, that's for the Ashkenazim, the head nanny told me. She proceeded to introduce me tosufganiyot, jelly donuts, and set me to labor injecting raspberry jam into dozens of dough balls prior to frying.

Curious as to the source of the tradition, I did some research. Jews in North Africa have a long Hanukkah tradition of eatingsfenj, small, deep-fried doughnuts. In Israel, where Jews gathered "from the four corners of the Earth," the North Africans met and mingled with the Eastern Europeans. Polishponchkesand Africansfenjmerged to becomesufganiyot.

Since that time, I have learned of other Hanukkah culinary traditions from around the globe, but two unique characteristics define them: they are all either fried in oil or contain cheese. Sometimes both. (Except for brisket. Why brisket is considered the centerpiece of a traditional Hanukkah meal alongside latkes, I don't understand. It is neither fried nor dairy.But,there you have it. A meal of brisket and latkes is considered by many as the quintessential Ashkenazi Hanukkah repast.)

The custom of frying in oil is based on the story of the Maccabees, who organized a revolt against the oppressive Syrian Greek King Antiochus IVEpihanes. At war's end, when the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to reclaim and rededicate the Holy Temple, they found that the troops fighting under the general Lysias had desecrated it. The legend tells us that the Maccabees found one sealed jar in the Temple that contained enough olive oil for just one day. But that small amount miraculously burned for eight days, thus providing time until more ritually pure oil could be pressed and brought to Jerusalem.

Deep-fried fritters calledbimuelosin Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish language, are the most popular Sephardic Hanukkah treat. They are one of the foods emblematic of conversos, the Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism during the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, but who secretly practiced their Judaism. After the Expulsion from Spain in 1492, Sephardim spread throughout the Mediterranean world, where in some communities they top their fritters with a honey syrup flavored with orange or rose water.

My Cuban-born friend Mattie Castiel (aka Worcesters intrepid commissioner of Health & Human Services) prepares thebimuelosrecipe learned from her Turkish ancestors. She once offered to pit herbimuelosagainst my latkes any day. Nobody loses in that contest. Youre on, Mattie!

Greeks call similar deep-fried puffs loukoumades, and they dip them in honey or sugar. They believe the Maccabees ate these pastries during the revolt because they were easy to prepare for fighters who had little time to sit for a full meal.

The tradition of eating cheese-based foods is grounded in the story of Judith. Although the book does not mention Hanukkah and is not even included in the Jewish canon (nor is the Book of the Maccabees, for that matter), it is believed to have been written about the same seven-year-long war. We read that in his quest to conquer Judea, the general Holofernes besieged the town of Bethulia, cutting off its water supply. Though the town elders were ready to surrender, hoping to avoid starvation, the Hasmonean Judith was not. The beautiful widow was able to talk her way into Holofernes' tent. Once inside, she fed him cheese. Salty cheese. The cheese made him thirsty, so she gave him wine to quench that thirst. Lots of wine. Which of course made him drunk and sleepy. Once the general fell asleep, Judith grabbed his sword and decapitated him, bringing the head back to her village in a basket.

The next morning, when Holofernes' soldiers beheld the headless body of their leader, they fled in terror. In honor of Judith's courage, we incorporate cheese into our Hanukkah menus. Turkish boyos (spinach and cheese filo pastries), Middle Eastern sambusak (empanada-like pastries), and bourekas (Middle Eastern savory turnovers) all contain salty cheeses similar to the one Holofernes would have eaten, while cheese blintzes and farmer cheese pancakes provide a sweet take on the tradition.

Whether you go sweet or savory, we wish you a happy and delicious Hanukkah!

Bourekas are an enormously popular street food that fit the bill for Hanukkahs culinary cheese tradition and salty cheese makes them even more authentic. Use store-bought puff pastry to cut down on prep time. After all, why spend all your time in the kitchen when there's a party going on in the rest of the house? In fact, you can make and freeze these ahead of time. Just follow the directions at the end of this recipe.


2 sheets frozen puff pastry

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

1 large egg

Black pepper

1 large egg yok

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Parchment paper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine feta, kashkaval, ricotta, egg, and a pinch of black pepper.

With a fork, mix ingredients together until well blended and evenly textured.

Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, unfold one of the puff pastry sheets.

With a rolling pin, roll out the sheet to a 12x12 inch square.

Cut the dough into 9 equal-sized squares, 4"x4" each.

Place 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture into the center of each dough square.

Grasp one corner of the square and fold it over to the opposite corner to make a triangle.

Crimp along the edges with the tines of a fork.

Repeat this process for the second sheet of puff pastry.

Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place 9 bourekas on each sheet. They will expand during baking, so space them evenly.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and 2 tsp of cool water. Brush a light layer of the egg wash onto the top of each boureka.

Sprinkle the bourekas with sesame seeds.

Bake the bourekas for about 30 minutes, switching the baking sheets between the upper and lower racks halfway through cooking.

Remove when golden brown and cooked through.

Serve warm.

Store in a sealed container.

To freeze:

Prepare the bourekas but do not egg wash.Place the unbaked pastries in a plastic bag or container in single layers, each separated by a sheet of wax or parchment paper.Freeze.

When ready to bake, take the bourekas out of the freezer and set them onto baking sheets sprayed with nonstick oil.

Brush a thin layer of egg wash and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes till golden brown.

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Verimatrix Launches Streamkeeper To Offer Industry’s First Battle-Ready Cybersecurity Solution Engineered to Hunt Down and Take Out Video Piracy -…

Posted By on November 30, 2021


Verimatrix, (Euronext Paris: VMX) (Paris:VMX), the leader in powering the modern connected world with people-centered security, today announced the launch of its new Verimatrix StreamkeeperSM solution, a cybersecurity and anti-piracy gamechanger for the media & entertainment industry. Streamkeeper empowers customers to hunt down and take out OTT pirates who steal content such as live sports and premium movie as they are distributed from the source to the endpoint (mobile app/user level).

The solution includes Verimatrix's all-new CounterspySM technology -- the autonomous injection of an anti-piracy and app protection security agent that utilizes the companys proprietary zero code technology which allows customers to add deep, defensive countermeasures, plus monitor their clients without the hassle of a huge integration effort. Integration efforts have also been reduced dramatically, from months to minutes, accompanying numerous operator benefits ranging from a reduction in siphoned subscribers to expanded access to valuable, highly sought-after studio content.

Streamkeeper enables OTT operators to delight studios and other content owners with powerful piracy visibility and protections. Operators also have full control of the visibility offered to content owners. Creative hackers often weaponize CDNs and end device software such as mobile apps and web browsers using them against operators. Verimatrixs groundbreaking Counterspy zero-code injection approach shines a light on previously hidden piracy attacks, leaving pirates with no place to hide. The battle-ready tools provided within Streamkeeper allow customer to fight piracy with powerful, military-grade cybersecurity countermeasures never before available. Currently in beta testing and examined by studios, Verimatrix Streamkeeper is scheduled for general availability at the end of Q1 2022.

Streamkeeper is a game-changing new OTT anti-piracy solution that will forever change how Hollywood and sports will tackle piracy, said Asaf Ashkenazi, Chief Operating Officer and President at Verimatrix. Its a complete content security package containing exciting new technologies, such as the autonomous injection of an anti-piracy security agent that utilizes zero code technology; meaning we can now easily add deep, defensive anti-piracy tracing, app protection and countermeasures instantly to customer ecosystems. Content owners and operators have been seeking a solution such as Streamkeeper that leaves no low-hanging fruit for pirates to exploit and does so in a way that empowers the industry while maintaining great user experiences and protecting investments in content. We believe this solution could become the de facto standard for next-generation anti-piracy, recommended by content owners.

Significantly different from any other solution available on the market today, Streamkeeper closes authentication gaps and harnesses app protection and dual-telemetry technology to monitor new/unknown hacking attempts and real-time tampering and content theft. This arms operators with the ability to identify suspected piracy and react instantly with a variety of countermeasures. Working in tandem with time-tested Multi-DRM, fingerprinting/watermarking and dark web crawling to track down pirated content in bold new ways, Streamkeeper takes anti-piracy far beyond reveal and takedown notices -- enabling alert verification as well as views into the actual apps, devices and users accessing authorized and unauthorized content during livestreams. This empowers customers to more aggressively combat pirates at the endpoint should they choose, or deploy less aggressive responses such as degradation of screen quality or in-broadcast messaging. The ability to halt live streaming pirated content in real-time is an incredibly powerful tool.

Top highlights inside Verimatrix Streamkeeper include:

For more information on Verimatrix Streamkeeper, including a demo or becoming a beta customer, visit:

About VerimatrixVerimatrix (Euronext Paris: VMX) helps power the modern connected world with security made for people. We protect digital content, applications, and devices with intuitive, people-centered and frictionless security. Leading brands turn to Verimatrix to secure everything from premium movies and live streaming sports, to sensitive financial and healthcare data, to mission-critical mobile applications. We enable the trusted connections our customers depend on to deliver compelling content and experiences to millions of consumers around the world. Verimatrix helps partners get to market faster, scale easily, protect valuable revenue streams, and win new business. Visit

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Pancreatic Cancer: Can It Be Prevented? – Baptist Health South Florida

Posted By on November 30, 2021

Pancreatic cancer isnt common, making up just 3 percent of all cancer cases in the U.S. At first glance, the numbers seem reassuring, but in reality, pancreatic cancer is rarely caught early, and its 5-year survival rate is just 10 percent. It is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., behind the much more commonly diagnosed lung and colon cancer.

While the numbers are grim, the experts atMiami Cancer Institute, a part of Baptist Health, say if you better understand your risk for pancreatic cancer, you can modify the risk factors that can be changed. On World Pancreatic Cancer Day, Thursday, Nov. 18, the Institute held a free informational program to build awareness.

Is It In Our DNA?

Domenech Asbun, M.D., a hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgeon at Miami Cancer Institute

Every cell in our body has a rule book of sorts and that is our DNA, explainedDomenech Asbun, M.D., a hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgeon at the Institute. When there are changes in that rule book, cells can mutate and grow in an uncontrollable fashion. Most people want to know if these changes are a matter of nature or nurture.

Physician scientists have determined that in most cases, its a combination of the two. We can be born with changes in our DNA that will predispose us to develop cancer at some point in our lives but there are also environmental factors, Dr. Asbun said.

The first step in understanding your risk is knowing your family history and not just for pancreatic cancer, but for other cancers as well. About 10 percent of pancreatic cancers are associated with some familial or inherited factor. For example, those with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation (most often linked to breast and ovarian cancer), have a 3 to 10-fold increase of getting pancreatic cancer, he said.

In addition, those with a PALB2 mutation, or conditions such as FAMMM (familial atypical multiple mole melanoma), Lynch Syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome or hereditary pancreatitis are at increased risk. Having a first-degree relative with pancreatic cancer also raises your odds slightly. Even if your DNA predisposes you to cancer, you may never get the disease, but if you suspect your genetics is putting you at risk, Dr. Asbun suggests talking to your doctor.

Decreasing Your Risk

I wish there was a silver bullet for prevention, Dr. Asbun said. But the best thing you can do is modify those risk factors that can be changed.

You can lower your risk for many types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer, by making some lifestyle changes. Among them:

If you smoke or use tobacco products, stop. Smokers also have a poorer response to cancer treatment.

Lose weight if you are overweight. A BMI above 30 increases your risk for pancreatic cancer by 20 percent.

Keep type 2 diabetes at bay. Some of these risk factors go hand in hand, and being overweight is closely associated with diabetes, Dr. Asbun said.

Other possible contributing factors are a diet high in red meat, saturated fats and sugary drinks; low vitamin D; not enough exercise; alcohol consumption (which is associated with chronic pancreatitis, which can lead to cancer); and infections such as H. Pylori and hepatitis B.

Risk Factors Beyond Your Control

Unfortunately, there are some things you cant change. Your age is one (the average age at diagnosis is 70, although once above age 45 the risks do go up). More men tend to get pancreatic cancer. There is also a higher incidence among African-Americans and those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. However, there may be other factors contributing to these associations, and the reasons for increased risk are not always clear.

Screening for pancreatic cancer is not typically recommended, Dr. Asbun said, and symptoms such as weight loss and jaundice often dont appear until the disease is advanced. If suspected, endoscopic ultrasound or an MRI may be performed. Sometimes, pancreatic cancer is detected when a patient has an MRI or CT scan for another problem. Results of a CA 19-9 blood test may suggest cancer, but not everyone who has pancreatic cancer has a high CA 19-9 level.

Better Treatments

There are new options for treating pancreatic cancer and Miami Cancer Institute is leadingclinical trialsin different types of chemotherapy and high-dose radiation, and offers minimally invasive procedures. They are extending life and improving quality of life among those with pancreas cancer. We have many more tools at our disposal now and we know how to use them better, Dr. Asbun said. We are very much at the forefront of cancer care.

Tags: Miami Cancer Institute, pancreatic cancer

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A new targeted treatment for early-stage breast cancer? – Harvard Health

Posted By on November 30, 2021

In the US, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Each year, an estimated 270,000 women and a far smaller number of men are diagnosed with it. When caught in early stages, its usually highly treatable.

A promising new form of targeted treatment may expand options available to some women with early-stage breast cancer linked to specific genetic glitches. (Early-stage cancers have not spread to distant organs or tissues in the body.)

You may have heard the term BRCA (BReast CAncer) genes, which refers to BRCA1 and BRCA2genes. Normally, BRCA genes help repair damage to our DNA (genetic code) that occurs regularly in cells throughout the human body.

Inherited BRCA mutations are abnormal changes in these genes that are passed on from a parent to a child. When a person has a BRCA mutation, their body cannot repair routine DNA damage to cells as easily. This accumulating damage to cells may help pave a path leading to cancer. Having a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation or both puts a person at higher risk for cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, or pancreas; or for melanoma. A persons risk for breast cancer can also be affected by other gene mutations and other factors.

Overall, just 3% to 5% of all women with breast cancer have mutations in BRCAgenes. However, BRCA mutations occur more often in certain groups of people, such as those with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, a strong family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, and younger women with breast cancer.

Certain types of breast cancer are commonly found in women with BRCA gene mutations.

Knowing what encourages different types of breast cancer to grow helps scientists develop new treatments, and helps doctors choose available treatments to slow or stop tumor growth. Often this involves a combination of treatments.

The OlympiA trial enrolled women with early-stage breast cancer and inherited BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations. All were at high risk for breast cancer recurrence despite standard treatments.

Study participants had received standard therapies for breast cancer:

They were randomly assigned to take pills twice a day containing olaparib or a placebo (sugar pills) for one year.

Olaparib belongs to a class of medicines called PARP inhibitors. PARP (poly adenosine diphosphate-ribose polymerase) is an enzyme that normally helps repair DNA damage. Blocking this enzyme in BRCA-mutated cancer cells causes the cells to die from increased DNA damage.

Results from this study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Women who received olaparib were less likely to have breast cancer recur or metastasize (spread to distant organs or tissues) than women taking placebo. Follow-up at an average of two and a half years showed that slightly more than 85% of women who had received olaparib were alive and did not have a cancer recurrence, or a new second cancer, compared with 77% of women treated with placebo.

Further, the researchers estimated that at three years:

The side effects of olaparib include low white cell count, low red cell count, and tiredness. The chances of developing these were low.

Olaparib is already approved by the FDA to treat BRCA-related cancers of the ovaries, pancreas, or prostate, and metastatic breast cancer. FDA approval for early-stage breast cancer that is BRCA-related is expected soon based on this study. These findings suggest taking olaparib for a year after completing standard treatment could be a good option for women who have early-stage breast cancer and an inherited BRCA gene mutation who are at high risk for cancer recurrence and, possibly, its spread.

Follow me on Twitter @NeelamDesai_MD

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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Israel Reluctant To Save Jews From War-Torn Ethiopia – The Organization for World Peace

Posted By on November 30, 2021

On the 20th of November, the Chairman of the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry Organization, Joseph Feit, urged Israeli authorities to bring all of the 14,100 Ethiopian Jews who have been awaiting aliyah (immigration to Israel), in some cases for decades. Otherwise Israel will be partially responsible for deaths which could have been avoided. This statement came six days after Ethiopian Israelis demanded that Israel rescue relatives left behind in conflict-ridden Ethiopia, as stated on France 24.

Israels National Security Council is still unconvinced that ongoing hostilities in Ethiopia warrant an emergency evacuation of Ethiopian Jews. Moreover, Israelis who oppose Ethiopian immigration question whether there are any real Jews in Ethiopian transit camps. The Israeli government, perhaps to defuse accusations of racism, agreed two weeks ago to eventually transfer 5,000 Ethiopian Jews back to Israel. They failed to specify when this will happen, according to the New York Times.

Yet time is running out. The Ethiopian Civil War is escalating as Tigrayan rebels threaten to overrun Addis Ababa. The UN and European Union are ordering foreign citizens and diplomatic staff to get out of Ethiopia as soon as possible, as noted in the Guardian. Ethiopian Jews stranded in decrepit transit camps in Gondar are likely to get caught in the crossfire. Tel-Aviv should immediately strike a deal with the Ethiopian government to hasten the Beta Israels emigration in exchange for humanitarian aid.

It is understandable that Ethiopian Jews want to flee war and intolerance and finally reunite with friends or family in Israel. Ashager Araro, founder of the Battae Ethiopian Israeli Heritage Center in Tel Aviv, told the Jewish Journal that her grandfather was killed for being Jewish in Ethiopia. But Israel is by no means a promised land for coloured or religious minorities either. Muslim Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israel are treated like second-class citizens and experience systemic institutional discrimination. A Human Rights Watch report demonstrated earlier this year that such grave inequities are akin to apartheid.

The Druze community, a group sociologist Lisa Hajjar described as a favoured minority due to its members distinguished records in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), intelligence services, and border police, suffers widespread economic and political marginalization as well. Reuters and the Times of Israel often cover the many Druze protesters who highlight glaring disparities between their decaying villages and well-funded Jewish towns.

British-Israeli journalist and author Rachel Shabi exposed the plight of the Mizrahi Jews (Jews originating from Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia) a people that the dominant Ashkenazi (Jews from Europe) view with suspicion and prejudice due to their North African features, cultures, and languages. Zionist authorities also gave Mizrahi Jews poorer land, fewer social services, and lower wages upon their arrival to British Mandate Palestine and later independent Israel, according to Islamic Art specialist Sascha Crasnow. These inequalities persist to this day.

Additionally, Israelis generally do not welcome members of the East-Indian Bnei Menashe Jewish community. The Observer Research Foundation alleges that Indian Jews are discreetly segregated from the rest of society after being resettled to some of the most dangerous areas in the West Bank. Hanoch Haokip told Forward that his teenage daughters endure racist abuse in school, while adults are trapped in low-income factory, security, or cleaning jobs with little hope of social advancement.

A similar fate has befallen the majority of Ethiopian Jews currently living in Israel. The killing of teenager Solomon Tekah by a police officer in 2019 sparked massive demonstrations and unleashed a torrent of anger. An Ethiopian grocery store owner ruefully told Middle East Eye: Theres no democracy, except maybe for whites. Theres no rule of law for Ethiopians. Furthermore, for years dozens of Ethiopian women claimed that Israeli health workers in Ethiopian transit camps and Israeli absorption centers coercively injected them with Depo-Provera. American hospitals administered this temporary sterilization drug to Black, Indigenous, and disabled women without their consent as a method of population control, according to Ethnic Studies scholar Bayan Abusneineh.

Israel authorities are not only obliged to reunite Ethiopian Jewish families, but they must ensure that new arrivals will be spared the injustices that blighted the lives of countless Ethiopian Israelis who came before them.

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Opinion: Hanukkah isnt Jewish Christmas. Stop treating it that way. – CT Post

Posted By on November 30, 2021

Tis the season to be jolly, which means that retailers everywhere are breaking out their best seasonal wares, whether its ugly Christmas sweaters or mammoth Rudolphs for your front lawn. Traditionally, we American Jews have looked at these rites of commerce with an air of bemusement, grateful that our wintertime holiday required nothing more complicated than a small and tasteful menorah. But lately, the ghost of Christmas commerce is haunting us, too.

On a recent trip to a large retailer, we spotted the following abominations: a festive tray featuring four minuscule bearded dudes, their hats decorated with dreidels, above the phrase Rollin With My Gnomies; a throw pillow, in the blue-and-white color scheme of the Israeli flag, stitched with the phrase Oy to the World; an assortment of elves, sporting Jewish stars and looking like they belonged more in a Brooklyn yeshiva than anywhere near the North Pole; and a set of three kitchen towels with the truly baffling wording, Peace Love & Latkes.

We have absolutely nothing against the practice of cultural appropriation. Were guilty of it ourselves: Pick up any Jewish cookbook, and youll see traces of the spices and herbs we picked up from different parts of the world before once again getting expelled. Weve also shared with the world our own cultural assets, like monotheism and Natalie Portman. It makes us kvell when something profoundly and fundamentally Jewish gets embraced by the world at large. Nothing makes us happier than, say, strolling through the airport in Boise and seeing a bagel shop with a distinctly Jewish name selling a jalapeo bacon bagel with reduced fat salsa schmear its our gift to America. Yall are welcome.

But weird bagels are one thing. Hanukkah becoming Christmas is another.

The holiday we celebrate more or less around the same time as the Yuletide isnt the Jewish Christmas. In terms of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, it wouldnt even crack the top five. Hanukkah doesnt hold a candle to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the fall or Passover in the spring. Its neither a fast nor an epic feast. Its proximity to Christmas is probably the most marketable aspect of Hanukkah, a holiday specifically designed not to appeal to the masses.

Hanukkah, after all, is a commemoration of an ancient uprising by a band of bearded zealots, the Maccabees, who took arms not only against the oppressive Greeks but also against their fellow Jews who happily assimilated into the cosmopolitan culture of the day. Sure, the holiday has taken on a few embellishments over the years, like eight nights of presents, concessions to make sure our kinderlach dont feel left out when you-know-who comes sliding down the chimney. But at its core, Hanukkah is about celebrating our Jewish particularity, relishing our differences from the wider world. The commercialized Christmas creep, the repackaging of Hanukkah to fit the gingerbread cookie cutter mold, is precisely the sort of stuff those Maccabees were fighting. The entire point of Hanukkah is that its not Christmas.

These days, of course, commerce may not be the only motivation for merchants hawking Christmas-y Hanukkah wares. Some of the marketing (and the Hallmark movies) seems to be attempting a sort of cultural sensitivity, an inclusivity, the kind that leads people to say Happy Holidays. But what we Jews want is respect for particularity - yours, and ours. Thats why well gladly wish you a Merry Christmas, and even partake in the occasional eggnog. We celebrate difference and appreciate public displays of religiosity. So wish us a Happy Hanukkah (if were being honest, merry does sound, well, goyish). Dont assume well be offended because were a minority. We love having our own thing. And we dont suffer from stocking stuffer envy. We appreciate nothing more than someone taking a moment to learn about our tradition, so if you drop a line about the Maccabees or the miracle of the little tin of oil that lasted eight nights, we promise you a latke.

And when we say our tradition, we really mean our traditions. Jews all celebrate the same core holiday, but those of us who hail from the Middle East, say, have holiday treats of their own, and Ethiopian Jews have traditions theyve been carrying for centuries, and all of them make the holiday, and Judaism itself, that much more beautifully diverse. Were not all Ashkenazi Jews straight out of the eastern European shtetl just another reason items like the Dancing Bubbe, a stereotypical Yiddishe mama doll from the makers of the Mensch on a Bench, who squawks in a Jewish accent and shakes her booty when you press a button, are so disappointing. We come in all colors, and our differences only make what we have in common more profound, as is the case in any warm and loving family.

But finally, and most urgently, this plea: Enough with the Christmas-y looking Hanukkah swag. We beg of you. Keep the elves and the jollies and the funny caps. We dont need them in our holiday. No Jew has ever gazed longingly at a 12-foot inflatable reindeer and wished in her heart she had an equally large Moses to display in front of her house. And if we want an outfit to wear on special occasions, all we have to do is reach into the closet and pull out our tallis, or prayer shawl. Unusual garments, weve got. Accessories, too. Just wait until you see our tefillin.

So, friends, a very merry Christmas from us to you. And may this year bring us nothing more than an abundance of blessings and a dearth of hideous cheap tchotchkes.

Stephanie Butnick, Liel Liebovitz and Mark Oppenheimer are the hosts of the podcast Unorthodox and the authors of The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabars and Everything in Between. This first appeared in The Washington Post.

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Opinion: Hanukkah isnt Jewish Christmas. Stop treating it that way. - CT Post

Rabbi Art Vernon of Congregation Shaaray Shalom offers holiday message – liherald

Posted By on November 30, 2021

The season of light and festive celebration is upon us! This year, more than ever, we need the inspiration and message of the holidays to reassure us that all will be well with us and with the world. For Jews, we are lighting our Chanukah menorahs at the beginning of December. Christians will be celebrating the birth of Jesus toward the end of the month. And Kwaanza will be observed also at the end of December with lights. Light is a symbol of the Divine within each of us and a reminder of God's presence in the world and in our lives. Particularly at this time of the year, we are also reminded of our common humanity and that what unites us is greater than our differences. We are blessed to live a country that endorses religious liberty and allows each of us to worship in our own way, or not at all, without any interference from government. This freedom is quite unique to America and is not found to the same extent in any other country in the world!My ancestors, the Jewish people of the second century BCE(before Jesus), fought to keep Judaism of their day alive against overwhelming odds and the great power of the Assyrian Greek Empire. The Assyrian-Greeks turned our Holy Temple in Jerusalem into a pagan shrine and banned the observance of Jewish rites and rituals. A single family, descendants of Hasmon the Priest, rallied the people and successfully fought to recapture and rededicate the Holy Temple. Had they failed, not only would Judaism have ceased to exist, but perhaps, Christianity might not have come into being after Jesus, born a Jew - Joshua of Nazareth.And so, we all have much to celebrate and much for which to be thankful. Amid the festivities of lights, presents, family and food, let us remember the spiritual message of the season. In our darkest moments, the light of God shines upon us all, lifting us from despair and giving us hope.Rabbi Art Vernon, Congregation Shaaray Shalom

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Man Loses ‘Love of His Life’ After Lying About Religion and Marrying Ultra-Orthodox Woman – Newsweek

Posted By on November 30, 2021

Eliyah Hawila, a Lebanese man who moved to the U.S. with his family in 2015, has lost his wife and part of his identity after it was discovered that he was faking his religiosity.

Hawila, 23, told Israeli TV, as reported by The Times of Israel, that growing up he was not religious. Though his father "used to pray and fast like regular Muslims," his mother was not religious and he felt no connection to Islam.

"The first thing I remember googling was Jewish Bible, and I got a copy of the Tanach, a PDF," he said. "I felt, you know what, this is right, this feels like the word of God. So I started looking up even more and more, Jewish laws, Jewish prayers."

He said he began "coming out to people" as Jewish, which resulted in being spit on and death threats. After moving to the U.S., he thought he would now be able to practice Judaism as he pleased and sought out local synagogues.

The Times of Israel reports that he was turned away from a reform community in Houston when he inquired about converting officially.

"When I got rejected, I started just saying I'm Jewish. My name is Eliyah, and this is the name I chose for myself because I love the story of the prophet Elijah," Hawila said.

Tablet Magazine reported earlier this year that after a survey it conducted, it found that trends suggest that more people are converting to Judaism. The article says that the publication sent surveys to 100 rabbis of all Jewish denominations and got responses from 79. Thirty-four, which is 43 percent, said they were performing more conversions than previously in their careers. The articles notes that while the old stereotype existed that most people converted for marriage, nowadays that reason is not as prevalent.

Hawila became active in the Jewish community, and met his soon-to-be wife on a Jewish dating site where he "falsely presented himself to her as observant," Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff, the head of the Chabad house in Texas A&M University where Hawila attended, said in a statement obtained by The Times of Israel.

Newsweek contacted Chabad at Texas A&M University but they did not respond in time for publication.

Lazaroff said, according to The Times of Israel, that when asked by the bride and her family about Hawila, he told them that his "conduct did not reflect that of a fully observant Jew." He said he trusted that the rabbi who officiated the nuptials would have done his due diligence.

As suspicions began to arise, Hawila created stories to cover his tracks. He says his wife and her family, who come from an ultra-orthodox Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, found an ID with his birth name, Ali Hassan Hawila, printed on it.

He said he was on a mission and part of the National Security Agency, The Times of Israel reported.

After the wedding, suspicions remained when none of his family members attended the nuptials. His wife's father took to Google and made contact with Hawila's father, who revealed the truth.

"So I started making even more stuff up, I ... I ... I was panicking, and they took her away from me, they separated her away from me," he said.

Now, he says while the woman is the love of his life, he understands if she won't give him a second chance.

The Times of Israel notes that even if he were to convert, which is still his goal, due to an edict within his wife's community as of 1935, members of the community are not allowed to marry converts.

Continued here:

Man Loses 'Love of His Life' After Lying About Religion and Marrying Ultra-Orthodox Woman - Newsweek

Interfaith: We are to be thankful for many blessing – Ventura County Star

Posted By on November 30, 2021

Rabbi Gershon Weissman| Special to Ventura County Star

I love the holiday of Thanksgiving.Even though I now live in Israel, I still observe the American Thanksgiving with very dear friends atime for all to express appreciation for the countless blessings we have.

In my Jewish tradition, we prioritize the expression of thanks multiple times every day. Three times a day, morning, afternoonand evening we are to recite meditative prayers which include the following blessing contained in the Daily Prayerbook.

We gratefully thank you, for it is you who are Lord, our God and the God of our ancestors for all eternity; rock of our lives, shield of our salvation are you, from generation to generation.

"We shall thank you and proclaim your praise, for our lives, which are committed to your power and for our souls that are entrusted to you; for your miracles that are with us every day; and for your wonders and favors at all times, evening, morning and afternoon.

"The beneficent one, for our compassions were never exhausted, and the compassionate one, for your kindnesses never ended, always have we put our hope in You. For all these blessings, may your name be blessed and exalted, our king continually forever and ever.

Even the name of our religion, Judaism, comes from the name Judah, which in turn has the root meaning of thanksgiving or praise. When our matriarch Leah gave birth to her third son, she named him Judah, saying she will now praise (give thanks) to God,Genesis 29:35.

More: Interfaith: Autumns gifts of change and the joy of giving

Another tradition within Judaism is to recite 100 blessings of thanks to God each day. This is based on the Torah verse Deuteronomy 10:12, What does God ask of you? The Hebrew word for what is mah, which is close to the Hebrew word me-ah, meaning 100.

A later commentary by the rabbis in the Talmud saidthat God asks of us to recite 100 blessings each day to express thanks for all the kind and good things we experience each day.

From the earliest moments of everyones day, we are to thank God for waking up, for the breath of life, for observing the distinction between day and night, for our ability to perform our bodily functions, for getting up and putting ourselves together to greet the day, and each moment when we eat or drink we are to recite a blessings of thanks, through each day, to total 100 blessings.

Many years ago, when I was serving my congregation in Agoura Hills, I asked our elementary school age Hebrew school students how many bad things would have to happen for them to feel that they were having a bad day? One said five things, another said four, one said eight.

Ithen asked how many good things would have to happen for you to feel youre having a good day? One said five, one said six, another said seven. Then I said: if we really think hard we can come up with thousands, even millions of good things, that happen every day.

Our planet Earth is just the right distance from the sun so as to allow for us humans to live. We have farmers working to plant and grow the food that we take for granted. We have parents who love us, and God who puts all of this in to motion.Many students added their list of things that happen just right each day!

Indeed, we are to be thankful for all these blessings. And we are to be grateful for the United States of America, which taught us to celebrate Thanksgiving!

Rabbi Gershon Weissman is a member of the Conejo Valley Interfaith Association, whichmeets monthly and welcomes clergy and representatives of all religious faiths. Weissman and his wife Sheva retired to Jerusalem, Israel. Contact him at


Interfaith: We are to be thankful for many blessing - Ventura County Star

A Jewish Perspective on Thanksgiving – Israel Today – Israel Today

Posted By on November 30, 2021

Right before Hanukkah begins this year, Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving, which is a holiday that commemorates the Pilgrims arriving in the New World and sharing their first harvest meal with the Native Americans, after so many Pilgrims who fled England due to religious persecution in the 17th century arrived in America only to perish in the winter cold.

On this occasion, Americans generally express their gratitude to God for saving them both from the religious persecution that the Pilgrims experienced and from other tribulations.

Americans every year generally celebrate this holiday by eating a gigantic turkey with stuffing, corn on the cob, corn muffins, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and other delicacies. While some Jews are reluctant to celebrate Halloween as the holiday is closely connected historically to Christianity, this is not the case with Thanksgiving.

This is because Americas First President George Washington refrained from utilizing Christian language when he designated November 26th to be Thanksgiving, thus signifying that the holiday should include all Americans and not just Christian Americans. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein andRabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, two leading 20th century Orthodox legal authorities, both agreed that Thanksgiving was a secular American holiday, similar to the Fourth of July.

Many of the central themes of the Thanksgiving holiday resonate with Jews across the globe. Just as the Pilgrims fled religious persecution in England, many Jews are descended from refugees who fled antisemitism in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. A holiday that promotes the right to religious freedom and being grateful to God for ones survival has great significance for the Jewish people.

Miriam Alstern/Flash90

American soldiers doing Israeli army service enjoy a Thanksgiving meal dinner organized by the American Jewish committee in Jerusalem.

As Psalms 100 proclaims, A song of thanksgiving offering. Shout to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with joy, come before him with praise. Know that the Lord is God; he made us, and we are his people and the flock of his pasture. Come into his gates with Thanksgiving, into his courtyards with praise; give thanks to him, bless him. For the Lord is good; his kindness is forever and until generation after generation is his faith.

Indeed, giving thanks to God and to our fellow human beings is an important Jewish value. As Rabbi Shalom Arush, author of The Garden of Gratitude, noted: For years already, I have been expounding and explaining more and more new aspects of todah saying thankYouto G-d, and truly appreciating everything in our lives from every part of our body that functions, to every item we own and use throughout the day, to the big aspects of our lives like our families, jobs, etc., and even for the things in our life that make us suffer be it physical things like difficulties with earning a living, or spiritual things like lusts, bad character traits, or just not serving Hashem the way You want.

According to him, Throughout all this time, I have explained the importance of saying thankYoufor everything, including specifically the bad in our lives, for at least 30 minutes one half hour every single day. I also explained the importance and power of saying Psalm 100 Mizmor LTodah. Many people have also seen miracles writing 18 or 40 new thankYous every day, and I recommend writing 100 thankYous a day, in order to fulfill the words of Arizal to say 100 blessings a day.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslev teaches that Hanukkah is the Jewish Thanksgiving, as the main function of the holiday is to sing praises to God for saving the Jews from Seleucid Greek persecution, just as Americans sing praise to God for sparing the Pilgrims in the 17th century. Thus, both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are celebrated well in unison, as both holidays have similar themes.

Chabad teaches that our gratitude to G-d must express itself in the actions of our daily life. In other words, it should not be confined to one day like Thanksgiving, but rather expressed at every moment from when we rise in the morning until when we go to sleep in the evening. Every day should be a Thanksgiving in Judaism.

Therefore, Judaism teaches that we must pray and say thank you to God three times each day when we do the Amidah prayer, or standing prayer central to Jewish liturgy. In the Amidah prayer, Jews should not just pour out to God what their heart desires, but they must also thank God for the simple things that they were blessed with, such health, security, sustenance, etc.

Additionally, Jews must pray both before and after meals. This is because there are people in the world who are not fortunate enough to have food on their table in abundance. So, we should thank God for every meal we have. In fact, there are even basic blessings of gratitude in Judaism where one blesses simple things, like a glass of water. After all, there are enough parts of the world that are experiencing drought or where the sanitation is so poor that a glass of clean drinking water is something dear enough that we should all express gratitude every time we drink a glass of water.

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone should express gratitude for what they have, for just being alive and healthy at a time when over five million people across the world have perished from the coronavirus. If one was fortunate enough to travel during the pandemic, one will begin to understand how much Jewish Israelis should be grateful for what they have, for they had it good compared to many other parts of the world. No one should take their blessings for granted and this is the main message that we all should consider this Thanksgiving.

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A Jewish Perspective on Thanksgiving - Israel Today - Israel Today

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