Articles From February 2017

Crepes on Fire!

crepes on fire

Ooh la la! Crepes are delicious and French and can be very fun for the Purim seuda. They are also super-easy, healthy, can be made gluten free, and can filled with just about any filling you would be willing to eat. They can be savory or sweet and used as an appetizer, entree, or dessert. They can also be gussied up “Fancy Nancy” or a pedestrian street food.

Recently, I went to the TA tea and demonstrated how to make crepes suzette – or their much more exciting title, crepes on fire.  Where did crepes suzette come from? Crepes had already existed in France before 1896. The addition of the flambe and alcohol was the crucial new step that distinguished crepes suzette from plain crepes with filling.

Who made the discovery? It’s a mystery! Henri Charpentier (a young teenager at the time) claimed he created the dish by accident – accidentally setting fire to the alcohol in the dish in front of the then-Prince of Wales (King Edward VII) and that the king requested the dish to be named for his friend. Auguste Escoffier (of melba toast and culinary school fame) also claimed to have invented the dessert. Whoever created it (and I wish I knew definitively), the end result of orange butter, sugar, and crepes is truly delicious. The fire caramelizes the sugar and blends the flavors so amazingly that it elevates them to the next level.

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Journal of a Kidney Donor


As told to Yael Mermelstei

Reprinted from Binah Magazine

November 12, 2013

I can’t get the story out of my head. There was a woman dying of kidney disease – a mother of a large family. She was getting weaker and weaker. Then finally, a matching kidney donor was found.

 The woman was back to her high-energy self within months, almost as if nothing had ever happened. Her children had their mother back because someone was altruistic enough to give her one of their kidneys.

As soon as I read the article, I felt strongly that this was something that I wanted to do too, but when I brought it up with my husband Shalom, he was pretty reluctant about the idea. The kids are still little and he was nervous that someone in the family might need my kidney one day. Why should I give it to a complete stranger?

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The Process of Making Wigs


Getting married in the Orthodox Jewish community is often synonymous with buying a wig. Married women have a mitzva to cover their hair and that is usually done by wearing a wig.

Walking in to Orna’s Wig Salon on Reisterstown Road, one is immediately faced with an entire wall covered with wigs. Dark wigs, blond wigs, and all shades in between. Curly wigs, long wigs, wavy wigs, and short wigs. How are all these wigs made? Are they made by hand, by machine, here in Baltimore or overseas?

Orna has her own line of wigs called “Orna Wigs,” and she is also an expert in wig repair. I asked her to explain how the hair on a wig goes from the head of a woman in Brazil to the head of a woman here in Baltimore.

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Going Out on a Limb for Our Kohen Roots


It all started about two years ago, after my family and I moved to the Greenspring section of town. We started davening at Agudah of Greenspring, and Rav Mordechai Shuchatowitz and his rebbetzin kindly invited us to their home for Shabbos lunch. Knowing that I am a kohen, the rav mentioned during the course of the seuda that it is not advisable for kohanim to drive down Old Court Road near the Druid Ridge Cemetery. When the rav explained there are Jews buried there and the overhang of the trees inside the cemetery fence creates a canopy – an extension of the cemetery – over the street, we were shocked. From the many Christian symbols on the tombstones that are visible when driving by, I had been sure it was a non-Jewish cemetery. Little did I know that it is a nondenominational cemetery, with a Jewish funeral taking place there about once every two weeks!

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Ask the Shadchan


To the Shadchan:

I’m a regular Baltimore girl. I live at home with my parents and work as a professional. I’m considered pretty and accomplished, and have everything going for me. At 25, I’ve been dating for five years and am finding at least one aspect of it very stressful.

I keep hearing from shadchanim, my mother, and people in general that I should be going to shul and to other events and gatherings so that people will “see you and remember that you need a shidduch.” I’m constantly told that I have to look my best at all times – including makeup and perfect hair – whenever I leave the house.

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Which Shul Do You Choose….and Why?


Shortly after I turned my computer on to begin this article on how people choose their shul, a headline leaped out at me: “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Pick $5.5M Home – and Chabad Synagogue – in Washington.” Is it true? Was their purchase of the magnificent six-bedroom home due to its location, a mere seven-minute walk from TheSHUL, led by Rabbi Levi Shemtov? While “SHIPPA (Shul HIPPA) laws” preclude confirmation of the reason for their buying decision, I concur with the article’s author’s opinion that it was indeed due to the shul. (That the house happens to be only a couple blocks away from the Obamas’ new home appears not to have been a factor!)

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Memories of the 1960s

August, 1960. My family moved from the Jewish enclave in the Riggs Park section of Washington D.C., NE, to the Maryland suburb of Silver Spring. Our new home was located on Malibu Drive, in a neighborhood roughly equidistant from Langley Park and a new development named Kemp Mill. I was soon to enter the Hebrew Academy of Washington, Yeshivas Bais Yehuda, as a first grader, so my father took me to the school one day for the required interview. In those days, the Academy was located on 16th Street NW, adjacent to the Shepherd Park section of Washington. But enough geography.

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All Purpose What?!


I saw a sign in a store a while back advertising “all purpose shrimp.” Other than eating them (not for us, of course), how many purposes do shrimp have? Do shrimp make good doorstoppers? Can you string them together to make a necklace? Use them to wash windows? Remove stains? Fix squeaking hinges? Somehow I suspect these uses would cause unwanted odors. It would be a dead animal, after all, and I’ve yet to come across “shrimp scented” fabric softeners or air fresheners.

I’ve never seen “all purpose gefilte fish” advertised and can’t imagine what another use would be. Perhaps the canned type could be employed as bookends. And if a bookend fell off the shelf onto your foot, you could take a frozen gefilte fish roll out of the freezer and use it to relieve the swelling. But generally, we seem to use gefilte fish only for eating.

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Dreams Come True: Journey to Bayit Vegan: The Aliyah of the Epstein Family


I hop on the bus heading for Bayit Vegan in southwest Jerusalem, only a short ride from my home. As we pass the Yefei Nof neighborhood, with its beautiful scenery, I reflect on a thought I heard this past Shabbos: Heroic figures are not always the best barometer to measure greatness in life. It is the attainment of goodness, often achieved and known only in the depths of one’s self, that defines real greatness. Little did I know that I was about to meet one such person, who traversed seemingly ordinary chapters in her life, but with the faith and outlook that defines greatness.

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A Ziplock Bag Full of Letters : In Memory of Laure Gutman, a”h

At the levaya, people spilled from the chapel into the lobby and out onto the sidewalk. At the shiva house, the door opened and shut, opened and shut, as the community came to share the family’s grief. The mailbox overflowed with cards and letters, and the emails poured in.

Soon enough, shiva was over. The mourners and the visitors went home. The door remained shut at the house-with-the-cow-in-front, and the cards and letters were packed into an oversized ziplock bag and put away.

These are the sorrowful postscripts to the life of Mrs. Laure Gutman, a”h. Yet it was just as Pirkei Avos attests: “Aizeh hu mechubad? Who is honored? Hamechaved es habrios. One who honors others.”

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Seminary in Israel or America? That is the Question

by play

When Bais Yaakov Middle School teacher Mrs. Rochelle Goldberg’s only daughter Shoshana was applying to seminary, she concluded that she preferred to stay home and attend Maalot Baltimore, rather than join the vast majority of her class, who only considered going to seminary in Israel. That was back in the day when Maalot offered a first-year seminary experience. The ever-increasing popularity of Israeli seminaries resulted in closing that program. Maalot now offers only a second-year seminary program.

“People exerted a lot of pressure on us, and we finally caved,” recalls Mrs. Goldberg. “My daughter is happily married with children, b”H, but even now, I wonder if she had to go. She was unhappy much of the year.”

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The Silver Platter : What I Learned on my Recent Stay in Eretz Yisrael


Over the years, I have written articles after a visit to Israel. No matter how many times I have been there, each visit opens my eyes to another aspect of the Land and its remarkable people. Let me start with one anecdote. One morning, in the hotel, I was waiting in line for an omelet. In front of me was a man and his two children, and I started a short conversation with him. He was a non-Jew from the Midwest on his first trip to the Holy Land with his family. He appreciated my interest and gave me a warm pat on the back as we parted.

I remarked to the omelet lady that it is important to be nice to visitors to Israel and to make them feel welcome. She responded, “Of course we have to be nice to any human being. Anachnu rachmanim bnai rachmanim – We are merciful children of our Merciful Father.” This once again demonstrated that not only is Israel a Jewish country, but we are truly one mishpacha.

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