Monday, February 28, 2011

Our Recipes and The Stories Behind Them

Jews and food.

It's a rich combination reaching far beyond sustenance and seasoning.

Our recipes have lives of their own and boy do we love to tell the stories about them! Food makes us happy. (You should see the connecting line of smiles at Beth Emet when I bring the two dozen bagels from New York Bagels and Bialys to Rabbi London's Torah study on Friday mornings.)

Family recipes were made and shared last weekend at The Beth Emet Bistro. And as a testament to how seriously we Jews take our food, the recipes and the stories behind them were collected into a book. You can access the entire book here:

Among the dishes I've listed here are:

(The ingredients and directions come first, of course; the stories, after.)

Chicken Paprikash

South Bend Gefilte Fish

Salmon with Sweet-Hot Mustard and Dill Glaze

Sadie’s Cheese Blintzes

Raisin Challah

Passover Green Beans

Rosh Hashonah Honey Cake

Chicken Paprikash

Submitted by Dawn Brent


Whole chicken cut up (or more than one, depending on number of people you are serving) Onions (1 to 2, depending on how much chicken you make) Vegetable oil (2 to 3 tbsp) Paprika (approx. 2 to 3 tbsp) Salt Pepper 1 to 2 cups sour cream (I use reduced fat Breakstone.)


Wash chicken; set aside. In a large pot, sauté onions in vegetable oil until translucent. Add chicken. Add salt and pepper as desired. Add’s not an exact science, but you want to coat all chicken and onions. Cover pot and cook on low for an hour or until chicken is cooked through. (NOTE: Liquid will accumulate on its own, no need to add water or broth.)

Remove chicken from pot. Add sour cream. Mix into liquid until dissolved and warmed. Put chicken back in for a few minutes. Serve with wide egg noodles or spetzel.


This is a traditional Hungarian dish. While this isn’t technically a Jewish dish, it is defines who I am. My father, a Hungarian Jew, is a Holocaust survivor. He and his family were taken to Auschwitz in May of 1944. He was 15 years old. His mother, Hinda for whom I am named and his brother Peter were immediately put to death upon their arrival to the camp. My father, George, and his father, Steven, survived but were separated. Once liberated in 1945, my father learned that my grandfather survived. After another nearly two years, they were reunited in Germany. My father had nothing after the Holocaust. He had his memories of food and family, and thanks to some other family members, he was able to reclaim some photographs. This Chicken Paprikash recipe was one of the memories that he brought out of Auschwitz and passed down to me. Because he survived, my family and I are here to tell his story. Because he survived, an American Jewish woman makes Chicken Paprikash for her family and has a story to tell about it!

South Bend Fish

Submitted by Esther Schwartz-Goldman


1 Jar Gefilte Fish, 6 pcs (with juices/Jelly) 1 C. Mayonnaise (I use Light) 1 C. Matzah Meal 1 egg

3 T chopped fresh dill 1/4 cup grated carrots dash salt & pepper.


Pour Jar of Gefilte Fish AND juices or jelly in jar into a large bowl. Mash Fish with a fork until smooth. Add Mayonnaise, Matzah meal and egg and stir until smooth. Add remaining ingredients. Stir until well blended. Pour mixture into 9X13 pan (lightly greased). Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until lightly brown on top. Remove from oven, let cool and cut into squares. Serve with horseradish or tartar sauce. Serves 8-12 people, or 4-6 very hungry Gefilte Fish lovers.


When I was in college at Indiana University, some Jewish students would get together and take turns hosting Shabbat dinners in our apartments. We tried to make foods like kugel, cholent and chicken soup. To make any of these traditional foods was somewhat difficult because there were no grocery stores that carried many of the ingredients needed. The closest thing was Kroger, which carried a few staple "Jewish" items year round: Chanukah candles, Matzah (which happened to be labeled "Not For Passover Use" yet remained on the shelf at Passover time), and jarred gefilte fish, which sat in a jelly that looked older than most of us. Well, one day I was assigned gefilte fish to bring to one of our meals. A friend of mine, who happened to have been Jewish and grew up in South Bend, told me about "South Bend Fish". They had a Kroger there, too, if you know what I mean. South Bend Jews adapted to this and created a kugel-like gefilte fish dish with the base being a jar of jellied fish. Over the years, I played with the recipe, changing the proportions and adding the dill and carrots. This recipe came with me when I made Aliyah, which was wonderful because the Ashkenazi tradition of gefilte fish has basically been lost in carp-less Israel. This recipe remains a mainstay at all of our family Shabbat and Chagim meals. People who swear they don't like gefilte fish end up asking for seconds, and when they find out it's made with that jelly laden jarred stuff, they make a face and THEN ask for seconds. It's easy to make and a yummy modern twist on the backbreaking loaves my bubbie's generation made. Btayavon!

Salmon with Sweet-Hot Mustard and Dill Glaze

Submitted by Suzanne Rosen Coffey


Salmon fillet, pin bones removed (size is up to you, I buy large at Costco) sweet-hot mustard (I use Inglehoffer, 4 oz. jar) fresh lemon juice fresh or dried dill.Salt Cooking spray white wine or water. Yield: depends on how many you want to feed Heat oven to 325 F.


Spray large Pyrex pan with cooking spray. Place salmon (skin side down) in baking dish. Tuck under thin tail section or other skinny parts. Combine entire jar of mustard (or amount you think you need to cover smaller portion of fish) with lemon juice and dill to taste. Finish the glaze with salt to taste.

Spoon glaze over fish and even it out carefully. Add a little white wine or water to the baking dish around the fish to keep it moist. (Do not put liquid on the fish b/c it will dilute the glaze). Place baking dish in center of oven and check on the fish’s progress periodically. The fish will cook slowly and be very tender. Cooking time will depend on the size and thickness of the fish. The fish will continue to cook after it is removed from the oven, so take it our just before it reaches desired doneness. The salmon can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled.


When my children started attending religious school at Beth Emet, we found ourselves attending a variety of potluck community dinners. The dinners were usually dairy-based and since Coffey is at the beginning of the alphabet I was always assigned the entrée course. Knowing there would be lots of pasta and cheese-based options I wanted to bring something that would complement what others brought and appeal to adults as well as children. I also wanted to make something that would taste fresh served at room temperature. So I made my Salmon with Sweet-Hot Mustard and Dill Glaze, and guess what? No leftovers. I made it again. No leftovers. And again . . . and then I lost count. So now, in addition to being one of my favorite easy Shabbat dishes (I serve it with couscous and green beans), Salmon with Sweet-Hot Mustard and Dill Glaze is now my Beth Emet Crowd-Pleasing Potluck Salmon dish (when I’m asked to bring the entrée). Enjoy!

Sadie’s Cheese Blintzes

Submitted by Kayla Cohen


Mix all ingredients and refrigerate until needed: 1 lb. farmer cheese (Friendship brand, if possible) 2 Tbsp. softened cream cheese 1 egg, beaten 3 Tbsp. sugar dash salt, if desired 1/8 tsp. cinnamon or 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract, if desired


2 eggs 3/4 cup milk 1 cup flour 1/8 tsp. salt 1 Tbsp. melted butter

1.Beat together eggs and milk.

2.Blend flour and salt together in a large bowl. Gradually add eggs and milk, beating with a whisk or hand blender until perfectly smooth. Stir in melted butter. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

3.Cook the crepes: Set a clean kitchen towel near the stove. Stir the batter again. Keep the batter bowl near the stove. Heat a 6- or 7-inch pan on medium heat and wipe it lightly with a paper towel greased with softened butter. Use a large spoon to pour batter into the pan. As you pour, keep tilting the pan so the batter just coats the bottom in a thin layer. Immediately pour any excess batter back into the batter bowl. When the crepe is set , its edges start to pull away from the pan, and its bottom just starts to brown (1- 2 minutes), loosen the edges with a dull knife, and then flip the pan to drop the crepe onto the towel with its browned, underside up. Continue making the crepes, wiping the pan with the buttery paper towel when necessary. Stir the batter often. Pile the crepes on a corner of the towel.

4.Fill the crepes: Place about 2 Tbsp. of filling close to the bottom of each crepe circle, leaving a margin of about an inch. Fold the bottom of the crepe over the filling, and then fold in the sides. Finally, roll up the crepe toward the top so the filling is completely enclosed. The uncooked side of the crepe is on the outside. Fill all the crepes.

5.Cook the blintzes: Heat a little butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Put the blintzes in the pan seam-side down to start. Then turn them carefully to brown on all sides.

Serve the warm blintzes with sour cream, sugar, and/or fruit.


My mother, Sadie, came to the US around 1918 when she was about 7 years old. Her semi- literate, Yiddish-speaking mother journeyed with her four small children from Galicia in Poland to board a ship in Liverpool. My grandfather, who was already in the US, welcomed his family at the dock in New York. He had been running a kosher dairy restaurant on the Lower East Side. My mother, being the oldest daughter, worked in the restaurant as soon as she was able, probably at age 10. She did not cook there, but carefully observed all the activities in the kitchen. As a result, she knew her way around any kitchen, and became an excellent cook.

My parents lived on the Lower East Side when I was born, but moved to a better neighborhood in Queens when I was 2-years-old. My mother’s parents and brother remained on the Lower East Side, and she carried me on the subway to visit them at least twice a week. My mother kept a kosher home, and our dinners were usually fleischig (meat). But on Thursday nights we always had a milchig (dairy) dinner, usually the freshest fish available. As an occasional treat, she made cheese blintzes, and enlisted my help. She was eager to show me the technique involved, because she said that it couldn’t be learned from a book. She never followed a recipe, but her experience at her father’s restaurant taught her the proper texture for the batter and the right seasoning for the filling. I’ve reconstructed her method as best I can—but I don’t have her little milchig pan to toss around or our little New York kitchen to laugh in as we rolled up the plätlach (crepes) and tried to make sure that the filling and plätlach came out even. Whenever I make them, though, I hear the echoes of my ancestor’s journey.

Shabbat Raisin Challah

Submitted by Debbie Render

6 1⁄2 - 7 cups flour 2 packages dry yeast (4 1⁄2 tsp.) 1 egg, beaten 1⁄2 cup oil 1 tablespoon salt 1⁄2 cup sugar 2 cups warm water

Dissolve yeast in water (95 – 105 degrees; it should feel hot when tested on your wrist). When dissolved, add sugar, salt and half the flour. Mix well. Add egg and oil, then slowly stir in the remaining flour. When dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, turn onto floured board and knead for approximately 10 minutes. Add only enough additional flour to make dough manageable. Knead until dough has acquired a life of its own. It should be smooth and elastic, springing back lightly when pressed with fingertip.

Place dough in large lightly oiled bowl. Turn it over so top will be oiled as well. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in warm place for two hours, punching down in 4-5 places every 20 minutes. Separate challah. (Tear off olive-sized piece & burn in oven.) Shape loaves* and place onto cookie sheet sprayed with canola oil. Allow to rise again until doubled in bulk. (About one -45 minutes until nicely browned.

Makes two loaves. Can double recipe.

* I braid with six strands. First cross over the two outer strands, then braid with top one down, second one over, repeating until finished.

For Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot, I add raisins before kneading. I make round loaves using one long strand and winding it around.


Several years ago, when our children were very young, a friend suggested we try making challah together. I had never baked bread before and was intimidated by the thought of using yeast. But she brought over a recipe for Best Challah that she randomly picked out from one of her Jewish cookbooks, and we gave it a try. It was delicious, and I was hooked. I don’t remember exactly when baking challah moved from an occasional treat to a weekly ritual, but it’s become something I look forward to every Friday. Kneading the dough is satisfying and cathartic, and helps switch me into a calmer Shabbat-mode even before the sun begins to set. Our house fills with the delectable smell of baking bread, and our dog Malcolm starts pacing with excitement when he sees me take the loaves out of the oven. For Malcolm and the rest of our family, there’s no better way to welcome Shabbat.

Passover Green Beans

Submitted by Julie Forgash


2 1/4 lb medium red onions (about 5) 1/4 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 cup water 1 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Oil a 13- by 9-inch baking pan. After peeling onions, trim root ends, leaving onions whole, then quarter onions lengthwise. Put onions in baking pan, then drizzle with oil and vinegar, tossing to coat. Arrange onions with a cut side down and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast, uncovered, turning over once and basting with pan juices twice during baking, until deep golden, about 30 minutes. Add water to pan and roast until onions are tender and caramelized, about 20 minutes more. Transfer onions with pan juices to a large bowl.

While onions are roasting, cook beans in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain beans in a colander, then add to onions and toss. Season with salt and pepper.


This recipe became a staple at my family’s Passover Seder when I convinced my mother that we needed something green on the dinner plate. She wanted everything to be sweet---sweet potatoes, honey carrots, etc. I always think the dinner plate should be a well-balanced color palate. Fortunately, my mother loved these green beans the first time I made them, and they were included every year after that.

Rosh Hashonah Honey Cake

Submitted by Jonathan Yenkin


3 eggs (large) 1 1/2 cups sugar 8 oz. honey (dark is preferable- e.g. Buckwheat) 2 3/4 cups flour (sifted) 2 tsps. baking powder 1 tsp. baking soda 1 cup strong coffee 1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 tsp. nutmeg 2 tsps. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. ginger 1/2 tsp. ground cloves 1 1/2 tsp. ground allspice anise for sprinkling.

Yield: Makes 8 servings active time: 15 min total time: 1 hr.


Mix all wet ingredients together first, then in another bowl mix all dry, then mix into the wet while beating. Pour into greased baking pan, lined with wax paper—sprinkle with anise. Bake 350---40 minutes /or until done. Test with toothpick to see if baked in center.

P.S. Using fresh spices gives the cake a little extra zing!


This recipe comes from my Mom back in Ohio, and it’s a family favorite. After my siblings and I moved from home, my Mom would send us cakes in the mail each year, which was always a treat! I eventually got the recipe from her, and we’ve carried on the tradition with our Rosh Hashanah celebration. Every year, we host a Rosh Hashanah dinner with a group of long-time friends, and we look forward to capping off the meal with a piece (or two, or three) of honey cake. This recipe even received special mention in a local news broadcast when a TV station came to our house to do a story about preparing for the Jewish new year.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Zimbabwe and Mishpatim

Who knew?

Simon Anolick also has a Jewish identity in African story.

  1. Mishpatim is a rich portion of laws, the laws of worship, property and moral behavior. What a perfect portion for a lawyer to talk about, capital punishment, an abhorrent practice, criminal law, borrowing money, evidence. But I am a patent attorney, and there is not much connection between patents and Mishpatim. I have to say, people just stare at me with glazed eyes when I say “patent attorney.” With that in mind I fear I might bore you all. Their eyes light up, however, when I say my father is from Africa, from Zimbabwe. So let’s talk about Zimbabwe and Mishpatim.

  1. A little history: I am a first generation American. My mother was born and raised in London, but her parents were from Amsterdam. My father, as I said, was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia, now Harare, Zimbabwe. His parents were from Lithuania. Including me, that’s 3 generations, 5 countries, 6 cities and for just 7 people. That is a lot of leaving countries, finding new cities, building homes and trying to build community. It is a difficult choice to leave one’s home and family for something new, but that choice is for something better for oneself and one’s children. These are choices that many us of make in our lives. It is vividly displayed in my family.

  1. I don’t know the reasons why my maternal family left the Netherlands, but I do know the stories of my paternal history. My grandmother left the pogroms of Lithuania after World War I. My grandfather went to France to study and then to Southern Africa for the opportunities that Lithuania could not provide. Use your imagination and think of the attraction and opportunities that the frontier of Southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, provided to anyone who wanted to go, and that included some young Jews fleeing Eastern Europe. Not many went, but there were enough to build thriving Jewish communities in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Bulawayo, Harare and elsewhere. In Harare, my grandparents met, married, raised a family, built a successful business and were leaders in the Jewish community. My father speaks of an almost idyllic childhood of friends, bikes, sports, school, mischief and even cheder. And there was always someone around to make the bed, to bring the meal, to cut the grass, what could be wrong. Most importantly he speaks of his of extended family and how it was joyously held together by my Granny and Grandpa, or to everyone else Auntie Rosa and Uncle Boris.

  1. My parents came to this country in 1964 for what I believe are three reasons, none of which was intent to settle here. The reasons are (1) love and the spirit of adventure for a newly married couple, (2) their, and I attribute this primarily to my father, foresight into the future of Rhodesia and his distaste for the politics of that country. My father effectively left Rhodesia when he started university in 1954, long before legalized Rhodesian apartheid. Even though he was being groomed to take over the successful family business, he saw the faults of the society he was raised in and was uncomfortable with what it portended for his future. Not many left at that time, not many left when they were 18 and ambitious for Zimbabwe was full of opportunities in those days. It took almost 30 more years for my grandparents to leave Zimbabwe. But after leaving for university it became clearer and clearer that he could not return. And in those years, he met my mother. And the third reason my parents came to this country was, and this I attribute primarily to my mother, their inability to see how she could make Zimbabwe her home. In Zimbabwe, she was the outsider.

  1. It is this legacy that I add my own experience. I am the older of two kids and grew up in a relatively small Jewish community. My parents did not know from US history. They did not know the ins and outs of applying to college or college life. They did not know about football or baseball. I did not have an older sibling to pave the way through these experiences. My parents and I made our way together.

  1. My Judaism set me a part as a child. I have always had a strong Jewish identity, but the Judaism of my childhood home was very different than the Judaism that I live today. My mother’s Jewish experience was non-existent and we were a long way from the Jewish community and Jewish family in Harare that was familiar to my father. As a child, I did not have the infrastructure and support to guide me and help me grapple with my desire to see the world through a Jewish lens. As a child, I struggled at it alone and then with the guidance and skill of a most fabulous teacher I was able to open my eyes and experience the world as a Jewish adult. Nonetheless, I felt as a child, and continue to feel today, that being Jewish and a first generation American is like being a stranger.

  1. Twice in Mishpatim we are reminded that we were strangers in the land of Egypt. Chapter 22 verse 20: “You shall not wrong nor oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the Land of Egypt.” Chapter 23 verse 9 once again: “You shall not oppress the stranger, for you know the feeling of the stranger having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.” I read these lines and think of my family’s history, we came out of Africa too. My family were strangers first in Eastern Europe, then as a part of the Jewish minority in the Zimbabwean white minority community and now as Jews in this Christian country. We were not just strangers in Egypt; for my family we are strangers everywhere we go. The question in my mind is, will we always be strangers?

  1. Mishpatim is not the only time that Torah reminds us that we were in Egypt and how to act because we were there. This central Jewish theme is repeated and amplified during Shabbat and High Holiday liturgy, it becomes like an anthem. We celebrate Pesach because G-d led us out of Egypt and out of bondage. Egypt is synonymous with slavery and oppression and the alienation that arises out of being a stranger. Mishpatim begins with the laws relating to slavery. Immediately after we are led out of slavery we are taught how to be the slave’s master. Excellent timing for such an important lesson. After leaving Egypt, it is very powerful and extremely convincing for G-d to say “Don’t oppress the stranger because you suffered the ultimate oppression by being slaves in the land of Egypt.” In Mishpatim, we are taught something else too, something just as powerful, but more subtle. The reason we are given for the law is because we were strangers too. Linguistically Mishpatim works nicely; we don’t oppress the strangers because we were strangers. It is easier for me to identify with the stranger than it is to identify with the slave. In Mishpatim, we are taught not to oppress the stranger for reasons more than just because of what Pharaoh did to us, that we were his slaves, but simply because we were there. Before we were slaves, we were strangers in Egypt. The stranger, the outsider, has the heightened risk of experiencing oppression, and oppression can lead to slavery. We were vulnerable when we arrived in Egypt, and then we experienced slavery. We know the extreme vulnerability, as slaves we were at the nadir of oppression. G-d is teaching me to embrace the feeling of the stranger. From there, I can protect the vulnerable, and I am more prepared to embrace Torah. Because I am a stranger, I have found another entry point into the teaching of Torah and into myself.

Simon Anolick

Monday, February 7, 2011

Out of Africa, She Rediscovered Her Jewish Identity

by Susan E. Fisher

I have the delightful honor and privilege of serving Beth Emet as a co-chair with Simon Anolick for "Torat Chayeinu: Our Stories, Our Journey" – Beth Emet’s theme for 5771. To date, members of our Beth Emet community have shared pivotal and precious moments of their Jewish journeys through a variety of special programs. And, we have two very special opportunities to share coming very soon. Simon will tell you more about them in an upcoming blog post.

As Simon and I have learned, personal storytelling is a potent experience for both for the listener and the storyteller. For the listener it is a chance to make linkages at multiple, emotional levels. For storyteller it is a heady experience, a reflection on the forces that have shaped one’s life. Through sharing our Jewish journey, we gain insight into roads taken – and not - and who we our as Jews, our place in the world, and how we connect as community.

During one of the first meetings of the Our Stories, Our Journey committee, we asked committee members to bring a ritual object significant to their spiritual journey. Simon passed around a lovingly worn serving dish that – he explained -- his grandparents had brought from their home in Zimbabwe and used for Passover sweets.

By pronouncing that rhythmic name, Zim-ba-bwe, which is central to one element of his own story, Simon dispatched me on an expedition through my memories. First stop, the gushing waters of Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, then kilometers and days away onto a lush savannah with gossiping baboons, and then weeks and cramped train rides later, the pungent odors of rotting food and diesel fuel mingled with fragrant flowers transport me to Nairobi, Kenya.

As a 20-something journalism graduate student at the University of Nairobi, I was living a dream. Taking a leave-of-absence from my newspaper job and every-day life, this was my chance to play foreign correspondent and get far beyond the perceived constraints of my middle-class Iowa, conservadox upbringing. Little did I know that, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I’d learn – that when it comes to the spirit -- there’s no place like home.

We take bags on any journey and a spiritual journey is no exception. My bags were the mental versions of an old steam trunk from Germany and the other was an empty backpack. The weighty old steam trunk held the stories of my family’s escape from Nazi Germany, tales of persecution and fear. The empty backpack was the container for what I thought I wanted to become.

I tried to fill that space with the stories I collected from my friends from this truly cosmopolitan place. My new associates were a dazzling array of African women in vivid prints, young men in stiff European suit jackets, South Asians in brilliant saris and fresh-faced international students, including my charming roommate Holly. All seemed marvelously different and exciting. But, while I appreciated them all, I soon realized I could not make their stories my own.

An arm-chair sociologist sipping weak tea out an enamel cup, I’d pepper my new friends with questions about the various stratifications in their society. “How do you know who is a Kikuyu and who is Luo?” My awkward questions about tribal differences often met the Kenyan equivalent of an amused eye-roll. “Fi-sher, you can just tell” was essentially the response.

Fast-forward a few months later. I met Annie. Tan and fit, she stepped out of her vehicle with UN plates, adjusted her aviator shades and spoke a wonderfully melodic Swahili. In a glance, she seemed to take me in—no doubt sun burnt, bangles sliding to my elbow, with a dog-eared notebook and chewed pen. In little time, we recognized one another for what we were and are – M-O-Ts - members of the tribe – our tribe. She invited me to join her at synagogue.

Being 8,297 miles away from home, I did exactly what I’d declined to do for years; I headed to Friday night services. At the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation, I discovered a true a sanctuary, a sacred nexus for Jew of diverse backgrounds: a grab bag of established Kenyans, holocaust survivors, Israelis, international bureaucrats, students, and travelers. The experience was transformative: not because it was markedly different but because it was remarkable recognizable. There was the well-known order of the services; memorable tunes, the unifying force of a common language – Hebrew, and the centrality of the law.

As we learn in this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, G-d told Moses to give the people a series of law. Moses repeated the commandments to the people, who accepted his covenant, saying “All the things that the Lord has commanded we will do!” It is our particular customs and rules that help keep us together as a people. And, even as we interpret these rules in differing ways, it is clear that we must seek to bring holiness into every aspect of our lives.

At the conclusion of Nairobi’s services, members of the congregation would gather for Shabbat dinner at the home of the Szlapak family, the owners of the Fairview Hotel, a lovely country-style inn just outside the city centre. Mama Szlapak, the matriarch of Nairobi’s Jewish community, extended hospitality as warm as her bowls of chicken soup. Her home-made gefilte fish came served with a side of family history: The Szlapaks arrived in Kenya from Poland in 1938. In several respects, her family baggage seemed to be a matching set for my own family baggage; both carried tales of exodus and survival. Her response was in keeping with the law: to shine a light of holiness to the lives of the community.

After graduating from my journalism program, I had a few more weeks to travel, and then it was time to return to the United States. But, after my time in Africa, I had changed. Rather than going to Brazil – for yet another exploration of an unfamiliar culture – as I initially considered, I decided to make my next stop Israel….to a place I had never seen, but now felt I must surely go. And, this turn in events over time led me indirectly but, I believe, inevitably on a path that would lead me to meeting and marrying my beloved Jonathan, and raising our two wonderful boys Max and Alex in the loving Jewish community that is Beth Emet.

Thank you, Rabbi London for this wonderful assignment to join forces with Simon, our fabulous committee, and the supportive board, and the hard-working staff helping the Our Stories, Our Journey project. And, thank you members of Beth Emet for letting me share a stop on my Jewish journey. I look forward to learning from you as we gather the many stories of our collective journey as a community.