Shabbat San Diego

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Shabbat SAN DIEGO Coming together as a community





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contents October 2020 •

1000 WORDS Scientists Grow Fresh Dates from Sixth Century BCE Seed.................................................


COVER STORY Shabbat San Diego Brings the Community Together During Difficult Times.....................

FOOD Sevilla-style Rabo de Toro...........................................................................................................................





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Susan G. Komen SD's Race For a Cure Goes Virtual..................................................................


The Crypto Jews Of New Mexico............................................................................................................ Planning for Retirement in the Midst of a

Pandemic: What You Need to Know..................................................................................................... Renewal Through Storytelling with CAJE........................................................................................




06 08

Random Rants..............................................


Mazel and Mishagoss...............................

Torah: Of the Book......................................


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Barbara Birenbaum, Daniel Bortz, Michael Gardiner, Donald H. Harrison, Steve Horn, Stephanie Lewis, Salomon Maya, Mimi Pollack, Rachel Stern, Eva Trieger, Deborah Vietor, Chana Jenny Weisberg

Copyright ©2020 L’Chaim San Diego LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator” to:


Published in San Diego, CA •

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random rants

Oh, Thy Little Things


t doesn’t take too much to annoy me. I truly think it’s a genetic thing. Embedded deep within my chromosomal makeup lie amino acids and peptides just complaining nonstop. And to be completely honest with all of you, the unending complain fest can be just about anything. From small minute things like a room’s temperature to huge things like political actions. Today, I shall refrain from any political complaining in this article. Even though, boy do I have complaints. But no. I can’t. I won’t. First, people who always comment on the lives of others annoy me. Especially parents who comment on other parent’s parenting skills. Guess what? There is no skill to parenting. Every demon spawn is different. My son can seriously be a cool ass kid some days. And other days I wish I had stuck to collecting French Bulldogs. So, yeah. Parents, when you think you want to comment on someone else’s parenting style, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger from the 1990 blockbuster Kindergarten Cop: shuuuuuuuuut uuuuuuup. Next, leaving all your trash under the seat at a movie theater. Nothing bugs me more. As an elitist first world society, we have decided that there are certain places where we can be disgusting pigs and it’s totally okay. Now I know with Covid, many movie theaters are 6


closed, so this annoyance might be moot. But here’s to the world of 2019. When the movie is over: Pick. Up. Your. Crap! Your popcorn and sodas, your Sour Patch Kids and your Reese’s Pieces. And if your order Snow Caps, seek immediate medical attention if that’s your candy choice at a movie theater.

Embedded deep within my chromosomal makeup lie amino acids and peptides just complaining nonstop. Freeway etiquette also annoys me. The extreme left lane is a passing lane. That is all. If you want to cruise at a certain speed in that lane, don’t. If so, when Disneyland

opens again feel free to ride autopia and go as slow as you want. Yeah, I’m talking to you bubbe. The left lane is not your friend. Finally, here’s a Covid-esqe annoyance. People who wear their masks around their chin, or as one television special recently called these, chin diapers. Yeah, I’m talking to you. Don’t make like you didn’t know how to properly wear a mask before now. You did. We should all know by now that proper mask wearing means it goes over your nose and mouth. So, if I can see your nose – or somehow, your mouth—while wearing a mask, stop it. We’re in this together. We’re the only species that have the ability to complain and moan at the simplest of things. Frankly, it’s what separates us from the armadillo. So, let’s get along. Let’s harmonize in peace and health. And let’s complain together, behind each other’s backs of course. SALOMON MAYA IS A LOCAL EMMY-WINNER, ACTOR AND PLAYWRIGHT. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @SALOMAYA OR EMAIL HIM AT SALOMONM@LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM.



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the book Standing at a Crossroads


e find ourselves at a unique time in history, in between protests, quarantines, and a national election. Emotions are running high, and everyone has an opinion on what’s best for society at large. I’ve noticed two schools of thought regarding approaching these issues. One is very outward focused: We must check others and reprimand them if they don’t meet our determination of what’s right. This can be vitally important and noble, as the Torah says in Leviticus 19:16: “Do not stand idly by [the shedding of] your fellow’s blood.” This view though is also fraught with a danger. We may see our view as the absolute truth and our righteous indignation may cloud over another person’s nuanced perspective on life. It’s interesting that the first words of the above verse say: “You must not go around as a gossiper amidst your people.” Even as you do what’s truly noble in your eyes, be careful with how you use your power of words, by voice or online. The other approach is inward focused: I first must make sure that I’m living my life at the highest level I can, before I focus all of my energy on changing everyone else. In the words of Rabbi Israel Salanter: 8


“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town, so, as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize that the only thing I can change is myself. And suddenly I realize that if, long ago, I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family could have made an impact on our town. The town’s impact could have changed the nation, and I could indeed have changed the world.” Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk lived in Tzfat. One day he heard a great commotion in the street. A report had come from Jerusalem that Mashiach [the Messiah] had arrived. R’ Menachem walked to his window, stuck his head out and smelled the air. He sadly shook his head; no, the redemption had not arrived. What’s going on here? Why did he need to open the window? Through a lifetime of selfrefinement, he had achieved such a spiritual awareness that he was already living his life on the level of redemption. He had to open the window to see if the outside world had

reached that state as well. It had not. I believe that both approaches are important. We needn’t wait to be perfect before calling out injustice and impacting the world. But I also think it’s vital that our foundation be reflective and inward focused. Ultimately, we can only (attempt to) control ourselves. The most powerful statement you can make is to embody and exemplify - through and through – the morals and principles you hold dear. I recently agreed to a debate with an afrocentric YouTube star who felt white people and Jews were subhuman and had stolen black history and made it ours. I prepared every intellectual argument I could think of, but afterwards the private messages I received from the African American community were the same: “Thank you for being respectful and embodying the values of what a Jew is.” More than what you say, type or yell to fellow Americans, people will remember how you made them feel, how you spoke to them. May this time of collective pain birth a future that is better for it. DANIEL BORTZ, THE MILLENNIAL RABBI, IS THE FOUNDER OF JTEEN AND SOUL X. CONNECT AT RABBIBORTZ.COM.

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Dates grow on Hannah, a tree germinated from ancient seeds in Israel. PHOTO BY MARCOS SCHONHOLZ/ARAVA INSTITUTE.








azal tov to Hannah and Methuselah on their 111 miracle babies! The proud parents are date palms grown from ancient seeds uncovered in archeological excavations in Israel. These dates, recently picked at the Arava Institute at Kibbutz Ketura in southern Israel, are a type that hasn’t been tasted since the times of Jesus and the Maccabees. “Dr. Elaine Solowey, our director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture, grew our first ancient date tree, Methuselah, in 2005,” explained Miriam May, CEO of Friends of the Arava Institute. “He came from a 2,000 year old seed found in excavations at Masada; his growth was an unprecedented success that no one was expecting. However, because he is a male tree, he could not produce fruit.” But then Solowey succeeded in germinating six more ancient seeds, one from Masada and five from the caves of Qumran, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls written between 150 BCE and 70 CE. One of the Qumram trees, Hannah, was pollinated by Methuselah and grew dates that ripened at the beginning of September to great international fanfare. Solowey and fellow “date grandma” Dr. Sarah Sallon could not be more pleased. Sallon, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem from 1983 to 2000, founded the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research

Center at the hospital in 1995. For the past 15 years, she’s focused full time on how plants could be used as medicine. “I was very interested in ancient plants, how and where they grew, and what is happening to them with climate change, pollution and development,” Sallon said. She and Solowey collected and tested many kinds of plants, and Solowey grew them at the Arava Institute. Then, Sallon was given date seeds discovered during Yigael Yadin’s famed digs on Masada in the mid 1960s and kept in storage for more than 40 years, plus date seeds found at Qumran by professor. Joseph Patrich of the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University. “Professor Patrich let me choose whatever I wanted. I chose the best seeds I could find, in extraordinarily good condition,” said Sallon. “I gave some to Elaine and lo and behold, up came Methuselah,” named for the oldest living human in the Bible. Methuselah, grown from a seed radiocarbon dated to the first century CE, was the oldest seed ever grown into a living plant and was the subject of papers published in the journal Science in 2008 and 2009. Six of the 32 additional seeds chosen by Sallon sprouted under Solowey’s care. They were warmed and hydrated slowly and gradually, fed a growth promoting plant hormone and an enzyme fertilizer. They grew into healthy date palms dubbed Adam,

"It is a sign of the remarkable resiliency of nature in the face of this terrible destruction of species. Nature will not give up without a struggle. That’s a motif for our times.” Hannah, Judith, Jonah, Boaz and Uriel. Last February, a paper published about the germination of the seeds in Science Advances, led to hundreds of inquiries, says Sallon. In early 2019, Adam, Jonah and Hannah WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM



were moved out of their greenhouse to the Arava Institute’s Daniel Fischel & Sylvia Neil Research & Visitors’ Park. “It was so remarkable to bring these trees back from the dead — they were really just sleeping,” said Sallon. “To see them grow several meters high and have babies was a ray of light at a time like this when people are worried and depressed. It is a sign of the remarkable resiliency of nature in the face of this terrible destruction of species. Nature will not give up without a struggle. That’s a motif for our times.” And how do Hannah’s dates taste? “Lovely,” said Sallon. “I find Medjoul dates too sticky sweet. Hannah’s are blander and drier, with a honey aftertaste that makes me think of the land of milk and honey.” The date experts at Kibbutz Keturah say they taste like the Zahidi species of Iraqi dates. That makes sense, as Hannah is 12


genetically related to a species that grew in Babylon — present day Iraq. “Domesticating the date palm for cultivation started around 6,000 years ago in Babylon and in the Arabian Peninsula,” Sallon explains. “Methuselah and Adam, from Masada, are very Arabian like and are more than 2,000 years old. Hannah is more Iraqi. We presume she was brought by the exiles coming back after the First Temple was destroyed, because the Talmud tells us that Judean exiles worked in date plantations in Babylon.” Date cultivation in ancient Judea was well established by around 300 BCE. Uriel, Boaz and Jonah are from 200 CE, found in caves where Judeans took refuge from the Romans. “They are more Western, like dates from North Africa, probably because the Romans brined those males to pollinate the Eastern palms,” says Sallon.

“The idea now is to reintroduce the Judean date — that’s my name for it — into modern agriculture. Perhaps they have important medicinal and nutritional traits that were bred out of modern dates.” “Dates in ancient times here was one of the biggest sources of revenue. It would be nice to bring back from extinction this ancient variety that is producing very nice dates and reintroduce them to the market.” Sallon also hopes to raise money to publish The Date’s Tale, a children’s story she wrote “from the point of view of the Methuselah himself going to sleep at Masada and waking up in a lab 2,000 years later.” Jane Goodall wrote the introduction. She and Solowey are currently seeking funds for their research project. Note: This article first appeared in ISRAEL21c.


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MOVES FORWARD Coming together in unity for the event's seventh year 14





n November 6 and 7, two million Jews in more than 1,500 cities in 101 countries will be “Keeping it Together” in a collection of languages, customs and styles of observance. We will just be doing it virtually, through Zoom, Facebook Live, YouTube Live and Instagram. This year, Shabbat San Diego might look different, but the event is still the same. An independent, grassroots level, communitywide, inclusive and egalitarian organization of volunteers have dedicated their time to encourage the entire San Diego Jewish community to participate in a unique, international Jewish identity event that inspires all Jews to experience Shabbat together. Jews from all walks of life, from across the spectrum of religious affiliation, young and old, from all corners of the world come together to experience the magic of one complete Shabbat kept together. It’s our opportunity to renew family and community life, restore Jewish identity, and unite Jews globally. It’s about renewing and recharging our Jewish future together. Shabbat San Diego, powered by the Lawrence Family JCC’s Jacobs Family Campus and the Global Shabbos Project have asked the Shabbat San Diego community to adhere — with total commitment — to the health and safety protocols established and celebrate a Shabbat of kindness, a Shabbat of prayer and a Shabbat of connection to the Divine, tapping into the transformative power of Shabbat.


Ways to participate include:

1. Call or message each other with words of support before

Shabbat. In our quest to protect each other, we find ourselves physically cut off from one another. So many of us are completely alone. Call or message someone you know who is alone or struggling, wish them Shabbat Shalom and offer them words of support and encouragement. 2. Pray for each other just before candle-lighting. As the devastation of COVID-19 sweeps across the world, so many people need our prayers. Let us pray together — for each other and all humankind. 3. Keep this Shabbat together. Let us bring this Shabbat into our homes together and harness its immeasurable invigorating power. Let us connect to light and love and the beauty of Shabbat for a precious 25 hours.

As we San Diegans connect through common actions with others from Katmandu to Cape Town, San Salvador to Singapore, Melbourne to Myrtle Beach, Prague to Panama City, Ukraine to Zurich, Toronto to Tel Aviv, Baltimore to Bogota and Mexico City to Moscow — in building global identity with pride and solidarity — we will feel closer than ever to our heritage and each other. SHABBAT SAN DIEGO 2020 SCHEDULE (all events will be held virtually) Thursday November 5 Virtual Challah Bakes Demonstrations on how to make Challah Dough throughout the day on social media One community wide Challah Brading Demonstration early evening on Facebook or Zoom Friday November 6 Shabbat Services Shabbat home dinners with special host gifts Saturday November 7 Morning: Shabbat Services followed by Home Lunches Evening: Havdalah UNITY Celebration Extravaganza Sunday November 8 Day of Learning — TAPESTRY/Partners in Torah FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO SIGN UP FOR ANY OF SHABBAT SAN DIEGO’S ACTIVITIES, GO TO WWW.SHABBATSANDIEGO.ORG.








f the many wonderful things to be found in Spain, the traditional home of Sephardic Jews — including the architecture, art, music, and fashion — the greatest has to be the food. My favorite tapa on our trip to Seville was a very simple, very elegant, and deeply flavored little bowl of oxtail stew we tasted in Santa Cruz, Seville’s old Jewish Quarter. In addition to being the home of tapas, Andalusia is also the home to bullfighting. One tradition in Spain is that wherever there’s a big bullring, there’s a restaurant that serves the bull’s tail (the rabo of the toro) after the fight. Braising the oxtails in one of Andalusia’s other great exports (sherry) brings out the savory succulence and incredible tenderness that time and patience reveal in this seemingly tough ingredient. The chive buds —an ingredient readily available at Asian markets — are an elegant and tasty garnish. They are, however, purely optional. For the contemporary version I braise the oxtails in the traditional ingredients but, after refrigerating the oxtails in the braising liquid overnight, I defat then strain the broth before clarifying it. The result is a clean and clear broth with dramatic oxtails and simple garnishes. SEVILLA-STYLE RABO DE TORO (OXTAIL STEW)

Serves 2-4 Ingredients 4 large oxtail segments (3 to 4 pounds total) Salt and freshly ground black pepper All-purpose flour for dusting

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 2 leeks, white parts only, cleaned, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced across 1 large onion, chopped 1 large carrot, chopped 1 green bell pepper, chopped 3 medium tomatoes, chopped 4 cups Beef Stock 1 cup dry sherry (fino or Manzanilla) 2 bay leaves 4 large egg whites 4 chive buds (optional) Directions 1. Season the oxtails with salt and pepper and sprinkle with flour to create a light dusting. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Working in batches, sear the oxtails until evenly browned, about 30 seconds per side, then transfer them to a plate. 2. Heat the second tablespoon of the olive oil in the same pot over medium-low heat, then stir in the leeks, onion, and carrot and sweat the vegetables just until the onion turns translucent, stirring all the while to deglaze the pan with the liquids from the vegetables, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper and tomatoes and cook until they lose their texture, about another 10 minutes. 3. Return the oxtails to the pot along with the beef stock and sherry and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the bay leaves. When the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the oxtails are tender, about 3 hours. Remove the oxtails from the broth and pour the broth through a conical or fine-mesh strainer into a large

bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Return the oxtails to the broth, let it cool, then cover and transfer to the refrigerator and refrigerate overnight. 4. The next day, skim the fat from the top of the broth, remove the oxtails and hold on a plate. Transfer the chilled stock to a medium pot. Place the egg whites in a medium bowl and whip until just starting to foam. Whisk the beaten egg whites into the broth and set over medium heat. Bring the broth just to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Don’t let it reach a full boil. A “raft” will appear on the surface as the proteins in the egg whites coagulate — you’ll know it when you see it. This raft is the engine that cleanses the broth by gathering the impurities. As this happens, stop stirring and let the broth simmer gently for about 30 minutes, adjusting the heat to keep it below a full boil. 5. Carefully agitate the bottom of the pot with a spatula to loosen any raft that may be caught. Simmer the broth gently for about 5 minutes, breaking the surface of the raft as necessary to allow some of the pressure to escape. When the raft is solid and you can no longer see impurities rising to the surface, remove the pan from the heat. Using a ladle, pass the clear liquid off through a fine-mesh strainer into another soup pot, return the oxtails to the pot and reheat the broth and oxtails over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes. 6. To serve, arrange 1 to 2 oxtails in the bottom of each soup bowl and ladle the broth over. Garnish each oxtail with a chive bud. WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM







lthough this is the first opportunity to join Susan G. Komen’s Virtual Race for A Cure, Sunday, November 1, 2020, the 25th anniversary of the race. This year’s theme is “90s Throwback End to Breast Cancer Walk,” with participants dressed in 90s gear. So get your leotards, track and bodysuits, break out your headbands and be ready to rock! Meredith Hall-Chand is the Interim CEO and President of Susan G. Komen San Diego. She shares a passion and dedication for supporting the organization in searching for a cure, as her grandmother battled breast cancer and passed away from lymphoma. “This is the only organization in San Diego formulating a community profile, focusing on breast cancer care and the barriers to health access,” Hall-Chand said. “Komen San Diego identifies the most critical needs within the community, working to fill gaps and increase access to early detection and quality treatment.”

The organization provides services ranging from medical services such as mammograms, biopsies, ultrasounds, diagnostic services, breast prostheses, lymphedema sleeves, post mastectomy bras, and any breast cancerrelated medical device. Komen collaborates with all of the hospital systems throughout San Diego, as well as dozens of clinics. Clinics bill Komen for these services as they continue to provide a lifeline for underserved communities. Additional services include: food, housing and financial assistance for care coordination, utilities, co-pays, childcare, transportation, employment, senior services,, patient navigation, and education. During COVID-19, assisting the community is more vital than ever, HallChand said. Along with the support of a small staff and volunteer efforts, Hall-Chand has secured over $5 million in gifts. She has increased funding by 150 percent, transforming growth

in attendees and revenue by 25 percent. “Six women daily are diagnosed with breast cancer in San Diego County and each day one person dies,” Hall-Chand shared. This year, over 250 research grants are collectively funded throughout the United States and globally in order to find a cures. In the last few years, Komen has participated in changing legislation regarding criteria for breast cancer research trial participation in California. “We want patient care advocacy, legislation, research clinical trials and laws for advocacy.” Hall-Chand shared. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients have been unable to venture into the grocery store. Komen’s partnership with: Padres Pedal the Cause, the Padres Foundation, US Bank and Vons/ Albertsons involves a dedicated volunteer team, providing grocery delivery on Saturdays to cancer patients through the end of December. WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM



Komen works with many organizations, and one of their biggest partners is Jewish Family Services, together providing vital resources and assistance to breast cancer patients. “The highest risk for breast cancer is being a woman, the second is age. In younger women, breast cancer is typically more aggressive,” Hall-Chand said. “Compared to screeningage adults, younger women are more likely to be diagnosed at a distant stage than an early stage. Which likely reflects diagnostic delays, as well as a higher prevalence of aggressive molecular subtypes.” She also stressed the importance of “Knowing your normal.” “If something does not feel right, have yourself checked out and should a friend share something with you, regarding changes in their health, support them in doing the same,” she said. Komen is invested in assisting researchers identify genes for metastatic breast cancer (MBC), and the processes causing breast cancer cells to metastasize, developing and testing new therapies to both prevent and treat MBC, discovering new methods for predicting or detecting metastasis, using urine or blood. Currently, Komen is prioritizing 70 percent of grants, which are directed toward Metastatic Stage 4 patients. Although I have written in the past about Susan G. Komen San Diego, this story holds a personal meaning for me today. In July of 2019, my daughter, Ashleigh was diagnosed with Metastatic Stage 4 de novo breast cancer at the age of 32. This has been a journey like no other, as for over a year, she has endured surgeries, treatments, procedures and immunotherapy every three weeks. Ashleigh proudly participated in the Race for the Cure in 2019, joined by family and friends. 20


“[Susan G. Komen San Diego] identifies the most critical needs within the community, working to fill gaps and increase access to early detection and quality treatment.”

Her courage, perseverance, and dedication in supporting others with this challenging and often devastating disease is more than impressive. I believe that breast cancer is something she has and not something she is. We took a memorable train trip last year to Santa Barbara and agreed that for once, for a few days, we felt “normal.” There were no treatments, procedures or doctor’s appointments, just a mother and daughter enjoying the zoo, farmer’s market, the beautiful ocean view, a movie and each other. We know we only have today, which we treasure like no other. The following is dedicated to Ashleigh and to all the mothers and daughters, including anyone experiencing all forms of breast cancer. A Mother’s Journey Begins before you are born, When you are small and I hold your hand, keeping you protected and safe, Watching your transformation into an amazing young woman, I hold stronger than ever to a belief in G-d, As you hold fast to your own beliefs and truth,

I do not hold on to expectations, as you have far exceeded mine, Holding onto your spirit, this journey involves laughter, hope, peace, and a belief in all things good for you, A mother’s journey finally culminates into holding onto a never ending, unconditional love. Individuals can walk with Susan G. Komen’s Virtual Race for A Cure from anywhere in San Diego County from 8:30 to 11:00 a.m., November 1. Connect for more information with: Race Team, In Motion at: (760) 692-2900 or via email: For information regarding breast health or breast cancer, call the breast care helpline: 1-(877) GO KOMEN, (1-877-465-6636) or email at For more information regarding volunteer opportunities or to donate, visit

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y late fiancé, an 8th generation New Mexican, used to tell me about the secret of crypto Jews of New Mexico. He was convinced that although he was raised Catholic, some of his ancestors were “Conversos” or secret Jews who came to New Mexico when it was being colonized by Spain. During the time of the inquisition, the Conversos were Jews who pretended to convert to Catholicism to avoid being killed. Some of them really did convert, but many continued practicing their Jewish traditions in secret for generations, perhaps without even knowing why. Michael would tell me of his Catholic grandmother lighting candles on Friday evenings because it was a family tradition. I find the subject fascinating, so I was happy to preview local filmmaker Isaac Artenstein’s new documentary, A Long Journey, The Hidden Jews of the Southwest. 22


This documentary chronicles the journey of the Sephardic Jews of New Mexico and Southwest Arizona as well as the Northern Mexican border town, Ciudad Juarez, and how they found their ancient roots and returned to the Jewish faith. I have always had an interest in cowboys, and I am probably not the first Jewish woman to say this, so I closely followed the story of Tim Herrera, a cowboy, New Mexican cattle rancher, and proud Jew. Although not everyone in his mostly Catholic family approved, he rediscovered his Sephardic Jewish roots and converted to Judaism as did his wife and children. He embraced his faith and roots so strongly that he is currently in the process of moving to Israel as he wants to bring his experience as a rancher to the Holy Land and raise cattle there. Herrera is one of many Sephardic New Mexicans who have embraced Judaism, a theme the documentary

explores. This documentary came about after Artenstein finished a previous film, Challah Rising in the Desert — the Jews of New Mexico. Artenstein said that after showing the film at various screenings, so many people in the audience stayed after and talked about discovering their Sephardic roots and converting with such deeply felt emotion, that he and his long-time producer, Paula Amar Schwartz decided to make a follow up documentary and find out more about the history and lives of these hidden Jews. Artenstein and his crew traveled throughout New Mexico and Southwest Texas to explore the world of the descendants of the “crypto Jews” and how many of them are exploring their family trees and coming back to Judaism, not always an easy feat. First, they have to research their ancestors and find the documentation that shows that


Rabbi Stephen Leon appears in a new documentary about New Mexico's Crypto Jews.

they are descendants of Sephardic Jews. In fact, the Jewish Federation of New Mexico is one of the leaders in confirming a Sephardic background. Next, some have to contend with families who like Herrera’s family are dismayed that they are leaving the Catholic Church. While filming, Artenstein and his crew met and interviewed many interesting characters starting with cowboy Herrera. There is the scholar, Ron D. Hart, who wrote the companion book for the film. There is the artist Charlie Carrillo, a Santero [one who draws saints or retablos] whose work is inspired by Spanish Jewish and Catholic imagery. Although Carrillo is Catholic, he is proud of the Sephardic roots many New Mexicans have and melds his art making sure his Hebrew letters are correct. There is Blanca Carrasco who honestly speaks about grappling with not feeling accepted by some of the congregants at her previous synagogue and her road to Judaism. Finally, there is Luis de Carvajal. For me, the most charismatic of all the people interviewed is Stephen Leon, the

Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation B’Nai Zion in El Paso, Texas. A warm and jovial Ashkenazi Jew from New Jersey, he has made it his life’s mission to serve the Sephardic community of El Paso and also Ciudad Juarez across the border. He helped many in their conversion and assimilation. For him, it was his Tikkun Olam. This documentary is also worthy because it can be the catalyst for different discussions, such as the history of the people of New Mexico and the legacy of the hidden Jews or Conversos and the different manifestations, the life of those who converted in present day and the problems that can arise, and the traditions of Sephardic Jews. In the United States, much more is known about Ashkenazi Jews. Finally, up until last year, the Spanish government was offering Spanish citizenship to those who could prove they had Sephardic blood. There was a rush of both American and Mexican Jews and Jews from around the world that coveted Spanish citizenship who applied to the program. Many researched their ancestry to prove they had Sephardic

blood and were able to obtain the citizenship. Some of this is discussed in the film. I personally know a large family from Mexico who received Spanish citizenship as they were able to trace and prove their Sephardic blood through their very Catholic mother/ grandmother! The photography in the documentary is stunning, especially the aerial views. It really gives the viewer a sense of the cultural and national landscape, especially New Mexico. Artenstein worked with his other long-time collaborator, his director of cinematography, Sergio Ulloa. All in all, this educational documentary is worth seeing. The official premiere of the documentary is November 19 at 7 p.m. on KNME/NMPBS in New Mexico. Since it will also be aired nationally, it is a good idea to check your local PBS affiliates for the airtime. Artenstein’s other works, Tijuana Jews and To the Ends of the Earth, A Portrait of Jewish San Diego can be found on his website at






ven before the pandemic, retirement was a difficult decision. However, these times especially make the considerations for retirement even more challenging. COVID-19 has brought with it changes to your financial, physical, and emotional situation. Each of these will affect your decision to retire. If you were about to retire, you have been dealt one bad hand. The pandemic shut down our country and brought about a market downturn that could take years to recover from. Tax-wise, there is also ambiguity regarding when tax rates might change. And, the COVID bailouts are costly. Additional taxes or increases to existing taxes might be needed sooner than later. To make matters worse, interest rates are at historic lows. This is great if you are taking on new debt or refinancing existing debt like your mortgage, but for retirees, low interest rates are not good for generating a decent income stream. If you retire now, your retirement assets might be in for a bumpy ride for at least the next few years. Most of our careers, we focus on the financial elements of preparing for retirement. We save in retirement accounts for decades and regularly monitor the portfolio to ensure 24


we are financially on track for retirement. Hopefully, you have already done a lot of work in this area. If you need eleventh hour financial advice, connect with a fee-only financial planner to take a quantitative look at your situation. Now it is time to fine-tune the finances, avoid common pitfalls, and do your best to prepare for the unexpected. At this point, a financial planner can help you develop a clear picture of both your retirement income and your cash flow needs in retirement. They will also help you maximize your social security income, decide on any options for pensions, and plan for current or future healthcare expenses. Finally, a planner will ensure your portfolio is correctly invested to help you achieve your retirement goals, while at the same time containing the appropriate amount of risk that allows you to sleep at night during volatile times like these. The financials are only half the puzzle, though; you must also determine if you are mentally ready for retirement. Often, much less planning for retirement is spent on the mental aspect, but it is just as important of an endeavor. To begin mentally preparing yourself, start working through the difficult questions. You might find your answers to some of these questions have been

completely altered by the predicament of the pandemic. First, you need to determine why you are retiring now over your other available options. Would it make more sense to wait a few more years? Are there any alternatives to retirement that might make more sense for you, such as starting another career you’ve always wanted to pursue, or scaling back your work hours toward partial retirement? If you want to retire because of an unhappy work situation, might that be remedied by moving to a happier work environment? You will also need to evaluate what will change after retirement and how you will spend your time. COVID-19 presents less than ideal economic, physical, and emotional conditions to make your retirement decision, but it does not mean retirement must be delayed. Work with financial professionals to help you determine if you are financially ready. Speak with your loved ones, friends and colleagues to help you evaluate if you are mentally ready. If you are both financially and mentally ready, now might be as good a time as any. Hopefully, if you do choose to retire during this pandemic, it leads you to discover a new set of interests that you may not have pursued otherwise.








n February of this year, as every year, I eagerly welcomed the message announcing that registration for NewCAJE11 was open. Aside from that came another message that excited me even more. A storytelling scholarship opportunity to be among the first cohort of a new initiative, ReJEWvination Storytelling Initiative. With a faculty that’s a Who’s Who of Jewish storytelling including Cherie Karo Schwartz (designer, sponsor, and leader), Penninah Schram and Batya Podos, Jennifer Rudik Zunikoff, Cindy Rivka Marshall, Renee Brachfeld, and Dan “Dante” Gordon, all renowned master storytellers I’d admired from afar through previous conferences, I applied and was accepted. When the brilliantly resourceful NewCAJE organizers pivoted quickly with COVID-19 cancelling the in-person conference, the 6-day experience became the Summer of NewCAJE; with 28 days of virtual workshops, Torah study, job-alike meetups, concerts, Storytelling Sundays and more all through Zoom. The conference was epically successful and our NewCAJE family was forever changed for the better. What started with a week of intense story study ended up blowing my mind wide open. After three more weeks of live zooms through July and four more weeks immersed in recordings of the plethora of programming I’d missed, abundant and glorious professional growth was had by all. And I finally found a story, which will soon be a children’s book, with a lot of help from my friends (especially Jennifer Zunikoff, storytelling coach, who I began learning with at NewCAJE 5 years ago) from all that had been planted, nourished, watered and loved. As the cohort moves into 5781, pandemic perspectives guide some of us blazing new trails, some back to the grind, but all enriched and elevated from our experience. As Cherie Karo Schwartz wrote, “CAJE/ NewCAJE has been a Ma’ayan, a well-spring of inspiration, creativity, interconnection and more for me since 1982. I have learned at the feet of Peninnah Schram, my storytelling heart-friend and collaborator, and so many more storytellers/educators. I have taught at every conference. I’ve been so nourished and

As the cohort moves into 5781, pandemic perspectives guide some of us blazing new trails, some back to the grind, but all enriched and elevated from our experience. sustained by the teachings of others, this year I’m giving back in a big way. I envisioned, funded and co-created the ReJEWvenating Jewish Storytelling Initiative: Elementary educators led by national Master Jewish Storyteller Faculty. We have learned and created together and the first cohort will be engaged all year sharing their gleanings with their peers and mentors. Next summer, they will be teaching their wisdom at NewCAJE12. It is an honor to continue and enhance this Storytelling Legacy.” And, Rabbi Dan Gordon, AKA “Dante, a teller of tales”, Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Torah, Humble, Texas, recalled that in 1993, at the age of 32, he stepped onto the CAJE (now NewCAJE) scene. “I felt like a freshman in college,” the rabbi said. “I had never attended this conference

because my previous professional life was as a camp director and my summers were full. I was shifting gears to become a storyteller/ educator, and this was my training ground. I hastily printed a brochure to connect with other artists and learners. I approached seasoned professional storytellers Peninnah Schram and Cherie Karo Schwartz, sheepishly announcing, “I’m a Jewish storyteller, too.” These two women took me under their wing. Their only goal? Enhancing Jewish learning through story. Now, I am a storytelling rabbi, serving the same congregation over 20 years. Sharing music, stories and learning with such an elegant group, determined to learn from each other, has inspired me to inspire. Students become teachers, and our Jewish souls blossom together.” WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM




& mishagoss How to Decide Which Family You'll "Bubble-Up" With


elying on Zoom to hang out with someone else’s mishpachah is not going to satisfy us for much longer. Let’s face it — Jews MUST kibbitz and schmooze together in person. How else can we a) Smell the fresh pears hanging in the Klein’s sukkah or the latkes frying in the Silvers’ kitchen? b) Judge that halucious new sofa the Steinbergs just bought? Or c) Snoop through the Horowitz’s medicine cabinet when using their bathroom? The answer is forming a “Covid Bubble” or a “Quaranteam” with another family who is deemed safe and healthy to be around. We’re already familiar with this concept. It’s just like joining a Havurah group from temple or shul. Only instead of becoming obsessed with the three F’s (Family/Food/ Fun) we’ll fixate on staying germ free. But unlike a Havurah, your synagogue won’t place you into compatible “Bubbles” based on the ages of your kids or if the adults play mahjong. So of course, Jews must designate an official Family Matchmaker because we cannot decide these things for ourselves. You’ll be happy to know I volunteered for this new position. If you’re upset with whom I pair your clan with, you can complain or kvetch to someone else called “Lament-a, Vent-a Yenta.” But if you’re pleased with your matched family, leave a nice review with “Content-a Yenta.” I’ll get a raise. Being a creative event-planner who puts on elaborately themed Bar Mitzvahs and simchas, I also provide fun activities for all my matched “Bubble Families.” I pour 28


bubble bath in their jacuzzies, lay bubble wrap on the floor for stomping, and provide Bazooka Bubble gum as a party favor. Okay, okay, I digress. Here’s a concrete example of how I would evaluate another family to see if they’re compatible with my own large and neurotic household: PROS OF THE LIEBERMAN FAMILY

• They just got a super cute fluffy kitten! • Mrs. Leiberman is a great cook and makes the fluffiest matzo balls! • Mr. Leiberman likes sports and will organize softball games between the families! • They have a teenage daughter (Ruby) who babysits! • They have a swimming pool! • They share our belief system about only s singing one chorus of Dayenu on Passover! • They have a Netflix account so we can binge watch Shtisel using their account! CONS OF THE LIEBERMAN FAMILY

• Anyone who pets or “oohs and ahhs” at their mediocre scruffy kitten must clean the stinky litter box. • Mrs. Leiberman uses only full fat cream, butter, cheese, and beef in her recipes and thinks “Low-Cal” is a term for people who reside in the valleys of California. • When a stray softball grazes your child’s hand, instead of offering ice and bandages, Mr. Leiberman gruffly shouts, “Shake it off! Would Moses cry?” • Ruby sneaks out to see her boyfriend in the middle of the night. (The boyfriend is

social distancing … with his entire high school cheerleading squad.) • They don’t heat their pool and lackadaisical Ruby (who claims to babysit) doesn’t supervise her younger siblings because she’s texting the boyfriend…so they pee in the shallow end. • They may shorten Dayenu, but they have an entire two-hour long comedy routine (that’s not very funny) revolving around the prophet Elijah and their broken doorbell. • They speak fluent Hebrew, so they turn off the subtitles for Shtisel! Never get hurt feelings if the family you’re matched with declines. It doesn’t mean you have bad breath, or your kids have too many temper tantrums. It usually comes down to the fact that your Cons outweigh your Pros. For example, the Lieberman family (above) politely turned me down when I asked them to Bubble with us. What chutzpa! When I was certain they weren’t looking, I snuck a peek at their own Pro/Cons list and saw that under “Cons” someone had written, “The mother (Stephanie) is a nosy snoop, her brisket is dry, she’s judgy with our daughter Ruby, and she makes crucial decisions using dumb Pro/Con charts. Plus, she’ll probably end up writing about us in her column at L’CHAIM magazine!” STEPHANIE D. LEWIS APPEARS IN THE COMEDY SECTION OF THE HUFFINGTON POST AND WRITES AT ONCEUPONYOURPRIME.COM



ewish National Fund-USA’s (JNF-USA) 2020 National Conference will, for the first time, be held virtually, announced the organization’s National President, Dr. Sol Lizerbram. Slated for October 18 – 23, 2020, JNF-USA’s Virtual National Conference will continue to serve as the organization’s premier planning and celebratory event. This year’s conference will again feature a substantive program with a focus on how JNF-USA is impacting Israel’s present and future, all available from the comfort of the participants’ own homes. The Conference will include an inspiring Opening Event on Sunday evening, two 45 minute informative and lively sessions each day (Monday – Thursday), and an exciting Closing Event on Friday. The full program can be found on “As it does so ably and efficiently, Jewish National Fund-USA is making the best of the current situation and following through on its promises to Israel, its people, and our partners,” said Lizerbram. “This will be a great opportunity to review our tremendous accomplishments and shift our focus on successfully achieving the goals of 2021.” Featured topics and discussions will focus on how JNF-USA is helping Israel shape itself as the food and culinary capital of the world; the tremendous strides JNF-USA is making to support Israel’s role as a leader in global food, energy, and water security; a behind-the-scenes look at the world-wide impact of the training international students receive at the Arava International Center for Agriculture Training; and much more. “The Virtual National Conference will be an opportunity to reflect on the past year, share how we pivoted with the times and continued to deliver on our promises to the land and people of Israel, and lay out the foundation for our vision for the upcoming year,” said Jewish National Fund-USA San Diego President Shari Schenk. “Next year, we hope to see everyone in Israel for JNF-USA’s 2021 National Conference!” Sponsorship opportunities are available for the 2020 Virtual

National Conference at levels from $500 – $25,000. “This is a significant time and a wonderful opportunity to show your support for Israel,” said Jewish National Fund-USA Vice President, Communities and Regions, Kenneth Segel. “Those who sponsor the 2020 Virtual National Conference will get a two-for-one deal, and receive recognition at the 2021 Conference in Israel as well. Our vital work in Israel continues despite the challenging times, and our vision for the future is bigger than ever.” Registration for Jewish National Fund-USA’s 2020 Virtual National Conference is now open at Jewish National Fund-USA is offering a complimentary registration Zoom spot to members of its World Chairman’s Council, King Solomon Society, Negev Society, and those who have registered for the 2021 National Conference in Israel. For more information about the National Conference or how to get involved with Jewish National Fund-USA, contact Monica Edelman, San Diego Director, at or 858.824.9178 x988. WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM






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