LChaim Magazine December 2020

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Rain Pryor Leading the conversation at OPTIONS 2021





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contents December 2020/January 2021 •

1000 WORDS This Soldier Leaves No Senior Behind.................................................................................................


COVER STORY Seasons of Strength: 2021 Federation Event Features Rain Pryor...........................................

FOOD Pies for Prevention's Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread...........................................................................

CHANUKAH Lighting Up a World of Darkness: Celebrating Chanukah in a Corona Winter............

FEATURES SDJA's Open Door Policy............................................................................................................................. Mizrahi Stories Highlight Newest Campus Campaign by CAMERA................................. Jewish Men’s Choir Releases New Album........................................................................................




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

Prayers & Passages................................

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

PUBLISHERS Diane Benaroya & Laurie Miller





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

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 •

Diane Benaroya ( 4





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random rants

2020: A Year in Review


he most tumultuous year in most of our collective lifetimes is finally coming to an end. The other night, I opened my photos folder on my iPhone and decided to take a stroll down 2020 lane. Starting with January 2020 and ending in December 2020, I began to look through the images that made up each month for me. It was a different way to reminisce about this past year, and if you have the time, I suggest that you try flipping through your own images in the same way. Here are some of my highlights: JANUARY

The first picture I chose brought an immediate smile to my face. It was taken on January 26 at a local trampoline gym. It’s a slow-motion video of my son, Jacob, jumping up and down on the trampoline, and it reminded me of how much he’s grown in 12 months. FEBRUARY

I’m a morning show producer for a local TV show. The February picture is of my talent, Zeji Ozeri and I standing in the middle of Petco Park interviewing supercross motorcycle riders. I remember feeling so small in such an immense park. MARCH

March 28, I brought home a bubble machine, the same bubble machine L’CHAIM Magazine uses at IsraelFest every year. It was a big hit there and a huge hit on our block as 6

the COVID-19 lockdown began for the first time. APRIL

April was rough for me emotionally as most of my office was furloughed, so I took on new responsibilities. One was interviewing for our news station, where I had the honor of speaking with a nurse who reminded me of the true heroes fighting against this virus. MAY

After a two-month quarantine, we decided to escape San Diego lockdown and travel to Orange County to get some fresh sea air. On May 9, we visited San Clemente State beach and for the first time in months I truly felt a little less anxiety. JUNE

Another morning show video popped up for this month, this time with one of my favorite human beings, Sam Zien (or as his 2 million subscribers know him: Sam the Cooking Guy). We visited Graze, his restaurant in Little Italy, and I remembered the amount of belly laughs I had that morning with Sam. JULY

Jacob and I bought Star Wars lightsabers. We dueled in the garage. AUGUST

I turned 40 years old on the fourth. Being on lockdown was a tough way to celebrate, but we did. Safely.



Jacob went swimming at our pool. I was amazed that by September he was swimming completely on his own. Cue another huge smile. OCTOBER

A Halloween video of Jacob dancing in his ninja costume in front of his virtual kindergarten class with a huge lit up pumpkin in the background just filled my heart with joy. NOVEMBER

Two letters and one number – PS5. Yeah, I got the latest PlayStation console. DECEMBER

Jacob’s playing video games on his new PS5 with a smile from ear to ear. This year has been filled with sickness, political vitriol, economic instability, etc. Yet all my pictures and videos didn’t show 2020 in that light. Instead I only see pictures of the one thing that matters most, my family. The photos in my camera roll just show simplicity. A bubble machine here and a lightsaber duel there. Family: the true meaning of 2020. SALOMON MAYA IS A LOCAL EMMY-WINNER, ACTOR AND PLAYWRIGHT. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @SALOMAYA OR EMAIL HIM AT SALOMONM@LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM.





& passages Chanukah: Sharing Light & Miracles


s a child, I was fascinated by the story of the Chanukah miracle. To rededicate the Temple after it had been defiled by the Greeks, the Jews required holy oil to light the Menorah. They found one tiny jar, enough to last just one night. Wondrously, it lasted for eight. On young me, the image of this miracle created a lasting impression. If it happened then, I reasoned, maybe it could happen again. I still believe in miracles. Yet at some point during my years in seminary, an intensive study of the origins and evolution of Chanukah led me to realize that while Judah Maccabee and his family did lead a revolt that led to victory over the Greeks, the story about the miracle of the oil was likely a myth. In fact, no mention of this supposed event even appeared in any book until the Talmud was redacted hundreds of years later! A wonderful aspect of our Jewish holidays is that each one focuses not only on events that occurred in history, but on specific themes. On the High Holy Days, we concentrate on renewal and self-examination. On Passover, we reflect on freedom and perseverance. On Purim, we focus on generosity and kindness as reflected in our giving of food gifts (“mishloach manot”) and gifts to people in 8

need (“matanot l’evyonim”). The eight days of Chanukah provide us with the opportunity to think about the theme of light and its role in our lives, personally and collectively as a society. In a year that has too often been beset by darkness, clinging to just a single sliver of hope is often the light we need to sustain us through difficult times. Perhaps we can open our hearts and act as a “shamash” — the candle that lights the other candles on the Menorah — spreading our own light to others who are suffering and need our help. Chanukah is a time to think about those who fought against oppression and injustice and against all odds emerged victorious. It is a time to reflect on your own past personal battles and recall how you emerged from darkness into light. Perhaps this will give you the strength you need to cope with current and future challenges. And, yes, it’s still about miracles. They exist all around us, but sometimes we need to look carefully to see them. They are in the small kindnesses we do for each other. A phone call to someone who is feeling lonely. A meal delivered to a family that has experienced a loss. Kind words of support to someone struggling to maintain a full-time


job while helping his or her kids with online schoolwork. We have the capacity to be a miracle to others every day of our lives by sharing our inner light of compassion with them. So, it really doesn’t matter whether the oil lasted for one day or eight days or even existed at all. What is truly important is the lessons we learn and revisit each year on Chanukah. Let us focus on sustaining our inner light of hope and kindness and sharing that light with others. RABBI-CANTOR CHERI WEISS IS THE FOUNDER AND SPIRITUAL LEADER OF THE SAN DIEGO OUTREACH SYNAGOGUE, A POST-DENOMINATIONAL CONGREGATION THAT WELCOMES PEOPLE OF ALL AGES AND BACKGROUNDS INTERESTED IN EXPLORING A UNIQUE MIXTURE OF TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY JEWISH MUSIC, PRAYER AND LEARNING. SHE IS ALSO THE FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF THE SAN DIEGO JEWISH COMMUNITY CHOIR, WHICH EXPLORES A WIDE VARIETY OF JEWISH MUSIC INCLUDING LITURGICAL PRAYERS, ISRAELI FAVORITES, MUSICAL THEATER AND OTHER POPULAR SONGS BY JEWISH COMPOSERS AND MUCH MORE.


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Yakov Pizenberg enjoys a snack with a senior citizen. PHOTO: COURTESY. 10







hat started out as a high school project delivering food to senior citizens has grown into an awardwinning network looking out for the elderly. “Between 11th and 12th grade, after a tough fencing session, I saw a television report about all these elderly people and Holocaust survivors and their difficulties and loneliness. It really shocked me and I was really, really sad and depressed for a couple of days,” recounts Yakov Pizenberg. “I told myself that being sad won’t help these elderly people, and that I want to do something to aid them.” Pizenberg got an idea: “A very good friend of mine worked at a bakery and I told him, ‘If you can, bring me some of the pastries that are left over at the end of the day and I’ll pop over to the assisted-living residence near my house and distribute them to the elderly.’” And just like that, a network that aids some 400 senior citizens across the southern city of Ashkelon was born. Today, a 21-year-old soldier, Pizenberg was only 17 at the time, busy dividing his time between school and being Israel’s fencing champion for his age group. The elderly people he called on were surprised and heartened by his visit, so he kept at it. Once or twice a week, he and a growing group of friends ended up visiting around 70 seniors in the first year of their endeavor. “Throughout it, we understood that it wasn’t the pastries that were important to the elderly people, but the conversation with us, the communication. Their happiness to see teenagers who are coming to visit them, that’s what important for the elderly people,” he says. “We listened to and we saw people who in their everyday life are transparent — and we saw them as people.” Pizenberg’s project, Youth for an Equal Society, gained momentum and won several prizes including, most recently, the President’s Prize for Volunteerism.

SPECIAL RELATIONSHIPS The Ashkelon municipality began supporting the work, and in the past few years, it grew to encompass 120 teenage volunteers from high schools across the city. Before the coronavirus crisis erupted, they regularly visited around 400 elderly people every week. “Most of them are lonely elderly people, I mean elderly people who as fate would have it have been left alone in the world,” says Pizenberg. Many of them come from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Pizenberg’s project has 14 teenage counselors who underwent Education Ministry training as well as internal training. Each is responsible for a different aspect of activity — birthday celebrations, being in touch with bakeries across the city or updating the project’s Instagram account. “There are quite a few stories of teenagers who enlisted in the army and carry on calling and visiting the elderly people,” he says. “A very, very special relationship is formed, and it’s amazing to see it.” COVID-19 has, of course, greatly impacted their work. Back in March, the project decided to stop visiting the elderly people and to telephone them instead. “It was clear to us that to visit the elderly people in groups is a huge risk,” says Pizenberg. “In conjunction with an appeal by Ashkelon City Hall, we began helping its welfare department and we took upon ourselves an additional 70 seniors across the city,” he says. “The main difficulty during corona was in reaching all the elderly people who needed immediate help.” Youth for an Equal Society assigned a few seniors to each volunteer. That volunteer calls each senior three times a week. “If the elderly person was in need of something we’d straight away turn to city’s welfare services who would immediately help, and we’d also go out to deliver food and when

possible also medicines,” he explains. LONELINESS KILLS Material needs aside, the volunteers also provided elderly people with much-needed support and attention. On Passover, for example, which was celebrated during lockdown, many elderly people joined their volunteer’s family seder night via video. As someone who’s seen at close hand what the pandemic has done to the elderly, Pizenberg notes its disastrous effects. “Loneliness kills. Elderly people are hurt twice by corona. They’re hurt by the disease itself, which kills mostly elderly people, and they’re equally hurt from the loneliness,” he says. “This loneliness has a devastating effect on elderly people. Quite a few of them haven’t seen their families for half a year already,” he adds. “I’d recommend to just phone your grandfather and grandmother and connect with them, be there for them. Sometimes a fiveminute conversation can be life-changing.” While Pizenberg is having some trouble recruiting new volunteers due to schools remaining shuttered, he has big plans. “I always like to overdo it with dreams,” he jokes. “I have a dream that there’ll be no more lonely elderly people, to reach as many elderly people as possible and to recruit as many teens as possible.” “It’s important for me to convey to teens that if they see something broken they should try and fix it,” he says. “Complaining and saying how terrible things are and how everything is wrong never helps.” “If at home something’s out of place then we fix it,” he concludes. “It’s important to do the same thing for the country.” Note: This article was first published by Israel21C.




SEASONS OF STRENGTH 2021 Federation Event Features Rain Pryor




hen a Black comedian and a Jewish go-go dancer fell in love in the 1960s, they faced a turbulent world, but one outcome was destined – Rain Pryor. The multitalented daughter of legendary comedian Richard Pryor and Shelley Bonus, a professionally trained dancer who performed on Shindig! (a musical variety series that aired in the 1960s), Pryor will headline the Jewish Federation of San Diego County’s OPTIONS event, which according to Stacie Bresler-Reinstein, one of three OPTIONS Committee Co-Chairs, “is the largest outreach and fundraising event, where women find inspiration, meaningful connections and sisterhood.” The February 28, 2021 appearance will be the first virtual appearance for Pryor and will reference her onewoman show, “Fried Chicken and Latkes” that, for nearly 20 years, has entertained audiences of every hue about the journey of growing up Black and Jewish in 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s America. (She and famed producer Norman Lear have been in talks to develop a television version of her show, but those have been put on hold due to the coronavirus.) “The message of the show is the idea that I am Black, and I am Jewish,” Pryor begins. “The world still needs some change, and we are working on that change – I am working to be the change. This year has challenged us to reflect and see some deep-seeded [issues] that I have been exploring for years. Our construct of European, Ashkenazi Judaism is being torn apart in terms of my identity and all sorts of Jews coming to the table.” Co-Chair Judi Gottschalk is proud to bring Pryor’s story to the San Diego community under the theme, ‘Seasons of Strength.’ “OPTIONS gives those of us who are passionate about the work of Federation an opportunity to talk about our obligation to take care of each other, and to celebrate each other in joy. Rain’s experiences are critical to hear because they are integral to our collective Jewish story.” Co-Chairs Carla Modiano agrees. “Federation embodies the power of togetherness, continuity, and the responsibility we have as a local and global community.” Born into a complicated life with a mother and father who were part of the “flower power” and “love culture” generation, and just two years after Loving v. Virginia, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled laws banning interracial marriage violated the Constitution, Pryor’s parents had a grand plan for their daughter when she arrived in 1969. “They made a choice to have me,” she explains, referring to a time when interracial relationships were uncommon. “They said, ‘Her job will be to change the world.’ They came from a


pure place in a world that really was against Vietnam and other injustices.” Pryor coped with her unconventional upbringing by performing with typical teenage gigs like selling hot dogs on the beach, sprinkled in. “My art is what kept me going,” she says. “My home life was chaotic and crazy because [my parents] were chaotic and crazy. They were young. My mother was 21 when I was born. Her life wasn’t done yet. She had a kid that looked like me in a world that wasn’t ready for me.” Regardless of the challenges she had to endure, Pryor is living up to her intended destiny, adding her own self-defined goal which is to show up and be accepted without explanation. “I want to get past our conversations about race and religion,” she says. “I want to dismantle everything. Nobody wants to keep everything as it is.” JEWISH ROOTS SOWED IN BROOKLYN, GROWN IN LA

Richard and Shelley’s only child together, Pryor was primarily raised by her second-generation American Jewish maternal grandparents, Bunny and Herb Bonis, following her parents’ divorce six months after her birth. She also spent a great deal of time with her great-grandparents, Charlotte and Gus, who emigrated from Russia and Austria. The sounds of them speaking Yiddish and Russian still ring in her ears. “I consider them my parents,” Pryor says of Bunny and Herb. “I lived on and off with them while my mom lived across the street. They took me to school, we did homework together, they drove me to dance classes, they fed me...” As a child, Pryor cooked traditional Jewish dishes like kugel and brisket with Bunny, lovingly recalling, “Food was always at the center for us. We did it and we did it together.” She and Herb bonded over music. Proudly boasting that her grandfather “could sing like Sinatra,” he instead, packed up the family’s Brooklyn home when Shelley was a teenager and headed west to California to become Danny Kaye’s manager for the next 35 years. (Fun fact: Kaye, a fellow Brooklynite, was born to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. The youngest of Clara and Jacob Kaminsky’s three sons, he was the only one to be born the United States.) Herb died in 2011 at the age of 92. Bunny, 99 years old, is not-so-patiently waiting for the day when she will join her husband. Pryor eases into character with an authentic New York accent, one she undoubtedly learned from Bunny herself, and with hand gestures to match, she channels her maternal role model: “What are they keeping me here for? Maybe your grandfather has a girlfriend up there?” While her childhood sounds idyllic in some ways, including as a graduate of Beverly Hills High School, Pryor also saw the dark side of life – drugs, prostitutes, and racism. She was called the “N” word, had rocks thrown at her, and found crosses




burned on her lawn. She relates to the extreme prejudice Iranian Jews who fled Iran after the revolution faced when they arrived in Los Angeles in the 1970s to begin anew in an ultra-White community. What she didn’t find growing up were kids who looked like her. “No one like me was represented in my Temple. I didn’t realize there were so many Black Jewish girls until recently. I was like, ‘Where have you been?’” Astonishingly, until the end of high school, when she met another Black Jewish girl while roller skating and the two proclaimed to be sisters for life, the only other Black Jewish girl she knew was her sister, Elizabeth, whose mother also is Jewish. Currently making her home in Baltimore – ironically, a historically segregated city – Pryor says, “Now I go to Temple and there is a big community of Black people.” It is also where she is raising Lotus, her 12-year-old daughter who identifies as Black and Jewish, and, as she points out to her mother, Italian, to honor her father’s Sephardic roots. “She is convinced if she took a genetic test, she would show up as part Italian,” Pryor quips. LEADING AND CHANGING THE BLACK JEWISH CONVERSATION

Recently, Pryor added “Schusterman Fellow” to her already accomplished resume that includes comedian, actress, author, producer, playwright, activist, and dancer. The highly selective 18-month leadership development program, under the auspices of the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Foundation, Schusterman Fellows “are committed to leading the charge for change in the Jewish sector and the broader world, empowering others and tackling complex challenges.” The fellowship, Pryor says, gives her a platform to be part of the conversation about what it means to be Black and Jewish. Extending



beyond the immediate opportunity, she says, “My goal in life is to bring this multicultural voice to Judaism globally, without having to justify the fact that I am Jewish. I shouldn’t have to prove that, based on the color of my skin or if my mother was Jewish. If I identify as Jewish, I am Jewish.” Tapping into her activism, she goes even further, explaining, “I can identify with Black Lives Matter and stand against anti-Semitism. I know how to have those conversations. Black Americans, Jewish Americans, and anti-Semitism – how do we bring each other together? How do we show up and spark a conversation and see ourselves reflected in our history and the stereotypes and the world we are living in now?” One way is through her show. Pryor has performed “Fried Chicken and Latkes” to sold out crowds and for diverse audiences, including Federations, Jewish Community Centers, and the National Black Theatre to name just a few. The show earned her notable accolades, including the NAACP Theatre Award for Best Female Performer Equity and the Invisible Theatre’s Goldie Klein Guest Artist Award, both in 2005. The same year, she was nominated for the NAACP Best Original Playwright Equity. She believes her art, her personal experience, and her continued commitment to show up as who she is, will help to change the world. “Is it scary to talk about racism and social injustice?” she asks. “Yes. These are scary conversations, but I am excited that they are at the forefront of our minds. It’s how we start to shift – by bringing these issues out from underneath the rocks. Hidden in the dark conversations is the light.” Rain Pryor will virtually appear at OPTIONS, the Jewish Federation of San Diego County’s largest women’s event. For more information, visit







Holiday Drive to Save Lives



his recipe is written by Sharon Wieder and Adeena Sussman, the founders of Sharsheret’s Pies for Prevention Thanksgiving Bake Sale, which supports Sharsheret’s Stephanie Sussman and Ann Nadrich Memorial Jewel and Sharsheret’s Ovarian Cancer Program. The sisters launched the Pies For Prevention program in memory of their mother and grandmother whom they lost to ovarian cancer. “We didn’t realize when we started baking this “bread” (which, admittedly, is really cake!) how popular it would become,” the authors said. Moist, sweet-tart and indulgent, it actually improves its flavor and texture for a few days. It also freezes like a dream – freeze, defrost and serve all year.


(makes 3 loaves baked in 8x4-inch disposable loaf pans) Ingredients One 15-oz can solid-pack pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) 4 eggs 1 cup vegetable oil 2 ⁄3 cup water 2 cups white sugar 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking soda 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch loaf pans and reserve. 2. In a large bowl whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. 3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. 4. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended, then gently stir in cranberries. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. 5. Bake for 60-65 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PIES FOR PREVENTION PROGRAM, INCLUDING HOW YOU CAN DONATE TO THE CAUSE, VISIT WWW.SHARSHERET.ORG.

Oatmeal You can give hope to homeless and abused animals this holiday season! Thanks to a generous matching gift from the Resource Partners Foundation, gifts to San Diego Humane Society by Dec. 31 will be doubled — up to $100,000 — to save twice as many lives. Every donation will provide animals like Oatmeal, the puppy pictured here, with twice the safe shelter, lifesaving medical care, behavioral training, rescue from cruelty and neglect, and more. Nearly 50,000 animals are relying on San Diego Humane Society for help in the coming year, and your gift today will make twice the difference. Donate today at!

Campus locations in El Cajon, Escondido, Ramona, San Diego and Oceanside. Give online at: Mail donations to: San Diego Humane Society 5500 Gaines Street San Diego, CA 92110






The World of Darkness

Celebrating Chanukah in a Corona Winter | BY DEBORAH FINEBLUM, JNS.ORG


ust saying the word “Chanukah” brings smiles. As does conjuring up the sight of candles ablaze and hearing the sounds of boisterously off-key renditions of “I Had a Little Dreidel” and “Maoz Tzur.” And the smells? Look no further than those potato latkes fresh from the pan just begging for their applesauce and sour cream. Top that off with the sweetness of sufganiyot, those addictive jam-filled doughnuts. (Dieters beware: In Israel, you’ll also find caramel, banana cream, hazelnut and chocolate-chip ones.) 18

But if it’s a Chanukah party you’re looking for this year (when Jews the world over light the first of eight candles on Thursday night, Dec. 10) with social distancing remaining in effect due to the global coronavirus pandemic, that pile of holiday invites is most likely somewhat slimmer than in years past. Equally sobering is the fact that with many Jewish families up against job losses and business shut-downs this year, in many homes there’s not only a shortage of cash for gift-giving, but an atmosphere of worry and stress. That can put a serious damper on


holiday festivities. But inspired by Judah Maccabee, his sons and their small band of fighters who managed to reclaim the temple in Jerusalem from the Syrian-Greeks more than 2,000 years ago, unearthing a tiny cruse of oil that was destined to burn in the menorah for a miraculous eight days, “as Jews, we’re still super adaptable,” says Neal Hoffman, creator of the best-selling “Mensch on a Bench” and assorted other Jewish-themed stuffed toys — 95 percent of them are sold in the weeks leading up to Chanukah.


“We pivot on a challenge, so this year, we’ll find creative ways to celebrate and connect to the people we love,” he says. PARTYING LIKE IT’S 2020

When you can’t be with family (or friends) in person, Hoffman suggests Zooming your Chanukah parties — viewing each other’s long-distance latkes and taking turns spinning dreidels across the miles. “With its eight nights, Chanukah is much more conducive to a series of Zoom celebrations than Christmas,” says Hoffman, whose wife and two sons can look forward to having Dad home in Cincinnati for the first time in years (he usually does “Mensch on a Bench” appearances during the holiday). DONATIONS

Since Chanukah has over the years absorbed much of the materialism of Christmas, this COVID-19 year is an invitation to siphon some of that materialism and glitz off the holiday, he adds. “Instead, it’s a year for families to create magical Jewish moments with the emphasis on our values and taking pride in our people’s amazing story.” One such value is giving to those in need. Hoffman suggests devoting one of the nights to giving gifts or donations to the less fortunate “who need our help more than any time in recent memory.” Another one of the nights can be devoted to gifts made or purchased (possibly with some underwriting from you) for siblings. Which means asking themselves what would delight their brother or sister and then watching proudly as they open their (however modest) gifts. A third evening, says Hoffman, can be spent at a soup kitchen or, when safety permits, volunteering at the local nursing home. A bonus would be asking the Jewish residents what they remember about Chanukah when they were kids.


Though get-togethers may be severely limited, the requisite holiday pounds can still be gained — and happily shared with friends and family. Opening the door to a delivery of a homemade food gift is a delightful surprise, says Mollie Katzen, who brought the world The Moosewood Cookbook back in 1974, followed by The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (1982) among others. Nominees include a loaf of banana bread wrapped in blue cellophane, lentil soup or your own roasted tomato spread (hint: start collecting jars now). “With edible gifts, you’re dropping love at their house,” says Katzen, who maintains that “one of the better things about the pandemic is that everyone started baking.” By including a recipe card in the package, you’ll also have the beginning of a recipe exchange that can last well beyond the holiday, “a delicious way to be together even when we’re apart.” The good news for far-flung families: Chanukah cookies for instance can survive the mail unspoiled. BOOKS

Always a popular Chanukah gift, Jewish books are more important than ever this year when so many grandparents and other relatives are missing from the table. So says Meredith Lewis, director of content for PJ Library, which, with its community partners, sends out a whopping 680,000 Jewish children’s books each month to families in North America and beyond. “Being far from family, books transmit the message of Chanukah through the power of story,” says Lewis. “Children feel part of something bigger than themselves — this miraculous time in their people’s history.” Her picks of this year’s crop of children’s Chanukah books include The Eight Knights of Chanukah (Holiday House) by Leslie Kimmelman, featuring dragons who keep

interrupting the festivities (ages 3-7), and The Ninth Night of Hanukah by Erica Perl (Sterling) about what happens when a family moves into a new apartment just before Chanukah and can’t find their menorah (ages 3-8). And for the littlest celebrants, Lewis nominates the board book, Happy Chanukah, Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen (Farrar Straus Giroux). And some Chanukah classics never die. Take Isaac Bashevis Singer’s much-beloved The Power of Light: Eight Stories for Chanukah, giving families one story each night to transport them back in Jewish time. Eric Kimmel’s Hershel and the Chanukah Goblins is also still going strong since 1994. “We’re sending Hershel out again — many parents remember him from when they were kids,” says Lewis. Herschel exemplifies Jewish bravery and cleverness, she adds, noting that “the same bravery and cleverness that the tiny Maccabee army used to defeat the huge one that have helped us survive for thousands of years.” And far-away grandparents can still read Hershel and other Chanukah books with their grandchildren thanks to Carabou, an app that integrates children’s books and activities into a video call. Note: The free Caribu subscription plan allows 15 books, games and/or activities per month. MUSIC

As the candles burn and you reprise the tried and true Chanukah songs, starting with the blessings (three on the first night and two the next seven) then “Maoz Tsur” (“Rock of Ages”) and I Have a Little Dreidel, if you want some outside musical help, the Maccabeats are ready (on YouTube). Though the acapella group’s 2020 Chanukah offering was not ready at press time (check their Facebook page or later), their 10 previous ones are on YouTube. “Everyone needs something fun and even a little silly right now; it’s been a pretty WWW.LCHAIMMAGAZINE.COM



serious year,” says founding member Julian Horowitz. Here’s their “fun and pretty silly” version of “I Have Little Dreidel.” LIGHT

So what if the holiday crowd is smaller than usual? Even the nuclear family deserves festive foods to create delicious Chanukah memories. If the delicacies of Chanukahs past could put a strain on the budget, Joan Nathan has a shocking suggestion: “Just skip the big expensive brisket.” But you don’t have to give up the tradition in the process, says Nathan, author of the 1998 classic Jewish Cooking in America, King Solomon’s Table and other titles. “You can make a meat tzimmes instead or schnitzel. Or why not burgers with bread stuffing? As long as it’s something special for the holiday.” This year, that “something special” needs to take creative new forms, says Rabbi Binny Freedman. “The first thing we do is publicize the miracle of our people’s survival by lighting the candles so everyone can see them,” says Freedman, who directs Isralight in Jerusalem’s Old City, where the narrow streets will be ablaze with outdoor hanukiyahs (menorahs). The second thing: Gratitude. “Right now, instead of complaining about the situation, what if we could step out of the darkness and into the light of Chanukah by thinking of everyone and everything we can be grateful for?” Last spring, in the midst of Israel’s first big lockdown, there was a moment when Israelis were asked to step outside and applaud the country’s health-care workers. “So why not pick a group to appreciate every night of the holiday,” says Freedman. “The doctors one night, then the teachers who had to quickly learn to teach on Zoom, the nurses, the ambulance drivers, your neighbors who helped you out.” “And you know we always celebrate the guys who found the little cruse of oil. But you know who we never thank?” he adds with a laugh. “It’s the kohen (‘priest’). He was the guy smart enough to hide it!” 20

Eight Chanukah Gifts Under $20 for Kids CHANUKAH FACE MASK. Even within pandemic guidelines, you can still share the joys of Chanukah. These masks come in small for the youngsters, as well as medium and large and can be ordered through Amazon for $7.99. In English or in Yiddish. TALKING MENSCH ON A BENCH. New this year, this Mensch teaches kids a bissel Yiddish, For example, “Tuchus means backside. Zayde is a grandfather. Get your tuchus over here and hug your Zayde!” $19.99 at Michael’s, on Amazon or direct from the DREIDEL JIGSAW PUZZLE. If the whole family gets involved, you’ll have the 100-piece puzzle completed before the candles burn down. $4.99 from STUFFED MENORAH. The littlest celebrants can place the “candles” in this plush menorah with no risk of singeing little fingers. $17.99 from Amazon. CHANUKAH MAD LIBS have been providing goofy holiday fun and testing creativity since Roger Price and Leonard Stern created it in 2012. Available in stores and on Amazon for around $5. THE BOUNCING MUSICAL CHANUKAH DREIDEL. It sings, it bounces, and it puts a new “spin” on the traditional dreidel game. But you still have to watch which Hebrew letter it lands on. $8.99 on Amazon. STEGOSAURUS DINO MENORAH T-SHIRT. The shirt comes in kid sizes 2-12 and a variety of colors. $17.25 through Amazon. GELT: THE NON-EDIBLE KIND. Old-fashioned? Yes, there was a time that a few coins were considered a wonderful Chanukah gift, but cash (or its modern equivalent, a gift card) never went completely out of style. More fun still is making the time to spend it together.


Meeting basic physical and psychological needs of vulnerable Jewish households

Utilizing a comprehensive, coordinated, collaboration of service providers and caring volunteers

Providing immediate and long term actions towards meeting individual household’s needs








ore families are finding a top Jewish private school education affordable in San Diego thanks to the bold Open Door program, which reduces tuition by at least $10,000 at San Diego Jewish Academy for Kindergarten and 9th grade, and maintains that reduction for those students for four years. Because of the community’s support and the high enrollment numbers following the program inaugural years, SDJA is able to continue Open Door for 2021/2022 in Kindergarten and 9th grade, advancing its vision to removing cost as a barrier for a world-class private school education. As students statewide are struggling with these challenging times, SDJA is pleased to offer personalized attention and large indoor and outdoor spaces enabling socially distanced, on-campus education as well as virtual education for those who choose that option. “Now more than ever, we are so happy to provide this certainty in uncertain times,” says Zvi Weiss, Head of School at SDJA. “Families who may have felt a private school 22

was out of reach can join SDJA and know what the next four years will look like for them with a high-quality education and meaningful community experiences valued at $30,000 per student each year.” “SDJA’s Open Door Program has helped us to give our daughter the gift of a phenomenal SDJA education and experience,” said a parent of a current kindergartener. “Whether she was learning virtually or now back on campus, joining the SDJA family and being part of this community has truly changed her life and ours.” SDJA is a pluralistic K-12 school with an early childhood center. Thanks to Open Door, SDJA now has more than 600 students, including three kindergarten classes and more than 50 9th graders. SDJA continues to grow its offerings through unique initiatives like the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking, which brings cutting edge learning experiences to students, and through the Advanced Institute for Jewish Studies, which offers


Jewish learning opportunities to students and parents alike. SDJA has also continued to grow and innovate through the pandemic, with programs such as Nash@SDJA, which grew our music program through the months our students were learning from home. “The success of Open Door speaks to the strength and commitment of our families and the generosity and support of our community and donors,” adds Heidi Gantwerk, Board Chair of SDJA. “Making a Jewish day school education affordable for more families is a commitment we all share and support — and we all benefit as our community continues to grow and thrive even during these challenging times.” SDJA currently has waitlists in many classes, in addition to welcoming over 135 new students and 80 new families this year. The school strongly encourages any interested families to apply for the next academic year by February 1. LEARN MORE AT SDJA.COM.






n its new campaign, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) celebrates Mizrahi Jews on college campuses around the world, encouraging students to host and plan a variety of events and speakers, and write articles for their newspapers that demonstrate the diversity of the Jewish world. CAMERA fellows are also encouraged to share their families’ stories, which frequently include courageous escapes from violence and persecution, “to counter common canards that are fueled by ignorance, such as the ridiculous claim that some Israel advocates’ efforts to highlight the plight of Mizrahi Jewry denote “Mizrahiwashing.” Michal Amar, 25, a CAMERA fellow at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem currently studying Middle Eastern studies and communication, comes from a traditional Moroccan and Iraqi home. Originally from Yavneh, Israel, she has been learning more about her heritage through her grandmother’s stories of living in Casablanca and of the good relations with their Muslim neighbors that existed prior to 1948. She is also concentrating on how the Mizrahi community might be the bridge to make peace with Israel’s neighbors due to their connection and common grounds with Arabs and Muslim countries. Part of her grandfather’s family, she explained, prayed to come back to Jerusalem, and for the renewal of the Jewish temple and homeland, sending their son to take part in a Zionist camp at age 12, where he helped to build a kibbutz in pre-state Israel and later fought in Israel’s war of independence. He then returned to Morocco to marry Amar’s grandmother and helped the family make aliyah to Israel in 1956. “They all escaped the police so they wouldn’t get caught, left their houses as is, and went on a ship that sailed for a week and nearly sank 24


in the Mediterranean Sea,” Amar said. “It was also a huge risk because the ship that left Gibraltar right before their ship [called Egoz] sank and many people died.” On her Iraqi side, related Amar, her family spoke of the “Farhud” pogroms on the eve of the Shavuot holiday in 1941, which led them to flee Iraq for Israel. Amar hopes to bring these stories, which she maintained are more well-known in Israeli society but less highlighted in an academic setting, compared to the stories of Palestinian Arabs. “My entire life I was taught to be an Israeli” — and she is glad for it, she said — “but I never really engaged with my Mizrahi culture, which seems very relevant to nowadays atmosphere in the Middle East. Now, the stories of my ancestors give me an opportunity to get to know my roots and explore my identity as a Jewish, Mizrahi and Israeli woman,” she continued. In an article that she is writing as a part of her fellowship with CAMERA, Amar plans to highlight “the deep connection of the Mizrahi Jewish Community to Zionism, their participation in the establishment of Israel and why they still are Zionist despite the racism they experienced from the Ashkenazi hegemony in the early stages of Israel.” “I think this is very important for Israelis to acknowledge the huge contribution of the Mizrahi Jewish community to the establishment of Israel because Zionism is mostly related with the Ashkenazi Jewish community up until this day,” she said. “In addition, I think the story of Mizrahi Jews needs to be spoken in the world because there is a huge focus on Palestinian refugees who fled from Israel, while there is an absolute ignorance from the Mizrachi

Jewish refugees from Muslim countries,” she explained. “Moreover, anti-Israel activists seem to take the racism towards Mizrahi Jews in the early stages of Israel, and magically apply to the entire Zionist movement. ... To me, it is all about hypocrisy and twisting history in order to give the Palestinians the right for self-determination.” Eden Abraham Bouskila, 19, is a CAMERA Fellow at UC Davis in California, where he studies economics. His parents are originally from Israel, with ancestry in Egypt and Morocco. He hopes to educate students at UC Davis that “Jews are not a monolith,” showing that there are many Jews of Middle Eastern heritage, “which emphasizes the idea of the Jewish Diaspora today by showing how Jews have scattered all over the globe.” “I constantly hear untrue statements about the Jewish people in America,” he said. “Many people here simply think Jewish people are people who subscribe to a belief system, when this is far from the truth. Not many people actually realize that Judaism is an ethnoreligion, and our blood can generally be traced back to our roots.” In reality, Bouskila continued, “Jews come in many shapes and colors, whether they look European, Middle Eastern, black, etc. This Mizrahi campaign can help people understand this concept of the diversity of Jews.” HISTORY, CULTURE AND REMARKABLE DIVERSITY

To raise awareness of the diverse Mizrahi community and culture, other events include screenings of “The Forgotten Refugees,” with a speaker discussion and panels featuring Mizrahi students that give a platform for them to share their stories. CAMERA also hosted, in partnership with StandWithUs, Hillel at Baruch College, the Israeli-American Council and Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), a Nov. 16 panel with Jews of Iraqi, Yemenite, Syrian, Turkish and Dagestani heritage. Speakers include pro-Israel, Mizrahi and LGBTQ activist Hen Mazzig; Menashe Khamiov, who speaks about the history and culture of Bukharian Jews; Gibraltar-raised Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum; and founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch, Itamar Marcus, whose presentations focus on how the Palestinian media misrepresents Mizrahi Jews, falsely claiming that Jews have no connection to the Middle East. “In reality, all Jews are indigenous to the land of Israel, and the Mizrahi community has been an integral part of the Middle East for millennia,” Hali Spiegel, CAMERA’s director of campus programming and strategic relationships, said. “We want to highlight their histories and their stories. We want to share stories of the mass expulsions of Jews from Arab and Muslim lands that are often forgotten or unknown.” “Unfortunately, the challenges that Mizrahi Jews faced after their expulsion from their home countries have been ignored too often, especially on college campuses,” added Aviva Rosenschein, international director for CAMERA on Campus. “One of our goals is to educate university students on complex and pertinent issues that are either not normally addressed or may have been represented inaccurately.” Rosenschein was particularly inspired by Israel’s Mizrahi Remembrance Month, which is dedicated to commemorating the departure and expulsion of 850,000 Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa between 1948 and 1980. “For years,” she continued, “we have encouraged students to raise awareness of and discuss the history, culture and remarkable diversity of Mizrahi communities.”

Jewish Men's Choir Releases 'Legacy' What does a choir do during the pandemic? Well, if you’re the San Diego Jewish Men’s Choir you release a new album! The award-winning group’s new labor of love, Legacy, includes 10 historically relevant songs in the Yiddish, Ladino and Hebrew languages, and will be released on December 4, 2020 just in time for Chanukah! This is the group’s third album and, although they recorded the uplifting vocals over the past 5 years, many of the instrumental arrangements were completed during the pandemic. Director Ruth Weber, admitted that it is very hard to keep the choir motivated while holding rehearsals online. “There is a time lag which makes it very difficult for choirs to hear and rehearse with each other online,” she said. “Our group did manage to record two very nice Virtual Choir videos using our cell phones, and they have been very well received. After we finished those we thought it would be the best use of our energy and funds to release an album that audiences could enjoy during these times, and which would help us fulfill our mission of preserving and promoting Jewish music. We were fortunate that there were so many wonderful musicians who were able to record their tracks remotely and send them to us online for this album. It is one of the many wonders of technology which I have really come to appreciate!” Jewish music enthusiasts interested in attending the choir’s Online Release Party should contact the choir through their website at to obtain a link to attend the free zoom event on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020 at 5 p.m. (PT). The album can be preordered on now.




jewish Burying My Mom


he story of my mom’s burial actually started around a year before it took place, during my mom’s final visit to Israel to spend Sukkot with my family. While on a Chol HaMoed outing to a playground with my parents and younger kids, I noticed a large Charedi family, grandparents from abroad enjoying a nachasfilled visit with their married children and many grandchildren. At one point, one of the married children called out, “Hi, Chana Jenny!” It turned out to be Brachie Miller, with whom I share a close friend in common. Which led to her parents, Rabbi and Mrs. Rosenbaum from Baltimore, meeting my parents, Matthew and Gladys Freedman, from Baltimore. And they had a conversation about living in Baltimore and Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, where Rabbi Rosenbaum teaches, and which my parents had never seen, but were curious to hear more about. A year and a bit later, my mom passed away. And I received an Email from Brachie. It turned out that Brachie’s mom, Mrs. Rosenbaum, was a volunteer with the Chevra Kadisha. And when she heard my mom had passed away, she said she would be happy to participate in her tahara, the washing and purification process preceding burial. So that’s how a meeting at a playground in Israel ended up getting mom a Chevra Kadisha tahara in Baltimore. When I got to the funeral home at 9:30 that Sunday morning, there were a bunch of Orthodox women there. I was wondering how these women knew my mom. But then one of them approached me and introduced herself as Brachie’s mom. With gentleness and 26


sensitivity, she tore kriya with me. She and 6 other volunteers had arrived at the funeral home at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday to perform the tahara for a woman all but one of them had never met. And that was just the first step of an outpouring of chesed from the women (and especially the JewishMOMs) of Baltimore which left me feeling so cared for, so supported, so embraced throughout the shiva, even though I was thousands of miles from home. At the cemetery, my mother’s beloved long-time rabbi, Rabbi Daniel Burg of Beth Am, invited each of us there to shovel dirt into the grave to bury mom. Rabbi Burg framed the burial very powerfully for me, reminding me that burying the dead is known as “Chesed Shel Emet”: True Kindness, because this is a kindness its recipient can never ever repay. For all of our lives, Rabbi Burg pointed out, mom had performed countless acts of kindness for each of us. And this was our chance to finally perform this ultimate act of kindness for her, a kindness performed completely for its own sake, knowing mom would never be able to pay us back. So as I placed 3 shovels-full of dirt into her grave, I whispered silently, “Mom, thank you for everything you gave me, since the day I was born. You gave me life. And you always supported me, no matter what. I can never repay everything you did for me. And now I am doing this final kindness for you.” Experiencing these traditions 1st hand, rather than seeing another person going through them, enabled me to see the sensitivity, the humaneness, the beauty even, of a Jewish burial. And to realize that this is what I want for myself also, when the time comes.


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& mishagoss 2020 in Review by Way of a Strange Monthly Diary January – Dear Diary: Happy 2020! My optometrist calls it, “The Year of Clear Vision!” because of 20/20 perfect eyesight. Nothing else new, looks like it may be a dull, uneventful year. February – Dear Diary: The WHO just renamed The Coronavirus as COVID-19. I’m waiting for them to change their hit song Baba O’Riley to Teenage Wasteland, since that’s what everyone thinks the title is anyhow. (Google it!) March – Dear Diary: I don’t think they mean ‘The Who,’ as in the 60’s rock group. Because suddenly there’s lots of peer pressure to buy toilet paper. I’m just going along with the crowd and stocking up. I mentioned this latest fad to my mother, and she started her usual, “So if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do that as well?” routine. Also I turned 50 the same day the U.S. declared a national emergency. Even though nobody called or sent a card, I consoled myself thinking the entire country is singing, “Happy Birthday” to me each time they wash their hands the proper length of time. April – Dear Diary: Today I came up with the clever observation that “Passover is cancelled this year due to an 11th plague.” However, someone plagiarized it, turning the whole thing into a viral meme, earning them a small 28

fortune. Now there’s a new phrase circulating which states, “We Must Flatten the Curve!” This time I’m not taking any chances. I’m gonna copyright that and sell it to Spanx or another company manufacturing women’s undergarments. Look for it soon on packages of control-top girdles and minimizer bras! May—Dear Diary: The news says we should all use face masks. I’m thinking a dermatologist must’ve somehow gotten involved and decided we need nicer complexions. Oh boy, now everyone will hoard the ones for oily skin and probably the kind with avocado that helps tighten pores and smooth wrinkles in women my age. Sheesh! June – Dear Diary: How is it that every single storefront or place of business emails me detailed reports on a daily basis alerting me to the elaborate lengths they’re going to with regards to hygiene and the fastidious steps their employees are taking to kill germs – yet I can’t get a single verbal confirmation from any of my six kids that they’ve rinsed their hands before dinner? July – Dear Diary: It seems everywhere on social media I’m shamed for unproductiveness. Rubbing my nose in how creative everyone else is during lockdown. I can’t go a single day without getting reminded, “Shakespeare


wrote King Lear during a quarantine.” Big deal! If he was really such an overachiever, he would’ve also penned Antony and Cleopandemic and Corona-eo and Juliet. Plus I’m sick of Netflix’s “Are you STILL watching?” pop-up notifications after hours of bingeing. But now my fridge asks, “Nu? You’re STILL eating?!” August – Dear Diary: Famous scientists and pharmaceutical labs work feverishly to find a vaccination. Then there’s my Grandma Maxine, who insists her chicken soup is the cure! But instead of “Jewish Penicillin” in a bowl, she wants her broth administered by needle syringe so she can call it “The Maxine Vaccine.” Grandma always had such a big ego. Sept-December – Dear Diary: All these months the country is completely divided so I decided to unite people with my funny version of Abbot and Costello. I’ll say, “WHO declared a pandemic?” and when they answer, “That’s right.” I’ll respond, “No, I’m asking you … Who declared a pandemic??” After we go round and round with this shtick, at some point I’ll shout, “I Don’t Know is on third base!” Okay, okay … so maybe it still needs a little more work. Good riddance 2020! STEPHANIE D. LEWIS IS ON HUFFINGTON POST AND MEDIUM.COM @MISSMENOPAUSE

Mark S. Stern, MD

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