OyChicago articles

Tell us a scary (Hebrew school) story

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Hebrew School Horror Stories photo

Hebrew school brings back a lot of memories. Unfortunately, a lot of those memories involved nagging our parents not to go. You could be a rabbi now, and chances are you still dreaded going to Hebrew school. Oy!Chicago is looking for guest writers of all experience levels to contribute to our next special blog series, "Hebrew School Horror Stories," a collection of first-person stories recalling the hardships of growing up Jewish.

You could share a memory of a particularly trying time in your Jewish upbringing, whether actually in Hebrew school, preparing for your bar/bat mitzvah or any time of Jewish learning. Maybe you have been a Jewish teacher and want to share a "nightmare" from that perspective. Whatever your idea, we want to help you get published!

To pitch your idea, write a paragraph describing what your piece would be about and send it to info@oychicago.com by Tuesday, Oct 6. Please keep in mind that due to the holidays, you may not hear back from us until then.

IMPORTANT: Oy!Chicago will not publish anything hurtful toward or overly critical of an individual, synagogue, Jewish school or organization. If you have any questions or concerns about your idea, please don't hesitate to ask us at info@oychicago.com.

The only other requirements are that the post should in some way relate to the theme, and that you are 21 or older. We will review your submission and let you know if we are interested in working with you and running your piece in the series, which will run Oct. 19-23.

Please note that Oy!Chicago is a volunteer-staffed website, so we are unable to pay for published submissions at this time.

Thanks for your interest!

Stef & Steven

Getting back to your roots

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Getting back to your roots photo

Short days and crisp nights herald the holiday season. I am always excited this time of year. The lighter fare of the summer is over and I crave heartier flavors.

I find that many home cooks struggle with writing their holiday menus. Actually, what I hear over and over again is that they have the "mains" covered but struggle with the sides. I get it. You love Bubbe's brisket/chicken etc. -- but I am not your Bubbe and while my brisket recipe is solid, delicious, and amazing, it is not part of your tradition. But, perhaps you can be tempted by my unique side dishes and bonus dessert?

No problem. I got you covered! My action plan starts with multi-purpose root vegetables. This year I am going wild in the kitchen with carrots.

Carrots are versatile, healthy, and not just for salads. I recommend you purchase the best, locally grown carrots you can find. Since we are elevating the common carrot to recipes in uncommon ways, I recommend you seek out the heirloom purple and yellow carrots. They are delicious and gorgeous.

Food fact: Before the 17th century, all carrots were purple. The purple carrots actually have an added bonus of container anthocyanin, a powerful health boosting flavonoid.

New Year holiday bonus: The Yiddish word "meren" means both carrots and to increase. Carrots symbolize our hope that our merits increase. So, eat up!

I have utilized simple ingredients and many of the ingredients are used several times throughout the recipes. That means less schlepping and more enjoying.

For your holiday pleasure, here are some delicious side dishes to go with Bubbe's favorite brisket, chicken, fish, and any holiday recipe. Shanah Tovah U'Metuka!


Chilled Carrot Soup
Serves 4

3 medium carrots
2 ½ cups fresh carrot juice (either home juiced or purchased)
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
½ cup coconut milk
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
Suggested garnishes: carrot ribbons, fresh herbs, candied ginger, diced beets


Carrot Puree with Spiced Pumpkin Seed Brittle

2 cups small diced carrots
2 cups small peeled and diced butternut squash
1 cup peeled and diced Yukon Gold potatoes
3 cups chicken stock or water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

For the brittle

1 teaspoon vegetable oil, plus additional for coating
4 ounces shelled pumpkin seeds (these are the green ones also called "pepitas")
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounces granulated sugar
6 ounces water

1. Place the oil and seeds into a 10-inch sauté pan and set over medium-high heat. Toast the seeds while constantly moving the pan. You will smell their aroma and hear some of them begin to crackle when they are toasted, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a small mixing bowl, add the cayenne, cinnamon, and salt and stir to combine.

2. Place a large heavy gauge saucepan over high heat. Add the sugar and water to the saucepan, and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until it comes to a boil. Stop stirring, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until the sugar is a light amber color, approximately 25 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat and stir in the pumpkin seed mixture. This will greatly reduce the temperature of the sugar, so work quickly. Once evenly mixed, pour the mixture onto the prepared half sheet pan. Using an oiled spatula, spread thin. Cool completely, approximately 30 minutes, and then break into pieces. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


Savory Roasted Carrots with Apple-Date Chutney

I like to use a mix of colorful carrots for this delicious side. I try to purchase small to medium sized carrots for this dish. I like to leave them whole for a WOW factor when presented on a platter and lavishly dolloped with the chutney.

Serves 6

12 medium carrots, tops cut off
¼ cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1. On a parchment lined sheet pan, toss the carrots with the oil, salt, and pepper. Place the carrots in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes until lightly browned and tender.

For the chutney

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 apples (I prefer Honey Crisp), cored, but not peeled and cut into medium dice
½ cup sliced pitted dates
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Garnish: pomegranate arils (seeds)

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until lightly browned. Add the garlic and apples and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the apples begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the dates have softened and plumped and the mixture is holding together.

3. Dollop the chutney on top of the carrots and garnish with pomegranate arils.


Carrot-Coconut Cake

Take a break from the usual honey cake and try this delicious carrot cake... Bubbe would approve!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups grated carrots, about 9 carrots (you can grate the carrots in a food processor fitted with a shredding blade)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (Optional)
1 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
½ cup raisins (I prefer golden)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup canola
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

1. Grease and flour three 9-inch round, 2-inch deep cake pans, flour the insides and tap out the excess.

2. Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.

3. Working in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a whisk, beat the sugar, oil and vanilla together until smooth and the sugar is fairly dissolved (you shouldn't hear it rub against the side of the bowl). Add the eggs one at a time and continue to beat until the batter is smooth.

4. Add the dry ingredients and mix only until they are combined. Don't over mix or the cake will be tough.

5. Add the carrot mixture and fold it in gently.

6. Divide the batter among the baking pans and slide the pans into the oven. Bake the cakes for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cakes are properly baked when a knife inserted into the centers of the cakes comes out clean; the cakes will just start to come away from the edges.

7. Transfer the pans to cooling racks, cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool to room temperature. (The layers can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months; thaw before frosting.)


Creamy Coconut Frosting

This frosting is a departure from the usual cream cheese frosting. It is creamy, light, delicious, and pareve! Just whip the ingredients at high speed until light and fluffy.

3 tablespoons coconut oil, softened at room temperature
1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons coconut yogurt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
teaspoon sea salt

Laura Frankel is a noted kosher chef and owner of Pickled Tongue Catering and Foods. "Her book Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes: 120 Holiday and Everyday Dishes Made Easy" was recently released in paperback. Check out her website at www.cheflauraskosher.com.

8 Questions for Charlie Schwartz: Rabbi, educator-technologist and pseudo-prophet

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8 Questions for Charlie Schwartz photo

God recently spoke to Rabbi Charlie Schwartz. Which is weird, because he doesn't believe in a God that has a voice.

But the experience was so unexpected, and so meaningful, that he shared an ELI Talk about it and the lessons he walked away with this past June in Chicago. You can see that talk now, here:

I was curious about this educator-technologist, so I reached out for an interview. Turns out he had a lot more wit and wisdom to share -- and he is definitely a Jew You Should Know.

When did you know you wanted to become a rabbi?
I actually shadowed my rabbi when I was in 7th grade as part of a school career project so already then the idea of becoming a rabbi was a strong part of my identity. Although I sometimes shy away from the word, being a rabbi does feel like a "calling" for me.

Name one new technology that excites you and why.
I've become enamored with hackable/programmable micro-computers like Arduino and Raspberry Pi. These super small, cheap computers make it relatively easy to tinker around with hardware and create some compelling interactive projects that wed the digital with the physical. This summer at Genesis (one of the programs I run at Brandeis University) my partner in all things tech-related, Russel Neiss, and I will be running a course teaching high school students to use these micro-computers and giving them the project of using this tech to hack a Jewish ritual. 

You spent time serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. What surprised you about that experience?
Serving in a basic infantry unit from 2003-2005 I was constantly surprised by all the small details of the IDF, like the special way to tie your boots, that headset radios are called Madannot because they look like the mics Madonna used in the 80s, that the camouflage head coverings are named after the headdress of the High Priest (mitznefet), and how much chocolate an average 18-year-old Israeli soldier can consume in one sitting.

You're originally from Portland, so … do you watch Portlandia? Is the dream of the '90s really still alive?!
Most items I own have a bird on them and I only eat meat I'm on a first name basis with so it's less that I watch Portlandia and more that I live it. As for the dream of the '90s, I think the secret to keeping the dream alive is a vibrant urban core, low cost of living, and diverse neighborhoods ... not sure how well Portland fits that dream but Chicago on the other hand …

Through Brandeis you teach teens; what have the teens taught you?
Teens are constantly teaching me new things; a Talmudic text I've never seen, innovations in design and technology, creative ways to look at a problem, but in the most general terms teens are continually teaching me what passion looks like.

I hear you have a sousaphone. Do you play, or is there another story there?
I do play! I grew up playing tuba in symphonic bands and orchestras and as a wedding gift my brothers bought my wife and me our sousaphone (making it our marital sousaphone). It has become kind of a totem for our family appearing in many many pictures. I also play in The Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, an activist New Orleans-style street band in Somerville, Mass.

8 Questions for Charlie Schwartz photo 2

ELI Talks

In your ELI talk, you're not addressing education or technology, but a very personal idea about God. What led you to share that story?
I see technology and to a lesser extent education as tools used to achieve goals. While I love talking about technology and its impact on the field of education, at the end of the day, that's not what drives me as a rabbi, an educator or a Jew. Larger ideas about how we might experience God and our responsibility to the local and global community are at the heart of what I do and teach, so that's what I thought I'd talk about for my ELI Talk.

If your image were used in a meme that went viral, what would the caption be?
"The magic is in the curl."

Miriam Brosseau is the Program Director of ELI Talks.

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