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5th Jun, 2007


I Have Moved

You can now read my blog at:


13th May, 2007


Save Darfur!

I was going to write about the French elections but my feelings are too ruffled and mixed up to think straight so far. To put it in a nutshell, my fear is that even if the cake gets bigger it will only make the fat cats get fatter and this is not my idea of what politics should be about.

Yet I hope to be proved wrong and maybe I will.

So I decided to write about Darfur instead. Like most people I had heard about Darfur but the whole problem was a bit vague to me before I came across this interesting article on aish website. I am not too fond of aish, in fact I much prefer the OU website, but this is not the point.

The fact is that I was moved and felt I had to be more involved when I read Ruth Wessinger's piece of writing. When Hitler assassinated our people, more than sixty years ago, the world did not move. When the Shoah was over, we cried 'never again' and we were right to do so. The situation is obviously not the same as it was then. However another people is being massacred and since we live in a global village, we all know about it.

So far we have been far too silent and have done far too little. We can get informed very easily, we can make donations to prevent the people of Darfur from dying of starvation and finally we should pressurize our politicians into taking action on Darfur. It is high time the UN took effective resolutions against the Sudanese regime. Action and sanctions do work, as Jews we have a duty to speak out.

4th May, 2007

Amos Oz

Tale(s) of Love and Darkness

I started reading Amos Oz's novel A Tale of Love and Darkness last night and have read about 50 pages so far. Even though I have not read much of it yet, I have the feeling that I picked a masterpiece when I chose it in the public library a couple of days ago.

This book is about national history (Oz's Zionist parents arrived in Israel before World War II), personal stories, stories written by others, memories and telling stories but above all it is a tale that questions the way you remember things and weave them so that they become your own inner and/or public story.

Shabbat Shalom!
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29th Apr, 2007


Reading spree 2

It's the spring break here which means I have more than two weeks' holidays and therefore more time to read than I usually do. This is great as reading must be my favourite past time. I also love coking and reading cookery books but this is another story.

Since I had used Marge Piercy enlightening book (Pesach for the rest of us) to prepare myself for Pesach, I decided to re-read one of her novels which I had particularly enjoyed a few years ago, The Longings of Women. Having 'aged' since then I found it even more captivating than the first time. She has a way of portraying real people that are so much like the rest of us (to paraphrase Marge herself) that we feel fame has not turned her head.

I then switched on to Batya Gur who had been recommended to me by a fellow blogger. I had in fact never even heard of her and was therefore sorry to learn that she had died of cancer two years ago, aged only 57. She was was an Israeli writer, specializing in detective fiction but also a literature critic and essayist for the newspaper Haaretz.

I read two of her novels within a few days ( The Saturday Morning Murder: A Psychoanalytic Case and Bethlehem Road Murder: A Michael Ohayon Mystery) and am looking forward to reading the other four she wrote.

Her main character is Chief Inspector Michael Ohayon of the Jerusalem police. This appealing character is a 38-year-old Moroccan-born Israeli - at least he is 38 in the first novel of the series - a former Cambridge scholar with an unfinished doctoral paper on guilds during the Middle Ages, a divorced father juggling a hopeless love affair, and a shrewd observer of the human condition.

No flat characters there, the most engaging ones have their flaws and the least agreeable have redeeming features. In addition, I appreciated the fact that her novels are set in Israel, a most-welcomed change for me.

12th Apr, 2007


Support Israel!

Like a few other Jewish bloggers, I was going to write about the end of the eight days of Passover but a number of people have done it far better than I could so after my weekly shopping I thought I would write about something else.

For those of us who are religious but do not live there, helping Israel is a mitzvah (something we are requested to do by law - whether explicitely or implicitely).

There are quite a number of ways we can help: by going there, fighting the media bias whenever Israel is misrepresented in the news, making donations to charities and causes there, etc.

One of my favorites is to buy Israeli products. There are products of the land we remember every day in our prayers; they also seem to be a link between those who live there and those (like me) who still live in exile.

If you live in a small French town with no kosher shops around this might seem quite awesome. Yet if you start paying attention to the labels while shopping, you soon realize that it is not an impossible challenge. You can easily buy Israeli fruit juice, sweet potatoes, fresh herbs, green grapefruit, avocadoes, etc. You can even order Israeli wine on the web via an online supermarket I use for kosher products and that delivers it on your doorstep within 24 hours.

Now funnily enough at this time of year, new potatoes here are not French potatoes but Israeli potatoes. So this morning I bought my pound of new potatoes and tomorrow night an egg and potato salad will feature on the Shabbat menu contributing in its own way to what this weekly day of rest means for us.

25th Mar, 2007


Gearing up for Pesach 2

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had ordered Marge Piercy's book about Pesach. I eventually received it last Tuesday and started reading it straight away. Now I highly recommend it, whether you are a traditional Jew or a less conventional one.

Marge Piercy beautifully combines tradition and more contemporary thoughts, highlighting how the different aspects of Pesach are still relevant for us today. Obviously, this is not something I ever doubted, on the contrary I marvel on the relevance of our tradition (almost) daily. However, Marge Piercy is a writer and she has obviously spent a lot of time investigating Jewish commentaries on Pesach. Thus she manages to convey the wealth contained in each detail of the seder night in a way I could never dream of achieving.

11th Mar, 2007


Gearing up for Pesach

About two years ago, on one of the Jewish Internet lists I belong to, someone reminded us that when Purim comes Pesach is only a month away. For the observant Jew, Pesach means plenty of work which entails a lot of cleaning, a lot of koshering and also a lot of eating to get rid of the Chametz (Chametz or Chometz (חמץ) is the Hebrew term for "leavened bread") in the house.

Since my observance is still fairly recent (it's not even four years since I started to follow Jewish laws seriously), I fear I might still get important things wrong. So each year I purchase new books on the holidays (something I love to do) and reread older ones to refresh my memory and get new insights into the holidays as they come along.

Here's my list for this year:

New books (new for me anyway)
- Pesach Passover - Its Observance, Laws and Significance. Artscroll Mesorah Series. I was given this book last year at the onset of the holiday so I only briefly looked at it then but I now intend to read it through. It is very classical (as most, if not all, Artscroll books) but I always feel one needs to know the basics before moving on to other perspectives.
- Pesach for the Rest of Us: Making the Passover Seder Your Own by Marge Piercy, the American poet, novelist, and social activist. I expect this one will be very different from the other one, with an emphasis on women since Piercy is a feminist but I am looking forward to the challenge and pleasure I am positive this book will provide.

Older book
- The chapter on Pesach in How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household by Blu Greenberg.

One I read last year and the year before last
- The Chief Rabbi's Haggadah for its beautiful essays and commentary and emphasis on ethics by Jonathan Sacks.

1st Mar, 2007

Naomi Ragen

Naomi Ragen's fight

I am a regular reader of the high quality English newspaper The Jewish Chronicle. This morning I got the latest issue and read an article by Naomi Ragen.

Naomi Ragen is a Jewish author. Sha was born and raised in the States before moving to Israel when she got married. She is also a committed Orthodox Jew. Even so she is involved in a court battle to put an end to gender segregation on Israeli buses after being verbally attacked by a religious fanatic when she refused to move to the rear of the bus on an unmarked ordinary bus.

This article she wrote for The Jewish Chronicle is convincing; there is no need in Judaism for segregated buses. Unsegregated buses do not violate the rules of modesty. Moreover they are distressing, humiliating and only contribute to oppressing women. In other words they are against Jewish law, which prohibits inflicting any form of humiliation and pain on a fellow human being.

For obvious copyright reason, I cannot reproduce the article but you can read about Naomi's abuse and fight on her site.

28th Feb, 2007


Winter break

We are lucky to get a long winter break here: two full weeks. So far I seem to have been quite busy: mock exams to mark, group work to mark, an aunt in hospital to visit and the usual things I do when I finally have some time, like tidying, cleaning, sorting papers, etc.

For me holidays also means cooking. I love reading cookery books and whenever I go to the hairdresser's I enjoy flipping through magazines trying to find new and exciting recipes. Obviously since I keep kosher I might have to adapt the recipes but it is not as hard as it may look to the outsider. In fact it is even challenging in a way but easy most of the time.

Here is a recipe I tried out this morning to use up leftover challah.

Slice one onion and mix it with some dill and one finely sliced celery stick.
Slice four thick slices of challah and soak them in water.
While they are soaking, add three beaten eggs, some worcester sauce, 2 tbsps of lemon, a little tabasco, salt and pepper to taste to the first mixture.
Add one tin of tuna and one of salmon (both in brine).
Finally add the squeezed challah, mix everything and put in an oven (200°) for about half an hour.

Enjoy hot or cold!
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22nd Feb, 2007

Blu Greenberg

Re-reading books and Blu Greenberg

I mentioned in a previous post how much I appreciate Rabbi Telushkin's works. I've just started re-reading "A Code of Jewish Ethics"; the main reason is that it is so hard to improve and change one's personality that I believe I need to go back to Rabbi Telushkin's insights to make them part of my outlook on life and integrate them in how I deal with people.

I was going to write about the books I enjoy re-reading at least once a year. However when I thought of the first one I realised it deserved a post of its own. This book is How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household by Blu Greenberg. It deals with religious observance from a Modern Orthodox point of view.

It is certainly one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. I only discovered it three years ago but have read it more than three times. It reads like a novel and is thought-provoking at the same time. Blu Greenberg's approach is extremely sensitive. This is a great book to encourage people to be more observant and at the same time realise that it is possible.

Blu Greenberg is the co-founder and first president of JOFA, The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, and an outspoken woman on the position of women in Judaism.

I also have a special fondness for Blu Greenberg for a very personal reason. While I was reading How to Run a traditional Jewish Household, one of my brothers, aged 37, died in a car crash and I discovered that the Greenbergs (who are my parents' age) had also lost a son J.J who was hit by a car while riding a bicycle, he was also 37.

You can visit the website dedicated to the memory of J.J. Greenberg and created by his family and friends. It is a wonderful tribute to this young man and like another contributor on the site, it has encouraged me to donate organs and be more environmentally- friendly.

19th Feb, 2007


Sharing is therapeutical!

I feel I have a very stressful life at the moment. I rush from one place to another to teach, see previous post, I have a lot of marking to do as our students are doing mock exams to gear up for the summer final exams and home is quite hectic due to my partner's son's relapse into severe depression.

One way for me to keep sane and going is to go online and share other people's thoughts via their blogs and posts.

There a quite a few blogs I enjoy and which I encourage you to browse. You'll find most of them in my blogroll. There are from people in the States, Israel and even Sweden.

As a kid I was always interested in learning about how other children lived. I would borrow books from the library about children in every corner of the world and immerse myself into their lives for a while. I suppose reading other people's blog is an experience which is not unlike my childhood passion.

The difference is that most of the blogs I read regularly are written by Jewish bloggers. I sometimes wonder why but suppose it has to do the limited amount of time I have. As I also read national and international news online, I reckon that when I read blogs I am looking for ideas that are enlightening, thought-provoking and enriching, views which inspire me and to which I can respond quickly. Hence the exclusive quality of what I enjoy perusing daily.

Shavoua tov everybody!

14th Feb, 2007


New dog

I've had very little time to update my blog recently. One of the reasons is that, owing to the health reasons I've mentioned before, our school has been relocated in different parts of the town. So I spend a lot of time rushing around and then a lot of time trying to get some rest!

Another reason is the new dog that we've had for a month and a half. Her name is Poppy. She is a Cavalier King Charles, aged 4 months. Now she needs a lot of attention and presence therefore I try to be downstairs with her whenever I am at home and as my computer is in my study - no laptop yet - it also means less time in front of the screen!

This post gives me an opportunity to mention a great fellow blogger, Treppenwitz, and to suggest a link to a nice and humorous piece he wrote about his own dogCollapse ), Jordan.
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7th Feb, 2007


Parshat Yitro

This week's Parsha is called "Yitro". Yitro was Moses's father-in-law and is often considered as the first convert to Judaism.

Since there is only a small shul with very occasional services in my hometown, I usually get Torah commentaries from the net, print one or two on Friday mornings and read them on Shabbat. It does not make up for not going to shul, of course, but for me it is a way to connect to the Jewish people worldwide on that sacred day and also to share the rich heritage of commentaries on the different parshiot (weekly divisions of the Torah).

This week, I would like to share part of a commentary by Shlomo Riskin that deals with both converts and the concept of "tikkun olam".

Tikkun olam (תיקון עולם) is a Hebrew phrase which translates to "repairing the world." It is important in Judaism and is often used to explain the Jewish concept of social justice.

Shlomo Riskin's commentary:
Since Israel is the land set aside for the Israeli nation-state, the sovereign society which enables us to serve as a “beacon-light to the gentile nations,” the back-drop of the Temple Mount from whence the message of ethical monotheism and a G-d of love, justice and peace will eventually be accepted by the world, the final expression of the success of our mission and the true gift of our free will can only come to fruition in Israel and Jerusalem. And since the task G-d has set for us and we have accepted for ourselves is a formidable one, fraught with danger and demanding enormous discipline and dedication, the best metaphor for our challenge is climbing to the top of a steep and rocky mountain. In the words of Rav Nachman, “The entire world is a very narrow bridge, (from which it is all too easy to fall into a deep abyss). But the essence is, not to be afraid.” And when one succeeds in climbing a mountain like Grizim, Eybal or Everest, the “high” at the top, the sense of accomplishment and success, is a gift of satisfaction which has no equal.

A number of years ago, I truly understood the gift of our freedom of choice to fulfill our mission of “tikkun olam”, the perfection of the world. One of our Yeshivot which combines Torah study and army service was under heavy enemy attack during this current Oslo War. Forty IDF soldiers and two tanks were protecting the Academy; each Thursday I gave our students a shiur (Torah lecture). One particular Thursday, one of the soldiers came in to hear my class; I noticed him immediately, not only because he took copious notes but mainly because he was very tall and very Black. In a discussion with him after class, he told me he came from Nigeria, his name was Dan, and he became Jewish because of “tikkin olam,” his pronunciation of tikkun olam, the perfection of the world. He explained that when a delegation of Israel’s ‘Peace Corps to the Third World’ came to Nigeria to impart new techniques in agriculture and medicine, he was befriended by one of them who happened to be an observant Jew. This “friend” taught him about “tikkun olam,” invited him to visit Israel, and the rest is history.

I invited him to share Friday evening dinner with my family and me. He accepted for the following week – but never got to my home. He was killed in the line of duty by a Palestinian sniper’s bullet. Only the Yeshiva attended his funeral at Mount Herzl cemetery; his family in Nigeria was informed, but never responded….

Three months later, my wife woke me up from a Shabbat afternoon nap and apologetically explained that I had important guests. I found a middle-aged Black couple sitting in my living-room drinking tea, “We don’t understand why our son came to Israel, we don’t understand why our son converted to Judaism, and we don’t understand why our son had to die. Everyone we asked said that you could tell us, that shortly before he was killed he had a long conversation with you…”

We spoke for more than three hours. A few months ago I was invited to the “hanukkat habayit” (house-dedication) of Dan’s parents and put up the mezuzah. This amazing couple went to Ulpan Akiba to learn Hebrew, converted to Judaism, and now have made their home in Netanya. I hammered in the mezuzah; Dan’s mother spoke. She said, “All my friends back home in Nigeria ask why we made such a move to such a dangerous place. There is only one reason: ‘tikkun olam.”

4th Feb, 2007


How to be a mensch

From Wikipedia (again):

In Yiddish (from which the word has migrated into American English), mensch roughly means "a good person." A role model. A "mensch" is a particularly good person, like "a stand-up guy," a person with the qualities one would hope for in a dear friend or trusted colleague. According to author and Yiddish popularist Leo Rosten,
[A] mensch is a someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being "a real mensch" is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous. (Rosten, Leo. 1968. The Joys of Yiddish. New York: Pocket Books. 237)

My last year's New (Jewish) Year resolution was to read "The Book of Jewish Values - A day-by-day guide to ethical living" by rabbi Telushkin. Joseph Telushkin is a Modern Orthodox rabbi whose focus is on ethics. He has published quite a number of books and I quite liked this one in so far that it really was/is a book to live by. I plan to read it again on a daily basis in a year or two.

I enjoyed it so much that I then purchased "A Code of Jewish Ethics", by rabbi Telushkin again. In this books, he develops some of the ideas he tackled in "The Book of Jewish Values", underlining how ethics are part and parcel of Judaism. The more I read it the more it challenged me and made me think of my interactions with the people around me.
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1st Feb, 2007

Reading spree

At the moment I'm going through all the Rochelle Krich novels I own for a school project since I'd like to introduce my students to her works.

Rochelle Krich is a Modern Orthodox mystery writer. She majored in English literature and taught English for 18 years before she actually started to write. She has now written a total of 14 novels and a few short stories.

Rochelle Krich's books fall into three categories:
- those that stand alone and have no sequel
- those that belong to the Jessie Drake series
- and those that belong to the Molly Blume series.

I've only read one in the first category, "Speak no evil", and highly recommend it to those who enjoy mysteries.

I've read all the Jessie Drake novels, except one. Jessie is a police detective in her early thirties who is slowly reconnecting with her Jewish roots and gradually discovering our rich tradition.

I've read and own all the Molly Blume books. Unlike Jessie, Molly is an observant Jew, even if she took a break from religion when she was a student. The reader gets a glimpse of her spiritual life through her first person narrative.

Apparently Rochelle's enthusiastic readers are both Jews and non-Jews. You can read much more about her works and writing on her website:

You can also listen to a very interesting interview of Rochelle on the radio of the Orthodox Union:

Obviously the best thing to do is to read Rochelle's mysteries.
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