Le Quaron: Apricot Cake


Le Quaron:
Serves 4-6 people
– 1/2 cup flour
– 1 packet baking powder
– 3 eggs
– 1/2 sugar
– 1/3 cup oil
– 1 glass of milk
– 8-10 apricots
– 1 packet vanilla sugar
– butter (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Mix the different ingredients in the order above, except for the apricots and vanilla sugar. Pour into a well-greased baking pan. Halve the apricots and put them on the cake mixture. Bake for 20 minutes.
Now sprinkle the cake with the vanilla sugar (and dots of butter) and bake for another 15 minutes.

A very light cake which is probably fine with peaches too.

Weekly Interview: William Kolbrener


Open Minded Torah is a blog I particularly enjoy. I suppose that its attempt “to deal with some of those problems and contradictions” involved in being an observant scholar of Milton is something that particularly appeals to me. Thank you William for adding your atypical voice to the JBlogosphere and this series of interviews.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

I grew up in Roslyn, Long Island, went to Columbia College in New York City where I studied English Literature and where I met my wife Leslie. I then went on to Oxford to get an MA, and back to Columbia where I got my PhD in English Literature. Now I am a professor of English Literature at Bar Ilan University in Israel and live in the Bayit Vegan in Jerusalem.

What is your religious background (if any)?

My background is reform, but always had a very strong Jewish identity, inherited from my grandparents and my parents. I am named after my mother’s grandfather Velvel (Wolf or Zev), and have discovered affinities with him over the past years – he was a Gerer Hasid in a village called Govorovo which was destroyed by the Nazis in 1944.

When and why did you decide to make aliyah?

Our aliyah was not the typical one: we were graduate students, and had recently ‘discovered’ Rabbi Riskin’s synagogue on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, Lincoln Square Synagogue. We decided on the basis of a year’s experience with the Beginner’s Minyan that we wanted some time to study. Fortuitously, I won a Lady Davis Fellowship at the Hebrew University – where I finished my dissertation on the English poet, John Milton. It allowed me to start to find out about my own tradition – and not just the Christian tradition of Milton and his contemporaries. I was one of many Jews in my profession who knew much more about Christianity than Judaism. If we had to plan for aliyah – we never would have made it. It was kind of an accidental aliyah – the Miltonist at Bar Ilan retired just a few years before my arrival, and I got the job In Israel we experience the rewards – and challenges – of living with the Jewish people in the Jewish State.

When and why did you start blogging?

Blogging was a way, for me, of finding a voice. Academic writing can have its uses – but it tends to be overly scholarly, certainly not accessible to a larger audience. During my graduate studies, I had tried to work out certain problems – thinking about how my life as a scholar of Milton related to my new life of Jewish observance. There are certainly not of people in the humanities who decide to become observant. So I wrote a series of academic articles trying to deal with some of those problems and contradictions. Writing the blog was an attempt to bring some of my earlier scholarly writing down to earth – to make it accessible. In the process, I found a new voice, and a way of expressing perceptions of the world that I already had but didn’t know – thus began the book which is coming out with Continuum in 2011, Open Minded Torah. Of my blog, I would say what the poet T.S. Eliot wrote in Four Quartets: ‘So I find words I never thought to speak.’

To what extent do you feel your blogging activity reflects on the global perception of Israel?

I don’t think my blog has much to do with global perceptions of Israel. But lo b’shmayim hee’ – it’s not in Heaven – small things can sometimes have positive effects as well. I’m hoping that my blog – and the book – will give a more complicated sense of what it means to embrace Jewish life and learning.

What post(s) are you most proud of?

My posts are really various, but here are a couple, one about Israel, and one about my son Shmuel – both of which I really like:

Oedipus in a Kippa
Fear and Loathing in Jerusalem: the Olam Ha’Sheker Excuse

Last week’s interview

Weekly Review with Israeli Flag


On My Blog

Photo Memes:
Outside my Kitchen for SOOC
Trying to Reach Lost Teacher for Ruby Tuesday

Weekly Interview: Robin

Sanary-sur-Mer: Land for Refugees

Post for Women

Organ Donation

Elsewhere in the JBlogosphere

Leora interviews Batya about Managing a Shiva House

Where Do I Fit, These Days? – Rachel ltries to understand Modern Orthodoxy; some commenters suggest definitions

A REAL Cause, a post by Shimshonit

Check Mrs.S.’s blog for Fine Arts Friday: Calendar edition

A Mother in Israel suggests Summer Reading, and Other Activities

A Glimpse of Rome at Café Liz

Unique, Unappreciated and Hopeful: Thoughts on Parashat Balak, June 26, 2010, a post by Rabbi Marc D. Angel

Shabbat Shalom!

Organ Donation


When a non-Jewish friend told me she carried a donor card a few years ago, I decided to investigate and see what Judaism had to say on the subject. Nowadays most Orthodox rabbis are in favor of organ donation while some have reservations or are totally against it. In this post, I have deliberately chosen to present arguments that support it.

In his excellent book, The Jewish Way in Deat and Mourning, Rabbi Maurice Lamm starts by discussing organ donation. The reason behind this is that his book follows a chronological order and organ donation is an issue that needs to be dealt with as soon as someone dies.

Rabbi Lamm notes that in the past forty years Jewish Law has adapted to the medical realities of our time. Most transplantations nowadays are successful and Jewish Law has had to reconsider organ donation in the light of recent progress. Yet it seems that a lot of Jews still believe that organ donation is forbidden by Jewish law.

This misconcetion derives from three prohibitions concerning corpses:
Desecrating a cadaver: Issur nivul hamet is a biblical prohibition that forbids the needless mutilation of a cadaver.
Delaying burial of a cadaver: Issur halanat hamet is a biblical prohibition that forbids delaying the burial of a cadaver.
Receiving benefit from a cadaver: Issur hana’at hamet5 is a biblical (some say rabbinic) prohibitionthat forbids deriving benefit from a cadaver.

Yet in Jewish Law, pikuach nefesh, saving a life, is of primary importance and overrides all other Halachic considerations except for murder, illicit sexual relations and idolatry.

This obligation is mainly based on the Torah verse “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” (Vayikra 19:16). The Talmud reinforces this prohibition by turning it into an obligation: “Every individual, in so far as he is able, is obligated to restore the health of a fellow man no less than he is obligated to restore a property” (Sanhedrin 73a). Maimonides also underlines this obligation in Hilkhot Rotzeah u’Shmirat Nefesh: “Anyone who is able to save a life, but fails to do so, violates ‘You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor'”

Another major debate around organ donation concerns the definition of death. “An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or(2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain-stem, is dead.”

The second definition is important since for the purposes of life saving transplantation – oragns need to be recovered before the heart stops beating. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Rabbinical Council of America both accept brain stem death as halakhic death and support organ donation. In addition numerous poskim such as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik accept brain-stem death as death and therefore allow and encourage organ donation.

In A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 2: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin suggests that one who is ready to donate organs should complete and carry a donor card. He believes it is particularly important in the case of those who die a violent death and whose relatives might not be aware of their opinion concerning organ donation and will thus be relieved of having to make the decision in place of the deceased.

Halachic Organ Donor Society, a website. HODS’s aim is to purpose is to disseminate information regarding Halachic issues and Rabbinic opinions on organ donation.
Organ Donation and Halacha, an educational pamphlet by the Halachic Organ Donor Society
Done with Brain Death by Robby Berman, founder and director of the Halakhic Organ Donor Society
The Jewish Way in Deat and Mourning by Rabbi Maurice Lamm
A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 2: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Differing views:
The Deceased the Family and Organ Donation
New Thoughts on the Brain Death Controversy

Special thanks to Larry Lennhoff who provided the last two links.

Post for Women


… their husbands, boyfriends and partners too.

– Don’t think that because you are feeling ok nothing is happening to your body.
– Do whatever tests your national health service or health insurance allows you to do.
– Ask your physican about mammography and do it regularly.

About three weeks ago a physics teacher in my school woke up and one of her breasts was oozing. She was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed with breast cancer. A chemotherapy treatment was scheduled. Sadly she didn’t react well to the first session and had a heart failure. For several hours it was uncertain whether she would live or die. She is better now but the doctors say she needs to strenghten up before they can envisage another treatment.

It turns out that this colleague had been negligent in her visits to specialists and breast screening tests for about two years.

I am writing this in the hope that some readers will keep this in mind and remember to make an appointment, remind a spouse to do it or advise a friend or relative.

Sanary-sur-Mer: Land for Refugees




With the rise of Nazism in the early 1930s, a great number of German and Austrian writers and intellectuals left their countries especially after the Nazi book burning campaign.

A lot of them settled in Sanary-sur- Mer, at one point between 1933 and 1944, a then small French village in the South of France, 30 miles from Marseille. Among them the proportion of Jewish intellectuals was high.

On arriving, many exiles stayed at the Hôtel de la Tour before finding a place to rent. The Café de Lyon is one of the restaurants patronized by foreign exiles in the 1930s.

Trying to Reach Lost Teacher


While hiking on an island near Gothemburg last september we lost (momentarily) one of our colleagues. You can see his wife trying to reach him with her cell phone while our Swedish collegues are doing their best to explain where we are.

On Tuesdays, just post any photo you like (it must be one of your own) that contains the color RED and then link to this blog.


This lovely badge was created by Leora from Here in HP.