Oasis of Peace

This is the nickname that was given to the French village of Dieuleufit in the Drôme during WWII when it served as a haven for fleeing refugees, most of them Jews.

The OSE, a French Jewish humanitarian organization, sent dozens of children to this village where they were hidden by Marguerite Soubeyran, the head mistress of the Beauvallon school, or by local people. As in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, most of these people were Protestants.

We stopped in this village on our way to the South of France yesterday. It is a very picturesque place and as the weather was beautiful we spent some time walking through the village. The Protestant community there is still quite strong. I read their church notice and it was quite interesting to see that they have links with the Jewish community in Valence and that they have Hebrew lessons at different levels for their parishioners.

A number of the villagers were declared Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

Jewish Thinkers



As you may remember if you are a regular reader of this blog, I am a fan of Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and have read most of his books. I have particularly enjoyed the first two volumes of A Code of Jewish Ethics. Two authors that have also inspired me are Blu Greenberg and Eliezer Berkovits.

Yet, in the past few months I have not read anything that could compare to these authors. I am considering getting Torah Umadda by Norman Lamm which has just been reprinted for the 20th anniversary of the first edition (with an afterword by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks) and was wondering whether any of you had read it. More generally I would love to know what Jewish thinkers and writers inspire you the most.

Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm and Torah U’Madda, a post by Harry Maryles

Torah Umadda Is Better Than Ever, a review by Rabbi Gil Student

Smoked Salmon and Salad



This recipe is inspired by one I found in The Scandinavian Cookbook by Trina Hahnemann. The quantities for the dressing seemed a bit excessive so I made it by just adding the ingredient to my taste and checking it before serving. I did not have any salad in the fridge so I used corn salad instead and it turned out great.

mixed green salad leaves and 1 cucumber or corn salad
smoked salmon, 2 slices per person

crème fraîche
preserved horseradish
lime juice
salt and pepper

If using salad, tear the leaves into small pieces. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and then ut it into thin slices. Mix with the salad leaves.

Mix the crème fraîche, sugar and horseradish together stirring gently so that the crème fraîche does not become runny. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.

Toss half the dressing into the salad and put the rest into a small bowl to hand around separately. Arrange the smoked salmon on plates with the dressed salad on the side. Serve with home-baked bread or polar bread.

Judaism in a Nutshell – Part II



We started the new lesson last Friday. First I explained to my students that in History, German and English they would deal with Jews in Medieval Europe, culminating with a visit to Paris where we would visit Le Marais, the Paris district where Jews had settled in the Middle Ages, as well as the Jewish Museum, which is situated in the same district. They seemed to like the idea.

I then handed out the worksheet with the matching exercise and I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that they knew more terms than I would have credited them for.

Everybody was able to match Israel and Jerusalem with their definitions. Bar mitzvah was another term that most of them knew because of the film The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob.

The other best-known words were: ghetto, synagogue, Holocaust, rabbi and Torah. Some of those who knew bar mitzvah understood what bat mitzvah meant. More difficult ones were: diaspora, antisemitism (because of the way I had worded the definition), kippah and Torah scrolls. There were a few left which they will have to identify for homework.

The biggest surprise came when a student matched Shabbat with its definition. I then asked if they knew what day Shabbat was. Quite a number of students did and a boy added that it started the day before. I am still wondering ho whe knew this.

This was one of the most satisfying lessons I had had with this particular class. They were interested and put in more work than they usually do. Besides it was nice to see that some who are not very good at English were able to share a different type of knowledge; something which seemed to be proud of.

The next step will be an extract from The Physician, since it is set in Medieval England at the beginning and at the end.

The King’s Speech



Like a lot of people at the moment, I have seen The King’s Speech. It is a great movie starring outstanding actors, namely Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter.

I had never heard about George VI’s stammer until a few weeks before the film as released but now the Internet is full of stories that relate it as well as archives about his friendship with his speec h herapist Lionel Logue..

Although we get a lot of foreign films in France, most of them are dubbed rather than subtitled. When the film was first shown here, it was only in French and the linguist in me had no desire whatsoever to hear the king of England speak French! However my frustration must have rippled to such an extent that this week now the original version (with subtitles) can be seen once a day.

Colin Firth is perfect for the role as both a monarch in the making and a man who suffers greatly due to his speech impediment. Whenever he speaks we see him struggle and suffer with him.

The scenes where the king confronts his unorthodox and uncompromising therapist, are very entertaining. I can also very well imagine that some would be perfect for use in a language class.

Last, but not least, Helena Bonham Carter is a convincing and supportive wife as well as a credible queen-to-be. Like her husband, she is fully aware of how important it was for him to appear as a strong regal figure when both the country and Europe were in such turmoil.

If you are interested in knowing more about the story behind the story, here are a few links:
The film official website
The real speech
The WSJ interviews Mark Logue, Lionel Logue’s granson

Judaism in a Nutshell



Prior to a chapter on Jews in Medieval Europe (England for me, France and Germany for my history colleague), I tought it would be wise to revise or introduce a few basics about Judaism.

I have settled on a matching exercise: the students will have to match 31 terms and their definitions. I have also added a few pictures. I realize however that it is not easy to select the words and notions I want them to understand and remember.

If you were in my shoes, what terms would you have chosen?

Watch and Share


After reading a comment on Facebook and having seen the link to a yeshiva’s website, the educator in me could not help it: I had to go and watch the video.

I know very little about this high school, other than the information the yeshiva provides online, but a few things (seen on the video and or read in the informational brochure) really impressed me:

– When a bochur joins the yeshiva, he has to build his own desk which he then uses throughout high school.

– The school encourages public speaking right from 9th grade.

– The yeshiva promotes a 100% safe environment where negative comments are not tolerated.

– They have set up a baskbetball clinic where a non-athletic boy is coached by an athletic one.

These are only a few examples; there are a number of other very interesting practical features to encourage learning and foster confidence.

I like the idea of an all-round education where skills in art, sports and crafts are also encouraged. It makes sense that kids who do not excel in more academic subjects need to discover there are other things they are good at.
It is also momentous for the more able to connect with the more paractical side of their personalities.

The French educational system has done away with a lot of common sense activities: for instance cooking is now forbidden and only packaged cakes are allowed, for the sake of food safety; crafts have been abandonned and replaced by “technology” where twelve-year olds have to learn the name of complex plastic materials. At the same time cuts in education means that they are not provided with the tools and the attention they’d need to do well in academic subjects. Not to mention ethical values, a field where the state has given up the idea that you can teach a person to behave well towards another.

Some of the things people like about blog-reading is that they get a glimpse into other systems and practices. So do not hesitate and leave a comment, let us know about what you feel is lacking in education in your own country and what you would like your children – or children in general – to learn.

Butternut Squash and Chard Red Curry



1 middle-size butternut squash, peeled and cubed
a few kale leaves, thinly sliced
1 tbsp canola oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red curry paste
300 ml coconut milk
1 lime (optional)
a generous handful of cashew nuts
salt and pepper to taste

heat the oil in a wok and sauté onion, garlic and ginger. Add then the turmeric and curry paste, mix and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the butternut cubes and salt and mix again before covering with the coconut milk. Simmer until the butternut cubes are tender. Add the kale and lower the heat as soon as they begin to wither.

Add the lime juice (optional), season to taste and throw in the cashew nuts. Serve with jasmin rice.

Another Double Weekly Review


On My Blog

Fishing for Ideas

Sad but Beautiful and Thought-Provoking, a film review

The Latest Gadget

Student Disciplinary Hearing

Fish Loaf
Tofu Burgers

Elsewhere in the JBlogosphere

Talmudic Insight on the Environment, a blog post by Ian Pear – rabbi and founder of Shir Hadash

Rayna Eliana reviews My Story, by Hadassah Rosensaft

Leora has a question: Stranded on Desert Island Question

Thinking to be Thoughtful: Thoughts on Parashat Terumah by Rabbi Marc D.Angel

The Kashrut of Being Extra Kosher, a blog post by Rabbi Alan Yuter

Where are the Women in the Global Future Discourse? Special Report from the World Economic Forum by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz

Shabbat Shalom!