The Good and the Moving


This week my pupils are sending me audio files about their favourite films. Here is what they like; the films are listed in alphabetical order:

Black Swan
Dear John
Desert Flower
The Expandable II
Forrest Gump (two pupils)
The Hangover
The Lord of the Rings
The Mask
Pearl Harbor
P.S. I Love You
Slumdog Millionaire
Star Wars: A New Hope
Skyfall (two pupils)
The Town
Twilight (part one)
Twilight (part two)
The Vow (two pupils)

I am sharing two assignments to give you an idea of what was expected of them. The first is good and cleverly done (don’t think all my pupils have such a mastery of the English language). The second one was recorded by a very quiet but keen black girl whose family comes from Senegal and reflects her interest in the issues African girls still have to face today.

Forrest Gump

Desert Flower

Vegetarian Chili


Serves about 6 people

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
4 small/med garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and grated or sliced
1-2 tbsps chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 14-ounce can cooked chickpeas
1 cup green lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/3 cup pearled barley
1/3 cup bulgur wheat
1 tsp thyme (or oregano)
1 tsp fine grain sea salt (or to taste)

Possible toppings (optional): a bit of feta or grated cheese, a drizzle of equal parts chopped fresh oregano and olive oil

In a large pot over medium heat, sauté onion, and shallot in olive oil. When the onions soften up and get a bit translucent, add the garlic, ginger, chili powder and cumin. Stir well and cook until everything gets quite fragrant.

Stir in the serrano pepper, tomatoes, thyme/oregano and 4 cups of the broth. Now add the chickpeas, lentils, barley and bulgur – stirring between each addition. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer.

Cook for about 35- 45 minutes or until the lentils and grains are cooked through. You might need to add the rest of the water, a little at a time, if the chili thickens up too much. Before serving, season to taste.

Freezes well.

Based on Pierce Street Vegetarian Chili Recipe

Another vegetarian chili on this blog: Bulgur Chili

International Holocaust Remembrance Day


In 2005, the United Nations designated January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Here is a selection of links to recent articles that are Holocaust-related. I might update this post during the day as more articles get published.

Articles on the Jewish Chronicles Online:

England stars’ DVD assists goals for Shoah studies

Politicians challenge extremism in the European Parliament

Other Web Articles:

A book review on The FT: Witness to genocide

Chiune Sugihara, Japan Diplomat Who Saved 6,000 Jews During Holocaust, Remembered, a Huffington Post article

App review on The Guardian: New photos, videos and app shed fresh light on Anne Frank’s family life

A Lens On Prewar Europe, The Jewish Week reviews a major exhibit at the ICP (International Center of Photography)

Holocaust Posts on this blog

Weekly Review with Music Kiosk in the Snow


On My Blog

Challah with Fresh Yeast

Bilbo – the English Hobbit

The Road not Taken

Elsewhere in the JBlogosphere

One Drawing Per Week, Leora reviews a book and illustrates her post

HBI Conference Explores Gender, Love, Family by Elana Sztokman on the Forward Sisterhood Blog

Partnership Minyanim: A Defense and Encomium, a post by Rabbi Zev Farber at Morethodoxy

Visit rabbi Matt Plen’s new blog – Matt Plen is Chief Executive of Masorti Judaism

B’shalach – the double-edged sword of freedom – Zivah writes about this week’s parashah

Web articles

Francesca Segal: the Costa Prize-winnning novelist following in her father’s footsteps, a JC article

The Torah of Food, a Tablet article by Joan Nathan

Tu B’Shvat is Jewish New Year For The Trees, a Green Prophet article by Mimi Kresh

Shabbat Shalom!

The Road not Taken


This week’s parashah begins with a description of God’s travel itinerary with regard to the journey of the children of Israel in the wilderness.

And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said: ‘Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt.’ But God led the people about, by the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea. (Shemot 13:17-18)

It seems that God leads them through a crooked route (akuma) lest they have subversive thoughts about going back to Egypt. It is clear in this week’s section that, at this point, the Hebrews were still ambivalent about the walk to freedom. They were not utterly convinced that this journey was worth it. In fact they were quite ready to believe that they had been seduced from one place of relative security to one of sure death. The memory of the hardships in Egypt was beginning to fade and their past seemed brighter than it had actually been while the uncertain future terrified them.

And if God could not prevent his people from having such thoughts, he could make it harder for them to act on them. Thus their journey reads like a graph curve (the modern meaning of the word akuma) which records their wanderings but also their ups and downs

In fact, to quote Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg, God even provided them with ‘an academic space’, in which, precisely, to do their thinking. Paradoxically this crooked route in the wilderness gave them the freedom to think and ask their own questions. What looked like a strenuous itinerary proved in fact to be the more desirable option.

Rabbi Sacks reminds us that ‘there is no such thing as a sudden, drastic, revolutionary change in the world we inhabit. Trees take time to grow. The seasons shade imperceptibly into one another. Day fades into night. Processes take time, and there are no shortcuts.’

When frustration appears and when we feel that things are too slow, it is perhaps worth remembering that questions and doubts are the desirable prerequisite steps before a change is possible.

Bilbo – the English Hobbit


For the second year, French pupils who follow the most literary of the three streams of the French General Baccalauréat are now specifically taught literature in a foreign language, often English.

The idea is to instill knowledge and love of literature in English rather than specialise in technical terms, even though my pupils seemed to have fun with the rhyming scheme of the Petrarchan sonnet last week.

In December we did some work on The Hobbit, focusing on the poster above for Peter Jackson’s film, the 1938 New York Times book review and the first pages of the novel.

During the holiday, the pupils were asked to write several paragraphs to answer the following questions:
– Is Bilbo adventurous?
– To what extent can we say that Bilbo is typically English?

I found their answers to the latter both interesting and amusing so I thought I’d share a selection from different essays with you. Their ideas of what English people are supposed to be like are quite sweet.

His home:

We can say that Bilbo is typically English because he has got a very comfortable, cosy and warm house.

His house is a definition of what English houses look like.

His clothes:

Bilbo also likes wearing bright colours.

He also wears bright colours which match the image of the English who wear colourful and original clothes.

His habits:

Bilbo smokes a pipe like English characters such as Sherlock Holmes.

We can say that Bilbo is typically English because he smokes a pipe. Indeed the most popular character who smoked a pipe was Sherlock Holmes, an English fictional character.

He is very fond of flowers and gardens like British people.


What is typically English is the fact that he has tea during the afternoon with visitors.

Bilbo invites Gandalf to come to tea which is a very typical thing in Britain. Tea time is at five in the afternoon and to invite someone to tea in Britain is typical.

His manners:

Bilbo Baggins looks typically English because of his way of talking. In fact he uses the words ‘dear sir’ many times to talk to Gandalf, which is a British, especially English, expression which shows a mark of respect.

Bilbo is also English because he doesn’t speak much.

Bilbo, even if he doesn’t want any adventures, is and remains polite. He uses very good and clear language, like a gentleman; something which is typically English.

One of the important things is that Bilbo is very polite. He says: ‘Good morning’ many times to Gandalf. In France people are known to be a little rude whereas English people are always polite, even to strangers.

Moreover some stereotypes say that English people are reserved concerning conversations. For instance, they rarely ask questions to the person they are talking with. That’s what we see with Bilbo and Gandalf. Indeed, the hobbit didn’t ask for Gandalf’s name; he only said ‘Good morning’.

Bilbo is a discreet character who is well educated, this is the idea we have of English people.

Challah with Fresh Yeast


I have several recipes for challah: Claudia Roden’s, Quick Challah and Ima’s Challah. But recently I have switched to a recipe with fresh yeast, less sugar and a mixture of flours. The taste is lovely so I thought I’d share it with you.

1 kg plain flour (I often use half white and half spelt
1 block of fresh yeast (42g)
20 cl sunflower oil
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

1 egg yolk
poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

Dissolve the yeast in 10cl of warm water. Whisk well and set aside.

In a large bowl, put the flour, sugar and salt. Add the yeast, the oil and 25cl of warm water. Mix well and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to rise for 90 minutes.

Once the dough has doubled in size, knead again very lightly and let the dough rise for another 1 hour.

Divide then the dough into four pieces to make 4 loaves and place on prepared baking sheet. Brush gently with the beaten egg yolk, making sure you brush the whole loaf so as not to get a contrast in colours. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds if using.

Bake in a preheated 400° F (200°C) oven for 25 minutes or until the loaves are beautifully golden-brown.

I often half the quantity and get two middle-sized loaves.

Weekly Review with Snow-Dusted Birdfeeder


On My Blog

Butternut Squash, Carrot and Ginger Soup

Old Book Revisited

Elsewhere in the JBlogosphere

Lorri’s Review: Until the Dawn’s Light

Film: Sleeping Beauty and Poisonous Apple – Leora’s daughter and her friend have made a film

Ester hosts the Shvat Edition of KCC (the Kosher Cooking Carnival)

Bo – the ‘other’ beginning – Zivah writes about this week’s parashah

Web articles

Beetroot Soup with Horseradish Yogurt – a vegetarian version at Green Kitchen Stories

A Lesson in Juicing, for the lucky owners of a juice extractor

A fine piece on Kveller: Let Your Kids Know They’re Not the Center of the Universe

An epic survivor’s tale – a JC article about the film ‘Prisoner Number A26188: Henia Bryer’

For Women, Things Really Haven’t Changed — Even in Medical School, a Forbes article by Brooke Sachs

Be proud to host a modest celebration, Rabby Shmuley Yanklowitz’s op-ed in the Kansas City Star

My Jewish Identity – a Jewish Chronicle and JW3 project

Shabbat Shalom!

Old Book Revisited


Don’t we all have books we like to revisit once in a while? Books that have inspired us, that we have enjoyed and read several times. They are sitting on our bookshelves ready to be picked up and enjoyed again. For me such book is How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household by Blu Greenberg. I picked it up last night for reference and realised that I had never written about it on this blog.

How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household deals with religious observance from a Modern Orthodox point of view. Blu Greenberg explores the different mitzvot and how she and her family observe them. It falls into three parts. The first one is devoted to regular observance such as Shabbat, Kashrut and prayers. The second one examines the life cycle while the last one covers the Jewish year.

Don’t be put off by the title; How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household is certainly one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. I discovered it by chance via the Internet and have read it several times. It reads like a novel and is thought-provoking at the same time. Blu Greenberg’s approach is extremely sensitive and has none of the holier-than-thou tone of more recent right-wing Orthodox writings. This is a great book which encourages people to be more observant by showing that it is possible to incorporate meaningful practice into one’s life.

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.

How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household was first published in 1985 but has not aged one bit. Obviously it has become a treasured and authoritative reference as there now exists a Kindle version of this book.

Butternut Squash, Carrot and Ginger Soup


1 small butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 carrots – peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed or to taste
1 (2 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Cut butternut squash in half; remove seeds and place cut side down on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until softened. Allow to cool, then scoop the squash flesh out of the skin using a large spoon and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and garlic, and cook, stirring until onion is translucent. Pour in the water, and add squash, carrots and ginger. Bring to a boil, and cook for at least 20 minutes, or until carrots and ginger are tender.

Puree the mixture using an immersion blender. Season with salt, pepper and cinnamon.

Ladle into serving bowls, and pour a thin swirl of cream over the top as a garnish if desired.