Jerusalem – Israel breathed a collective sigh of relief this week.
In the days before Yom Kippur on Saturday and the start of Sukkot on Wednesday night, between concern over a possible with Syria and the announcement of a tentative deal brokered by the United States and Russia, Israelis turned from thoughts of missile attacks to attention to the last of this month's series of Jewish holidays.
Crunchy, creamy, gooey goat cheese and zucchini blintzes.
Special To The Jewish Week
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The best thing I ever ate was a crepe off of a food truck in Paris. Perhaps it was because I consumed it at the fourth meal hour of 3:00 a.m., but I still dream of the soft yet slightly crunchy crepe oozing lots of gooey cheeses and fresh spinach. Once I started cooking Jewish cuisine for a living, I realized my beloved crepe was really just the French equivalent of Bubbe’s classic cheese blintzes.
April is a month crowded with Jewish observances and remembrances this year, both ancient and modern.
Fresh off of Passover and its inspiring message of freedom and spiritual liberation we face the cruel reality of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed on Sunday, April 7, recalling a time not only when 20th-century European Jews were denied their freedom but systematically put to death simply because they were Jewish. We are painfully aware that each year there are fewer survivors within our midst to give personal testimony to the tragedy. All the more reason why we should take part in religious and communal observances that mark the day, often featuring survivors telling their own stories.
Six million is an almost impossible number to think of in terms of victims of the Nazi regime. But one person’s authentic recollections can be a powerful reminder of the human suffering that took place and the physical and psychological scars that remain.
Recent events in Europe provide a troubling echo of the fact that anti-Semitism is still with us. Attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions, whether they are explained as anti-Israel in nature or motivated by hatred of Jews, are deeply worrying. They need to be addressed not only through statements by government officials but by civic and religious leaders in the local communities as well as through vigilance against future destructive acts and educational programs in the schools.
In Israel, Jews throughout the country will mark April 15 as Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day for the thousands killed in the country’s wars these last six decades. Those who have been in Israel on that day understand that it is a far more somber, emotional observance than Memorial Day in the U.S. When the blast signaling a moment of silence across the country sounds, all movement stops, and one realizes that hardly a family in the Jewish state has not suffered a loss in Israel’s struggle for independence and survival.
In typical Israeli fashion, though, mourning and joy rub against each other as Yom HaZikaron gives way to Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, April 16. Perhaps the celebration is so spirited because people realize the depth of sacrifice that led to statehood.
Then, closing out the month of April, comes Lag b’Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer between Passover and Shavuot. Though a minor, ancient holiday, it is a joyous one. But there is no definitive reason why. Some say it is because the Jews marked a victory on that day in ancient times in the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans; others say it was the only day no students of Rabbi Akiva died during a weeks-long plague. But neither explanation indicates a time for celebration. Still, amidst a calendar fraught with solemn occasions and anniversaries, it’s good to have a day to rejoice. We can always find a reason to be grateful.
As we enter a month rich in Jewish tradition and history, we note that its peaks and valleys reflect the human condition, with times to laugh and times to cry, and a responsibility to find meaning in each.
My annual custom on the last day of the High Holy Days is to daven at the Yom Kippur minyan of Chabad of Rego Park. Not a chasid, not a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic movement, I feel great spiritual authenticity in the atmosphere of intimacy, surrounded by a few hundred other worshippers, which Rabbi Eli Blokh creates.
His Yom Kippur services take place in the basement social hall of the Queens Jewish Center, a large Modern Orthodox synagogue around the corner from my apartment.
For Purim 5771, JInsider wanted to offer a list of traditions and customs to follow that will help connect to the holiday. We spoke with Rabbi DovBer Pinson and excerpted his recently published booklet, The Purim Reader, which is available at Amazon. Tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a major holiday, Sukkot sneaks up on us. Less than a week after the grandeur and majestic pomp of the Days of Awe, we find ourselves doing construction work and pretty much living under branches and within the fluttering sukkah walls in our backyards and porches. From our Rosh HaShanah-Yom Kippur finery, we’re now dressed, as often as not, in coats and sweaters, swatting bees and sensing the change of seasons.