The Child Who Hated Cheesecake

The idea of a cake made of cheese repulsed my younger self. How wrong I was.


As a child I subsisted on four things: chicken wings, green salad, fruit, and cream cheese on toast. In fact, I ate so much cream cheese that in high school I had a vision of my arteries growing ever more narrow as layers of Temptee coated their walls. It seemed to me that if I ate any more, I’d soon prevent blood from making its way through my system.

Cream cheese was my true love. Given that, you’d think its status as key ingredient in cheesecake would mean that I’d have loved that, too. No way. To my younger self, the idea of a confection made of cheese repulsed me. The very phrase an affront, and a perfect representation of the ways in which ideas and tastes go awry as people age. Grown-ups ate cottage cheese, for crying out loud. I was told sweet potatoes tasted like candy. Really, how could their tastes be trusted? (more…)

Ohio Statehouse Holocaust Memorial Dedicated

Ending controversial debate over commemoration and government grounds

Official rendering of Daniel Libeskind's winning design for the Ohion Statehouse Holocaust memorial. (Studio Daniel Libeskind)

A Holocaust memorial at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus designed by Daniel Libeskind was dedicated yesterday in an official ceremony that drew 1,500 attendees. It’s only the second Holocaust memorial to be built on state-owned land in the United States, and the dedication of the privately-funded monument marks the end of a controversial three-year process.

As Rebecca Meiser reported last year, it all began at the 31st annual Ohio Statehouse Holocaust Remembrance Event in May 2011, when a survivor’s account compelled Gov. John Kasich to stand and propose a Holocaust memorial on the statehouse grounds.

Meiser wrote:

Kasich’s decision to put a memorial in the statehouse was unprecedented: There are no Holocaust memorials at any other statehouse in the country. It was also technically illegal. In order for any kind of changes to be made to the Ohio statehouse grounds, it has to first pass through the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, which controls the house grounds. The last monument to be approved was a statue of William McKinley about 100 years ago.


An Online Universe Without the Holocaust

Illustrated series ‘Radzyn’ reimagines shtetl life in a mysterious Polish town

Image from 'Radzyn.' (Joel Golombeck)

I, like many who are the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, grew up within my own personal Yad Vashem. I dreamt of concentration camps, my head forever full of stories of death and courage. But unlike the children of Holocaust survivors, the so-called second generation, who seem more viscerally linked to the trauma of the Holocaust, the third generation comes at it differently. To us, it can be approached more fluidly, with greater creativity, playfully even, if such a word can even be used in this context. To an outsider, such an approach may sound weirdly morbid, but how else is one to handle the strange tension that comes from living memories of a tragedy not one’s own?

A wonderfully (perhaps blasphemously) imaginative answer to this question comes from the new illustrated online story series Radzyn by writer Michael Weber and illustrator Joel Golombeck. The story begins in 1933, as the Rebbe, the Holy Master of Radzyn, offers an ominous Sabbath day sermon. From there, the story moves back to 1889, where it explores the tensions and challenges of shtetl life. The central question of the story is this: What would a shtetl look like, if somehow, miraculously, it made it through the Holocaust wholly unscathed? (more…)

Book of Ruth Retold in Animated Shavuot Video

G-dcast’s latest production features original music by Alicia Jo Rabins

Still image from 'Ruth.' (G-dcast)

G-dcast, the Jewish production company known for its animated depictions of the Bible, is back just in time for Shavuot with a short animated film that tells the story of the Book of Ruth through vibrant imagery and an original song, “As Long as You’re With Me.”

The video’s song is written and performed by singer-songwriter Alicia Jo Rabins, founder of the band Girls in Trouble, which plays original art-pop songs about the women of the Torah. Rabins discussed the band with Vox Tablet in 2009. (more…)

In Israel, a Mysterious Factory Looms Large

A visit to Nesher Cement, the country’s only cement manufacturer

Nesher Cement factory in Israel. (Moshe Rivel)

The Nesher Cement factory in Ramle is visible from Israel’s Highway 1. Riding the bus between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, one sees it perched on the horizon, an eruption of industry in an expanse of green. It appears almost whimsical: two narrow twin mountains of vaulted domes and cascading pipelines in whites, pinks, and blues. At night, the factory glitters. People have compared it to Emerald City, a spaceship, an amusement park.

One sees it on the highway when passing the exit sign for the city of Modi’in. I first assumed that the sparkling apparition was Modi’in, which I came to imagine as a technologically advanced settlement from the future—a miniature Tokyo lost in a stretch of Israeli farmland. I recently drove by the factory during the day and asked my traveling companion what it was. “Some kind of factory,” he said. “Luscious, isn’t it?” We stared at it in awed silence.

After doing a little research, I discovered that it was the Nesher Cement Factory. Seeing it became my favorite part of traveling through Israel. During Passover, when it’s open for tours, I went and paid it a visit. (more…)

Get Your Dairy Fix With These 5 Shavuot Recipes

Spinach and cheese blintzes, dulce de leche cheesecake, and more


Shavuot is fast approaching, and with it the opportunity to indulge your taste buds in all things dairy. The celebration of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which begins Tuesday night, includes the longstanding tradition of eating dairy foods, the most popular of which include blintzes and cheesecake. Here are five great recipes to cover all kinds of tastes, from sweet to savory—and even low-calorie.

1. Sweet blintzes, or cheese-filled crepes, are a delicious and classic Shavuot tradition. Joan Nathan teaches you how to make the perfect blintz.

2. Give the blintz tradition a fresh twist by filling them with savory flavors instead of sweet, like these spinach and cheese blintzes. (more…)

Artist Orli Auslander’s Provocative Solo Show

Sexism, misogyny, and religion take center stage in bold new exhibit

Image from 'I Feel Bad' series.(Orli Auslander)

Artist Orli Auslander grew up in a traditional Middle Eastern household in London, in a Bukharian Jewish family in which boys were favored over girls. The effects of growing up in this environment ripples through all of her work. It’s evident in her wood carvings in which she burns the Hebrew blessing Shelo Asani Isha, which thanks God for not making one a woman, into the wood; in her series of comics detailing all the things she feels bad about; and in her graphic novel, Vagina Money: a True Story, about a woman who gets a tampon stuck inside her.

Her newest series consists of darkly humorous dioramas depicting scenes of women who spontaneously combusted after the dual forces of sexism and misogyny became too much to bear. They’re on display in Auslander’s first solo show, “Pretty/Ugly,” which opened last weekend at Woodstock Framing Gallery in Woodstock, N.Y., near where she lives with her husband, the writer Shalom Auslander, and their children. (more…)

Brussels Jewish Museum Shooting Suspect Arrested in France

29-year-old detained in Marseille with video claiming responsibility for attack

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (R) speaks alongside Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet (L) during a joint press conference in Paris, on June 1, 2014, dedicated to the recent shooting at a Jewish museum in Brussels. (THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images))

A suspect has been arrested in the May 24 shooting at the Brussels Jewish Museum in which three people were killed and a fourth was was critically wounded. Reuters reports that 29-year-old Mehdi Nemmouche was arrested in France “on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and possession of weapons, all in the context of terrorist activity” after being flagged by authorities during a routine customs search at a bus station.

Mehdi Nemmouche was detained on Friday after a random check at a bus terminal in the French city of Marseille showed he was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle, another gun and ammunition similar to those used in the shooting last weekend, French and Belgian prosecutors said.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters Nemmouche had been carrying a video where a voice resembling his own claims responsibility for the shootings.

Belgium is reportedly seeking Nemmouche’s extradition from France, where he is a citizen. (more…)

Yair Lapid Calls for Recognition of Non-Orthodox Judaism

Israeli leader also accuses settlers of ‘a distortion of the essence of Judaism’

Yair Lapid, leader of Israel's Yesh Atid party. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Last weekend, Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid delivered a speech that drew little attention in Israel, but which dealt with a subject of pressing concern to American Jews: the recognition of non-Orthodox movements in Israel. In an impassioned address at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, Lapid, the leader of the Yesh Atid party, recommitted himself to fighting for “equality between the different streams of Judaism in conversion, in marriage, in divorce, in budgetary subsidies, [and] in access to holy places.” After all, he added, “in practice, most Israelis are Reform and Conservative, and just don’t know it.”

“No one can claim ownership over the Jewish God,” he told the assembled activists and dignitaries, which included Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the executive director of the Movement for Progressive Judaism. “An old and petty politics cannot circumscribe something that is eternal like the Jewish identity,” Lapid continued. “This is simply wrong and it must be stopped.” (more…)

Samuel L. Jackson’s Israel Moment

World’s coolest man tweets selfie at parade, Internet goes wild

Samuel L. Jackson attends the Museum Of The Moving Image 28th Annual Salute Honoring Kevin Spacey on April 9, 2014 in New York City. (Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

Samuel L. Jackson, wearing a gray t-shirt and a silly hat that only Samuel L. Jackson could make look cool, was walking down Fifth Avenue yesterday when he saw a throng of people marching in a parade to celebrate Israel. Being Samuel L. Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson did the sort of thing that had made Samuel L. Jackson the godfather of badassery, namely turning around, taking a cool selfie, and posting it to Twitter.

What happened next will not amaze you: almost immediately, a flurry of followers began yowling, most of them sounding like that unbalanced character in a Samuel L. Jackson movie that prompts Samuel L. Jackson to shoot off that angry look and then tear into a super-cool monologue rich with catchphrases. (more…)

Streisand’s Private Mall Gets a New Shopkeeper

The American Jewish experience as told by Babs’ grand tchotchke collection

Furniture and clothing belonging to Barbra Streisand from the auction 'The Collection of Barbra Streisand' on October 12, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Looking for something to do this weekend? If you’re a theater-type person of a certain age (as I typed that sentence, I realized I had no idea of what that age might be,) and you haven’t seen Jonathan Tolin’s comic masterpiece Buyer and Cellar yet, then run, don’t walk to the Barrow Street Theater in Manhattan (or Google it to find when the touring production is coming to a stage near you) and see actor Barrett Foa step into the role of Alex, the struggling actor hired to be the only employee of a very special shopping mall with only one customer.

That customer is none other than the empress herself, the one and only Miss Barbra Streisand. The mall is the street of “shops” (including a snack bar with a soft-serve frozen yogurt machine) that she built in the basement of her Americana-influenced Malibu retreat (which the devilishly clever Tolins observes was almost completely ripped off from the set of the 1950 Judy Garland vehicle Summer Stock) to house her extensive collections of vintage clothes, antique dolls, and other accumulated tschotschkerai. (more…)

Parents: Gamers Bullying Jewish Students Online

Chicago Public Schools investigating anti-Semitic messages on ‘Clash of Clans’

Image from 'Clash of Clans.'(Wikia)

Are eighth graders in Chicago using a video game to bully a Jewish classmate? That’s what one parent is alleging.

Chicago Public School officials are investigating whether eighth grade students at Ogden International School of Chicago used the online game “Clash of Clans”—a strategy game in which members of a particular ‘clan’ attack players from other clans and loot their villages—to target a Jewish student, the Chicago Sun Times reports. According to Lisa Wolfe Clemente, the mother of a 14-year-old student at Ogden, her son’s classmates created a team called “Jew Incinerator,” of which they wrote: “We are a friendly group of racists with one goal- put all Jews into an army camp until disposed of.” Another of the team’s online messages read: “Heil! Throw Jews into ovens for a cause.”

Clemente said that her son had been verbally targeted by classmates for six months. She didn’t report the problem to the school until two weeks ago, when her younger son was invited to join the Clash of Clans group online, the Sun-Times reports. That’s when she saw the anti-Semitic messages being written by older students. (more…)

Rolling Stones Push Back Concert for Shavuot

Wednesday’s Tel Aviv show will start later to accommodate observant fans

Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger performs in Lisbon on May 29, 2014. (PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Rolling Stones are performing in Israel next week, and they’re going out of their way to accommodate fans in the Holy Land. The band is playing in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, June 4 (tickets are still available), which tour organizers probably didn’t realize was the second night of Shavuot. To help make it possible for observant fans—who are unable to drive or spend money during holidays—they’ve pushed back the concert’s start time from 7:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., Religion News Service reports.

“Following many requests from the public, particularly the observant public, to delay the starting hour for the performance, the City of Tel Aviv, together with the production team, decided to change the starting time,” the promoter said in a press release.

The municipality had to agree due to after-hours noise pollution laws.


The Most Popular Bar Mitzvah Dancer in Boston

Dave Heard makes $450 a simcha while trying to make it to Broadway


The best thing on the Internet today, without a doubt, is the Boston Globe’s profile of Dave Heard, a 32-year-old Broadway-aspiring dancer and personal trainer with a surprising weekend business: bar mitzvahs. The in-demand bar mitzvah entertainer (“motivator,” to be exact) spends his Saturday nights pumping up the crowd, dancing with moms, and making shy sure seventh graders have the time of their lives.

Heard has worked more than 100 bar and bat mitzvahs, where he can make up to $450 a gig. And from the glowing reviews of bar mitzvah-goers, it sounds like he’s worth every penny.

Heard has studied at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and toured internationally with “Hairspray” and “Dreamgirls.” But he’s 32 already, and he knows that if he’s going to make it to the Broadway stage, he needs to get there soon. He’d love to play Simba in “The Lion King,” or the Ugandan doctor in “The Book of Mormon.” But this Saturday night found him earning a living at an event space in Foxborough, tripping the light fantastic with the bat mitzvah girl’s mother, Robin Milstein, 50, of Needham. (more…)

Is This The Best Bagel in New York City?

GQ anoints Absolute Bagels on the Upper West Side the city’s best


Bagels are really having a New York moment. Mile End’s new bagel joint, Black Seed Bagels, has a line down Elizabeth St. nearly every day of the week, and the newly opened Baz Bagels on Grand St. is doing its part to keep Jewish food trendy. Still, there’s something to be said for classics—at least according to a new GQ ranking of the best bagels in New York City. (more…)

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.