“What’s the frummest book you sell here?” the customer asks Adam, the gregarious bookseller.  “Do you sell Judaism for Dummies?  asks a man, not appreciating the irony–he was asking hovering over books, just under the sign indicating he was in the “Scholarly Works” section.  Welcome to YU Seforim Sale, currently in full swing on the campus of Yeshiva University in Upper Manhattan.

The Seforim Sale, which takes place from February 5-26, 2012, is, according to their website (http://www.theseforimsale.com/) “the largest Jewish book sale in North America…The sale provides discounted prices on the widest selection of rabbinic and academic literature, cookbooks, children’s books, music and lecture CDs and much more.”

Minutes after havdalah, we caught the M101 bus on Third Avenue for the 45 minute ride to “the sale.”  As first timers, we had no idea what to expect.  Perhaps yeshiva bochers searching through piles of Gemarahs and Tanachs?  Could it possibly be true that last year, the book sale drew more than 15,000 people from the tri-state area, featured more than 15,000 books, and grossed more than $1 million in sales?

We were amazed with what we experienced.  Armies of helpful Stern College women and YU men were already in their places—on the floor and at the cash registers—as the doors of Belfer Hall opened at 8 pm.  Colorful maps were distributed to help the crowd navigate the carefully organized room—in addition to sections of gemarahs, midrashim, mishnayos, rishonim and achronim, were sections for history/Holocaust, novel/biographies, English mussar/machshava, haggadahs, Israel, cookbooks and more.

I expected to find only books reflecting a certain perspective.  Next to such titles as The Laws and Concepts of Niddah, and  Hide and Seek:  Jewish Women and Hair Covering were Wendy Mogel’s  The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children, books by Conservative rabbi, Reuven Hammer (The Torah Revolution:  Fourteen Truths That Changed The World), and Solomon Schechter’s classic  Aspects of a Rabbinic Judaism— With a New Introduction by Neil Gillman, Including the Original Preface of 1909 & the Introduction by Louis Finkelstein.

And the book lovers also came from many walks of life.  While most were clearly traditional, and many seemed to know each other, there were women with skirts of various lengths and some in jeans, and men with and without head coverings.  All in all, a diverse crowd sharing a love of books.

We shlepped our  books to the check out counter–minutes before the Y-Studs, one of Yeshiva University’s acclaimed a cappella groups, began their performance.  As we left, plenty were just entering—likely to stay until the midnight closing.  We smiled all the way home, with our first hand knowledge of why Jews are known as “The People of the Book”—or is it books?!

(Source: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com)

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Original Article On the Jerusalem Post

Sitting at the Nalaga’at (“Please Touch”) Center in Jaffa, Howard Blas, special educator and social worker from New York, sits down to speak with The Jerusalem Post about a fascinating group of young men and women who have come to Israel for a 10-day trip. The travelers, all affiliated with the Conservative movement’s Camp Ramah, are developmentally disabled and their experiences, their counselors tell the Post, have allowed them to see this country through fresh eyes.

As several deaf waiters weave among tables ” the center is a major employer of the handicapped and an inspiration to the campers whom they are serving ” Blas explains how the trip has helped bond his charges to both nation and religion.

The campers all belong to the Tikvah program, a track at the Ramah summer camps for those with special needs. All eight of the campers on this specific trip fall into the higher-functioning spectrum and some are even taking classes at community colleges back in the US.

The group that’s here on the Israel trip are some of the older members of our group, Blas tells the Post. The youngest is turning 19 today and I guess that the oldest is probably 25 or 26.

The idea of an Israel trip, Blas continues, was the brainchild of Herb and Barbara Greenberg, now residents of Israel, who believed that this population, who had been learning about Israel at camp… had the same love for Israel and the same right to travel to our homeland as any Jew.

Since the first trip in 1984, Camp Ramah has brought Tikvah participants to Israel numerous times. A number of the campers on this trip have been here before.

We stress Israel [and] Zionism at camp and this is their chance to really [experience that] Blas says.

The trip, which brings the campers, who normally prefer stability and routine, to different destinations every day, really focuses on their independence, he explains.

Some of the higher-functioning campers will have been together so many years in camp, some have been in camp for 10 years, so some know how to help each other… and compensate for each other’s shortcomings.

According to Blas, in a new country there are a lot of new systems to learn, so even something as simple as the shower, the shower works differently. We go to three different hotels. It’s a different experience in each place so we even have to go ahead and figure that out quickly and then explain it to them… It’s a very frenetic pace.

This is my fourth or fifth trip that I’ve done he says, and the founders did eight or nine trips when they were the directors and with each trip you really fine-tune what you do so you pick hotels that don’t have a lot of extra room for wandering around [for example].

By bringing the campers to Israel without their parents, he continues, they’re learning life skills. Small things like packing in a hotel, it’s all part of life skills. That’s really what the goal is: to prepare them for living as independently as they can.

We give them a lot of running commentary and try to connect what they are seeing with things that they have learned in camp, but they’ve been fantastic, the director enthuses about his campers.

THE TIKVAH program itself was founded at Camp Ramah in 1970 by the Greenbergs, who now live in Raanana. In its first year, the program enrolled eight campers classified by their respective school systems as brain-injured, learning disabled and emotionally disturbed, says Blas. Over the years, it has enrolled children and adolescents with Down syndrome, autism, neurological impairments, developmental delays and rare disorders such as Smith-Magenis and Prader-Willi syndrome.

As the director of one of the first such programs in the Jewish world, Blas is noticeably pleased with his work, telling the Post that Tikvah is a trailblazer.

Are very proud of the fact that we are probably the first program [of its type], he says. One of the few places where there is real collaboration in Judaism is around special needs.

Howard Blas’s son, Daniel, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the counselors on this year’s trip, his second time coming to Israel with Tikvah.

Daniel believes that by being forced to explain things to his campers in a simplified manner, he has to reevaluate everything he knows, thus gaining a deeper understanding of Israel and [his] beliefs in general.

Asked to give a specific example, Daniel says that when explaining to his campers why there are soldiers everywhere, he must confront head-on the fact that Israel is a “country in conflict.” This helps him recognize why the soldiers are there in the first place [and] the fact that at this point, after many Israel trips, I’ve just taken [many things] for granted in general.

Avriel Feiner, known as Avi, also serves on the staff of the Tikvah program. A 22-year-old senior at the University of Maryland, Feiner is studying special education, in large part because of her involvement with the special campers of Camp Ramah.

This is my first time ever going [to Israel] with this population it’s really interesting and inspiring to see Israel through their eyes, she says, concurring with Daniel.

I was complaining today No, not the Palmah Museum again, she says. We walked out and they were like ‘my gosh, this was so cool, we love this. History is so awesome, that was so intense.

Many experiences, such as visiting the Western Wall, Feiner says, have lost their excitement to someone who has been there numerous times. However, going with the Tikvah participants this time, she says that “the guys were dancing like crazy [on the men’s side] for an hour and a half. That’s amazing. Where else are they going to have that?

Moreover, Daniel interjects, the campers have had an influence on everyone who we’ve seen, not just on me and Avi as the leaders.

Daniel recounts that on one occasion, one of the campers entered the dining room of their hotel to say goodbye to the participants of an unrelated Birthright trip, many of whom called out goodbye to him by name, despite the two groups not having had any official contact.

He’s just been so friendly to everyone and everyone’s been amazed, Daniel says, smiling.

THE CAMPERS who spoke with the Post seem to back up their counselors assertions, smiling and regaling this reporter with stories of their experiences. Many, Howard Blas asserts, have minimal contact with Jewish life outside of camp, making this experience even more important to them on a personal and spiritual level.

Sarah, a sweet girl the same age as Feiner, attends a boarding school in Connecticut where she is studying the life skills necessary so that she can be mainstreamed into as normal a life as possible. These skills will be especially important as she plans to move into her own apartment for the first time next year.

The trip, she says, is very nice and not “boring like Birthright. Now I learn more, she says.

Her favorite part of the trip, she says, is “making candles. This is a typical type of project for the campers, providing a physical stimulus and engaging them in a hands-on activity. The campers have also picked vegetables for charity and engaged in an archeological dig at the Beit Guvrin national park.

Such outings have even more meaning for Sarah than for most of the campers, as her time at camp accounts for all her Jewish experiences for the entire year, which makes this trip something of a bittersweet experience.

The skills she had learned in the Tikvah program, Blas says, will serve her well in life. Ramah special-needs campers perform jobs at camp, enabling them to learn skills that many people take for granted.

With guidance here and there, some of the campers on this trip, Feiner believes, could function independently soon.

Chiming in, Daniel Blas adds that “In general, we try to focus on abilities rather than disabilities.

Jason, a 27-year-old participant who is studying journalism, among other subjects, at a community college, is a good example of this mind-set.

Coming to Israel, Jason says, means connecting with “different areas of Israeli history and culture [and] to better understand what’s going on inside the country. This, he explains, makes it more easier to understand what may happen later and possibly in the future.

The experience for the special campers of the Tikvah Program is best summed up by their visit to Mount Herzl, the burial place of Theodor Herzl.

We also went to Har [Mount] Herzl, someone who believed in a State of Israel because he saw that the Jews couldn’t live in Germany because the French accused them of treason, says Avi, another Tikvah participant.

[The French] tried to execute them so Herzl brought many Jews to Israel.

The visit, explains Daniel, allowed trip participants to discuss their dreams and aspirations in a comfortable way while connecting to their heritage as Jews and Zionists.

Sitting in the military cemetery, we were trying to find a way to have them connect to all these graves, Daniel says, and we decided to speak about dreams and setting goals for ourselves because a lot of what we do [in camp] is about setting goals.

Sarah and Avi said that one of their goals is to become more independent but really to live in an apartment, so their goal for the future is to move out of a group home and out of the boarding school [and to gain independence] and that’s a way we helped them to connect [to Herzl and Zionism].

Sitting and speaking with the Post on their final evening in Israel, the campers and their caretakers seem happy yet exhausted. After returning home from Israel, Howard Blas says, he will need a vacation from this vacation.

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STAMFORD — Long after leaving public office, Senator Joseph Lieberman, will be remembered for his many accomplishments.  Now, thanks to It’s Kosh, a new kosher American bistro at 108 Prospect Street in Stamford, Connecticut’s senior senator can add to the list the “Smokin’ Joe Lieberman Sandwich” —  a creation, according to the It’s Kosh menu, that includes “Montréal-style smoked meat, Romanian pastrami, New York-style corned beef, Russian dressing, American coleslaw, served with French fries and no bologna.”   A wall photo on the It’s Kosh fan page features the smiling Senator holding a tray with his favorite new sandwich.

Owned and operated by Stamford resident Glenn Karow, whose children attend Carmel Academy in Greenwich, Kosh opened for business just after New Years Day.

Karow, whose many years in the food service industry include management positions at Cracker Barrel, TGI Fridays and Hale and Hearty, is delighted with the warm response to Kosh from people throughout the region – from Manhattan, Westchester, Waterbury, Fairfield, New Haven and beyond.
Of his OU-supervised restaurant he says proudly, “We have a smoker and can smoke 120 pounds of meat at a time.  We will have three 55 inch screen TVs and two 46 inch TVs, a fireplace, and seating outside with umbrellas and heaters. “Where else can you get burgers and wings and watch a game?”

And if you’re watching the game at It’s Kosh this Sunday, the restaurant invites you to take the Super Bowl Wing Challenge:  Guess how many wings are sold by the end of the day on Feb. 5, and if your guess is closest without going over, you win $100.00 in free food and drink.

“It’s great having a kosher restaurant in town, to be able to go out and have a bite and enjoy good food and a great atmosphere,” says Stamford resident Howard Wolffe, who has a tough time picking his favorite Kosh dish – “It’s between the hangar steak and the rib steak—and the wings aren’t to be missed either.”

It’s Kosh is open Sundays through Thurdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fridays 11 a.m. until two hours before sundown, and after Shabbat.
For information call (203) 614-8777.

(Source: http://www.jewishledger.com)

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Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

The annual Kosherfest trade show in New Jersey earlier this month offered a dizzying display of the newest innovations with a stamp of approval

Adam Mintz is the rabbi of the Modern Orthodox Congregation Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and has served as a professor of Jewish history and Jewish thought at various universities. Now Mintz has a new venture. His name and picture appear on the blue bags of Rabbi Mints Classic Kosher Mints. Mintz, along with his wife, Sharon, and a number of friends, dressed in royal blue The Chosen Mint T-shirts, gave out samples of their new product to attendees at Kosherfest 2011 at the Meadowlands Expo Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, earlier this month.

For the past 23 years, owners of food companies, distributors, importers, food processing and equipment companies, chefs, caterers, restaurant owners, kosher certifying agencies, cookbook writers and more have been gathering together for the two-day Kosherfest, the largest trade show featuring kosher food, drinks, wine, food service products and Judaica from around the world. Presentations such as a keynote addresses on “The Kosher Food Industry in 2012 On a Superhighway to New Vistas, an educational session on Mainstreaming Kosher: Taking Ethnic/Specialty Foods to the Masses and Growing Beyond Your Specialty Niche, a panel with chefs and authors entitled Kosher 2012: the New Demands of an Ever-changing Kosher Palate and the fourth Annual Kosherfest Culinary Competition rounded out this year packed Kosherfest schedule.

The attendees, from as far away as Israel, the Philippines and Australia, all know that kosher is big business. According to Lubicon Marketing Consultants, there are an estimated 12,250,000 kosher consumers in the US, and they are part of a $12.5 billion market. While only 1.3 million people in the US identify themselves as Jewish year-round kosher consumers, there are many more people who regularly buy kosher products. More than 3.5 million Muslims and members of other religious groups buy kosher; many vegetarians and people searching for non-dairy products also purchase kosher foods. There are currently 135,000 kosher certified products 3,000 of them became certified in 2010 alone. And 10,650 companies and plants in the country produce kosher food products.

And many of these companies, large and small, old and new, had booths lining the aisles of Kosherfest. New companies like Viktoria’s Gourmet Foods (serving Viki’s Granola), Gelato Shoppe Petrini (more than a dozen flavors of dairy and parve gelato) and Moses Vodka from Finland eagerly handed out samples to visitors.

Such established companies as Streit’s, Manischewitz and Gold’s were also on hand often with larger booths demonstrating how they continue to grow and evolve with the times. Streit’s has been making matza since 1925, when Aron Streit and one of his sons opened up a bakery on Rivington Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Now they have expanded to manufacture such kosher-for-Passover products as chocolate chip cookie mix, sour gummy bears and five versions of Matzel Toff, a toffee chocolate matza treat.

SIMILARLY, Manischewitz continues to innovate and diversify. Alain Bankier, co-president and CEO of the Manischewitz Company, who along with his entire staff was dressed in dark purple Manischewitz button-down shirts, was eager to show visitors the more than 40 new products introduced this year.

Manischewitz traces its beginnings to 1888 when Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz opened a small matza bakery in Cincinnati, Ohio. Now, reported Bankier, We strive to be a 52-weeks-a-year company. Manischewitz new products and packaging from organic matzot to gluten-free noodles span such categories as Mediterranean food, comfort food and health and wellness food. And soon, kosher consumers in the New York City area will be able to purchase warm kosher egg rolls, blintzes and knishes from Manischewitz vending machines.

Marc Gold, standing at the Gold’s Horseradish booth, shared the story of how his grandparents, Hyman and Tillie Gold, started making horseradish out of their apartment at 824 Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn in 1932. My grandmother ground it and my grandfather spooned it into the same basic bottles we use now. He put it on pushcarts but he wouldn’t sell it to people on the streets. He would sell two or three bottles at a time to stores.

Since the market for borscht (beet soup) and schav (sorrel soup) isn’t what it was in the 1930s, the company now manufacturers such modern products as mustard, duck sauce, salsa and wasabi.

A walk down the aisles of Kosherfest revealed an explosion of products geared toward vegetarians, gluten-free needs and the otherwise health-conscious. According to Menachem Lubinsky, founder and co-producer of Kosherfest, Natural, healthy and gluten-free products continue to grow among new kosher product categories, as an estimated 18 million people in the US are sensitive to gluten.

Examples of products available to this demographic include Mon Cuisine Vegetarian Entrees (for example, vegan Hawaiian nuggets with pineapples and sauce or vegetarian Salisbury steak in brown sauce), Sage V Foods IQF Rice (in individually quick-frozen packets) and various meat-free, vegetable protein entrees from Wholesome Cuisine (such as Zesty Cacciatore, and Polynesian Vege Steak Tidbits).

Consumers allergic to dairy or suffering from lactose intolerance will be pleased to see the new line of products from Tofutti, a company started in 1970 when Brooklyn restaurant owner David Mintz discovered tofu as a dairy substitute. The Tofutti Company made an appearance at Kosher-fest as well, demonstrating a new line of desserts, including Tofutti Cuties and Tofutti Dessert Bars as well as parve Pan Crust Pizza, Better Than Cream Cheese and Better Than Ricotta Cheese.

Elokim Herbs demonstrated its healthy alternatives to modern medicine. The Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation of Sugar Land, Texas, taught about kosher vitamins, herbs and minerals. And Cathy Richards, founder of The Simply Bar, explained that she started her company when she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and needed to find a snack that would fill her up but not upset her stomach. Her bars, in seven flavors, are high-protein, low-fat, low-cal, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and kosher.

A RECORD number of countries displayed their goods at Kosherfest 2011

Masada Kosher Foods showed off its line of kosher Australian lamb. Tsuno Foods & Rice Co. of Wakayama, Japan, displayed its line of kosher rice oil. Sesameco Sesame Seeds Processing of Quebec demonstrated how tehina is made from sesame seeds. And the Tesalia Springs Company from Pichinichia, Ecuador, gave out samples of natural mineral water and vitamin water to thirsty show-goers.

Other countries in attendance included Israel, Argentina, the Philippines, Finland, Canada, England, Australia, France, Scotland, Brazil, Ecuador, Japan, and the former Soviet Union.

Some countries even received awards for their new products. An Argentinean company, Marumatok SA, won the award for best new wine, beer or spirit (Fincas Marumatok Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec). The impressive delegation from Israel featured large companies like Osem as well as smaller companies like Of To Hod Lavan (deli meats), Kvutzat Yavne (pickles) and Dorot (fresh-frozen herbs). Israel Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was on hand for Kosherfest opening ceremony and ribbon cutting and to check out the many products on display at Kosherfest 2011.

Israeli companies received several new product awards including best new frozen entre (Taamati meat-flavor meatless bourekas); best new jam or preserve (Tishbi passionfruit and strawberry champagne preserves); best new dips, spreads, salsas (Sabra guacamole); best new savory and salty snack food (Bamba halva); and best new savory condiment, spice, sauce, oil, vinegar dressing or marinade (Dorot Foods fresh-frozen pesto cubes).

Even novelty items were on display. Rabbi Mendel Jacobs, the only Scottish-born rabbi living in Scotland, has started a company, Jewishtartan.com. The Chabad rabbi, based in Glasgow, sells Official Jewish tartan kilts to be worn at bar mitzvahs and weddings, simchas or social gatherings as well as woolen prayer shawls and matching yarmulkes. Another company, The Kosher Cook, introduced (and received a best new product award for) the Royal Challah Silicone Bakeware Pan.

Culinary Depot claims, Nobody has designed and supplied more kosher kitchens than us and was on hand to show off kitchen equipment and supplies. Another booth promoted 30 Minute Seder the Haggada that blends brevity with tradition. Costa Rica Kosher Adventures lured passersby to consider a kosher tour of Costa Rica, the Canadian Rockies or South Africa over Passover. And Sisu Home Entertainment invited guests to “join lovable, furry Grover and celebrity host Anneliese van der Pol as they travel to Israel in a 12-part DVD series co-produced by Sesame Workshop.

At the conclusion of the Kosherfest, thousands of attendees returned home, each with new ideas and with samples of many new, delicious products. Food left over from the show was donated to the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.

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