This Shabbat: Read Comics in Public

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created at: 2010-08-27Tomorrow, August 28, is the first ever International Read Comics in Public Day. Since the American comicbook industry was largely built by Jewish immigrants, the book generally considered to be the first “graphic novel” was all about Jewish life on the Lower East Side, and even today many of the luminaries of the field are Jewish, I think it’s fair game to claim this as a Jewish holiday of sorts.

The day is being sponsored by comics blog The Daily Cross Hatch, prompted by a joke between editors Sarah Morean and Brian Heater. You see, despite deacdes of news articles “discovering” that comics are for adults, all sorts of book awards including the Pulitzer going to comics, and a string of high-grossing and Oscar-winning films based on comics, there’s still some stigma attached to reading them. So Morean & Heater put out the call to comics lovers everywhere – be proud of what you’re reading, and let others see it.  Continue reading From Brookline to the Big Time: Eli “Paperboy” Reed Makes Major Label Debut

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created at: 2010-08-25A number of years ago, I received an excited phone call from a friend. “You’ve got to hear this guy I just met,” she enthused. “He’s a little Jewish kid from Brookline who sings soul like the best of Motown.” She was talking about Eli “Paperboy” Reed, the baby-faced Bostonian who’s been one of Massachusetts’s best-kept musical secrets for years.

That’s finally starting to change, with the release of his first major-label album, Come and Get It!, which debuted from Capitol Records a couple of weeks ago. If you’re already a fan, you’ll be delighted to find exactly what you’ve come to expect from Eli and his band, the True Loves: exciting rhythm & blues music that bounces from explosive excitement to palpable yearning, backed by the best horn section this side of Blood, Sweat & Tears.  Continue reading Wines, Whines, and Amy Winehouse

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created at: 2010-08-20Jews, on the whole, aren’t known for our alcohol consumption. Sure, we might drink a l’chayim when there’s something to celebrate, but as far as excesses go, the stereotypes trend more towards shopping and world-domination and away from libation.

But every once in a while we can kick back and party with the best of them. Heck, the holiday of Purim practically makes imbibing a mitzvah! And for many of us, when we think about Jews and drinking, the conversation naturally steers towards Manischewitz, the line of super-sweet wines that make every Passover seder and Shabbat dinner complete.  (Interesting note: Jews aren’t the only people with a strange love for the stuff – apparently it’s popular in Haiti as well.  Who knew?)

But if you’re like me, and you prefer to drink something with a little more, shall we say, nuance and depth than Manischewitz (the alcoholic equivalent of Cheezwhiz), you don’t have to pour out all those bottles of Concord Grape and (my favorite) Extra Heavy Malaga just yet. The internet is here to help! (God bless the internet.)

A little googling reveals something called the Manischevetini.  This is a Real Thing. Multiple websites offer the recipe. Few extol its virtues. Proceed at your own caution, but if you do make one of these, please report back in the comment section below.

But beware – the Manischevetini might prove addictive and turn you into this:

(Big hat tip to our Australian friends at jew on this for bringing this video to our attention.)

Shababt shalom, everyone!

P.S. None of the above is meant to belittle the very real problem of addiction in the Jewish community. Now is as good a time as ever to mention JACS, the organization for Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others. If you or someone you know needs help, this is a good place to start.

P.P.S. If you didn’t click on the very first link in this post, you missed out on a Japanese production of Fiddler on the Roof and your life is all the poorer for it. Pomegranates: Not Just for Trendy Juice Drinks

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created at: 2010-08-06A few years ago, the pomegranate exploded on the food scene as the in fruit of the moment. From the juice aisle to the bar, it was hard to avoid the bright red color of the pom.  Oprah even declared the Pomegranate Martini as one of her favorite drinks!

Although it’s as difficult to prepare as it is to spell, the flavorful seeds and much-hyped health benefits of the fruit have brought it into the mainstream. Naturally, there’s now an official Pomegranate Council promoting all these benefits and more on behalf of the California farmers who produce pomegranates in the USA.

created at: 2010-08-06But it turns out the mainstream was just catching up with something Jewish tradition already knew.  We’ve held the pomegranate in high regard for quite a while — since the time of the Bible, in fact! Pomegranates have been a feature of Jewish art as well as cuisine for generations. In fact, the adornments some synagogues place on the handles of Torah scrolls are even called rimonim in Hebrew — that would be “pomegranates” in English!

Pomegranates have a particular connection to Rosh Hashanah. According to

On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, we eat a “new fruit” – meaning, a fruit that has recently come into season but that we have not yet had the opportunity to eat. When we eat this new fruit, we say the shehechiyanu blessing thanking God for keeping us alive and bringing us to this season. This ritual reminds us to appreciate the fruits of the earth and being alive to enjoy them.

A pomegranate is often used as this new fruit. In the Bible, the Land of Israel is praised for its pomegranates. It is also said that this fruit contains 613 seeds just as there are 613 mitzvot. Another reason given for blessing and eating pomegranate on Rosh HaShanah is that we wish that our good deeds in the ensuing year will be as plentiful as the seeds of the pomegranate.

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I remember back in my Hebrew School days participating in an activity with my classmates where we tried to count all 613 seeds of the pomegranate. It was messy and not entirely successful, but fun enough that I remember it more than two decades later.

This year, I learned that there’s also a mystical connection between the pomegranate and Rosh Hashanah – it’s one of the simanim, or good omens, that Jewish superstition associated with loading the odds in our favor for a good year.  We’ll have more about the simanim in an upcoming blog post.

Do you have a favorite recipe for enjoying pomegranates?  Please share it in the comments below!

Pomegranate photo by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, used under the GFDL license.

Torah photo by Dan Simhony.

Postage stamp photo by Karen Horton.