Four Questions with Elyse Rast, One of CJP’s 2011 PresenTense Boston Fellows

Originally published on

created at: 2011-05-16Elyse Rast is the founder and CEO of G.I.R.L.S., a Jewish education program for young women. She has Master’s Degrees from BU and Wheelock College, and has 15 years of teaching experience in the Boston area. She taught at six local synagogues and created four youth groups and ten Jewish girls’ groups. Currently, Elyse is the Holocaust Educator for JCRC and the NE Holocaust Memorial. She also teaches Holocaust history and runs girls’ groups at Prozdor Hebrew High School. Elyse plans to begin a PhD program at Lesley University next fall.

One glimpse at your biography makes it clear that you are a seasoned professional with deep connections in the Jewish community of Boston. What’s the appeal of CJP’s PresenTense Boston Fellowship for you?

Several years ago, I started my own company… and failed miserably. Sure, starting a venture has something to do with connections, but you also need to know how to run a business. I’ve been telling people that the PresenTense Fellowship is like getting a business degree in five months. We’ve learned how to create budgerts, how to make pitches, how to compile our ideas into something that’s going to work and be relevant to our audience… how to create change and make our dreams a reality.  Continue reading Four Questions with Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights – North America

Originally published on

created at: 2011-05-09Last month, Rabbi Jill Jacobs became Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights – North America, an organization working to involve Rabbis in the United States and Canada in being moral voices in current human rights issues both at home and in Israel. Rabbi Jacobs is the author of There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law and Tradition (Jewish Lights, 2009) and Justice Shall Dwell There: A Hands-on Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community (Jewish Lights, forthcoming in June 2011). She writes a regular column, “Public Judaism,” for the Forward, serves as a panelist for the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, and blogs at the Huffington Post. She was Rabbi-in-Residence of Jewish Funds for Justice from 2005 to 2010, and Director of Education and Outreach at the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs from 2003 to 2005. Rabbi Jacobs received rabbinical ordination and an MA in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary, an MS in Urban Affairs from Hunter College, and a BA from Columbia University. She is an alumna of the Wexner Fellowship Program and spent the 2009-2010 academic year as a Jerusalem Fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute. And perhaps most relevant to, she grew up in Framingham, MA.

What’s the origin of your passion for social justice?

My very first social justice campaign ever was when I was a junior in at Framingham High School, and my principal was quoted in the local newspaper saying there was no teen pregnancy problem in Framingham. I thought otherwise because I walked the halls of my school and saw pregnant teens. I did a little research, called Planned Parenthood, and found that Framingham had one of the highest teen pregnancy and STD rates in the US. We were one of the few schools in Massachusetts that had no sex education whatsoever, and I figured those two facts weren’t disconnected.

I started meeting with the school board about making sex ed and condoms available at our school. At the time, I had no idea that was connected to Judaism – that Jewish women had been involved in reproductive health battles for a long time.  I did notice that my parents were supportive and that my synagogue was supportive, so I knew there was something vaguely Jewish about it, but I couldn’t put it together. Only as an adult did I learn that Jews had been involved in reproductive health forever, and Jews had been involved in social justice work, and Jewish law includes thousands of pages on how we should behave in civil society.  Continue reading

InterfaithFamily: Review of The Choosing by Andrea Myers

Originally published on InterfaithFamily.

I am one of those people who grew up bombarded by messages from the mainstream Jewish community denouncing intermarriage as the worst plague affecting the Jewish people. Often, when whoever was railing on was feeling charitable, their rant would include a parenthetical reminder that converts were considered fully Jewish, so marrying a convert to Judaism wasn’t intermarriage.

Andrea Myers’s memoir, The Choosing: A Rabbi’s Journey from Silent Nights to High Holy Days, reminds us that there’s more than one way to create an interfaith family. Although Myers’s wife is Jewish, her own conversion to Judaism created many of the same dilemmas in her relationship to her parents and extended family that many interfaith couples confront. Her parents, themselves a mixed marriage of Catholic and Lutheran, are supportive and even eager to embrace their daughter’s new faith — at times with hilarious results. You mean the Jewish new year isn’t celebrated with midnight noisemakers? It’s not appropriate for a woman to thank an Orthodox Judaica seller for a discount with a big bear hug?  Continue reading Blintz Soufflé

Originally published on

Many of my favorite holiday recipes fall firmly in the category of “semi-homemade,” and this delicious and surprisingly simple recipe for Blintz Soufflé is one of the best examples. Thanks to the tradition of eating dairy on Shavuot, this recipe always makes its way into my spring cuisine, but honestly, I love it so much that I make it year round. It’s hearty enough to be dinner but light enough for breakfast, and it’s just as good reheated as it is hot out of the oven.

This version of the recipe comes from my mother, but I’m pretty sure she cribbed it from an accomodater who did the morning-after brunch for my brother’s bar mtizvah.

created at: 2011-05-0412 frozen blintzes, thawed
4 eggs
1 pint sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in 9×13 pan. (A  smaller Corningware square pan works fine too.) Place frozen blintzes in pan. (I like to make one half of each soufflé with cheese blintzes and the other half with either cherry or blueberry.)

Beat eggs well. Add remaining ingredients and pour over blintzes.

Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes until slightly brown (firm and dry).

My mother recommends baking longer than the recipe calls for, saying “It seems to take a little longer for the middle section to firm up, but watch the edges, you don’t want them to get too brown.”  I suspect that’s because she often forgets to defrost the frozen blintzes in advance.