Summer Camp In Odessa

By IMG_4434Marina Moldavanskaya  

The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) youth summer camp “City of Roads and Masters” took place in Odessa from July 5-12. An amazing world of Jewish life was created by the JAFI madrichim (counselors). Children of different ages gathered to make their first steps into the Jewish world. On the first day of the camp the children were asked such questions as: “What is the Torah?”, “What do you call the cap that Jewish men wear?” and “What is Shabbat?” Before this camp, these children, ages 7-12, knew close to nothing about Judaism and Israel. By the end of the camp all of them could explain what a Mezuzah, Torah and Shabbat are. At this age it’s sometimes difficult to perceive information in the form of conversation or lecture. For this reason the organizers chose to educate through creative forums. Each group of children were making a special collage and working with different materials. By the end of the camp the participants presented their collages, made of plasticine, paper, cloth, etc. The collages were the reflections of children’s perception of Tanach stories and characters. The topics of each day varied, so the participants had a chance to get to know a lot, not only about Jewish history and traditions, but also about Israel. “Israel Day” gave the full picture of the contemporaneity: history, different layers of the population, traditions, holidays, food, etc. At the end of the “Israel Day” children, many for the first time, ate Israeli falafel. All the participants left with memories, impressions and Jewish knowledge.

Plum Tomatoes With Cumin-Cornbread Crumbs

080913_never_too_early18 medium plum tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper

3⁄4 cup cornbread stuffing mix, crumbled with fingers
1⁄4 cup finely chopped pecans
11⁄2 teaspoons chopped dried basil
3⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
3-6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried

For topping:
In a medium bowl, stir together all topping
ingredients. May be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and cut out cores. Cut a small slice on the bottoms so they stand straight. Place on a nonstick baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon one generous tablespoon topping over each half, pressing down slightly. This can be assembled and held at room temperature up to 4 hours. Bake for 4-5 minutes or until crumbs are golden. Bake at 350 degrees for softer tomatoes. 8 servings.

Rice Pilaf With Fideo (Angel Hair) Nests

080913_never_too_early26 tablespoons nondairy or regular margarine or butter
6 angel hair pasta nests
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
2 cans (101⁄2 ounces each, preferably beef
consommé, undiluted)
11⁄2 cups chicken broth
11⁄2 cups water

Melt the margarine in a large nonstick skillet. Add nests, and sauté over moderate heat until golden on each side, carefully turning. Remove from heat and with tongs or slotted spoon, remove nests to an 8- to 12-inch round casserole dish. Add rice to remaining margarine in skillet and stir to coat. Spoon rice over nests. Can be refrigerated overnight at this point. Bring to room temperature before baking. Pour undiluted consommé, broth and water carefully over rice. Bake at 350 degrees, covered for 75 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. To serve, use a large spoon that can cut down through the pasta if desired. 6 to 8 servings.

Traditional Chicken Soup With An Asian Twist

080913_never_too_early3Remember when Bubbie’ s chicken soup had circles of yellow fat on top? Here’ s a new healthier version to try.

3-4 packages Ramen Noodle chicken soup mix with curly noodles
2 cups homemade or canned chicken broth
1 cup canned carrots, drained and thinly sliced
1 cup cooked spinach, drained
about 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded into­ strips
small matzo balls, optional
sesame oil

Make chicken soup according to package direction, breaking up the noodles slightly. Remove from heat and add chicken broth and carrots. You can use a knife to cut noodles for easier serving. This can be prepared in advance and refrigerated. When ready to serve, heat and ladle the noodle soup in serving bowls. Divide and add some cooked spinach in one corner and the chicken in another. Place one matzo ball in another, if using (I do!). Slowly drip a few drops of sesame oil into each bowl. It’ s the secret ingredient, and it’ s delicious. Serve soup with soup spoons and chopsticks, if desired. 6 to 8 servings.

You can purchase a package of GreeNoodle made with moroheiya, a new healthy wheat product, at

Little Red Corvette

Steven Lesser shows off (from left) his 1967, 2005 and 1962 Corvettes.  (David Stuck)

Steven Lesser shows off (from left) his 1967, 2005 and 1962 Corvettes.
(David Stuck)

As a child, Steven Lesser dreamed of having a Corvette to call his own. His father wanted to help him reach that goal and offered him an incentive the year he turned 16. If he made the dean’s list and the football team at Baltimore City College High School, he would buy him any car he wanted.

They ordered a fawn beige Corvette with red interior from Park Circle Chevrolet, and Steven excitedly awaited its arrival.

One morning, he was called to the principal’s office and was told that his father needed to see him immediately. He hopped on a bus and went directly to his father’s office. His father had seen an advertisement in Sports Illustrated that stated that Chevrolet sports cars were the only ones made of fiberglass.

“You haven’t driven one mile and you want a plastic car?” he asked Steven. “No way!”

His father canceled the order.

Instead, Steven ended up with a 1962 Bonneville convertible. The matador red sports car had a tri-power engine and three carburetors. It was fast. Steve loved it.

Five years later, with a job and steady income, Steven traded in the Bonneville and bought his first Corvette. His parents loaned him some money, too, and he ordered a brand new ’68 model.

Today, he’s the proud owner of three Corvettes, and a fourth is on order, due at the end of the year. He’s had 18 different Corvettes in his 67 years.

Steven matches the prototype of the classic-car owner, according to the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA). An economic-impact study commissioned by HVA and released in January 2010 found that there are an estimated 2.75 million historic-vehicle owners in the United States and Canada who own an average of two classic vehicles. Classic is defined as at least 25 years old.

The study also concluded that the average enthusiast is likely to have been involved in the vintage car movement for 10 years or more. Many cite the historic and cultural value of historic vehicles as being very important to the decision to own them, although personal interest and nostalgia are the most common reasons.

David (left) and Mike Stuck went in together on a 1970 Jaguar XKE two-door coupe. (David Stuck)

David (left) and Mike Stuck went in together on a 1970 Jaguar XKEB
two-door coupe.
(David Stuck)

Similar to Lesser, Mike Stuck’s passion for classic sports cars started in his youth. He remembers seeing someone in Northwest Baltimore driving a red Jaguar XKE roadster with the top down.

“I just immediately fell in love with that car,” he said. “And when I saw the hard-top version, I fell in love with it even more.”

In March, he and his son, David, went in as partners on a 1970 Jaguar XKE two-door coupe. It is British racing green with a 4.2 liter engine.

“Every time I look at the car, I smile,” said Mike, 65. “It’s a beautiful piece of equipment. It’s like a piece of artwork.”

Mike desired a coupe instead of a roadster, citing its sleek design and long nose that extends from the windshield to front bumper. He also wanted a car that was not a “trailer queen,” which is pretty to look at but is never driven. Instead, he and David chose a “driver,” a car in reasonably good mechanical condition that they could update and enjoy driving.

Mike enjoys pleasure rides on back roads through Worthington Valley toward Hampstead or Westminster.

“I got it for the love of it, pure enjoyment,” he said. “There’s no real functional purpose, just to enjoy it.”

Within the next year, the Stucks plan to repair a few minor leaks and replace the window rubber gaskets that are cracked from age. They plan to be meticulous in caring for the car and expect it will never see a raindrop.

Mike’s love of cars was passed to David, who can’t pinpoint the start of his interest but remembers that his bar mitzvah party theme 11 years ago was cars. He also recalls attending car club shows with his father for more than a decade.

“I never thought I would get a [classic] car,” said David. “It’s always been a dream.”

For Lesser’s 40th birthday, his wife, Eileen, coerced him into taking a Sunday drive in the country. They pulled into a driveway at a horse farm, and he saw a beautiful red ’62 Corvette, which they eventually purchased. He tracked the history — it was purchased from Luby Chevrolet on Monument Street and had the original window sticker.

In honor of his 45th birthday, he bought a ’67 model in Marlboro maroon with a 327-cubic inch, 350-horsepower engine. It’s a hot rod with noisy side pipes.

With the help of the National Corvette Restorer’s Society, Steve returned both cars to their original state with no customization, just like they left the factory. As a result, he’s forced to drive to Glen Burnie to buy racing fuel at $8 a gallon since neither runs on the unleaded gas.

Lesser became a racing enthusiast, and at the Cecil County Dragway, he raced the ’67 and a 2005 model he later bought as part of a fundraiser for the Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital. He has a room full of drag-racing trophies, but today his thrills are more from showing off at weekend shows in Hunt Valley and Marley Station.

His mood dictates which car he takes out, mostly on weekends.

“I feel like a kid reliving my high school days,” he said about driving his vintage cars. “I like to cruise down the highway, listening to oldies from the ’50s and ’60s on the AM radio.”

Lesser loves the thumbs-up he gets as he drives along, but nothing’s more powerful than hearing “hit it” and doing so. Sure, he gets pulled over by the police. But it’s usually because they want to see the car.

Linda Esterson is a local freelance writer.
Full disclosure: David Stuck is a Clipper City Media photographer.

Volunteering Overseas: A Journey of Meaningful Engagement

Grossman blog

By Jen Grossman
Vice-chair, JVC

It wasn’t until I was midway over the Atlantic Ocean, that it hit me that I was really en route to Israel. The planning had been in the works for months, but the reality of it hadn’t seemed tangible until this moment.

I hadn’t been to Israel in 21 years and I had no idea what to expect. I was traveling there in my role as Vice Chair of Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC) to learn about existing volunteer programs in Israel and to help create more opportunities for people who wanted to broaden their travel experience by volunteering.

In just one short week not only did I learn about the incredible landscape of volunteer initiatives in Israel, but through these meetings, site visits and experiences, I altered my perspective and definition of volunteerism. It became crystal clear that volunteering, particularly abroad, was more about connecting to people then doing something for them. That the importance of it wasn’t about the outcome, but was about the process.

My trip started in Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city, and my experiences and conversations in Ashkelon became the catalyst for opening my eyes to the power of connecting to a community or an individual in order to help that community thrive.

I will never forget my visit to an Ethiopian Youth Outreach Center run by the Ethiopian National Project (ENP).  The Center established a community garden to help strengthen the bond between Ethiopian teens and their parents. I toured the garden and listened to participants share how tending to the garden allowed them to rediscover a piece of their identity that they had lost when they left Ethiopia. The pride they took in their crops, in their successes and in the responsibility of their plot was indescribable.

In a gesture to share their culture with me, a group of the mothers invited me to join in their weekly coffee brewing ritual. They prepared cooked corn and bread in the way they would have in Ethiopia and generously asked me to eat it with them. It was at that moment I realized my purpose for being there! It wasn’t a wall they wanted painted or a structured project to do with them. They wanted me to sit and join them – to learn about their culture and their heritage. They wanted me to do something with them, not for them – to share a piece of who they are and take it with me to share with the world.

At that moment I realized there is no one way to volunteer and no cookie cutter definition of how to volunteer. I spent the rest of my week embracing Israel and making people-to-people connections by listening to the stories that were shared with me. Whether it was working with a group of special needs adults, at-risk teens or a women’s empowerment group, there was no shortage of opportunities for me to connect and volunteer in a way that felt both meaningful and authentic.

For more information about volunteer opportunities in Ashkelon or to participate in an exciting local community art initiative to celebrate the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership, contact Rebecca Weinstock at or 410-843-7566.

Power For Power?

President Barack Obama  nominated Samantha Power as U.S. ambassador to the UN Several thought-leaders are not supportive of the move.  (Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA.COM/Newscom)

President Barack Obama nominated Samantha Power as U.S. ambassador to the UN Several thought-leaders are not supportive of the move.
(Olivier Douliery/ABACAUSA.COM/ Newscom)

A panel of conservative political activists, writers and former military officers convened last week at the National Press Club to sharply criticize President Barack Obama’s nomination of Samantha Power as permanent ambassador to the United Nations.

The event served as an announcement that those concerns had been laid out in a letter to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and signed by dozens of epresentatives of national security, pro-Israel and related conservative advocacy groups.

“In light of her low regard for our country, her animus toward one of our most important allies, Israel, and her affinity for those who would diminish our sovereignty and strengthen our adversaries, we consider her to be a wholly unacceptable choice for this sensitive post and urge you to reject this nomination,” the letter stated.

Frank Gaffney, president of the sponsoring Center for Security Policy, cited the letter as the reason for the panel discussion he then led over Power’s nomination. While the members cited an extensive list of concerns, it really could be boiled down to their contention that Power could and would not act favorably on behalf of the U.S. and its allies, especially Israel.

“Whatever one thinks of her patriotism, it is very clearly not a view of patriotism that is shared by the vast majority of the American people,” Gaffney said.

Her remarks in a 2002 interview in which she advocated American investment in a new Palestinian state with a “mammoth protection force,” said Gaffney, could lead to “alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import.”

“Samantha Power is bad for America, bad for Israel, and we strongly oppose her nomination,” said Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, adding that she is “basically really extreme and leftist.”

Power, who has been involved with the Obama administration in various roles since 2008, has since said her own quotes don’t make sense to her, rejecting any notion she might be hostile to Israel. She has recently said she now believes the conflict will be resolved by negotiations, but the panelists dismissed that as political disingenuousness.

“She does a Jackie Mason,” Klein said.

Former Florida congressman Allen West agreed with the panel’s assessment, and argued Power as “ideal for Obama,” explaining that it is “consistent in this administration to side with radical Islam.”

Rep. West derided Power as an “uber-left militant progressive” and “loyal Obama acolyte.” He added that she was just a part of the “troubling, weak and disturbing” national security team assembled by Obama.

Despite these anti-Israel concerns, Power has received hearty endorsements from prominent pro-Israel groups.

“She’s absolutely not anti-Israel,” said Aaron Keyak, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.”

Keyak cited staunch conservative Israeli advocates who have spoken and written approvingly of Power such as Alan Dershowitz and Josh Block of the Israel Project, as well as Israeli ambassador Michael Oren. Lawmakers including conservative senators such as John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have also voiced approval for her nomination.

For some of the panelists, the concerns were larger than just Power but extended to suspicion over the entire concept of the UN, both for a perceived anti-U.S. and anti-Israel bias and the suspicion over a sinister trans-nationalist agenda also highlighted in the letter.

“I oppose her on the grounds of U.S. sovereignty,” said William Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council.

He said he believes the U.N. wants to be a global governing body, overriding national independence and that Power subscribes to that same view.

Author Diana West also expressed broader worries, questioning the goals and tactics of the organization itself. West called it a “strategic prong of Marxism-Leninism” due in part to the role American Alger Hiss, later convicted as a spy of the Soviet Union, played in its formation.

For now, Powers’ nomination remains in play. Although Obama has encouraged the Senate to move quickly to confirm her, there are no set dates for confirmation hearings or votes.

Kudos to Egypt

Critics who call the recent coup by the Egyptian army “undemocratic” are placing form over substance and forgetting that the election of Mohamed Morsi was itself arguably undemocratic. Because his Muslim Brotherhood party was the only organized political force running for office, there was little chance of meaningful political competition emerging in the mere six months between Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow and Egypt’s first free elections.

That fact might have mattered much less had Morsi used his presidency to promote individual freedoms and build democratic, power-sharing institutions. But Morsi reverted to the same undemocratic policies that he was elected to change. In effect, Morsi simply replaced a secular autocratic rule with an Islamist one.

Unsurprisingly, persecution of Egypt’s Christian minority worsened under Morsi. Also under Morsi, the Egyptian currency lost more than a tenth of its value, making it harder for Egypt to import fuel and food. Morsi shunned the tough decisions needed to reform the Egyptian economy and gain the confidence of the IMF and foreign investors.

Morsi’s Islamist leanings were also bad for non-beach tourism. Last month, Morsi decided that the new governor of the ancient city of Luxor would be Adel Mohamed al-Khayat, a man with ties to the Islamist group that massacred around 60 tourists in that same tourist destination in 1997. That decision might have solidified Morsi’s political power, but how could it possibly have benefited Egypt?

In August 2012, when Morsi became the first Egyptian leader to host an Iranian president since the 1979 revolution imposed an Islamic theocracy on Iranians, what signal did that send to Egyptians (and the rest of the world)? When Morsi attended a June 15 rally packed with fellow Islamists calling for jihad in Syria, how could that possibly serve Egypt, which can barely stay afloat much less enter foreign wars?

To the credit of Egypt’s people (and army), they swiftly reclaimed the power they had given to Morsi before he could take them any further down a dangerous path that was all too familiar for its autocratic ways, but far worse for its instability and rudderless economic descent.

As the most populous Arab state, Egypt’s single greatest challenge has for years been employing its population (now at 85 million). That problem intensified when tourism and foreign investment dropped precipitously after 2011, when the decades-long stability of Mubarak’s rule was replaced by the unknown. Unemployment for the first quarter of 2013 was an estimated 13.2%.

The country’s next leader, Adly Mansour, who was just sworn in as Egypt’s interim president, and whoever ultimately succeeds him, will need tremendous skill to restore the stability, security, tourism and investor confidence needed to revive the economy.

Full protection and equal treatment must be given to Egypt’s Christians, the largest religious minority and a vital and ancient part of Egypt. The Copts community and holy sites should be a source of Egyptian pride and can even help to revitalize Egyptian tourism by attracting Christian tourists, provided that the Copts’ legitimate political and security concerns are adequately addressed.

The taboo of dealing with Israel should also be overcome. Israel’s successful transition from an agricultural, low-tech economy to one based on entrepreneurial innovation can provide some inspiration and opportunity for joint ventures in tourism, textiles, cleantech and other sectors. Israel’s 65-year democracy may even have some useful experience with separating religion and state, keeping the peace among an ethnically and religiously diverse population, protecting individual liberties and developing democratic and power-sharing institutions. But to realize the full potential of the 1979 treaty, Egypt’s media and politicians must start treating the Israeli-Egyptian peace as a blessing rather than a curse.

Fixing Egypt could be a long and bumpy road, but at least the repairs have started.

See also, A Leader Who Responds

Have The Conversation

What an encouraging article (“Fusion of Faiths,” June 21). As you know, Messianic Jews have generally been considered outside the Jewish community, even though we’ve maintained all along that we are Jews. We follow Torah, we celebrate the holidays, our services are on Shabbat, our children have bar/bat mitzvahs, Israel is our land, etc. Yet, in this article, I was pleased to read that the head of Jews for Judaism, Ruth Guggenheim, is quoted as saying that “within 20 years, Messianic Judaism will be accepted as an alternative within Judaism, not a challenged belief system.” It may take less than 20 years, Ruth. Even now, some Jewish scholars are interacting with Messianic Jewish scholars over critical issues, including the Messiahship of Yeshua. There are some who already accept that Messianic Jews are part of the Jewish world.

Although some of the statements in the article weren’t accurate, largely because they were quotes from people who didn’t have all the facts, all-in-all this was a positive article. I especially appreciated Rabbi Sharff’s remark at the end of the article: “The best thing we can do is have conversation.” Isn’t that what we Jews do?

Rabbi Barry Rubin
Emmanuel Messianic Jewish CongregationClarksville, Md.