1 28-ounce can stewed tomatoes, broken into smaller pieces
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chili powder, or more to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon each of ground oregano and celery salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 full teaspoon crushed garlic, or more to taste
½ large onion, diced small and sauteed in canola oil to just brown
8 to 16 ounces canned pinto, small white or black beans, drained and rinsed
¾ cup Wolff’s whole grain coarse or medium kasha,
uncooked (I like coarse)

Directions: In a large skillet or pot, add the tomatoes, broth, garlic and spices. Bring to a light boil and reduce to simmer. Add the kasha and beans and simmer, covered, 10 to 15 minutes, until kasha is tender. Stir gently. Add leftover cooked, shredded turkey for a meat chili. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Calling Iran’s Bluff?

From left: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Secretary of State John Kerry attend a news conference in Vienna last month. (Liu Xiang Xinhua News Agency/Newscom)

From left: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Secretary of State John Kerry attend a news conference in Vienna last month. (Liu Xiang Xinhua News Agency/Newscom)

Two alliances sat down last week in Vienna to discuss how to end the ongoing human tragedy that is Syria’s civil war. The stated objective was to bring the international community together to help orchestrate an end to a conflict that is being fought by multiple parties on multiple fronts and that has led to some 200,000 dead and more than 3 million refugees.

On the one side is the United States, the European Union and the Sunni Gulf monarchies, who long ago called for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the dictator whose violent response to peaceful protests in 2011 led to the destruction of his people and his country. On the other side is Russia and Iran, who, like Iran’s proxy Hezbollah, are invested in Assad’s continued hold on power, at least until they can arrange a replacement who will maintain power among the ruling Alawites.

But what was Iran doing at the table — particularly given historical U.S. opposition to such involvement? According to some, the U.S. concession is a reflection of the impact of the Russia-Iran alliance in Syria. That alliance is evidence of both countries’ deep involvement in the conflict. So, if it makes sense to have one of them at the table, it makes sense to have both. According to others, the decision to include Iran is evidence that the United States is again being reactive when it comes to developments in the Syrian civil war. Further support was lent to this view when, over the weekend, the White House announced the deployment of American special forces to Kurdish-held areas in the northeast part of Syria in the fight against the Islamic State, not against the Assad regime.

Secretary of State John Kerry said that by admitting Iran to the talks, the world community will be able to call Tehran’s bluff. That may be the case. But it isn’t clear how Iran will be singled out for performance expectations in this international effort. For now, at least, the inclusion of Iran in an international diplomatic forum will enhance that regime’s legitimacy and prestige and strengthen it as it continues to threaten Israel and vies for hegemony in the Middle East, all at a time when the focus should be on Iran’s compliance with the recent nuclear deal.

We worry about this elevation of Iran’s prestige and credibility. And we await the administration’s clarification of its plan to bring peace to Syria and remove Assad from power. If recent history is any guide, we might be waiting a long time.

Fair Is Fair

Should a fervently observant person of the Jewish faith become a candidate for the presidency of the United States, asking the candidate the following questions would be appropriate (with regard to Robert I. Lappin’s Your Say letter, Oct. 30):

Do you accept women as equal to men in every respect, and will you condemn and prohibit discrimination against women in any form?

Do you accept the LGBT community as equal in every sense, and do you agree that you will not discriminate against its members?

As John F. Kennedy did when the religion issue came up for him, will you commit yourself to decision-making that’s independent of whatever your rav/rebbe/godol may dictate?

Do you reject Halacha, acknowledging that in many respects it is in direct conflict with the democratic values of America? Such as: rabbinic law allows bigamy for males; violation of the Holy Sabbath is a capital offense; with their father’s permission, girls may be betrothed and the marriage consummated, from the age of 3 years and 1 day (Talmud: Yebamoth 57b).

Will you pledge allegiance to the United States of America, and if so, will this be in conflict with complete allegiance to Hashem (God) as is required of all Torah-true followers of Judaism?

Give Credit Where Credit’s Due

It’s wonderful to read how pleased and satisfied the officials of the Gordon Center are about the “highest caliber gem” of a building that was “flawlessly designed, with perfect sight lines and acoustics, a world-class theater venue, all opened 20 years ago “ahead of schedule and under budget” (“Gordon Center Turns 20”). But nowhere in the article was the architect and builder mentioned or credited. They made it happen.

Democratic? Not Hardly

The beloved Max Ticktin has spilled the beans (“Max Ticktin’s Second Act,” Oct 23). With regard to the demise in the 1970s of Breira, an advocacy group promoting a two-state solution, he admits the following:

“I was one of the people who paid the last bills. We botched it up because we had little sense of where the power lay. It lay with the people who made the biggest donations and were behind the big Jewish organizations. And they could do what they did do, which was bring us to our knees.”
Contemporary American Jewish organizational life is anything but a democracy. It features goverance of the donors, by the donors and for the donors — aka machers, a superannuated moneyed elite.  For all practical purposes, the operating norm is not “one Jew, one vote,” but “one dollar, one vote.” Just like, come to think of it, American politics itself, thanks to recent Supreme Court rulings.

An exception: The one major American Jewish national organization to make a valiant effort to operate democratically is the American Jewish Congress. Alas, Bernie Madoff’s shenanigans dealt it a severe body blow, from which it is still trying to recover. ­­

The emergence of a Jewish One Percent as bellwether for the American One Percent needs an appropriate name. Let me suggest the “macherization of America.”

BJC Pushing for New Sinai Complex, Anti-BDS Bill Baltimore Jewish Council outlines priorities ahead of 2016 General Assembly

Sarah Mersky, director of government relations at the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Sarah Mersky, director of government relations at the Baltimore Jewish Council.

The Baltimore Jewish Council will lobby for a new medical center for the uninsured and underinsured at Sinai Hospital and push for a bill that prevents businesses supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel from doing business with the state of Maryland in next year’s legislative session.

The items were among the BJC’s legislative priorities in advance of the General Assembly’s new session that were outlined at an Oct. 8 meeting.

The BJC’s capital request is for a community primary- and specialty-care complex at Sinai Hospital, which is an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. The organization is asking for $3 million for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 for the two-building complex, which will serve the uninsured or underinsured, said Sarah Mersky, the BJC’s director of government relations. She said it’s part of an overall focus on keeping people out of emergency rooms, part of which includes having clinics for those without primary-care physicians to go to rather than the ER.

BJC executive director Art Abramson said the council is working with local delegates on an anti-BDS bill, which is expected to be this coming year’s major policy issue for the council.

“We think that we will be able to provide some sort of legislation that will make it very difficult for those who want to deal in business [and who] promote boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel to operate in our state,” Abramson said. He added that he thinks legislation can move forward now that the BJC and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington are united in their positions.

The Baltimore Jewish Council expects its main policy issue in the 2016 Maryland General Assembly to be anti-BDS legislation.

Abramson said the council is also awaiting an opinion from the attorney general on how Maryland’s Iran sanctions legislation could be affected by the Iran nuclear deal. New legislation may be necessary to maintain Maryland’s standing as the state with the strongest sanctions against Iran, he said.

The BJC will also be working on two bond bills, one of which would be for upgrades to the Gordon Center. Mersky said the center needs an upgraded system to help those with hearing loss enjoy shows as well as environmentally friendly lighting.

The other bond bill is for a generator at the Pearlstone Center, which Mersky said sometimes loses power. In order to put the bond bill forward for the generator, Pearlstone will need to become a FEMA site, which would make sense, Mersky said, since it has hundreds of beds and is in a rural area.

Mersky said bond bills are often matched two-to-one or three-to-one through The Associated, private funding and, in the case of the Gordon Center, grants.

On the operational budget side, the BJC is asking for the same items as last year, with a larger funding request for the Diabetes Medical Home Extender Program. The program, which includes having people call diabetes patients to make sure they take their medication, is being expanded to Carroll Hospital and Northwest Hospital, which are both now a part of LifeBridge Health along with Sinai. Previously, the program was allotted $250,000 for just Sinai Hospital. This year, the BJC is asking for $800,000. Mersky said combined, the state and Sinai have saved $1.4 million since 2014 with this program.

Other operational items include $75,000 for the elder abuse program, $150,000 for the domestic violence prevention program, $225,000 for the supportive community network, $275,000 for the Maryland/Israel Development Center and $350,000 for Holocaust survivors, which was funded for the first time last year.

“Even though there are less Holocaust survivors … there are actually more in need in our program,” Mersky said. “Every year, we’re seeing a very large increase, and it’s only getting larger because even though they’re older, they have a lot more need.”

The funds would give Holocaust survivors seven hours of care, seven days a week.

The BJC is also working on bills to help those with autism and residents of Baltimore’s Penn-North neighborhood.


12 tablespoons butter, melted (or unsalted margarine)
2 cups pretzel rods, crushed into crumbs
1½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1 cup plus ¼ cup smooth peanut butter
1½ cups milk chocolate chips (or pareve chips)
Directions: In a medium bowl, add the melted butter to the pretzel crumbs, sugar and 1 cup of peanut butter. Stir together until well combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan. Combine the chocolate chips and the remaining peanut butter in a microwave safe dish. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until mixture is melted and smooth. Two intervals should be enough. Mix again to combine. Spread carefully over the pretzel layer. Refrigerate for at least
2 hours before cutting into squares. Yummy! Yields as many as the sizes you cut.


1 cup dry kidney beans
½ cup dry white beans
½ cup barley
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 medium-large pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and large cubes
1 large onion, cut into chunks
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2/3 cup ketchup
¼ cup barbecue sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons each: garlic and onion powder,
paprika, black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
4 cups water or more to cover all ingredients

Directions: Place all ingredients in the slow cooker. Mix well. Cook on high for 3 hours, then reduce to low and keep cooking overnight until the beans are tender. 8-12 servings. (You can add meat to ingredients if desired.)


Makes 2 large challahs
Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Challah Ingredients
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water, divided
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg (white and yolk)
6 egg yolks
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon
¾ tablespoons nutmeg
½ tablespoon allspice
¼ tablespoon ginger
pinch of cloves
½ cup brown sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
7 to 9 cups all-purpose baking flour

Egg Wash Ingredients
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water
You will also need:
large mixing bowl, whisk, kitchen towel, 2 cookie sheets, parchment paper, aluminum foil, pastry brush and timer

Directions: Pour ½ cup of the lukewarm water (about 110 degrees) into a large mixing bowl. Add 2 packets of Active Dry Yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve. Wait 10 minutes. The yeast should have activated, meaning it will look expanded and foamy. If it doesn’t, your yeast may have expired, which means your bread won’t rise — go buy some fresh yeast.

Once your yeast has activated, add remaining ½ cup lukewarm water to the bowl along with the rest of the sugar, egg, egg yolks, honey, canola oil, salt and spices. Use a whisk to thoroughly blend the
ingredients together. Whisk in the brown sugar and pumpkin puree to form a thick liquid.

Begin adding the flour to the bowl by half cupfuls, stirring with a large spoon each time flour is added. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead.

Continue to add flour and knead the dough until it’s smooth, elastic and not sticky. The amount of flour you will need to achieve this texture varies — only add flour until the dough feels pliable and ìright.î

Place a saucepan full of water on the stove to boil. Meanwhile, remove the dough from your
mixing bowl and wash out the bowl. Grease the bowl with canola oil. Push the dough back into the bottom of the bowl, then flip it over so that both sides are slightly moistened by the oil.

Cover the bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Place the bowl of dough on the middle rack of your oven. Take the saucepan full of boiling water and place it below the rack where your dough sits. Close the oven, but do not turn it on. The pan of hot water will create a warm, moist environment for your dough to rise. Let the dough rise for
1 hour.

Take the dough bowl out and punch it down several times to remove air pockets. Place it back inside the oven and let it rise for 1 hour longer.

Take the dough out of the oven. Flour a smooth surface like a cutting board. Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, then turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for a few minutes, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling sticky.

Now your dough is ready to braid. If you plan to separate and bless the challah, do it prior to braiding. Separate the dough into two equal portions; each portion of dough will be enough for a large loaf of challah. After you’ve braided your challah loaves, place them on two separate cookie sheets lined with parchment paper (this will catch any spills from your egg wash and keep your challah from sticking to the cookie sheet).

Prepare your egg wash by beating the egg yolks and water till smooth. Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of the mixture onto the visible surface of your challah.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Let the braids rise 30 to 45 minutes longer. You’ll know the dough is ready to bake when you press your finger into it and the indentation stays, rather than bouncing back. The challah will need to bake for about 40 minutes total, but to get the best result the baking should be done in stages. First, set your timer to 20 minutes and put your challah in the oven. After 20 minutes, take the challah out. Turn the tray around so the opposite side is facing front, and put the tray back into the oven. Turning the tray helps your challah brown evenly — the back of the oven is usually hotter than the front. The challah will need to bake for about 20 minutes longer. For this last part of the baking process, keep an eye on your challah: It may be browning faster than it’s baking. Once the challah is browned to your liking, take the tray out and tent it with foil, then place it back in the oven. Remove the foil for the last 2 minutes of baking time.

Take the challah out of the oven. You can test the bread for doneness by turning it over and tapping on the bottom of the loaf: If it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. Let challah cool on the baking sheet or a wire cooling rack before serving.


2 large onions, sliced
4 tablespoons oil
7 cups water
1½ pounds cubed pumpkin
1 medium white potato, cubed
2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
1 tablespoon pareve chicken soup
powdered mix
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ cup non-dairy creamer
3 tablespoons margarine, optional toasted pine nuts for garnish, optional but oh-so good

Directions: In a stainless steel pot, sauté the onions to golden. Add the water, pumpkin and both potatoes. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat and simmer for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. With an immersion blender or food processor, puree everything until smooth. Place mixture back into pot. Add the soup mix, salt and pepper and continue simmering for about 10 minutes. Stir in creamer and remove from heat. Stir in the margarine for a richer, buttery flavor, if desired. Sprinkle each serving with the pine nuts. 8-10 servings.