Golden Opporunity

A delegation from the Jewish National Fund-USA visits a classroom used for the new practical engineering program at Erez College in northern Israel. (Jewish National Fund)

A delegation from the Jewish National Fund-USA visits a classroom used for the new practical engineering program at Erez College in northern Israel.
(Jewish National Fund)

Jobs are coming to northern Israel in the country’s fledgling natural gas industry, and Erez College is opening the door to those new careers.

People have long joked that after 40 years in the desert, Moses still led the Jews to the only place in the Middle East without oil or gas. In 2009, that all changed with the discovery of the Tamar and Leviathan offshore gas fields. But while natural gas offers the prospect of freedom from foreign energy interests, Israel has few qualified practical engineers ready to populate the industry.

Into this gap leaped Sandee Illouz, CEO of Erez College, a vocational college in the town of Shlomi on Israel’s northern border. “The discovery of natural gas in Israel opens a whole new realm of jobs and job opportunities,” Illouz said at a March 10 ceremony that unveiled the college’s Mechanical Practical Engineer program and new Natural Gas Laboratories.

Illouz, who made aliyah from Iowa in 1975, welcomed leaders and investors from World ORT, the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah agency, and government representatives, along with American donors from the Jewish National Fund (JNF) “Go North” initiative, which has supported the new program from the beginning. Go North aims to bring 300,000 new residents to northern Israel, taking the pressure off the center of the country — but the initiative can only accomplish its objective if high-quality jobs and training exist in the north.

The jobs will be there, said Amit Marom, CEO of the philanthropic Marom Group. Speaking for industry giant Noble Energy, a Texas-based Fortune 1000 oil and gas company, Marom said, “We need 1,500 practical engineers now. We will need another 500 every year.”

With its Israeli partners, Noble Energy has led the way in helping Israel broker deals with neighbors Egypt and Jordan that could build political stability in the region in addition to building alliances within Israel. Marom said that as a nonprofit, Erez College is an important piece of the puzzle.

“We should build the [Israeli natural gas] industry through the nonprofit world,” he said.

Leviathan is the largest gas field discovered in the 21st century, said Erez College’s pedagogical adviser, Edward Breicher. Approximately 30 times larger than Tamar, Leviathan contains as much as 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“With oil,” Breicher said, “you must use 50 percent of every shekel for development, to take it from the ground, refine it, to complete the whole process. It’s expensive energy. Natural gas, on the other hand, comes to you ready-to-use. Every country is trying to use it.”

Half of Israel’s current power emanates from natural gas, and the Jewish state is now working on a major pipeline to carry natural gas across the country. Natural gas remains the cleanest fossil fuel, with far lower emissions than petroleum. It is also easier to access and store. But as is the case with any fossil fuel, it can be dangerous, demanding specially trained professionals to handle it safely. Additionally, the natural gas industry is being held up in the governmental arena. Regulations and anti-trust matters must be dealt with before the gas is made available.

Once the government gives the green light, Erez College graduates should be ready, having trained inIsrael’s largest laboratory for the processing and testing of industrial materials, built with JNF’s partnership.

Yaniv Bracha, a student in the Erez College practical engineering program, said, “Natural gas will create an economic revolution, along with new business opportunities for me.” Married with two children, Bracha is currently the northern region manager for Paz Oil, Israel’s largest fuel company.

When Breicher devised the idea of a practical engineering program as an enticing new area of study, he approached two large training schools but was turned down. Yet, Illouz recognized the potential the natural gas industry could have for Erez College and the town of Shlomi, in terms of educational and employment opportunities and quickly made Erez’s program a reality.

Sandee Illouz founded Erez College 30 years ago, with assistance from the Jewish Agency for Israel, to bring new hope to Shlomi’s nearly 2,000 residents. “Most of them had no high school diploma and would have left if they could for the wealthier central areas of the country,” she said.

Development towns such as Shlomi sprouted up all over Israel in the 1950s to house a flood of refugees from Arab countries and to ensure the country’s security in sensitive areas. But even today, funds remain scarce for these residents, and many are still among the poorest in Israel.

Shlomi itself, a quiet town nestled in Israel’s woody northern foothills, was the target of the initial rocket volleys that were launched at the Jewish state during the 2006 Lebanon War.

While many organizations speak about breaking the cycle of poverty, Erez College has seemingly smashed through every obstacle in its path. Shlomi Mayor Gabriel Naaman is one of 13 children, and only one — his younger sister — managed to study beyond high school since so few options were available in northern Israel for education and vocational training.

That was the first thing that needed to change, Naaman believed. When he became Shlomi’s mayor in 1999, he demanded 25 million shekels (about $6.3 million) from Israel for the building that now houses Erez College.

“I wanted something with a long future,” said Naaman. “This is what the region needed.”

Along with its new natural gas program, Erez College offers education in mechanical engineering, software design and food preparation in response to labor-market demands. Shlomi now has more than 7,000 residents, and Erez College has become a magnet for the entire Western Galilee.

Since many of Erez’s students have day jobs, the college holds classes in the evenings and on Fridays, when most Israelis don’t need to work. More than 14,000 students have graduated so far, including single mothers, new immigrants, Arabs, Druze and demobilized soldiers. Eighty percent of Erez graduates are employed.

Today, Mayor Naaman’s own children, nieces, nephews and their friends are putting down roots in northern Israel rather than leaving the area.

“JNF and Sandee Illouz’s vision is fast becoming a reality,” Naaman said. “Erez College is giving the entire region a huge boost and now training our workforce for the field of natural gas.”

Chocolate Pepsi Cake (Dairy)

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup Pepsi
2 sticks butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 eggs, beaten
1⁄2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
11⁄2 cups miniature marshmallows

1⁄3 cup Pepsi
1 stick butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound powdered sugar

Cake directions: Mix sugar and flour in large bowl. In a medium/large pan, combine Pepsi, butter and cocoa and bring to a boil. Pour into the sugar and flour. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing well by using electric mixer. Bake in a 350-degree preheated oven for 35 minutes in a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch or two
8-inch baking pans. While cake is baking, make frosting.

Frosting directions: Mix Pepsi, butter and cocoa and bring to a boil. Add to the remaining ingredients and mix well with electric mixer. (Don’t worry, you really don’t taste the soda.) This entire recipe will make the cake or three dozen cupcakes. Moist and delish.

Rolled Stuffed Eggplant (Dairy*)

1 very large eggplant, about 11⁄2 to
2 pounds (to get 10 long 1⁄4-inch-wide slices)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 15-ounce container part-skim
ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 small egg, beaten
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
olive oil for brushing
1 28-ounce jar good-quality mmarinara sauce
1 heaping tablespoon dry Italian seasoning
1⁄2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
fresh mozzarella cheese, grated, for topping
some extra grated Parmesan cheese for topping
about 6 ounces angel hair pasta, cooked al dente per package
directions and drain


Directions: Trim the eggplant, then slice off two opposite slices (can use or not use) lengthwise (so the slices are as wide as possible) 1⁄4- inch thick. Layer the slices in a colander set over a plate, sprinkling each layer with salt and let stand for 30 minutes to drain. Meanwhile, combine sauce ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, stir together the ricotta, mozzarella, Parm­igiano-Reggiano, egg, parsley and salt and pepper. Preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. Using a very large baking sheet sprayed with some olive oil, brush (or spray) the slices on both sides with olive oil, sprinkling each side with some salt and pepper. Arrange them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the slices until lightly browned on the bottom, about 10 minutes. Carefully turn the slices over and continue to bake until browned on the second side and tender, 5 to 10 minutes more. Remove eggplant from the oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Spoon a thin layer of the tomato sauce into a 13-by-9-inch rectangle baking dish. To make each eggplant roll, place a full tablespoon of the cheese mixture near the wide end of a slice. Place some of the pasta down the middle of the slice (tucking the pasta in so as not to “fall out”) and roll up the slice. As each roll is formed, place it seam side down in the dish. Spoon the remaining sauce over and around the rolls, then sprinkle evenly with the remaining cheeses. Bake the rolls at 350 degrees until the sauce is bubbling hot, the cheese is melted and the rolls are heated through, about 25-30 minutes. Divide the rolls among individual plates and serve immediately. *You could fill these with sautÈed mixed mushrooms, onions, garlic and spinach with a nondairy cheese topping to make them pareve. Can be frozen. Serves 6-8.


Vegetable Paella (Pareve)

2 14-ounce cans quartered
artichoke hearts, drained
lemon juice to taste
2 onions, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained
3 leeks, white portion only, chopped
3 green or other colored peppers, cut into strips

6 asparagus spears, cut into pieces
1⁄2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
4 10-ounce cans of vegetableor Oriental broth
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh parsley, minced,
or 1 teaspoon dried
6 to 8 ounces thick-sliced fresh mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
3 5-ounce packages saffron flavored yellow rice*

Directions: Sprinkle some lemon juice on the artichokes and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the onions until soft. Stir in the tomatoes, leeks, artichokes, peppers, asparagus, peas and one can of the broth. Bring to a boil. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining cans of broth, garlic, parsley, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Add the rice, stirring well. Simmer covered over low-medium heat for about 20-25 minutes or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes, before serving.

*You can substitute 1 2⁄3 cups long grain rice and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric for the packaged yellow rice. 6-8 servings.

From Darkness to Light

040315_Neumann-MarkTonight, Jews throughout our community and the world will gather for the first Passover seder. While enjoying the elements of the meal that may be special to their families, they will embrace Passover traditions passed down from generation to generation. These unique touches and tastes make this holiday especially personal for each family.

But the true power of Passover is the way in which it binds all Jews around the world and Jews through the ages together in a shared history. We are commanded to retell the story of the Exodus as if we were actually there in Egypt and personally redeemed from slavery.

As a nation, Jews witnessed G-d’s intervention and the miracles that enabled the Israelites to flee slavery for freedom. From the youngest baby to the oldest men and women, everyone experienced the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. This sense of peoplehood has bound Jews to one another for thousands of years.

Today, we see the manifestation of this sacred and ancient bond every day in our community. The value that teaches that all Jews must care for one another is embodied by the generous donors and volunteers who support the work of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

In Jewish Baltimore, the needs of our community have been well-served by The Associated and its agencies for nearly a century. And today, the fruits of those efforts are reflected in the generations of Baltimoreans committed to giving back and building for the future. We have the tools to immediately address local needs because of the strong infrastructure provided by The Associated and the resources so generously supplied by members of our community.

And that generosity extends well beyond the borders of Baltimore’s Jewish neighborhoods. In addition to supporting needs in the general community for all who call Baltimore home, Jews in Baltimore answer the call from overseas, where Jews in Israel, in Europe and in the former Soviet Union need the power of a global family behind them.

When our ancestors wandered the desert, it was adversity that connected them and eventually cemented their bonds as a people. Today, we continue to experience both the highs and the lows of a community together. When our teenagers volunteer their time and gain leadership skills, we kvell as a community. And when a family is shattered by domestic violence or trauma, we weep but recognize that our community must be there for that family.

As chair of the board of The Associated, I am proud of the work that’s performed day in and day out by our agencies and the thousands of professionals and volunteers who ensure that our community remains strong. At our seders, let us be thankful that our ancestors emerged from slavery and built a strong global community that supports the vulnerable and nurtures young leaders who ensure that we continue to have a strong, vibrant Jewish society.

Mark D. Neumann is chair of the board of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.


10 eggs, separated
Juice and rind of l lemon
11⁄2 cups sugar
3⁄4 cup mixture of half potato starch and half cake meal
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 ounces chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or non-dairy cream

Sift the potato starch and cake meal four to seven times over waxed paper. Grate the lemon rind and strain the juice. Preheat oven to 335 degrees.

Beat egg yolks with a fork in a small bowl. With a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff and gradually add the sugar. Add the lemon and yolks with the mixer on low speed. Fold the flour mixture into the batter and divide the batter into two large mixing bowls.

Add the cocoa to one of the batters. Using a regular tube pan, grease only the bottom. Wet the sides with some water, but shake off excess. Put the cocoa batter on the bottom. Put white mixture on top. Bake for one hour.

Remove from oven and turn upside down on a waxed paper or parchment lined tray. Let cool completely. Remove and turn right side up (white on top).

Melt the chocolate chips with heavy whipping cream or non-dairy cream, stirring until smooth and well combined (this will make the garnish taste like a chocolate ganache).

Drizzle over cake, letting chocolate drip down the sides decoratively. Serve unadorned or with fresh strawberries or chocolate covered strawberries.


If you’ve ever been to Italy and sipped a cappuccino, you may have been lucky enough to enjoy these almond-flavored cookies, which are a favorite of Shoyer.

Parchment paper
8-ounce bag slivered almonds (about 13⁄4 cups)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon potato starch (flour can be substituted after Passover)
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon amaretto (almond-
flavored liqueur, look for kosher for Passover brand)

032715_food_ilene_amaretto-cookiesPreheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Spread the almonds on the parchment paper and toast for 20 minutes, stirring the nuts after 10 minutes. When the almonds are golden and fragrant, remove the pan from the oven and slide the parchment off the pan. Let cool for five minutes.

Place the toasted almonds into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until the nuts are ground to a powder. Place the ground nuts in a medium bowl. Add the sugar, potato starch, egg whites and amaretto; mix until combined. Shoyer likes to use her hands to mix the ingredients, but a wooden spoon is a neater option. Line two jelly roll pans or cookie sheets with parchment.

Wet your hands and take walnut-sized clumps of dough and roll them into balls about one inch in diameter. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheets, about two inches apart. Be sure not to overcrowd the cookies; they spread while baking. You can bake in two batches. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes: 25 minutes for chewier cookies or 30 minutes for crunchier cookies. Slide the parchment off the cookie sheet onto a cooling rack and let the cookies cool.

Place baked and cooled cookies into an airtight container or freezer bags and store at room temperature for up to five days or freeze up to three months. Makes about three dozen cookies


1 large whole chicken, cut into
8 pieces
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1⁄4 teaspoon each salt and black
pepper, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 head garlic, cloves separated, not peeled

For Salsa Verde:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, cut in half
1 medium onion, cut in half and sliced
2 jalapeno peppers, halved (remove seeds for a mild flavor, keep them for more heat)
Leaves from 1 large or 2 small bunches fresh cilantro (I used parsley instead)
1⁄2 cup water
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken pieces in a large roasting pan. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, paprika, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the chicken and rub to coat. Shake the spice mixture onto the chicken and rub all over.

Place the garlic cloves in a small bowl and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Scatter the garlic cloves and drizzle the oil over the chicken pieces. Bake, uncovered for 50-60 minutes or until well browned and juices run clear.

Salsa Verde:
Heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add the onions and cook three to five minutes or until they just soften. Add the jalapeno halves, open side down, and cook for one minute. Turn over and cook for another four minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the jalapenos are fork-tender. Let cool for 20 minutes.Place the jalapeno mixture in a food processor, add the cilantro leaves, water and salt. Process until pureed and smooth. Cover and store in the fridge for up to one week

Serve the chicken on a platter and the Salsa Verde in a bowl alongside. Serves 4 to 6.

Cinnamon-Dusted spaghetti squash kugel with dates, apples and walnuts Serves 16

A pareve, gluten-free, dairy-free kugel that’s chockfull of antioxidants and vitamins? No, this isn’t too good to be true. So yummy you’ll want it for breakfast, this is also delicious as a side dish or a snack. And you’ll love how it makes your house smell when it’s in the oven.

4 cups cooked spaghetti squash
3 eggs
1/2 brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 teaspoons cinnamon, eggs and brown sugar. Add squash and toss to coat. Mix in apples, dates and walnuts.

Once all ingredients are combined, pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon evenly over dish.

Bake for 45 minutes or until kugel has set. Cool before slicing. Enjoy!

Beef and quinoa meatballs

Quinoa is a grain that is kosher for Passover. It is also a complete source of vegetarian protein and full of fiber and B-vitamins. If you aren’t a red-meat eater, feel free to substitute the groundsirloin with lean ground turkey instead.

1/2 cup white quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 lb. 93 percent lean ground sirloin
1/2 cup diced shallots
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place quinoa with 1 cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Take the saucepan off heat and allow quinoa to cool.

While quinoa is cooling, add all remaining ingredients to the bowl. Using a spoon or your hands, mix all ingredients (including quinoa) until they are well combined. Form small meatballs, about 1 heaping Tablespoon each. Place them in even rows on the lined baking sheets.

Place the sheet in the oven and cook the meatballs until they are slightly browned and crispy on top, about 12-15 minutes. Serve with your favorite sauce, on top of some wilted spinach or as appetizer bites.