Chef Susan Barocas



Anchusa can be made thicker and more substantial like a casserole (or kugel) or thin and crispy. The onions, cooked to golden deliciousness, are critical here, so don’t skimp and feel free to add even more. The thinner version makes a very tasty, gluten-free pizza crust or  appetizers ready for toppings when cut into small pieces.

2 16-ounce bags frozen chopped spinach, defrosted

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large or 3 medium onions, diced

4 large eggs, beaten

1 cup matzo farfel or 1 1/2 sheets matzah, crumbled into small pieces (optional)

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste

1/2 cup shredded kashkaval* or sharp white cheddar cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Open the bags of defrosted spinach into a strainer set in the sink and let drain there or over a large bowl. In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and sauté onions, stirring occasionally until soft and golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Turn down the heat if the onions are cooking too quickly; they should caramelize, not get crispy dark brown.

As the onions cook, squeeze all the moisture out of the spinach with your hands or the back of a large spoon. When the spinach is well-squeezed, put it in a large mixing bowl. Use a large spoon to mix in the fried onions. When well combined, add the beaten eggs, farfel or matzo pieces if using, salt and pepper and stir until everything is very well blended.

If using cheese, stir it into the mixture now before baking. Another option is to add the cheese to the top of the anshusa during last 10-15 minutes of baking.

Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a 9×9-inch baking dish or, for thinner, crispier results, on a 9×13-inch baking dish ir rimmed baking sheet. Heat the oiled baking dish or sheet in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes. When the pan is very hot, take it out of the oven and quickly spoon the mixture into the baking dish, hearing it sizzle. This will help ensure a crusty bottom. Pat the mixture so it’s evenly distributed with a smooth top. Bake according to how thick the mixture is until turning golden brown and crusty, about 45 minutes as a casserole, 30-35 in the baking sheet. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

* Kashkaval is a hard sheep’s cheese from the Balkans, available at specialty markets and some Middle Eastern markets.

Prep ahead

·       Defrost spinach and put in a strainer over a large bowl

·       Dice onions


·       Cutting board

·       6- to 8-inch knife for dicing

·       Strainer (preferably not a colander as the spinach can fall through the holes)

·       2 large mixing bowls

·       Metal or wooden spoon

·       12-inch sauté pan (or 10-inch if that’s what you have)

·       9×9-inch baking dish, or 9×12-inch baking dish or rimmed baking sheet


Leek and Potato Casserole


Quajado (kuajado in Ladino)—aka sfongato, asfongato, almodrote, frittata—is traditionally made with vegetables, eggs and cheese, although the cheese can be left out to create a non-diary dish. The dish is served for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, as a main course or a side. Because it holds up well to cutting and is enjoyable served at room temperature as well as hot, it’s also a good side dish, buffet offering or, when cut into small squares, an appetizer. Satisfying any time, quajado is especially popular at Passover when eating leeks is part of the Sephardic tradition. It works best to use starchy potatoes that mash well.

4-5 large Russet or Yukon gold potatoes (about 3 pounds)

6 to 7 leeks (3-3 1/2 pounds)

1 large or 2 medium carrots, shredded (about 3/4 cup)

5 large eggs, well beaten

1 teaspoon salt (less if using feta or another salty cheese)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste

3/4 cup crumbled feta or shredded hard cheese such as parmesan or kashkaval* (optional)

2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil

Peel and cut potatoes into even pieces about 1” in size. Set aside in a bowl of cold water.

Cut off dark green tops of the leeks and save for making vegetable stock. (Wash and store in the freezer until ready to use.) Cut off the roots at the very end of each leek. Pull off a couple of the tough outer layers of the leek, wash and save for stock. Split each leek lengthwise and then cut across into half-inch pieces, resulting in 8-9 cups of leek pieces. Place in a strainer and wash well under cold water. Set the strainer into a large bowl and fill with cold water. Swish the leek pieces with your hand, then let stand a few minutes so the dirt settles the bottom of the bowl. Lift out the strainer and rinse again under cool running water. Toss and mix the leeks, checking for remaining dirt. If needed, rinse the bowl well and repeat the process.

Place a steamer basket into a very large pot with a few inches of water that does not come over the bottom of the steamer. Bring the water to a boil and put the potato pieces in the basket first, then the leeks on top. (By steaming, you eliminate a lot of the moisture the leeks get from boiling.) Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium low and let the potatoes and leeks cook about 20 minutes until both are soft.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

 Put the cooked leeks and potatoes into a large mixing bowl and mash together very well. Mix in the shredded carrots if using. Add the beaten eggs, salt, pepper and cheese and stir to combine well.

Swirl 2 tablespoons oil in a 9×12-inch glass baking dish, then place it in the hot oven for 3 to 4 minutes. Heating the pan with the oil helps create a crust on the bottom and sides of the casserole. Once the baking dish is hot, carefully remove it from the oven. Working quickly, pour in the leek-potato mixture and spread it out evenly, patting the top smooth. Lightly brush the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Bake, uncovered, for about 45-50 minutes, or until the center is firm and the edges golden brown.

Let cool for about 10 minutes before cutting, if serving immediately. Serve warm or at room temperature. Cooked quajado can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 6 weeks. To serve, defrost and heat in a 350-degree oven, covered for the first 10 minutes, then uncovered for another 10 minutes or until heated through.

Note: Other vegetables can be used in various combinations totaling 3 to 4 cups including raw shredded zucchini (salt lightly, let stand for 15-20 min, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible), blanched chopped spinach (also with liquid squeezed out) or roasted, drained and mashed eggplants.

Questions, comments, feedback? Contact me at

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Prepare for Our Workshop

·      Assemble your ingredients and prepare a clean work surface (including a mixing bowl, fork, a rolling pin and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper).

·      We highly recommend that you pre-measure ingredients and clean and chop vegetables before we begin.

Kreplach Recipe

Makes about 30 kreplach

Ingredients for the dough:

·      1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (all purpose gluten free flour works too), plus more as needed

·      ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

·      1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

·      ½ cup to ¾ cup hot water

To make the dough:

·      In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the oil and hot water (starting with ½ cup water and adding more as needed). Stir gently to form a dough. Using your hands, knead to form a soft, smooth ball. If the dough is sticky, add a bit more flour. Set aside, cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel.

To assemble the kreplach:

·      Take half the dough and roll it out on a well-floured surface; keep the other half covered to avoid drying. The dough should be rolled out as thin as possible, without breaking.

·      Cut out rounds using a glass. Keep your surface well-floured to prevent the kreplach from sticking.

·      Place ½ teaspoon of the filling in the center of each krepl (yes, that’s the singular). Work quickly or the dough will dry out. Do not overstuff. Fold the dough into half moons (or get fancy as we’ll show you). Repeat the process with the remaining dough, putting the finished kreplach on a baking sheet and keeping them in the freezer until you are ready to cook and serve.

Ingredients for the mushroom filling:

  • 4 tsp olive oil, plus a little bit more

  • 1 small onion, peeled and diced small

  • 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned, de-stemmed, diced small

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste

  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (dried is ok, but reduce quantity to 1 tsp)

  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Sour cream for serving fried or vegetable broth for serving in soup (optional)

To make the mushroom filling:

  • Heat oil in a large frying pan. Sauté onions until translucent, add mushrooms and 2 cloves garlic, herbs and red pepper flakes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are shriveled and have released juices, but before they crisp up or burn.

  • Taste and adjust seasonings and salt to your liking. Let cool slightly before filling and folding dumplings.

Bonus (optional!) 2nd Filling

For the Spinach and onion filling:

·      ½ tablespoon olive oil

·      1 medium onion, sliced

·      3 ounces spinach, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped

·      1 large egg

·      ½ tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

·      ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

To make the bonus spinach and onion filling:

·      In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until the onion is soft and caramel in color, about 15 minutes. Add the spinach in batches and cook until it has wilted, about 5 minutes. Let the spinach-onion mixture cool slightly, then transfer it to a food processor and add the egg, lemon juice, and salt. Process until a smooth paste is formed.

Recipe adapted from The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods by Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz (Flatiron Books, 2016). All Rights reserved.

Jeweled Rice

What could be more beautiful and enticing than delicately spiced rice adorned with little jewels of dried fruit and sparkling pomegranate seeds? It is little wonder that Persian Jews traditionally serve large platters of jeweled rice, called morasa polo, at weddings and other joyous occasions

Advance prep. Please come to class with the following steps completed:

– Finely chopped onion (onion can be cut up to 1 day in advance and stored in a Tupperware in the fridge)

– Toast the almonds and pistachios following step 1. Cool and store in a Tupperware until class.


Serves 8

¼ cup (30 g) sliced or slivered almonds

¼ cup (30 g) unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped

½ teaspoon saffron, crumbled

¼ cup (60 ml) boiling water

2 cups (400 g) basmati rice, soaked in water for 15 minutes and then drained

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup (90 g) dried apricots, very thinly sliced

½ cup (70 g) dried cherries or cranberries, roughly chopped

½ cup (70 g) golden or black raisins

½ teaspoon finely grated orange zest

½ cup (85 g) fresh pomegranate seeds, for serving (optional)

  1. In a small dry frying pan, toast the almonds and pistachios over medium-low heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. Set aside.

  1. In a small heatproof bowl, stir together the saffron and boiling water, set aside.

  1. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until halfway tender, 5-7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

  1. In a medium frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Add the salt, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, cardamom, and pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the apricots, cherries, golden raisins, and orange zest. Remove from heat and set aside.

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining ¼ cup oil over medium heat. Spread half of the parboiled rice on the bottom and cover with the onion and fruit mixture, then the remaining rice. Let cook, undisturbed, until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Use the back of a wooden spoon or a chopstick to poke several deep holes in the rice to help steam escape as the rice cooks. Drizzle the saffron-water mixture over the rice. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

  1. Transfer the rice and onion/dried fruit mixture to a wide serving bowl and gently mix to combine. Use a spatula to carefully remove the bottom crust of rice from the pot and place on top. Serve hot, sprinkled with the toasted nuts and pomegranate seeds, if using.

Chocolate Dipped Figs

Serves 4

This is a magical dish is ridiculously simple one to prepare. The sprinkle of sea salt brings everything together. If you can’t find dried Calimyrna figs, substitute lack Mission figs — or your favorite variety.

2 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate, roughly chopped

12 dried Calimyrna figs

Flaky sea salt for dusting

1. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler set over simmering water or in the microwave, in a microwave-safe bowl, at 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval.

2. Use your fingers to reshape any figs that were flattened in their package. Dip the rounded bottom half of each fig in the melted chocolate and lay on the figs on their sides on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle each fig bottom with a little sea salt. Refrigerate figs until chocolate sets, about 15 minutes. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Responding to a Culture of Mendacity

1.     Bereisheit 29:20-25


כ  וַיַּעֲבֹד יַעֲקֹב בְּרָחֵל, שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים; וַיִּהְיוּ בְעֵינָיו כְּיָמִים אֲחָדִים, בְּאַהֲבָתוֹ אֹתָהּ כא  וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶל-לָבָן הָבָה אֶת-אִשְׁתִּי, כִּי מָלְאוּ יָמָי; וְאָבוֹאָה, אֵלֶיהָ.’ כב  וַיֶּאֱסֹף לָבָן אֶת-כָּל-אַנְשֵׁי הַמָּקוֹם, וַיַּעַשׂ מִשְׁתֶּה כג  וַיְהִי בָעֶרֶב–וַיִּקַּח אֶת-לֵאָה בִתּוֹ, וַיָּבֵא אֹתָהּ אֵלָיו; וַיָּבֹא, אֵלֶיהָ כד  וַיִּתֵּן לָבָן לָהּ, אֶת-זִלְפָּה שִׁפְחָתוֹ–לְלֵאָה בִתּוֹ, שִׁפְחָה כה  וַיְהִי בַבֹּקֶר, וְהִנֵּה-הִוא לֵאָה; וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-לָבָן, מַה-זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ לִּי–הֲלֹא בְרָחֵל עָבַדְתִּי עִמָּךְ, וְלָמָּה רִמִּיתָנִי. כו  וַיֹּאמֶר לָבָן, לֹא-יֵעָשֶׂה כֵן בִּמְקוֹמֵנוּ–לָתֵת הַצְּעִירָה, לִפְנֵי הַבְּכִירָה

And Yaakov worked for Rachel for seven years and they were in his eyes but a few days because of his love for her. And Yaakov said to Lavan, give me my wife because my days have been filled and I will come to her. And Lavan gathered all the people of the place and made a feast. And in the evening, [Lavan] took his daughter Leah and brought her to [Yaakov] and he came to her. And Lavan gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. In the morning, behold she was Leah! And he said to Lavan, “What have you done to me? Did I not work for you for Rachel? Why did you trick me?” And Lavan said, “It is not done in our place, to give the younger before the elder.”



2.     Talmud Bavli Megillah 13b


בשכר צניעות שהיתה בה ברחל – זכתה ויצא ממנה שאול, ובשכר צניעות שהיה בו בשאול – זכה ויצאת ממנו אסתר. ומאי צניעות היתה בה ברחל   . . .?אמר לה: מינסבא לי? אמרה ליה: אין. מיהו, אבא רמאה הוא, ולא יכלת ליה. – אמר לה: אחיו אנא ברמאות. – אמרה ליה: ומי שרי לצדיקי לסגויי ברמיותא? – אמר לה: אין  עִם-נָבָר, תִּתָּבָר וְעִם-עִקֵּשׁ, תִּתַּפָּל(שמואל ב כב:כז). אמר לה: ומאי רמיותא? – אמרה ליה: אית לי אחתא דקשישא מינאי, ולא מנסיב לי מקמה. מסר לה סימנים. כי מטא ליליא, אמרה: השתא מיכספא אחתאי, מסרתינהו ניהלה. והיינו דכתיב  וַיְהִי בַבֹּקֶר, וְהִנֵּה-הִוא לֵאָה (בראשית כט:כה) , מכלל דעד השתא לאו לאה היא? אלא: מתוך סימנין שמסרה רחל ללאה לא הוה ידע עד השתא. לפיכך זכתה ויצא ממנה שאול. ומה צניעות היתה בשאול – דכתיב  וְאֶת-דְּבַר הַמְּלוּכָה לֹא-הִגִּיד לוֹ, אֲשֶׁר אָמַר שְׁמוּאֵל (שמואל א י:טז). – זכה ויצאת ממנו אסתר.

As a reward for Rachel’s modesty, she merited to have Saul as a descendent. As a reward for Saul’s modesty, he merited to have Esther as a descendent. What was Rachel’s modesty?  . . . [Yaakov] said to her, “Marry me?” She said, “Yes, but my father is a trickster and you are no match for him.” He said, “I am his brother in trickery.” She said, “Is it permitted for the righteous to walk in the way of trickery? He said, “Yes – With the pure, act in purity and with the crooked, be  wily.” He said to her, “What is the trickery?” She said, “I have an older sister and he will not marry me off before her.”  [Yaakov] gave her signs. When night came [Rachel] said, “Now my sister will be humiliated”. She gave [the signs] to her. As it is written, In the morning, behold she was Leah! This implies that until then she was not Leah? Rather, because of the signs that Rachel gave Leah he did not know until [morning]. Therefore she merited to have Saul as a descendent. And what was Saul’s modesty? As it is written, And the matter of the kingship he did not tell him, what Samuel said – he merited having Esther as a descendent.

3.     Eichah Rabbah Petichta 24

באותה שעה קפצה רחל אמנו לפני הקב”ה ואמרה רבש”ע גלוי לפניך שיעקב עבדך אהבני אהבה יתירה, ועבד בשבילי לאבא שבע שנים, וכשהשלימו אותן שבע שנים, והגיע זמן נשואי לבעלי, יעץ אבי להחליפני לבעלי בשביל אחותי, והוקשה עלי הדבר עד מאד, כי נודעה לי העצה, והודעתי לבעלי ומסרתי לו סימן שיכיר ביני ובין אחותי, כדי שלא יוכל אבי להחליפני, ולאחר כן נחמתי בעצמי וסבלתי את תאותי, ורחמתי על אחותי שלא תצא לחרפה, ולערב חלפו אחותי לבעלי בשבילי, ומסרתי לאחותי כל הסימנין שמסרתי לבעלי, כדי שיהא סבור שהיא רחל, ולא עוד אלא שנכנסתי תחת המטה שהיה שוכב עם אחותי והיה מדבר עמה והיא שותקת, ואני משיבתו על כל דבר ודבר, כדי שלא יכיר לקול אחותי, וגמלתי חסד עמה, ולא קנאתי בה, ולא הוצאתיה לחרפה, ומה אני שאני בשר ודם עפר ואפר לא קנאתי לצרה שלי ולא הוצאתיה לבושה ולחרפה, ואתה מלך חי וקיים רחמן, מפני מה קנאת לע”ז שאין בה ממש והגלית בני, ונהרגו בחרב, ועשו אויבים בם כרצונם, מיד נתגללו רחמיו של הקב”ה ואמר בשבילך רחל אני מחזיר את ישראל למקומן, הה”ד כה אמר ה’ קול ברמה נשמע נהי בכי תמרורים רחל מבכה על בניה מאנה להנחם על בניה כי איננו ירמי’ לא יד, וכתיב כה אמר ה’ מנעי קולך מבכי ועיניך מדמעה כי יש שכר לפעולתך וגו’ שם שם /ירמיהו ל”א/ טו, וכתיב ויש תקוה לאחריתך נאם ה’ ושבו בנים לגבולם שם שם /ירמיהו ל”א/ טז.


At that time Rachel our mother jumped up before God and said, “Master of the World, it is clearly known before you that Jacob your servant loved me with an extra love, and he worked for me for my father for seven years. And when those seven years were over and it was time for me to marry my husband, my father decided to switch my sister for me. And this matter was very difficult for me because I found out about the plan. And I informed my husband and I gave him a sign so that he would know the difference between me and my sister so that my father could not switch me. But afterward, I regretted this and I suffered my desires and I had mercy on my sister that she not be humiliated. And in the evening, they switched my sister for me and I gave my sister all of the signs that I had given my husband so that he would think that she was Rachel. And not only that, but I went under the bed on which he was lying with my sister and he would speak with her and she would be silent and I would answer him about each thing so that he would not recognize my sister’s voice. And I dealt kindly with her and was not jealous of her and I did not allow her to be disgraced. And I am but flesh and blood, dust and ashes, I was not jealous of my rival and I did not allow her to be disgraced and humiliated! And You are a living, eternal merciful King, why are you jealous of idols that have nothing to them? And you have exiled my children and they were killed by the sword and their enemies did to them as they pleased! Immediately God’s mercy was aroused and he said, “For your sake Rachel, I will return Israel to their place”  . . .

Perhaps the funniest episode of any program in the past year was episode 5 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, features Isla Fisher, who is a professional crier, and manipulates Larry David into giving her his late mother’s mink stole.  Yes, she is paid to cry at funerals and television shows and in theaters.  The services are valuable as crying prompts others to pay attention. Tears are a powerful form of persuasion. Tears can produce strong reactions such as empathy. But tears can be suspect if the tearful individual’s motives are questioned. This is especially true of people who have the capacity to control weeping.  This is the heart of the episode.

What makes this episode so funny are the sad truths it reveals. Real crying may be a lost art.

Ours is an age which has forgotten how to cry. Whether at Yom Kippur services, a funeral or a theater, tears are conspicuous by their absence.

There is much to cry about. 200,000 dead of corona virus.  Governments around the globe grabbing power and moving toward fascism.  Our planet on fire.  Our planet drowning. The airwaves and news reports should be filled with pictures of people crying.

We have prided ourselves on opening doors to innovation, but we don’t open the doors to our heart. We have reached the heavens with space travel, but we can’t seem to reach into our souls.

Crying is a uniquely human event. Crying has been linked to stress reduction and mood enhancement with the release that follows crying, making tears a method of self-soothing. Crying triggers Parasympathetic nervous system activity.  I threw that in to prove that I wasn’t just making up the science of crying.The effect of crying goes beyond self-soothing.  We can pierce a psychological barrier which promotes new perspectives or resolutions.

 The other primary aspect of crying is its interpersonal function: the effect that crying has on other people.  When somebody cries the common reaction is to make the crying stop. Unknowingly, when someone responds to tears with “Ssssh don’t cry” they’re actually saying, “Stop expressing your emotion through crying, it’s making me uncomfortable,” which really says “Your emotions make people uncomfortable,” which eventually translates to, “feelings are bad”.  When a child cries, we may think they are overreacting, and we may urge them to stop crying.  Perhaps it is us who wants their crying to stop, not them.  But we are teaching them that tears are an unwanted intrusion.

Alternatively, crying may elicit empathy in the observer, leading to comforting and support. Once learned, the notion of crying to gain consolation may remain.

Many people have a remarkable ability to control their weeping. Others cannot control their crying. Uncontrolled crying is deemed an example of mental health issues. We may mistakenly presume someone is depressed because they cry a lot.

In fact, there are many negative connotations to crying.  For men, we are chided not to be like little boys or like women. Men avoid crying because they are told crying is associated with weakness. Tears violate social norms for men. Appropriate social expression for men is typified by our movie heroes – Bogart and Gable in the 30s and 40s, Russell Crowe and Dwayne Johnson more recently. This is the anticipated version of the white, heterosexual male:  a powerful man who is rational and controlled.

Women’s tears are seen as more normal than a man’s. Women are more prone to cry then men. Women are more likely to cry when angry. Women are less concerned with demonstrating power and are more likely to show vulnerability such as crying. Yet, a woman’s tears may be negatively viewed for her lack of emotional discipline. Neither sex is given a free pass on crying.

How we evaluate crying is often situational – appropriate at funerals, not so much when your computer crashes.

Being mentally strong means being able to be sad or cry sometimes.  Our tears are powerful expressions of concern and pain and sympathy.  Tears are generally a genuine way to express emotion. And tears are an important part of social communication. Crying transcends speech. Crying is the emotional equivalent of ALL CAPS, BOLD, EXCLAMATION POINT and sad face emoji.

And yet, we live in a society that does not value crying. This is not true of all people. Japanese are strong believers of spirituality and enlightenment. They attend crying classes to release over-thinking and perturbed emotions. Some cities in Japan now have “crying clubs” which provide a supportive, safe space to cry for people who struggle to express emotion due to cultural or personal reasons.

Here in the west, we bottle up these expressions of emotion with a negative association. Yet, the spiritual giants of Jewish thought know better.  A Chasidic master, the Kotzker Rebbe, said that when one needs to cry, and wants to cry, but cannot cry—that is the most heart-rending cry of all.

In writing Learning to Cry, Dr. Erica Brown offered this: In Rabbi Israel Meir Lau’s remarkable autobiography, Out of the Depths, Lau mentions a young survivor after liberation who had lost his parents and who heard an older survivor address several hundred orphans in France. The young listener thanked the speaker for a gift: the ability to cry again. “When they took my father and mother, my eyes were dry. When they beat me mercilessly with their clubs, I bit my lips, but I didn’t cry. I haven’t cried for years, nor have I laughed. We starved, froze, and bled, but we didn’t cry.” This young man thought he had a stone for a heart. “Just now, he said, I cried freely. And I say to you, that whoever can cry today, can laugh tomorrow….

From crying there begins a process of healing, transformation, and redemption. Your tears may be a gift of the spirit. Tears can be shed for purpose of the restoration of the psyche.  Crying can directly connect you with the subliminal messages of your mind or the depths of your soul.

The power of tears is our ability to approach the healing, the Oneness, the closure, the redemption, the most profound level of prayer.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we’re not perfect, we don’t always get it right, not as individuals and not as a people. Having reached the truth of our being, wiping away the ego and the pride, perhaps all that is left is for us to cry out. Perhaps what is best for us is to cry out.

That’s what the shofar is. The sound of our tears. Shevarim, three sighs. Teruah, a series of sobs. And surrounding them the tekiah, the call without words. The sound of a heart breaking. No more excuses. No more rationalizations and justifications. Ribbono shel olam, forgive us.

There has to be a time when we allow ourselves simply to weep for what we know we could have handled better. How we could have been better.

Crying starts where words end.  And I’ve run out of words to describe the depths of my frustration and sadness about the state of our Nation and the world.  I should be crying right now.

As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has taught, “in our tradition, we are heard when we cry.  God hears our cries and sheds tears along with us.”  The psalmist wrote that God collects our tears in a flask and records them in a book. (psalm 56:9)

There’s nothing closer to God than a broken heart and nothing stronger than a heart that’s been healed by God’s forgiveness.

The ability to cry may be an indication of character. The failure to cry may be the true indicator of spiritual illness.

Prayer should be a stimulus for tears. Rabbi David Ingber tells that he has boxes of tissues placed around the sanctuary.  If people aren’t crying at some point during a service, then he has failed.

The prophet Jeremiah understood the value of crying.  He wished that his head were water and his eyes a fountain so that he could weekday and night for the people who had died.

The act of crying is the beginning of transformation if the tears are with purpose.

Your tears are not an affliction.  Your crying is not the sin.  Bottling up your emotions is distancing you from yourself, from your community and from God.

I will add to the Al Chet prayer this year, the prayer that lists sin after sin.

For the sin of not hearing the crying of others in distress

For the sin of not offering tears for what grieves my soul.

For this dear God, forgive us, pardon us, and grant us atonement.

Is crying a self-soothing behavior? Frontiers in Psychology, 2014, Asmir Gracanin, et al.

The perception of crying in women and men: Angry tears, sad tears and the “right way” to cry. L. R. Warner, Stephanie Shields, January 2007.

The Cry, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks,

Protestors have filled the streets of Louisville this week where Brianna Taylor, an African American was shot dead in the home of her boyfriend. Blacks don’t feel safe in their American homes. Near Brunswick, Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery was out jogging when he was chased down by two white men with guns and shot to death. And George Floyd died when a Minneapolis Policeman pinned his neck to the ground for over 8 minutes.

In case you think this is not our issue, I am here to say it is. Jews stand for Justice, – Justice, Justice shall you pursue, not just for yourselves – there is no limitation on the pursuit of justice. We don’t stand idly by when our neighbors are denied Justice no less loose their lives.

36 times in Torah we are told to love the stranger.  For most of us, members of the African American community are strangers.  Generally, our connections are limited.

America once grouped blacks and Jews together.  As excluded groups, blacks, Jews and dogs were denied entry into hotels and restaurants and country clubs. America has progressed to accommodating Jews and becoming pet friendly.

But African Americans are still afraid for their lives at a traffic stop.  Not to mention that they have a more difficult time getting the best mortgage rates, or the best health care, or the best grocery stores in their neighborhoods – all things we as Jews insist upon for ourselves.

Jews have long benefitted from passing as white people in America.

And we compliment ourselves on our progressive views.  This is part of virtue signaling – “the sharing of one’s point of view on a social or political issue…in order to garner praise or acknowledgment of one’s righteousness from others who share that point of view, or to passively rebuke those who do not.” In a Washington Post op ed by Tre Johnson, he noted how whenever the racial conflict got “real” white liberals form book clubs and do a lot of listening. Not a lot of action.  That is many of us.

And we Jews have a measure of culpability.  No, we didn’t start the fire, but the fire continued burning and we didn’t do enough to stop it.  In fact, we benefitted at times.

I did not fully appreciate how we Jews in the USA are culpable for inequality in our communities. After all, my grandparents came from Poland and the Ukraine in the 20th Century.  They struggled to make a living as tailors and liquor salesmen. They voted for Democrats.

And then I began our campaign to help the Scotland AME Zion church on Seven Locks Road in Potomac.  I saw that the Church needed help to rebuild. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, I wanted to take action.  I quickly organized a fundraising campaign. As Jews we learn, first we do and then we ask questions, just the way we received Torah at Sinai.

I learned that the Scotland community was founded by the children of slaves.  The Scotland Community built a church with their own hands, completing the work in 1924.  By the 1960s, the residents of Scotland were still living in shacks–no running water.

One woman, Joyce Siegel, had recently moved to Bethesda in 1964. She learned from her children attending Churchill High School of their classmates who lived in poverty.  She launched into action.  She helped secure federal funding under Section 8 to rebuild decent housing.  And the church was the central meeting place for her advocacy.

While Scotland got the support of Joyce Siegel, the Scotland community was also shrinking.  Original landowners were under pressure to sell to local developers.  The County supported the developers, hoping to secure some of the land to add to Cabin John park.  One developer, Carl Freeman, built hundreds of homes and townhouses on land that was part of or adjacent to Scotland. The area is now called Inverness. Hundreds and hundreds of homes all built by one Jewish developer. And the Cabin John shopping center paved over a large area topographically higher than the townhouses and abutting an African American cemetery.

Jodi and I lived in Inverness Townhouses.  We had no idea that we were living on land that was originally part of an African American community.  And now we know the impact of development on the Scotland Community.  When you pave over large areas for streets and driveways and shopping centers, you change the way water moves over the land. And the cabin john creek that used to channel water downhill through this area of Potomac, now directs water toward the Scotland AME Zion Church.

These are our neighbors.  And the Church is their spiritual home. And that home was flooded and needs to be rebuilt.  And we are not merely being charitable in our support. We are correcting wrongs from which we benefitted.

And now the Glenstone Museum Foundation has gotten involved and is guiding the church leaders on the rebuilding effort.

And let me tell you about my new friend Rev. Dr Evalina Huggins, the regional director of the Scotland AME Zion churches in the mid-Atlantic region.  Until this unfortunate episode, she had not met a rabbi and had no significant Jewish contacts.  Now she says Rabbis seem to be coming out of the word work to support her work.

A day of repentance is the right day to discuss our teshuvah for abiding the systemic racism in this country. Yom Kippur is the opportunity to scrape away the virtue signaling and accept responsibility for not doing more to help the stranger and the widowed African American women and children whose husbands and fathers have been killed.

We have to recognize our racism, admit that it exists, and do our best to change our character.  And let’s help change America, let’s put out the fire of systemic racism.

R’ Evan J. Krame

We begin Yom Kippur with Kol Nidre.  Kol Nidre is not a prayer.  God is not mentioned. We praise nothing. We ask for nothing.

Kol Nidre is a legal formula. Kol Nidre is an invitation to pray in a community of people with all of their flaws and sins.  And you are one of those flawed people. You are one of those sinners.

Kol Nidre is a radical call to become a community. Kol Nidre tells us to come together not because of our goodness but because of our weaknesses.  When we recognize our humanity, we can join together as a unity.

Many of us wince at the word “sin.” It doesn’t feel like us. We Jews pride ourselves on our virtues, we are smart, we are charitable, we are motivated.  We are Nobel prize winners and we are Supreme Court Justices, we are Civil Rights advocates, and we are Stars.

At Tashlich this year, I threw bread into the water for the sin of thinking I don’t have so many sins.

Rarely do we focus on the dark side of our personhood. And when life is challenging, too often we ask why did this happen to me, rather than as Elijah Cummings said, why is this happening for me?  Our egos and our pride get in the way of the work of improving ourselves.

Kol Nidre asks us to come together precisely because we are imperfect beings. Kol Nidre asks us to examine those failings and imperfections.

Later in the service, we progress to the Ashamnu prayer, the Vidui, and Al Chet, those prayers that list dozens of sins. If we haven’t heard the call to be present with our failings we won’t know how to pray a list of sins. We might scan the list and say – but that’s not me. We might recite the words but not appreciate their meaning.

Kol Nidre’s piercing notes are designed to scrape away the ego and pride that keeps us from our better selves. These barriers of refined self-image and damning conceit are damaging for us, damaging for our families, damaging for our country and damaging for our future.

When you read Ashamnu and Al Chet, offer each line accepting your responsibility for that wrongful behavior. Whether the sin is yours or your neighbor’s, we have formed a community that shares the burdens of our failings.

Prayer is not a pick and choose approach, shopping for what resonates most with us.  Prayer is a challenge to scream into one’s own ears, are you paying attention? Are you hiding from your best self? Are you encouraging others to be their best selves?

When you deny your own failings and shortcomings you give license to others to do the same. Demonstrate to your friends and family, to your parents and your children and your siblings, that self-examination is necessary. Demonstrate to everyone that admitting our failings is the first step toward improving our world.

Kol Nidre demands that we admit we are flawed.  Kol Nidre demands that we invite others to pray with us. Kol Nidre teaches this. If you are real with yourself, you will be real with God. If you are open to admitting your mistakes to God, you will be open to acknowledging the need to change.  If you are accepting of the need to change, you will be open for improvement.  If you can improve yourself, you can help improve this world.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame

Our hearts mourn the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, may her memory be blessed.” She was a woman of great courage, deep knowledge and profound thought. Ruth Bader Ginsburg represented the highest ideals of the Jewish people. She believed that a person’s dignity was paramount. She advocated for women and minorities, those who were disadvantaged within this American democratic system. She succeeded in spearheading significant changes in American jurisprudence from civil rights to environmental protection.

In Judaism, among the greatest mitzvot is comforting the mourner. Today we are all mourning. How shall we comfort each other? How are we to mourn?

In a sense we feel punished.  As the prophet Amos wrote, due to our behavior, he said God will change our holidays into mourning. Here we are on Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world mourning the death of one of the greatest women in American history.

This passage from Amos is also understood to teach that just as biblical holidays are seven days long, similarly the mourning period is seven days long. And so, the next seven days will be a day of mourning for the Jewish people and Americans of good conscience.

During the time of the Talmud, people would show signs of mourning over the passing of others aside from immediate relatives, like members of the leadership of the Jewish people – the Nasi, the Chacham and the Av Bet Din. When any of these leaders passed away, chalitzat katef was required.

Chalitzat katef is actually a symbolic tearing of the clothes, an indication that the person has removed his clothing due to aveilut (mourning).

The Gemara at Moed Katan tells of Yosef ha-Kohen whose wife passed away, leaving him to raise small children. Immediately following the burial – while still in the cemetery – he turned to his late wife’s sister and asked her to care for the orphans. Nevertheless, the Gemara records that he did not consummate the marriage until a significant period of time had passed. The Sages tell this story to show that it is inappropriate to forget one’s wife so quickly. How much more so it will be inappropriate to forget Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Even for those who disagreed with Ginsburg’s political leanings, Jewish texts demonstrate that she deserves the honor, the kavod of our collective mourning and not to take another wife too quickly.

We recall that King David was in conflict with King Saul. II Shmuel (1:11-12) describes King David‘s reaction to the news that King Saul and his son Yehonatan had been killed and that the army of the Jewish people had been defeated. From the fact that David and his men tore their clothes, mourned and fasted, the Sages deduce that one is obligated in keriyah (tearing one’s clothes) over the Nasi (King Saul), the Av Bet Din (Yehonatan), and news of tragedy (the Jewish people who lost the war). Even for those with whom we have struggled, the Jewish way is to honor our leaders when they fall.

Do not mourn in silence. Do not mourn in seclusion. Do not mourn in vain. Whatever you are feeling channel that into ways of honoring her legacy. If one woman could have such a great impact, think what all of us can do together. Write, Call, March, Vote, Give.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy cannot go gentle into that good night. Keep her legacy alive. Turn your mourning into advocacy and your grief into triumph.

May it be Your will that all who are ill

lie down in peace and rise up in peace.

May their dreams be pleasant and daydreams be sweet.

Watch over them and their families, O Guardian of Israel,

who neither slumbers nor sleeps.

We do not stand in expectation of miracles.

We protect our bodies and minds as we are able.

And still we put ourselves into Your safekeeping.

Because we entrust our souls to You.

May we all awaken in the morning,

in appreciation of yesterday

and eager to face a new tomorrow.

We praise You, Adonai our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, the source of strength, Who helps us find the courage to appreciate each day as a blessing.


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