Tag Archives: jewish

A Blessing on the Moon Book Review

a-blessing-on-the-moonI love libraries. I love the idea of being surrounded by stories of all kinds. Sometimes I’ll just browse one shelf and do what everyone has told us not to do our entire lives: judge a book by its cover. If the cover interests me, I’ll dive in and see where the story takes me.

When I happened to stumble upon A Blessing on the Moon, I found the cover and the description whimsical. A rabbi who turns into a crow…a ghost looking for redemption…I was instantly taken.

As a Jewish student, I have to say that I’ve read my fair share of Holocaust books, both mandatory and voluntary. Diaries, autobiographies, and collections of historical non-fiction all seemed to tell the same tale, but with different characters. A Blessing on the Moon, however, is unlike any book I’ve ever read about the Holocaust…or any other subject for that matter.

Like many Jews in the 1940’s, Chaim Skibelski was a successful businessman and family man before he was shot in the head by a Nazi soldier. Unable to rest peacefully in The World to Come, Chaim is forced to wander the earth as a spirit, encountering a world that’s both unknown and familiar to him.

Beginning his adventures at his old house, Chaim finds that his house is now home to a large Polish family. He quickly discovers he’s invisible to all of them except their young, dying daughter, whom he befriends. Through this little girl, Chaim learns about what has happened to the world in the days, perhaps years, that he’s been dead. And when she inevitably passes away, he watches her ascend into the arms of Jesus, and wonders what he’s still doing roaming this God-forsaken land.

Chaim continues his journey aided by his old Rabbi, who has turned into a crow. Along the way he meets several characters, including a talking head that may have belonged to the soldier who shot him. His journey is long, gruesome, and at times quite scary.

Similar to the story Maus, A Blessing on the Moon conquerors one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century with daring originality and brute force. It is both hideous and beautiful, intertwining vulgarity and gore with elegant prose and story-telling.

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Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Honey Granola

If you’ve ever eaten plain matzah, you know that it’s not the most exciting food in the world.  It’s very bland, dry, and basically tastes like a huge saltless cracker.  For those who don’t know, matzah is a plain unleavened bread eaten by Jewish people during the Passover holiday.  Matzah is a large part of the  Passover Seder, but it’s also Jewish law to eat matzah instead of bread for the following week.  And let me tell you, it gets boring.

Thankfully they’ve recently come out with a variety of matzah flavors, making it much easier to make delicious matzah pizzas, sandwiches, and snacks (I’m a lover of the new Mediterranean flavor.  If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it.  It would be wonderful with a little hummus!).

Now I’m not what one might call a matzah lover.  I’ll eat it to keep the holiday, but I’ve never craved it or looked forward to a meal in which matzah was involved.  However, that all changed after I had this honey granola.  Made with farfel, which is basically crumbled up matzah, this granola is delicious…and kosher for Passover!  It’s great to eat with ice cream, yogurt, and more recently I discovered that it’s a delicious topping to a bowl of strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

When I make this honey granola, I usually double the recipe, so I have enough to last me a good 2-3 months (make sure you store it in an airtight container or a Zip Lock bag to ensure freshness).  If you can’t find farfel, you can buy a box of plain unsalted matzah and crumble it up into small pieces.

This is also a recipe for honey lovers.  While you can often rely on that cute “honey bear” for all your honey baking needs, I’d recommend splurging on the good stuff for this recipe.  You can find all kinds of honey flavors at your local produce market or Whole Foods store.

Honey Granola

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups farfel, or crumbled up matzah
  • 2-3 cups mixed nut/dried fruit mix
  • ½ cup sweetened coconut
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon (plus more for dusting)
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup clover honey

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
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  2. Combine the farfel, mixed nut mix, coconut, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl.  Mix until combined.  Set aside.  If you can’t find farfel, you can crumble up plain matzah.  Here’s what farfel looks like:

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  3. Combine butter and honey in a microwave safe bowl and melt in microwave for about 1 minute, or until butter is melted and honey is more fluid.

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  4. Pour the butter mixture over the farfel mixture and stir to coat.

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  5. Spread mixture over a large pan and bake for 15 minutes.  Stir half way through cooking.  I doubled mine, so I had a lot!

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  6. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
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  7. Store in a Zip Lock bag or air tight storage container.  Serve with yogurt, ice cream, or just snack on it throughout the day!

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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The Nazi Officer’s Wife Book Review

The-Nazi-Officer’s-Wife

As a student of Judaism, and a lover of history, I’ve read my fair share of Holocaust memoirs.  The classroom staples, the hot-button novels, the poetry of the children…but never have I ever read anything like this.  A story so controversial that it had to wait several years to be told…a tale of utter bravery, heroism, foolishness, and shear dumb luck.

The Nazi Officer’s Wife is the true story of Edith Hahn, a woman who outsmarted a whole nation of Germans by marrying into the very regime that was destroying her people.  By taking on the identity of a good friend, Edith tried to make a new life for herself, smack dab in the middle of Nazi Germany.

In her quest to adopt the new persona of “Grete Denner”, Edith ends up meeting and falling for Werner Vetter…who just so happens to be one of the higher ups in Hitler’s army.  Even after discovering that she’s not who she says she is, and is Jewish on top of it, Werner stands by her side…convinced his feelings are still real.

This memoir was so different from every other Holocaust book I’ve ever read.  It wasn’t blasphemous…it wasn’t emotionally distressing or disturbing…if anything, The Nazi Officer’s Wife was a story of inspiration and utter heroism.  The people in Edith’s life were in her life for a reason…to ensure her survival.  Edith survived to tell this story…to share this powerful tale of faith, determination, and ultimate triumph.

NEXT WEEK:  Sometimes we spend a lifetime looking for something that’s been there all along…just maybe not in the form we were expecting.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Rosh Hashannah Apple Printable

Remember the days of pop up cards and vintage toys?  Yeah, neither do I.

Thankfully, a woman by the name of Marilyn Scott-Waters has released many of her designs of elegant vintage paper toys in PDF format.  And the best part is that you can download many of them for free!  There are toys for every major holiday, toys for kids, and an online book store where you can purchase many of Marilyn’s how-to books.  Here’s a little apple I made for Rosh Hashanah using one of her patterns.  You could easily convert this into a little gift box and fill it with candy or good wishes for the coming year.

The pattern…

and here’s mine!

You can find this and many other templates here.  Check out her Halloween and Christmas collections.  Beautiful!  And often all you need to create these beautiful decorations are scissors and tape.  The only downside is that many of her patterns don’t include instructions…so kids might have trouble knowing what to cut and what to fold.  However most adults who have had craft time in school should be able to figure any of the patterns out.

Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.

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Night Book Review

In my years in public and religious school, I have read my fair share of Holocaust literature…but nothing has ever hit me quite like Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night.

In this slim and terrifying book, Wiesel recounts the horrors he and his loved ones had to endure in the “genocidal campaign” that ultimately robbed him of his family.  On top of the physical torture, Wiesel—a religious boy from birth—finds himself questioning his own beliefs.  Why would G/d do this to us?  What is he trying to tell us?  What did we do to deserve this treatment?  All these thoughts and more continuously swim around the head of this young boy as he tries so hard to accept the Holocaust as a challenge, a test, if nothing more than to convince himself that G/d really does exist.

What Night lacks in girth it makes up for in raw power.  This book will stay with you for a long time.  The anger you’ll feel, the hurt, will resonate.  If I had my way, Night would replace The Diary of Anne Frank as the traditional Holocaust required reading of the public school system.  This is the truest most honest account I have ever read…and unfortunately is probably a common enough story where any survivor could insert their name and the outcome would be the same.

Perhaps the most challenging part of Wiesel’s journey, and the journey of all the survivors for that matter, is how to move on.  How to reconnect with G/d, how to learn to love and accept people, and perhaps most importantly, how to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.

NEXT WEEK:  Okay, I admit it.  I HATED Moby Dick.  I don’t care that it’s on everyone’s top ten list of classic literature.  I hated it.  But the story that spawned the classic tale of the white whale…now, that’s a crazy read…

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Paperclips Movie Review

Carry one with you…to remember them all…

When I first saw Paperclips, I was blown away.  This touching and poignant documentary chronicles a small Tennessee school’s journey to collect 6 million paperclips, one for each person who perished in the Holocaust.  Children of a Whitwell middle school write to friends, family, celebrities, foundations, etc. explaining their project and asking them to send in a paperclip.  What happens as a result is something so moving, so miraculous, that I have chills just writing about it.

I encourage you with all my heart to add this movie to your Netflix queue…or search around and see if you can watch it online.  I am almost willing to guarantee that you will love it, or at least be inspired by it.

At a time when our world seems to be falling apart, Paperclips appears as a beacon of light, a hope and maybe an assurance that the world CAN change…one small step at a time.

Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!

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The Metamorphism of Freedom

As most of you know, I have a thing for butterflies.  They surround me constantly, decorating my walls both at home and at work.  I have jewelry, hair pieces, and clothing adorned with butterflies and will most likely have one tattooed on me at some point in my life.

Butterflies don’t live here…in the ghetto.

The reason behind this little insect obsession is two fold.  First of all, I love the creation of the butterfly…how it morphs from a tiny worm-like ground dweller into one of nature’s most beautiful wind sailors.  They endure struggle, embrace change, and emerge completely transformed.  I know many of us have made similar journeys in our lives, learning to accept change and discovering we are all the better for it.  There was a time in my life when I made a similar transformation.  I was about as low as I could go and literally “cocooned myself” for months…and when I finally broke free, I was someone completely different…and I’m all the better for it.

Secondly, the butterfly is free…free to do as it pleases and free to go where it wants to go.  It’s not bound by rules or restrictions and, in its freedom, helps spread joy and happiness to wherever it goes.  Since the end of World War II, may Jewish people have come to acknowledge the butterfly as a representation of hope and liberation…not only because it’s so obviously free, but because of a certain poem written by a young man named Pavel Freidmann…a simple, yet powerful poem that quickly became the mantra of many people who suffered from loss of life, family, friends, and freedom.

You can find this poem, plus many other drawings and stories, in the heart-wrenching book, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a beautiful anthology of children’s drawings and writings from the Terezin Concentration Camp.

“The Butterfly”

The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
against a white stone. . . .

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I’m sure because it wished to
kiss the world good-bye.

For seven weeks I’ve lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.

That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here,
in the ghetto.

Pavel Freidmann, January 7, 1921-September 29, 1944.  Killed in Aushchwitz.

Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

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