Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cholent Review - Parashas Tzav/Shabbos Ha-Gadol

The cholent that I made for this past Shabbos came out very well. I am now putting the carrots at bottom followed by the beans, the potatoes, the meat, and finally the barley, the spices the olive oil and the water. The layering seems to allow everything to get cooked properly. It is true that I have to stir the ingredients, after we take the cholent off of the heat source, but this is a small price to pay for good comfort food.

I would like to take this opportunity to share, regrettably, a cholent disaster that befell me on Shabbos Parashas Vakhel-Pekudei. I made two cholents, meat and vegetarian (actually, my son prepared the vegetarian cholent under my strict supervision). I have felt that the vegetarian cholents in the past have been undercooked, so I put set out Hamilton Beach parve cholent pot to high, and, to my chagrin, the vegetarian cholent was burned. True, it wasn't totally carbonized, but it had the burnt flavor, and funny, nobody ate any, even Michael B. I look forward to having another opportunity, of making a vegetarian cholent, and I hope that this next one will be blessed with the crown of success

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Passover Message from the Shul President

Nissan 5770
March 2010

Dear Friends,

The core idea of Passover is, of course, God’s liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian servitude. On Passover however, the theme of redemption includes other dimensions as well. Isaiah’s famous prophecy of “A wolf will dwell with a sheep and a leopard will lie down with a kid…,” which is the haftorah for the eighth day of Passover, envisions a universal peace that includes all of creation. On Shabbos chol ha-moed, the haftorah describes Ezekiel’s startling vision of the dry bones, in which God resurrects the dead of Israel bone by bone and sinew by sinew. Redemption here is physical and real, nevertheless, these are apocalyptic visions. Must we wait for the end of days for redemption?

The Haggadah tells us that in every generation there are those who stand up to destroy us. Hearing the hatred spewed by Ahmadinejad and by Hamas, we realize just how accurate the Haggadah is. We are also taught that each person is obliged to view him or herself as having gone out of Egypt. We are to identify with the Jews who left Egypt, but we should also view this as an acknowledgment that God continues to protect us and look after us, not only as a people, but as individuals as well. In these difficult times, we should be remember that God is still with us, and use Passover as an opportunity for renewal.

I am pleased to report that our Shabbos minyonim have been holding steady as has our Sunday morning shiur with Daniel Fridman, an outstanding rabbinical student at Yeshiva University. Each week we have been examining a different midrashic or halakhic topic, such as rabbinic perspectives on Yishmael or the exploring from a halakhic perspective women’s obligation to read or listen to the megilah. We are delighted that the shul continues to be a mokom Torah providing high quality learning.

I am sad to report that we lost one of our long time congregants, Mr. Yisrael Liberman, in February. Mr. Liberman’s association with the shul dates back to the 1950s, shortly after he arrived here from Europe. We will miss him.

I am happy to report that we two of our congregants, Jason Caplan and Michal Sharabi, married earlier this month in the shul. Their wedding was moving and beautiful. We wish them much success and happiness as they build a bayit ne’eman b’israel – a faithful Jewish home.

In December, we had a lively Chanukah party with clarinetist Margot Leverett and tsimbalist Pete Rushefsky. A few weeks ago, we had a warm Purim party with accordionist Aron Gershman. On the following morning, we had a record turnout for our daytime megilah reading, which was followed by breakfast and a shiur given by Daniel Fridman. We are now preparing for our sixth annual community Passover Seder. We are pleased to announce that thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor, we are able to offer a significant discount for the Seder to whoever needs it.

Thanks to the dedication and vision of the Rubinstein, Walfish and Moskovitz families, we now have a new memorial board dedicated to the memory of our late member, Hillel Rubinstein, z”l. If you are interested in purchasing a yahrzeit plaque in memory of a loved one, please contact me at or leave a message for me on the shul telephone, 212 662-9767.

Our website, originally created by Kayla Garelick in 1999, went offline in October 2009 when Yahoo closed its Geocities platform. In order to reestablish our web presence, I created a blog with basic shul information, as well as a yahrzeit calendar, photographs from shul functions, articles about shul history and about important figures such as Rabbi Kret and Isidor Thornschein. Please feel free to visit the blog at and if you have comments or suggestions, please let me know. Please also visit our original blog, created by Seth Chalmer and Jason Caplan, at

Thanks to your on-going assistance, the Old Broadway Synagogue continues to thrive as a beacon of Torah in Harlem, Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side. Your contributions have funded our weekly kiddushes, shul programs, and building maintenance as well as enabled us to fulfill our on-going commitment to provide for Mrs. Kret. Please continue to support our shul so that we will be able to continue Rabbi Kret’s work in providing a warm and welcoming center of Yiddishkeyt for many years to come.

Warm wishes for a sweet and kosher Pesach.

Dr. Paul Radensky

Monday, March 1, 2010

At Old Broadway's Purim Celebration, 2003

Here is a photo of some of the older members of our congregation. From the left, Mrs. Sylvia Fields, Mr. Chaim Feigenblatt z"l, Mrs. Chana Kret, Rabbi Jacob Kret ztz"l, Mr. Gustav Freud z"l, Mrs. Zelda Rubinstein, Mr. Hillel Rubinstein, z"l. Hershl Rubinstein (standing).

A Few Random Thoughts About Purim...

While Purim is still on our minds (and before we are overwhelmed by Pesach), I would to share a few thoughts about the Book of Esther (the Megilah). Many have noted that it is funny, ironic, replete with twists and turns of plot and full of seemingly stock characters such as the foolish drunken king, his wicked advisor, the beautiful new queen, and the sagacious wiseman. All of these things are there, but there are deeper truths that the book can teach us.

It is, first of all, a book about Jewish life in exile. Most of the other books of the Bible take place in the land of Israel, which is the land of patriarchs and matriarchs, the land of Kings David and Solomon, and the home of Bais Ha-Mikdash, our holy Temple. The setting for Esther is far from the Land of Israel, in Persia, where Jews are a minority. As opposed to the Land of Israel, where God's presence is readily felt, in Susa, the Persian capital God's whereabouts are less clear, to the extent that God is not even mentioned in the Megilah.

God isn't the only one Who hides in the diaspora. To so degree, the Jews must do so as well, or at least try to blend in. How else can we understand Mordechai's instruction to Esther that she may not reveal the people to whom she belongs?

On the face of it, Persia is a state governed by law. When Achashverosh realizes that he has a problem with Vashti, he consults with the nobles of Persia and Media, a sort of advisory senate. And over and over again, the Megilah reminds us that everything is done "according to law." We want to think of law as something that will ensure a just society, but law is only as strong as the authority that enforces it. In Persia, the source of authority is Achashverosh, a self-serving immoral opportunist. Such a leader is open to a powerful Jewish courtier such as Mordechai, but he is also open to a powerful antisemite such as Haman.

These lessons from Megilat Esther continue to resound for us today. We still live in exile, including arguably, those people who live in the State of Israel. God's presence is often not apparent. Moreover, with antisemitism on the rise, many Jews will try to blend in. In our day, we rely on law, and in the places were most Jews live, the law is relatively just, but just 65 years ago, the Nazis took over Germany and essentially made genocide legal, so the law still is only as good as the authority which stands behind it. We speak about the United States as a medinas chesed, a state based on kindness. But outside the United States and certainly within it, there are those leaders who are self-serving opportunists.

Which means we must continue to be vigilant and be strong in our faith, so that those who wish to destroy us in every generation will fail, and so that we may have "light, joy, happiness and respect" as did our ancestors in Persia so many generations ago.