Saturday, December 21, 2013

Eureka!!! The Best Vegetarian Cholent Ever!!!

Well, that's probably an exaggeration, I did, however, make a very good vegetarian this Shabbos. It had great consistency, and for vegetarian, a very good taste. Friday afternoon before Shabbos, I put six large chopped carrots in olive oil on the bottom of the five quart crock pot. To that I added three cups of dried beans - black, red and white. I also added a cup of wheat berries, a cup of barley, three heaping teaspoons of salt, a spoon and a half of pepper, and also a half a spoon of peppercorns. I also placed six whole eggs in the pot and more olive oil. I would have added paprika, but we were out. I filled the pot with water and let it cook until just after davenning early Shabbos afternoon. The ingredients blended very nicely and yielded a thick, filling consistency. The pepper gave the cholent some kick, but not so much that our pepper-averse congregants could not eat it. I augmented my own bowl with some cayenne so that it was sufficiently spicy for my taste. I had been adding mushrooms to the cholent but some people don't like them, and I feel that mushrooms don't hold up that well in leftovers. So I made this one without mushrooms. Reviews from the other congregants were uniformly positive although they would have been much happier if they could have had meat cholent.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

5774 High Holiday Letter from our President

Elul 5773
August 2013

Dear Friends,

I hope this letter finds you and your families well.

You may have noticed that the High Holidays begin very early this year. This is because the Jewish calendar is largely a lunar calendar and is about eleven days shorter every year than the solar calendar. In order to make sure Passover falls in the spring (as the Torah mandates), the rabbis established that every once in a while (seven times in a nineteen year cycle to be exact), an additional month be added, making a total of thirteen months.  Our new year will have such an additional month.

Today, the Jewish calendar has been calculated for the foreseeable future, but in antiquity, the addition or intercalation of a new month was decreed by a Jewish court. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 11a-11b discusses the conditions under which a month could be added. Among these were allowing time for roads and bridges to be repaired, allowing time for the ovens to dry, and giving Jews travelling from outside Judea time to make it to Jerusalem for Passover. All of these made it easier for Jews to celebrate the holiday.  In Hebrew, a year with an additional month is called a shanas me’uberes a “pregnant year.” Our liturgy suggests that it is pregnant with blessings. In the Kedushas Ha-Yom (Sanctification of the Day) blessing of the Rosh Chodesh Musaf Shemoneh Esreh, six pairs of blessings – one blessing for each month – are listed: goodness and blessing, joy and happiness, salvation and consolation, livelihood and sustenance, life and peace, forgiveness of sin and pardon of transgression. During a shanas me’uberes, we add another blessing:  atonement of iniquity.

As we begin the New Year – a shanas me’uberes – we would be wise to remember that the additional month was proclaimed out of consideration of others. So too should we strive to be considerate of others. Moreover, the additional month brings additional opportunities and an additional blessing. As this particular blessing demonstrates God’s patience and love for us, we should emulate His example when we ourselves deal with other people. In this way we will hopefully merit all the blessings listed above.

We are excited as the High Holidays approach. As we have done for decades, we will be holding our Selichos service with the students from Columbia/Barnard Hillel. The service will take place on Motzoei Shabbos, August 31/September 1, 2013 and will be led by Orrin Tilevitz, as he has done for many years. This year we will celebrate our eleventh annual Rosh Hashanah dinner. I am delighted to note that our outstanding High Holiday baalei tefilah, Yosef Tannenbaum and Rabbi Reuven Hoff will be back again to lead us in davening this year.

I am also delighted to report that the New York Landmarks Conservancy has awarded us a $25,000 Jewish Heritage Fund matching grant to help pay for repointing of the exterior of the building, replacing the rear exit doors, repainting the fire escapes and restoring the rear stained-glass window. We anticipate the total cost for this project to be $60,000.  In order to be eligible for the grant, we have to raise at least $10,000 for this purpose (of which we have already raised $2,000) by June 2014.  We will have to make up the remaining $15,000 from savings. Please help us reach our immediate goal of raising at least the minimum $10,000 needed to receive this grant. Your support for this effort will be deeply appreciated and will enable us to move on to restoring the interior of the building.

We have had a good spring and an equally good summer. Thanks to the generous support of an anonymous donor, we were able to accommodate everyone who wished to join us for our popular Passover Seder.  Daniel Fridman, who has completed his rabbinical studies at Yeshiva University this year, continues to give his excellent shiur every Sunday morning after Shacharis.  This year he taught also on Shavuos and Tisha Ba-Av. Thanks to Dale Brown’s energetic efforts (with the help of Tashia Amstislavski and others) our garden in the back provides a beautiful and welcome place for contemplation. Dale also led us this past June on another very successful visit to the Old Broadway section of the Riverside Cemetery, where we weeded the graves of our deceased members and recited Kel Male in their memory. Looking forward, we have arranged to have Ben Elton, a talented rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, present a Kiddush-Luncheon series this fall. I am also happy to say that over the last few months, we have attracted a small but growing number of new congregants. We are looking forward to further growth and success in the New Year!

Your generous help has enabled us to welcome people and provide them with beautiful davening and a warm community.  You have also enabled us to maintain and restore our historic building. As the New Year approaches, we turn to you again. We hope that we continue to be worthy of your support so that we may continue to be a beacon of Yiddishkeit and Torah to many Jews in Harlem, Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side.  May Hashem inscribe and seal you and your families for good health, happiness and success for the New Year.

לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו,
א גוט געבענטשט יאר,

Paul Radensky

Dr. Paul Radensky

P.S. Mazel tov to Benjamin Waldman and Bracha Rubin and Sheyna Radensky and Eli Ehrenreich on their weddings this summer! 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

This Year's Visit to the Riverside Cemetery

We began our visit with the wonderful brunch that Dale arranged.

We had our annual congregational visit to the Riverside Cemetery this year on June 23rd. We figure that this    must  have been our twelfth or thirteenth annual outing to the Riverside Cemetery. Under the very able leadership of Dale Brown (who prepared a magnificent brunch for us), we recited Kel Male Rachamim, weeded the graves that needed attention, and in general straightened up the Chevra Talmud Torah Anshei Marovi section of the Riverside Cemetery. We also took photographs of every gravestone in our section which we hope to upload to JewishGen for the benefit of geneaologists as well as members of our community. Although I did not grow up in Old Broadway, three of the four of my great grandparents who came to the United States are buried in the Riverside Cemetery (in different sections - the Phoenix Association and the Hebrew Free Burial Society of Passaic). It has been always easy to find the graves of my mother's paternal grandparent, Lewis and Gussie Moss. This time, I also tried to find the grave of my mother's maternal grandfather, Samuel Kalman Pitnikoff. Since this was a section for the indigent, there were a number of small, marble headstones perhaps two feet high by a foot wide. These stones, as well as some of the larger ones, were covered over with dense ivy. Since they date from the teens, whatever engraving
Dale Brown
had been on the stone, or perhaps paint, had long since worn away. There were also many stones that had probably fallen over with time and were lying horizontal in the ground. Although my son, Binyamin, and I tried assiduously to find the grave of my great-grandfather, we did not have any luck. I hope to try again the near future, although I expect that best I will be able to do us to find one of the small, worn stones. I note all of this to underscore how fortunate the Old Broadway Synagogue is to have Dale Brown, who had made sure that those of our shul who have passed from this world are not forgotten.

Here is the gang - ready to perform a "chesed shel emes."

Rhonda was a big help!

As was Yosef Meir

Rachel was too!
Igor hard at work
Seth tending to one of the graves
Binyamin M. tending to the graves

Chana and Binyamin R at the grave of their great-great  grandfather, Lewis Moss.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Our President's Passover Letter, 5773

Nisan 5773
March 2013

Dear Friends,

I hope this letter finds you and your families well. 

The Haftarah for the second day of Passover recounts an ancient story which at first glance seems arcane, but in fact has a powerful lesson for us today. During the fifty-five year reign of King Menashe, idolatry was promoted throughout the kingdom of Judah. Shortly after Menashe’s death, Josiah, his grandson, ascended to the throne. Seeing how the Beit Hamikdash had been grievously neglected, he ordered his workmen to repair the deteriorating structure. As the work was carried out, a scroll of the Torah was found. This created a sensation since during the reigns of Josiah’s father and grandfather knowledge of the Torah and even the physical scrolls had vanished. The Torah was brought and read before Josiah. When he heard the words, he rent his clothes and resolved to do teshuvah. The King had articles of pagan worship removed from the Beit Hamikdash, and then he removed the idolatrous places of worship throughout the kingdom of Judah.  He then read the Torah to the people, and renewed the covenant with them and God. Finally, Josiah ordered the entire nation to bring the korban Pesach, which had not been brought since the time of the Judges, centuries earlier.  

For the Jewish people in Egypt, Passover marked the beginning of their renewed relationship with God. For Josiah and for us today, Passover is not the starting point, but rather the culmination. After planning, cleaning, and cooking, sometimes for weeks or more, we are able to sit at the seder and enjoy the transition from being slaves to Pharaoh, to being servants of God; from being physically enslaved to being spiritually liberated. In Josiah’s day, the Jewish people were in a very bad way, and much effort was needed to bring them back to a life of Torah. Nevertheless, after many decades, they were successful. However far we are, we are never too far. If we put in the sometimes significant effort, we too can return to Yiddishkeyt and infuse our lives with holiness. This is an ongoing process but is intensified in the weeks leading up to the holiday. The more we prepare, the more we can appreciate God’s care for us, both when we were in Egypt, and now. It is this divine closeness that Passover joyfully celebrates.

We have been working hard to continue to build our shul as a makom Torah. We have been energetic in inviting guest scholars to teach and learn with us. These include Ben Elton from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Roy Feldman from Yeshiva University, Rori Picker Neiss from Rabbis without Borders (CLAL) and Noah Levitt from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. Daniel Fridman continues to give his excellent shiurim on Sunday mornings, and many of these are now posted on The Tot Shabbat program has also been going strong as has the Women’s Rosh Chodesh Group.  As a result of our efforts, I am pleased to say that we have also attracted new families and individuals to our kehilah.

Now that we have replaced the roof and that our boiler has passed inspection by the city, we are turning our attention to repointing the exterior of the building. Some of this work was done in 2003 and in 2010, but we still have about $60,000 more of work to do to complete the exterior. In January, we submitted an application to the New York Landmarks Conservancy for a Jewish Heritage Fund matching grant. If awarded, this grant would pay for up to fifty percent of the cost of the exterior restoration. The rest of the money we need to raise ourselves. We will need your help! 

Our community was saddened to note the passing of Lily Plaks, the mother of Eric Plaks. We are also saddened to note the passing of Johnny Weber, brother of Gloria Plaks. May their memories be for a blessing.

We are delighted to extend a mazel tov to Seth Chalmer and Rachel Rosansky on their engagement and upcoming wedding and to Benjamin Waldman and Bracha Rubin on their engagement and upcoming wedding.

Although Rabbi and Mrs. Kret are no longer with us, we strive to maintain their spirit of welcoming newcomers, warmth, and Torah. We are also working to keep our building safe and usable now and for future generations. Please continue to support our efforts. With your help the Old Broadway Synagogue will continue to be a very special and holy place for years to come.

Warm wishes for a happy and kosher Passover,
Paul Radensky

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Old Broadway East

Our People in Israel

The Old Broadway diaspora stretches across the globe but has a particular strong representation in Israel. We are proud of the Old Broadway people everywhere even as we try to develop more of them in the vicinity of Old Broadway itself.

Orrin, and Sarah Tilevitz with daughters Yael Tilevitz Lockerman, Chana Tilevitz and grand-daughter, Meira
Yael is on her shul's board (we wish her luck) in Ariel, in the Shomron. Yael and the other members of her shul are hoping to to raise $8,000 for their congregation. If you are interested in contributing, please let me (your blog-meister) know and I will send you the contact information. 

Tim Lowe making cholent in Haifa
Tim and Amanda Lowe are spending the year in Haifa, where Tim is studying Holocaust education at the University of Haifa. Before Tim decided to go into Holocaust education, he became an advanced student of the art of making cholent. Here he is in his kitchen in Haifa. He writes,"Attempting to bring OBS's cholent experience to Haifa, Israel.  It's chicken pcs since red meat is too expensive." Replacing beef with chicken in cholent is a tricky procedure and should only be undertaken with an appropriate sense of gravitas. I hope that his cholent was successful.