Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ode to Temple Israel

This was my first school when I came to the US. I spent every morning in the chapel pictured. I learned all the prayers phonetically because I could not read in Hebrew and for many years afterwards dutifully mispronounced all the words in every prayer. I remember all the wonderful teachers we had when Cohen Hillel Academy was in this building. Mrs. Karen Madorsky, Mrs. Mimi Aronson, Zvi, Dan whose last names I do not recall, Mrs. Naplan, Ellen Morgan, Dr. Solomon and Mrs. Janet Fagan who was my very first teacher in the US. This place will always be remembered for being knocked over on the playground by Chad Meldensohn and getting a skull fracture, getting a horrible sunburn because my parents did not know sunscreen existed, getting chicken pox and crying about it to Mrs.Aronson after I knocked a pox out with a basketball, learning Enlglish and getting my first taste of my Jewish heritage which I was not aware of in Russia. Like the author of this article I thought someone would come forward and save the beautiful building. I still am not sure how you can knock down a synagogue and build condominiums.

I think I will post the content here because one day this link above will be no more and I think this article was written rather well and embodies what I would like to have said.


Temple Israel in Swampscott was built in 1953 by Italian architect Pietro Belluschi, with a Star of David on top and a vast sanctuary filled with natural light.
Selling a house can sometimes be a simple process. A bunch of papers are signed, you hand over the keys, and you move somewhere else.

But what happens when someone else sells a place you never owned but still feel a part of?

The sledgehammer came to my old temple in Swampscott last month. It was not unexpected: It had sat idle for almost a decade after its former congregation, Temple Israel, merged with another synagogue. Soon, 14 homes will be built on the site.

The temple building, once one of the grandest, most elegant open-domed Conservative sanctuaries in America, was built by the estimable Italian architect Pietro Belluschi in 1953. It represented the hopes and dreams of a new Jewish working class.

Most were American-born Jews who had fled the congestion in places like Chelsea, Malden, Revere, and Lynn. Some had gone to college and were lawyers, doctors, and accountants. Others ran scrap metal yards, owned real estate, drove trucks and cabs, or had family businesses, such as my father, who owned a Chelsea deli. Some were wealthy, but most just made a living and wanted something better for their children.

Inside the building, there were traditional Jewish services every day, and a few pious men could be seen in the sanctuary. But Temple Israel functioned as much more than a house of prayer. It was part of a new era of the American Jewish experience: Ushering in a new society, brimming with great ambition, where people who had grown up in cold-water flats could find a home outside of the urban ring hard by the Mystic River.

Save for Hebrew School, it was largely empty most of the week. No matter. People drove by it, noticed its Star of David and took note that the Jews had a home and planned to stay. It also helped diffuse the not-so-subtle hints that we didn’t belong everywhere: As late as the 1960s, there was a nearby golf course and a beach club where Jews did not feel welcome.

There was no grand religious or spiritual plan at the temple. Outside of learning the Hebrew alphabet and practicing reading, there was little focus at the Hebrew School besides preparing for our bar and bat mitzvahs. At the time, those in charge probably thought it would be unfair to burden American children with Jewish history. After all, what would be gained in describing our largely tumultuous existence, punctuated with exile, pogroms, and torture. Instead we were assigned two goals: Complete your bar/bat mitzvah and graduate from college.

If anything, it was a building that belonged to our parents. Most were hardly religious, and only a few kept kosher. But there were weddings and bar mitzvahs and brotherhood breakfasts to organize, attend, and to later reminisce about. It became a community, built on some common social values, such as giving to charity, supporting Israel, and performing good deeds. These days, modern Jewish professionals have created a whole subset of Judaism around that concept and call it Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world.

But no one ever said Tikkun Olam was a path to sustain dues-paying members, and these days there is no repairing of the temple. Its honey brick courtyards have been toppled; its burnished redwood halls where plaques once honored the dead and the founding temple members gleamed in the open-aired wreckage. Its maples have been uprooted, sawed into blocks and carted away.

During another time, perhaps 20 or 30 years ago, a handful of wealthy Jews would have rushed to save the 52,000-square-foot building. But those philanthropists have long departed, like the insular group that once ran the temple.

In its heyday in the 1970s, when more than 2,000 people crowded into services on holidays such as Yom Kippur, or raised tens of thousands of dollars for Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the temple seemed like it would go on forever. But things were changing. America was opening its doors to Jews, and with intermarriage, Jews began the process of entering the majority religion.

A 2013 Pew Research Center study on American Judaism reported 1 in 5 American Jews by birth reported having no religion. And about 40 percent of Jewish adults said they lived in a household where just one person was a member of a temple.

When I drive by the temple, my car slows to a crawl and I realize a little piece of me is somewhere in that wreckage. Was it the 13-year-old, surrounded by Old World relatives after my bar mitzvah? Or the college student who wiped away a tear alongside my sister’s wedding canopy? Or, perhaps, it was the teen who found solace sitting alone in the vast sanctuary, filled with abundant natural light that streamed through the stained glass windows and made everything seem golden and perfect.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I finally figured out how to cook them. Soak for 24 hours. It takes about an hour and 15 to cook. Bring to a boil, no salt and simmer partially covered. Leave a tiny space between the lid and the pot. It is the difference between simmering water and water that stands still. When they are cooked they kind of stop simmering and  the water stands still although you did not change the gas setting. Not sure about this one. I made chickpea and roasted pepper salad with them. Recipe is here as expected I added a little more capers. I used overfilled 3 table spoons and added the garlic to the dressing and let it sit. I do not have a photo.

Hummus Recipe 

I can actually say adapted from
I cooked the chickpeas for 1:45 and did not soak them, I had them under a lid on low heat. No soda or salt.

1 cup cooked chickpeas (cooked for 1:45 hours)
1 tbs lemon juice
3 tbs tehina
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves
parsley (optional) 
5 tbs hummus water

Sunday, November 11, 2012

the smitten kitchen cookbook

wild mushroom tart
salted brown butter crispy treats
broccoli slaw

What can I say. I am addicted to the crispy treats and the filling of the mushroom tart is spectacular.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


This is from
They are quite good. I added a filling.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Cleveland Circle Cinema

When I first moved to the neighborhood in 2001, I remember for a long time not being in the best of spirits.  Once I walked down to this theater and in complete solitude watched Riding in Cars with Boys. I remember laughing for the first time in several months and thinking that being alone is somewhat doable. I also remember seeing Lord of the Rings there when it first made it's debut. The show started at midnight and went until 3:30 AM. I went there with a boy crush and not from my side. I remember thinking that this is a genre  I do not like but the movie turned out to be fantastic. I also remember going here during the snow storms with my friend at the time Julie. Everything else we wanted to do was impossible because our cars were buried under feet of snow and so was the road, but Cleveland Circle Cinema was open. We could always count it for times when we did not feel like getting into a car or losing a parking spot. I still miss it even though it closed it's doors in 2008. I think there are talks of building some kind of a shopping plaza there which just makes me cringe.


I am not a fan of watching videos at home. I prefer the big theater screen and the smell of buttery popcorn as opposed to sitting in the living room in front of a TV screen which in my case is nowhere near the size of the movie one.  However once in a great while I would be in the mood for a video. I loved this place. It had a nice selection of all kinds of movies that would never be available at Blockbusters. Most of all I liked knowing that this place is there if I happen to need it. Videosmith just closed its doors a few weeks ago. I went to the discount movie sale mainly to say good-bye. I was hoping to get "When Harry met Sally" but all the good movies were already gone. The space is being turned into a Child Education Center and every time I drive by and see the construction, it makes me sad.

This was a place for us girls to hang out when we were single. Once in a while it would serve as a meeting ground for an occasional date for all of us. I spent a lot of time here over the years. All photos above are from the web and as I glance over them, I wish I took my own. They do not really portray what I feel. I guess I expect things to be there forever and that's not how it is. At least not in the above case.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rosh Hashana

Smitten Kitchen's honey cake. This was just perfect.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Smitten's Egg Sandwich

Alex's Egg Sandwich from Smitten Kitchen
I totally thought this recipe would be in Smitten's Cook Book but it did not make it. I am going to post it here so I do not forget how to make it.

Recipe: Lazy Egg-and-Cheese Sandwich
(stolen from Smitten Kitchen)

You'll need:
An English muffin or two slices bread of your choice
1 to 2 teaspoons butter or oil
1 egg
Salt and pepper
1 slice of cheese or a tiny pile of grated or crumbled cheese
Spoonful of sliced scallions, chives, crumbled bacon, or whatever else you want in your eggs

Put the bread in a toaster. Heat a 9-inch skillet, preferably nonstick, on medium.

Beat one egg with ½ teaspoon water (or two eggs, with 1 teaspoon water), a couple pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper until just blended. I always use a fork for this.

Melt butter in your pan or brush it with oil, to thinly coat it. Pour in the eggs and roll them around so they cover the pan, as a thin crepe would.

Immediately plop a square of cheese (for we people with unfancy tastes in cheese) or a small pile of grated cheese (for everyone else) in the middle. Toss whatever fixings you wish on top of the cheese, though I never bother. This meal is all about immediacy for me.

A single egg will cook in 1 to 1½ minutes; two eggs in 2 minutes. You'll know its cooked when poking into it with a corner of your spatula won't cause any loose egg to slip through to the skillet.

Fold the part of the egg closest to you over the cheese, like the first part of a business letter fold. Repeat this on the three remaining "sides," forming a small square. You can also have fun (yes, I just said "fun") here and fold it into a shape that matches your bread, i.e. larger for sandwich bread, long-ish for rye. Leave the folded egg-and-cheese in the center of the skillet to cook for another 30 seconds, then slide onto you muffin or toast. Top the sandwich with the other half and eat it at once.