Feeling uninspired about what to cook for Passover ? Sarina Roffe, geneaologist, author, cookery writer and expert on Sephardi Jewry, has come to your rescue with a whole website. Here is a sample Seder menu and her recipe for Persian Haroset. (Note to non-Kitniot eaters: Sarina prepares rice )
A hundred people have enrolled at The Oxford School of Rare Jewish Languages in the UK for its inaugural semester of courses in 12 Jewish languages, belonging to the Aramaic, Arabic and Turkic language families. They range in number of speakers, from millions to none. Haaretz has the story: (with thanks: Lily)
The courses, which began this week, run for an hour a week online and are free for all students.
“There are currently many brilliant research projects and online platforms concerning Jewish languages,” said Professor Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, president of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and the creator of the new program. “What is missing is the possibility for the growing number of interested students to learn these languages, even less in an academic setting.”
This is why she sees the OSRJL’s format — online and free — as significant: it ensures that classes are accessible to an international pool of students.
Yiddish is one of the 12 Jewish languages offered by the OSRJL — and with roughly 1.5 million speakers worldwide, it is the only language offered by the program that is not endangered or extinct. In fact, Yiddish is growing in its number of speakers.
“People outside of the Yiddish-speaking world have this distorted notion that Yiddish is disappearing,” explained Kalman Weiser, a Silber Family Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at York University, in Toronto. “It’s not. It’s only growing. Judeo-Greek, on the other hand, is a language that is going to disappear.”
Weiser’s mother speaks Judeo-Greek, but unfortunately, this tongue, which originated in the Macedonian Empire, is expected to die out with this generation without serious intervention. Most of the languages offered by the OSRJL face a similar fate. Several — including Judeo-French, Classical Judeo-Arabic and Classical Judeo-Persian — are already considered extinct.
The latter is a language that Daniel Amir, a doctoral researcher of Iranian Jewish history at the University of Oxford, aims to study at the OSRJL. He also plans to take courses in Judeo-Neo-Aramaic, a language with an estimated 60 speakers left.
“Knowing a language is one thing, but getting to learn and improve together with other people is exciting and motivating. All of these languages are ones with which I have a strong personal connection,” he said.
Amir’s family speaks a dialect of Judeo-Neo-Aramaic that is in serious decline, and he wishes to do his part to halt the downward trend. “Most of my experience with the dialect is through talking with and listening to my family, so getting a chance to formally study it is a great privilege,” he said.
Studying any Jewish language, whether it is of heritage or not, opens up a window into the diverse history of world Jewry, Weiser noted. He mentioned a theory proposed by sociolinguist Max Weinreich in “The History of the Yiddish Language,” which suggests that there is an unbroken chain of Jewish languages stemming from ancient Hebrew to today, where Yiddish is the latest link.
“Once you take this approach, any Jewish language becomes a vital part of Jewishness,” Weiser said. “You start off at one place but then you begin to see the bigger picture.”
Though the chances that Karaim (a Turkic language with roughly 80 speakers) or Judeo-Italian (a Romance language with 250 speakers) are one’s heritage language are low today, studying them can be a potent exercise in understanding the broader Jewish experience. Olszowy-Schlanger told JTA that the OSRJL intends to bolster the connection students feel to their cultures, both through the language courses and by offering a variety of other online content, including blog publications on exceptional books and a 16-lecture series on Yiddish music.
The ripple effects of a program like this are not secluded to the Jewish realm — Weiser mentioned that many past Jewish language initiatives were in tandem, influenced by, or would go on to influence other Indigenous language programs.
Passover is being openly celebrated in Bahrain and in the Gulf countries, where over 100 guests attended a seder in Dubai. Meanwhile, The Jerusalem Post reports, rabbis in the West have been tending to the religious needs of Jews in Muslim countries:
Matza production in Tehran
In Tehran, the matzah factory, which begins operating approximately three weeks before Passover begins, has been churning out several tons of machine-made matzah for the local community, overseen by Chief Rabbi of Tehran Rabbi Yehuda Gerami.
There are approximately 12,000 Jews in Iran, mostly in Tehran but with communities also in Shiraz, Isfahan and beyond.
In addition to the locally made matzah, some 250 kg. of “shmura matzah,” produced with greater stringency and by a more difficult process than regular matza, often used specifically on seder night, was imported into Iran from Azerbaijan.
And the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States (ARIS), an association of rabbis serving Jewish communities in 14 Muslim-majority countries, has been busy sending matzah to Jews in some of the most politically perilous places in the world, including Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and Lebanon.
In addition, the organization has sent several thousand seder boxes, including seder night essentials, to Jewish communities ahead of Passover, across the Muslim world, including Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, and beyond.
In Uzbekistan, Rabbi Shlomo Babaev from the capital city of Tashkent, prepared 560 bottles of wine for use at the seder and over Passover, and slaughtered 120 chickens brought to him by members of the Jewish community for consumption over the holiday.
“It is heartwarming to see how rabbis in Muslim countries are helping each other in providing logistics and assistance in transportation of matzah, to assure that every Jew is able to celebrate the holiday,” said chairman of the alliance Rabbi Mendy Chitrik.
“This year, the rabbis at the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States have provided Matzah and Pesach amenities to 14 ARIS member countries and to individuals in eight additional Muslim countries. The assistance of our governments in assuring that we can have our Passover religious needs cannot be overestimated.
On the Arabian peninsula, the newly established Association of Gulf Jewish Communities imported some 300 kg. of matzot for local communities in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and beyond.
There are around 1,200 Jews living in the Gulf countries, the overwhelming majority of whom are expats from around the world but they also include 50 Jews in a community dating back some 140 years in Bahrain.
The Bahraini Jewish community also produced some locally made matzah as well.
Tonight begins the festival of Purim. Youssef Setareh-Shenas hopes that, by tomorrow night, he will have a virtual tour of the tomb of Esther and Mordechai at Hamadan on hiswebsite,which aims to preserve the memory of Iranian-Jewish heritage. Karmel Melamed interviewed him for The Forward:
The tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan
Celebrating Purim is bittersweet for Fariborz Moradzadeh, an Iranian Jewish businessman in Los Angeles.
In the 43 years since arriving in L.A., he has been unable to return to his birth city of Hamedan in Iran and visit the burial site of Purim’s heroine Esther and hero Mordechai located nearby.
The Iranian regime’s random arrests of Iranian Americans and Jews makes such visits all but impossible.
But this Purim Moradzadeh hopes to be able to visit Esther’s tomb virtually through 7dorim.com, a website that is trying to provide a virtual 3-D tour of the Esther and Mordechai mausoleum.
The 3-D tour is still glitchy and the site, in Farsi with some English, difficult to navigate. But those drawbacks don’t dissuade Moradzadeh and others who are proud there’s an online home for Iranian Jewish heritage even if, as they claim, wealthy Iranian Jews aren’t interested in funding it.
The site is the brainchild of Los Angeles Iranian Jewish small businessman Yousef Setareh-Shenas, who nearly 15 years ago created the Persian-language online forum to preserve Iranian Jewish history, culture and information — and which he runs on a shoestring without help from far wealthier members of the community.
“I realized that we as Iran’s Jews are gradually losing our history and heritage because the majority of the community live here in America are unconcerned with the past,” said Setareh-Shenas, who is in his late 60’s.
It is customary to fast on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Different communities have their own specific traditional foods for breaking the fast. Here are two – one from Morocco and the other from Iran.
Wishing all those observing Yom Kippur GMAR HATIMA TOVA!
2 teaspoons anise extract or 2 tablespoons arak liquor (optional)
1-2 tablespoons anise/fennel seed, to taste
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups flour
In large bowl on stand-up mixer, mix eggs, sugar and oil until well blended.
Add the anise extract (or arak liquor), seeds and baking powder and mix.
While mixing, add flour one cup at a time and continue to mix.
Mix dough until it comes together and forms a ball.Let dough rest for 10 minutes.Preheat oven to 350 F.Divide dough in tennis ball-size pieces. Roll out dough as thinly as possible. If using pasta maker, use lasagna setting.Pierce dough with fork or decorating tool. Cut into squares or use cookie cutter or drinking glass and cut into circles.Bake on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet for 15 minutes until golden.
In a medium bowl, top apples with sugar and rosewater. Flatten a bit, but do not mix at this point. Place the ice cubes on top of the mixture, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to eat, add water. Mix and serve immediately to break the fast.
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