Posts tagged religion
Posts tagged religion
An interview with Rosy Moses Solomon, a long-time member of the Jewish community in Mumbai, India.
Q: India is home to one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities. Tell us how Rosh Hashanah is celebrated there.
A: The celebration begins with the lighting of oil lamps and recitation of the b’racha before sundown. We hold New Year seders two nights, attended by close family and Jewish friends; in my case, around 25 people. The elders explain the significance of the seder components—fish, lamb’s head, apple and honey, beet root, pumpkin, cluster beans, fresh garlic with leaves, pomegranate, Kiddush wine, challah (two flat chapattis, roasted crisp), dates (Ha’etz), and bananas (Ha’adama).
Before starting the service on the first night at home, we distribute the special Rosh Hashanah halwa. We have a hearty meal together, consisting of jeera rice, chicken or mutton curry, potatoes, kofta (meatball) curry, potato patties (stuffed with mince), and salads.
We attend synagogue services starting at 7 am, most importantly to hear the Shofar, and then go home to do the Kiddush and Hamotsi, eat and rest a little. At about 5:30 pm we attend tashlich prayers near the sea where we would meet a lot of friends and family who go to other synagogues in Mumbai; this is a popular time for matchmaking and introducing young boys and girls. We then rush home for the second evening seder with our family.
Q: We loved your halwa recipe. Can you tell us about your other favorite dishes for the Jewish New Year?
A: The nankhatais (cookies)! We break the Fast of Gedalia (the day after Rosh Hashanah) with rice kheer—coarse basmati rice cooked with jaggery and coconut milk—after reading the Yizkor service (remembering the departed souls of close family).
Before Yom Kippur we prepare Kalna puris—like a flaky pastry stuffed with lightly fried fine semolina, nuts, and raisins and deep fried in ghee. The afternoon before Yom Kippur we read the Yizkor service and eat the Kalna puris, coconut-stuffed puris, and sandans. Before sunrise the day after Yom Kippur (Simhat Kohanim), we make gharis (like donuts). Between Yom Kippur and Hoshanah Rabah, we visit our relatives and friends to ask forgiveness for any wrong we may have done to them.
Q: Can you tell us more about your family’s history in India? And any special holiday traditions that you have?
A: We had a house in a village named Galsur, a sea port in Maharashtra. We had rice fields and an oil press—operated manually by a bullock—that extracted oil from peanuts, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, and other herbal oils. We grew vegetables and fruit trees, and had poultry as well. Water had to be brought from wells, and we washed our clothes at a river or stream. There was no electricity then. Our house was a gathering spot for lots of our family during school vacations.
My in-laws lived in this house, with other retired family members. We, the younger generation with children, relocated to Mumbai much earlier, where we worked in offices and factories while our children attended recognized (and often English) schools where they received a superior education to that which was possible in the villages.
Many of us Bene Israelis got our surnames from the villages our families had settled in hundreds and thousands of years ago. Later, family names were modified as people relocated to Mumbai.
Q: In your experience, what is the importance of JDC’s role in India?
A: JDC has helped the Bene Israelis a lot, especially in bringing them closer. JDC supports the community’s Jewish holiday celebrations, which includes sending people (through the JDC-supported Evelyn Peters Jewish Community Center in Mumbai) to conduct High Holiday services and seders in villages with synagogues such as Pen, Panvel, Alibag, and Nagaon.
Young and old are involved in JDC’s activities: they created a Jewish old age home, gatherings for seniors, have year-round Torah and other Jewish classes, Gan Katan (kindergarten) for kids, and get-togethers for teenagers and young adults, who are also sponsored by JDCto take part in seminars in Israel and in Europe. This not only gives them a chance to learn a lot and mingle with other youngsters around the world, but now the world has started learning about Jewish life in India, too….
Q: What would you like readers to know about Jewish life in India?
A: The Bene Israelis are peace loving people, characterized by strong family bonds and real caring. We have always been friendly with Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, Parsis; we never experienced any anti-Semitism. We observed and did not work on Shabbat. We walk to our synagogues, distance permitting; eat kosher food; and hang mezuzahs on our doorposts. We were known as Shanwar Tellis (oil pressers who did not work on Saturdays).
Though the Bene Israelis have a small prayer hall for the Reform or Liberal Jewish Congregation in Mumbai, the majority of the community still chooses to visit Orthodox synagogues because we love the melodious tunes that convey the essence of more than 2500 years of Jewish life in India. We, the Orthodox community, have several synagogues—I believe 8—in Mumbai. Prayers are conducted every day, morning and evening (including Minchah and Ma’ariv services). On Shabbat, we have a minyan and a bigger crowd, but many have to use the public transport or drive because of the distance.
Apple Honey Challah via The Shiksa in the Kitchen
Rosh Hashanah is fast approaching. What better way to celebrate than with a freshly baked Apple Honey Challah? On Rosh Hashanah we dip apples in honey to symbolize our hope for a sweet new year. I’ve always wanted to integrate the apple and honey tradition into my challah recipe. I’ve been working for a couple of weeks on this challah, making it many times and perfecting it it till I was absolutely happy with it. I’m finally ready to share it with you!
The Rosh Hashanah tradition is to braid challah in a round shape for the holiday. Some believe the round shape represents a crown for God. Our family tradition says that the circular shape represents the cyclical nature of the year– as one year draws to a close, another year begins, and so the circle continues. There are many ways to make a round challah. In this post, I’ll be sharing a braiding technique that was first introduced to me a couple of years ago by my blogging friend Andrea at Capitol to Capital. It creates a lovely challah with a very pretty design on the top. I’ve broken it down in step-by-step instructions for you; it seems complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it you’ll realize it’s actually pretty easy.
I wanted this challah to be sweet, but not dessert-sweet. I gave it a sweetness level similar to Hawaiian bread, so it could be served and enjoyed with dinner. You can sweeten it further by topping it with honey… and with butter, if you’re so inclined. The recipe is dairy free so it can be served with a meat meal, but I’ve gotta say it’s awesome topped with salted butter and honey. Holy moly. Good stuff!
The apples were a challenge at first. I used Granny Smith, which are naturally tart but best for baking. In the beginning, the apples weren’t baking up sweet enough for my taste. I solved this by tossing them in sugar before integrating them into the challah. You can add a little cinnamon to the apples, too, if you’d like an apple-cinnamon flavor. With the sugar, they ended up adding a soft, moist bit of sweetness to the dough– just right!
If you’ve never made challah before, I don’t recommend starting with this one. Working with challah dough is something that becomes considerably easier with time and experience. Rather than working the apples into the dough during kneading, I’ve found that concealing the apples in the strand creates a more even, smooth shape to the braid. Making these stuffed strands is not a complicated process, but it might be frustrating to somebody who has never worked with challah dough before. If you’re new to challah, I recommend simply making this into a Honey Challah by omitting the apples. You can then make regular strands instead of stuffed ones, and you can choose any braiding technique you like. There are several easy braiding methods, including a simple 3-strand or 4-strand braid, or a Linked Loops braid for a round Rosh Hashanah challah. For an introduction to the basic braiding techniques, click here.
For those who don’t want to bother with braiding and aren’t worried about making a round shaped challah, you can try my Royal Challah pans, which will create a beautifully shaped challah without the need to braid:
If you’re comfortable with challah and you’re up for the challenge, read on! It’s really not that difficult, especially since I’ve broken each step down with photos to illustrate.
Here is a printable diagram that you can bring into the kitchen to keep you on track as you braid. Once you do it a couple of times, you’ll realize it’s a very simple braid to master:
This challah smells AMAZING while it’s baking. It has the aroma and flavor of the holiday. Topping it with turbinado sugar gives an extra bit of crunchy sweetness to the crust. Shana Tova!
This picture shows the entire Jewish population of Afghanistan.
Zablon Simintov (b. 1959, Turkmenistan) is a Turkmen-Afghan carpet trader and the caretaker of the only synagogue in Kabul. As of 2008, he is believed to be the sole remaining Afghan Jew still residing in Afghanistan.
Simintov had lived with the second last remaining Jewish man in Afghanistan, Ishaq Levin, who died on January 26, 2005, aged around 80. The story of Simintov and Levin was the basis for a British play. Simintov deprecated Levin in an interview with British journalist Martin Fletcher. Levin had initially welcomed Simintov but the two fell out permanently when Simintov offered the caretaker help to emigrate to Israel to join the rest of the former Kabul Jewish community. Simintov is adamant that he made the suggestion only as he thought Kabul was too cold for the old man, but the older man took umbrage, thinking that Simintov was trying to take over the synagogue. A feud ensued, with the Taliban becoming involved after both men reported each other to the authorities for alleged wrongdoings ranging from running a brothel to misappropriating religious objects.
Simintov says it is not easy to practice his religion alone. However, he has obtained special permission from the nearest rabbi, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to slaughter his own meat in line with kosher dietary laws that can normally only be done by a specially trained Jewish butcher. Simintov lives alone in a small room next to an old synagogue on Flower Street in Kabul and receives donations from Jewish groups abroad and sympathetic Muslim locals. His wife and daughters emigrated to Israel. When asked during an interview whether he would go emigrate to Israel, Simintov retorted, “Go to Israel? What business do I have there? Why should I leave?” In a video interview by Al Jazeera on 17 September 2007, Simentov suggested he may be interested in moving to Israel to join his two daughters.
He says that he receives special kosher for Passover packages from Afghan Jews living in New York. Sometimes, he says, Jewish foreigners visit his home for the high holidays. Simintov has also been quoted as saying: “I don’t want my Jewish heritage erased. My father was a rabbi, my grandfather was a rabbi. We were a big, religious family…” However he wears his yarmulke only in private and is hesitant to take visitors inside the synagogue he calls home.
The business owners on Flower Street, where he lives, call him “Zabolon the Jew.” They say they don’t know him well but greet him when he passes by.
Apparently the ban on circumcision won’t actually be enforced:
“For everyone in the government it is absolutely clear that we want to have Jewish and Muslim religious life in Germany,” Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Friday according to Reuters. “Circumcision carried out in a responsible manner must be possible in this country without punishment.”
Jews at the Wailing Wall
1878, Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur.
Taken by RasMarley http://www.flickr.com/photos/32357038@N08/6260682595