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Soften the landing into 2020

Anyone else feel as if they blinked and landed in 2020, with December holidays being a distant memory? Many people take a good few weeks to find their feet in the new year. With being back at work, and kids already back at school, weekday dinners, school lunches, and “healthy” new-year-resolution meal planning can quickly become overwhelming.

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Lifestyle/Community

HILIT MILNER

The best thing to do at this time of the year is to keep it simple! Although this is a time where more people are motivated to be healthy and improve their nutrition, it’s also a time where many households adjust to new schedules at work and school – making your molehill look like a mountain. And what happens when something seems unmanageable and complicated? We drop it! Which is obviously not the result that we want. So, let’s soften the landing with a few back-to-school tips and ideas.

Preparation and a bit of planning goes a long way. Sounds obvious right? Wrong. This is the hardest part, and where most busy people fail. You might be thinking that you are never prepared because preparing takes time; and isn’t this the problem in the first place, limited time? Setting aside a small window in your calendar to prepare for the weeks to come will save you lots of time and running around – investing now will reward you later.

Being prepared involves a few key steps, the first of which is meal planning. Depending on your meal planning style, it’s always useful to keep a list of favourite household dishes and, as time goes by and new recipes pop up, the list can grow. This makes planning easier, and keeps at bay the inevitable, “I’m so bored with this meal.”

Now that you have a list of favourites on hand, it’s easier to mix and match them into a weekly, fortnightly, or monthly meal calendar. I’m going to pause for a second, as I know you are already feeling your blood pressure rise, and have decided at this point that you are not this organised. Remember that this is just a guide to prevent the daily last-minute scramble. Nothing is set in stone, but it certainly helps to have a loose structure in place.

The next step is to make a shopping list based on the above-mentioned meal plan. This not only saves time and prevents you from having to run to the shops daily, it also reduces wastage and saves you a rand or two. The new year brings with it a relatively empty piggy bank, so you can help ease the load on the wallet and spare yourself some time by: sticking to your shopping list; buying food that’s in season; using a combination of fresh, frozen, and tinned foods; buying ingredients in bulk; as well as freezing portioned-out meals.

So, as you lay down the foundation for this year with newfound motivation, don’t let the hustle and bustle of January trip you up. Put one foot in front of the other, and keep things uncomplicated – you can add the frills later. Remember that your path to health is a marathon not a sprint.

Spicy quinoa and red kidney bean patties

Ingredients

(Makes 10 small patties)

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked red kidney beans (can use 1 tin)
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 handful fresh baby spinach
  • 1 handful fresh coriander
  • 2 tablespoon coconut/olive oil plus a bit extra for rolling
  • Salt
  • ¾ teaspoon Sriracha sauce (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180C.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the quinoa and one cup of water to the boil. Once it has come to the boil, reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Chop the onion finely, and grate the garlic. Place the olive oil on a medium-heated non-stick pan, and add the onion and garlic to sauté for four to five minutes.
  4. In a bowl, add the quinoa, sautéed onion, and garlic, cumin, cinnamon, baby spinach, coriander, and half a tablespoon of olive oil. Using a stick blender or food processor, blend the mixture until it forms a semi-smooth consistency – you don’t want it to be completely smooth. Add salt to taste.
  5. Add the kidney beans once the rest of the ingredients have been blended, and pulse the blender/processor so that the mixture isn’t too soft.
  6. Brush some olive oil onto a baking tray as well as your hands. Gently roll the mixture into palm-sized patties, then place them on a baking tray.
  7. Bake the patties for 25-30 minutes, turning them halfway. Be gentle when you turn them as they are naturally softer inside than normal patties.
  8. Serve with a tomato sauce, salsa, or relish.

Tip: If you find the patties too soft when rolling, it’s an option to add a few tablespoons of flour. They will bake and form without it, but a bit of flour might help you out. Once they have been baked and refrigerated, they do firm up slightly.

Lemon and almond-crusted chicken schnitzels

Ingredients

(Makes 14 schnitzels)

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 400g chicken schnitzel (I use mini chicken-breast fillets. If using full breasts, cut into smaller pieces.)
  • 1 egg
  • Zest 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Tiny pinch salt (take care with younger babies)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped/dried parsley

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C.
  2. Place the almonds, lemon zest, paprika, parsley, and tiny pinch of salt (age dependent) into a food processor, and pulse until a crumb is formed. Pour the crumb into a flat bowl.
  3. Pound the chicken breasts to tenderise them if they are thick.
  4. Beat an egg in a separate flat bowl, and place it next to the bowl with the crumbs.
  5. Dip the chicken breasts into the egg. Make sure the whole breast has been soaked in the egg.
  6. Remove the chicken breast from the egg, allowing the excess egg to drip off.
  7. Place the breasts in the bed of almond crumb, and coat it evenly on both sides. Pat the crumbs into the breast.
  8. Place on baking paper on a baking tray.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes. Flip over and bake for a further 10 minutes until golden brown.

Tip: Freeze extra almond crumb or schnitzels.

Easy tuna patties

Ingredients

(Makes 6-8 medium-to-large patties)

Patties

  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 baby marrow
  • 1 cup almond OR 1 cup nutty wheat flour
  • 1 tin tuna, in water/brine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ tsp turmeric
  • 1½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ lemon (juiced)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Dill dip

  • ½ cup low-fat plain yoghurt
  • 1 handful fresh dill
  • ½ lemon (juiced)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Grate the carrot and the baby marrow.
  3. Drain all the liquid from the tuna tin.
  4. Place all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and mix them together until well combined.
  5. Using your hands, mould the mixture into palm-sized patties, and place them onto a greased baking tray.
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, gently flipping them over after 10 minutes.

Tip: Serve with a yoghurt dill dressing

  • Hilit Milner is a registered clinical dietitian who runs a private practice, works in a top private hospital, and has founded a wellness blog called “Sunrise by HM”. She views health holistically, starting from a cellular level and working her way out.

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Lifestyle/Community

Yochanan’s gamble: the controversial move that saved Judaism

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Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, known as the father of rabbinic Judaism, saved Judaism from complete and utter destruction during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. However, his methods weren’t without controversy. He was crafty, practical, and pragmatic, and history has questioned his behaviour ever since.

Limmud@Home on 22 August 2021 featured Marc Katz, the author and rabbi at Temple Ner Tamid in New Jersey, United States, who discussed Ben Zakkai’s controversial gamble that saved Judaism, and the lessons that can be learned from it.

The zealots, a group of religious fanatics in Jerusalem, wanted to fight the Romans. When the sages refused to engage in battle, the zealots burned wheat, deliberately causing starvation to make the people desperate and have no other option but to fight.

“Show me a method so that I will be able to leave the city, and it’s possible that through this, there will be some small salvation,” Ben Zakkai told Abba Sikkara, the leader of the zealots.

Heeding Sikkara’s advice, Ben Zakkai pretended to be dead. In a coffin, he could possibly travel outside the city to seek a solution with the Romans.

Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua successfully carried Ben Zakkai past the guards, who were of the faction of the zealots, by telling them that they were burying the coffin outside the city.

When Ben Zakkai reached the Roman camp, he spoke to Roman leader Vespasian. Ben Zakkai helped Vespasian cure his swollen feet. Vespasian offered something in return, and Ben Zakkai asked for certain Jewish lives to be spared and doctors to heal Rabbi Tzadok.

Why didn’t he ask the Romans to spare Jerusalem? He maintained that Vespasian might not do that much for him, and there wouldn’t be even this small amount of salvation. Therefore, he made only a modest request in the hope that he would receive at least that much.

Katz said several lessons could be learned from this story.

He drew a comparison to US President Abraham Lincoln at the time of the American Civil War in the 1860s, who freed slaves.

“One of the things he’s famous for is that he surrounded himself with people who disagreed with him in order to build the best coalition and understand that he didn’t have all the right views in a time of discord,” said Katz. “So, many of his secretaries – like his treasury secretary, his war secretary – were people who were actually his political rivals but he brought them in because it was really important for him to listen to them. It was pragmatic because he knew the social capital he was going to gain from it. It was also hopeful because he wasn’t so caught in his ways that he couldn’t hear them out or heed their warnings. That is exactly what Ben Zakkai is doing. Not only is he creating this plot of land where he is going to save Judaism, but he is the kind of guy who tends to think about politics in the way he governs.”

Another lesson is to try to seek compromises, just like Ben Zakkai did with Sikkara.

A further lesson is to have love and kindness, not regret and hatred. Katz discussed what happened when Ben Zakkai was leaving Jerusalem with Yehoshua, and they witnessed the destruction of the Temple. “Don’t be bitter, my son, for we have another form of atonement which is as great, and this is [an] act of love and kindness [gemilut hasadim],” Ben Zakkai told Yehoshua.

An additional lesson is not to be afraid of people. If they kill you, you won’t be dead for eternity as there is life after death. But the supreme king of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, lives and endures forever and all-time, and if he kills you, you are dead for eternity.

“Yochanan doesn’t know if he is going to heaven or hell,” said Katz. “I truly believe that’s because he doesn’t know whether he made the right call or not – he doesn’t know if the pragmatic decision he made was better than going for broke and asking for Jerusalem to be saved.”

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The dispersal of the Bukharian Jews

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The story of the Bukharian Jews, a community with deep roots in Central Asia, is sadly coming to an end, but the community’s legacy lives on in the United States and Israel, where most of the remaining Bukharian Jews now live.

Uzbekistan-born Bukharian Jew, Ruben Shimonov, told of this little known Jewish group which emanates mostly from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, countries in the heart of the Asian continent.

Speaking to a virtual audience via Zoom at Limmud@Home last Sunday, 22 August, Shimonov said the different layers of culture, cuisine, music, and language in the region were an amalgamation of all the different cultures of Central Asia, and were also reflected in the small but deeply-rooted community of Bukharian Jews.

The Bukharian Jewish story begins with the Babylonian conquest of the ancient land of Israel, Judea, and subsequent exile of Jews east of the land of Israel to other regions of the Babylonian Empire, namely present-day Iraq and Iran.

The Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC. “Under the Achaemenid Empire, the king was a more benevolent king and he allowed Jews to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash,” said Shimonov. “But many Jews stayed as they now felt safe and secure under this new reign and moved even farther east of this new large Achaemenid Empire. This, folks, was Central Asia.”

Shimonov believes that the Bukharian Jews were more integrated with the local non-Jewish communities in Central Asia than, for example, the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe.

“Even though Bukharian Jews for a large part of their history lived in quarters [maḥalla], there was constant interaction with the dominant societies amongst which they lived,” said Shimonov. “For example, the shashmaqam musical tradition is influenced by Sufi Islam, but many Bukharian Jews became the gatekeepers of this tradition.”

According to Shimonov, there are 250 000 Bukharian Jews in the world. Most of them now live in Israel or the United States, primarily in the New York City borough of Queens.

“In Uzbekistan, there are fewer than a thousand Bukharian Jews left – mainly elderly folk who are staying behind because it’s harder for them to emigrate,” said Shimonov. “Jews in Uzbekistan are highly protected; their safety is preserved. And Jews do go and visit Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, where there is one kosher restaurant and a couple of synagogues. But our story is quickly coming to an end in our place of origin.”

In the Tajikistan city of Khujand, where Bukharian Jews once enjoyed a rich communal life, the last remaining Jew, Jura Abaev, died in January this year. Zablon Simintov, a carpet trader who is the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan, is reportedly safe as the country comes under the control of the Taliban.

Shimonov, who emigrated from Uzbekistan three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said the main reason for the low numbers today was the struggle of the Bukharian Jews living in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan under the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

“State-sanctioned antisemitism and dispossession or marginalisation of Jews was part of that story even though there were more ups than downs. And then, the subsequent new instability of the newly formed independent republics – whenever new countries are formed after the colonial past there is more often than not a lot of political, social, and economic instability,” he said.

“As a democratic minority, we felt that even more. So, the urgency to leave was clear and present. In the decade of the late eighties to mid-nineties, we went from having the majority of our community living in this place where we had lived for centuries to the majority of our community living in a new diaspora. In Uzbekistan, the real impetus to leave was more about everything I mentioned than antisemitism coming from our Muslim neighbours.”

“Our Muslim neighbours were our friends, and we baked bread with them,” Shimonov said. “This is different to Jews coming from the Arab world, where Arab nationalism and Zionism came to a head in a way that the Jews were sadly caught in the crossfire.”

In contemporary times, Uzbekistan-born billionaire Lev Avnerovich Leviev and Israeli Dorrit Moussaieff are two of the Bukharian Jews who have made an impact. Known as the “king of diamonds”, Leviev annually sent large quantities of Passover food to Chabad emissaries in the Commonwealth of Independent States to distribute to Jews in these communities. Moussaieff, the former First Lady of Iceland, promoted Icelandic culture and artistic productions in the international arena.

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Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi

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More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.

Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.

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