Grapevine: The cook book with a vast story to tell

Recipes and legacies in a collection; Peres tells joke about Ben-Gurion and Begin on a drive together, help for homeless by the Carmel fire.

By
January 11, 2011 22:09
President Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres 311. (photo credit: AP)

WHEN HER son Jonathan, who with his wife Sarah volunteers at Jerusalem’s Carmei Ha’ir soup kitchen, suggested to Joanne Caras that she write a cookbook of the world’s best Jewish recipes to raise money for Carmei Ha’ir, she never thought that the book would do a lot more than that. She didn’t even know, when she returned to her home in Florida, what she was going to do about the book until Sarah’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, passed away. Caras instantly thought how important it was to safeguard the legacies of Holocaust survivors and decided that her cookbook would contain not only the recipes preserved by survivors, but the stories of the survivors, the photos of when they were children in Europe with the families they lost, and photos today, with the families they have gained.

It took some two years to collect well over 100 recipes and stories. Initially there was no response. Then after six months there was a trickle that turned into a flood.

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Caras and her family, who had been involved in the preparation of the book, had no inkling of how many copies to print, but decided that 5,000 was a reasonable number. The book is now in its seventh printing and Caras, who has received many more recipes and stories, is working on a sequel. She sells bulk copies at a reduced price to organizations which then use them as fundraisers for their own projects, and she passes on the profits to Carmei Ha’ir, which so far has received $130,000.

Caras is currently in Jerusalem as part of a 55-city world tour. She tells the stories of some of the contributors to the book as well as some of the reactions that the book has generated. One woman told her that all her other recipe books have food stains, but the pages in this one are stained with tears. Caras was particularly gratified when a non-Jewish school in the US bought a large consignment of books for its students, who prepare recipes for other students, study the stories and take on the persona of the person whose story they’ve studied to tell it anew.

With non-Jews as well as Jews buying the book, Caras hopes that sales will eventually reach 6 million. Many organizations feature the book on their websites.

■ IF HE ever decided to throw in the towel on the presidency, Shimon Peres might find work as a stand-up comedian.

He demonstrated a gift for telling jokes at a large literary gathering at Beit Hanassi, aimed at taking an exploratory look at humor. Close to 300 people who filled the hall – among them former president Yitzhak Navon and his wife Miri, Reuma Weizman, the widow of former president Ezer Weizman, Peres’s daughter Dr. Tzvia Walden and her husband Prof. Raphael Walden, the president’s personal physician, and Cinematheque founder Lia Van Leer in her signature shades of lilac.

Weizman was wearing an eye-catching aqua scarf that the late Esther Rubin had bought for her at the National Gallery in London and was keeping as a birthday gift.

At the unveiling of Rubin’s tombstone, her daughter Ariella presented the scarf to Weizman, telling her how much her mother wanted her to have it.

On stage with Peres were satirist, illustrator and designer Danny Kerman who acted as moderator; comic book artist and writer Rutu Modan; author, playwright and satirist Ephraim Sidon, and illustrator and comics artist Yirmi Pinkus. There was consensus that there is a clear distinction between Jewish and Israeli humor. The latter lacks the subtlety and irony of the former, and whereas Jewish humor can be self-deprecating, Israeli humor by and large cannot.

Jews in the Diaspora always couched the truth in humor, said Peres, citing several well-known Jewish authors whose tales of misfortune were sufficiently laced with humor to take the sting out of the story without compromising the truth. Pressed by Kerman to tell some political jokes, Peres refrained from any related to living politicians.

He told one about long-serving cabinet minister Dr. Yosef Burg, of the National Religious Party, who was rumored to be a hypochondriac. Burg frequently went to see a doctor who found nothing wrong with him. “What ails you?” asked the doctor.

“My colleagues,” replied Burg.

Of all the deceased politicians, Levy Eshkol was best known for his sense of humor. Still laughing at the memory, Peres recalled that Eshkol used to say: “When will we finish building the country so that we can go home?” As for his personal mentor, David Ben-Gurion, Peres acknowledged that the founding prime minister , whose animosity toward Menachem Begin was legendary, did not have a sense of humor. When Akiva Govrin, the country’s first tourism minister, asked Ben- Gurion whether he could tell him a joke, he replied in the affirmative. “You and Begin were driving in the same car,” began Govrin, at which point Ben-Gurion butted in angrily to ask “When?” “It’s a joke,” explained Govrin. But Ben-Gurion didn’t get it, denied ever having been in a car with Begin and persisted with his interrogation of Govrin.

Actress and singer Rama Messinger, who provided comic relief from the discussion, had the president’s security detail as well as the audience roaring with laughter, when she turned to Peres’s personal bodyguard, and ignoring the real purpose for his hovering so close, thanked him aloud for looking out for her safety.

■ DEFENSE MINISTER Ehud Barak, who is a product of Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon, feels perfectly at home in other kibbutzim even though he lives in a multimillion dollar apartment in Tel Aviv. He is also known for having a penchant for devices that can be taken apart and put together again, so he had a field day when he visited Kibbutz Na’an and was taken through the plant of its internationally respected irrigation company NaanDanJain Irrigation Ltd. by CEO Avner Harmoni. Accompanying them were Peter Weiss, head of the Gezer Regional Council, and Eitan Broshi, Barak’s adviser on settlements.

Knowing that Barak likes to tinker with machinery, Harmoni invited him to take apart and put together several pieces of equipment, and he gladly rose to the challenge.

■ EVEN SOMEONE with the political and legal savvy of former justice minister Tzachi Hanegbi can be taken for a ride. He must have felt his hackles rising this week when Calcalist, the financial supplement of Yediot Aharonot, revealed that leading attorney Ya’acov Weinroth, currently on trial for bribery and money laundering, had charged him through the nose in comparison to what he had charged some of his other celebrity clients. Whereas a judge whom Weinroth represented was charged NIS 16,600, a fellow lawyer NIS 57,600, president Ezer Weizman NIS 34,519, Nehama Ronen, former director-general of the Environment Ministry NIS 44,500, Ya’acov Ganot, the former head of the Prisons Service NIS 252,051, Hanegbi was charged a whopping NIS 1 million – and he’s still not out of the woods.

■ RABBIS, JUDGES, lawyers, lie detector technicians, private detectives, academics and even accountants will flock to Eilat today for the annual four-day law conference under the heading “Lies, Secrets, and Desires – the Shadowy Side of Family Law in Israel.” Among the speakers will be heads of rabbinical courts, district courts and family courts. Among the rabbis will be Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who presides over the High Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Eliahu Heishrick of the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court and Rabbi Ariel Yanai of the Netanya Rabbinical Court.

Controversial Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu has not been invited, but he’ll have his time in front of the microphone in Ramat Gan on Thursday night at the Manhigut Yehudit third annual Israel Dinner, where he will receive the Rabbinic Leadership Award – presumably for patriotism, though many would see it as racism. Manhigut Yehudit is the movement led by Moshe Feiglin, who is considered to be a thorn in the side of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

■ ALTHOUGH FOREIGN Ministry workers have intensified their sanctions, the Knesset is apparently optimistic that the situation will be resolved before the end of the month.

Veteran prize winning photographer David Rubinger, whose works adorn the Knesset walls and help visitors to remember legislators, ministers and visiting dignitaries, was supposed to have an event at the Knesset at the end of the month, but this week was notified that he can no longer do so because German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be visiting on that date.

■ IT WOULD be almost superfluous to ask whether Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda gave his copy of Peace in the Making to a certain member of his staff. The book by Harry Hurwitz (the late founder of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center) and Yisrael Medad contains the correspondence between president Anwar Sadat and Begin. The book, presented to Reda by Murray Greenfield, founder of Gefen Publishing and Begin Center director Herzl Makov, would be of particular interest to Ahmed Sadat, first secretary at the Egyptian Embassy, who is Sadat’s grandson. It will also be of interest to the first secretary’s father, who may be visiting in April.

■ AT LEAST two ambassadors will be in attendance at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque Thursday night when the French Institute hosts the screening of the film Saviors in the Night, a true story based on the book by Marga Spiegel, which tells how her family was hidden by German farmers during the Holocaust. French Ambassador Christophe Bigot and German Ambassador Harald Kindermann will be in the audience for what has been touted as the premiere of the film.

In fact it isn’t. The film was previously screened here in October 2009 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque and before that in Europe.

The Jerusalem showing was attended by Spiegel, some of the leading members of the cast and director Ludi Boeken. The film, which was made in 2008, has since been shown elsewhere in the world.

■ SEVERAL HOMES in the artists’ village of Ein Hod belong to people who live in other parts of the country or abroad. Some of those houses survived the recent Carmel Forest fires. The homes of several permanent residents were almost totally gutted.

Most are interested in repairing the devastation, but when the Ein Hod Residents’ Committee turned to the nonresident owners to ask whether those who had been left without a roof over their heads could live in their premises until their homes were restored, the response was largely negative.

Among the exceptions was Israel Prize laureate, lyricist and poet Haim Hefer, who has penned some of the country’s most enduring songs.

Hefer, 85, who lives in Tel Aviv, heard about the multiple tragedies that befell the Keiner family, that was in mourning for the father who had been killed in a traffic accident less than two weeks before the fire broke out. Only days before the accident, he and his rock musician son Yuval had repaired all the flaws in the house and had painted it inside and out. Almost everything the family owned, including musical instruments, was burnt to ashes or beyond repair.

Hefer readily allowed the Keiners to stay in his house for several weeks until their house could be rehabilitated.

■ STUDENTS FROM the Yemin Orde youth village gladly returned home last week, though some still have to sleep in the Givat Olga army camp until the final repairs to damaged buildings are completed. However, as far as studies go, all 500 youngsters are using the facilities. Founded in 1953 by the British Friends of Youth Aliya, the village was named in memory of Orde Wingate, the British Army officer who was a Christian Zionist and helped train Hagana units prior to the establishment of the state. Yemin Orde initially took in Holocaust orphans of the Holocaust and children from needy families who flooded into the country in its early years.

The student population grew to include children from dysfunctional families, refugees from countries with totalitarian regimes and children of Jewish background who were discovered in orphanages in the former Soviet Union.

Retired nurse Marion Silman and friends in her quilting group in Mevaseret Yerushalayim have ensured that 24 of the youngsters will have warmer beds during the cold winter nights. Working with donations of fleece, fabrics, squares and partly made patchwork tops, the quilters sewed the squares together and made 24 quilted, fleece-lined blankets. Some 50 people were involved in this labor of love. One of the quilters is related to Dr.

Benny Fisher, the director of Yemin Orde.

■ TRAGEDY IS the glue that binds people together. The loss of life coupled with the destruction to nature’s beauty has turned the Carmel forest into a place of pilgrimage and dedication. Many local and visiting groups have traveled to the North to inspect the devastation and to pledge to raise money to replace the trees that were destroyed.

Among such groups were 150 Orthodox rabbis from 37 countries, who concluded their three-day day annual conference organized by the World Zionist Organization at Mount Carmel.

Rabbi Yechiel Wasserman, who heads the WZO’s Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora, noted the importance of the theme of this year’s conference: “The Rabbi as an Advocate for Israel in His Community.” The conference opened at the Knesset, where the rabbis were addressed by Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

■ CONGRATULATIONS ARE in order to singer, musician and composer Kobi Oz and his wife Batsheva, who last week become the parents of twin girls who have not yet been formally named. Oz is expected to remedy the lacuna at his local synagogue this coming Saturday.

■ CHABAD IS arguably one of the bestknown and most diverse outreach organizations in the Jewish world. In Jerusalem, for instance, it is amazing how much Chabad activity exists between Rehavia, Sha’arei Hessed, Nahlaot and Nahalat Shiva, which are within relatively easy walking distance of each other.

There’s even more in other parts of the city, not to mention the rest of the country.

Chabad’s varied outreach activities include operating soup kitchens, here and abroad. In an online contest run by Bank Leumi, which distributed NIS 1 million to not-for-profit organizations, Chai Ashkelon, a Chabad soup kitchen network, came in second out of 50 nonprofits. At a ceremony in Tel Aviv, it received a check for NIS 100,000. Chai Ashkelon director Rabbi Menahem Lieberman said that the money would be used to upgrade the network’s central kitchen run by Rabbi Chaim Attias and, known as Eshel Ashkelon. The kitchen feeds 260 people daily, including housebound elderly residents of Ashkelon to whom meals are delivered.

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