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December 12, 2014

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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 12, 2014 The wraps are coming off a for Chanukah. Mark Hurvitz finer, more chocolatey gelt By Deborah R. Prinz NEW YORK (JTA) -- Shar- ing their favorite Jewish choc- olate experiences recently, a group of about 60 chocolate lovers didn't even mention Chanukah gelt. That is, until one woman at the New Jersey get-together shared her thoughts on the subject. "It is sucky," she said, meaning that the chocolate is waxy, flavorless and should remain wrapped in its foil on the holiday table, Francine Segan, an au- thor and chocolate maven, echoed the feeling when she. told me recently that her children, who were ac- customed to high-quality chocolate, suggested that the Chanukah gelt they sampled be recycled or given to younger children. Several chocolate makers, however, are bringing finer, tastier and richer dark choco- late to gelt. Cookbook author Leah Koenig, who has done several gelt tastings, wrote in Saveur that artisan chocolatiers from all over the world have started creating top-notch chocolate coins. Segan explains that "good chocolate needs to contain 100 percent cocoa product, without cheap substitutes or additives, along with quality sugar and flavorings. Just as we want to be feeding our chil- dren real food, we should be giving them real chocolate." Koenig also looks for a high ratio of cocoa solids to the other products. For her, that means "more flavor than sweet." Heather Johnston started making her "Kosher Gelt for Grown-Ups" just two years ago at her Chicago-based Veruca Chocolates when she and some friends bemoaned the horrible quality of gelt. She felt called to remedy that by using a great tasting choco- late made by the California- based Guittard, which sources and selects its own beans to create an artisanal, luxury chocolate. For sophisticated palates, she offers two dark chocolate versions: with sea salt or with cocoa nibs. Johnston also searched for the right design for her mold. "I wanted the coins to look old, so I explored ancient coinage," she said in a recent phone conversation. Johnston selected an an- cient Maccabean coin em- bossed with the Jerusalem Temple menorah similar to that issued by Mattathias Antigonus, a descendant of the Maccabees. Her coins are elegantly airbrushed with gold or silver. LakeChamplainChocolates in Burlington, Vt., packages its fine milk chocolate coins in festive Chanukah boxes. Rich and enticing squares of chocolate-covered toffee and almonds or almonds with sea salt nestle in its "Be Kind, Be Fair, Be Conscious, Be Well"A Gift of Goodness box. They are fair trade, organic and kosher. Divine Chocolate's online store offers dark chocolate and milk chocolate coins produced through the farmer cooperative Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. The phrase "Freedom and Justice" encircles the foil- embossed cocoa tree. A collaboration among Fair Trade Judaica, T'ruah and Di- vine offers easy ordering and supports the two nonprofits. "The gelt we eat on Cha- nukah is a reminder of the" freedom our people won many years ago," Ilana Schatzwrote at the Fair Trade Judaica web- site. "Young children are traf- " ticked and forced into working on cocoa farms with no pay and in unsafe conditions in the Ivory Coast." Fair trade standards pro- hibit the use of child and slave labor, a problem particularly in West Africa. Several resources offer discussion prompts for Cha- nukah experiences. Lesson plans for adults and children (downloadable for free at Jews- as- sist educators in framing the issues of good Chanukah gelt through conversations about Jewish values. Hazon and partners have developed brief learning materials, titled "Spinning the Dreidel for Chocolate Gelt,'to encourage purchases of fair trade and kosher chocolate gelt. Selecting fair trade choco- late meshes with Chanukah's spiritual messages about freedom and fairness, A prayer, "Eating [Fair Trade] Chanukah Gelt," by Rabbi Menachem Creditor, recognizes the potency of chocolate with Chanukah's theme of enlightening the world's dark places, an im- portant spin on good gelt for Chanukah, especially for children. So say a prayer, then enjoy the improved chocolate gelt choices--they may not stay under wraps for long. Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz is the author of "On the Chocolate Trail: -A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao," which was. published in 2013 by Jewish Lights and is in its second printing. She lectures about chocolate and Jews around the world. e By Hillel Kuttler PHILADELPHIA(JTA) In text accompanying a new ex- hibition at this city's National Museum of American Jewish History, Sammy Davis Jr. is quoted on why he converted to Judaism. "I became a Jew because I was ready and willing to un- derstand the plight of a people who fought for thousands of years for a homeland." the late entertainer said. What immediately follows is a curator's observation: "Davis knew that becoming a Jew also meant recording Christmas songs." The comment, while some- what facetious, has a ring of truth to it: Some of the most popular Christmas tunes were written and/or sung by American Jews notably the children of immigrants, like Irving Berlin, who composed the iconic "White Christmas," or in Davis' case, new to Judaism. It also encapsulates the theme of the exhibition, which carries the provocative title of " 'Twas the Night Before HanukkahY The exhibition, which high- " lights the music of Chanukah and Christmas, and the people behind some of the holidays' songs, is auditory rather than visual, homey rather han museumy. No documents or objects are displayed. Words are mostly absent from the walls. Standing is implicitly discouraged. The atmosphere in the small exhibition area better resembles one's family room: comfy couches, upholstered chairs, carpeting and floor- to-ceiling windows; shelves containing books about the holidays (like on how Jew- ish teenagers can cope with Christmas pressures); record players for adults and children along with holiday albums: Legos from a hanukkiyah kit. "It's more of an experience than a traditional museum exhibit that's artifact-hea~%" co-curator IvyWeingram said: "I like to think of the songs as the artifacts." Indeed, the main attrac- tions are the iPads resting on the blue plastic-block end tables. Visitors can get cozy on the sofas and select a song to lose themselves in through the provided earphones. Enjoying the music while watching snow fall on Inde- pendence Hall this winter - all a visitor would seem to lack to complete the indoor Americana ideal is a mug of hot cocoa. The iPads offer the Jew- ishly numerically significant 18 Chanukah songs and 18 Christmas songs; nearly all the singers and songwriters featured were Jews. Debbie Friedman's "The Latke Song" and Sol Zim's "Maoz Tsur" are among the 36, but far more fascinating are the crossovers. Eddie Cantor (born Ed- ward Israel Iskowitz) sings From a Coin Toss Into Politics: The Life of a Senator On view through March 22, 2015 Sponsored by Congregation Beth Jacob, The Stone Family, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami Mikki & Morris Futemick. Isabel Bemfeld Anderson, Kenneth & Barbara Bloom and Pinnacle Housing Group. Senator Richard B. Stone at Work In The Chosen: .,.W.h,.gto.,O.c.o,,ce, o.,,,,. Selected Works From Florida Jewish Art Collectors On view through March 8, 2015 Sponsored by Mercedes-Benz of Coral Gables, Museo Vault, Biscayne Bank, Kenneth & Barbara Bloom and /~ ,~t~.rce=ies-Ben~ Elliot Stone & Bonnie SockeI-Stone. ~,,,J " ~ " "~ c.:~,~., i ............................................ ........................... i ............ ;;3 301 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139 ~'~ 305.672.5044 a, ~ ~ Open Tuesday-Sunday lOam - 5pm Except Holidays ~ The Museum is supported by individual contributions, foundations, memberships and grants from the State of Florida, Department of State, Division'of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts end Culture, the Miami-Dade.County Toudst Development Council, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners and the City of Miami Beach, Cultural Affairs Program, Cultural Arts Council. "The Only Thing I Want for Christmas." Benny Goodman performs "Santa Claus Came in the Spring." Opera great Richard Tucker, trained as a cantor at a Brooklyn syna- gogue, has "0 Little Town of Bethlehem." And the non-Jews doing Chanukah? Try Woody Guth- rie ("Hanukkah Dance"), The Indigo Girls ("Happy Joyous Hanukkah") and Don McLean ("Dreidel'). What in the name of as- similation is going on here? "All holidays, in many ways, are cultural construc- tions," explained Josh Kun, a University of Southern California professor and co- curator of the exhibition with Weingram. The exhibition grew out of the 2012 release by the Jewish organization Kun cofounded, the Idelsohn Society for Musi- cal Preservation, of a two-CD set from which the museum exhibition takes its name. The CD is subtitled "The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights." As if to underscore the point, the society's website describes the CD set as the first effort at presenting 20th-century American music that's most closely identified with the two holidays' dual role. The CD's cover, also dis- played on an exhibition wall, shows a circa-1940s photo- graph of a teenage girl light- ing a hanukkiyah while her presumed sister and mother exchangewrapped giftS beside a Christmas tree topped by a star--a Star of David. The exhibition's goal is "to raise the big questions of Jewish American pop culture: questions of identity and of assimilation," Kun said by telephone from Los Angeles. "Chanukah grew in power alongside the dominance of Christmas." To Kun, the Jews putting their musical talents to work in this manner were neither surrendering to nor fighting America's overwhelming Christmas tide but rather rid- ing it. In so doing, he said, they Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation A CD set of Christmas and Chanukah music provided the inspiration and title for the new exhibition at Phila- delphia's National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. were embracing their new American identities. To them, Christmas was a national holiday, not a Christian one. That's why, Kun said, their songs tended to celebrate the seasonal nature of Christmas: the chestnuts, reindeer and snow, but not the manger. That al proach echoed Hollywood's Jewish moguls churning out films high on mainstream and not ethnic--and certainly not Jewish--America. "One of the great Jewish tactics in American life," said, "is that Jews do America better than anyone: 'You want Christmas? We'll give you Christmas.' " Along with the musical offerings and the CDs' liner notes, from whence the Davis quotation comes, the iPads provide holiday-centric You- Tube clips like Adam Sandler performing "The Hanuk- kah Song," Joel Fleischman bringing home a Christmas tree in the television series "Northern Exposure" and the Ramones onstage belting out "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)." Not that the museum's traditional offerings are ig- nored in the exhibition, which runs until March 1. Printed pamphlets and the iPads offer a guided tour of all Chanukah-related artifacts elsewhere in the building, like a hanukkiyah brought to America in 1881 by an im- migrant from Lodz, Poland; a 1948 photograph showing Rabbi Chaim Lipschitz teach- ing Philadelphia children the Chanukah blessings; a 1962 letter explaining Saks Fifth Avenue's lack of Chanukah decorations. Naturally, too, visitors can see Irving Berlin's piano--and the sheet music for "White Christmas."