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December 14, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 14, 2012 PAGE 15A e mayor eager By Johanna Ginsberg New Jersey Jewish News With talk of Israeli settle- ment-building dominating news of the Middle East, Davidi Perel, mayor of the Gush Etzion region in the West Bank, hopes to change a few perceptions here about life beyond the "Green Line." "Life in the Gush is very nice. We have nice houses, close to Yerushalayim with restaurants, shops, everything you need," said Perel. "You can work in Tel Aviv, Jerusa- lem, Gush Etzion. It's close to everything! And it's nice for kids to grow up in Gush Etzion. We have community centers and different chugim [clubs]--music, sports, swim- ming pools. And we have the best weather in Israel. It's not Davidi Perel too hot in the summer, not too cold in the winter." Perel is currently is com- pleting a speaking tour in the United States. It is only a coincidence that his trip came as Israel announced plans to expand Ma'ale Adumim, which like As it exists today, Gush the region'smayor.Hisfather meaning that tourists are Gush Etzion is considered Etzion, al0-minutedrivefrom servedasrabbiofGushEtzion coming not to see how to kill by Israelis a "consensus" Jerusalem, was established in and Alan Shvut. "It's in my Arabs, but to see the region," settlement likely to remain 1967, the fourth attempt to blood," he said. "The history he said, "but they want to put part of Israel in any two-state establish a Jewish community of Gush Etzion is that we all a good article in the news." solution, thereduringthe20thcentury, help." He has served as Alan Perel has no security con- In a telephone interview, In1947,theblocofsettlements Shvut's mayor and became cernsatallaboutlivingbeyond Perel said one of his biggest came under siege from Arab mayor of the Gush Etzion the Green Line. challengesistoworkoutaplan forces, and was eventually Regional Council this past "I believe if you're living in to have Gush Etzion become evacuated. Since its dramatic spring. Tel Aviv, you face the same part of the State of Israel. reestablishment after the Six- Perel faced some criticism danger. Lookatwhathappened "GushEtzionshouldbepart Day War, its population has earlier in June after the daily twoweeks ago," he said, refer- of Jerusalem and the State of grown toabout40,000 people. Yediot Ahronot published an ring to a missile fired from Israelsowemakesurewehave PerelgrewupinAlonShvut,article about Caliber 3, a Gaza that nearly reached Tel a place to live for the next gen- a Gush community to which shooting gallery and tourist Aviv."There'snoplaceinIsrael eration,'hesaid."Wearegoing his family moved from Jeru- attraction in Gush Etzion that's more dangerous than to try to build more houses to salem when he was 2 years where visitors can take aim the others. God sent us to live the west side [of] the Green old. At 42, he still lives there, at cardboard "terrorists." The in Israel after 2,000 years of Linesopeoplewouldfeelthere with his wife, a midwife at article quoted him saying galut [exile]. One day, all the is no Green Line." Shaare Tzedek Hospital, and that attractions like Caliber nations will be in Israel." He added, "We are trying five children ranging in age 3 would turn the area into a Johanna Ginsberg is a staff to attract olim [Jewish immi- from 6 to 20. "tourist gem." writer for the New Jersey grants]fromallovertheworld. Involved in communal life Perel said the quote was out Jewish News, from which We think it's a good place for for many years, he said it ofcontext."Itoldthemitwould this article was reprinted by everyone." came naturally for him to be be a good place for tourists-- permission. By Julie Guenbam Fax Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles Who's your bubbie? When it comes to food, she might not be the short, Yid- dish-speaking grandmother that comes to mind. "Every family has a recipe that it holds dear, and every recipe has a person behind it, and typically, yes, it is your Yid- dish bubbie," said David Sax, author of "Save the DelL" "But it can also be a grandmother who came from a Sephardic country, or a housekeeperwho came from the Philippines and was the one who made Shabbat dinner every Friday night, or the prison guard who raised you but fed you well, lovingly." Sax is one of the founders of Beyond Bubbie, a new project and website sponsored by the Jewish creative think tank Reboot. Beyond Bubbie aims to mingle food, memory and meaning to produce a multi- sensory, visceral connection to Jewish (or another) heritage. The project launched two weeks ago at the Skirball Cul- tural Centerwith apanel of five top chefs and food writers-- four of them Jewish--explor- ing how food memories have affected their careers. More than 100 people showed up for appetizers, drinks, dessert and memories. "I feel like my entire culinary endeavor, starting from when I was a kid, was about finding my inner grandmother," said moderator Evan Kleiman, the host of KCRW's "Good Food." Kleiman said she didn't have actual bubbies in her life--be- cause she was the youngest of all her first cousins, her grandmothers were gone by the time she came around. And her single mother was more about getting food on the table than cooking. But she said she has cook- book bubbies, food mentors and strong food memories. "Beyond the blood person of bubbie is bubbieness--the person who takes you in hand and believes they are feeding you more than just food, and really focuses their attention on you when you're small," she said. Drawing out those memo- ries can draw people closer to meaning, saidYoav Schlesing- er, executive director of Reboot, a networkofabout400 creative Jewish leaders who incubate new ideas for Jewish life. East Side Jews in Los Angeles, Sukkah City architectural competition in New York and the National Day of Unplug- ging are all Reboot projects. "Reboot has always been about recapturing, revitaliz- ing, reinventing, re-envision- ing tradition, culture, meaning and ritual, and what could be more central to culture from a Jewish perspective than food?" Schlesinger said. He envisions Beyond Bubbie as a multicultural endeavor, not just for Jews, especially since Jews today have multi- cultural families. LosAngeles Times food crit- ic Jonathan Gold comes from a multireligion family, and he told the Skirball audience that his Jewish bubbie, his father's mother, was a terrible cook. "My Jewish grandmother was famous for starting her Thanksgiving turkey at the end of October, just so it would be done on time. She broiled halibut for an hour and a half," he said. Gold's mother, who con- verted to Judaism, did her best with matzah balls. But it was his Southern Baptist grandmother, who grew up on a farm in north- ern Louisiana, who taught him what it meant to be in a kitchen, especially when she came to live with his family in her last days. "I stood with her in the kitchen, forcing her to fry chicken, so I could learn how to do it," Gold said. "And she taught me how to listen to the food--to close your eyes and listen to the sound of the chicken cooking." Gold said he's tried to be a food bubbie to his own children, and he confessed to being a farmers market schmoozer--the guy who stands there giving advice about what to do with collard greens or purple cauliflower. Gold also had a question for panelist Micah Wexler, whose acclaimed West Hollywood restaurant, Mezze, recently closed. Gold told Wexler he noticed that Wexler's menu became progressively more Jewish in Mezze's first year or two of being open. Was that deliberate? Wexler said his cooking was deeply influenced by his grandmothers--one an artist and kitchen experimenter, and the other, Grandma Emily, who excelled at Ashkenazic fare. At first that Ashkenazic in- fluence didn't show up on his menu, which leaned toward innovative takes on Mediter- ranean food--dishes like snail kabob and sea urchin couscous. Then one day he mistakenly received an order of chicken livers and decided to make his grandmother's chopped liver and challah. Before long, his chef friends were all coming to try it out, and it soon became a staple at Mezze. "I didn't set out to be a mod- ern Jewish chef. I think it just came from the fact that these were the flavors and this was the food I grew up around," Wexler said. Akasha Richmond, owner of AKASHA in Culver City and once the personal chef for Michael Jackson, has quite a bubbie to live up to. Her Rus- sian bubbie's knishes were like French pastry, she said, her kreplach like Tuscan ravioli. "I never had better food in my life," Richmond said."I only had that taste once in recent years. I was at an Armenian Christmas event, and there's this Armenian dish where they layer a thin pastry with cheese. And I started crying at the table, because I had been drinking a lot, and because it tasted so much like my bubbie's knishes." After her bubbie died, she stopped eating Ashkenazic food and cookedwith more of a Sephardic inflection. Butsoon after she openedAKASHA, she decided to try a Rash Hashanah dinner. "We made chopped liver, and I'm a health nut, but I realized it needed chicken fat. And I just kept putting in more and more chicken fat and it was sooo good," Richmond said. "People grabbed me, crying, saying how it was the first time they had their grandmother's food in such a long time." Roxana Jullapat, who owns Cooks County on Beverly Boulevard, said butter was a major ingredient in her grandmother's Costa Rican cooking, and though this grandmother died when she was 5 (all that butter gave her heart disease, Jullapat said), the food memories are burned into her consciousness. The scent of slow-dripped coffee with a mother lode of sugar and cream, and the stink of ripe tropical fruit, always bring her back to Costa Rica. Jullapat, the non-Jewish chef present, said she often finds herself defending Costa Rican food--kind of like Ashkenazic food--and she proved herself to the Skirball audience with a dessert of Tres Leches, a gooey cake topped with meringue. Sax's own crusade to defend and ~vitalize the deli started whenhe was a child. Ore of his most formative food experiences was at Yitz's Delicatessen in Toronto, where his fanily went every Friday night "Ivt. and Mrs. Yitz would greetus in the warm, loving way, ~s if we were their very own grandchildren," Sax said. "Mr. Yitz used to practice judo, and he had these big, fat meat- hook hands, and he would shove them into these barrels of sunflower seeds and give them to us. We didn't even like them--we shoved them into our pockets and threw them out later." But it's thatwarmth and per- sonal connection that burned the ddi into his memory, and it is ttose kinds of connections that te hopes will spark deeper conwrsations as Beyond Bub- bie grows with events in New aboutthesubjectoffood, ittends YorkandSan Francisco, andan to spark a long and passionate organically evolving website, conversation," Sax said. where dozens of people already For links and recipes from havepostedrecipesandstories, these chefs, visit this story "It's an easy way to start at Julie a conversation about things Guenbam Fax writes for The that go far deeper than food or Jewish Journal of Greater ingredients. 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