June 22nd, 2017

Alma: For ‘Jew-ish’ millennial women

New website will blend secular and Jewish content that addresses a young woman’s life


(JTA) — If you’re a young Jewish woman — or if you just happen to love Broad City or wacky recollections of Jewish summer camp — there’s a new website for you.

Alma, which was launched Tuesday by 70 Faces Media (JTA’s parent company), aims to be a resource for millennial women navigating the often fun, sometimes tricky years of early adulthood.

Readers can expect everything from personal essays — the wide-ranging topics include grief and figuring out what to do after college — to slideshows of embarrassing Bat Mitzva photos.

Molly Tolsky, the editor of Alma, worked three years as the editor of the Jewish parenting site Kveller. (Photo: Marissa Roer)

Alma will have a “Jew-ish” angle, said editor Molly Tolsky — meaning a blend of secular and Jewish content, with the goal of addressing all aspects of a young women’s life, including careers, relationships and spirituality.

“The purpose is to form an online community of Jewish women, and particularly women who are ‘unaffiliated’ and not really involved in Jewish organizations,” she said.

Tolsky, 30, had been the editor of Kveller, a Jewish parenting website (also a 70 Faces Media property), for three years.

Alma enters a crowded field of female-first websites — such as Bustle and Refinery29 — geared to the 20- and 30-something set. But Tolsky is confident Alma’s niche will create a “more intimate” online community than its counterparts.

“I started to crave the kind of community Kveller had created, but for women in my age bracket,” she said. “I wanted a place to talk about dating and building up a career and dealing with family issues — and figuring out where your Jewish identity fits into all that.”

June 21st, 2017

A new twist on tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh

By The Nosher

(The Nosher via JTA) — Tabbouleh is a classic Middle Eastern salad made with bulgur, tomatoes and a high ratio of chopped fresh herbs. It’s easy to make, fresh, delicious and healthy, making it a much-beloved side dish around the world.

Instead of classic bulgur, we wanted to try a version made with quinoa, which is high in fiber and protein. This is the perfect vegetarian dish to serve for summer cookouts, Friday night dinner, easy take-along lunch and even Passover.

And it’s so easy to make.


1 cup uncooked quinoa (yields around 3 cups cooked)

1 English cucumber, diced

3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 cup chopped fresh mint

4-5 scallions, sliced

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper


Rinse quinoa. Cook according to directions. Fluff with fork and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add cooked quinoa to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients.

Chill in fridge for 1 hour to allow the flavors to marinate.

Served chilled or at room temperature.


Shannon Sarna is the editor of The Nosher. Aly Miller is a freelance writer.

The Nosher food blog offers a dazzling array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challa to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.

June 21st, 2017

Talmud by the Lake

A summertime Jewish learning series will focus on texts connected to “The Lake.” No previous experience in Talmud necessary. All sessions are free and open to the public.

The first session is tonight: Rabbi Esther Adler will lead a discussion on “Will There be Carob Trees?” It begins 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 21 at Mount Zion Temple, 1300 Summit Ave., St. Paul.

Here is the description for tonight’s Talmud study: “When an old man was asked why he was planting a tree that would not bear fruit until well after he was dead, he answered that he was planting for the future (Ta’anit 23b). We will study what Judaism has to teach about sustaining the resources our world provides for us.”

What could be bad?

The second session takes place June 27. Led by Rabbi Sharon Stiefel, the title is “Learning to Swim: Survival Skills We Are Obligated to Pass On.”

Here’s the description: “The Talmud (Kiddushin 29a) commands us to teach our children how to swim, literally. Come explore the Talmud’s ideas of what one needs to navigate this world and share your own ideas as well. Swimmers and non-swimmers welcome.”

The session is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 27 at Mayim Rabim Congregation, 4401 York Ave. S., Minneapolis.

For a complete brochure of “Talmud by the Lake,” click HERE.

The series is presented by Hineni: Adult Jewish Learning and Contemplative Practices, Talmud Torah of St. Paul and By the Rivers: A Multi-Faith Life Cycle + Learning Center, in partnership with Twin Cities Jewish congregations.

June 20th, 2017

Online genealogy project seeks volunteers

Jewish history becomes personal with JewishGen, an online genealogy project


Does your family have stories and myths about their immigration to America? Does its history stop at the shores of the New World? Do you despair of finding tombstones or memorial plaques that might fill in blanks in your extended family tree?

There’s an ongoing world-wide project that can help answer some of these questions. You, in turn, can then help others searching for the answers to the same questions about their genealogy.

Doris Rubenstein at United Hebrew Brethern Cemetery in Richfield. (Photo: Doris Rubenstein)

Five years ago, I learned that B’nai Israel Synagogue that — according to family myth — my paternal grandfather had helped to found in McKeesport, Penn, was preparing to celebrate its centennial. A helpful administrator there was kind enough to send me copies of the articles of incorporation, and sure enough, there was “Robert Rubenstein” listed as a charter member! One family myth transformed into fact.

I roped a couple cousins into joining me at the centennial celebration, and we took advantage of the trip to visit the nearby B’nai Israel cemetery where our mutual ancestors were buried. There, we easily found our family plot but were puzzled to see nearby graves with the name Rubinstein.

I knew that our family’s name had originally been spelled that way, but I’d never met or heard of any other relatives who still used that spelling. Where were they? How were we related? I returned to the Twin Cities with many unanswered questions rattling in my brain and wishing that I’d taken pictures of those gravestones.

Those questions turned into a four-year quest for answers that eventually resulted in a 96-page “historical novel” about the “First Rubensteins in America.” Many of those questions about possible “Rubinstein” relatives wouldn’t have been answered had not that same helpful administrator at B’nai Israel told me about the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) Project.

Keep reading →

June 14th, 2017

Eli Skora says farewell

St. Paul Federation honors departing executive director Eli Skora at June 6 annual meeting


During the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul’s annual meeting last week at Mount Zion Temple, the honors and accolades rained down upon Eli Skora, who is retiring after 17 years as the organization’s executive director.

Steve Brand, the St. Paul Federation president, read a proclamation from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, declaring June 6 as Eli Skora Day in Minnesota’s capital city. Brand also read a note from Mark Wilf, an owner of the Minnesota Vikings and past national campaign chair for The Jewish Federations of North America, commending Skora’s service to the community; along with the letter, Wilf sent along a framed Vikings jersey, adorned on the back with the name SKORA and the number 18.

Eli Skora was “knighted” by King Boreas Rex (aka Jason Bradshaw). At left is Aurora, Queen of the Snows (aka Lindsey Jo Sandoval). (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)

Then there was the appearance of the entire St. Paul Winter Carnival Royal Court. King Boreas Rex (aka Jason Bradshaw) wielded his scepter and “knighted” Skora. (Brand wondered aloud if he will have to refer now to Skora as “Sir Eli.”) Aurora, Queen of the Snows (aka Lindsey Jo Sandoval) pinned a medal on his lapel. And Klondike Kate led a group singing of “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow,” in Skora’s honor. Keep reading →

June 14th, 2017

Joseph Haj: ‘What humans do’

The Guthrie Theater’s Joseph Haj directs Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George


Sunday in the Park with George rather buffaloed audiences when it first came out in 1984. The musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, retold the story of the making of Georges Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” and paired it with a contemporary (and fictional) story of a descendant of Seurat’s great-grandson, a contemporary artist attempting to wrestle with the legacy of his ancestor.

Guthrie Artistic Director Joseph Haj is directing Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. (Photo: Andrea Akin)

Sondheim had a bad previous experience in musical theater when critics lambasted his musical Merrily We Roll Along to such an extent that Sondheim considered leaving theater entirely. Critics were kinder to Sunday in the Park, but audiences weren’t, and the musical lost money.

But time has been kind to Sunday in the Park. “I think it is an acknowledged masterpiece of American musical theater by inarguably our greatest living composer,” Guthrie Artistic Director Joseph Haj told the American Jewish World. Haj will be directing the musical for the Guthrie, which will open June 17.

According to Haj, much of the experimental boldness of the play has since been incorporated into mainstream musical theater, making Sunday in the Park far more accessible to modern audiences. “Our edge rolled into the center,” he says. “The play opened the gates for another way of opening musicals that is thrilling.”

Indeed, a recent revival on Broadway starring Jake Gyllenhaal received both rave reviews and impressive box office receipts. Haj was quick to make it clear that he had already selected the musical for the Guthrie when the Broadway production was announced. “We were already in designs!” he said.

The Guthrie production will be quite a bit different from Broadway productions, according to Haj, in part thanks to the Guthrie’s thrust stage. Previous productions have used a proscenium to act like an artist’s canvas, recreating the original Seurat painting within it. But according to Haj, Seurat constructed the painting in his studio from a series of sketches made while roaming around the island in the river Seine that gives the painting its name. The thrust stage allows Haj to recreate Seurat’s process.

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