Category Archives: Judaism

The Meshuga Nutcracker! (Hanukkah Musical)

What do you get when you combine Hanukkah with a classic ballet? A new family-friendly movie called “The Meshuga Nutcracker!”

Here’s some info from the website:

“The Meshuga Nutcracker!” is a full-length musical comedy that showcases eight stories that pay tribute to the first celebration of Hanukkah in the new state of Israel. It features the wonderfully silly sensibilities of the folklore of Chelm (a fictional town of fools) underscored by an invigorating Klezmer-ized orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” including original lyrics.

“Judah Maccabee’s triumphant saga and accounts of perseverance during the Holocaust emerge with a genuine sense of wonder as the Chelmniks pay tribute to the holiday. Add in dancing dreidels, singing sufganiot, and surprise guest stars and you have the perfect recipe for a holiday outing.

“It’s a show that’s really never been done before,” says Susan Gundunas, one of the stars of the ensemble cast. “Not just because there’s finally a big, beautiful show about Hanukkah in the same way there are big, beautiful shows celebrating Christmas, but also because the cast is singing an amazing challenging score that was originally intended for musical instruments. We get to sing the piccolo line and clarinet line of melodies you’ve had in your head forever but that have been wordless for hundreds of years. It’s a real treat to sing such melodious, grand music.”

The film is set to debut in movie theatres nationwide on December 19. I have always loved watching The Nutcracker ballet on TV every winter and I’m really curious to see what a Jewish version would look like. Very intriguing…

Don’t Have a Sukkah? These Restaurants Do!

Don’t have the time or ability to build your own Sukkah? Join in the fun by visiting a restaurant that does.

Yeah That’s Kosher has compiled an enormous list of every location that’s participating around the globe in 2017.

Obviously, areas with a large Jewish population will have more options but even in my area (Northern New England), there are two—Milk Street Café in Boston and the Arlington Hotel in Bethlehem, NH.

As you can see from the picture, it’s not a luxurious or creative Sukkah, however, I am very excited that they made any effort at all since it’s definitely not required.

Yom Kippur Happenings – Good, Bad & Bizarre

With Yom Kippur arriving tomorrow night at Sundown, the Jewish world is filled with excitement and anticipation. Here are a few stories of recent and not-so-recent happenings, related to this most special day.


The New York Post has 5 healthy tips to make your fast easier.

Dr. Barry Schwack, who consulted on the article, reminds us that dehydration is the hardest part and he advises limiting salty foods and loading up on drinking water and water-based fruits and veggies.

Baseball Hall reminisces about pitcher Sandy Koufax, who chose to skip the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.

Considered to be one of the greatest players of all time, he not only was a tremendous athlete but also showed remarkable courage to do it in 1965 when anti-Semitic feelings were widespread. Though I wasn’t alive at that time, my father, who was 15 years old then, always had a strong appreciation for Koufax and shared how much it impacted him as a young teen.


A Neo-Nazi group in Sweden will be holding a hate rally on the Holiest day of the year.

Specifically picked to hurt the Jewish community on the most solemn holiday, they were originally set to march directly in front of the synagogue; now the court has re-routed it 200 yards away. I, for one, am not impressed with such a pathetic ruling!


A radical “Orthodox” rabbi and his fringe group of followers will be having a Yom Kippur event in a German-themed beer hall.

Aaron Potek, who heads a group called GatherDC, hopes to reach young Jews who otherwise wouldn’t attend, saying: “We wanted it to not be in a synagogue. We wanted it to be in a popular, centrally located area, something that people associated with their regular life.”

The most hilarious part of the article is this single sentence: “And though it takes place at a beer garden, the bar will be closed and no food or drinks will be served. Those who do bring food will be asked to eat it inconspicuously.” (Yes, the folks who should be celebrating a day of fasting can bring their own goodies. Unreal!)

While I certainly applaud outreach to the unaffiliated, this type of thinking is so watered-down that it makes what is supposed to be the most sacred holiday into a mere social event that has nothing to do with Judaism at all.

The Curious Case of Jewish Pig Farmers

In the modern world, there are many different levels of Jewish observance. The pendulum swings from ultra Orthodox on one side, to totally secular on the other, with a little bit of everything else mixed in between. Each of us has our own beliefs and we are all entitled to live how we wish. I don’t claim to have all the answers and I’m certainly not anyone’s judge. That said, there are core principals at the root of our faith that Jewish life must be based around (for those who wish to actively practice). Some folks, while no doubt well meaning, seem to be genuinely confused.

This article, featured on Tablet, is a prime example. (Normally, I just link, but I’m including a few abbreviated snippets because it’s key and not everyone will click over.) Written by a Jewish farmer in Maine, he tries to explain why “My daughters may raise piglets, but they’re living a Jewish life.”

“Until we started using the hashtag #JewishAmericanFarmgirl, our daughters had never heard the expression Jewish American Princess…That said, all three of our daughters have attended Jewish Day School in Portland, so they’ve grown up with Judaism and Jewish culture being an active part of their everyday lives.

“We’re not observant Jews, but we are committed Jews, focusing on ways that Judaism intersects with our rural and agricultural lifestyle. We pick our own apples for Rosh Hashana. We love Sukkot. We grow horseradish for Passover. We don’t keep kosher, but follow our own dietary laws—we schect our own chickens and turkeys—but also eat pork, so long as it comes from a local farm, raised by farmers we know.

“Our middle daughter, Beatrice, is in a 4-H Swiners Club, raising a piglet with which she’ll compete in the pig races. Her plan is to continue to raise her pig after the fair, keeping some of the meat for our family and selling the rest to earn money for saving, spending and tzedakah.”

I don’t doubt that this father is a genuinely nice and caring person, but there are numerous things that strike me as incredibly odd about his ideas. First off, I seriously doubt that anyone, in the year 2017, is unfamiliar with the term “Jewish American Princess,” particularly when these girls attend a Jewish school. His implication is that their rural location causes it, but it’s not reality. I grew up in New Hampshire in the 80’s and 90’s, went to public school, and everyone, even the Christian kids, had heard of JAPs.

Yes, the classic Jewish American Princess can be seen as silly and vapid, but not everyone uses the term in a derogatory way. I don’t think being called a “Jewish American Farmgirl” does anything to counteract the JAP stereotype, either. Whether we live in Montana or Manhattan, we are all Jewish girls, after all, and the majority of Jews live in cities, not farms. I fully support family farms, but it’s just not the Jewish norm.

Secondly, eating and raising pigs for profit is definitely not what most would describe as a Jewish lifestyle. I’m not saying everyone needs to be kosher, but let’s not pretend that the dietary laws don’t exist. Certainly, we can choose or refuse as we want, but the laws don’t change to suit our preferences. And it definitely doesn’t make it better if the pig is raised locally.

By allowing his daughter to raise pigs, sell pigs, and eat pigs, he is leading her astray, yet at the same time, he is obviously committed to Jewish education, so much so that he’s paying private school tuition. This is rather unusual.

I do understand his perspective of living in New England, in a non-Jewish area, and trying to fit in with the community at large while maintaining a Jewish identity. (I’ve lived that way my whole life!) It’s perfectly ok for kids to have friends and interest of other faiths, but we have to be careful. 4-H offers many good activities for youngsters, why must it be pigs? Surely, she could be involved elsewhere.

There is no easy answer, that’s for sure, when it comes to balancing ancient traditions with the difficulties of today. For Jews living in isolated areas, their burden can be even greater. Do I think this particular father is sending the best message? No, not really, but I’m not in charge of his family. Regardless, there is something weird about Jewish pig farmers, and I’ll leave it at that.


Do you think Jewish kids should be allowed to pig farm?