Monthly Archives: October 2010

Keeping it Kosher, Local Style

By Lorraine Gershun (Oahu, Hawaii)

My oldest daughter occasionally stays after Sunday school for a youth group event or Purim play practice or other extracurricular activity. On the days that I am not driving for the carpool and cannot pick up lunch and bring it to her at noon like the good Jewish mother that I am, she  takes a sack lunch.

This requires a bit of forethought and planning.

Growing up in Hawaii means growing up eating the local food and in that respect she is totally  a “Local Girl.”

Lunch on the go translates to: Spam musubi or manapua.

California roll, fried noodles, Cup Noodles or maybe a Hot Pocket are also acceptable choices.

A peanut butter, or even bologna, sandwich is not the status quo.

This presents no problems on a regular school day or for the occasional field trip. I insist she add in some healthy items like fruits and vegetables and we strike a decent balance.

But when she goes to temple, none of these are acceptable.

We are Reform Jews and choose not to keep kosher at home. But we do respect the general kosher style that is observed at our temple: No pork, shellfish, or combination of meat and dairy foods.

When she realized that Spam musubi and manapua are filled with pork, California roll has imitation crab (which seems disrespectful in my book), Cup Noodles contains dried shrimp, and Hot Pockets are usually a mixture of milk and meat (at least the ones she likes,) she was shocked.

I chuckled. “This is a good lesson for you,” I told her.

The bagel and cream cheese I offered or the humus and pita she often likes at home were not deemed  reasonable substitutes. (Did I forget to mention that she is 13 and at that age nothing is a reasonable substitute for your first choice that you cannot have?)

We had to come up with alternatives.

Luckily, she is not completely unreasonable and I have some decent problem solving skills.

Not only Spam and fake crab meat go well with rice. You can make a tuna fish salad hand roll or a plain cucumber maki. She likes both of those. Hot rice with a package of roasted seaweed also makes the cut.

Instead of char siu in the manapua, you can buy them with chicken or vegetables. I know, it’s not the same, but it is a compromise.

Bottom line, I can’t resist telling her, “You should be happy to have food in your mouth.”

Of course, she agrees. And, in a pinch, a peanut butter sandwich will do just fine.

Lorraine Gershun is a nice Jewish mother who lives on the leeward side of Oahu. She taught secondary English and Journalism for over 20 years and has recently taken some time off to take care of her two lovely, semi-adolescent children and pursue opportunities in writing. After several years of free lance writing for local news publications, she launched her own blog this summer called “Being Jewish in Hawaii” (, where this piece first appeared.

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Finding My Place

by Mel Glenn (Brooklyn, NY)

Standing outside the temple,
I hesitated at the door, deciding
whether I would enter for the High Holidays.
“You speakin’ to me?” I asked when
I thought I heard Him inside my head,
beckoning me to come in and pray.
I was reluctant to go inside.
Honestly, I’m just not that comfortable
with the old men chanting in indecipherable tongues,
with standing up, sitting down, repeated too many times.
But then the thought came to me, (through Him?)
religion is not a matter of comfort, but gratitude.
I thought of not being pressed into a cattle car,
thought of living three score and more,
thought of having two fine sons,
and finally, of being, at least tangentially
a part of a 5,000 year old legacy, reasons enough
to rethink a few procedural questions.
“Well,” He said, “coming in?”
“Yes,” I said, firmly, walking in, finding my place.

The author of twelve books for young adults, Mel Glenn has lived nearly all his life in Brooklyn, NY, where he taught English at A. Lincoln High School for thirty-one years.  Lately, he’s been writing poetry, and you can find his most recent poems in a new YA anthology, This Family Is Driving Me Crazy,  edited by M. Jerry Weiss.


Filed under American Jewry

The Survivor

by Rafail Kosovsky (West Hollywood , CA )

Free or in captivity, I always feel that I am a Jew. I have forgotten the prayers my father taught me. I have forgotten the Hebrew alphabet and I consider myself a secular Jew, but every time I step into a synagogue, I feel a strange excitement. I feel that I am getting in touch with something holy and getting closer to some profound age-old secret.

It might be obvious for any reader of these memoirs that the dominant theme of my life story is anti-Semitism. I have given this phenomenon a great deal of thought, trying to understand why the Jews, who as a people have made such a great contribution to humanity, have so many haters. I see basic human and political components to this phenomenon. Perhaps the word “human” is more of a euphemism for what is in fact an ugly manifestation of basic zoological instincts.

For thousands of years the Jews led distinct religious and secular lives with special emphasis on education, hard work and making the best living under any circumstances. This always caused envy, resentment and anger from their neighbors. If such inherently negative feelings are not moderated by education, the cultural environment, and the political system, tragedy is almost inevitable.

I understood the political side of this issue by reading an article by Shulgin – the former Chairman of the Russian State Duma during the early 20th century. He was a vivid monarchist and anti-Semite. I stumbled on his brochure appropriately titled “Why we don’t like you.” In this small booklet he accuses the Jews of insufficient patriotism, resistance of assimilation and many other sins, and in conclusion he finds that after two thousand years of Jewish experience in economy, trade, and the sciences, the Russian Jew possesses superior qualifications and therefore the State must limit their activities in favor of Russian businessmen. This is, so to speak, the political component of anti-Semitism.

But all of this has no direct relationship to my story.

Regardless of political systems, regardless of basic human nature, in the most difficult situations, I was fortunate enough to meet good people willing to help me and save me. This is what brings happiness to me – the knowledge that the world is not without good people and that good people are in the majority.

It just seems like the good is always less noticeable than the evil.

During WWII at the age of 17, Rafail Kosofsky was captured by the Nazis. For almost four years he lived among his enemies, hiding his Jewish identity, and feared being unmasked and killed.

After the war, he spent several years recollecting his memories and published 1307 Days Under The Noose, the book from which this passage is excerpted with permission of the author.

For more information about the English edition, visit:

or write Rafail Kosofsky for more information about the Russian edition at

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Filed under American Jewry, European Jewry, Jewish identity

Mr. Blumen

by Chaim Weinstein (Brooklyn, NY)

Stiffly they sit, side by side
In sepia-flavored photo on the shelf
Their hundred-year synced stories
Now torn by jagged scythe most quick
From the banshee-screaming reaper:
The cossack’s rapier brandished high
In Warsaw, slashed and missed them.
The dysentery, the loneliness
Vale-filled tears, endless pain:
They survived it all,
Two lovers near burning in the ghetto;
Sixty years on, now one off
So how shall he presume?
Without her skin to smell,
Her wisdom and nags
Her giggles and word-arrows
Piercing his cast-iron armor
Or lighting his slow-built ardor
Why breathe? But he will
Most assuredly go on,
For the Eldest Cossack
Has missed yet again.

Chaim Weinstein taught English for more than thirty years at two inner-city junior high schools in Brooklyn, NY. His poem, “The Shul is Dark,” appeared on The Jewish Writing Project (February, 2010), and an early short story, “Ball Games and Things,” was published in Brooklyn College’s literary magazine, Nocturne. He is currently working in several genres and is hoping to  share a larger selection of his work in the future.


Filed under Family history, Jewish identity