The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.



Why did I spend some 40 years rising early each Saturday morning to attend Sabbath services? Why are some Catholics committed to participating in a daily mass? Why do devout Muslims make a hajj?  And why do some people fail to participate in such activities?  I don’t go to praise the Creator. I don’t go to beg forgiveness for my sins.  I don’t go to plead for something.  I go to give my children roots. I go to revel in a spirit of community – of oneness with others.


It isn’t the oneness of Hashem * I treasure.

It’s the oneness of we.

You say there can be no oneness of we.

Yes there can.


When I see hundreds, nay thousands, of Jews

Marching on behalf ofIsrael, civil rights,

Blacks, the downtrodden,

I am at one with them:

They are as one with all.


It matters not whether I enter

A shul, a yeshiva, a synagogue,

Or a congregation by any other name.

Inside the doors oneness is felt,

Seeps through my pores.


I have failed to learn the lyrics to Hatikvah

Yet when hearing it sung in a crowd

I tremble with pride.

I stumble when reading Hebrew;

Warmth flows when I hear it.


It pervades my soul.

It is my road to the Baal Shem Tov;**

Josephus, Hillel and Maimonides;

A streetleading to Wiesel and Ozick and Bernstein.

My path up a rocky hill toMasada;

My sword during a crusade;

My portal to Treblinka;

A pass to fly with the IDF;

An invitation to dig in the Sinai;


And an admission ticket to a Passover Seder,

Any place, any time.


* Hashem – one of many Hebrew words for God. Others are Adonai, Jehovah, Shekhinah, Elohim.

**  Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, literally master of the good name, 18th century founder of the Chassidic movement.

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Julie Rose


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You may be familiar with that song from Fiddler On The Roof. Remember?

A blessing on  your head,

                       Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov

                        To see a daughter wed               

                       Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov

That’s not the blessing I’m referring to. There’s another for that bride that comes to her much earlier in life.  One of the traditions observed at the Jewish Sabbath dinner meal is the blessing of one’s children.  Parents place their hands on the child’s head and to girls say: “May you be like Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.”  For boys it’s “May you be like Ephriam and Manassah” (Why it is Ephriam and Manassah and not the equivalent patriarchs is another question.) It makes no difference how old a child is. I have observed eighty and ninety year old parents blessing fifty year-olds.

It’s a lovely tradition but for many years I wondered why we wish our children to be anyone other than who they are. Did I really want my Sara to be like the Biblical Sara or my Joseph to be like Ephriam? My bewilderment was resolved when  I heard the following  Chasidic story.

One day his disciples found Rabbi Zusya weeping and they asked him why. He explained that he trembled when thinking about the end of his life and being asked by the Almighty not “Why were you not like Moses?” but “Why were you not Zusya?”

Indeed.  Why were you not who you are? Once my feeble brain understood  that, I changed the blessing for my kids.   It became, “May you be blessed with the strength and the wisdom to become who you are.”

AND THEY DID!  I’m grateful and proud!

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Julie Rose


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She had a wooden chopping bowl the size of a washtub.

I hadn’t the faintest idea what gefilte fish was.

She said ”I’ll teach you”.

I learned by chopping  – endlessly.

I’ve  now chopped enough fish to stock Lake Erie.


At Passover we chopped nuts and apples by the buckets.

In my kitchen I toyed with  the recipe

Mixed a little nutmeg into the cinnamon,

Added some raisins or apricots;

Occasionally won a round of applause.

Tried Persian Charoset – adored by some guests

Too spicy for others.


We left off chopping and began to knead

Kitty insisted 100 kneads were essential

I divided the challah dough in thirds to be braided

She cut each piece in half and s said

“We braid six, Prettier.”

She never let me forget I failed the proofing yeast test


I  learned brisket doesn’t have to taste like shoe leather

Meatballs demand sweet jam and chili sauce,

Those cubes of beef the butcher calls beef stew

Are delectable braised in red wine and onions

After they’ve marinated for two or three days.


I learned to make chicken soup without a whole hen,

Used only a bag of bones, a few wings

And never forgot the thyme

I learned guests expect matzo balls in their soup.

After some practice mine were light as a cotton ball.


“Forget the matzo balls next shabbas,” he said.

“Make some knishes instead.”

Knishes?  Quick – call Aunt Kitty.

He once asked for borsch.

Bought beets, dug out a grater:

My knuckles bled for three hours.

Alas, he wanted cabbage borsch.


Mandelbrot, Sponge and Honey Cake?

Boring I concluded – leave those to the bakery.

Bourbon  Pound Cake and Cinnamon Tea Rolls

French Apple Tart and Lemon Bars are better.

Forget chopped liver.

The odor of broiled liver nauseated me.

That’s what delis are for.


Aunt Kitty’s wooden chopping bowl

Is now a cherished part of my kitchen.

It’s an octogenarian,

A stranger to planned obsolescence.

It holds fond memories of a motherly woman

Who knew her way through the maze of Jewish soul food.


Horrors – I’ve lost the chopper!




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Julie Rose


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            Surely I’m not the only mother whose kids gorged on cookies and pancakes swimming in syrup when they were little and, when they became picky teenagers, was forced to become both a nutritionist and a dietician.  Concious of being a few – I repeat – FEW – pounds overweight, my daughter turned up her nose at sweets of any kind, lived on salads with lemon juice only as dressing and insisted on skim milk


One son took pity on the animal world and became a vegetarian.  That required a whole new box of recipes and a search for suitable protein recipes. How did that happen?  He once attended a Jewish summer camp where one activity was to observe the kosher method of slaughtering a cow.  At the end of that summer about a dozen kids returned home as vegetarians.  Needless to say, that insensitive activity was never repeated.


From the time he was a toddler his older brother fed anything green on his plate to the dog. His father once told him if he didn’t eat the peas on his plate at dinner, he’d have them for breakfast and if he didn’t eat them for breakfast, he’d have them for lunch. After two days of uneaten peas, Daddy cried “UNCLE.”   In vain, I lived in hope he’d outgrow that. but it t wasn’t until he was close to forty that he stuck his fork into a salad. He is still a meat and potatoes guy. (Yuk)


They’re all adults now and all but the vegetarian have left behind those food quirks.  However, they are stick-in-the muds with reference to trying anything  new. They’d be reluctant to taste even one bite of something like paella or spanokapita.  I have no words to describe how much their attitudes toward  food  frustrates me – ME -the food experimentalist.  What I need to do is find a group of food junkies who are game for anything short of worms and crickets.


While none of my children have a sweet tooth, they have come to appreciate, and frequently ask for, two cakes I often make.  Both are quick and easy.  Herewith: Bourbon  Pound Cake and Bon Appetite Apple Cake. Either can successfully be made pareve (neither meat nor dairy).


BOURBON POUND CAKE (one large cake)

1 pound butter or margarine                              3 C sugar

8 eggs, separated                                              3 C sifted flour

2 t. each vanilla and almond extract                   1/3 C bourbon

½ cup chopped pecans


  1. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, gradually adding 1 C of sugar. Transfer to another bowl.
  2. In the mixing bowl – no need to wash it – cream butter/margarine and 2 C sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating thoroughly after each
  4. Add the flour and the liquid ingredients alternately in thirds.
  5. Fold egg yolk mixture into meringue.
  6. Sprinkle nuts in bottom of a well greased 10” tube pan and  pour in batter.
  7. .Bake at 350 degrees for 1 ½ hours.


BON APPETIT APPPLE CAKE – This cake stays moist for days.

Preheat oven to 325.

Mix:     3 ½ C Granny Smith apples chopped

1 ½ C  oil

1 ½ C sugar

½ C brown sugar

3 eggs


Add:     3 C flour                                   2 t. cinnamon

1 t. baking soda                        ½ t. nutmeg

1 C chopped walnuts                2 t. vanilla


Bake 1 ¾ hours in a greased tube pan.


I think credit for this one belongs to Bon Appetite magazine.


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Julie Rose




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There are probably dozens of reasons why we become attached to a place – a locale – a particular niche in the landscape of our lives.  While I do remember all the places where I’ve lived none of them are memorable to the extent of touching my heart.


It is now some 50 years since I was there but I still have a warm spot in my heart for New Orleans. On the shores of LakePonchetrainI danced to music coming over the car radio from The Blue Room and he put a magnolia in my hair. I can hear soft jazz enveloping the air in the French Quarter – taste beignets and chicory flavored coffee – and recall marching behind a funeral cortege to the tune of When The Saints Go Marching In.


There is a small lake in southern Wisconsin where a piece of my heart still floats on its ripples.  It was there I learned to swim –  there, I fell off the running board of a Good Humor truck and contacted blood poisoning from landing on a gravel road – there, where I pigged out on black-cows. There, where I was given the freedom to come and go as I liked  – no questions asked – no cell phone to report in. There, where I picked fresh tomatoes from Grandma’s garden, doused them with salt and ate them for breakfast. There, where the smell of goat cheese coming from the icebox – yes, ice box – made me head for the back door.


I fondly recall an elegant restaurant at the top of a hotel in Lake Tahoe at close to midnight one evening when it was closed for dinner but accepted a plea for dessert. The ski slopes had shut down and we gazed out the window at snow covered mountains under a starry sky. I was feeling celebratory as I had just won $100 in the casino. Our waiter insisted he be allowed to choose our dessert.  He brought us bowls of fresh strawberries smothered in Kalua flavored crème frache, topped with chocolate shavings, profiteroles and,  with a goodly amount of flair, opened a bottle of very old, very fine, port.  No dessert I’ve ever had since has matched that.


Ellison Bay,Wisconsin– home of The Clearing – a retreat for writers and other artists, housed on a cliff overlooking Lake Michigan. Several log cabins, connected by sawdust paths, are laid out beneath a thicket of pine trees. Here I was Thoreau in the wild! Here, I got good critical feedback from a creative writing instructor. Here, I was, for six lovely days, in the company of creative people. I will never forget the joy on the faces of an older couple as they left a woodcarving workshop, carrying a woodpecker and a thrush. I imagined them mounting their handiwork on the front lawn of a curlicued cottage complete with white picket fence, window boxes of pink petunias, and a hammock under a weeping willow tree. Surely the Garden of Eden looked like this place.


There are some cities that hold parking spaces in my memory. San Francisco for its vibrant cultural diversity, Golden Gate Park  and Fisherman’s Wharf. Toronto for its annual Canadian National Exposition – the best entertainment bargain I can imagine – and its efficient public transportation system.  Madison, Wisconsin for its academic atmosphere and a fine restaurant in the basement of an old winery that featured strolling violinists. Oshkosh,Wisconsin for the camaraderie of the sailors at the marina on Lake Winnebago and free access to a pool and tennis courts at the adjoining hotel.

Best of all is the unforgettable city of Jerusalem. There are many reasons why Jerusalem stands out – too many to mention here.  Let this one suffice. I love its stones – rosy pink in the morning and shimmering gold at sunset. They are like a woman who changes from shorts and tee-shirt to a cocktail dress at night. For me, the stones of Jerusalem are not inanimate objects at all. They speak of four thousand years of history. They have heard the pleadings of Isaiah and Job’s cries of anguish. They bear the scars of Roman war machines and Crusader swords. They stand tall and proud and boldly announce there is, in fact, some measure of hope in the world.


What is your ‘I’ll never forget’ place?


Julie Rose



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One of the traditions observed at the Jewish Sabbath is blessing one’s children.  Parents place their hands on the child’s head and to girls say “May you be like Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.”  For boys it’s “May you be like Ephraim and Manasseh”


It’s a lovely custom but I’ve always wondered why we wish our children to be anyone other than who they are.


My question is answered in a Chasidic story. One day his disciples found Rabbi Zusya weeping and they asked him why. He explained that he trembled when thinking about the end of his life and being asked by the Almighty not “Why were you not like Moses?” but “Why were you not Zusya?”


Indeed! It didn’t take very long for me to change the blessing for my kids.   It became, “May you be blessed with the strength and the wisdom to become who you are.”





            Traditionally, as the Sabbath meal commences, husbands recite A Woman of Valor in honor of their wives. (Proverbs 31-10)  There’s much to be said about the value of maintaining traditions but I often had to surprises a giggle. It wasn’t me my husband was speaking of when he said, “She seeketh wool and flax and works willingly with her hands,,” or “She considers a field and buys it,” Right. I should be so lucky as to have enough resources to buy a few acres of land. And I seeketh wash-and-wear – not wool and flax. “She maketh linen garments and selleth them.”   Who? Me?  I search for those linen garments in resale shops.  Find me a woman who “Rises while it is yet night and giveth food to her handmaidens.“. Instead, how about “She willingly driveth the children to soccer practice, and tolerateth her husband’s idiosyncrasies  with patience?”  Handmaiden?  Are  you kidding? An occasional foot rub by my husband is the closest I’ll ever come to a handmaiden.


For many years I was so blessed but accepted that blessing with a sense of unfairness..  Why should the children and the wife be blessed and not the husband? Finally, I took it upon myself to rectify what I considered to be a thoughtless omission. Here it is. I leave rephrasing of Woman of Valor to you.


Ode To A Husband


I am fortunate for I have found a man to treasure.

His worth is immeasurable.

He is committed to the welfare of his family,

Works diligently to provide for them

And cares for his friends and community as well.

His concerns are those of a king beholden to his kingdom

And the toils of his labor are in their behalf.

He is neither selfish nor idle and conducts himself with dignity and compassion.

He walks with a straight back and a raised head

And the touch of his hand is my delight

Blessed is the man who honors his wife and

Directs his children in paths of righteousness.

May his love be appreciated by those whom he cherishes.

How would you bless your children or your spouse? Post a comment.

Julie Rose


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