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    AJL’s Thai Spices of Chanukah: “Tom Yum” Latkes

    by  • 02/12/2013 • Art & Culture, Communities, The World • 0 Comments

    Tom Yum Latkes

    This recipe appears in Issue 13 of Asian Jewish Life. 

    "Tom Yum" Latkes (an original recipe by Allaya Fleischer)


    2 stalks of lemongrass, trimmed with dead leaves removed (alternatively, use 2 tablespoons or so of dried, powdered lemongrass)

    3 shallots, quartered

    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or, to suit taste

    2 teaspoons paprika

    1 teaspoon ground black pepper

    1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

    2 teaspoons kosher salt

    4-5 kefir lime leaves

    1 teaspoon oil

    1 handful cilantro (optional)

    For Latkes:

    2 pounds (approximately), shredded potatoes

    2 eggs, beaten

    lemon juice

    kosher salt

    potato starch

    1) Up to a day in advance, shred 2 pounds of potatoes. Liberally sprinkle with lemon juice and kosher salt, and toss to combine. Place potatoes in a colander to drain. The lemon juice will prevent the potatoes from discoloring, and the salt will help remove moisture.

    2) For the Tom Yum paste: wash lemongrass and remove the fibrous bottom and the scraggly top portion. There should be a good 10 inches or so that is light green; this is what you want to use. Slice and place into a food processor (this can also be done with a mortar and pestle). Add peeled and quartered shallots, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, paprika, kefir lime leaves, and sugar. Process for a few seconds at a time, scraping the sides down with a spatula. When the particles become fine, slowly drizzle about a teaspoon of oil while processing and blend until the ingredients come together into somewhat of a paste. If it’s a little lumpy, that’s okay, as long as you can’t easily distinguish one ingredient from the other.

    3) Place shredded potatoes, a few handfuls at a time, into a dish cloth and fold cloth into thirds lengthwise. Wring the cloth with potatoes inside until you’ve extracted as much moisture as you can. Set aside in a large bowl. Continue with remaining potato shreds. Sprinkle potatoes with kosher salt, to taste (about a tablespoon will do it). Add beaten eggs and about 1/4 cup of potato starch. Add Tom Yum paste from food processor, and toss to combine.

    4) In a large skillet over medium heat, add about 1/2 an inch of oil. When glistening and hot, carefully add potatoes. It’s best to spread out the piles of potatoes into uniform patties, rather than a mound. Flip latke when browned on one side, and continue browning on the other. Remove when desired crispness is achieved and drain on paper towels. Serve hot.


    Have a very Thai Chanukah from Asian Jewish Life!

    To read more from Allaya, you can also visit her blog I Speak Food.





    A Look at IsraAID’s Mission in Tacloban (Photos)

    by  • 14/11/2013 • News, The World, Tikkun Olam • 0 Comments


    This is just a small selection of photos from IsraAID’s mission in Tacloban. This is the area now referred to as Haiyan's Ground Zero. A few hours ago an additional team of 7 IsraAID medical professionals also landed in Cebu.

    IsraAID is part of an international relief effort working in the area hardest hit. The devestation is unbelievable and these teams of rescue workers face incredible challenges.





    Please continue to follow us for updated information on the work IsraAID is doing.

    You can help support the IsraAID relief mission in the Philippines through their campaign on Global Giving at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/aid-to-the-philippines-after-typhoon-yolanda/

    India Spices Limmud Up

    by  • 14/11/2013 • Art & Culture, Communities, Education, Events, Limmud, News, The World • 0 Comments

    Limmud India 2013 305

    Following a representative participation in the regional Limmud China in Beijing in 2012 and in Shanghai in 2013, the Indian Jewish community of Mumbai created their own local event in early November 2013. With the sponsorship of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), this community’s inaugural Limmud event drew in 115 adults and 17 children as registered participants. A parallel Young Limmud kept the children occupied while the adults took full advantage of the opportunity to learn, engage and socialize in the dynamic environment that they created for themselves.

    Limmud India 2013 271

    As community member and Limmud organizer Florence Haeems explains, she was interested in helping bring Limmud to the community because she was attracted to the idea of being able to present a session, participate in other sessions and then to also volunteer. And this is exactly what the Limmud experience is about. As Haeems says, “it beautifully comes together.”

    The nine individual sessions while presenting wider Jewish issues and topics, also were representative of a very distinct local flavor. Key sessions included topics such as: Healthy Jewish Cooking, a Panel Discussion on Successful Jews in Business and session on the Future of the Indian Jewish community.

    Limmud India 2013 112

    The event was an incredible unifying force and a source of positive energy for Jewish India on both an individual and a communal level. Individual participants felt empowered by the increased sense of ownership that they gained over their own Jewish learning and were likewise inspired by truly being part of something so much greater.  

    As Nurith Samuel, another organizer explained, “I experienced Limmud in all its exuberance during the earlier half of this year at Shanghai. What I loved about Limmud was the feeling of being involved, accepted and responsible for the program, starting right at the registration desk itself! As both a participant and volunteer at Limmud, I was responsible for my own learning as well as ensuring that my co-participants and volunteers had positive learning outcomes. This feeling of being responsible for oneself as well as others in your environment pushed me into thinking about organizing a Limmud India. As part of the small Bene Israel community in Mumbai, I have come to value the idea of being responsible for others and hope that at the end of Limmud India some participants come to value this idea too.”

    Overall, Salome Abraham, JDC staff member as well as a Limmud team member/ organizer summarized, “An event like Limmud India brings together people of ages and backgrounds. For the first time, we witnessed young professionals, accomplished businessmen, children, families, and college students all together under one roof…It was a chance for this community to strengthen the network of Jewish individuals who come together from time to time to celebrate their Jewish identity and feel responsible for their people and take steps in that direction.”

    Limmud India 2013 204

    Limmud India 2013 147


    The JDC’s Super Typhoon Haiyan Relief Efforts (and how you can help)

    by  • 12/11/2013 • AJL News, News, The World, Tikkun Olam • 0 Comments

    By November 9, 2013, in the immediate aftermath of super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines (called Typhoon Yolanda there), The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) had already begun collecting funds for relief efforts.

    “Our heartfelt prayers go out to the Filipino people in the wake of yesterday’s deadly storm. We immediately activated our network of global partners and will leverage our previous experience in the region to provide immediate, strategic relief to survivors in their time of need,” said Alan H. Gill, JDC’s Chief Executive Officer.

    And while many international aid organizations are responding to this crisis, working in the Philippines post-disaster isn’t new territory for the JDC. They also helped to fight post-typhoon cholera in the Philippines through an Israeli partner in 2009.

    But the JDC’s history in the Philippines extends far beyond that. The JDC ensured the emigration of more than 1,000 European Jews escaping Nazi persecution to the island nation during World War II. The story of European Jews who took refuge was the subject of “Rescue in the Philippines,” a recently released documentary and this remarkable story will also be featured in the forthcoming issue of Asian Jewish Life.

    JDC has provided immediate relief and long-term assistance to victims of natural and manmade disasters around the globe, including to a number of regional efforts, namely in Japan following the tsunami there in 2011 and in South Asia after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. Their partnerships with local NGOs demonstrates their longstanding commitment to the region.

    jap11.03JDC-JEN DSCF2940JDC partnership with JEN in Sendai, Japan. Hot meals being served to the evacuees. (Photo credit: JEN/JDC)

    They are now looking for contributions specifically for their relief efforts in the Philippines.

    To Make a Contribution:

    Online: www.jdc.org

    By Phone: 212-687-6200

    JDC Typhoon Haiyan Relief

    P.O. Box 4124

    New York, NY 10163

    United States

    (Please make check payable to JDC Typhoon Haiyan Relief)


    Photographs of Jewish Moscow

    by  • 24/09/2013 • Communities, History, The World • 0 Comments

    A February trip to Moscow for Asian Jewish Life's founder Erica Lyons for participation in the Sefer International Conference on Jewish Studies (http://www.sefer.ru/eng/about/) was a great opportunity to explore a Jewish community with a bright future. 

    For a full story on the conference, please see Erica's eJewish Philanthropy story Studying the Future of Russian Jewry at http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/studying-the-future-for-russian-jewry/

    The conference was housed in the uber-modern Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center.










    The museum is filled with interactive and very high-tech exhibits (most with English translations). 



    Nearby is the Chabad Community Center and Synagogue.


    The Jewish Community Center (Nikitskaya Jewish Cultural Centre) houses a number of differen organizations and institutions including a wonderful preschool.


    A visit to the Choral Synagogue is a must. It is unbelievably beautiful and steeped in history. 

    IMG_6460IMG_6424A number of other organizations and congregations are located in the same building.
















    Lastly, for a walk through history, see the Museum of the Jewish History in Russia.




    Here or There – Photographs of Israel and Macau

    by  • 24/06/2013 • Art & Culture, The World • 0 Comments

    HereOrThere_cart“I was having a deja vu of Rua da Emenda while photographing the Carmel Market. While walking along the base of Fortaleza do Monte, I thought about the walls of the Old City. Was it just my illusion? Where I see similarities, I see differences. I do not know where I am anymore. Here or There, it is hard to tell.”

    We met photographer Mina Ao back in December 2012 at Livraria Portuguesa Gallery, in Macau, during her exhibition there. Here or There is a beautiful collection of her photography from Israel and Macau created between 2007 and 2012. 

    Mina is originally from Macau, married to an Israeli and living in the United States. She feels at home in all three places as they represent different parts of her identity.

    This exhibition explores the similarities and differences between two seeminingly different cultures. It offers an insightful perspective on what it means to be be a global citizen and on the beauty of the seemingly mundane. She carefully juxtaposes images that represent each of these cultures though when she intitially photographed the scenes, she wans't looking for anything imparticular nor was she looking to eventually pair them. The collection is a work of reflection. 

    HereOrThere_coffeeb-1A look through her lens, whether you are in Macau or Israel or elsewhere, will offer the viewer a new way of seeing street scenes and every day life. It will help viewers find beauty where they live and a piece of home wherever their travels take them.


    To see more of Mina’s work, please visit: www.minaao.net and www.israelmacau.com.


    Postcards of Calcutta India Jewish Theatre

    by  • 17/06/2013 • Art & Culture, Communities, History, The World • 2 Comments


    There have been a number of recent articles on the Jews of Bollywood and even a new documentary, 'Shalom Bollywood’, that will tell their story. 

    The beautiful images here feature a rare look at Jews on the Indian stage. They are all part of Stephanie Comfort's vintage postcard collection from Calcutta India Jewish Theatre. There will be other images from this collection in the upcoming print issue of Asian Jewish Life (June 2013, Issue 12).


    A very special thank you to Stephanie for her permission to include these in AJL but especially for making her collection public. Stephanie has been collecting postcards of Jewish life, synagogues and towns from around the world for many years. Tour her incredible 15,000+ Jewish postcard collection at http://jewishpostcardcollection.com. It is truly remarkable.

    Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 6.43.39 PM

    For the Jewish Lovers of Chinese Food

    by  • 13/06/2013 • Art & Culture, Communities, The World • 1 Comment

    There are countless jokes about Jews' love for Chinese food. Many have examined this connection and attempt to explain it: a shared immigrant experience, pockets of American Jewry living side by side to Chinese Americans, Chinese restaurants being the only places open on Christmas, a shared obsession of food, cultures that connect food and family, and the absence of dairy products in Chinese cuisine makes it easy to kosher. Whatever the rationale, the connection is certainly well documented.

    Agreed, Jews love Chinese food but we have stumbled on enthusiasts who take this a step further. They are on a quest: The Chinese Quest. They are “five hungry Jewish guys'” searching “for the Best Chinese Restaurant on Long Island (NY)” and have dedicated their blog to exactly this purpose. http://www.thechinesequest.com

    The Chinese Quest logo

    And what is trendier now than fusion? If The Chinese Quest ever enters the restaurant business, they have their Chinese-American/Jewish-American Chewish menu concept menu already sorted out:


    While its not all kosher (some schlock in the wok), it is definitely fun!

    First Jewish High School Graduation for Hong Kong

    by  • 02/06/2013 • Communities, Education, Events, News, The World • 1 Comment


    Elsa High School, part of Hong Kong’s Carmel School Association, held its first graduation on 21 May 2013.  This was a first for Hong Kong Jewry, being home to the Far East’s only Jewish secondary school. The last time a Jewish school held a high school graduation in the greater China region was nearly 70 years ago in Shanghai.

    The question inevitably is how big was this graduating class? While the answer to that is four, it is not only four. This is the first of many graduates in a school built on a community’s dreams.

    Graduation keynote speaker Yotam Polizer, of IsraAID, gave a speech of particular relevance to question of the size of this class. He spoke of the relative size of Israel in comparison to other countries and the relative minute size of the number of Jewish people in the world, but the greatness in terms of capacity and the ability for Jews to make a difference irrespective of numbers. It was a message of the Jewish people’s ability to act as a positive force for change in the world, of tikkun olam. He spoke of his own passion for the field of humanitarian aid and the difference that one small act can make in another’s life.

    The school is evidence of making the seemingly impossible into a reality. The founders see this as just a start and evidence of what even a small community can accomplish. The Carmel School Association, from its very start, made the decision to adopt an Orthodox ethos but to maintain a pluralistic admissions policy. While this can be seen as merely a sensible decision given the challenges of attracting a critical mass from a community of only 4000-5000 Jews total, it is also actually a statement as to how tightknit this community is. 

    With one Jewish community center and one school, this community that is diverse in terms of national identity, mother tongue, affiliation and observance levels has built a Jewish center for 21st learning that can boast an IB program, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation, state-of-the-art technology and certainly not least of all Jewish education and very Jewish values in the Far East.