September 2023 / Elul 5783
From all of us at MERCAZ-Canada
and the Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism,
we wish you a Shanah Tovah u'metukah, a sweet and happy new year.
From our Executive Director
ארץ זבת חלב ודבש – a land flowing with milk and honey. The Torah mentions this phrase repeatedly. It creates a feeling of warmth and nostalgia in the deepest parts of our soul. And it should. But we must keep in mind the full meaning of the phrase.
When we think of milk, we think of cows. That was really not the case in the ancient Land of Israel. We went on several tours during our seminary year in Israel. One of the guides told us that the milk of the Torah was far more likely from that of mountain goats. Catching them in order to milk them was not going to be easy. They were agile in a rocky terrain.
As well, there is some debate as to what type of honey flowed in the Land of Israel. Certainly, recent archaeological digs have found evidence of flourishing apiaries, especially in the north. Still, numerous commentaries tell us that the honey of the Torah was from dates. Farmers would harvest those dates and boil them down in big vats while still out in the fields. The resulting syrup is called دبس – dib’s in Arabic. It is easy to see the phonetic connection from دبس to דבש – d’vash in Hebrew.
Regarding both the milk and the honey, the blessing of the Torah is a twofold blessing. It is a blessing of abundance, and a blessing of labour and reward.
As we look forward to 5784, let us remember the sweetness and abundance. Let us also remember that the sweetness and abundance do not just exist. They are the result of hard work, of our continuing hard work. We must remain involved and engaged in creating the sweetness and abundance of the Land of Israel.
On behalf of the president of MERCAZ-Canada, CFMJ, and of the staff here in the office, I would like to wish everyone a שנה טובה ומתוקה – a good and sweet 5784. May it be a year of health and abundant sweetness for us and for all Israel.
From our President
At the beginning of July, along with 20 other Canadian MERCAZ/FJMC members, I attended the International Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs 2023 Convention in Philadelphia, PA.
For the first time the event heavily emphasized Israel and Zionism, with pretty much 100% approval of the attendees.
Except for one man from the Washington DC area named David.
David is a very passionate and hard-working guy, who is known for his incredible drive and vision. He has sponsored or created several initiatives, including the FJMC’s outreach to the Abayudayah kehillot in Mbale, Uganda. He has done incredible work to create opportunities for the community through creative programmes that bring Jews from North America closer to the Jewish communities of sub-Saharan Africa.
At one point, we began to speak about Israel, and he stated very firmly that his support for the State of Israel has been compromised by the actions of the current government. I can’t say that he’s 100% wrong, because as we have seen over the past 6 months, the current government has turned against the more progressive members of Israeli society and those of us on the progressive side around the world.
David flatly stated that he would not be making any donations or doing anything for Israel for the foreseeable future. To be honest, I understand the sentiment. However, the picture is not as clearly defined as David described.
Gadi Pearl, one of our representatives on the JNF/KKL executive in Jerusalem, was also at the convention. Gadi came to speak about our Masorti Movement in Israel and had a chat with David.
There is a challenge for North Americans in understanding “how Israel works.” On this side of the world, we don’t expect government funding for our synagogues, rabbis or schools. While in some places the government does assist in the funding of the “secular” side of education, our synagogues and organizations need to raise funds on their own. The vast majority of the funding comes from dues which are not the “norm” in Israel, where Orthodox institutions and rabbis receive monthly stipends from the State. They also control the areas of marriage and divorce as well as kashrut. When you factor in state support for Orthodox Yeshivot, Israeli society has trouble understanding the need to pay “dues” or make donations to their local synagogue. We, the Masorti Movement, represent far more Israelis than our numbers show. Levels of participation in the Pesach Seder or weekly Shabbat dinners there far exceed the numbers for Jews in the rest of the world. Where we struggle in Israel is with strict numbers of members. It’s hard to ask for money to belong to your shul, when the shul down the block is state-supported.
Gadi explained this all to David. He suggested to David that if he wanted to help Jews like himself in Israel, the way to do it is through MERCAZ and the Masorti Movement. We think that David came away with a better understanding of the situation, and how we can all be a bit more proactive with our wallets to help the Israelis who have constantly voiced their protests of the current government’s attempts to change the rules, and keep a certain Prime Minister in his office, even if convicted on one of the many charges against him.You can also help by making donations to our movement in Israel through the website or directly through his link.
Your donations will receive a CRA authorized receipt for the donation. The receipt even shows up by e-mail, just as you finish the transaction.
You can even make a donation on the site to help the Abayudayah, through this link thanks to our partners at USCJ.
Please understand that I am not suggesting you ignore Israel at this time. What I am hoping is that if you have decided not to support the State directly, there are ways to help those Israelis whom the government does not choose to offer equal services. Please consider this opportunity to make your voices heard during this time of protests in Israel.
On behalf of my wife Vanessa and my daughters Nikki (Tel Aviv) and Jessie (Toronto), wishing everyone Shana Tova U’mtukah, a very sweet, healthy and prosperous 5784.
In Our Homes
Apple Cake - A Rosh Hashanah Classic
I don’t need to remind anyone that Rosh Hashanah is rapidly approaching.
We all have our traditions and customs that we associate with the holiday. Some are personal, like your favourite seats in the synagogue or always wearing Aunt Minnie’s earrings to dinner, and some are communal. Apples, for example, are a communal tradition, having been associated with Rosh Hashanah since, well, since way back when Adam and Eve were trying to work out what to make for dinner that night, just after the very first birthday of the world.
Yes, there is plenty of debate and discussion about what, exactly, that fruit in Gan Eden really was but the image of an apple is what most likely springs to mind. And, in this part of the world, apples seem appropriate. This is, after all, the time of year when apples are ripening on the trees, fresh and juicy, waiting to be picked and enjoyed. The tradition of dipping apples into honey is one of the most powerful images of Rosh Hashanah, as we wish our family and friends a sweet new year.
This apple cake recipe is one of my family’s Rosh Hashanah traditions, and the chag just isn’t the same without it. I’m not sure where this recipe originated. I have seen it handed down and passed along from friend to friend, in magazines clippings and newspapers food columns, and I’m sure it exists in several places on the Internet.
If it’s so popular, it is for a very good reason, and that’s because, as someone once told me, it’s a ‘quality cake’. It is chewy and dense, without being heavy, and it keeps very well for a few days in an airtight container. This cake is always a treat, and is suitable for all the fall festivals, as well as Thanksgiving, which is coming up soon too.
You can use any sort of apple except Delicious, which tend to disintegrate and become mush when baked. I used Granny Smith this time. I’ve used other types in the past. I have a handy-dandy apple machine that a sweet friend bought me once, which peels, cores, and slices the apple in one go. This cake is pareve but not vegan or gluten-free.
Jewish Apple Cake
- 4 cups peeled and thinly sliced apples
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 TBSP cinnamon
- 3 cups flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 TBSP vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 375F and prepare a 10-inch Bundt pan with plenty of oil and a good dusting of flour to help the cake slide out once baked.
- In a large bowl, combine the apple slices, the 1/3 cup sugar, and the cinnamon. Mix well and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, the 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the centre, then add the wet ingredients (oil, eggs, juice and vanilla). Beat in, mixing till smooth.
- Add a third of the batter to the Bundt pan, and then arrange half the apples onto the batter, making sure the slices do not touch the sides or central column. Pour in another third of the batter, then the rest of the apples, and finally, the remaining third of the batter. If you feel brave, try dividing the batter into quarters and adding three layers of apple slices.
- Bake at 375F for 1 to 1¼ hours, until a probe inserted into the cake comes out clean.
- Let cool slightly, then invert the cake onto a serving dish to remove from the pan. Sprinkle with icing sugar, which both tastes good and disguises any bits that didn’t come out of the pan perfectly.
- Sit back and smile when your guests rave about the cake.
In Our Communities
Save the Date
World's Greatest Cantors Concert, Tuesday, April 9, 2024
Meridian Arts Centre, Weston Recital Hall, 5054 Yonge Street, Toronto
From Beth Tikvah in Richmond, BC:
Yom Kippur Tashlich Potluck Sunday September 17th, 5:30pm
Join us to cast away our sins, followed by a communal Potluck. Please RSVP below:
Beit Rayim in Vaughan, Ontario, is hosting music critic and cultural historian Jeremy Eichler as his discusses his new book, Time's Echo: The Second World War, The Holocaust and The Music of Remembrance.
The event will be on October 24, 2023, at 7:30pm, at Beit Rayim Synagogue.
For more information, call 905-303-5471 or email email@example.com.
Beth David Synagogue welcomes Dara Horn, author of People Love Dead Jews
on Monday November 6, 2023
Dr. Horn will deliver the Rabbi Philip P. Scheim Inaugural Lecture on the topic Dreams for Living Jews.
Lecture is co-sponsored by the Sue and Stan Goldfarb Family Endowment.
You can read more of what MERCAZ and Masorti are doing at our website:
You can contribute to our efforts by joining MERCAZ-Canada and by donating to the Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism.
Membership is only $18 a year for adults, $9 for youth up to age 25.
mercaz.ca/join-mercaz at the bottom of the page
Donations to CFMJ are eligible for a tax receipt.