Another year ends, and a new one begins—though that’s only if you’re following the Gregorian calendar. (For those of us who practice Judaism, we know that the new year began back in September!)
January is not a major month for Jewish holidays, unless you count Tu BiShvat as a major holiday—wait, should I count Tu BiShvat as a major holiday? Sound off in the comments below. It’s not something I’ve thought about seriously since Jewish school, but it seems to be a holiday that should hold greater importance than ever these days, as Tu BiShvat advocates for environmental awareness, and trees are planted in celebration.
This month also commemorates the Holocaust with International Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27, but it is unlikely that any in-person events will take place.
One event that will be going ahead is a podcast launch taking place on Zoom called Chrismukkah Party. Created and hosted by Sarah Deshaies with the support of the Museum of Jewish Montreal, the podcast will premiere on January 26. Deshaies will be sitting down with two guests, Rabbi Denise Handlarski from Secular Synagogue and Lauren Schreiber-Sasaki from Jewish&. This podcast will delve into how interfaith families carve out new traditions and meanings for holidays and life cycle events, and discuss how Jewish organizations are working to support interfaith individuals and families. Click here to get your free ticket.
Music, Books, & Learning
Looking ahead to February, the Miles Nadal JCC is hosting a course on the musical intersections called Roots, Rhythm and Resilience: Musical Intersections of Black and Jewish Diasporas, taking place on Thursdays in February. This four-party virtual lecture and concert series is $40. You can sign up here.
One hybrid event outside of Toronto is the Jewish Book Festival happening at the JCC of Greater Vancouver from February 6-10. Take a look at the program here. Some events are only in person, some are hybrid, and some are online, and you can find a number of free sessions. The opening night features a conversation about antisemitism with Dara Horn and David Baddiel (I’m currently reading his book Jews Don’t Count—I recommend it). And if you happen to be in Vancouver, there’s a used book sale as part of the event. I’m jealous.
Food generally comes up in one way or another in my columns because of its importance to Jewish traditions and in bringing people together. While Toronto, like many parts of Canada, is in a lockdown, that shouldn’t mean that your tastebuds suffer. There are still a vast number of restaurants you can order takeout from, and I want to highlight a few here. I’m just covering three, so please don’t be offended if your favourite isn’t picked—let me know your preferred spot in the comments!
This restaurant is in the Annex and features dishes like hummus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, falafels, kebabs and more. Fun fact: it is a favourite of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival (TJFF) team.
This place is well known for its weekend brunch with musical entertainment; it’s the only venue in the world that has weekly Yiddish and Klezmer music at brunch! There’s even a film about the restaurant called “Bella! Did Ya Eat?” The Story of Judy Perly & Free Times Café, which screened at TJFF. You can’t pop in for their famous brunch at the moment, but you can order the matzo ball soup, latkes or brisket sandwich. They’ve also recently celebrated their 40th anniversary. Check out Saul Feinstein’s interview with the owner from issue 4 of Niv.
United Bakers Dairy Restaurant
Lastly, I have to mention United Bakers, which has been around since 1912. It features, you guessed it, a lot of dairy, and this place is so well known that one time when a friend of mine was visiting from Winnipeg, she insisted we go there.
There’s also a plethora of Jewish cookbooks out there if you’re craving some home-cooked meals. For the vegans and vegetarians out there, check out Beyond Chopped Liver: 59 Jewish Recipes Get a Vegan Health Makeover by Kenden Alfond, and for classic Jewish kitchen recipes check out Kosher Style: Over 100 Jewish Recipes for the Modern Cook by Amy Rosen. I was introduced to Rosen at last year’s virtual Shavuot, where I attended a bake-along session. I think we made carrot-banana bread? Whatever it was, I remember it was delicious. I’ve had this cookbook on my list ever since.
One more suggestion is The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South. Michael W. Twitty is a Judaic studies educator and writer who weaves in the importance of southern food to his life and his family as he traces his ancestry back generations. I’ve had this one on my reading list for years now, and though it’s not a cookbook per se, it is just as important as he makes readers understand the importance of food across generations of family.
I also want to shout out Tlaim: The Patchwork Cookbook, a project that aims to celebrate the racial and ethnic diversity within the Jewish community. If you have a recipe that you think would be suitable for this cookbook, submit it here! You can learn more about the project in this article in The Forward.
Don’t forget to check out Niv’s Instagram page for inspiration as well. Niv frequently posts pictures of delicious food, including home-baked Jewish treats. They also did an interview at the end of 2020 with some of the individuals behind Toronto’s most well-known Jewish bakeries and restaurants regarding how they are handling the pandemic, so give it a read if you’re curious as well!
Till next time,
P.S. Last but not least, take a look at this Hanukkah-theme Rugrats makeup collection for some belated holiday fun—I wouldn’t buy it, but it did make me chuckle. A Maccababy’s gotta do what a Maccababy’s gotta do! There’s plenty of Christmas themed makeup out there (see here for one example) so it was nice to happen across this collection. And if you have no idea what I mean when I say “A Rugrats Chanukah” go watch the episode on YouTube!
Header image design by Orly Zebak.
Lara Bulger has a deep-rooted commitment to the arts. With a Bachelor’s degree in Music with minors in Film and English, plus a Master’s Degree in Arts Leadership, she is passionate about the capacity of art to bring about social change. Lara is currently pursuing her PhD in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University, focusing on documentary film and its social, political and cultural impacts.