Monday, December 29, 2008

What's So Funny?

Henny Youngman, Jerry Seinfeld, Jerry Lewis, Jackie Mason, Adam Sandler, Fran Drescher, Howard Stern, Joan Rivers, Bert Lahr, Soupy Sales, Lenny Bruce, Sandra Bernhard, Pee Wee Herman, Jack Benny, Fanny Brice, Sid Caesar, Roseanne, Shelley Berman, Woody Allen, George Burns, The Three Stooges, Richard Lewis, Milton Berle, The Marx Brothers, Larry David, Rodney Dangerfield...the list is endless. Jewish comedians are ubiquitous.

Jews comprise less than one quarter of one percent of the world's population, yet it has been estimated that fully 70% of comedians are Jewish. Why? Who knows? There are many theories, but what is known for sure is that Jews have a special relationship to comedy.

We invite you to comment here on why YOU think Jews are so connected to comedy, or just share a joke with us. I'll start:

Manny and Isaac found themselves sitting next to each other in a New York bar. After a while, Manny looks at Isaac and says, "I can't help but think, from listening to you, that you're from Israel." Isaac responds proudly, "I am!" Manny says, "So am I! And where might you be from?" Isaac answers, "I'm from Jerusalem." Manny responds, "So am I! And where did you live?" Isaac says, "A lovely little area two miles east of King David's Hotel. Not too far from the old city" Manny says, "Unbelievable! What school did you attend?" Isaac answers, "Well, I attended Yeshiva University." Manny gets really excited, and says, "And so did I. Tell me, what year did you graduate?" Isaac answers, "I graduated in 1984." Manny exclaims, "Amazing! This is Berschert. Hashem wanted us to meet! I can hardly believe our good luck at winding up in the same bar tonight. Can you believe it, I graduated from Yeshiva University in 1984 also." About this time, Moishe enters the bar, sits down, and orders a beer. The bartender walks over to him shaking his head & mutters, "It's going to be a long night tonight, the Goldberg twins are drunk again."

January 30, Temple Beth El celebrates and explores the connection between Jews and comedy at our Synaplex Shabbat. We will feature a choice of services, catered dinner, improv workshop and more. Stay tuned to this blog for details, or call the Temple for more information: 253-564-7101.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

SNOW DAY! defines miracle as: "an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause."

Maybe we can call our recent extraordinary weather a miracle. All I know is, I have never lost my childhood love for and wonder at snow. I still can't resist going out and playing in it, making snowballs, snow seraphim and generally acting silly.

I hope you are enjoying the snow, too, despite some inconveniences it brings. Let's view it as a reminder that we are about to celebrate Chanukah, which commemorates another miracle.

In the Talmud, the rabbis ask "What is Chanukah?" and then recount the tale of the military victory of the Hasmoneans over the Greeks which resulted in the reclamation of the Temple. The Hasmoneans (of which the Maccabees were part) cleaned out and rededicated the Temple. Chanukah means dedication. Because the Temple had been under the control of the Greeks, the Jews did not have a chance to celebrate Sukkot that year. So they choose to celebrate the rededication of the Temple for eight days because Sukkot is eight days long. The miracle comes when there is only enough oil to light the Menorah for one night. Miraculously, the Talmud tells us, the oil burned for eight nights.

So don't forget to get your Chanukkiah out, get the candles, queue up Adam Sandler and start lighting on Sunday night, December 21st. For more information, visit the Temple website, or call us! Happy Chanukah.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Film Festival December 13th: Hester Street

Temple Beth El's film festival continues with the December screening of "Hester Street". The New York Times called this film by Joan Micklin Silver "an unconditionally happy achievement" and called star Carol Kane a "triumphant bonfire", "magnificent" and "extraordinary". Not a typically commercial film, director Silver described "Hester Street" as "a classic example of something Hollywood would run from as rapidly as possible." After many struggles to get the film made, it emerged as both a critical and commercial success, and also served to re-open the Hollywood door to women filmmakers.

It is no accident that our screening takes place just eight days before Chanukah begins. Among other things, Chanukah commemorates the triumph of the Hasmoneans over the forces of Greek assimilation. "Hester Street" explores the choices Jewish immigrants made at the turn of the last century on the Lower East Side of New York City. The struggle to maintain a Jewish identity, and the lure of assimilation are still with us today, as they were 100 years ago and long ago in the time of Alexander the Great.

Please join us for this poignant and funny film. Refreshments and discussion to follow. Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shopping, Anyone?

In last Sunday's New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman, writing about the financial crisis, said: " is when we need a president who has the skill, the vision and the courage to cut through this cacophony, pull us together as one nation and inspire and enable us to do the one thing we can and must do right now: Go shopping." We couldn't agree more! That is why Temple Beth El has just opened our new Chanukah Shop. We encourage you to support the economy, support Temple Beth El, and enhance your Chanukah celebration. Our shop is open Wednesdays 11-2 and 4-7, Fridays 11-2 and 7-7:30, and Sundays 10-1 from now until Chanukah. We guarantee you will find items that you love and have not seen before, and we're making it easy for you to do all of your Chanukah shopping right here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Everything is Illuminated at TBE Jewish Film Festival

What are you doing Saturday night? How about joining us for a great movie, intelligent conversation, tasty refreshments and an opportunity to meet an emerging artist? On Saturday, November 15th at 7:30 p.m. Temple Beth El hosts a screening of the acclaimed 2005 film "Everything is Illuminated". Based on Jonathan Safran Foer's popular novel, Liev Schreiber adapted and directed this film, which stars Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings) and Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello. Roger Ebert said the film "...">begins in goofiness and ends in silence and memory. How it gets from one to the other is the subject of the film, a journey undertaken by three men and a dog into the secrets of the past.” Rabbinic Intern Amy Rossel will lead a discussion after the film. Refreshments will be served. Special bonus: meet Giddon Chotzen, an Israeli artist whose beautiful pastels depicting scenes in Israel currently hang in our social hall. Free and open to the public.

Monday, October 27, 2008

An Eclectic Menu for Synaplex

Enjoy dishes from the countries of our ancestors. Temple Beth El Synaplex celebrates the Immigrant Experience on Shabbat Lech L'cha.

In this week's Torah portion, God instructs Abraham to leave his homeland for the unknown land of Canaan. It seems that Jews have been wandering ever since. Our "immigrant" menu consists of foods both Ashkenazic (Eastern European) and Sephardic (Western Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa):

We offer dishes for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. The delectable menu includes:

  • Moroccan Tomato and Green Pepper Salad
  • Bandoora Fresh Tomato/Basil Salad
  • Apple Glazed BBQ Chicken
  • Moroccan Brisket
  • Sweet Carrot Tzimmes
  • Rice Pilaf with Lentils
  • Potato Kugel
  • Challah

Special discount for college students: dinner is half price, only $6.00! Click here for reservation form. See you at Synaplex!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How to celebrate Shabbat -- your way

Synaplex Shabbat is almost here. If you don't know what it is, think about your local multiplex movie theatre. You know that you can choose from a wide variety of movies, and pick the one that fits your mood and/or your interests. That's the idea behind Synaplex Shabbat. Come as you are and find the activities that interest you. It's that easy! On November 7th, we are happy to offer you the following programs:
  • 4:30 p.m. - Cookie baking with Jeri for small children
  • 4:30 p.m. - Wine & cheese reception for everyone
  • 5:30 p.m. - Shabbat songs for small children and their parents
  • 6:40 p.m. - *Delicious catered dinner for everyone, featuring foods from the Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions
  • 7:30 p.m. - Your choice of services: Teen Service, Chanting and Meditation Service or Tradional Sanctuary Service, also available: Movie for children: "An American Tail"
  • 8:45 p.m. - Dessert/Oneg Shabbat for everyone
  • 9:15 p.m. - Listen or dance to live music by the band Jewbilee -or- enjoy a screening of "The Frisco Kid"
All activities are free and open to all, except for dinner, which must be reserved and paid for in advance. To access an online reservation form, click here. If you plan to attend the wine & cheese reception, or bring your child to cookie baking, an RSVP would be appreciated, but is not required.

We also offer FREE child care with RSVP from 7:30 to 10:30 for children ages 6 and under.
For more information, please call 253-564-7101, or visit our website at

Monday, October 13, 2008

Be Happy, It's Sukkot!

On Sukkot, the Torah tells us to "be happy". And why shouldn't we be? It is the time of year when the harvest is gathered in, when we literally can "reap the fruits of our labor". While most of us are not farmers, we are fortunate to live in a leading agricultural state, and Washington apples and other produce are renown throughout the country. Still, if you have spent any time in a sukkah, you know that it is not the most confidence-inspiring structure! The rain gets in, the wind threatens to sweep the entire sukkah away, and around here, it's cold.

Perhaps the Torah is telling us that we can be happy despite being "insecure". That's not a bad lesson to take to heart these days.

So be happy, and enjoy this bountiful recipe from the URJ website. You can find more recipes and information about Sukkot here. Chag Sameah.

Vegetarian Couscous

This Moroccan-inspired dish is a perfect way to reap the bounty of wonderful vegetables available during the Sukkot season. It also makes a beautiful, edible centerpiece for your dinner table in the sukkah.

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup dark raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock, divided use
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 small (1 pound) eggplant, sliced into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 yellow crookneck squash, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds, or 1 cup asparagus cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 4 ounces of mushrooms (any type), caps cut into quarters (portabellas cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained
  • 4 Tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 cup fine couscous
  • 1 or more Tablespoons of finely minced parsley for garnish
  1. Heat a large frying pan or 4-quart saucepan for 30 seconds, add the olive oil, and heat for 15 seconds. Sauté the garlic and onion until lightly golden. Do not allow the garlic to brown.
  2. Add the carrots, tomato sauce, raisins, salt, cumin, and 1 cup of the stock. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the carrots are crisp tender--thoroughly cooked but firm and not mushy.
  3. Add the zucchini and the eggplant and cook for 10 minutes. Spoon in the crookneck squash or asparagus pieces, mushrooms, and chickpeas and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 10 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
  4. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1 1/2 cups of stock along with the butter or margarine. Add the couscous. Cover, remove from the heat, and allow the pan to sit for 5 minutes.
  5. To serve, spoon the couscous into the center of a large rimmed dish, and surround with the cooked vegetables. Pour the sauce evenly over all, and sprinkle with a little parsley for garnish. Serves 4 as a main dish or 8 as a side.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Film Festival: "The Band's Visit" this weekend

Join us this Saturday night, October 11th at 7:30 p.m. for this award winning film.

Director Eran Kolirin perfectly navigates this film's slice-of-life tone, blending comedy, drama and poignancy. A group of Egyptian musicina sarrives in Israel to perform at an Arab cultural center. Stranded at the airport, the musicians take teh wrong bus and end up in a remote Israeli town in the middle of the desert. Townspeople and band members must learn to co-exist for one very unusual night. The Band's Visit is funny, lonely, inspiring, sad and beautiful all at once. Winner of over 35 awards, including Israel's "Oscar" for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Music. Discussion and refreshments to follow the film. Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Regrets Only...

As we prepare for Yom Kippur, we reach the depths of the self-examination which is the focus of our spiritual activity of the high holy days. This year, UW Hillel has provided an interesting way for us to express our regrets. It is the Postregret Project, based on the popular Postsecret Project. Anyone in the community can participate and post (anonymously) something they regret. I encourage you to try this exercise and see what it does for you. There are many ways to do teshuvah, and you might find this method brings you closer to where you would like to be this holiday season. Feel free to comment on your experience here on our blog.

Wishing you a g'mar hatimah tovah and an easy fast.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Synaplex is coming!

Save the date: Friday, November 7th, for a Shabbat experience you don't want to miss. Watch this blog for details, but we can tell you now that highlights include:
  • Choose your service: teen, traditional or meditation/chanting
  • Dance to live music by Jewbilee
  • Kids' cookie baking
  • Delicious catered dinner
  • Movie choices for kids and adults
  • Festive oneg/dessert
  • Free child care
  • and more....
It's easy: Come as you are and be prepared for fun, friendship and something new!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Apples and Honey

Why do we dip apples in honey on Rosh Hashanah?

When we pray on the High Holy Days, we repeatedly ask God to grant us a good, sweet year. By dipping the (already) sweet apple in honey, we create a tangible ritual that expresses our hopes and wishes. If you google "apples and honey" you will find a variety of mystical and esoteric explanations for the choice of an apple, but one obvious reason is that apples are coming into season right about now.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are blessed with many local sources of this most popular fruit. This season, why not treat yourself to a trip to one of our local orchards, where you can pick your own apples? This supports our local farmers, saves energy, and gets you the freshest fruit possible. Not only that; it is FUN!

Here is a list of nearby picking orchards and apple farms:
High Meadow Orchards
16003 High Bridge Rd.
Monroe, WA 98272
Snomohish County, Washington

Lattin's Country Cider Mill & Farm
9402 Rich Road SE
Olympia, WA 98516
Thurston County, Washington
Phone: (360) 491-7328

Rosabella's Garden Bakery
8933 Farm to Market Road
Bow, WA 98232
Skagit County, Washington
Phone: (360) 766-6360

Wishing you a very sweet and good New Year 5769.
Shanah Tovah u'm'tukah.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Honoring our Ancestors

Dress for working outside, and join us, rain or shine, as we beautify the Home of Peace Cemetery. Discover a new mitzvah, make new friends and see how easy it is to make a difference. Date: Sunday, September 28th, 2008 Time: 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Location: 5421 Steilacoom Boulevard SW, Tacoma, WA. Need more information? Call the Temple office at 253-564-7101. Sponsored by Temple Beth El's Temple Teens in collaboration with the Jewish Student Organization of University of Puget Sounds. All ages welcome! Snack provided.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wow! We had Fun!

Members of all ages came, ate, played and geared up for the new year at our Open House. The morning began with bagels and live music from the debut performance of the "Beth El Klezmer Orchestra". By the afternoon kids were playing, making tye-dye shirts and enjoying a barbecue hosted by Sisterhood. In between, more than 100 students attended religious school and adult education classes.

We had perfect weather, and welcomed quite a few new faces to our community. If you were there, please share your comments. If you weren't there, we're sorry we missed you. Share a comment anyway.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Getting Ready for 5769

With Rosh Hashanah fast approaching, Temple Beth El is gearing up for the holidays with an OPEN HOUSE.

When: Sunday, September 14th, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Where: Temple Beth El, 5975 South 12th Street, Tacoma WA

What: Fun, friends, live music, free snacks and bagels, plus a barbecue at noon!

Rabbi Kadden, Trustees and members will be on hand to greet you and share our excitement about upcoming events and activities. For more information, please call 253-564-7101 or email

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Join us at the Tacoma Ethnic Festival

Come schmooze with us this Sunday at the Tacoma Ethnic Festival in Wright Park. Enjoy the great food and entertainment while learning about the many cultures who contribute to the many flavors of Tacoma. Come take a quiz and see how much you really know about Jewish food!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Celebrating Israel's 60th Birthday

Temple Beth El hosted a major celebration this past May, when when the State of Israel turned 60 years old. A good time was had by all, as you can see. We were even honored with a visit and proclamation by our Governor, Christine Gregoire.