Written and photographed by Rachel Ledeboer, ft. Luna the Cat
If you have a lot of leftover matzo from Passover, this is a great recipe to use it up!
There’s a pretty big controversy out there on how you are supposed to make matzo brei, but this is the way I like to do it. I prefer for it to be more savory and to have more of a harder, fried texture.
2 sheets of matzo
Splash of (oat) milk
-Crack the two eggs into a bowl and mix them up.
-Add a splash of milk and some of each of the seasonings. (You can add as much as you want, but generally it is good to add a bit more than you think you will need.)
-Break the matzo up into small pieces and mix it in with the egg mixture.
-Stir it up to make sure the matzo is evenly coated and then let it soak in the mixture for at least 5 minutes if not longer (depending on how soft you like it—longer will be softer).
-Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a small or medium-sized pan, just enough to coat the entire surface of the pan.
-Pour in your matzo mix and spread it out so it fills the whole pan.
-Fry it up for a few minutes, then break it up and flip the pieces around to fry the other side.
-Taste test to see if you need more seasoning, add accordingly, and then you’re done!
Being a junior in college has its advantages. As I’m sure you can imagine, when I recently turned 21, everyone and their mother told me that I should get completely wasted as a form of celebration. It seemed fitting, as, like most new 21-year-olds, I felt obligated to abuse my newly acquired legal status to drink.
Having recently reached this milestone, I realized some things. For one, the birthdays I have had in the past were a lot more meaningful. Additionally, my future birthdays will be completely and totally lame for the rest of my life.
Let’s review my past major birthdays:
At 13 – Had a Bar Mitzvah, a special party to celebrate the coming of age in Judaism. Perks: epic party, lots of gifts and expendable cash.
At 18 – Became an adult in America. Perks: get to smoke, buy lottery tickets, buy a gun, have sex, vote, join the army, go to strip clubs. Righteous.
At 21 – Went through a right of passage of sorts in America. Perks: get to drink, gamble and go to bars.
After that, birthdays seem pointless. What do you have to look forward to next?
At 25 – You can rent a car, and run for Congress… Boring.
In response to my sad realization that we need more fun birthdays, I have thought of some interesting legalizations people should be entitled to as they pass certain milestones. I’m sure you’ll agree, they are extremely necessary measures.
25 yrs – Going to a bowling alley should be illegal until the age of 25. Think about it, bowling balls are dangerous. They lead to more deaths per year than sharks and vending machines combined. Who here hasn’t lost a friend or loved one to the ball return machine? If there are only 25-year-olds bowling, you can truly appreciate how worthless your life must be if you spend your precious free time bowling. This encourages you to succeed more in life.
30 yrs – At the age of 30, everyone should be legally allowed (and perhaps mandated?) to play a rousing game of Flaming Tennis. Flaming Tennis, for those of you with no imagination, is just like regular tennis, except that the tennis balls are dipped in gasoline and lit before you play with them. At the age of 30, as you begrudgingly depart the prime of their life, you should be allowed to play a sport that will truly push you to your physical best. I see absolutely no reason why this sport is illegal, and let’s not pretend it wouldn’t be the highest viewed sport if it was in the Olympics.
40 yrs – 4 words: Government Subsidized Pony Program. Does this one need to be explained? At the age of 40, everyone should be entitled to receive their very own pony. Who wouldn’t want their own pony? The government subsidizes a stable and food for a year. It creates jobs for the economy and I will finally be able to own my very own Buttercup.
50 yrs – Everyone should legally be allowed to own anti-tank weaponry. Can you imagine going hunting with that kind of gear? Knocking trees down left and right, deers just exploding on impact. Let me tell you, no thief would take their chances with your house if there was a sign on your lawn that said “Warning: anti-tank gear present.” And it would sure take care of those damn squirrels on your lawn.
60 yrs – Pizza Party. You earned it.
70 yrs – What better way to celebrate retirement than being eligible for a Jetpack license? Fly to the store, visit family, get stuck in an airplane engine, do anything.
80 yrs – The house you live in will promptly be replaced with a MANSION made out of sugar-free jello (only Lime or Strawberry). Any reason? Not really.
90 yrs – Feeling old and tired? SCREW THAT, time to kick it up a notch with an UPGRADE! You will undergo a surgery that will turn you into a cyborg. Your new powers will make Iron Man look like a trash can, as you use your built in ketchup and mustard dispensers to create delicious meals (NOTE: Thousand Island dressing upgrade is available). Also, energy cannons. You will receive environmentally friendly energy cannons. More powerful than your anti-tank weaponry, but not by much. This may come at the cost of your pony, because the idea of a cyborg riding a pony is ridiculous.
100 yrs – Strap in baby, because we’re going to Mars! As a cyborg with 100 years of knowledge and experience on Earth, it is time for you to go to Mars in order to colonize it for the good of the human race. You will, of course, be trained to fight the Glorxons (the evil inhabitants of the planet OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb), who are also preparing to colonize Mars in an strategic attempt to fortify it for a future strike on Earth. We cannot allow Mars to fall into their hands, and you must use your knowledge and strength to defend Earth on Mars before it’s too late.
Wasn’t I talking about drinking alcohol earlier in this article? Anyway, I’m sure if the United States enacted these laws, more people would look forward to their birthdays and, as we all know, that is what’s important. Now is the time to get our priorities straightened out.
Published on page 6o of the Spring 2012 issue of Leviathan.
The sunny 101 highway shoots your car like an arrow straight north through the verdant farmlands. A green sign flashes “Petaluma, Population: 60,000.” This is your queue to direct your beat-up station wagon to the off-ramp and roll into your home town. New developments have begun to crop up, creeping closer to the freeway. The shiny billboards in front of the construction site show a beaming family of four centered in a comfortably generic living room. The people on the billboard are immortalized in a cookie-cutter vision of Anywhere, USA. This is Petaluma: a perfect snow globe of suburbia.
Now the off-ramp has faded away, and you are avoiding Main Street. It is a Tuesday afternoon, and the SUVs stack up in identical congested lines at 3pm, ready to drive the children to their after-school soccer practice. You skirt the high school by a distance of a few streets, and in five minutes you have arrived at your destination: the Phoenix Theater. You can feel the polarity between the suburban block and the theater’s boundary as your wheels roll from smooth pavement to the crunching, dusty rocks of the Phoenix’s parking lot. You lock your car and turn the corner to the main entrance.
The gray, art deco theater meets the cracked sidewalk right where the dirty stains fall through the cracks. You sit on the tiled breezeway in front of the locked glass doors, on the cracked ground next to the cigarette butts, and you count the number of cars that go straight across the avenue even though the sign says “right-turn only.” You get to nine before Tom Gaffey comes around the corner to unlock the door for you. He smiles wide, happy to see you, but his eyes are sad and distant as he reaches for his impressively jangling key ring.
“Hey kid, what’s happening? You just get back into town?”
“Hey Tom, uh yeah, I was looking at some apartments in San Francisco. Tryin’ to move out of my mom’s place before summer starts, get myself a job down there.” Gaffey undoes the padlock and opens the door for you. He follows you inside, offering attentive grunts and rubbing his balding head.
“Right on. Well, hey, kid, don’t forget about us here, we’ll miss you when you leave.”
“Oh Tom, don’t be dramatic. I’ll keep visiting when I’m living in the city. It’s not that bad of a drive.” Tom grunts in assent, but has nothing to say, so you continue, “How’re things around here? Did you get that grant proposal approved for the summer music classes?”
Tom heaves up a powerful sigh. He’s got a big manilla folder in his hands, stuffed haphazardly with papers.
“Shit, I gotta tell ya, kid, it’s been real tough around here with the bad publicity. The Downtown Association is up my ass with complaints. Know what happened last weekend?”
You shake your head, but Tom is beginning to heat up and needs no prompting, “Sophomore at Petaluma High decides she wants to get shit-faced and come down to the show here last Friday, she’s too fuckin’ drunk to walk up to the box office, ends up passed out in the parking lot… Vomit! Everywhere! I had Gabe working security in the lot, he called the ambulance, got her outta here. Close fucking call of alcohol poisoning. Fifteen fucking years old! Now I got the parents trying to rip me a new one. They’ve got the whole Downtown Association lobbying to get rid of our concerts. They don’t care that those shows are the only source of funding we got. They know that if the shows go, the whole theater is fuckin’ done for, and that’s what they want.”
“Don’t worry about those assholes, Gaffey. It’s not the theater’s fault that kids get bored in this lame little town and drink themselves stupid. That’ll happen no matter what. If the theater can survive burning down to the ground twice, it can survive this. Just tell that Downtown Shit-Committee that I, for one, am so much better off because of this place.”
Gaffey shrugs and waves his hand indifferently, but before he turns away you glimpse proud satisfaction leak from his eyes. Grunting and clearing his throat, he makes his way down the side hallway to his cave of an office. You are left alone inside the cold theater.
You know that the Phoenix Theater, like its namesake, was born again from its own ashes after being engulfed by fire. It was reborn thirty years ago to become a home: a home for the youth and run by the youth. Now that Gaffey has disappeared to his office, you make your way down the main floor to the piano room and sink down on your favorite couch. You immediately spot some fresh graffiti that was certainly not present yesterday. The lines are clean and even; they are the work of a hand with the muscle memory of a million practiced strokes. Even something as small as a new tag makes you smile. The Phoenix is always changing, and when you are here you find it possible to forget about the suburban snow globe of a town outside the theater walls where everything is kept pristine and predictable.
Slowly, the after-school crowd trickles into the building. You hear the clank of skateboard trucks on the quarter pipes as someone else begins to pick on a guitar. These kids flock to the building for the freedom to skate and to make music. These kids are here for the same reason that you are: to be yourselves. This place is void of city noise ordinances, “No Skateboarding” signs, and strict vandalism laws.
After several moments of reclining on the couch, you rise and imagine that you are transcending your own ashes. At home, at school, and at work you are expected to live up to others’ presumptions of your identity. The theater holds no expectations for you. It is a fluid place of artistic sanctuary begging you to take control of your own identity. Not far from the couch is the grand piano. The keys have been graffitied with a silver paint pen, but the sound is pure and enduring. You let your fingers play on the ivory and soon the room is full to bursting with your song. The melody is fast and catchy, and your fingers prance from key to key effortlessly. You are doing your part in perpetuating the theater’s tendency towards change. You played a different song yesterday, and tomorrow you will play a new one.
After winding down your fingers to the conclusion, you allow another kid to take over the piano. You venture outside again for a breath of fresh air. The suburbs surround the Phoenix on all sides. The manicured lawns, the painted fences, the permit-only parking: it all reeks of a glittering snow globe. It paints a pretty picture so that the suburbanites might feel comfortable with their lives here. You see a jogger, a dog-walker, a mother pushing a stroller; none of them heard your song. It makes you feel special to have a clandestine practice room that most people never discover. Most people in this town are stuck in ruts; they do the same things every day. They burn themselves down, wallow in their ashes, and are ignorant as to how they might lift themselves into something new.
You feel bad for the suburbanites. Although you were raised amongst them, you feel as if you are of a different breed. They see the theater as an ugly blemish that poisons their tiny uniform world, but you feel differently. The theater has taught you to transcend the familiar, to welcome change, and to have the strength to cultivate your own identity above and beyond others’ expectations.
Had the theater never risen from its ashes, you might have found yourself loading into a cookie-cutter SUV and heading to soccer practice with the other children. Had the theater never risen from its ashes, you might believe that your only identity is the one defined for you by teachers, parents, and bosses. Had the theater never risen from its ashes, you might find that you had never risen from yours, either.
Published on page 54 of the Spring 2012 issue of Leviathan.
If you’ve ever considered Jewishness a part of your identity, you’ve probably faced the question, “what is Jewish?” For centuries, this question simply was not asked. Jewishness took place in the domestic realm, transferred from parents to children through mimetic pedagogy. A mother would teach her daughters to bake challah and a father would teach his sons to read Torah. But in the modern era, the time spent in the home has become increasingly shortened, as the period between childhood and marriage has grown. So, as family becomes less and less central to the life cycle, where does Jewishness happen?
One place where Jewishness flourishes is in literature. Historically, the phrase “people of the book” refers to the Jewish relationship with religious texts. Yet words have also held a special place in less traditional forms of Jewish writing; recently the number of Jewish novels, magazines, and newspapers has skyrocketed. For instance, just before Passover, the Jewish media (and even The Colbert Report) gushed over The New American Haggadah, an artsy version of the user’s guide for the Passover seder. Edited by Jonathan Safran Foer, the author of the much-loved Everything is Illuminated, and re-translated by Nathan Englander, this version of the Haggadah is laced with commentaries from the cherished authors Rebecca Goldstein, Jeffery Goldberg, Daniel Handler (also known as Lemony Snickett), and the co-director of UC Santa Cruz’s own Jewish Studies Program, Professor Nathaniel Deutsch.
It turns out that Deutsch is a major player in what seems to be a nation-wide project to revitalize Jewish culture through literature. In his recently published book, The Jewish Dark Continent: Life and Death in the Russian Pale of Settlement, Deutsch dusts off the pages of The Jewish Ethnographic Program, a survey of the rituals and traditions of the Pale of Settlement. Renowned historian Simon Dubnow called this territory of land, the only place the Russian Empire permitted Jews to live, a Jewish “Dark Continent,” inspiring the title of Deutsch’s book. The survey was part of a larger project called “The Jewish Ethnographic Expedition” and was led by An-sky, a Jewish-Russian revolutionary who was born in the Pale, but lived the majority of his life illegally in St. Petersburg. Afraid of Jewish culture being wiped out as a result of the dramatic rise in anti-Semitism and assimilation during the turn of the twentieth century, An-sky conducted his expedition in order to document the cultural patterns of the shtetls (Jewish villages) before they were destroyed. The Jewish Dark Continent is the impressive product of Deutsch’s eight-year multidisciplinary enterprise to offer the first English translation of An-sky’s survey from its original Yiddish version.
Partly as a result of heightened anti-Semitism, but also in response to the elite status of Jewish intellectualism, An-sky’s goal was to make Judaism accessible to all Jews, regardless of social status or class. In order to facilitate this process, he had to draw upon traditional Jewish scholarship and simultaneously push against it, redefining Torah so that it would include the folk culture of the shtetl. In the introduction of his survey, An-sky argues that songs, dances, rituals, jokes, and myths should form the basis of the Torah Sheba’al Peh (Oral Torah), and what was formerly part of the Torah Sheba’al Peh, the Talmud, Midrash, and Mishnah, should be placed into the category of the Torah Shebichtav (Written Torah), along with the Tanakh. This new Oral Torah would “…[reflect] the same beauty and purity of the Jewish soul, the tenderness and nobility of the Jewish heart, and the height and depth of Jewish thought.” By elevating folk culture to the status of Torah, An-sky both broke from and continued religious Jewish scholarship. While he remained consistent with categorizing something as Torah in order to legitimize it in the eyes of rabbis and Jewish religious scholars, he also made a radical move by redefining Torah itself. In doing so, he brought Jewishness to the common Jew, so that no matter what his or her background—tailor or rabbi, matchmaker or rebbetzin—they too could, as Deutsch says, “become amateur ethnographers, or zamelers (literally, ‘collectors’).”
The Jewish Dark Continent is a metaphorical resurrection of An-sky’s project. Deutsch’s annotations in the survey read like a conversation with An-sky. Just as An-sky hoped that his ethnographic work would inspire common Jews to become ethnographers of Jewish culture themselves, so too does Deutsch extend “… an invitation to those interested in doing their own research, whether by asking the questions of someone they know or by examining the many books, articles, and Internet resources that are available.” As an atheist, An-sky’s project to revitalize Jewish culture was an attempt to divorce culture from religion, opening up culture to individuals who don’t identify as religious, but wish to remain connected to Jewishness. Using An-sky’s ethnographic study as a launching-pad, Deutsch calls upon today’s Jews to take a deep look at their cultural roots.
In many ways, the anxieties of today’s Jewish communities echo the anxieties felt by the Jewish communities in the Pale. Today, just as then, Jews face assimilation. Thus, the question what is Jewish becomes an especially heated debate. Ultimately, Judaism is based on practice, the activities that fill up the hours in a day. During the destruction of the Russian Empire, anti-Semitism directly threatened the Jewish community, so that the daily activities documented in An-sky’s survey became a danger to Jewish existence. An-sky’s project to revitalize Jewish culture was a way of legitimizing, and thereby safeguarding, the Jewish people. Similarly, now in the United States it is difficult to integrate Jewishness into a daily routine without turning to religion or Zionism; the amount of synagogues and Israel advocacy groups far outweigh the number of non-religious or non-Zionist Jewish organizations. Yet now more than ever, Jewish communities have the luxury of being able to practice Jewishness without risking persecution. The Jewish Dark Continent serves as a reminder that Jewishness has a rich and vibrant history, one that can serve as a basis for rethinking our current experiences. Unlike the Jews of the Pale, Jewish communities now have the opportunity to explore our cultural ancestry, to wrestle with its contemporary significance, and meditate on what makes us Jewish.
1. Nathaniel Deutch, The Jewish Dark Continent: Life and Death in the Russian Pale of Settlement, (Cambrige: Harvard University Press, 2011), 103.
2. Deutch, Jewish Dark Continent, 35.
3. Deutch, Jewish Dark Continent, 101.
Published on page 49 of the Spring 2012 issue of Leviathan.