How much do you like hamantaschen?

Are you still snacking on leftover hamantaschen?

I imagine pro-eater Jamie “The Bear” McDonald probably had his share this year. He is the winner of El Al Israel Airlines’ second annual National Hamantaschen Eating Championship, held in New York City on Feb 24. McDonald set a new hamantaschen-eating record by consuming 48 hamantaschen in five minutes.

Jamie “The Bear” McDonald, professional eater was the winner of the EL AL Israel Airlines second National Hamantaschen Eating Championship on Feb. 24. Also pictured, from left, are the  amateur winners : Nathaniel Siev, Dimitri “The Ukraine Train” Shchupak, Kevin Sloan and Jake Zak.Photo courtesy of El Al

Jamie “The Bear” McDonald, professional eater was the winner of the EL AL Israel Airlines second National Hamantaschen Eating Championship on Feb. 24. Also pictured, from left, are the amateur winners : Nathaniel Siev, Dimitri “The Ukraine Train” Shchupak, Kevin Sloan and Jake Zak.
Photo courtesy of El Al

Hundreds gathered at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (KJ) Synagogue to watch 20 amateur contestants devour dozens of hamantaschen for the chance to beat professional eating sensation, Jamie “The Bear” McDonald, and win a free flight to Israel, according  to an El Al press release.Nathaniel Siev took first place among the 20 amateur contestants by devouring 34.5 hamantaschen and Dimitri “The Ukraine Train” Shchupak consumed a total of 33 hamantaschen, each winning a roundtrip ticket to Israel. Third and fourth place runner-ups, Kevin Sloan and Jake Zak, both received a $500 voucher toward their next flight to Israel for eating 24 hamantaschen each.


A look ahead at Mega Event 2013 speaker

"The Secrets of Happy Families" is Bruce Feiler's most recent book.

“The Secrets of Happy Families” is Bruce Feiler’s most recent book.

Bruce Feiler, the author who’ll be speaking at the Mega Event on March 21, had the cover of Parade magazine last Sunday, offering “The Secrets to a Happy Family.”

It’s an eye-opening read that tackles topics ranging from what time of day is most common for family fights to who should choose punishments for the kids’ discipline.

Click here for information on Feiler and the Jewish Community Association’s Mega Event. 

Feiler is the author of “The Secrets of Happy Families,” “Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths” and “America’s Prophet: How the Story of Moses Shaped America,” among other books.

Coincidentally, when I got into my car after first posting this item, NPR played a review of “The Secrets of Happy Families.”


Coffee with a Cop at the EVJCC this Friday

In response to December’s fire at the East Valley JCC and property being defaced at area churches, the Chandler Law Enforcement Association (CLEA)  and the Chandler Lieutenants and Sergeants Association (CLASA) are co-sponsoring their first Coffee with a Cop this Friday morning at 10 a.m.

The program will focus on community safety issues and be held at the East Valley JCC, 908 N. Alma School Road., Chandler. It is free and open to the public

Officers will give tips on ways to stay safe in our society and will answer questions about any law-enforcement related topic.

 The program includes refreshments: The EVJCC will provide coffee and CLEA and CLASA will provide doughnuts and bagels.

“While we cherish our freedoms in this country, we also recognize that there are dangers about which we all need to be aware,” Rob Dykstra, CLEA board president, said in a release.  “Holding Coffee With a Cop meetings throughout our community will help residents put a face on the law enforcement officers who support them and help officers assure the residents that we are here to protect and serve.”

This is the first event of this kind co-sponsored by the CLEA and CLASA, but they plan to hold Coffee with a Cop sessions monthly at different locations.

CLEA was founded in 1999 to fill a void between police officers and the administrations of the department and the city. Currently, CLEA represents more than 220 rank-and-file Chandler law enforcement officers. CLASA was founded in 2003 to represent the needs of Chandler Lieutenants and Sergeants.  CLASA represents 57 supervisors.   


From Soviet Jewry to Israelis and Americans

After a week off on Super Bowl Sunday, Passages will come back to the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus on Sunday with a discussion on the U.S. economic meltdown that began in 2008. The speaker will be Gretchen Morgenson and you can read more about Sunday’s program here. Here are some thoughts from the previous lecture.

When Gal Beckerman, opinion editor at the Forward, spoke on how Soviet Jews fought for their identity and freedom of movement from the 1970s through the collapse of the Soviet Union, he hit upon an essential irony that should give us all hope when we wonder about the Jewish future here in the United States.

Speaking to 176 attendees at the Bureau of Jewish Education’s Passages series at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus on Jan. 27, Beckerman pointed out that the internal travel documentation issued by the Soviets under Josef Stalin’s rule (essentially passports for travel within the then-Soviet Union) listed people’s ethnicity, and thus Jews were identified as Jews in those documents.

But, meanwhile, the officially atheist state campaigned  mercilessly against Jewish religion and ritual, seeking to assimilate all into a happily communist utopia. After decades, the only connection to Jewish identity many Soviet Jews had was those internal passports that labeled them as Jews.

So the dictator’s desire to keep tabs on everyone’s travel and potential loyalties to other forces such as Judaism or Jewish tradition or Zionism kept the spark of Jewish identity alive ready to turn into a blaze when the refuseniks began to seek the freedom to emigrate from the Soviet Union.

It is no wonder that Natan  Sharansky (born Anatoly Borisovich Shcharansky) stresses the importance of identity and particularly noted in a Phoenix speech in 2008 that the Six-Day War changed everything for Soviet Jews. “Maybe (anti-Semites) hated you as much as they hated you before, but they started respecting you because power is something respectable in the Soviet Union, and Israel was powerful.”

This was the fuel that turned the spark of identity into a blaze and today, Jews who emigrated from the former Soviet Union, both in Israel and the United States, are strong players dedicated to the Jewish identity so long denied them.

That was perhaps the most important take-away from Beckerman’s talk, and it provides a hope that the spark can be kept alive through all assimilationist trends.


Nonie Darwish talk at Young Israel

Nonie Darwish, an Egyptian-American human rights activist who is the founder of Arabs For Israel and the director of Former Muslims United, spoke at Young Israel of Phoenix last week, sharing her insight about being raised in an Islam home. She also spoke about the significance of the tumultuous events currently unfolding in the Middle East and the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

An excerpt:
“This international conflict called the Arab-Israeli conflict really is a fabrication. It is not a conflict over land, and anybody who thinks it’s a conflict over land is misguided because we don’t see the truth. The truth is … there is something in Islam anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, especially anti- Jewish and I will tell you why.

“Those people calling themselves Palestinians who live in the Gaza and the West Bank are the pawns of the Arab world. I don’t believe that they care about their happiness or welfare. They are set up to live a miserable life on purpose in order to show the world that we’re victims. Do you think Saudi Arabia, with all the money they have, the Gulf countries, (all this) oil money – think they can’t give them good roads and good homes and good police and turn it into a productive area of the Middle East? They can but that is not their objective. There is a hidden objective and I don’t understand why western culture doesn’t get it.”

Listen to her full presentation here.