Category Archives: Holidays

Making a difference at MADA

At our latest MIT (Madrichim in Training) training session, we spoke about the importance of “Tikun Olam,” which means to repair the world.  The concept of tikun olam means helping others on every scale, from huge monetary donations to helping someone in need, hands-on.  For me personally, I have always interpreted repairing the world as making small changes and helping people out in small ways, every single day.  From picking up litter on the street to holding the door open for someone, there are so many ways you can make the world a better place on a day-by-day basis.  It was out of this belief that “M.A.D. Mondays” was born.

M.A.D. (Make a Difference) Mondays is a new initiative started by BIEC this fall.  On the first Monday of every month (although time and date change often in order to fit in with busy schedules), a group of BIEC volunteers get together to give back to the community, helping out at different organizations throughout Montreal.  The goal of M.A.D. Mondays is two fold; participants are able to gain a greater knowledge and understanding of various organizations within the Montreal Jewish community, as well as devote a couple of hours each month to giving back to the community and helping those in need.  This truly embodies the meaning of tikun olam.

Volunteers get a tour of the MADA food bank

For November’s M.A.D. Monday project a group of 8 volunteers spent the afternoon at MADA Community Centre.  For those of you who have yet to visit MADA, I highly recommend you take some time to do so.  Not only will you meet amazing people, but MADA also gives volunteers a strong sense of how close knit and caring the Montreal Jewish community really is.  MADA’s mission is to “help people in need with the basic necessities of life, while preserving their dignity and helping them become self sufficient members of the community.”  They do so in many different ways, including serving free meals in their cafeteria, helping provide warm clothes to those in need, welcoming people in for holiday meals, and their Shabbat to Share program, which delivers pre-packaged “Shabbat boxes” to those unable to prepare for Shabbat on their own.  Spending time with other volunteers or anyone who has benefited from MADA’s services, you are able to witness first hand the effect that this organization has on those who are involved.  Pride, gratefulness, joy and generosity are just some of the traits that everyone is eager to share with those who are volunteering or visiting MADA for the first time.

The M.A.D. Monday crew at MADA

MADA truly appreciates and is thankful for all the work that their devoted volunteers do, from large scale to small.  A great example of this happened during our afternoon working with them.  Our group, initially set to help pack Shabbat boxes with the Shabbat to Share program, was told upon arrival that we would instead be helping out in the kitchen.  Unsure of what this meant, we were set up at a long table with plastic gloves, cutting boards, knives…and huge containers of garlic!  Although peeling garlic may not seem as though it makes as much of an impact as packing Shabbat boxes, we were quickly proven wrong.  When one of the MADA employees came to speak to us about the organization, she made sure to mention that we had one of the most important jobs at the centre.  Why, you might ask?  “Without garlic, the food we serve in our cafeteria would be bland and tasteless.  The people who come to MADA don’t only need food…they need a little spice in their lives.  By peeling this garlic, you are bringing that spice!”  With these words we were not only motivated to peel our garlic in double-time; we were inspired to hear that every single action done inside the walls of the MADA Community Centre really does help repair the world.

M.A.D. Mondays will be volunteering with a different community organization each month.  In December, we will be collaborating with the Friendship Circle for “Sufganiyot for the Soul,” making sufganiyot to share with the community.  If you wish to get involved in this, or any other M.A.D. Monday projects, or for more information, please contact Shoshi Rothschild at shoshi.rothschild@bjec.org. Here’s your chance to make a difference in your community, so don’t miss out!

Ring in the new year with some delicious new recipes

It’s that time of year again; the time when you eat so much food that you ask to be rolled out of the dining room, the time you go home after dinner and put on your favourite sweat/stretchy pants, the time you sit around a larger than life table with your family and loved ones. You guessed it – Rosh Hashanah!

In the last year, I’ve really taken to the kitchen. Cooking Shabbat meals for friends and family, daily dinners, and weekly Sunday brunches! So far, the general consensus is that I can, in fact, cook, and no one has gone home sick! In familiarizing myself with the kitchen, I wanted to share with you some of my personal High Holiday speciality meals. The following are some staple recipes at our holiday dinner table, brisket and apple cake! Appetizers can be anything your heart desires, ranging from gefilte fish, chopped liver, a nice salad and even matzo ball soup! All of which we make from scratch – yes, even the gefilte fish. So if you want or need a recipe for any of the above mentioned appetizers, hit me up with an email at amanda.noodelman@bjec.org and I’ll send them your way!

So, keep reading to see how surprisingly easy it can be to make the most delectable holiday meal for your family!

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An urban family Shabbat 180

I love Shabbat.  Anyone who has ever seen me sit through a Shabbat meal can tell you that my eyes almost always well up with tears (of happiness, of course) when seated around a table amongst my family or friends.  Whether I’m celebrating Shabbat at camp with 300 other people, sitting around my aunt’s beautiful Shabbat table with my cousins, or eating off paper plates on the floor of my apartment, there is almost nothing I love more than taking an entire evening to celebrate the end of the work week with good food, good wine, and good company.

Shabbat at camp...the dining hall filled with lots of people and lots of singing!

Up until I moved to Montreal, Shabbat was a holiday celebrated only when visiting my aunt, uncle and cousins in Toronto, or while I was up at camp.  Once I moved out on my own, however, I began to feel the importance of celebrating Shabbat with the people around me, in order to start building my own traditions in a new city that I now call my home.

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Do it yourself Shabbat

I have been thinking a lot about Shabbat lately, and the idea of devoting one day a week to the idea of “rest,” whatever that may mean to you.  While working on an upcoming project (stay tuned for more info on Shabbat 180), I found myself doing a lot of research surrounding the idea of “menucha.”  In the biblical story of creation, God took six days to create the world and on the seventh day, He rested.  On this seventh day, God created “menucha,” which means stillness and peace, in Hebrew.  Shabbat, therefore, is meant to be a time of stillness and peace.  No matter what religion you practice, after a busy week of work, school, running around, sitting in traffic, we all need one day to unwind and relax.  What we do to relax ourselves varies from person to person, but one thing that we all have in common is that everyone can appreciate a full day of rest.

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Chicken Cacciatore…the new Shabbat tradition!

In the past couple of months, Shabbat has become a new development in my household. But with no one having the time to cook, I’m left holding the bag! Too bad my cooking skills aren’t in it…

I have never thought of myself as an expert chef, let alone, a chef at all. So far, I’ve mastered making a killer breakfast sandwich, a great salad, and one or two hot dishes. So where does this leave our Shabbat dinner? Well, I’ll give you an inside look at what I’ve been serving! As these dishes are super simple and almost fool-proof, maybe the recipes we post can help you in creating your own Shabbat dinner, which can be much easier than you think!

Today we are cooking…

Chicken Cacciatore


Sure it isn’t gefilte fish and matzo ball soup, but it’s what’s for dinner this Friday! And although the recipe is not extravagant, it’s actually my own and my friends and family can testify that this simple and easy dish is fantastic, and makes for the best leftovers!

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into pieces (size at your discretion)
  • 2 cans diced Italian seasoned tomatoes
  • 1 can Italian seasoned tomato sauce
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 container of button mushrooms, cut in halves
  • 1 red pepper cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 can of potatoes, cut in halves.
  • As much garlic as you want!
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, convection bake.
  • Layer the ingredients in a large Pyrex starting with diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken, mushrooms and peppers, some pieces of potato, onion and garlic.
  • Keep layering until you’ve used all of your ingredients!
  • Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Serve!

This is best served with white or basmati rice, or noodles! A great tip is to prepare this dish in advance so that the chicken can absorb all the flavours from the tomatoes and spices. You can add any other flavours you like to this dish! Some hot sauce maybe?

Let me know what you think, and what you would add to make it even better!

It’s all about the kids…

The holiday season is by far my favourite time of year. Although the summer heat, beaches and sun are always welcomed, it’s the season of giving that really gets me. The opportunity to do something meaningful for others, for your community, and to try and better the world we live in, is inspired in us simply from the holiday spirit.

Yesterday was a real eye-opener for me. As part of our “Eight Crazy Nights” initiative, we collected toys for the Montreal Children’s Hospital and yesterday we could finally go deliver them to the kids! When we got there, there were a lot more kids than I think any of us had anticipated. We collected some amazing toys for them, hoping we could lift their spirits and hang a bit, but as none of these children were here for just a regular check up, our contact was quite limited. And that’s what got me thinking…

 We take a lot for granted.

The room has a giant toy box that looks like it fits in a tree stump, a mural spread across the entire back wall, beautiful bright colors, and kids who are spread from corner to corner waiting to hear results or see a doctor for the umpteenth time.

Yesterday I saw kids battling sickness, I saw parents being as strong as they can be for their children, and I saw a group of volunteers and colleagues go out and try to make a difference in these kids’ lives. On a daily basis I find our generation takes our health for granted. People drink excessively, smoke, and don’t even get enough sleep! But one thing we didn’t ignore was our ability to do something good for the community we live in and help lift spirits of people who could really use it! Shoshi played a card game with a 9 year old girl; Jer put toys in the magic toy box, and every one of us got to see – face to face – the holiday spirit.

I welcome holiday spirit and hope everyone enjoys it as much as I do!

The New Age of Latkes

Bet you never thought that poutine could be considered a Chanukah treat, right?  Well last night, at the first event of Team BIEC’s Eight Crazy Nights, Iron Chef: Latke, the winning team proved otherwise!  The evening was a huge success with 8 teams, each consisting of two people, battling it out for the title of Montreal’s top latke makers.  Taste, creativity and presentation all came into play in the battle for the best latkes and, as one of the 9 judges, I can honestly say that I was blown away by the amazing ways that these 16 chefs put their latkes together.  From gingerbread to zucchini, goat cheese and basil to caramelized peppers, the evening knocked traditional latkes out the window and made way for new, modernized recipes.  The winning latke?  A traditional style potato pancake covered in shredded cheese and gravy…latkes Quebecois style!  Stay tuned for the winning recipe, which will be posted online soon.  For now, enjoy some photos from last night, and feel free to share your favourite latke recipes below!  

Team BIEC judges light the first candle together

All of our amazing chefs

The cooking begins!

Team Orange's latkes - caramalized peppers and homemade apple sauce

Team Green - sour cream and onion

Team Pink - latke poutine!

Team Purple - The Newlyweds

The judging panel

Second place goes to Team Yellow - Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head!

and the winner is....The Pink Team - The Lazy Latkes!

The Latke Champions!

Hanukah Heroes

Hanukah is a time for heroes to shine and do great things through the motivation given to us by the Maccabees. Whichever narrative of the Hanukah story you follow, the Maccabees, rebels with a cause from Modiin, saved Judaism from assimilation by means of courage, thinking outside the box, and keeping it real to and for our People.  Inspired by Hanukah’s Heroes, I am excited to talk about the heroes that might not be seen as typical warriors…but do they ever have hearts of warriors!

My first hero is actually a team of young professionals, a team I’m pleased to work with everyday – Team BIEC. From bringing Jews together, educating, and helping others in need, Team BIEC holds it down for our city, people, Israel and the world.

Team BIEC’s Hanukah initiative, “Eight Crazy Nights,” is an 8 day/night program that offers a little something for everyone throughout the duration of Hanukah. These nights are definitely going to bring people together and create new relationships, but the best part about the week is that the cover charge for all events is a donation of new/gently used toys or canned food. On top of those donations, our office’s door will be open, as it always is, for you to contribute to the Eight Crazy Nights toy and canned food drive. When the week is over, toys will be shared with children at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the food will be given to MADA for them to distribute it to those in need this holiday season. A few other things going on during Eight Crazy Nightsinclude sufganiyot baking, a Hanukah party, volunteering at MADA, Sunday football with dreidle decorating and candle making and, of course, watching the Adam Sandler Hanukah favourite, “Eight Crazy Nights”.

The kick off is tonight at our Iron Chef Latke extreme latke cook off! If you want to take part in any of these amazing events or want more information, you can reach us at (514)-345-6449.

As our Maccabee heroes did a few thousand years ago so can you! Do something great this Hanukah and give someone a miracle!

If you’re interested in my other Hanukah Heroes check out my personal blog throughout the week, www.isramitch.wordpress.com.

Happy Hanukah, חנוכה שמח,

Mitch

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