Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is paying an historic visit to Israel--the first by an Indian head of government since diplomatic ties between the two countries were established 25 years ago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the two leaders would sign an agreement for a $40 million innovation fund. The visit is expected to boost economic and defense ties.
Modi fit in time for a personal visit to Moshe Holtzberg, the son of the Chabad emissaries Rabbi Gabriel and Rivka Holtzberg, who died in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. Moshe, who was 2 years old at the time, was rescued by his nanny, Sandra Samuels, and is now living with his grandparents, Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg. "I love you Mr Modi," said 11-year-old Moshe, adding that wants to become director of the Chabad House in Mumbai when he grows up. "We have not been forgotten...Indians share our pain,” said Rosenberg. Samuels, who moved to Israel with Moshe, is now an honorary Israeli citizen. Modi also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum.
The Chabad House has been restored and reopened since the attack, but Moshe's abandoned and bullet-ridden room has been left intact. Here are photos from the visits we have made during our tours.
My music is making it to Bollywood! Shalom, Bollywood, that is--a new film about Jewish women in Indian cinema. Producer and director Danny Ben-Moshe, an award-winning Australian-based filmmaker, (Identity Films), has reached out to me to use tracks from my CD, Hodu: Jewish Rhythms from Baghdad to India, in the documentary.
Inspired by pop culture...music, film and literature!
Shavuot is traditionally a holiday of luscious dairy dishes, based on the biblical description of Israel as a land of milk and honey.
If you want an addition or a change from blintzes and cheesecake, try these classic cheese samboosaks, a favorite among the Baghdadi Jews of India. They are my family's go-to comfort food with a cup of chai tea ll year-round.
Here is my mother's recipe. When we first came to the U.S. from Calcutta in the 1960s, she didn't know how to cook at all, since we had a cook in India. Cheese samboosaks were one of the first foods she tried in her American kitchen to recreate a taste of home. She and my father make them together.
Her recipe is followed by a link to food writer Tori Avey's website. Tori converted to Judaism, and married an Israeli, so she is especially interested in exploring Jewish cuisine and food history. She shared this recipe for Purim, but it is equally great for Shavuot and... just about anytime.
1 cup self-rising flour ½ lb. mozzarella, ½ lb. cheddar, grated
3 cups plain flour l Tbsp. plain flour
½ cup oil 5 eggs (about), beaten
1 cup tepid water (approx.) Pinch of cayenne pepper
Mix flour and oil in bowl. Add ¾ cup of the water, and add the last quarter-cup gradually until it becomes a soft dough. If after one cup the dough is still stiff, add an additional teaspoon of water at a time. You do not have to knead it like bread. When you think you are done, pinch a piece off and roll it into a ball in the palm of your hands. Cover the bowl with wax paper or towel so the dough doesn’t dry out.
Put the grated cheese in another bowl, and gradually add the beaten eggs, stirring until the mixture is moist enough to hold. Add the tbsp. of flour and mix together. The mixture must not be too stiff or too liquid. If it is stiff, add one or two more eggs.
Shape the dough into small balls. Place the balls one a time on a floured board and roll to a small, thin circle with a rolling pin. Place one heaped teaspoon of the cheese mixture on one half of the circle, fold over the other half and press the edges firmly together. Cut around the edges with a dough cutter or sharp knife. Discard or reuse the dough that is cut away.
Place samboosaks on a greased baking sheet and bake in 375 degree oven for 18 minutes. Makes about 36.
Tori Avey's Recipe:
Here is an Israeli children's song sung by Liora Isaac. Enjoy!
Everything you need to know to visit Kochi. Published in Hadassah magazine's fabulous travel column.
I am thrilled that my story about returning to Calcutta has been published in Hadassah magazine. The story focuses on the many moving moments I experienced during my recent trips back.
You can also read my earlier stories about my trips back with my parents in 1997 and with my sister in 2006. They are posted on my other website:
Set partly in Calcutta, where I was born, LION is the riveting true story about a five-year-old Indian boy named Saroo, whose life turns upside down in 1986 after being separated from his idolized older brother and ends up a thousand miles from his home and family. It's a great cast, with Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, but I can't agree more with Roger Ebert:
"What is truly amazing is that the lion’s share of the acting during this early stage is by a untrained newcomer, Mumbai native Sunny Pawar, who won the part after thousands of children were screen-tested. The kid is a natural, equal parts waif and rascal with an expressive face that perfectly reflects his state of mind from scene to scene while often not saying word. Nothing against Patel, who has grown immensely as a performer, but without the groundwork laid by little Sunny, “Lion’s ” onscreen roar would definitely be more than a bit muted."
Here's a look behind the scenes:
The true story behind the true story: Over 80,000 children go missing in India each year. LION is collaborating with extraordinary organizations to support children in India and around the world.
Click here to learn more.
Of the thousands of places to visit worldwide, The New York Times chose 52 top sites for 2017...and Agra--home of the Taj--is #3!
Here's the listing, written by contributor Ratha Tep, followed by photos of the Taj and Agra's Red Fort, another amazing site, from our November 2016 tour.
3. Agra, India
Beyond the Taj Mahal, new attractions beckon.
Navigating the stunning, sprawling Taj Mahal will get easier when an orientation center opens this year, but 2017 also promises new reasons to venture beyond: Nearby streets have been repaved; the Agra Pavilion, a glass-walled dining complex, will host more than a dozen vendors and restaurants; and the Mughal Museum, a collaboration with the architect David Chipperfield and Studio Archohm, has broken ground. In addition, India’s fastest train and longest expressway now cut travel time from Delhi and Lucknow.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an awesome role model in so many ways! Here she is with Justice Antonin Scalia in 1994 in Jaipur. They also visited the Taj Mahal on their tour of India. Scalia is quoted in My Own Words, RBG's new book (Simon and Schuster): he recalled that RBG's first view of the Taj—a tomb built for a beloved wife—brought tears running down her cheeks. Follow her lead and join us on one of our upcoming tours as we, too, ride elephants and are mesmerized by the Taj, plus much more.
Read my profile of Justice Ginsburg published in Hadassah magazine: