Another Kind of Jewish Learning

IMG_2154Tonight I had dinner with Linda at Saul’s Deli in Berkeley, just before teaching my Intro class. We were talking about our sons, and I mentioned that Jim loves babka.

“Vodka?” she said.

“No, babka.”

“What’s babka?”

A question!  Rabbis love questions! And this rabbi loves babka. How could my beloved not know about babka?

It was time for some Jewish learning: we ordered some babka, and had it for dessert.

Jewish learning comes in many shapes and forms. Sometimes it comes in big heavy books, and sometimes it comes in the form of a cake. This cake was loaded with chocolate and Yiddishkeit, and it was delicious.

What Jewish topic did you learn by experience, not in a class?

What’s your favorite traditional Jewish treat?

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi based in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, mom, poodle groomer, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at as the Coffee Shop Rabbi.

15 thoughts on “Another Kind of Jewish Learning”

  1. Mohn bread, and kichlach….loved both, growing up; there was a wonderful deli in Glasgow called Epicure’s(it also had a restaurant upstairs, but I don’t remember ever going there)….that was where we bought them, which involved a “trip to town”, on the bus…living in the fairly poor east end of Glasgow, there was nothing like that locally ….I doubt there were many Jews, but curiously, there is a tiny part of the local cemetery which is Jewish, which is something I would love to find out more about, though I no longer live there, and no family left. And I had no idea they were Jewish till I was a teenager. Not had kichlach for many years, keep meaning to try making them, but right now, most days are a struggle just to keep going. Alas, poppy seeds do not agree with me now, but I can remember the taste of that delicious bread….and stuffed olives(still love those, with tuna) thank you for bring back those happy memories, Rabbi Ruth. Brightened my day, you did.


    1. When I was a chaplain in a nursing home in LA, I learned that memory can be a treasure, if we are fortunate enough to be able to access it. If I feel blue I know that certain thoughts will raise my spirits and some of the most profound memories are those stored in the senses. Glad it brightened your day – thanks for sharing those memories!


  2. Thank you for that delicious photo of babka….here’s something to consider: for a special occasion, you can online order babka (choc or cinnamon) from Zabar’s in NY and have it delivered right to a friend’s home..what a nice surprise for the recipient!


  3. My first Jewish food treat was bagels and lox. As an adult, I have made pear kugel for the New Year of the Trees celebration. Kugel hits the spot.


  4. prune filled hamantashin has always been high on my list, real Jewish rye bread, matzah ball soup, kasha varnishkas, challah, madelbrot (Jewish biscotti)…just a few of my favorite treats.

    One of the things I learned by experience has to do with prayer and singing. Sitting next to my dad on Friday night, at Temple, he would sing loudly and he had a just ok voice. As a kid, I was embarrassed by how loud he sounded, and had the temerity to tell him so. After services, we had a talk and my dad explained that when a person prays, it is always a matter of what comes from your heart. So, if you have a great voice or are tone deaf, it does not matter, if you are praying. He convinced me that there was nothing to be embarrassed about and invited me to pray with him. I loved sitting next to him at services.

    I learned from my mother that when she lit candles on Friday night, she felt a connection to Jewish people in every place in the world, since we were all lighting candles and bringing light into our lives and hearts at the same time. No wonder I love lighting candles, to this day.


    1. I love that….the connection with Jews, all over the world, when lighting candles….even though mine are battery tealights(fire fear after Mums death in house fire, plus poor memory) the kavannah is the same, at least to me. Thank you for that….another ‘something’ which will help me and make my foundation stronger.

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  5. My earliest memory of what I considered a treat was the charoseth on the passover plate. I would always sneak into the kitchen and sneak spoonfuls of it long before the seder even began.

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      1. We have always used Joan Nathan’s recipe for Persian Charoset, only minus the nuts since some of us have a nut allergy. But it seems to have a little bit of everything else! Food-wise, it’s definitely my favorite part of the seder meal.

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  6. I taught myself how to bake challah as a newlywed in Kingsville, Texas. I had never made any kind of yeast bread before, so I had to learn empirically what it meant for the dough to be “smooth and elastic” and how to tell when it had “doubled” in its rising. I started with a simple three-stranded braid, like I used to do when I was a long-haired child, then moved on to four and six strands. Sometimes they came out a little goofy or uneven-looking, but their looks doesn’t stop us from eagerly devouring them come Shabbat dinner.

    Now, I can bake my challah without reference to a recipe, and guests we’ve had for Shabbat, now dispersed all over the country thanks to military moves, still tell me how much they loved it years later. That is when I most feel like I’m channeling some kind of archetypal balebusta energy.🙂

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  7. It is so great when you can learn things outside of a classroom i think that most of life’s lessons are learned outside of the classroom🙂 I love babka i would have never been able to tell you what it is if you told me the name of it but I recognize the cake. I don’t have a traditional jewish dish that I really like but I LOVE the Israeli chocolate balls (Kadurie Chocolad) that has to be the best especially with sprinkles all over it.


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