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This High Holiday pastry connects me to the relatives I loved and the ones I lost

(JTA) – There was a small bedroom in my Zeyde’s house on State Road in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, that had no radiator. It was called “the cold room.” It was crammed with furniture: two twin beds and a couple of dressers. On Rosh Hashanah, you would find a large baking dish covered with a dish towel sitting on top of one of those dressers. Take a peek under the towel, and there it was: Fluden.

Fluden is a holiday dessert that resembles a sweet lasagna: layers of prune, orange and pineapple filling between four layers of rolled-out dough, with a crunchy, cinnamon and nutty topping. My aunts would prepare it each year, in a ritual that was just as much a part of the season as tossing stones into the Housatonic River for tashlich, or hearing my zeyde, Rabbi Jacob Axelrod, blow the shofar in his synagogue up the hill, or catching games of the World Series between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The fluden would sit on the dresser and never had to be served, because there was a knife in the dish and you could cut off a slice of the pareve delicacy whenever the spirit moved you. Over the course of the holiday it would gradually shrink, until someone would announce that it was all gone. Fertig.

Never did I see this dish in any bakery, or in anyone else’s home. And yet it was integral to our holiday experience, even more than the teyglach we would sometimes buy from Michelle’s bakery near our home in Plainview, Long Island: little hard balls of cookie dough piled into a pyramid the size of a hat, drenched with honey and nuts and maraschino cherries. This was fun and messy to pick apart. But for flavor and comfort, nothing could beat fluden.

Though my aunts were the bakers, it was my mother, Peggy — their sister-in-law — who preserved the recipe for posterity in written form. Mom later described how she watched and took notes as her mother-in-law, Beile, step by step mixed and rolled the dough, chopped and pulverized the filling and assembled the layers one by one. There were no accurate measures: as my mother recalled, Beile just took pinches of this or that, cups of this or that. The result would be this holiday delicacy that everyone craved.

However, there was a downside to fluden, and it was the reason why it would take a few days for it to disappear. There was a general understanding that you didn’t want to eat too much of it at once. All I need to say here is: prunes.

Just up the street from the house was my zeyde’s synagogue, Ahavath Sholom, where about 100 worshippers could gather. He had been hired as rabbi in 1927, two years after he emigrated from Poland. On the shul’s hard wooden pews were long cushions covered in faded red fabric. There was no mechitzah separating men from women — family legend has it that Beile had ripped it down, since no one had felt responsible to keep it clean and tidy.

I don’t have many memories of my baba, Beile, but certainly she was a great baker. I distinctly recall the oohs and ahhs as her huckleberry pies or little challah rolls were brought to the table, held seemingly way above me and handed around. Baba died before I turned five, of complications from diabetes.

I remember my zeyde only without her. On the holiday, he would lead the service from a small lectern, occasionally slamming his hand down to stop the chattering in the background. The windows in the small sanctuary were always kept shut, as zeyde would refuse to continue the service if he sensed a breeze.

The author poses with pieces of her latest batch of fluden and a photograph of her grandmother, Beile Lichtenstein Axelrod. (Courtesy of Toby Axelrod)

In order to get some air, you would have to “take a break” and walk down the hill past zeyde’s little kosher store. From there you might pass his garden, pass clothesline and the shed that doubled as a sukkah, enter the house via the kitchen, slip through the dining room and into the living room, then make a hard left between the couch and the bookshelf holding zeyde’s “Vilna Shas” Talmud, into the cold room for a bite of fluden.

In 1966, my aunt Edith shared the recipe in the “Mother’s Way Cookbook,” published by the Hebrew Ladies Aid Society of Ahavath Sholom Synagogue and the Hadassah Chapter of Great Barrington. It’s on page 36, between Helen Natelson’s “Speedy Sponge Cake” and Blanche Bradford’s “Spice Cake.” As with other aspects of transplanted European Jewish culture, like the Yiddish language itself, Americanisms crept into the list of ingredients. I am sure there were no cornflakes in my ancestors’ shtetl, Luboml, and no canned pineapple, either.

Many years later, my mother excitedly reported that she had found a recipe for fluden in “The World of Jewish Cooking,” by Gil Marks. Up to then, no Jewish cookbook had completely satisfied her, since she had never found fluden in the index.

But there it was, on page 339: Fluden, Ashkenazic layered pastry. According to Marks, the dish could have various fillings, and was sometimes even made with cheese. The first recorded reference dates back to around the year 1000 C.E., when Rabbi Gershom ben Yehudah of Mainz, Germany, describes an argument between two rabbis about whether one could “eat bread with meat even if it was baked in an oven with a cheese dish called fluden.”

The layers, Marks writes, “were symbolic of both the double portion of manna collected for the Sabbath and the lower and upper layers of dew that protected the manna.” Fruit and nut fillings were most common on Sabbath, he adds. Today, a similar, layered fruit pastry called apfelschalet is served by Jews from the Alsace region. In Hungary, there is a layered desert called flodni, and in parts of Eastern Europe there is a layered strudel called gebleterter kugel.

Fluden is much more than a holiday dessert for me. It is a symbol of generational continuity despite the Holocaust, which ripped a hole in our family history. It connects me to the women who were the carriers of tradition – the doers and the recorders. And, in its glistening, fragrant glory, it is also a key to the door of memory, which opens with a creak of rusty springs and reveals the scene unfolding.

The kitchen, the rolled-up sleeves, the aprons, the rolling pin, the gossip. Zeyde in his slippers and robe shuffling through. The two ovens, both working overtime. Children under foot. The light switch cord hanging down over the table, with its bobbin-like pull. Next to the sink, the window with its filmy curtains, looking out across the yard and vegetable garden, toward the shul.

For us, the dish was a once-a-year treat. I have prepared my baba’s recipe several times, and will try my hand at it again this year, with quite a bit less sugar than suggested. (I inherited the diabetes, too.) My kitchen is just a couple of miles away from where my zeyde and baba’s house once stood. On that spot, there is now a sporting goods shop that my sister likes to call “Zeyde’s Bike and Board.” The older generation is nearly all gone, buried in the Ahavath Sholom cemetery on Blue Hill Road. We have inherited many traditions, keeping some, eschewing others. But in my family, where there is fluden, there will always be followers, ready to cut a slice — a small slice! — for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The author’s aunt’s fluden recipe, from “Mother’s Way Cookbook.” (Courtesy of Toby Axelrod)

Mrs. Axelrod’s Fluden
Edith Axelrod Reder
Pittsfield, Mass. 

Beat together until light and fluffy:

3 eggs
1 c. sugar
Pinch of salt


¾ c. oil
3-4 c. flour sifted with
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
Pineapple jJuice (from filling)


Grind together
2 lbs. sour prunes
1 orange
1 lemon, add:
# 2 can drained, crushed pineapple
Jam and sugar to taste
Cinnamon and sugar
Chopped nuts
Crushed cornflakes

Mix the dough and knead into 4 balls. Roll out each ball to fit a 8 x 12 x 2 inch pan. Start with a layer of dough, one of fruit filling, spread a little oil on the fruit. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, cornflake crumbs, chopped nuts. Repeat the layers until the balls of dough are used. Cut the dough into squares before baking. Oven set at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. 

From “Mother’s Way Cookbook” (Hebrew Ladies Aid Society of Ahavath Sholom Synagogue and the Hadassah Chapter of Great Barrington)

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Treasure Trove: A 1905 postcard from Basel recalls the many Zionist groups and supporters in Toronto

“Greetings from the Seventh Zionist Congress to our friends in Toronto” reads the top message on this postcard sent from the 1905 Congress in Basel, the first held after the death of Theodor Herzl. The image was painted by Carl Josef Pollack and depicts Herzl standing among his fellow Jews awaiting entrance to the Land of […]

The post Treasure Trove: A 1905 postcard from Basel recalls the many Zionist groups and supporters in Toronto appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘Arteries of Capitalism’: Anti-Zionist Groups Planning Major ‘Blockade’ of Ports Around the World

Pro-Hamas demonstrators marching in Munich, Germany. Photo: Reuters/Alexander Pohl

Far-left anti-Israel activists are launching a mass demonstration to block the “arteries of capitalism” on Monday by staging a blockade of commercial shipping ports across the world in protest of Western support for the Jewish state.

“We will identify and blockade major choke points in the economy, focusing on points of production and circulation with the aim of causing the most economic impact,” A15, the group planning the action, announced in a statement. “There is a sense in the streets in this recent and unprecedented movement for Palestine that escalation has become necessary: there is a need to shift from symbolic actions to those that cause pain to the economy.”

A15 is calling on members in cities such as New York, Dublin, Sydney, Ho Chi Minh, Genoa, London, and others to participate in the act, which could endanger billions of dollars in shipping. The group is also sharing information about police arrest, bail, and other legal information, possibly suggesting that its members are prepared to behave unlawfully.

“As Yemen is bombed to secure global trade and billions of dollars are sent to the Zionist war machine, we must recognize that the global economy is complicit in genocide and together we will coordinate to disrupt and blockage economic logistical hubs and the flow of capital,” the group continued.

Another anti-Zionist group, which goes by “Within Our Lifetime,” has vowed to join the demonstration and will participate by amassing on Wall Street in an attempt to bring trading on the New York Stock Exchange to a halt. Nerdeen Kiswani, a former City University of New York student who once threatened to set a person’s sweater on fire while he was wearing it, will lead the effort.

Police in Victoria, Australia are on high alert, according to a report this weel by The Sydney Morning Herald. On Monday, the city will activate its State Police Operations Center, an action which is reserved for emergencies and will require diverting resources from other cities in the state. One likely target of the group, the Port of Melbourne, processes over 8,000 containers per day and adds $11 billion to national gross domestic product (GDP).

Anti-Zionist protesters have protested at the Port of Melbourne before. In January, they attempted to prevent the docking container ship at Webb Dock because its owner, ZIM shipping firm, is an Israeli company.

The New York City area has been the site of similar demonstrations. In 2021, a group called “Block the Boat” protested the unloading of a container ship owned by ZIM at the Port of New York/New Jersey, two days after another Israeli ship was reportedly blocked from unloading in Oakland.

Since the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, attempted disruptions of shipping have occurred in many major American cities. Most recently, a group amassed at San Francisco’s Piers 30/32 to condemn the leaving of USNS Harvey Milk, believing that it was en route to the Middle East.

US Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addressed the protesters, according to a local CBS affiliate, telling them that President Joe Biden agrees with their message.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Biden Pressure on Israel Partly Due to Concerns Over 2024 Election, Says Israeli Lawmaker, Former UN Ambassador

US President Joe Biden, left, pauses during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: Miriam Alster/Pool via REUTERS

Israeli politician and former Ambassador Danny Danon attributed US President Joe Biden’s increasingly critical posture toward Israel’s war on the Hamas terrorist group to domestic political concerns and the upcoming presidential election in a wide-ranging interview with The Algemeiner.

Danon, a current member of the Israeli parliament for the Likud party and former ambassador to the United Nations, spoke with The Algemeiner to discuss the ongoing war against the Hamas , potential escalation in northern Israel with the Hezbollah terrorist organization, and the evolving politics of the US-Israel relationship.

Asked about Biden’s pressure on Israel not to enter Rafah — the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza — and to agree to a ceasefire, Danon said, “You know, a ceasefire without us bringing the hostages back and defeating Hamas, it means that Israel will lose this war.”

“I don’t think that President Biden and other allies of Israel are actually supporting the stand of Israel losing the war,” he continued, arguing that “they have other interests in moving forward because of the election in the US and international pressure, but we have a different timeline.”

When asked to clarify if he believed the upcoming presidential election in the US was fueling Biden’s current policy toward Israel — especially in the form of public and private pressure — Danon reiterated that he believes “it’s a combination of the election and also international pressure.”

In several US states, activists have been campaigning for voters not to support Biden in the Democratic primary due to his overall support for Israel. In Michigan, for example, a key battleground state and home to America’s largest Arab population, a campaign to vote “uncommitted” during the state’s primary rather than for Biden gained significant support. Some prominent observers have suggested that the Biden administration’s changing position on Israel and the war in Gaza may be influenced by domestic political fears of losing electoral support from anti-Israel voters.

Meanwhile, amid escalating tensions on Israel’s northern front with Hezbollah, which wields significant political and military influence across Lebanon, Danon made it clear that Israel would remove the threat of Hezbollah on its border one way or another.

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, “tens of thousands of Israelis have been evacuated from the northern communities” due to the rockets launched by Hezbollah on a nearly daily basis, he explained. In total, more than 2,000 rockets, along with many more anti-tank guided missiles and drones, have been launched into Israeli territory since the war began.

“They … have to be able to go back to their homes. In order for them to go back, we … have to push Hezbollah away from the border,” he said. “So that’s the end game.”

How that may happen in practice remains uncertain: “One option is to have negotiations and to prevent the conflict,” he said. “And the second option is to have a limited conflict. And the third option is to have a full war with Hezbollah.”

Regardless, he added, in the end Hezbollah “will not be on the fence and they will not threaten our communities.”

The interview took place prior to last week’s airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus, Syria last week that Iranian officials have attributed to Israel.

the Israeli strike in Syria that killed two commanders in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — putting Israel on high alert for the prospect of a direct Iranian attack on Israeli territory. The strike killed seven members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a US-designated terrorist organization, including two senior commanders.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the incident. However, Israel has been bracing for a retaliatory strike amid a flurry of public threats from Iran to attack Israel.

Another important issue that has captured the attention of the citizens of Israel and the entire Jewish world is the continued captivity of more than 130 people in Gaza who Hamas terrorists kidnapped during their Oct. 7 rampage. Liberated captives testified to surviving sexual assault, torture, and starvation.

“When you deal with the [sic] irrational enemy like Hamas, it’s very challenging [to negotiate a deal],” Danon said. “I think we should apply more force, more military force, and that will encourage Hamas to negotiate another agreement that will release more hostages.”

Some of the more than 250 hostages seized on Oct. 7 were released as part of a temporary Israel-Hamas truce in November.

Pushed on why there has not been another agreement since then, he explained, “The challenges that we are facing are not easy. Both the one that requires the defeat of Hamas, you know, we pay a very heavy toll every day, more and more soldiers are paying the price of their lives in order to achieve this goal.”

“And also the hostages,” he added. “It’s very hard for them, the conditions are unbearable, and we are aware of the ongoing atrocities. So it is hard, but I think it’s a challenge for us to be determined. And I think at the end of the day, despite the difficulty, we are determined to win this war, and we will win this war.”

Some Israelis have criticized the government for prioritizing military victory and politics over the return of the hostages. One family member of a hostage said at a rally recently that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “concern for coalition stability outweighs his clear duty to bring our loved ones home … We were told to sit still, we were told to travel the world, but after six months, the hostages are still in Gaza! This is a complete and deliberate failure!”

Nevertheless, Danon is singularly focused on winning the war against Hamas and bringing home the hostages. 

“I think the enemy underestimated the strength of the people of Israel, and they will realize that we are a strong nation and that’s why we will defeat them,” Danon concluded, underscoring the way in which this war has, in many ways, brought Israelis together in an unprecedented way.

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