(New York Jewish Week) — Chanie Apfelbaum’s newest cookbook, “Totally Kosher,” is filled with many inventive, flavor-packed recipes, like “Miso Matzo Ball Soup,” “Berbere Brisket” and “Pad Chai,” a shrimp-free version of the Thai staple.
But while the book is designed for kosher-keeping observant Jews like herself, Apfelbaum — who boasts 101,000 followers on Instagram and runs the popular Jewish lifestyle blog “Busy in Brooklyn” — had a larger audience in mind. Her first book, “Millennial Kosher,” published in 2018, is now in its sixth printing and is available in just about every Judaica store across the country. With her second effort, however, “I wanted to reach a larger demographic,” Apfelbaum, 42, told the New York Jewish Week. “I wanted to reach people that don’t necessarily know what kosher is.”
That’s how Apfelbaum ended up publishing “Totally Kosher” with Clarkson Potter, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group and publisher of cookbooks by culinary megastars like Ina Garten and Alison Roman. When Raquel Pelzel, the editorial director of cookbooks at Clarkson Potter approached Apfelbaum in 2019 about writing a cookbook — pitched as a “celebration of kosher,” as Apfelbaum recalls it — she immediately said yes.
“I was so excited,” Apfelbaum said.
“We hadn’t published a kosher cookbook in a really long time and, with Instagram and social media, there is obviously a massive kosher community,” Pelzel told the New York Jewish Week. “To not publish a kosher cookbook seemed like a huge omission and a hole on our list.”
“When I scout for authors, I look for someone whose recipes look delicious, original and creative and who has a really strong voice and is clear who their audience is,” Pelzel added. “Chanie certainly has all that.”
Apfelbaum’s decision to go with a mainstream publisher mean the book would appear in “regular” bookstores — and not just Judaica stores — but the change meant some new challenges. One hurdle was the publisher’s decision to feature a large, color photo of Apfelbaum on the book’s rear cover — a decision that could be considered controversial in the haredi Orthodox world where many publishers refrain from showing photos of women in the interest of sexual “modesty.” (Apfelbaum’s photo does not appear anywhere in “Millennial Kosher,” published by Artscroll/Shaar Press, which serves the haredi market. A spokesperson for ArtScroll said that, to date, they have not featured any photographs of women in their cookbooks, but “we are not against putting pictures of women in our books.”)
“If my photo is on the back of the book, maybe the Judaica stores really won’t take it,” Apfelbaum recalled thinking when she was sent a mockup of the cover. “I called friends in the publishing industry. I called Judaica shops and asked if my photo is on the back cover, are you going to carry the book?” The answers, Apfelbaum said, were mixed.
And yet, she didn’t back down or ask for a change in the cover. “I was like — you know what? I’m doing this for my daughters, I’m doing this for the women out there,” she said. “There is nothing wrong with having a photo of a Jewish woman on the back of the book. I’m just doing it, and I stand behind it.”
Fortunately, validation came quickly. “When I walk down the street in my neighborhood [of Crown Heights], I pass Hamafitz Judaica and they have two books in the window — one of the front cover of my book, depicting my Pad Chai, and one of the back.”
Apfelbaum’s mother, Devorah Halberstam, a prominent member of Crown Heights’ Chabad community, couldn’t be prouder. Her first-born son, Ari Halberstam, was killed in 1994 when a Lebanese-born man shot at a van filled with Chabad Lubavitch students, killing Ari and wounding three others. In the aftermath, Halberstam fought tirelessly to have his murder formally classified as a terrorist attack, which eventually happened in 2005. She was also a founder of the Jewish Children’s Museum, which was dedicated to the memory of her son.
Of all people, Halberstam understands the power of a photo. “At Ari’s yahrtzeit [anniversary of his death], I tweet things out,” she told the New York Jewish Week, noting that her son died 29 years ago. “I got 85,000 responses because I put his picture up there. Pictures make you stop. They make you pause.”
Photos, she added, “personalize everything. A story is not a story without pictures. It makes it real. It comes to life.”
Apfelbaum agrees, feeling that her decision to include photos of herself, her boys in their tzitzit (ritual prayer fringes) and her children around a table, is “a huge step in the Orthodox world.”
“I’m doing this because I think this is something that has to change,” she said. “Jewish women should be celebrated just like men.”
As a child, Apfelbaum said, she was a rule-follower who was drawn to the creative world. “I got very into artistic projects for school,” she said. “I loved drawing and craftsy, artsy things.”
Apfelbaum’s culinary journey began in 2002 when she was 22 and newly married. Apfelbaum’s mother had been the chef in the Halberstam home, and Apfelbaum was raised on what she calls “brown food” — matzah ball soup, gefilte fish, potato kugel. She came to her marriage skilled as a web designer but not knowing how to boil an egg. Her Syrian/Argentian/Jewish mother-in-law introduced her to ingredients like rosewater and dishes like empanadas, piquing Apfelbaum’s interest.
“When I started cooking, I was always very artistic and looking for ways to put color in my food and plate it nicely,” said Apfelbaum. “I would make my mom’s recipes. But when I started hosting friends and putting out a spread, with menus and plated meals, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is beautiful. Such a beautiful way to express my artistic side.’”
When Apfelbaum left her web design job after the birth of her third child in 2010, she poured her creative juices into her nascent cooking and photography skills, and her family encouraged her to start her own blog. In 2011, she launched “Busy in Brooklyn” — at the time she was raising three children under 5, running a home and teaching Hebrew while taking knitting and crochet classes.
Her first post, in January of that year, was for sauteed chicken cutlets topped with canned dark sweet cherries. Later that year, she gave her first cooking class for the teachers at her children’s school.
In 2013, she enrolled in a program at the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts (now closed). “I started to seek out different cultural dishes and put my kosher Jewish spin on it,” she said. She also took a photography class.
The following year, her recipe for “Drunken Hasselback Salami” — a whole salami sliced, coated in a sauce of jam, brandy and mustard, then baked until crispy — went viral. Later that year, she was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for her creative spins on the traditional Ashkenazi Hanukkah treat, latkes. In 2015, she made the first of many out-of-town food demonstrations, traveling to Montreal to prepare harissa chicken sliders with preserved lemon carrot slaw and a marble halvah mousse.
These recipes, among others, made it into “Millennial Kosher.” And although Apfelbaum swore that she would never write another cookbook because of all the work involved, that call in 2019 from Clarkson Potter made her rethink her decision. Apfelbaum’s global recipes — such as “Nachos Bassar,” nachos with hummus, Israeli salad and pickles — and how she “bounces off of trends that are happening in social media, in restaurants,” as Pelzel describes her, are what drew the mainstream publisher to Apfelbaum
“From the first time I met Chanie, I understood why she was the obvious choice to make kosher cool,” Apfelbaum’s mentor and fellow cookbook author Adeena Sussman told the New York Jewish Week via text. “She’s wildly passionate about her food and her Judaism, and makes no apologies for either.”
“Add to that her natural warmth, sense of humor and willingness to share the ups and downs of life with her followers, and you’ve truly got a recipe for success,” Sussman added.
And there have been plenty of ups and downs: After signing her book contract in 2019, Apfelbaum became a single mom due to divorce. She was also hospitalized with COVID-19 (as was one of her kids) and lost her sense of smell and taste, at a time when nobody knew that this was a side effect of the virus.
Fortunately, Apfelbaum has since regained her sense of taste and smell, and she remains very busy in Brooklyn — and elsewhere. In July, she is leading a food tour in Italy where her group will make gelato, hunt for truffles and taste olive oil. She hopes to continue culinary travel in the future. She has just come out with a line of her own spices called TK (as in “Totally Kosher”) Spices; her first two products are the Yemenite spice mix, hawaijj — one for savory foods and one for coffee, which has a sweet profile. With “Totally Kosher” now in its third printing, she is looking to (finally) hire an assistant and find work space outside of her home.
“There were many times I said I don’t have the emotional bandwidth and strength to do this book — I wanted to give up,” Apfelbaum said. “My friends believed in me and pushed me and made it happen. When I look at this book, I see so much more than recipes. It was really a journey for me.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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