Omri Casspi was the first Israeli to play in the NBA, the world’s best basketball league, and this season he is proving that he belongs there, winning acclaim for his performance on the court as the Houston Rockets forward.
As a high-profile Israel in the United States he has also won a great honor: Casspi will soon replace his Rockets jersey with a festive suit and travel from Texas to Washington after being invited to the White House to meet President Barack Obama and light Hanukkah candles, as part of the White House’s traditional-symbolic menorah lighting ceremony which will be held next Thursday.
Like a good Jewish son, Casspi will bring along his mother, Ilana, who had already scheduled a trip to the US to visit her boy. Now she will also get to meet America’s No. 1 citizen.
Casspi told US media after receiving the prestigious invitation, “I’m so excited. A dream come true to be invited to the White House. I always thought it would be as part of a championship-winning team, but this is great.
“I will represent Israel and the Jewish community,” he added.
Casspi, 25, fulfilled every basketball player’s dream when he was drafted for the NBA by the Sacramento Kings in 2009. He played there for two seasons, and in 2011 he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for two seasons.
In July 2013, he signed with the Houston Rockets as a free agent, and has so far demonstrated great abilities in the team’s uniforms. Yet Casspi is no longer the only Israeli in the NBA, after being joined this season by Gal Mekel of the Dallas Mavericks.
Chanukah is probably one of the most well-known Jewish holidays among non-Jews, mostly because it typically falls around Christmas time, and shares some parallels with Christmas (gift-giving, lots of eating, family time). This year, however, the first day of Chanukah - November 28 – will fall on American Thanksgiving, and according to LiveScience, it won’t happen again for about 70,000 years (For an explanation of how the Jewish calendar works, click here).
As with many (read: most) Jewish holidays, food is used to symbolize many aspects of the story of Chanukah. And, as in most Jewish stories, the mantra is ‘They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat’; Chanukah is no different!
About 2000 years ago, The Greek King Antiochus, who reigned over Jerusalem at the time, outlawed Jewish religious rites and traditions kept by observant Jews; he ordered the worship of Zeus as the supreme god. The Jews, for obvious reasons, were not willing to give up their religion, and when they refused, Antiochus sent an army to enforce his decree. A group of resisters, led by Judah and called the Maccabees, fought against the Greek army, and although the city was destroyed, and many were slaughtered, the smaller, Jewish army won. During the war, the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (what is left of this temple is known as the Western Wall). When the Jews returned to piece the temple back together, they found a tiny jug of oil to light the temple’s candelabra, and instead of the oil lasting for 1 day, as expected, it lasted for 8 days. For a really adorable explanation of the story of Chanukah (and to see why a Jewish education is worth every penny!), check out this cute video from the students at Bialik Hebrew Day School.
To commemorate the miracle of the oil, Jews eat foods that are fried in oil, including latkes and suvganiot (jelly donuts). There is also a tradition of eating foods with cheese in them (click here to read why), but all this lovely stuff can take a toll on your waistline.
While latkes are traditionally made with shredded potatoes, you can really use just about anything you want! Below, I’ve gone for a more nutritious take on the latke by using spinach and feta cheese in place of the potatoes, and rather than deep frying them, I’ve used a small amount of oil in a frying pan (you could spray your pan and avoid the oil altogether, but it is Chanukah, after all!). I had ambitious plans to try a celery root latke recipe, but after taking one look at the vegetable while standing in the aisle of the grocery store, I decided my time would be better spent writing this post!
For the full recipe, check out our friend Chutzpah in the Kitchen!
There are a lot of good reasons to visit Tel Aviv at this time of year beyond the extraordinarily balmy weather – 33 degrees in the shade! Don’t forget your bathing suit. One of the best right now is that this Friday, starting at noon, the city will be holding a giant street party for Hanukkah, marking the Jews’ victory over the Hasmoneans in 167 BCE with a mass rave.
The event will include dozens of DJs offering a vast range of musical styles, appearing on five stages strategically placed along Ben Gurion Boulevard, near Ben Yehuda Street, which is very near the sea, and in the Kikar Atarim square on the seafront.
The “mainstream” stage, everything being relative, will feature the DJs Itay Galo, Nir Gildman, Nadav Spielman and Dalit Rochester.
The “Israeli” stage will be broadcasting only to earphones, which will be available for free – but you have to leave an identity card for deposit. No return earphones? No get card back. That stage will feature Eyal Katz, Dor Falk and Lior Brosh.
Then there’s the hip-hop stage starring Spikes, Blackout, Braindead and Smiley. And forget not the electronic stage, starring Red Axes, Stephan Bazbaz, Amir Egozi and Uriah Klapter.
The last but definitely not least is the gay stage, for the LGBT community and everybody else. This is along the lines of a weekly Tel Aviv gay party event called, of all things, “Dreck”.
In between dancing the day away you may want to check out other attractions. Kikar Atarim, famously one of the great architectural white elephants of Tel Aviv, will also feature graffiti painting on a designated wall. Maybe that can bring new life to the square. And during the course of the rave, the third candle for Hanukkah will be lit and warm sufganiyot will be sold, in case the raving brings you that craving for sugar.
For you non-Jews (or you Jews that can’t read Hebrew) the tattoo says, “Shekhinah” — which essentially translates to mean God’s presence on Earth.
… at least, that’s what we think it means (sorry, it’s Friday so our rabbis aren’t picking up their phones).
Head — who’s a well known follower of the Christian faith — posted the pic online today … and apologized to his parents for getting such an extreme tattoo.
A source of inspiration to architects ranging from Stanley Saitowitz (the award-winning Beth Sholom Synagogue in San Francisco) to its namesake in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, Beth Sholom Congregation, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, these structures are among the most beautiful and inspiring in the world.
The slideshow highlights the contrast in styles — and sizes — between the various synagogues across the globe. From a quaint, modern art-lined Soho interior, to the gothic lines of the Szeged Synagogue in Szeged, Hungary, Jewish temples abide by no steadfast principles–accept where beguiling aesthetics are concerned.
American singer, dancer and choreographer Paula Abdul begins her first visit to Israel on Monday, during which she will celebrate her bat mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. So what if she is already 51 years old?
Abdul, whose parents are both Jewish, got on a plane from Los Angeles to Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday night. She is arriving as a guest of the Tourism Ministry and, in addition to the Western Wall coming of age ceremony, will fulfill another dream during her visit: A meeting with President Shimon Peres.
She is also expected to meet with Tourism Ministry Uzi Landau.
Abdul has said previously that she always felt proud being Jewish. She was raised in a Reform community and strengthened her faith following a meeting with Rabbi Chaim Mentz, who established the Chabad center of Bel Air in Los Angeles.
Abdul declared her desire to hold a bar mitzvah ceremony in Jerusalem on the “American Idol” reality-singing competition, where she served as a judge before moving to “The X Factor.”
About a year ago, during a Chabad fundraiser in Toronto, she even stated: “I am a Chabadnik!”