Passover Fun Facts

by on April 12, 2014


Are you hungry for facts and stories about Passover? Here is some interesting information you might enjoy and ponder.

The Burning Bush
We learn in the Passover story that Moses experiences a holy moment with God when he notices a burning bush in the desert. Many historians and scientists indicate that in ancient times, desert brush would catch on fire, spontaneously, quite regularly. This miracle of the burning bush was most likely not that fact that it was burning, but that it was burning without being consumed. This strikes me as a good lesson about the power of observation – sometimes things that seem quite ordinary, are in fact, anything but, and offer us extraordinary opportunities for holiness, and in Moses’ case, finding our destiny.

The Crossing of the Red/Reed Sea
The ancient Israelites rush out of Egypt as fast as they can and come upon a body of water (referred to as either the Red or Reed Sea, depending on who you ask, a discussion for another post) that is too deep to cross. The people are afraid to enter the water, and the Egyptian army is right behind so there is no time to waste. Moses raises his staff and the water parts so that the Israelites can get across. While it is of course an impressive miracle to make a body of water stop moving, and split apart (though some scientists say this could have been something related to the tides of the water), the part of this story that has always seemed even MORE impressive to me, is that the text tells us that the water parted, but also that the land underneath was dry. Whoa. I really don’t think there is a scientific explanation for that. The challenging part of this part of the story is that the second the Israelites get across safely, the waters close back up, and the Egyptian army is swept away and drowns. This is a bittersweet aspect of the Passover story – to be so grateful for our freedom and our lives, and to know that others died as a part of our struggle for freedom. Many families remove a drop of wine/grape juice during the Seder as the 10 plagues are recited to remove just a bit of our joy and abundance as we remember the lives that were lost as a result of the plagues, and our escape from slavery. There is a beautiful story about a courageous man named Nachman Ben Aminadav, stepping into the waters before they parted, because his faith was so strong.

The Four Questions
For a holiday with a tremendous amount of elaborate and unusual rituals and traditions, and a story that is long and pretty complex, it seems like we would have a lot more than only 4 questions. And, if you’ve been attending 1 or 2 Seders a year for many years, you may have grown a bit bored of these questions. So, I offer you this Fifth Question to enhance your Seder this year if you wish. In Hebrew, the word for Egypt is Mitzrayim. This word comes from the word m’tzarim, which means narrowness or narrow straits, or even tightness or distress. For the ancient Israelites, Egypt was certainly a place of great tzar – narrowness and distress.

So the fifth question is this, Where in your life, or your family’s life, do you feel this sense of Mitzrayim?  Where do you experience narrowness and, what would it take for you to cross onto dry land in freedom?

Happy Pesach!

Enjoy some delicious Passover recipes here.

Happy Trails: Hiking in the Bay Area

by on April 9, 2014


by Rhonda Press
Guest Author, Rhonda Press, is an Adult Program Coordinator at the PJCC and an avid Hiker.

I happen to love hiking.  Being out in nature restores my soul.  Living in San Mateo County, we are lucky to have many miles of hiking trails.  There are hikes that are more like city hikes and others that will take you deep into the redwood forests.  I’ll share 3 of my favorite hikes plus one that is brand new.

Edgewood County Park and Natural Preserve is located in Redwood City and is right off Edgewood Road between Alameda and Highway 280.  There is a formal park entrance with a parking lot but you can also park just immediately west of the 280 overpass at Edgewood Road and begin your hike from there. Once inside the park you can look at the trail maps at the kiosk and decide on your hike.  I love this park because it has a combination of shaded forest trails and open trails in the meadow.  I like the Franciscan Trail that turns into the Ridgeview Loop to the Serpentine Loop Trail.  This whole loop is about 2.5 miles.  Along the Franciscan Loop Trail, you’ll find a bench that overlooks the meadow.  In the spring time, expect to see a wide array of wildflowers.  Bring your binoculars to check out the stunning Western Blue Bird.  For their free docent led wildflower and bird walks, go to for details.

Another special hike that I enjoy is at the Cowell Ranch Beach in Half Moon Bay.  Take Highway 92 to Highway 1.  Turn south on Highway 1 and in 3.2 miles, you’ll see the parking lot for the beach on the right.  Hike in about .3 miles and you will come to a long staircase that takes you down to a lovely beach.  Often times, we are the only people there when we go.  Maybe it’s the long staircase!  When you come up the stairs, be sure to walk to the south end of the bluff and look for the many seals sleeping on the rocks. On the weekends, you can also take the hike from the bluff  through privately owned farm land.  It is about 3 miles long to reach the end and then you’d need to hike back 3 miles but well worth it!

Recently, I rediscovered Huddart Park. It is located at 1100 Kings Mountain Road in Woodside. You do have to pay $6 to enter this park but you have many hikes to choose from and picnicking areas too. I took the Crystal Springs Trail to the Dean Trail and hiked this 5 mile loop.  There is definitely some uphill climb but it was a very pleasant hike filled with redwoods, firs, oaks, madrones, and laurel trees.  The trees provide nice shade on hot days.

Finally, on March 28, 2014 the brand new Devil’s Slide Trail opened using the abandoned part of Highway 1.  This trail was created since the opening of the Tom Lantos Tunnels at Devil’s Slide.  The trail boasts spectacular views of the ocean.  It is 1.3 miles long and is a multi-use trail for hikers, cyclists, and equestrians.  There is limited parking at the northern and southern end of the trail on Highway 1.  The trail has numerous benches, 3 lookout points and 10 interpretive panels placed at key points along the trail to provide visitors with information.  What a great place to take out of town visitors!

Happy trails!  Hope you enjoy these hikes!

Interested in more hikes? The PJCC offers a special hiking series called “Outside These Walls” where you can benefit from the expertise of Deborah Newbrun, Bay Area Regional Director of Hazon and a noted Jewish environmental educator for nature hikes at local parks. — Spring 2014

Fitness Tip: Bosu Squats

by on April 7, 2014

Utilizing a BOSU helps to engage a number of muscles that might get overlooked in a normal workout. Standing on the BOSU requires balance which works your core. Add in the squats to work your upper legs while giving your core a good workout.

This fitness tip is presented by PJCC Personal Trainer Cynthia Newman.

Video by Teddi Kalb

Adding An Extra Pinch Of Health To The Passover Seder

by on April 3, 2014


Like the 10 commandments, the passover seder menu can seem like it’s written in stone. Passed down through generations and laden with family tradition, it feels almost sacrilegious to deviate from what our grandparents served their guests. But it’s that very menu, with all the starch, fats and sugar coated desserts (most often eaten for two nights in a row) which can make you feel as if you actually at the stone tablets of the commandments for dinner.

Don’t let the tradition of the seder weigh on you. This year start your own traditions with a lighter and healthier version of two seder classics–Matzo Ball Soup and Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake.

Serves 10

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Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake

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This amazing dark chocolate cake has ground almonds in the batter and toasted almonds sprinkled on top, making rich in plant-based Omegas.


3 Tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder – 65% or higher
½ cup raw almonds
2 Tablespoons sugar
¾ cup date or maple crystal sugar (or regular sugar)
3 oz. dark chocolate, – 65:% or higher – coarsely chopped
½ cup Greek Yogurt
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
5 egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon toasted slivered almonds (optional)

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by on April 1, 2014


“Ahh choo, bless you, ahh choo, gesundheit “ are the expressions one hears this time of year from allergy sufferers and their companions.   People who have migrated to California from other parts of the country are surprised to experience allergy symptoms they never had previously.  Allergy victims march into doctor offices and pharmacies every spring because of the combination of the long growing season here, habitat for many species of plants in California, and windy days. The “bless- yous” and “gesundheits” exclaimed by empathetic bystanders are exclamations based on an ancient superstition to forestall evil spirits from entering the body after one sneezes, but now it seems impolite not to offer consolation.   Sneezing usually heralds the onset of a cold, but can also be triggered by exposure to sunlight or strong odors.  This time of year, sneezing portends hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis. You may be one of the estimated 20% of Americans who have this condition and if so, keep reading.

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Mindfulness–What Is It & Why Do I Care?

by on March 24, 2014


Ok, now it’s on the cover of Time Magazine. Mindfulness meditation, that is. Mindfulness is everywhere! Newspapers and magazines carry stories on the benefits of mindfulness; medical journals report on the latest research about mindfulness; businesses have mindfulness programs to help combat stress and to increase creativity and productivity; schools have begun to introduce mindfulness meditation to students and mindfulness is even taught is preschools; there are classes in mindful parenting; even commercials refer to mindfulness.

What’s this all about? Why has mindfulness suddenly become a cultural icon?

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Amazing Things Happen When We Work Together

by on March 21, 2014

October 2013 was intense around here.  Well, at least for me; and certainly for our Artist-in-Residence, Jay Wolf Schlossberg-Cohen.

The Center was filled with excitement, anticipation and inspiration for me and the hundreds of you who participated in one of our 28 mural painting sessions.

Our community, under Jay’s guidance,  took 1,560 square feet and 8 planter tops of blankness and transformed them into a work of art. A work of art that communicates social justice themes such as Environmental Stewardship, Human Rights & Dignity, Economic Justice, and Food Justice.

Do you remember eating lunch outside by the J café and seeing the steady progression over 15 packed days?  Or perhaps coming back after an absence to notice the work fully realized?  I remember October, but this documentary by Chip Curry brought back vivid details by capturing the communal spirit and offering candid testimonials.  I’m delighted to share it with you.

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Asparagus Season!

by on March 18, 2014


Asparagus has always been a delicacy to me. When I was young, my older sister found a large patch of asparagus growing wild in a wooded area behind the neighborhood grade school. Each spring she would forage her way through the pointy stalks, bringing home with her handfuls of this wonderful vegetable for us all to enjoy. For me, asparagus was a taste sensation that came only once a year and I savored each bite because I knew I what I was eating was special.

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Mastering The Perfect Shot With Joe Ellis

by on March 13, 2014


It’s that time of year again!  March Madness is sweeping the country, which means rivalries are heating up and fans are reaching new decibel levels.  To celebrate this charged period of competition, why not lace up your sneakers and hit the court yourself?

We spoke to former NBA Golden State Warrior, Joe Ellis, who gave us some tips to mastering that perfect shot:

  1. First up, make sure you have the proper shooting stance.  Have your feet evenly placed about shoulders width apart with your knees slightly bent.
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