Tag Archives: PJCC

Judaica Finds Life By Remembering The Past

by on April 14, 2015

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This spring the PJCC Art Gallery is proud to present an exhibition highlighting the multifaceted projects of Mi Polin, (Hebrew for “From Poland”). Mi Polin, founded by the couple Helena Czernek and Aleksander Prugar, is the first post-war brand that designs and produces Judaica in Poland. Mi Polin’s mission is two-fold: to create a new contemporary look of Jewish ritual objects, and to prove that Jewish life in Poland is vibrant. They embrace the future by giving great reverence to the past.

The PJCC reached out via email with a few questions for Helena and Aleksander, who are based in Poland.

Can you give an overview of the work you create as Mi Polin?

We are a design studio specializing in contemporary Jewish design. We have three fields of activity: we design, produce and distribute top quality contemporary Judaica, using only the finest bronze, crystal, ceramics, or wood. We also provide promotional graphic design for Jewish
institutions; for example, we designed a logo and commemorative art project for the anniversary of Warsaw Getto uprising. Last, we run Jewish design workshops for all ages and faiths.

We’re struck by your Mezuzah from this Home project, where you visit Pre-war Polish Jewish homes to recreate a mezuzah (a prayer casing found on doorposts of Jewish homes) from the original doorframe a mezuzah once inhabited.

“This is a series of new mezuzot—bronze casts of mezuzah traces. When you affix the mezuzah to your doorframe, you fill the emptiness and give it a second life. Sitting untouched for many years, these mezuzot can now fulfill their holy function. This realization is about the past. It brings memory about pre-war Jewish Poland and is also about life because remembrance is
a proof of life.”

Mi Polin offers to custom-make a mezuzah from a relative’s ancestor’s home town. Has this genealogy project uncovered any memorable stories or connections?

“We were commissioned to do a mezuzah for a Polish-Jewish press journalist. We arrived to Sokołów and noticed the front part of the building was under reconstruction. When we came closer we saw that old door was replaced by a new, plastic one. We were shocked because we thought that we lost this mezuzah trace. Then we met a resident who told us that the door had been replaced on Friday and on Monday it would be taken to a dump. We found the original
doorframe with the mezuzah trace in the back yard! Imagine how lucky we were to find a doorpost of an 80 year-old building on the last possible day. Immediately we decided to take it with us. We transported it by bus, by bicycle and on our backs to Helena’s home 25 miles away. Now this doorpost is in our studio.

“Another story—we did a bronze cast of mezuzah trace that was found at doorpost of Szeroka 38 in Kazimierz. We found that the most notable resident of Szeroka 38 was a very famous rabbi Joel Sirkes (1561-1640), called BaCH from the title of his book Bait Chadash. He was a Chief Rabbi of Krakow and the head of yeshiva in 1618-1640. He was buried in Remuh Cemetery behind this building. Our documents show, and we are almost 100% sure, that this mezuzah was mounted by Rabbi Sirkes by himself! We already done casts from 15 cities in southeast Poland.”

Your exhibition at the PJCC will include a brand new series documenting a multi-faith holiday art installation. Can you explain the site-specific setting, project, and response to the piece?

“This year Hannukah and Christmas are near the same time and we wanted to create a holiday atmosphere common for all Jews and Christians of Poland. The place of the event was carefully selected. It was organized at Brzozowa Square placed in Kazimierz, the former Jewish district in Kraków. Before the war, this area was a place where Jews and Christians lived together. Jews lived in buildings at left side, Christians at right. In the middle was a square where these people used to meet every day.

“We prepared 500 Christmas and Hannukah ornaments cut from mirror plexiglass and hung them on trees in the middle of Brzozowa Square, resulting in bright, ecumenical Trees of Light (pictured above). To create a magical atmosphere we added fog. The final work looked beautiful and dreamlike. Mirror ornaments were bouncing light in every direction. We planned Trees of Light as a viral event. Photos of Trees of Light were shared via social media and have been seen by more than 40,000 people.”

Visit the Mi Polin (From Poland) Exhibit at the PJCC April 1 – June 25, 2015.

 

A Day in the Life of Matzah: Recipes for Passover

by on March 31, 2015

Having cleansed your pantry of all hametz, you are left with few options to fill your carb quota during Pesach (Passover). The challenge is to find new and exciting ways to use matzo in your meals. So, here are some ideas to add variety to your Passover meals.

Breakfast

matzo-granola-150Matzo Granola
If it is from Martha Stewart, it must be good! A delicious way to start the day.
(via Martha Stewart)

 

Lunch

matzah-grilled-cheese-150Matzo Grille Cheese
If anything can make matzo look tasty, it’s cheese! Here is and easy way to turn an old classic into a trendy lunch item.
(via Popsugar)

 

 

matzah-pizza-150Matzo Pizza 
Most likely we’ve all created a version of matzo pizza. But, hey, pizza is delicious on any crust!
(via Macaroni Kid / Gina Benezra)

 

Dinner

matzah-lasagna-150Matzah Lasagna
The fresh ingredients, including spinach and tomatoes, makes this lasagna not only tasty but also pleasing to the eye.
(via Matkonation / Danya Weiner)

 

Dessert

matzah-choc-chip-150Passover Chocolate Chip Cookies
It is hard to go wrong with chocolate chip cookies no matter what. These are no exception. Buttery and chocolatey, they will satisfy your sweet cravings.
(by Kathy Kersul-Wiener via Tori Avey)

 

matzah-smore-150Passover S’mores
S’Mores aren’t just for Lag B’omer! Add some chocolate and a marshmallow to your matzo and, BAM!, you have a dessert that will please kids of all ages!
(via Ingredients, Inc.)

 

For Fun

pepper--frog-150Bell Pepper Frogs
These were just too cute to leave out of the list. What a clever way to add plague decorations to the table.
(via The Foodies)

 

 

 Learn more about Passover and other Jewish holidays >>

 

Breakthroughs In Molecular Imaging

by on March 5, 2015

The de la Zerda Group at the Stanford University School of Medicine is making strides in being able to idenify and characterize tumors in clinical settings. Adam de la Zerda
visited the PJCC to describe the revolutionary molecular imaging technique his team pioneered.

Adam was chosen as one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Science in 2012 and 2014.

Functional Training: Taking Your Workouts To The Next Level

by on February 24, 2015

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By Chris Nash, PJCC Personal Trainer

As a fitness professional for more than 15 years, I’ve witnessed many changes in the fitness industry. It used to be that gyms were limited to traditional equipment, such as bench and leg presses, that worked just one or two muscles at a time.

But in recent years, a growing trend is functional training. This is a classification of exercise that involves training the body for activities we perform on a daily basis; movements that require all your muscles to work together as they do in real life.

Does this sound strange? Perhaps, but Steve Jobs always said “Think different” and that’s what the fitness industry is doing. Traditional weights and machines have been around for decades and continue to serve an important purpose. However, with the introduction of functional training, you can now work several muscle groups at one time. Not only do you enjoy a well-rounded workout, but this form of exercise also keeps you from plateauing.

TRX is a good example of functional training. When it was first introduced to the public ten years ago, TRX had a profound effect on the fitness industry. TRX, which was developed for Navy Seal Training, involves using a set of straps as your anchor point and leveraging your own body weight as a form of resistance. TRX has been very well received and as a result, has opened doors to even more creative methods of training, such as Battle Ropes, Kettlebells, and other fitness tools, all offered at the PJCC.

As a trainer, functional training has changed me for the better. Not a day goes by that I don’t discover a new benefit from the different tools that I use. Better yet, my clients are getting stronger, experiencing effective workouts, and seeing results faster.

If you’d like to try out TRX, Battle Ropes, Kettlebells, etc., call the PJCC’s Fitness Desk at 650.378.2703 or check out the Fitness Schedule of ongoing classes.

The Case for Camp — Why Kids Need It Now More Than Ever

by on February 19, 2015

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By Peg L. Smith

Change is a part of life. It is often directly related to survival and can enrich one’s life in ways unexpected. Childhood is in essence a time of profound change and development. It is exciting and disquieting at the same time. When it comes to our children, we need to be sure that change is made for the better.

We’ve been so concentrated on the brain, we forget about the rest of our bodies. This change in focus has lead to an obesity rate that is unacceptable. Our kids are not as healthy as the Continue reading

Video: How We Think About Israel

by on February 13, 2015

Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, spoke at the PJCC recently. He gave us some wonderful insight into the thinking of both Israeli and American Jews. He provided us with a new way for the Jewish Community to think and talk about Israel. Get ready to be inspired!

Optimism & Your Health

by on February 5, 2015

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During medical training at UCLA, I had the good fortune to learn from Norman Cousins, a Jewish writer, editor, and adjunct professor of medical humanities. Despite being misdiagnosed with tuberculosis at age 11, he set out as a boy to “discover exuberance.” He believed that positive emotions were the key to fighting illness, which he exemplified in the telling of his own battle with a severe form of arthritis. In the book Anatomy of An Illness, he describes his victory over a potentially life-threatening condition by taking mega doses of vitamin C, and watching Marx Brothers movies and TV sitcoms. He relates, “Laughter is a form of internal jogging. It moves your internal organs around. It enhances respiration. It is an ignitor of great expectations.” His underlying belief was that positive emotions induce favorable biochemical changes in the body so that healing is more likely to occur.

Proverbs 17:22 states, “A joyful heart makes for good health; despondency dries up the bones.” So clearly, a correlation of cheerfulness with health has been recognized for centuries, but what is the supporting evidence? Do optimistic people simply take care of themselves better than pessimistic people, does being in good health by itself lead to optimism, or are both choices correct? The results of The Women’s Health Initiative study of 100,000 postmenopausal women showed that cynicism and hostility were associated with a higher risk of heart disease and cancer, and optimism led to longer life. In a large meta-review of 83 studies published in the 2009 Annals of Behavioral Medicine, optimism was found to be a significant predictor of positive health outcomes ranging from heart disease and stroke, pregnancy, cancer, and stronger immunity – even against the common cold. Benefits also included lower rate of depression and better coping in times of stress. My conclusion from reviewing these medical studies is that optimism leads to healthy behavior and outcomes, but also practicing healthy habits, in turn, leads to greater optimism.

One has to be careful about overgeneralizing the impact of optimism on health. If a person gets sick with heart disease or cancer, does that mean the illness was that person’s fault? Don’t assume that the root of all illness is negative thinking, and that thinking positively will provide the cure. Our emotions are only one determinant of our overall health, and whatever side of the optimism/pessimism spectrum you are on, it’s important to make appropriate health-wise decisions. For example, I have known patients who were pessimistic about having a heart attack because a parent died at an early age. This fearful attitude resulted in a strong devotion to avoiding cholesterol and to exercising rigorously. Some optimists think they will never get sick, so they shun vaccinations or screening tests for cancer. Others have had the unfortunate circumstance to have suffered trauma or loss of a loved one or suffering from clinical depression, so telling them to simply be optimistic is inappropriate. So whatever your outlook on life, it’s important to understand your own situation.

Most of us are born with a predisposition to seeing the glass half full or half empty, but my observations from treating hundreds of patients as well as observing behavior of friends and family have led me to believe that our outlook on life can be changed significantly. Here are some recommendations worth practicing to enhance one’s mood and outlook:

  1.  Express gratitude.
  2. Show compassion.
  3.  Exercise regularly to increase the pleasure hormones in your brain. Do something you enjoy such as walking, running, biking, or rowing a kayak. If your spouse orders you, “Go take a hike,” you both will be in better moods when you reunite!
  4.  Be forgiving of yourself, and laugh at yourself if you had an embarrassing moment.
  5.  Be playful. If you have young grandchildren, this is easier.
  6. Like Norman Cousins, entertain yourself with a humorous movie or sitcom.
  7.  Indulge yourself in a good novel, and share your insights in a book group or with friends.
  8. Play a musical instrument or sing, or attend a fine concert.
  9.  Enjoy a friendly game of bridge, scrabble, or poker with friends. Just don’t lose!
  10. Go to a play, especially a comedy.
  11. Volunteer. If you don’t already volunteer somewhere, you will be amazed what this does for your mood.
  12.  Eat a healthy diet and don’t drink in excess. (When alcohol wears off, it can act as a depressant.)
  13.  Surround yourself with supportive positive people.
  14. Pray. The mind-body connection is promoted by praying, helping to relieve stress and worry and indirectly improving your emotional and physical condition.

Conclusion
Whether you like it or not, our emotions affect our physical health. You do have some control over your life, and it’s never too late to practice behaviors that will help you see the glass at least half full. Oprah Winfrey, in her recent memoir What I Know for Sure, states, I continued to believe that no matter how hard the climb, there is always a way to let in a sliver of light to illuminate the path forward.

For more information about happiness and health, go to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Jerry Saliman, MD is a volunteer internist at Samaritan House Medical Clinic in San Mateo. He retired from Kaiser South San Francisco after working there more than 30 years. While at Kaiser SSF, Dr. Saliman was also Chief of Patient Education. He received the 2012 “Lifetime Achievement Award” given by the Kaiser SSF Medical Staff.

Editing acknowledgement: Ellen Saliman

Neither the PJCC or our guest columnists provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please make your health care decisions in partnership with your health care provider

Half My Size: A Weight Loss Journey

by on January 28, 2015

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By Randi  Reed, PJCC Assistant Camp Director

Everyone asks me what happened. How did I do it?

As a teenager at age 16 I weighed 350 lbs. If that sounds like it would be hard to overcome, it was.

I had PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) and I knew if I kept going and growing the way I was, I would have died. With help from my doctor to get the PCOS and hormones under control I Continue reading

Out Of The Desert Innovation Blooms

by on January 21, 2015

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A desert state in a modern era, Israel has sparked the way as a world leader in resource allocation with pioneering innovations in solar energy and irrigation development. In fact, contemporary Israel is a major player on the world stage of technology, medicine, and engineering, boasting more scientists, technicians, and engineers per capita (140 per 10,000) than any other country in the world.

For a country so young, and so fraught with turmoil, an astonishing amount of life-enhancing Continue reading

Norovirus – The Winter Bug

by on January 16, 2015

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Thanksgiving weekend 2014 was a time to forget for our family. My wife and I planned for the arrival of our children, their spouses, and four grandchildren for months. One of my granddaughters would Facetime daily to see what toys she would play with when she would eventually visit. The night before Thanksgiving, one son-in-law became acutely ill with a GI bug, and he wasn’t able to go to Thanksgiving dinner. The day after Thanksgiving, two of my daughters became acutely ill. By Thanksgiving weekend, the illness had ravaged through our entire family except for my wife and one granddaughter who was protected through the magic Continue reading