Tel Aviv ladies get into the kitchen as heat rises in America

Rosh Chodesh Shevat is a reinvigorating time for Jews around the globe as the biblical birthday of trees.  Dishes with the seven species of Israel are traditionally prepared to elicit the extra blessings from the Holy Land believed to bring about ultimate world peace.  This past Sunday night, women in Tel Aviv strengthened their mind, body and souls in solidarity with their sisters in Washington.  It wasn’t a protest, or political event, but in these transformative days of unrest, focusing positive feminine energy towards families still in gallut seems like the natural contribution olim women can make who have made it back home.

This month, Hineni Israel launches an alternative Jewish learning series designed to sharpen the mind though Torah learning, strengthen the body through physical exercise, nourish the holy soul through kosher cooking, and empower the community through unity.  Teachers are women’s activists who offer their gifts as priceless mitzvahs.

Hineni Israel launches new women's workshop series
Hineni Israel launches new women’s workshop series

In the spirit of linking generations, the first item on the Seven Species menus was a Shevat inspired barley soup made secretly by some very special six year olds.  Gleefully the girls washed mushrooms, checked barley for bugs, seasoned with kosher salt and used mehadrin vegetables in their afternoon classroom to surprised their Imas and workshop guests with the best hot soup a hardworking lady could taste on windy day.  Cases of plastics were shlepped on the bus via suitcase to the place.

Checking barley for bugs, some very special helpers prove kosher cooking is s easy, even a six year old can do it!
Checking barley for bugs, some very special helpers prove kosher cooking is s easy, even a six year old can do it!  Photo credit: Shira Nussdorf
Little ladies washed mushrooms as a secret chesed.
Little ladies washed mushrooms as a secret chesed.  Photo: Shira Nussdorf
Mushroom Barley Soup inspired by the month Shevat.
Mushroom Barley Soup inspired by the month Shevat. Photo credit: Shira Nussdorf
Shelping suitcase and shepping nachas.
Shelping suitcase and shepping nachas.  Photo: Shira Nussdorf

Next on the program list was yoga class at the Neve Tzedek Community Center led by Suzi Zettel, originally from England, now living in Beit Shemesh.   Zettel guided the women through toning and breathing poses as Nechama Tovey, an aromatherapist, placed essential oils on their palms to promote emotional and physical wellness.

Conditioning the mind and body with the focused Yoga of Suzi Zettle.
Mind and body conditioning with Yoga by Suzi Zettel. Photo: Daniella Zettlel

Concluding their workout, the women had built up quite the appetite.  Only AFTER dozens of compliments slipped from their mouths about how delicious the soup was were tasters told about the little cooks who had prepared it.  Head Chef Shira joked, “exactly how difficult could learning hallucha be if a bunch of a six year old Israeli kids learned it from a me?”

Ladies give the mushroom barley soup an enthusiastic cups up!
Ladies give the mushroom barley soup an enthusiastic cups up! Photo: Shira Nussdorf

“I wanted to check out yoga that was presented in a kosher way,” confessed one guest,  “When my sister in France started doing yoga, my parents were worried she’d abandon our Jewish customs for Indian polytheism.  It’s funny, I’ve got such a Jewish mother.  I meditated with my soul sisters in Tel Aviv so I could convince my parents there truly is balance influence, and bond with my sister in Paris.  Can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with my family back home.”

Now with a taste for Torah and an open heart, it was time to delve into the spiritual part of the program.  Shira Michal bat Fayga Blima dedicated her blessing over a date to her mother in New York, and her sister in L.A. who had admitted they were anxious about all recent protests popping up all over America, “I don’t want to get into political party lines at a bracha party, but there are a lot of people from my country facing great uncertainty.  Hundreds of thousands of outraged people are promising more protests and there is a growing movement driven by anger and frustration at the new administration.  Government officials are sending conflicting messages about wether or not laws are Constitutional and should be followed.  But don’t we face the daily challenge of securing an idealistic homeland filled with terrorists in our midsts? We need to show support for our sisters and help them understand their moral characters are being tested.   We must increase our compassion to others as well as ourselves.  There is no excuse for verbal abuse.  Even speaking softly to myself can defuse a land mine in my mind.  Can I as an individual really change the world?  Or if I focus on effecting the world I have created for myself, becoming more centred and calm, then perhaps I can inspire others in my inner circle, to look out for the beauty in our holy Tel Aviv community.   You would not be angry at a tree for firmly planting its roots, you would not raise your voice if a living creature who couldn’t speak for itself simply wanted to exist. If you would have that much respect for a tree, how much more compassion should we have for one another.   This month of Shevet, let us replenish the world like the breath of a tree. May the inner peace we feel tonight influence the way we treat others and may our good nature grow in beautiful harmony with the entire symphony.”

Shira Michal bat Fayga Blima leads the women back into the kitchen and dedicates traditional recipes to the continuity of beautiful Jewish mothers.  Photo: Daniella Zettel
Welcoming Shvat with Parshat Bo by Rav Shlomo Carlebach ztz’l. Photo: Shira Nussdorf
Olive and fig dip with seven grant wheat crackers.
Olive and fig dip with seven grant wheat crackers. Photo: Shira Nussdorf
It may be in our nature to worry, but let's not forget to nurture ourselves.
It may be in our nature to worry, but let’s not forget to nurture ourselves, even when window shopping in Jerusalem.  Photo: Shira Nussdorf

The Rosh Chodesh women’s workshop series is produced by the ladies of Hineni Israel in memory of Rebbitzen Esther Jungreis ztz’l.  Following her legacy means walking in the path of some pretty high heels.   Daniella Zettel may have invited her mother and all Jewish girls on Facebook to Tel Aviv for Rosh Chodesh Shevat, but there are many more months in the year, and opportunities for new volunteers to lead.  For more information on upcoming Hineni Israel events including the Rosh Chodesh Adar party, email

About the Author
Shira, a feisty little Zionist from New York, miraculously made aliyah and lives to tell the tale. At the age of 4, her Israeli gannet Mrs. Taylor wrote on her evaluation report, "left alone Shira will rule the world." She grew up to be a social activist, singer, writer, teacher, and mitzvah girl. She advocates for aliyah and empowers hundreds of olim weekly by hosting in Tel Aviv. Shira is the reigning "Shabbas Queen" in the Guinness World Records Largest Shabbat Dinner.