Lifestyle features

A refugee from the Ayatollah

By Alex Kasriel, March 12, 2009

When 18-year-old Jilla Youseffi said goodbye to her parents one morning in early 1979, she had no idea whether she would ever see them again. Youseffi was leaving her home in a well-heeled suburb of Tehran for the last time, heading for a new life in Britain where she would be safe from persecution by Islamic fundamentalists.

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Abraham Foxman: The man the Jew haters really hate

By Jenni Frazer, March 12, 2009

If ever a man had the ability to polarise opinion in the Jewish world, it is Abraham Foxman, the instantly identifiable and famously histrionic director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, who has a justifiably fiery reputation. There is only one Foxman. Those who know him, even only slightly, nod knowingly when they hear I am to speak to him.

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From Mafia man to Orthodox Jew

By Alex Kasriel, March 5, 2009

He was a New York gangster, a “goodfella” who spent his life dodging the law. But Louis Ferrante — aka Big Lou — is pleased he wound up in a maximum security prison.

Because that is how he found Judaism.

The 39-year-old Italian-American, whose thick accent irresistibly brings to mind Tony Soprano, was a member of the Gambino organisation, working for one of America’s most ruthless crime families. He was heavily involved in racketeering and fraud, activities that from time to time required brutal violence.

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Oranges and us: a tale of sweet success

By Ruth Joseph, February 26, 2009

We sometimes take oranges for granted. They sit in the fruit bowl neglected in favour of a juicy peach or a bunch of grapes, and yet, now, like all citrus, they are at their seasonal best and good value.

The orange (Citrus Sinensis) probably originated in China and evidence of its existence dates from 2500 BCE. But it was a wild plant and its fruits would have been very sour. For thousands of years, oranges seem to have been enjoyed solely by the Chinese.

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My challah-baking experiment? Fell flat

By Alex Kasriel, February 18, 2009

Does anyone still actually make challah? Frankly, this tradition is rather time-consuming. All that proving and kneading takes a lot of work. And it is so much easier to part with around £1.60 at the local Jewish bakery for a loaf of the doughy stuff.

Shop challahs are often tastier and lighter — but they have been prepared under highly controlled conditions. The ovens are at the right temperature and the kneading machines do all the work. Meanwhile, the professional bakers have an agent in their flour to make it just the right consistency.

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Real Mills & Boon heroines

By Alex Kasriel, February 18, 2009

They were ordinary English women who had never met a Jew, let alone risked their lives for anyone; but with their courage and sense of justice, Ida and Louise Cook ended up rescuing dozens of would-be victims of Hitler’s death camps.

The die-hard opera fans would travel to Germany posing as tourists willing to go anywhere to hear their favourite singers. Then they would smuggle back diamonds and furs belonging to Jews to give them financial security when they arrived on British soil.

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Taking the religion out of circumcision

By Simon Round, February 12, 2009

In many parts of the world, when couples choose to have a family there is a strong preference for a boy. Not among secular Jewish couples, though. Reform rabbi Jonathan Romain has noticed the opposite preference — they nearly always hope for a girl. It is not that this section of the community has anything against baby boys, but rather that having a girl frees them from the responsibility of worrying about circumcision.

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Israel's cyber warriors

By Lucy Tobin, February 12, 2009

When Joel Leyden speaks about Israel, 89,000 people listen. His name may not be familiar, but if you have ever used Google to look up anything on the Middle East, then you have probably had your search results influenced by him. And if you are one of the 150 million users of the social networking website Facebook, then it is likely that you have read something written by him. You might even be one of the almost 100,000 members of his group called “I support the Israel Defence Forces in Preventing Terror Attacks from Gaza.”

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Recipe for seduction

By Simon Round, February 12, 2009

What are the essentials for seducing a man? A splash of expensive perfume, perhaps? A little black dress? Seductive body language? Well, according to author Penny Lewis, it is none of the above. What you need is a nice piece of steak, a tomato and a spud.

Lewis, with co-writer Sarah Lockett, has written The Dish, which is intended to show women how to incorporate food in a strategy to win men over. You should cook for your date, she feels, but don’t go making elaborate soufflés or that perfect sauce hollandaise — because the key to success is simplicity.

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I came, I saw, I haggled; and then I paid full price

By Alex Kasriel, February 5, 2009

I’m standing in Carmelli bakery in Golders Green smiling sweetly at the good-looking man behind the counter, trying to persuade him to give me some money off the price of two medium challahs.

“You mean, you don’t do anything like buy one, get one half-price. Or anything else?” I ask hopefully, knowing that buying two is actually what is expected.

“No,” he says.

“Oh, go on,” I say, uncomfortably.

“I can’t. I’m sorry.”

“What about if I get one big one for less?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t give you a discount.”

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