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BIG SONIA is an inspiring film about the vibrant trailer shop owner and Holocaust survivor Sonia Warshawski.  The film is directed by Leah Warshawski, has won several awards on the festival circuit and was released theatrically on Dec. 8.

In the last store in a defunct shopping mall, 91-year-old Sonia Warshawski great- grandmother, businesswoman, and Holocaust survivor runs the tailor shop she has owned for more than 30 years.  However, when she has served an eviction notice, the specter of retirement prompts Sonia to revisit her harrowing past as a refugee and witness to genocide.  

A poignant story of generational trauma and healing, BIG SONIA also offers a laugh-out-loud-funny portrait of the power of love to triumph over bigotry, and the power of truth-telling to heal us all.
Check local listings.


Get out the dreidels and polish the menorah – the Festival of Lights is just around the corner.  Beloved by Jews all around the world, Chanukah celebrates a great military triumph – some call it a miracle. It happened some 2,200 years ago in Judea (Israel), at a time when the Jews were oppressed under the reign of King Antiochus IV.  The king’s army had ransacked Jerusalem, massacred Jews by the thousands, and destroyed the holy Second Temple. But Judah Maccabee led the Jews in an epic, two-year rebellion before finally running Antiochus’s men out of Jerusalem. The first order of business: rebuild the Temple and light the sacred menorah (candelabra) every night, as required. Their prospects seemed grim; they had only a one night’s supply of oil. But those candles somehow stayed lit for eight nights straight.

Jews today recount the inspiring story of Chanukah over candles, songs, prayers, and fun for eight days and nights every year. The festival is known for customs that children and families can enjoy together: the game of dreidel, exchanging gifts, giving to charity and, of course, special foods.

The centerpiece of the Chanukah table is fried food, commemorating the miracle oil that kept the candles burning for eight nights. Two items typically on the menu are potato pancakes (latkes) and donuts (sufganiyot). It’s not a particularly diet-friendly festival, but who cares when you’re rejoicing?

This year, Pereg Natural Foods and are joining forces to present some delicious recipes for Chanukah. Together, Pereg – specializing in top-quality grains, spices, and gluten-free products from around the world – and – a new destination for busy moms looking for quick, healthy, family-pleasing meals – are putting a whole new “spin” on dinner for even the pickiest littlest dreidlers.

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Holes
1/2 cup Pereg Teff flour ; 1/2 cup Pereg Coconut flour ; 2 tsp. xanthum gum ; 1/2 tsp. baking soda; 1/2 tsp. baking powder ; 1/2 tsp. Pereg cinnamon ; 2 eggs ; 1/2 cup milk; 1/4 cup sugar; 1/4 cup light brown sugar; 1 tsp. vanilla; Canola oil for frying

Cinnamon-Sugar Coating
1 Tbsp. Pereg cinnamon  1/4 cup sugar


Fill a heavy-bottomed 6-qt. pot halfway with canola oil. Heat to 350 degrees F. (You can test this by putting the back of a wooden spoon into the oil; if there is a steady bubbling around the spoon, your oil is ready for frying). Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, xanthum gum, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine the eggs, sugars, vanilla, and milk.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix just till combined. By this point the oil should be hot enough. If not, refrigerate the dough mixture while you wait.

Scoop 1-inch balls of dough and drop in the fryer. Fry 1-2 minutes on each side until no longer doughy in the center. The doughnuts will rise when ready to be taken out. Do not crowd the pot; fry only a few doughnuts at a time. Combine the cinnamon-sugar topping on a plate.

Prepare a second plate with 2 layers of paper towels. When the doughnuts come out of the oil, place them on the paper towels for 1 minute, then immediately roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Serve fresh and enjoy!

Winter Roasted Rainbow Carrots
2 lbs rainbow carrots; 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil; 2 tsp. kosher salt ; 1 Tbsp. Pereg Ras El Hanout spice; Juice of half a lemon


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spread carrots out in an even layer on a baking sheet. Cover the carrots with the olive oil, salt, lemon juice, and ras el hanout. Roast for 30 minutes.  They are delicious and warming – perfect as an easy side dish, not to mention healthy and addictive!  Serve warm and enjoy!

Pereg was established in 1906, and is based in Clifton, NJ. They first became known for their vast variety of pure and natural spices and spice blends, more than 60 in all, from traditional favorites to exotics from around the culinary world.

                                                                                                   Ask the Rabbi




The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that the Chanukah lights fulfil a double purpose. They are a source of light within the house, and they also symbolize the duty of bringing light to the world outside.

This is suggested by Midrashic sources which speak of the Jewish people as the world’s shammash, its “servant light.”

The Midrash itself is based on the teachings of the prophet Isaiah, who says G[-]d has appointed us as “a light unto the nations”.

The world needs the light of morality, ethics and truth to be brought to its dark corners, part of the messianic process that hopefully will lead the whole of mankind to redemption and fulfilment.

It’s hard to be the world’s shammash, not only because of the weight of responsibility but because inevitably it brings criticism and accusations of national egotism.

Other cultures and groups do not like our claim to be the world’s moral teacher, but there is not too much evidence that they have done the job better themselves.


Chassidism explains why Hallel is said on Chanukah and not on Purim.

It says that on Purim the body of the Jew was saved, whilst on Chanukah it was his soul.

The freedom of religion which Chanukah symbolises is summarized in a poem by Dryden that says, “Of all the tyrannies of human kind, the worst is that which persecutes the mind.”


When as small children we asked what the name “Chanukah” meant, we were told it meant “Dedication”, for after recapturing the Temple from the heathen enemy the Maccabees put it in order and rededicated it to its sacred purposes.

The sages surely thought hard and long before fixing on the name “Chanukah”. They must have discarded a number of alternatives, finally choosing the name used from the dawn of Jewish history to denote a feast of dedication.

The Midrash says there are seven Chanukahs:
1. The Chanukah of the creation of the world, when G[-]d completed His work and launched man on the arena of history.

2. The Chanukah of the Tabernacle in the time of Moses, when the princes of the tribes brought offerings to the Sanctuary.

3. The Chanukah of the First Temple, erected and dedicated by Solomon.

4. The Chanukah of the Second Temple, erected by exiles who had returned from Babylon.

5. The Chanukah of the wall of Jerusalem, completed in the days of Nehemiah.

6. The Chanukah celebrated by the Maccabees.

7. And the Chanukah of the time to come, when the world will be illumined more brightly than on all the Chanukahs of ages past.

Each of the first six Chanukahs has a symbolic meaning, particularly relevant for an age when principles are discarded and values devalued.

The Chanukah of creation tells man that, G[-]d-like, he should devote his energies to constructive ends.

The Chanukah of the Tabernacle suggests that, like the princes of the tribes, man should bring his best to every worthwhile cause.

The Chanukah of the First Temple declares, “Set aside time and place for worship, joining heaven to earth as your prayer ascends upwards.”

The Chanukah of the Second Temple, built by returned exiles, tells man to work for the day when all men will be free and none shall be subject to harassment or hatred.

The Chanukah of the wall of Jerusalem, which gave security to the City of G[-]d, shows man how to find anchorage in time of fear and uncertainty: “Find protection,” it says, “in the encompassing Providence of G[-]d!”

The Chanukah of the Maccabees, possible because the few stood up against the many, assures man that he need not be afraid to stand up and go it alone against the negative tendencies of the age.

The culminating Chanukah, when the messianic end of days will dawn, is one which we can begin to build now, without delay. The first step in building it is to learn to live at peace with yourself. The second is to learn to live at peace with your fellow.

The Messianic Chanukah will arrive when we succeed in making of the earth a temple of peace.

This is what we pray for in Ma’oz Tzur – the day “when You will cause all slaughter to cease,” and man “shall complete with song and psalm the dedication of the altar”.


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           23-29 Kislev, 5778                                                     Dec. 11-17, 2017 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES  --  603rd Web Ed.