Mindfulness and the Easter Bunny

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Do we ever think about why we do what we do? It’s so easy to fall mindlessly into the comfort of old habits, because that’s what we’ve always done. The food we eat, the water we waste, the chemicals we use—do we just do what everyone else does or are we mindful of our actions?

Understanding the origins of ideas or concepts can help us make intelligent, informed decisions—renourishing our thinking, our minds and our lives. Even concepts as deeply entrenched in our culture as the Easter Bunny are worth looking at from an historical viewpoint. It comes as a surprise to many that this icon has a history that goes back to Isis and Osiris and beyond; a trail laced with pagan fertility rites that predate modern Christianity.

So what exactly what do rabbits and eggs have to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ? And was He really resurrected on Easter Sunday?

The article below addresses some of these questions. I researched and wrote it for Vision.org (shared with permission), where you can read more on the subject if you’re interested.

Ostara and her Hare (by Johannes Gehrts, 1884)

Ostara and her Hare (by Johannes Gehrts, 1884)

On the Trail of the Easter Bunny

It’s a short hop from Egyptian hare god to Easter bunny

Easter is considered one of the oldest and most sacred Christian holidays; thus it would seem that a symbol as iconic as the Easter bunny (or, in some countries, the Easter hare) would carry a pedigree deeply rooted in the Bible. Yet there is, perhaps surprisingly, no mention of the rabbit or his relatives throughout the ancient canon except as animals not to be eaten. Other early sources, however, show that rabbits or hares and eggs do play a role in the pre-Christian rituals and festivals that were later absorbed into the celebration we know as Easter.

The earliest histories of Europe and Asia include allusions to rabbits and eggs as important fertility symbols in the spring festivals of rebirth that were embraced by ancient polytheistic religions. Beliefs centered around this season of new life, renewal and regeneration spawned religious ceremonies and rites to ensure the fertility of flocks and fields. Some of the earliest written records of these rituals come from ancient Egypt.

The Egyptians’ cosmogonic beliefs were complex and full of mystery. Attempts to explain the origin of the universe often included the idea of the world springing from an egg—half of the shell became the sky, the bottom half became the earth, and the yolk symbolized the sun. Similar tales have the god Ra (or Re) emanating from an egg and rising as the sun, with his offspring procreating to form the sky (Nut) and the earth (Geb). Osiris, the slain and resurrected god of the underworld, shared symbolism with his great-grandfather Ra. According to the Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, “the hare was a divine creature called Weni, or Wen-nefer . . . an insignia of  Re’s rising as the sun and also of the resurrective powers of Osiris.”

Written records of these symbols—a convergence of hares, eggs, death, sunrise services and resurrection with striking similarities to today’s Easter celebrations—date from as early as 2300 B.C.E., though the oral tradition behind the writings began even earlier.

One such record is the Book of the Dead, important Egyptian funerary papyrus scrolls. These were indispensable in the elaborate funeral rites of monarchs and menials alike throughout centuries of Egyptian history. The scrolls reference Ra, Osiris and Horus in conjunction with eggs, hares and resurrection.

Some of the spells from the Book of the Dead show just how strong the connections were between the symbols and the gods: “I have arisen from the Egg which is in the secret land. . . . I am Osiris” (Spell 22). “I seek out that great place which is in Wenu, I have guarded the Egg of the Great Cackler. If I be strong, it will be strong; if I live, it will live; if I breathe the air, it will breathe the air (Spell 56).”

The city of Hermopolis was near an ancient religious center known as Wenu (or Wenut), devoted to worship of the hare god Unnu (Weni, Wen-nefer, “the Springer-up”) and his consort, a hare goddess. Worship of this hare god, the animal form of the creator god Ra, involved resurrection and the rising of the sun. Both rebirth and the rising sun related to the god Ra, who according to legend was born of a golden egg laid by a celestial goose (“the Great Cackler”).  According to the Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt,“the hare was an insignia of Re’s rising as the sun and also of the resurrective powers of Osiris.”

The stories of Osiris (the sun god and judge of the dead, who granted life and rebirth) and his sister/wife Isis (the moon goddess) are some of the best known among tales of the Egyptian pantheon. The murder of Osiris, Isis’s role in stitching together the body, the post-mortem conception of Horus and the subsequent resurrection of Osiris come together in an astounding tale that remains an important part of Egyptian cosmology. Variations of the Isis and Osiris) courtship, death and rebirth tales dance around the globe through the ages with similar divine couples, including Inanna and Dumuzi, Ishtar and Tammuz, Aphrodite (Astarte) and Adonis, Cybele and Attis. Themes and symbols from their earliest worship rituals reappear in new guises, usually linked with fertility, rebirth and renewal of life. (See “Cupid’s Disheartening Past.”) Some of these are evident in symbols and practices (eggs, hares, sunrise worship services), others in names (Astarte, Ishtar, Easter).

Bede, the eighth-century monk and historian, wrote of the origins of the term Easterwhen describing the Old English words for the months of the year in his De Temporum Ratione.

“Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated ‘Paschal month’, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month [April]. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.” Eostre (Anglo Saxon), or Ostara (Teutonic) is often pictured with a hare at her feet, as her symbols were the hare and the egg.

The Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges Bede’s contribution and adds a caveat: “The English term, according to the Ven. Bede (De temporum ratione, I, v), relates to Estre, a Teutonic goddess of the rising light of day and spring, which deity, however, is otherwise unknown.”

Eleven centuries later, Jacob Grimm acknowledged some debate over the veracity of Bede’s assertions yet felt they were accurate enough for him to build upon Bede’s foundation. In Grimm’s 1835 Teutonic Mythology, he connected long-standing Germanic traditions with the Teutonic goddess and Easter celebrations.

Grimm also commented on an earlier discussion of eggs, a hare and Easter. In 1682, physician Georgii Franck von Franckenau wrote an essay “De Ovis Paschalibus” (“On the Easter Egg”) in his Satyrae Medicae XX, describing the Alsatian tradition of the Easter hare leaving colored eggs in “nests” and explaining how to help children who became ill from eating those eggs. Grimm posited that this was the first known written account combining the two symbols.

Jacob and his brother Wilhelm are best known as the romantic nationalist story collectors behind Grimms’ Fairy Tales, their phenomenally successful venture to preserve Germanic culture via folklore (see “The Moral of the Story”). Jacob’s later work (Teutonic Mythology) delved even deeper, exploring the mythologies and religious beliefs of their ancestors. He linked their ancient traditions with those of his contemporaries, deducing from the similarities that the Roman Catholic Church had readily adopted deeply-rooted ancient practices to encourage participation in their own newly created religious festivals. Ostara, like Eastre, wrote Grimm, “must in the heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the Christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.”

In the early 1800s, as Grimm was telling his tales of Germanic Easter traditions, German immigrants were bringing those traditions to the United States.

The Oschter Haws (Osterhas), or Easter hare, arrived on the shores of the New World with the Pennsylvania Dutch (who were not actually Dutch at all, but Deutsch, or German). This hare supposedly left gifts of colored eggs in hats, bonnets, plates, nests or around the home of well-behaved children on the eve of Easter. Over the next century, the hare became a more familiar rabbit as Easter celebrations gradually caught on throughout the country. By 1878, Easter celebrations in the United States had become commonplace enough that President Rutherford B. Hayes allowed egg rolling on the White House Lawn—separation of church and state notwithstanding. This tradition continues today under the watchful eyes of both the president and a giant Easter bunny as children race their eggs and search the grounds for special wooden souvenir eggs.

Today’s furry Easter bunny seems to be an important cultural element of the annual festival for those who celebrate it for religious reasons as well as for those who believe they celebrate it as a secular tradition. Although traditional Christianity adopted other pre-Christian symbols in their religious festivals, the Easter bunny and its predecessors have been kept at arm’s length by the religious mainstream (possibly because of the blatant connections with fertility). But the tenacious creature has managed to hop down the bunny trail from its early hare-god origins in ancient paganism to the chocolate, faux fur and paper bunnies of today’s Easter celebrations throughout the world.

Alice Abler

~Until next time . . .

SELECTED REFERENCES:

Gerald Massey, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World (2007).

RELATED ARTICLES:

The Tale of the Easter Bunny
An Empty Shell
Special Report: The Pass Over to Easter
The Moral of the Story

Bought: An Education

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It’s no secret that as a society we have some serious health issues, and try as we might to fix them, we don’t seem to have the answers. Opposing theories abound, with rabid activists on both sides blindly ignoring facts.

Image courtesy of Bought

Image courtesy of Bought

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were promoted as the future of food, yet for millions of marching moms, they are dangerous “Frankenfoods”. “Roundup-ready” crops seemed like a boon for farmers, who could plant crops and spray at will without fear of losing the plants. Others warn that the glyphosate in the spray stays with the food, destroying our gastrointestinal flora and with that, our immune systems. Treated seeds grow into pest-free crops, yet we are losing bees at an alarming rate. Food additives prolong shelf life—or do they promote behavioral problems and obesity? Diabetes, psychological disorders, dementias, autism and other debilitating diseases are skyrocketing and we don’t seem to know why. Some point fingers at vaccinations; others point fingers at anti-vaccinators.

Perhaps it’s not so simple—not just one thing, and not the same for each individual. And right now (for the most part), we enjoy the freedom to choose which options work best for us and for our families. But what if those freedoms were taken away?

For those of us who spend time researching what’s best for our families—and again, that may be different for each family—we know it’s often a challenge to hear more than one side of the story. The crowdfunded documentary Bought addresses these topics and more, with commentary from doctors, researchers, and those with personal experience. It’s worth a watch.

And for a few days, you can watch it for free at www.boughtmovie.net.

~Until next time . . .

Help Save Culture Club 101! (No, not Boy George! This is Elaina Luther’s GoFundMe)

On July 3rd, 2014, the club, licensed by the Pasadena Public Health Department in 2011, was shut down because it was said not to be in alignment with a reinterpretation of the rules with respect to private clubs. At the same time it was inspected and given permission on the spot to operate as a retail location. The only hitch was that it did not meet the zoning requirements for the area. Only zoning restrictions prevent it from re-opening as a retail location, so it needs to move locations. And that costs money. 

Source: www.gofundme.com

Culture Club 101 was a licensed private culinary club in Pasadena that provided its members with a way to buy real cultured foods (like sauerkraut, healthy cultured sodas, etc.) readymade. The club also held educational classes so that its members could learn how to make their own fermented foods, yogurts, keifers, gluten free foods and healthy treats.  Members had access to a library and information nights with speakers and films. The Club vetted other resources such as pasture raised meats, raw milk and sprouted grains so that without having to do their own research, members could purchase real foods from around the US. Elaina was the tireless impresario behind the Real Food Symposium series that helped so many, and now she needs your help to continue her valuable services. Click through to read more!

See on Scoop.itreNourishment

“The Grand Thanksgiving Holiday of Our Nation”

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Following is an editorial penned in 1858 by the person whom many feel is most responsible for the adoption of the American Thanksgiving holiday, Sarah Josepha Hale. May we live up to these aspirations, and may you and yours have a wonderful day of Thanksgiving.

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OUR NATIONAL THANKSGIVING  

We are most happy to agree with the large majority of the governors of the different States—as shown in their unanimity of action for several past years, and which, we hope, will this year be adopted by all—that the LAST THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER shall be the DAY OF NATIONAL THANKSGIVING for the American people.

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Let this day, from this time forth, as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze, be the grand THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY of our nation, when the noise and tumult of wordliness may be exchanged for the laugh of happy children, the glad greetings of family reunion, and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart.

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This truly American Festival falls, this year on the twenty fifth day of this month.

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Let us consecrate the day to benevolence of action, by sending good gifts to the poor, and doing those deeds of charity that will, for one day, make every American home the place of plenty and of rejoicing.

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These seasons of refreshing are of inestimable advantage to the popular heart; and if rightly managed, will greatly aid and strengthen public harmony of feeling.

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Let the people of all the States and Territories sit down together to the “feast of fat things,” and drink, in the sweet draught of joy and gratitude to the Divine giver of all our blessings, the pledge of renewed love to the Union, and to each other; and of peace and good-will to all men.

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Then the last Thursday in November will soon become the day of AMERICAN THANKSGIVING throughout the world.

Sarah Josepha Hale, “Editor’s Table,” Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1858

The good photographs and much of the styling courtesy of the talented Jessica Leigh. The rest are snapshots and fond memories.

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~Until next time!

Real Food Culture Kitchen Project

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http://bit.ly/realfoodculturekitchen 

Our good friend and mentor Elaina formed Culture Club 101, which was unique in its offerings of traditionally-prepared, health-promoting Real Food to those near Pasadena. She then went on to organize the Real Food Symposium series, which shared valuable information with the public on various topics like “The Skinny on Fat” (the importance of good fats in the diet), cheesemaking, raw milk, brewing, fermentation, the GAPS diet, organic gardening, beekeeping, and the importance of pasture-raised animal products.

Elaina has now paired up with Real Food Devotee, with a goal of reaching and helping even more people. Plans to license and build the Real Food Culture Kitchen are now underway.  This will be a resource for traditional, nutrient-dense Real Food:

a commercial kitchen for traditional Real Food preparation;

a store where you can find all your Real Food pantry essentials, supplies and equipment-advice and troubleshooting included;

a training, mentoring, and learning center;

a cafe and tasting room for pop-up dinners;

expanded product offerings and home deliveries.

Yes, this is a lofty goal, and they need our help.

With that in mind, they have launched a Kickstarter Campaign that runs through the month of November. If you, like us, feel strongly about the importance of Real Foods, please join us in helping this cause. There are valuable rewards offered for different levels of pledges, and I would highly recommend the Real Food Symposium DVD sets as rewards. As each symposium helped me put the puzzle together, the knowledge on each DVD would also help you on your journey to optimal health.

If the Kickstarter goal is not reached, they get nothing. So if this is something you believe in, make sure to pledge your help in the next few weeks and become part of the Real Food Revolution.

See on Scoop.itreNourishment

Los Angeles Turf Removal Program Part One: Application and Qualification

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When we moved to our current home, there was a broad swath of green lawn across the front and, to keep it that bright green color, a sprinkler system that evoked visions of the Las Vegas Bellagio fountains. Even though we were not in a drought at the time, I knew this was completely wrong for this area.

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So out came most of the lawn and in went roses and other plants that did well enough for a few years but were beginning to suffer in the current drought.

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 Once established, the garden looked lovely for a few months in the moist winter and spring, but under our harsh summer sun, it became more like potpourri on sticks than the lush paradise I saw in my mind.

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We did have some struggling turf that remained, a favored lounge and play area for our canine companions.

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But bit by bit we had been removing it (and the dogs really didn’t mind), most notably by replacing part of it with a rain garden showcasing California native plants. This project whetted my appetite for more natives and California-friendly plantings.

Duck and blue-eyed grass

And when we heard about the generous rebates offered by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for removing residential turf and replacing it with California-friendly plantings and permeable paving, well, that was just the push we needed.

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We measured the lawn and drew up a plan. Even though the maximum amount allowed for rebate was 2000 square feet, we wanted to remove about 3500 square feet of grass (not a problem to remove more, of course, but there’s no cash incentive after the limit).

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Next we picked California-friendly plants to cover 40 percent of the former lawn area and permeable paving materials to cover the rest. I was disappointed that no plants that formed anything like a turf were allowed, because there are appropriate plants that I would be happy to use (like dymondia or carex) but they do form a type of turf once established. Artificial grass is allowed, but because it heats up in direct sunlight and becomes extremely hot to the touch, and because it holds smells and needs to be washed down when cleaning up after dogs (and we have very large dogs), this wasn’t an option for us.

Approving the project

Besides, I’d rather have something real.

After completing the plan, we made sure all requirements were met: five or more color pictures of the existing grassy areas to be redone, with at least one of each specific location showing permanent fixtures (house, fence, street, etc.) as reference points, a planting list, a sketch of the area showing square footage, and a copy of a water bill.

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Sprinklers were to be removed and replaced with drip systems on timers, and a few other details. The requirements may have changed a bit since then. (For anyone interested in the details, the requirements are viewable after beginning the application process.)

We mailed in the application in early May (applicants can now apply online), hoping to hear good news soon. We couldn’t begin the project until it was approved, so we waited. And waited. I was concerned about the timing, with summer right around the corner—the worst possible time to plant in this area.

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I had already shopped around for someone who could do the work. There is a contractor-direct rebate option, but I couldn’t find one who would do the work for the amount of the rebate—most estimates came in at about three times that or, in a few cases, about ten times that amount. Although there are companies who will remove the lawn in exchange for the rebate, their cookie-cutter designs, sparse plantings and stark pavings didn’t match my lush Mediterranean visions. It seemed that those who understood the difference between “desert” and “Mediterranean” and who could make the landscape in my mind come to life simply could not make it happen within our budget.

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So on to plan B. I’ve always enjoyed DIY projects, so why not tackle one more? I shopped around for pricing on decomposed granite as the main paving material, started collecting “urbanite” (really just broken concrete) to use as paving stones, and began the hunt for someone who was really good with a Bobcat to remove our turf and artfully spread 24 tons of decomposed granite. Bobcat Mike came highly recommended, and he was on standby.

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In the meantime, we quit watering the lawn and summer’s heat took its toll. One day in late July I heard a knock at the door, and there on the crispy brown landscape stood a DWP representative. “I was nearby and thought I’d stop by for a pre-inspection.” Apparently they had been overwhelmed with requests and it was taking longer than expected to process applications. Anyway, I was very glad to see her. I showed her the now-dead grass, and we compared it with the photos of the verdant fields from a few months earlier. I explained that we had stopped watering, hoping that our water bill would drop (it didn’t, but that’s another story). We looked over the plan, which covered the entire property. She made sure I understood that we would only get a rebate for the maximum amount allowed by the program—which we did, but we wanted to remove the rest of the dying grass as well.

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I had to explain one area that I had listed as “edible garden.” A traditional vegetable garden was not allowed in this project, because they use too much water. (Water well-used, in my opinion, but I understand the intent of the program.) The edible garden I had planned, however, did fulfill the requirements.

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This one was bordered by established fig trees and grape vines one side, with new olive trees planned for the other, and included other unthirsty plants like California currant, artichokes, sage, thyme and rosemary, with an open rectangular area in the center where I imagined spending leisurely afternoons sipping Pastis and playing petanque.

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The LADWP representative and I discussed some of the existing plants as well as the ones I planned for the project.

Low-water-use succulents

I had been propagating some and sprouting others, and showed her pots of those that were waiting in the shade for their day in the sun.

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She seemed particularly intrigued by the euphorbia, the leucadendron and the more unusual succulents, then she was off to the next location. A letter of approval would be on its way, and we would have 120 days to complete the project.

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But by now it was the middle of summer—a very hot, dry summer. The absolute worst time to think about planting. How would we meet the deadline and keep the new plants alive?

~Until next time!

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Agafia’s Taiga Life: Alone in Siberia

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In 1936, a family of Russian Old Believers journeyed deep into Siberia’s vast taiga to escape persecution and protect their way of life. The Lykovs eventually settled in the Sayan Mountains, 160 miles…

Click here to see the thought-provoking video (and don’t let the name scare you off! It’s okay, I promise!): www.vice.com

This video tells the tale of a remarkable woman who is truly living “off the grid” under conditions most of us can barely imagine. Everyone who dreams of homesteading needs to watch this. Seeing her tenacity and fortitude, along with a glimpse into the harsh reality of her everyday life, has given me much to think about since I first viewed this a few days ago. Who among us could survive as she has?

See on Scoop.itreNourishment

These People Turned an Abandoned Stable Into Their Dream Home – Village Green Network

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Here’s an inspiring story about turning an old dilapidated shelter into a gorgeous off-grid home. Full of great ideas!

Source: villagegreennetwork.com

Working with the sun, water, gravity and nature, appreciating and building upon the knowledge of the farmer who sited the original structure, these two created what may be the perfect home. The brilliance of the project unfolds as the video progresses.

Everything New Is Old Again

See on Scoop.itBon Vivant

Jewish-American deli food is suddenly the rage, as younger cooks mix tradition and reinvention.

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

Although this article didn’t touch upon the health benefits of traditional foods, it did address the deliciousness of the cuisine of their ancestors. Glad some are rediscovering and preserving this important knowledge for future generations. And by the end of the article, I was salivating! Be sure to enjoy the pictures in the slideshow.

From the article: 

The chefs and artisans behind these new enterprises are embracing the quickly disappearing foods of their grandparents — blintzes and babka, kasha and knishes — and jolting them back to strength with an infusion of modern culinary ideas. Those foods became punch lines in the 1970s, when the health consequences of a steady diet of meat, salt, bread and cream became apparent, and when strong, smelly foods like garlic dill pickles and herring with raw onion seemed dated, even embarrassing. “Food rejection was part of the assimilation process,” said Devra Ferst, editor of the food blog The Jew & The Carrot.

But now, as the values of the food revolution (fresh, local, sustainable, seasonal) have inspired a whole generation of young Jewish-Americans, they have found ways to bring the two camps together. “Kosher food didn’t reflect our generation or our tastes,” said Mr. Yoskowitz; he and his partner, Liz Alpern, are 29. “And modern food didn’t reflect our history.”

. . .

Their goal is preservation, closely followed by improvisation. They are learning to smoke fish, ferment pickles and bake pumpernickel bread in the ways their ancestors did. They are holding pop-up Sabbath dinners on Friday nights, where the challah might be swirled with Cheddar or drizzled with harissa oil. And in kitchens and social media, they are building a hive of relationships, skills and ideas that can be described as a virtual shtetl.

Continue reading the main story 

See on www.nytimes.com

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