Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’

Right now, we are in the middle of the Jewish festival of Sukkot. [1]

Just for the person who has to have lunch on the go, my dear friend Steven Burke has come up with his own clever variation of the sukkah-mobile.

Open two car doors, put two 2x4s over the door tops and rest the s’chach on top of the 2x4s!


sukkah-mobile(Image Credit: Steven Burke)

The chochmah and binah demonstrated here is inspirational!

Once again, Necessity is the Mother of Invention!

Bravo, Steven. Yasher Koach! 


[1]  As commanded in the Bible (Lev. 23:33-44). Christians may know Sukkot by the name Feast of Tabernacles (KJV), Festival of Tabernacles (NIV), Feast of Booths (NASB), etc.


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On the afternoon of Monday July 8, 2013…


There was a torrential downpour in Toronto…


Streets were flooded…


Highways were flooded…


People had to abandon their cars…


And the Marine Units were dispatched…

Copy of july-8-13-flood-05

To rescue people stuck inside flooded commuter trains.




Virtually every homeowner I know in Toronto has a flooded basement.


Our thoughts and prayers are with the good people of the City of Toronto.


May they all make it through the night safely and without harm.



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When I am really honest with myself, this is what I would love an Italian grocery store to be…


They would carry everything you need. Maybe not everything you want… but definitely everything you need.


Pasta, bread, cheese, meat, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, oregano, basil, rosemary… maybe some fruits and nuts.

castagne-arrostite(Castagne arrostite!)

They might also have a few little things extra.


Espresso percolators…


… Italian playing cards…


… pizzelle irons.

My first wife, Susan, and I were right around the corner from such a place when we lived in St. Clair & Dufferin neighbourhood in Toronto in the late 70s.

italian-vegetable-market(Frutta e verdura!)

What I wouldn’t give to live once again a 2-minute walk from a place like this!


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When I am in The Heart of the Old World [1], there is a certain pervasive sound you hear… a kind of omnipresent background music… a gently swaying ‘bed track’ to the place. It is a general all-encompassing soundtrack permeating the entire area… made up from the voices of hundreds of Jewish girls and women.

It is useless trying to explain a symphony with words,. I will at least give you a tiny taste of some of the lyrics. Try to imagine the sing-song tones blending in and through each other, above and underneath each other, mixing and intertwining, separating and repeating, like a Bach fugue.

Those who know what I am talking about are well familiar with the melodies, counter-melodies, tempos and keys. To the uninitiated, I can only say that one cannot describe a colour adequately with words… it must be seen to be fully understood. Similarly, like a Shakespearean play, the words are meant to be heard, not read. [2]

At the grocery store, on the sidewalk, in the coffee shop, in the parking lot… it binds us and keeps us together. It forms a warm comforting blanket around us.

And now… let us listen… and hear those precious voices all around us…

Boruch HaShem! Im Yirtzeh HaShem. B’ezras HaShem!

It’s all shtuss. It’s just a bunch of shtuss.

Yes, bli neder. Absolutely, bli neder! Of course, bli neder!

 Make a brochah, Shmuley. Did you make an after-brochah?

Chas v’sholom! K’neine hora! Lo aleinu!

You hold by that? We don’t hold by that! Who holds by that?

Look at that punim! What a shayna punim! Can you believe the punim on this kid?

Where are you for Shabbes lunch? You’re coming for Shabbes dinner, right?

Where does he daven? What time do they finish davening over there?

She lives in Beit Shemesh now. Ramat Gan. She’s in Bnei Barak.

Monsey. Crown Heights. Lakewood. Boro Park.

She’s engaged? Who’s engaged? She’s getting married!

Mazel tov! How wonderful! They should know only joy and happiness.

Simchas. Only Simchas! Next by you. It should happen by you.

Narishkeit. I’ve never heard such narishkeit!

Really? You’re serious? You’re not serious. You are? Really?

When’s shkiah? What time is shkiah? When’s candle lighting?

What time’s Shabbes over? Come over for havdalah!

She’s a giyeres. They’re baalei tshuvah. Frum from birth.

They’re moving to Atlanta.  It’s a very nice community there.

As my Bubbie, olav hasholom, would day, “It’s from fainting!”

Are you ready for Pesach? Oy, please. Don’t remind me!

Where do you get your challah? You make your own!?

I buy frozen gefilte fish and bake it! It’s mamish ok.

We have an aufruffen to go to. I’m at a bar mitzvah.

Nu? Shoyn? Oy, a broch! Vey iz mir!

Zeit nisht meshiggah!

Genig shoyn. Enough, already!

Again with the shtuss?

In the Heart of the Old World, as it is in any Jewish neighbourhood, this is the soundtrack to our lives!


[1] Bathurst Street in Toronto, between Lawrence and Wilson.

[2] This YouTube video, Shduss Frum Girls Say, although a comic look at the subject, gives you sort of a taste…

As does the second video in the series, Shduss Frum Girls Say 2

And how can we leave out Passover Shtuss??…

These videos are the work of Zehava G, whose works can be found on YouTube at…


Or on Facebook, at…


Zehava… you’re the best!

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I had occasion the other day to spend a leisurely afternoon with my dearly beloved friend, Davka Frei. [1]

Davka is a stunningly beautiful Jewish girl who has zero interest in Yiddishkeit. [2]

It’s not that she hates Judaism or even dislikes it. It’s simply not on the radar with her. As such, she is continually flummoxed at the fact that I live an observant Jewish life.

I did not grow up Orthodox. I chose to become Orthodox later in life. And this is what gets her!

You see, while Davka can wrap her mind around someone being observant because he or she was raised that way and ‘did not know better’ (i.e. FFB – Frum From Birth [3]), she has a much harder time understanding why someone who ‘knew better’ (i.e. had a normal non-observant life) would choose a frum lifestyle.

(Frum vs Frei)

Fortunately for the both of us, the Frum/Frei debate hasn’t affected our relationship in the least because for the most part we are completely dippy about each other. For all of our differences in terms of religious observance, we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company.

(Frei vs Frum)

And it is that genuine affection that trumps just about everything else.

In our own way, we are both as Loonie as they come… but we arrive at our loopiness from different angles.

(That’s not us, btw)

That’s what makes lunch (kosher, of course… my friend puts friendship over flavour! [4]) with Davka such a wonderful, delightful experience.

(Ahavas Yisroel! [5])

Love really does conquer all.


[1] Davka Frei (pronounced ‘DAHV-kah FRY’). Not her real name. Davka Frei is a pseudonym. Davka is an Aramaic word that has no precise English translation. The closest you can come is probably ‘very’ or ‘exactly’ or ‘precisely.’  Frei (lit. ‘free’) is a Yiddish/German word meaning ‘non-observant’or ‘not Orthodox’… as in ‘free’ from religious observance.

[2] Yiddishkeit (from the Yiddish; Lit. “Jewishness”) – the word is usually used to mean Judaism and everything related to Jews and Judaism.

[3] Frum (from the German fromm, meaning “devout” or “pious”. The ‘u’ is pronounced like the ‘oo’ in ‘book’ or ‘cookie’) meaning committed to the observance of  Jewish commandments and law, specifically of Orthodox Judaism. Frum is the opposite of Frei.

[4] Truth be told, our last lunch together was at the Oasis Cafe in downtown Toronto. I wasn’t expecting much. We both had the Eggplant Parmigiana with caesar salad and Peach Snapple. It was astonishingly good. Davka: “It’s so delicious, you’d never know it was kosher!” LOL

[5] Love for one’s fellow Jew.

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This past weekend, I had the pleasure of spending Shabbes with my rebbe and mentor, R’ Michael Skobac [1] and his charming wife, Chashi.

R’ Skobac is Master Po to my Grasshopper.

(R’ Skobac and I SO don’t look like this!)

Shabbes dinner featured a spelt/kamut challah that was out of this world!

He was kind enough to share the recipe with me… and here it is!

R’ Skobac’s Healthy Challah for Dummies (and those short on time):


  • 3.5 cups of spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup of kamut flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons of honey


Mix ingredients well into a dough. Divide in two and shape into round loaves.

Bake both loaves on a cookie sheet (covered in parchment paper) @ 350F for 40 minutes.

Check to make sure they’re done and ENJOY!

Simple. Fast. And for those intimidated by baking anything more complicated that muffins or banana bread, a really great way to feel like you know what you’re doing.


[1] Rabbi Michael Skobac – one of the world’s foremost authorities on Missionaries and Cults – is the Director of Education and Counselling of Jews for Judaism (Canada). He was educated at Northwestern University and Yeshiva University and has been involved in Jewish education and outreach work since 1975. (He and I also sit together at our little shtiebl, Congregation Bais Dov Yosef in Toronto [aka The Holy Strudel King]).

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If I ever need to set up a quick, informal yet special rendezvous with someone near and dear to me, I choose Sadie’s Diner & Juice Bar in downtown Toronto.

Sadie’s is on the northwest corner of Portland and Adelaide streets. One block east of Bathurst and two blocks south of Queen Street West.

My dearly beloved friend, CC, introduced me to the place when she and I set up a lunch date just before she moved to Toronto from Ottawa. As an extra bonus attraction, CC brought along her daughter, EC (aka CC Jr, aka Volume 2).

My darling CC is the one you can blame for getting me started with this whole blogging thing. She herself is a top-knotch writer and I have often encouraged her (i.e. nagged her) to send her writing to The New Yorker. I feel her writing is as good as most of the Shouts & Murmurs articles I’ve read and enjoyed at the back of the magazine.

The get-together with my dear CC was my first time at Sadie’s Diner and CC was right on the money about choosing that as the perfect spot. She and I had a wonderful get-together and I sincerely hoped that EC wasn’t too bored out of her mind.

A few months later, when my own daughter (Exhibit One) and I planned a bit of a downtown rendezvous, I immediately suggested Sadie’s. Once again, it was the perfect choice. She and I sat at a table near the front window. The service was wonderful, my daughter loved the food and the atmosphere and I had one of my best times with her.

She thought the place was just wonderful. One of the things that simply tickled my daughter to death was a plastic cow milk dispenser.

(Exhibit Two’s favourite milk dispenser. Note my wallet absent-mindedly left on the table)

Together, we carefully plotted my daughter’s emigration to Israel at that tiny little table. I am sure that in due course, I will arrange a clandestine meeting with my son, Exhibit Two, and begin plotting his emigration to Israel. I have no doubt that he and I will meet at Sadie’s Diner, hopefully at that same little table near the front window. That spot has brought me much luck in the past.

The good times I’ve had there have endeared Sadie’s Diner & Juice Bar to me. It holds a special place in my heart.

Sadie’s is cozy, informal, yet at the same time very chic and hip in a quirky downtown way. Each time I’ve been there, it has been a wonderful experience shared by those nearest and dearest to me. But take some free advice on this subject… don’t waste Sadie’s on ordinary, average, dull, boring people. Save it for the quirky, exciting people in your life. Share it with that special friend who is the artist, photographer, writer, adventurer, actor or just the one that’s odd and weird but in a good way. Save it for that certain loonie in your life without whom you simple cannot do.

I have promised another dearly beloved friend, AC, a get-together in Toronto. She too is a most talented writer and would, no doubt, get a kick out of Sadie’s. I am long overdue for a face to face tête-à-tête with her.

AC has recently threatened to interview me and I feel I should take her up on her ill-conceived offer. I am in favour of and try actively to encourage reckless behaviour in others and I want to show my support however and whenever I can.

So next time you are in the Bathurst and Queen neighbourhood… or even if you just want to plan a lunch downtown with that special beloved oddball in your life, I recommend Sadie’s Diner.

I’ve never regretted it and I am sure you won’t either.


Sadie’s Diner & Juice Bar
504 Adelaide Street West
Toronto, Ontario
M5V 1T5

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