Aliza Donath

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Biblical Botany: A Torah Flora Tour

In his blog Torah Flora, Dr. Jon Greenberg shares his unique insights and vast knowledge on Judaism and plants (or as he more articulately puts it, “biblical ethnobotany”). Some of us had the chance to witness that knowledge first hand today at the New York Botanical Garden, where Dr. Greenberg gave an enthusiastic group a “Torah Flora Tour.”

The goal of the tour (and blog), according to Dr. Greenberg, is to “use knowledge of plants and nature to better understand Torah and Halacha.” He cites a long-lost relationship during the biblical era between Judaism and nature, and a wish to reconstruct it.

Cartoons and Candy

When I was little, about six, seven years old, my favorite after-school cartoon was the Steven Spielberg-produced “Animaniacs”. I don’t know how many of you watched this charming variety show starring the pun-spewing Warner siblings Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, but this little gem of animation was the origin of such now-classics as “Pinky and the Brain”.

Many of the show’s musical numbers stayed with me for years and remain with me still, but this particular one, entitled “Be Careful What You Eat”, popped into my head the other day as I read the ingredients on a popular candy bar which shall remain nameless. Whenever anyone asks me why I avoid sodas or popular brands of chips, I direct them to this song. Watch it and reach for the vegetables.

Confessions of a College Health Nut

About a month ago I received an assignment for my business writing course. We had to compose a letter as an angry parent and PTA member, protesting a hypothetical high school’s deal with a well-known soda manufacturer. The deal would require that the school stock only this brand’s soda and snack products in its vending machines (we assume no healthy alternatives), in return for sponsorship from this manufacturer. My letter went:

To Mr. Anonymous Soda-Junkie:

As a member of the PTA and a concerned parent, I urge you to vote against the contract that would install (brand name here) vending machines in our schools. With teenage obesity reaching epidemic levels, we must do all we can to discourage the consumption of the unhealthy, calorie-rich foods sold by such machines.

Battle of The Milk Alternatives



It’s sort of funny when two worlds collide unexpectedly, especially when one comes to the aid of the other. Take for example my recent search for the perfect milk alternative. I don’t dislike good ol’ cow’s milk, nor am I allergic to it. But as an observant Jew, I often find myself at odds with the fridge staple, usually after I’ve just enjoyed a delicious turkey sandwich.  I am what some would call a Fleish-a-phobe: I rarely eat meat if I can avoid it out of dread for the five hours and one minute to follow, when I will be barred from my favorite treats: ice-cream, chocolate, cheese, milk-based pie, the list goes on.

And so I’ve spent some time searching for that perfect alternative, that wondrous, dairy-free concoction that will replace milk in my cookie recipe and help me whip up the perfect pareve pumpkin pie.  Recently, my best friend and I (with both health and Halacha in mind) unofficially took it upon ourselves to taste-test every non-milk available to us, from various brands of soymilk to the less orthodox (and rarely Kosher) hemp milk, with varying results.

Yid.Dish: Apple-Cheddar Pie, a Remedy For Post-Holiday Blues

The Delicious Pie, Sans First Slice

The Delicious Pie, Sans First Slice

On Sunday night as my mother and I stood outside and began the slow, sad process of dismantling our Sukkah, I started to think about autumn and more specifically, why it ranks as my favorite time of the year. The end of the fall holidays always hit me hard, perhaps even harder than the thought of returning to my daily routine. And yet there I was, shivering in my pajamas and thanking Hashem Almighty that it was fall in New York.

Considering my deep loathing of the snow and my firm belief that the winter should be spent hibernating (with only rare breaks for hot chocolate and cookies), I’m always surprised by my love of its seasonal predecessor. But then I remember that the fall is the start of a brand new year for us Jews. Everything is open before us, and we haven’t had much chance to mess up yet. My favorite flavors come into the Farmers’ Markets: apples, butternut squash, fresh figs, and best of all, pumpkins. And for me, the fall comes with a wonderful combination of those two notions.

Since the next day was Columbus Day (or as I like to call it, the most arbitrary day off of the year), my mother, two of my