Tuesday, October 29

Katz Festival: Data-dumping and remembering the past

by Dara Horn

Tell me if this has ever happened to you.

You celebrated something over the weekend—a child’s birthday, a friend’s wedding, an anniversary, a holiday—and you took some pictures. 

Or at least you thought you took “some” pictures. 

The only problem, as you discovered when you got home, was that “some” pictures turned out to be 487 pictures.

If you had taken 20, or even 80, you might have enjoyed glancing through them. But the mere thought of looking through 487 pictures turns reliving the past into something unpleasant, burdensome. You never look at them again.

In my novel, “A Guide for the Perplexed,” a software developer creates an app that records everything its users do. She is so successful that she’s invited all over the world, including to Egypt. When she takes that ill-fated invitation, she finds herself kidnapped in Egypt’s post-revolutionary chaos—and suddenly faced, in a dark and silent room, with what it really means to remember the past. That past includes the lives of Jewish data-dumpers who came before her.

In Cairo, a thriving Jewish community once stored 150,000 scraps of paper in a genizah—a “hiding place” in a 900-year-old synagogue where anything with Hebrew letters was tossed into a windowless room. The material they saved created a kind of medieval Facebook. But 100 years after its discovery, much of it has barely been read yet.

What is it about data-dumping that we find so compelling, then and now? Why do we aspire to save every moment of our lives—and now that we can, are we sure that we want to?

We’ll talk about this and my novel when I visit the Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.

Guest blogger Dara Horn is author of A Guide for the Perplexed and is set to appear as a featured speaker at the 15th Annual Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts.

Thursday, October 24

5 Tips to Provide Healthier Holiday Eating

by Katherine Matutes

The greatest number of heart attacks occurs on the same three days each year. 

According to a study published in the journal Circulation, you are most likely to die from a heart attack during the winter holidays. 

The highest number of fatal heart attacks occurs on Dec. 25, second highest on Dec. 26, and third highest on Jan. 1. 

Why? Overindulgence is one key factor. 

The increased incidence of fatal heart attacks is directly related to the increase in fat consumption. High fat intake places a burden on the metabolic system, which results in an increase in circulating serum fats – a primary trigger for clogging arteries. 

A recent highly publicized victim of this phenomenon is the actor James Gandolfini, who died of a heart attack at age 51 while on vacation after consuming meals laden with fat and alcohol.
How can you help your family eat healthier during the holidays?  Below are a few tips to still enjoy your favorite holiday meals but keep them on the healthier side. 
  1. Discourage second helpings – don’t serve your meal with extra helpings readily available on the table. Instead, serve from a buffet or plate up servings individually (an added bonus - you’ll use less dishes).
  2. Create a meal plan that is composed mostly of fruits and vegetables.
  3. Use smaller plates, studies indicate that we consume more when we use larger plates (a good excuse to break out your vintage dinnerware -it will likely have a smaller diameter).
  4. Reduce the amount of high fat items that your serve choosing lower fat substitutes -use milk in place of cream, drain excess fat from pan drippings used in gravy, offer more fruit and vegetables and less cheeses for appetizers.
  5. Plate up dessert in small portions and serve them buffet style instead of allowing guests to cut their own portion.
For more in depth cooking ideas, attend the JCC’s Happy, Healthy Holiday Cooking Classes Tuesday 5th, 12th and 19th in November 6:30-7:30PM.

More About Katherine Matutes, PhD

Tuesday, October 22

Katz Festival: I Say Tomatoes

by Miriam Rubin

Tomato wasn't one of my first words. 

My sister's first word was chocolate, but I imagine I said "tomato" fairly soon after I began appreciating food. 

It was love at first bite. 

Aptly, another name for tomatoes is Love Apples.

Heirlooms weren't yet a concept when I was a child, but even then, I craved only full-flavored tomatoes. In season, sun-ripened, firm-textured. 

A favorite summer lunch was a version of the classic Southern tomato sandwich. My way: toasted challah, Hellmann's, sliced olives and juicy, ripe tomatoes. 

These days, in my garden in southwestern Pennsylvania, I grow many vegetables, but tomatoes are my passion. 

This year, I grew 22 different varieties. They're what I wait for. Why I wrote my book. 

I'm thrilled to be meeting with you to talk about tomatoes. The JCC Cooking Committee is preparing scrumptious tomato dishes for sampling: Matbucha, Edna Lewis' Baked Tomatoes with Crusty Bread and Spiced Green Tomato Crumb Cake. As part of my presentation, I'll prepare Ginger Tomatoes.

Tomato season is well past. With sadness, I pulled up the last plants weeks ago. Cooler temps approach, light snow and killing frost threaten, but now it's bright and sunny. 

I've harvested all the lettuce, some chard and the last of the cilantro. My garden is ending, but it couldn't be a prettier time to appreciate what's still there.

Some of summer is preserved in jars. But mostly, the tomatoes I'm cooking with are canned. There's next season to ponder, garlic to plant in a couple weeks. Gardeners always look forward.

Thanks for inviting me to Indianapolis. I look forward to sharing tomato love and lore on November 3 as part of the Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts.

Guest blogger Miriam Rubin is the author of Tomatoes: A Savor the South Cookbook and is set to appear as a featured speaker at the 15th annual Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts.  

Friday, October 18

Katz Festival: A Meditation on Memory

by Glenn Halberstadt

A few years ago, in a post for The Indianapolis Public Library, I raved about Leon R. Kass’s book The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis. I was grateful for Kass’s insights into the story of Joseph and Judah and their other brothers.

Now, I would like to thank author Dara Horn for her story of Josephine and Judith in the new novel, A Guide for the Perplexed.

Software whiz Josephine Ashkenazi has invented a program called Genizah, which allows its users to preserve their memories. To this reader, it sounds worse–more sentimental, more knee-jerky, more encouraging of delusion–even than Facebook; and it’s a huge success.

Unlike Joseph in the Bible, Josie has only one sibling; but sister Judith has enough bottled-up envy for a few dozen brothers. She encourages her more celebrated, more beloved sister to travel to Egypt, where Josie is taken captive, and is thought to be murdered.

In addition to being a suspense story, A Guide for the Perplexed is a meditation on the creation of memory, and on the pull that siblings have on each other.

The meditation isn’t confined within the twenty-first century. It looks back a hundred years to the story of Cambridge scholar Solomon Schechter, who (in real life) discovered the Cairo Genizah–a room full of holy documents piled on top of each other; and then looks back even further, to the life of the philosopher and physician Moses Maimonides (d. 1204), who, like Schechter, had sibling issues.

You may be thinking that this is a recipe for perplexity, rather than any sort of guide; but when I was finished reading, the strands had pulled together.

Now you can learn more about the making of this great work straight from the author during her scheduled appearance at the JCC on October 30th, as part of the Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts. If you haven’t already marked your calendars, plan to join Ms. Horn at 7:00 p.m.

Copies of A Guide for the Perplexed are available for sale at the JCC.

Guest blogger Glenn Halberstadt works for the Indianapolis Public Library, where he edits the Reader’s Connection blog and contributes other web content.

Tuesday, October 15

Speed dating with authors

John Schwartz is one of 11 authors
scheduled to appear at the Katz Festival
When we welcome our first author to the 15th annual Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts on October 28, we are reaping the benefits of a long process. 

Planning for the 2013 Festival began just after we packed up the book inventory from last year’s festival.

To ensure that we present outstanding artists, I am constantly on the search for the new and undiscovered, starting a “new books/authors” sheet while perusing numerous sources throughout the year. 

The New Times Book Review, as well as numbers of blogs, e-newsletters and magazines that I subscribe to provide invaluable information about newly published books by well-published, as well as newly published authors.

Lev Rothenberg, Director of Arts and Education, and I are members of the Jewish Book Council – a New York City based organization that programs an annual event called the Jewish Book Network. 

Lev and I attend this intensive 3-day program in early June when other directors, programmers and coordinators of Jewish Book Festivals throughout the United States and Canada come together to learn, share and teach one another about our past experiences hosting book festivals.

Over a three-day time frame, we have the honor of listening to over 200 authors who have newly published books. This event, humorously called “speed dating with authors,” allows authors 2 minutes each to pitch their books. Their ability or inability to speak under pressure is often what makes or breaks our decision on who we will invite to our Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts.

And then there are the musicians, artists and films that a committee works on so that our festival is a true celebration of the arts.

When you join us for our 15th anniversary of the Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts in a few weeks, I hope this article gives you a small peek into the planning that goes into our labor of love for our community. 

When we do our job well, it will all seem effortless as you enjoy our many offerings. 

More about Lisa Freeman

Wednesday, October 2

Don't Let Stress Tip the Scale

by Jane McIntosh, MA, CSN

Chronic stress consumes today’s lifestyles and can affect your eating habits and weight. 

When stress creeps in forcing food as relief, we typically reach for high fat, sugary foods which can lead to consuming more calories or more fat than our recommended diet allows.

When you experience stress, your brain signals your body to produce cortisol, the stress hormone which eventually begins to compromise digestion. Our physical and emotional well-being are affected by stress and 75% of the time over eating is linked to this emotion.

Stress is inevitable, but here are a few way to manage stress instead of reaching for your favorite sweet.

Take it out on a piece of paper. Journal frustrating thoughts, feelings and experiences that create stress. When you reach for food to curb stress and find yourself overeating, track the emotional triggers so it can be prevented next time.

Plan ahead. Write down three alternate activities instead of reaching for chips in a stressful moment. Try taking a long shower or bath, going for a walk or drinking water or tea.

Stock up on healthy foods. When you simply need food to manage your stress, choose healthy options by stocking up on fruits, vegetables, nuts and low fat dairy.

Sources: Emotional Eating and Weight Loss–WebMD

Note: The information presented here is not a substitute for medical advice. Consult a physician before starting any exercise. We suggest that you discontinue exercise immediately if you feel you’re exercising beyond your current abilities.