Monday, April 28

Turning Over the Spring’s Hard Ground

by Richard Kordesh

After laying down fresh compost from last year’s garden, I turned over with a pitchfork the slowly softening dirt in our middle bed. 

I drove into the ground the points of the fork, pushed them in deep with my foot, and leveraged upward soil that had not seen the sun for many months.

Unlike the compost I’ll buy at the store, ours from our yard, after months of breaking down, still contains along with the “real dirt” a mix of soft clumps and softening twigs. 

These various shapes in different stages of decomposition blend with the newly erupted soil of the bed to form what will be the birthing turf for radishes, spinach, and red beets.

It matters not to the seeds that I then sow in five rows whether they will open and sprout amidst a perfectly ground, uniformly blended base of dirt or the more irregularly configured assortment of variously degraded, earthen objects.

With the right nutrients, sufficient water, good soil contact, attentive weeding, protection from rabbits, and sun, this bed will be good enough for them.

Our children years ago were seeded by us, and then burst forth out of their mother’s soil.  Two arrived together, quite early.

Like today’s middle bed, the home environment we crafted for them comprised a rich, curious mix of food, play, protection, weeding, and occasional bursts of enlightenment.

The quirky, somewhat messy settings in which we’ve raised children and vegetables seem to have been good enough.

Guest blogger Richard S. Kordesh is the author of Restoring Power to Parents and Places and has worked professionally in the community development field for 35 years. Visit Richard's website for more

Wednesday, April 23

Choose the best way to celebrate Earth Day

by JCC staff

On the heels of the official Earth Day 2014, the JCC Indianapolis hosts our own Earth Day Community Celebration on Sunday, April 27.

When you think about it, there are many different ways to positively impact our planet, and you can try some of them at our JCC event, where we're hosting dozens of interactive booths. 

Whether you're good around the garden, are artistically inclined, or have a flair for science, we have an Earth Day Community Celebration activity for you. Here's a sampling:

Tree planting: Keep Indianapolis Beautiful returns for the third year with young trees for the beautification of the Max & Mae Simon Jewish Community Campus (where the JCC is located on 40 acres in the midst of a north-side neighborhood). Volunteers are needed to help plant trees from noon until 1 pm. Volunteers for the tree planting and the Earth Day event in general may register at Volunteer Registration. 

Gardening: Composting, planting seedlings, constructing a mini greenhouse, hydroponics, raised garden bed construction, making seed tape, how to build a rain barrel, the underworld life of earthworms in your garden and more related activities presented by master gardeners and educators. 

Alternative energy: Solar, electric, motion dynamics and others. Meet the Purdue Solar Racing team and check out their solar-powered car. 

Creative recycling: Make terrariums from plastic bottles; use phonebooks and plastic bags to create a floral bouquet; make dog toys from recycled garments and create music from household and discarded objects. Discover what you can do with unwanted electronics and how you can transform computers and ordinary household items into something usable. 

The JCC Indianapolis Earth Day Community Celebration begins at 1 p.m. and is open to the public.

Tuesday, April 15

Exploring Faith Beyond Stereotypes

In New York City in the 1970s, the photograph at right was as iconic as the Statue of Liberty. 

It spoke to the broad appeal of Levy's Jewish Rye bread across a diverse cultural demographic. 

That point was driven home by the image of a young boy who, by appearance alone, "couldn't possibly be Jewish" enjoying a sandwich made with Levy's Rye. 

While the ad sold bread, it also had the effect of further embedding the stereotype that there are none of African descent among the Jewish people. 

In late 2013, photographer William Rasdell set out to create a contemporary profile of the Ethiopian Jews in Israel. 

By some sources, the Ethiopian Jews, known as Beta Israel (House of Israel), are thought to be descendants of the lost tribe of Dan, one of the biblical Ten Lost Tribes. The community resettled in Israel with the aid of the Israeli government in two massive waves of immigration in 1984 and 1991. 

The Beta Israel’s absorption into Israeli society has been difficult. Physically, culturally and religiously, the people of Beta Israel are different than the rest of country. To this day, they practice an ancient form of Judaism no longer seen in Israel, leading some to publicly question their legitimacy as Jews.

My City: My World Exhibit: Beta Israel, which begins on Thursday, April 24 in the JCC Art Gallery, shines a light on the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel. It is at once universal and very personal. The stories of integrating traditions and culture into a new environment are certainly relevant in our own city. 

This eight week exhibition was made possible largely through a generous grant of the Efroymson Family Fund. It will dovetail with the JCC’s Days of Remembrance, which will begin April 27 with Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, and end on May 4 with Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.
Please join us at the opening reception for refreshments and an opportunity to meet the artist: Thursday, April 24, 5:30 to 7:30 pm in the JCC Art Gallery

Tuesday, April 8

Spring Cleaning

by Katherine Matutes, Ph.D.

Finally! It feels like spring is really heading our way. 

When I see the crocuses peek their heads out of the ground, I feel those first stirrings to clean out the house, which always includes cleaning out the pantry, fridge and (especially) the recipe box. 

As the cravings for heartier, heavier meals subside, my whole family looks to the produce aisles to see what’s “new."  

You should be on the lookout for these upcoming first, fresh produce harbingers of spring: asparagus, avocados, peas, strawberries and spinach. 

With these ingredients, enjoy the following heart healthy salad: 

1 bunch spinach, thoroughly washed
1 bunch lightly steamed asparagus chopped into 1 inch pieces
¾ cup steamed fresh peas, cooled (or ¾ cup frozen peas, thawed)
1 avocado, diced
1 pint strawberries, washed and sliced
1 pint blue berries, washed
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned (blood oranges would be really nice)
½ cup shelled pistachios

For your dressing:
½  cup olive oil or avocado oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Scant ¼ cup fresh orange juice
2 tsp mustard
2 tbsp honey
Dash salt and pepper

Mix all salad ingredient together and top with avocado. Whisk together dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad, top with nuts if desired and serve immediately.

Healthier Ingredients 
What makes this salad so great? It's ingredients.

Asparagus posseses a unique combination of nutrients including: saponins, asparanin A, sarsasapogenin, protodioscin, and diosgenin. These compounds work synergistically to reduce inflammation which is widely known to exacerbate or even promote heart disease.

Avocados are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, which is essential for optimal health and enhances the absorption of other fat soluble nutrients.

Peas are another great source of heart healthy plant nutrients. They are actually a legume and contrary to popular belief fairly low in carbohydrates. 

Strawberries provide an outstanding variety of plant nutrients, including the widely known vitamin C, but they are also high in anthocyanins  and resveratrol, which is commonly found in red wine.

Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, which are both powerful antioxidants that support heart health.

You can pick up these salad ingredients and many more healthy options when the JCC Famers Market begins this June.

More About Katherine Matutes, PhD