There are several ways to celebrate Shavuot, and you can tailor your approach according to your priorities.
Are you focusing on dairy products, thinking about cheesecake and all things milk-related? See #4.
If it’s all about the all-night learning, the traditional tikkun, we’ve got a bunch of options, mostly in English, and primarily in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (see #1-3).
There are those who turn the holiday into a five-day weekend, given that Shavuot begins on Tuesday night and ends on Wednesday night, and is easily linked to the weekend by taking a day off on Thursday (in these parts, it’s called a “bridge” weekend). If you’re looking to get outta town, we’ve got an idea (see #5).
And for those feeling less than ambitious, pick up some good cheese, a chilled bottle of Chardonnay, and open a good book. You’ll satisfy most of your Shavuot needs.
1) While the majority of the Shavuot events in Jerusalem tend to be in Hebrew, there’s a good selection of lectures and activities that could appeal to the English speakers. Start off by heading to the First Station complex on Tuesday morning or afternoon (10-5), where there will be stalls, street theater, a puppet show and kids’ activities galore.
The first round of learning generally begins around 10:30 p.m., and the Fuchsberg Center for Conservative Judaism downtown is offering an all-English night of learning, starting with Rabbi Joel Roth’s lecture on the relationship between theology and halacha and ending with a 4 a.m. walk to the Western Wall, just a short distance from the center. Fuchsberg Center, 8 Agron Street.
The Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies starts out at 11 p.m., with lecturers Judy Klitsner, David Levin-Kruss, Ruth Gan Kagan, Gila Fine, Daniel Roth, Shira Weiss and director Daniel Landes teaching throughout the night, until 4 a.m. Pardes Institute, 29 Pierre Koenig Street (corner of Rivka), Talpiot. Down the road at Reform synagogue Kol Haneshama the classes will be in Hebrew, but there will be an hour of singing about nature and the harvest at 11:45 pm. Kol Haneshama, 1 Gad Street, Baka.
At the Shalom Hartman Institute, the only English sessions will be held on Wednesday afternoon, with Suzanne Last Stone and Gil Troy at 5 p.m., and Menachem Fisch and Menachem Loberbaum at 6 pm. Shalom Hartman Institute, 11 Gedalyahu Alon Street, German Colony.
If you want to try some Hebrew, Rabbi Benny Lau is speaking about Rabbi Akiva, a figure of rebellion in the world of the sages, at the Menachem Begin Center, at 2:40 a.m., and there will be a guided tour at the Western Wall at 3:45 a.m. Menachem Begin Heritage Center, 6 S.U. Nahon Street. At Beit Avi Chai, the speakers include Moshe Halbertal, Avivah Zornberg, James Kugel and other speakers (in Hebrew), with breaks featuring short plays from the Kalabat Shabbat ensemble at 11:30, 12:40, 1:15 and 2:45. Beit Avi Chai, 44 King George Street.
2) There are some good choices in English In Tel Aviv, which is always known for its wide-ranging Shavuot scene. Beit Daniel is offering an entire tikkun in English (alongside one in Hebrew), with crafts activities, a dance class, classes on Jewish text in Israeli cinema and on Megillat Ruth, followed by a beat box workshop and theater performance, and completed with morning services along the Yarkon River. Beit Daniel, 62 Bnei Dan Street, Tel Aviv.
Three communities, Fishka, Neve Shechter and the Bina Secular Yeshiva are joining forces this Shavuot for In the Middle of the Night: Tikkun Shavuot in South TLV. The evening begins at 7 pm in the Gan Hachashmal neighborhood, with a communal vegan meal at the local ground, followed by a clown show at 8:30 p.m. At 8 p.m., the Tziporela ensemble will perform at Levontin 7, and it could be worth staying there until the graffiti tour leaves at 10:30 pm, heading for Neve Shechter. Other Kishka events include a trio of women singers, an 11 p.m. talk in English about social justice around the world by representatives of local embassies, and a 1 am tango lesson, followed by 3:30 a.m. meditation and a 4:20 a.m. walk to the sea. Fishka Community, Levontin 7 club and Gan Hachashmal, www.fishka.org.il
For some more traditional tikkun offerings, Neve Shechter has a round of speakers, but in Hebrew, although their session on the Shavuot piyut, or liturgical poem, led by Cantor Isidoro Abramowicz, could probably work for speakers of all languages. Neve Shechter, Sheloush 42 at the corner of Eilat 57, Neve Tzedek.
Over at BINA, there will be several sessions in English, including one led by Noga Brenner Samia about love, loss and legacy in the Book of Ruth, and a midnight concert on the legacy of Janis Joplin. Space is limited, but sessions are free. The BINA Secular Yeshiva, Yesod HaMa’ala 61, across from the New Central Bus Station.
3) Throwing water around is also a Shavuot prerequisite, so if there isn’t a massive water fight taking place in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square or your local park, fill up some water balloons and toss ‘em at your loved ones. At the very least, take a bath.
4) Need something other than cheesecake for a Shavuot recipe? Former caterer Lori Rapp first made these shortcakes during her 17-year stint as a vegetarian, when she began her catering company, La Cuisine, from home. She’s known for her creamy mousse cakes and savory pies, the recipes for which will soon be shared in her new cookbook, “Secrets from Lori Rapp’s Kitchen,” but she’ll be making these shortcakes for Shavuot.
“The shortcakes taste best when fresh, so if you’re going to keep them for longer than a day, just wrap them well and freeze them,” said Rapp.
Shortcakes with fruit (serves 12)
- 3 cups flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons orange rind
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch salt
- 170 grams butter
- 560 ml sour cream
- 1 tablespoon cream
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Preheat the oven to 220°C.
- Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, rind, baking soda, and salt in the mixer with the paddle (or in the food processor). Add the butter in small bits and mix until it makes tiny crumbs. Add the sour cream by hand with a fork and just mix lightly.
- Pat the dough into 12 squares – it will be sticky, but don’t add too much flour, and try not to work with them too much. Put them on a baking paper-lined baking sheet.
- Brush with the cream and sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons sugar.
- Bake 12-15 minutes until golden. Cool and cut across into half.
Make about one liter of chopped fruit salad, any combination you like, mixed with some sugar and a splash of orange juice.
The orange-white chocolate cream
- 255 grams white chocolate
- 60 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 20 ml water
- 360 ml heavy cream
- Melt the white chocolate, orange juice, and water in a glass heatproof bowl in the microwave at half power for four minutes.
- Stir it until all the chocolate is smooth and melted, returning it to the microwave for 10 seconds at a time if needed. Let it cool until it’s just barely warm but still runny.
- Whip the heavy cream in a mixer until soft peaks form, and then fold it together with the white chocolate mixture.
To serve: Place the bottom half of the shortcake on a plate, top with a few spoonfuls of fruit salad, and top that with some orange-white chocolate cream. Put the top half of the shortcake on top at an angle, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
5) With a potential five-day weekend for Shavuot, it’s the perfect time to inaugurate Midburn Israel, also known as Burning Man, an experiment in community, art, self-expression and self-reliance. Founded in the US in 1986 and held annually in the Nevada desert, the Israeli version is being held in Ramat Hanegev from June 3-7.
About 70,000 participants took part in the last event in 2013, and note that this is an event with no spectators, only participants. People create theme camps revolving around music, lectures and relaxation. They create giant art installations across the desert floor, hold all-night raves, hug rather than shake hands, share food, stories and experiences.
“It opens your eyes to what people can do without it being for profit,”said Dan Peguine, a local Midburn participant who’s been to Nevada and will take part in this week’s event.
Peguine said he’s curious to see how it plays out in a place like Israel, considering the ten principles of the event that include leaving no trace of the event once it’s over — a challenge in litter-friendly Israel — and the radical inclusion, which can involve “entrepreneurs or hippies.” He’s wondering how diverse it will be and whether Israelis will be able to express themselves without limitations, considering “how everyone knows everyone else, it’s a lot less anonymous here.” Midburn, June 3-7, Ramat Hanegev.
And after the holiday? The Rolling Stones at Park Hayarkon. Chag sameach.