One Year In: What We’re Reading (3)

Sue Foard, Membership & Volunteer Coordinator: As a visual person, I enjoy learning and being entertained by visual media.  This past month, the show, This Old House on MPT caught my attention. It was about an older house in Rhode Island, near the ocean.  The show highlighted renovation projects which included an addition with a garage and master bedroom, updated landscaping, and a newly created backyard entertaining space.

The show caught my attention because it brought back memories from my childhood.  My father was a carpenter and I was his helper.  He had turned the basement into his workshop.  I would often catch off cuts from boards as he used the table saw.  Or sometimes, I would assist as he sent board through the planer.  He enjoyed his work which is why on his off time he still worked with wood.  To this day, I still have furniture he made.  As I fondly remember these moments from my childhood, I enjoy watching shows that work on houses or with wood.

Each week I get to see what my father must have done at work and feel closer to him.

Well back to the house.  They tore out the first floor interior walls to make a larger kitchen and incorporated part of a rotting porch into the dining area.  There were windows with stained glass which needed repair.  The windows added to my happy memories of my father.  In addition to carpentry, my father worked with stained glass as a hobby.  He made lamp shades, sailing ships and a small baby grand piano.  There were many stained glass accents in our home.  As we grew older, my father made stained glass items for all his children.

To close out the show and the happy memories, the backyard was amazing.  It had a soaking pool, outdoor shower, pizza oven, fireplace and grill.  While my father kept a very manicured yard, we never had these amenities.  I am waiting for my invitation to the backyard. Chuckle.

Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education: I have been back and forth the past few weeks reading two books – one about Israeli cooking and the other about Baltimore history.

My husband, Shay Alon is the day-to-day cook in our home.  I was thrilled when he received this cookbook as a gift, from An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel from Alon Shaya. Many of the recipes are Israeli inspired I have enjoyed practicing my burekas skills.  Burekas are a puffed pastry dough that can be filled with savory and sweet fillings. I have practiced making different shapes of burekas like bureka tarts and bureka cigars.

While I am waiting for the burekas in the oven, I have been skimming the book, Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City by Antero Pietilo.  I wanted a better understanding of what life might have been like for my grandparents, recent immigrants from Latvia and Kiev at the turn of the 20th century.  I was especially interested in the time period of the 1910’s- and how Baltimore was segregated by race and religion in terms of housing, restaurants, etc.  Blacks, Jews and Catholics were all considered undesirable homebuyers.  I wanted to have a better understanding of my grandparents movement  in Baltimore – from Hull Street in South Baltimore, to Pennsylvania Avenue and finally to northwest Baltimore.  It is a fascinating read and really gives me a better understanding of residential segregation, redlining and other questionable real estate tactics.

Marisa Shultz, School Program Coordinator: As the weather gets better and the winter moves into spring, I always start dreaming about growing beautiful and bountiful vegetable and herb gardens on the small balcony of my apartment. As I’ve been making my gardening plans, Kevin Espiritu’s book Field Guide to Urban Gardening has been my companion!

Espiritu’s own experiences as a gardening autodidact means that he’s created an extremely accessible book that tries to answer all of the questions new(ish) gardeners will have about growing their own food; my favorite thing is that he takes into consideration people, like me, with pretty limited space and sunlight!

In the realm of history, I’ve just begun reading Svetlana Boym’s exploration of the feeling of nostalgia, The Future of Nostalgia, which I discovered through the writings of historian Anne Applebaum. In The Future of Nostalgia, Boym explores the history of nostalgia and the role that it has come to play in politics and culture, particularly in the post-Soviet Union world. The book is part history, part philosophy, and part literary criticism. While it definitely requires my full attention and careful reading skills, I’ve discovered many ideas so far that have given me lots to think about.

Lastly, I’ll round out this myriad of books with a Jewish text: Rabbi Shai Held’s Torah commentary The Heart of Torah. I’ve really been enjoying these short, accessible essays that are thought-provoking, inspiring, at times challenging, and often innovative. He pulls from traditional sources, like historic Jewish commentators and midrashic writings, but also interreligious Biblical scholars as a way of illuminating this ancient text in new ways.  


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