Friday night, April 22, 2016, marks the first night of Passover – the first Seder. We’re all busy preparing our homes, shopping, and preparing to cook for the holiday.
This is a time for gathering together. We read the Haggadah and tell the story of our deliverance as a people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the land of Israel. It is a cornerstone of our being a people. So central is the journey from slavery to freedom, from oppression to self-reliance, that we retell this story each year. We can only appreciate our freedom if we remember our enslavement. We can only appreciate our wholeness if we remember our brokenness. We can only appreciate our own land of Israel, a home for all the Jewish people, if we recall our desperation and desolation when we had nowhere else to turn.
So – we tell the story, year after year, from generation to generation. And with the telling, we serve our favorite foods. Again, passing from one generation to the next our savory dishes, favorite recipes, each with a special name, with special textures and flavors, and with their own memories. These are the stories – and the foods, that bind us together as a people and keep us connected as a family. How very strong is the bond that stories – and food – provide!
Our family Passover seder this year will bring together nearly 50 people – mashala! – all somehow connected to my grandparents, of blessed memory, Isaac (Hacco) Hasson and Sarota Benveniste Hasson. Both were born on the Island of Rhodes (at the time part of the Ottoman empire, Turkey), at the end of the 19th century. Could they ever had imagined that over a hundred years later, their children and grandchildren, down to their great great great grandchildren, would still be connected, gathering together (in person and via Facebook) to remember their names, remember their stories, and together carry on the family traditions that they, too, brought forth from the generations before them! How wonderful that is!
Our Seder will include readings, stories and songs in English, Hebrew and Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish of our Sephardic family. The foods will be leaven free with flavors and names related to our Turkish, Spanish and Mediterranean roots.
I am including recipes for some of our favorites – Haroset, Keftes di Prassa (Leek patties), Megina (Passover meat casserole), sweet treats like Masa di Vino (Passover wine cookies), Moustachudos (nut confections), Marochinos (almond macaroons), and the all time favorite for Passover or for ANY time, Ashuplados (meringues).
We hope you will take some time to try a new recipe or two for the holiday.
May you enjoy your time together with family and friends; may you tell the story of our people and the lessons of our journey. May you tell stories and remember those of our families who are no longer with us physically, so their memories stay alive in our hearts and those of our children and their lives continue to bless us. May we keep the traditions of our ancestors and create new ones with our children. May our gatherings bring blessings – and may our hands, the hands that prepare these foods that nourish our souls and keep our traditions alive, always be blessed.
Pesah Alegre!
~Bendichas Manos

JLTV Presents: Sephardic Life in Film – A Celebration of Diversity


This Saturday night – sit back, turn on your TV, and watch some great movies!  Ladino songs, Sephardic culture and history – grab a handful of ‘bilibisis’, and enjoy!

Nationwide on DirecTV  (366) and on cable through Comcast, Time Warner and other multi-system operators. (To find the a cable network in your area visit http://jltv.tv/zip.php.) Or plan to watch us live streaming on your computer, iPad or smartphone at www.jltv.tv.




Sephardic Films

“The richness and diversity of the Jewish people is captivating, “ says Phil Blazer,founder and CEO of JLTV (Jewish Life Television). “We are pleased to make our platform available to film makers who want to share their work on the great diversity of Jewish tradition and culture around the world,” states Blazer.

JLTV is the only 24/7 Jewish-themed television network, available in over 47 million homes in all 50 states and in 127 countries via live stream on our website, www.jltv.tv

The Celebration of Diversity will premier with ‘Sephardic Life in Film’ in two segments, on Saturday nights, April 9 and April 16 and repeating on Monday nights, April 18 and April 25. This series will spotlight segments of the Sephardic experience in Seattle (The Sephardic Jews and the Pike Place Market) and Los Angeles (Once Upon a Time at 55th and Hoover), as well as offering the insightful story of Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Uziel, the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi Of Israel – a visionary leader, merging tradition and modernity (The Visionary), a beautiful look at the Sephardic world through words and music (Song of the Sephardi), and a peek at the Bukharian Museum in New York, (Aron Aronov and the Bukharian Museum).

Excitement is growing and reaction has been strong. There is tremendous enthusiasm from viewers, sponsors and the public. We look forward to sharing more films on the diversity of the Jewish experience in May as we commemorate Yom HaShoah. We are also hearing from viewers and film makers about their desire to see films about the rich traditions of Jews in the Arab world, Mizrahi Jews, as well as communities in Africa, Asia, and South America.    We are seeking films and sponsors to indeed, make that a reality.

Check your cable listings to find us on Direct TV nationwide, Time Warner, Comcast, Atlantic Broadband and a growing list of Cable providers.

To find the a cable network in your area visit http://jltv.tv/zip.php.   Or plan to watch us online on your computer, iPad or smartphone at www.jltv.tv

Bendichas Manos


Meringue clouds…..a divine confection of the Gods!  A special occasion delicacy passed down by our grandmothers !

Growing up, we knew it was a very special occasion when Grandma made Ashuplados……meringue clouds!  Sweet….light as a feather, a light shell on the outside. Texture, sweetness……simply….divine!!!

They look beautiful on a sweet table, and delight young and more mature and sophisticated palettes alike!

These are one of my mom’s signature delicacies.  Last year, we prepared this post when my mom made these for my young cousin’s  “Banyo di Novia”. (She prepared them again this month for the Brit Milah and Pidyon haBen of the new baby son of the same cousin……mashala!!!) They are a superb Pesah treat, as well.

View original post 227 more words

What a spectacular opportunity!  An online class taught by Professor Devin Naar.  Dr. Naar is the Issac Alhadeff Professor in Sephardic Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle.  All the details are right here.  Class begins March 21……I am so looking forward to it!  Sign up!  Join me!

I am still glowing from the precious opportunity to learn with some wonderful people at the symposium, UCLadino.  I invite other attendees to share your experiences and observations with us all in the comments section.  What a joy it is to hear of the scholarship and study of Ladino and our Sephardic culture and traditions.   Along with the treat of seeing and hearing from Professors Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Devin Naar and Bryan Kirschen, it was a treat to hear Professor Jessica Marglin from USC and some of her very insightful students.  In addition, a collection of community members shared their Sephardic Stories with the symposia over the two days.

The are more opportunities ahead which we look forward to sharing.   For now…..check out Professor Naar’s online class.

We always look forward to your input.  Comment below, join the conversation on Facebook by joining our Group Bendichas Manos! Or send us a note, Marcia@BendichasManos.com

Blessings always,

-Bendichas Manos



Purim is right around the corner!  Amongst the traditions of the holiday is the exchanging of gifts of food with one another. Many communities exchange ‘misloach manot’ (Hebrew: sending of portions).  In our Ladino community, I’ve always heard it referred to as Platikos di Purim (Purim plates).   As part of the Platikos, my mother usually makes biscochos, boulicunio, baklava.  I am reprinting a few of her recipes in this post, below.  Here is a piece we published a few years back with the recipe for ‘foulares’, representing ‘Haman in Jail’, a favorite with our children.  This includes a recipe from my dear friend, cookbook author and blogger, Linda Capeluto Sendowski (check our her new cookbook here).  In addition, I have included two articles in this post.  One is from one of my favorites, Ty Alhadeff, Sephardic Studies Research Coordinator at the Storm Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington.  It is entitled “Sephardic Purim Customs from the Old World to the Pacific Northwest”. The second is an article from Ynet by Matilda Koen-Sarano with her recollections of Purim. I hope you’ll enjoy them both of them.

In the month of Adar, our joy is increased. In commemoration of Haman’s evil decree to annihilate the Jewish people in ancient Persia and the miracle of the turnaround from fear to triumph as Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordechai, found favor with the King and the Jewish people were spared and Haman, instead, was hanged, we rejoice, we remember, we celebrate and we stand strong;

May we continue to celebrate in joy; may we share memories and stories of the holidays past with our children and grandchildren;  may we create new memories with them, as we celebrate today.  May ‘evil decrees’ be lifted and light and right triumph over darkness.  May we savor the treats we bake and share, and may our hands always be blessed.

Purim Alegria!

~Bandichos Manos


Biscochos de Huevo – Kaye Hasson Israel

Biscochos are often called tea biscuits. We think of them as a “biscotti”, a crunchy treat! Biscochos are a bit sweet and are wonderful with your morning coffee (could be afternoon or evening coffee or tea or even milk, for that matter!!)

Ingredients for My Mom’s Biscochos

1 C eggs

1 C sugar

3/4 C oil

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla flavoring

5 – 7 C flour


1 egg + 1 drop of water, beaten well

sesame seeds

(alternative to sesame seeds: cinnamon and sugar or “sprinkles”)

These are my mom’s directions:

With electric mixer, beat eggs and oil in a mixing bowl. Add sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until well blended. Add flour and baking powder gradually, knead into a medium dough until no longer sticky.


Place onto floured work area and finish kneading dough with additional flour as needed. Dough should not be sticky as long as you can handle it without it sticking to your hands.


Take walnut-sized pieces and roll down on table with palms of hands into a rope 5 inches long and only 1/2 inch thick.


Press down with fingers to create channel;


Fold rope over and cut slits into the edge.


Join into a bracelet shape. Brush egg on top side.

Dip top side into chosen topping ( sesame, cinnamon sugar or sprinkles):


Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from pan. Allow to cool.



Now…time to sit down with a cup of coffee and a biscotto and relax!

Baklava – Kaye Hasson Israel

Baklava is a sweet pastry made of layers of Filo dough filled with chopped nuts and bathed in a sweet syrup. It is labeled as a Turkish, Greek or any of a variety of Middle Eastern delicacy. Our families made it on the Island of Rhodes, so we claim it as our own.

There are many variation in making Baklava. Different communities feature different nut mixtures and dIfferent configurations when baking. My mom makes a rolled variety. Here is her recipe:

Kaye Hasson Israel makes Baklava


1 Lb prepared FIlo Dough
5 Cups almonds, ground (or other nuts of your choosing)
1 C Sugar
1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 C oil in a small bowl.
1/2 C Tasted Sesame Seeds (optional)

Prepare a mixture using ground nuts, sugar, cinnamon and gloves. Set aside.

Open package of Filo. Keep moist and usable by placing a moist cloth over the waxed paper covered batch of Filo that you are not currently using ( otherwise, Filo has a tendency to dry out).

Place one layer of Filo on your work surface. Brush with oil. Place a second layer of Filo directly on top. Brush second layer with oil.

Kaye Israel making Baklava

Sprinkle nut mixture in a thin, even layer on brushed Filo. Top with one additional sheet of Filo. Brush with oil.

Begin to roll Filo tightly. Slice rolled Filo log at a diagonal. Cut approximately 1 inch in length. Place cut pieces on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper.


Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes (Since ovens vary, watch as it bakes…when it begins to take on color, you can remove from the oven)

Allow to cool.

In the meantime, prepare syrup.

Syrup ingredients:

1 1/2 C Honey
1 1/2 C Sugar
1 C Water

Combine all ingredients. Boil on stove. Cook until it becomes “sticky” (if you have a cooled bit between your fingers, it should form “strings”)

When syrup is ready, pour over tray of baked Baklava. Allow syrup to soak in.


For serving, “soaked” piece of Baklava can be placed in size-to-fit paper Bake Cups (often called Cupcake liners) and placed on a serving platter.



We look forward to your comments. Join the conversation as part of our Facebook Group, Bendichas Manos!

~Bendichas Manos


UCLadino 2016

A very worthwhile two day symposium will be held in Los Angeles this next week, Wednesday March 2 and Thursday, March 3, 2016 at UCLA.  Sign up….come for both days, come for one day, come for part of a day.  But DO respond and let them know you’ll be there so they set up appropriately.

In its fifth consecutive year, UCLadino is a symposium for the exchange of knowledge, innovative research and cultural traditions of the Ladino, Judeo-Spanish Jewish language and traditions.

There are a wealth of programs this year that I am so looking forward to!  First I must mention that two of the greatest luminaries in Ladino study will be part of the same symposium.

Dr Kirschen recently received his PhD from UCLA. While studying there he co-founded and became director of UCLadino. We were fortunate to have him teach classes to the community on the Ladino language and culture at the Skirball Cultural Center in LA. He is already a star in the field of Ladino and Sephardic studies.   A treat to have him back in Los Angeles for a few days.

Professor Devin E. Naar received his PhD from Stanford University.  How fortunate that he found a home at the University of Washington, fast becoming, in my opinion, THE Center for Ladino and Sephardic Studies in the US.  Dr. Naar was just named the Isaac Alhadeff Professor of Sephardic Studies at UW ( which always puts a sweet smile in my heart of remembrance and respect for Ike).  He is the driving force behind the ‘Sephardic Treasures Project‘ housed at UW, a sought after speaker on Sephardic and Ladino studies and a visionary. His biography is stellar, his trajectory as a leader to keep the Sephardic and Ladino traditions academically researched, recorded, alive and relevant is explosive!

There are a myriad of additional speakers and programs.  One that caught my eyes – Thursday morning Molly Fitzmorris from the University of Washington.  Her topic, “The o’s and u’s: Vowel Raising in Seattle Ladino’s Rhodesli Dialect.”  Something I’ve always noticed and been aware of – fascinated to realized it is a topic relevant of academic inquiry!

Read through the program.  So very much to take the opportunity to hear and explore.  Consider attending.  See the links attached.

I hope we see you there!

program for UCLadino 2016


This is an insightful article on the current state of the Sephardic world and the Jewish community in general.  I urge you to read it and join in the discussion.  Written with thoughtful consideration for our past and future by our own “Pashiko”, Neil Sheff.  Comments welcome here or join us on Facebook at: Bendichas Manos!


Did you hear the one about a Sephardic boy who walks in to this Orthodox yeshiva….