Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Rhonda Spivak and Mira Sucharov


Mira Sucharov, Associate Professor of Political Science at Carlton University in Ottawa debates Rhonda Spivak, editor of the Winnipeg Jewish Review, on everything from matzah to the four questions to ask U.S. President Obama this Passover.

Dear Rhonda,

Passover's coming, though I choke on the word Passover, being the Hebrew purist that I am: it's always "Pesach" to me. But when it comes to matzah, I'm no more pure than Madonna (the singer). For me, I jettison traditional white in favour of whole wheat all the way -- with an occasional egg matzah for an admitted treat. (And don't get me started on the holier-than-matzah shmura matzah.)

Dear Mira,

Actually Mira, not only have I never thought of you in the same sentence as Madonna (I hope she isn’t offended), I completely disagree with your preference for whole wheat matzah.  It may be healthier, but it tastes like cardboard, and it sits on the shelf at our house even longer than those pessadic noodles, which I gave up buying because when ever you try to cook them they all stick together in one big googy glob. 

As for egg matzah, how can you call that a treat? Bread would be a treat ! If you can convince your kids that egg matzah is a treat, then clearly you are far more talented than Madonna will ever be. 

Dear Rhonda,

I  love the earthy nuttiness of whole wheat matzah. A slab of sharp, melted cheddar contrasts perfectly with the fibrous base. With so much of Pesach food being about denial, I love that I’m enhancing my heart health with a bite of the afikoman.

As for egg matzah: is there any other main ingredient for matzah brei?

All this suggests the question of whether one views Pesach as fundamentally about denial or about celebration. What’s the meaning for you?


Dear Mira,

There’s no denying that the  holiday is fundamentally one  about  freedom,  celebration,  and renewal, but this year I imagine that when we sing “Next Year in Jerusalem” there’s going to be some political talk about  just how big  Jerusalem ought to be,  and  whether the spiritual Jerusalem ought to be different than the political Jerusalem.

Last year if you remember there was quite the buzz about the fact that  President  Obama was holding a Seder at the White House, a sign of his reaching out to the American Jewish community.  But this year,  after Obama has chewed out Netanyahu for Israel’s announcing the building of 1600 homes in Ramat Shlomo, in East Jerusalem,  a few of us  might be thinking of  four questions to ask Obama on Seder night.  Here would be my 4:

One:  After the commotion  about Ramat Shlomo dies down, what are you going to do  to stop Iran from going nuclear and when are you going to impose crippling sanctions on it like you have said you would?

Two:  Since you’ve had no problem taking on Netanyahu over the  announcement of building in Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem, when are you going to publicly take Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to task for  the ongoing  culture of incitement on  PA TV ? [ For example, a music video broadcast on PA TV from the year 2000 until as recently as February 7, 2010, depicts a Martyr being greeted in Paradise by the Virgins all dressed in white. It can be seen here:  A Friday sermon delivered at Bourin Mosque in Nablus on January 29, 2010, carried on Palestinian Authority TV, said, for example, “Enmity with the Jews is a matter of faith more than an issue pertaining to occupation and land.” (check out the site of Palestinian Media Watch for more examples].

Three: What are you President Obama going to do to ensure that all the weapons and training you are giving to  PA police under  America’s General Dayton in the West Bank aren’t ultimately  going to be directed against  Israel as was the case in Gaza  in 2006?

Four: If Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad  unilaterally declares a provisional state of Palestine (in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem),  by the summer of July 2011,and  Fayyad goes to the UN  Security Council to ask it to ratify this state are you going to  block it ? In other words, is the United States going to insist that a Palestinian state arise only out of  a negotiated peace agreement with Israel, or  is the  United States  not going to use its veto power?  

Oh yes, and knowing you’re going to ask, Mira, assuming I expected Obama at my Seder table, I’d probably serve him organic whole wheat matzah even though it likely doesn’t exist in Winnipeg, so I’d have to  order it in from Chicago!

What would be your four questions?


Dear Rhonda,

I would love to have the opportunity to ask Barack Obama four questions over four glasses of Manischewitz chased by charoset canapes. I appreciate that you’re wondering how Obama is going to deal with Israel’s adversaries.

But as someone who identifies with the J-Street use of the “pro-Israel” label alongside the imperative of being “pro-peace,” I am more concerned with wondering how Obama is going to deal with America’s “friend who is driving drunk,” in the words of Thomas Friedman writing in the New York Times. Netanyahu’s land grab around Jerusalem is unhelpful for peace, to say the least. There is very little goodwill being shown by the current right-wing government in Israel towards a two-state solution, paltry rhetoric notwithstanding. My four questions would therefore probably be pretty brief -- one related to each of the four rejectionist parties in Israel’s current right-leaning coalition.

Instead, I would probably engage Obama, who strikes me as rather philosophical, on the question of the four sons. The Haggadah tells us about the wise one, the wicked one, the simple one, and the one who does know how to ask a question. 
Ramat Shlomo neighborhood
Ramat Shlomo neighborhood
in Jerusalem. Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Applying this metaphor to today’s Israeli-Palestinian morass, I’d probably ask Obama where he thinks each actor fits. I’d suggest that those who are authentically pushing for a two-state solution are wise; those who refuse to take into account the experiences, identity and desires of the other side are wicked (though I hesitate to use that word at the best of times, as it implies a lack of changeability of character, an assumption I reject), those who only work to further their own goals as simple, and those who cling to the tired status quo as those who do not even know how to ask a question -- that is, who cannot see beyond today.

Chag Sameach. Wishing you and your readers a fibrous and crunchy matzah-filled pesach! Oh-- and next year in Jerusalem -- hopefully a shared capital among two states living side by side. 

<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • RBC
  • Fillmore Riley
  • Daniel Friedman and Rob Dalgleish
  • Equitable Solutions Consulting
  • Taylor McCaffrey
  • Shuster Family
  • Winter's Collision
  • Obby Khan
  • Orthodox Union
  • Lipkin Family
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Booke + Partners
  • Karyn & Mel Lazareck
  • The Bob Silver Family
  • Leonard and Susan Asper Foundation
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Coughlin Insurance Brokers
  • Safeway Tuxedo
  • Gislason Targownik Peters
  • Jacqueline Simkin
  • Commercial Pool
  • Dr. Brent Schachter and Sora Ludwig
  • Shinewald Family
  • Lanny Silver
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Sobeys Grant Park
  • West Kildonan Auto Service
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Preventative Health First
  • MCW Consultants Ltd.
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Bob and Shirley Freedman
  • PFK Lawyers
  • Myers LLP
  • MLT Aikins
  • Elaine and Ian Goldstine
  • Wolson Roitenberg Robinson Wolson & Minuk
  • MLT Aikins
  • Rudy Fidel
  • Pitblado
  • Cavalier Candies
  • Kathleen Cook
  • John Orlikow
  • Ted Falk
  • Chisick Family
  • Danny and Cara Stoller and family
  • Lazar Family
  • James Bezan
  • Evan Duncan
  • Ross Eadie
  • Cindy Lamoureux
  • Roseman Corp
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Shindico
  • Ambassador Mechanical
  • Red River Coop
  • CdnVISA Immigration Consultants
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Superlite
  • Tradesman Mechanical
  • Chochy's
  • Astroid Management Limited
  • Dr. Marshall Stitz
  • Doheny Securities Limited
  • Nick's Inn
  • Grant Kurian Trucking
  • Seer Logging
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Josef Ryan
  • Fair Service
  • Broadway Law Group
  • Abe and Toni Berenhaut
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • kristinas-greek
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.