Reading with Be’chol Lashon: Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas

Be’chol Lashon Review

Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas is a book written by Pamela Ehrenberg and illustrated by Anjan Sarkar. Pamela works at the National Association for the Education of Young Children and lives with her daughter and son near the National Zoo.

In this book, a multicultural family celebrate Hanukkah. The Mom is Indian and the Dad is Jewish so they incorporate Indian food into their Jewish holiday celebrations. Instead of latkes, this family celebrates Hanukkah with Indian dosas.

It’s also about a big brother learning to cope with (and appreciate!) an annoying younger sibling. To her brother’s chagrin, little Sadie won’t stop climbing on everything both at home and at the Indian grocery store, even while preparing the dosas. As the family puts the finishing touches on their holiday preparations, they accidentally get locked out of the house. Sadie and her climbing skills just may be exactly what is needed to save the day. It’s a reminder that families of all backgrounds experience a range of joys and challenges.

Author Pamela Ehrenberg

This book joins a growing list of Jewish books that reflect the diverse families we see in our synagogues, camps, and schools.

Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas highlights a multicultural Jewish family and affords every family the opportunity to think about their own experiences of Hanukkah and other holidays. This pairing of a Jewish-but-not-Indian author with an Indian-but-not-Jewish illustrator works for the story’s main character, who is both Jewish and Indian and represents a good-faith effort to offer readers an authentic experience.

There have been Jewish communities in India for thousands of years. A story is told of how the first Jews arrived in India in ancient times.

A group of Jews from Israel set out to trade olive oil and spices with people in India along the Silk Road. The journey was hard and took many weeks as they first had to go overland and then traveled by boat. As the traders neared India, a storm struck and their ship was wrecked on the rocks. They prayed to God and the prophet Elijah and hung on to pieces of wood and rocks all night long. In the morning, the Indians came out to rescue the Jews. They brought them into their homes, fed them and gave them dry clothes and safe shelter. The Jews felt so happy that they made India their new home. Since that time, Jews have lived in peace in India.

Today there are Indian Jews not only in India but in Israel, the United States, and elsewhere. Some Indian Jews trace their Jewish heritage back thousands of years, while others bring a combination of Jewish and non-Jewish ancestry to their experience.

While this book is intended for readers six and under, we encourage people of all ages to utilize this resource for discussions about navigating multicultural identity.

Video

Discussion Questions

  1. How are the foods that your family eats at Hanukkah the same or different than those in the book?
  2. How is the family in the book different or the same as your family?
  3. How does the way your family celebrates the holidays the same or different than the way the family celebrated in the book?

Cooking Activity: Dosas

Prep time: 15 hours
Cook time: 20 minutes
Yield: 8–10 dosas

Ingredients

3½ cups rice
1 cup urad dal (split black lentils)
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
2 tablespoons bengal gram dal (split yellow lentils)
Coconut oil
Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Rinse the first four ingredients carefully, then add water to cover and soak them together for 3 hours. (Some chefs soak the ingredients separately; some recommend soaking for at least 8 hours.)
  2. Drain and grind them in a high-powered blender or food processor, either separately or together, adding a little water if necessary. Add more water if the batter is too thick, but don’t let it get watery. Add the salt.
  3. Cover the mixture and let it ferment overnight (about 12 hours—the actual time can vary, but if you see bubbles and it smells pungent, it’s ready).
  4. In the morning, stir well. If it’s too thick, add a little water to adjust the consistency. It should be pourable, but still thick.
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Coat with 1 teaspoon oil. Pour in ¼ cup of batter and spread evenly with the back of a spoon, using a circular motion starting in the center and moving outward. Then drizzle ½ teaspoon oil evenly over the dosa and cook until golden. No need to flip. Carefully remove the dosa with a spatula. Repeat until all the batter is used.

This recipe is courtesy of Tannishtha Sarkar.

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