Turning Lemons into Lemonade…

August 7, 2011

Since my 50th birthday was set to fall out on 12/11/10, a cool date and a Saturday night, I always thought I’d do something special on that day, and then…I got sidetracked.

Last summer, on July 20, the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It is like they say; in an instant your life changes. I have been blessed to receive good care and am now, thank G-d, feeling well.

Two thoughts have been with me often throughout the past year.

The first one was, how do poor women do this?

I was shocked to learn how extremely costly a serious illness can be. I met with social workers at Breast Centers who confirm that there is a compelling need to help poor women by providing direct and immediate financial assistance for non-medical expenses. I’ve set up a fund, the Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund (BCERF, see attached flyer.) By quickly and compassionately delivering direct financial assistance, some of the financial burdens that accompany breast cancer can be eased so that patients can concentrate on the more important challenge of getting well.

I’m inviting you to a celebration, not a fundraiser, but one of the things I’d like to celebrate is the inauguration of this fund. Working on it has been a wonderful and fulfilling goal for me during the past year. It’s an exciting new idea, and I welcome your ideas and suggestions.

The second prevailing thought I had is how to mark the two seismic events of this past year for me, turning 50 and receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, specifically on Tisha B’Av.

The Tisha B’Av connection felt significant, (I was never a big believer in coincidence) and I spent time during this past year learning about the history, writings, prayers and customs of the day, delving into many sources. What came of this was a great deal of comfort in learning about the parallels between illness and recovery on a personal level, and destruction and redemption on a national level.

I decided that what I’d really like to do is mark my birthday, as well as one year since diagnosis, surrounded by good friends and family.

At the outset, this certainly looked like a big barrel of lemons. I wasn’t looking to make lemonade, but…with plenty of sugar, it can be delicious.

Looking forward to celebrating together, Shari

BATCH 1, SEPTEMBER 2011!!!!!!!!!!

We did it!

On Sunday, September 18, 2011, 19 Elul 5751, the Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund (IBCERF) awarded its first grants!

Since August 7, when we inaugurated the IBCERF, we’ve already received applications from social workers for assistance for five needy breast cancer patients. All of the applicants met ESRA’s exacting welfare fund criteria, and the monies will be sent out ASAP.

The following is the story of one recipient:

“JP, 41, divorced mother of two children, a daughter, age 14, and a son, age 19, was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago and suffered a more serious recurrence last year. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy and is too ill to work in her job in the education sector. Her 19 year old son is mentally retarded and was recently diagnosed with a kidney disease that requires weekly treatments at the hospital. Her monthly income is only NIS 4000, all from Bituach Leumi (Israeli social security.)”

JP stated that the grant will help alleviate the tremendous financial pressure she is feeling right now so she can focus more on her health and her children.

Congratulations! Thank you, to all of you, for helping these women. I know their fear and I cannot express how profoundly grateful I am that we can do this for them. This past Shabbat we read in Parshat Ki Tavo about bringing the first fruits from the ground that Hashem has given us so we can rejoice in all of the goodness that is to be ours. I thank God for giving all of us the strength to bring forth this first batch of lemonade, from lemons.

Though we’ve raised enough money to date to help several more women, the need for this kind of assistance continues unabated. After the chaggim, I’d like to have a meeting to plan (creative) ways to keep the fund going. An IBCERF web page is in the works, and many of you have great ideas and have offered to be involved. (Thank you!) Let me know if you’re interested. Looking forward to working together.

And for this time of year, a lemonade recipe with honey…

Hot Honey Lemonade Recipe

From: Honey: From Flower to Table , by Adapted from Stephanie Rosenbaum


  • 2 lemons
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cinnamon stick


  1. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon into a large mug.
  2. Slice remaining lemon thinly. Poke cloves into lemon slices and drop slices into mug.
  3. Add honey and fill cup with hot water.
  4. Stir with cinnamon stick until honey has dissolved. Taste for sweetness and add more honey as needed.

With love and very best wishes for a happy and healthy new year,


Second Lemonade Fund Update – Batch 2 December 2011


“I received the check yesterday. I’m so grateful to you!! At last, after a year of suffering and pain from Lymphidemia, from which I suffer, (due to the surgery to treat breast cancer) I went for a year during which I could not afford to deal with it because I had no money to buy the elastic sleeve for physiotherapy. At last I am going to buy a fitted sleeve! That will help me a great deal with my medical condition … “


“I have no words to describe how much I thank you for your contribution … to be ill and also suffer from poor financial conditions is extremely difficult for me. When I received your donation, it helped me very much with a few things:

My family (sisters) live far from me. Due to my medical condition I cannot travel by bus and need to travel by taxi. I have not been able to afford to travel to them because of the cost of transportation. This contribution has helped me and my children get closer to my family.

I am a single mother and I have many expenses; for example, buying drugs that aren’t covered by insurance to help me with the side effects of the chemotherapy treatments that I’m going through. This donation helped me purchase these drugs and it is easier for me to deal with breast cancer treatment.

In addition, at last I got my daughter her books for school and was able to pay the school so she can get all the services she needs. This donation helped me be more relaxed about the needs of my daughter and we are less worried now. It gives me peace of mind and strength to continue to cope. “

When I first read these words I cried. I was back at the Breast Center this past week for a follow up check (all clear, thank God!) and I remembered the fear that accompanied the beginning of this journey. Again, I was struck by how much more difficult it must be to be newly diagnosed with breast cancer, and very poor. I am so grateful that this charity is now up and running.

Unfortunately the need is even greater than we anticipated, and through word of mouth, we are receiving applications from women throughout the country. Many of these women are simply desperately needy, often single with children, and they and their families suffer tremendously due to the additional burden of a serious illness. The money that was raised this summer will eventually run out. In order to help more women and continue the work of this fund, we will need to expand the reach of our fundraising. Many of you have offered to help me with this, and I’d like to take you up on it, as I can’t do it alone. We need to build a team and then, more importantly, a vision and a strategy. (A webpage is in the works.)

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

True Food Kitchen restaurant exclusive! While you might be hesitant to use olive oil in a dessert recipe, such fears are groundless. Olive oil gives this cake a unique flavor and richness that is balanced out by a little sweetness and the light freshness of lemons. Hesitate no more!

Watch a video with chef Michael Stebner: How to Make Lemon Olive Oil Cake.

Food as Medicine
Compounds known as limonins in the cells of citrus fruits have been shown to help reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon.


4 lemons, zested and juiced
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 eggs
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups evaporated cane sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder


  1. Combine zest, juice and olive oil in a small bowl.
  2. In the mixer combine eggs & salt. Mix on medium for 2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar and continue to mix until pale and thickened.
  3. Turn mixer to low and slowly sift in the flour and baking powder, followed by the olive oil mixture. Do not over mix at this point; just incorporate the ingredients.
  4. Pour this mixture into a cake pan or muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes for cupcakes and 35 minutes for large cakes. Poke with a toothpick to check for doneness.
  5. Serve with Greek yogurt and fresh strawberries.

Third Lemonade Fund Update – Batch 3 April 2012

Just a quick update during this busy time. We are continuing to make lemonade (with those lemons that life tossed us!)

In the 6 months since the IBCERF (Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund) was born, we’ve distributed almost NIS 50,000 to 21 needy, newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients. (Grants range from NIS 1000 to NIS 4000, depending on need.) All of these women are in severe economic distress in addition to being seriously ill. While we can’t cure all illness, we can help each other financially. One woman wrote, after receiving a grant from the IBCERF,

“This donation helped me be more relaxed about the needs of my daughter (and myself) and we are less worried now. It gives me peace of mind and strength to continue to cope.”

For more feedback and other info, check out the brand new Lemonadefund web page:

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday. To counteract the risks of the season, check out the healthy Passover lemon recipe that follows….(or the unhealthy one after it.)

Best wishes, Shari


Servings: 12

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 red onions, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 pound carrots (consider using rainbow carrots), cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound beets, peeled and cut into wedges

1 pound celeriac, peeled and cubed

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

Zest of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 orange

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

2 tablespoons chopped fresh savory

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Salt and ground black pepper

5 matzos, crushed

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Heat the oven to 375 F. Coat a large casserole dish with cooking spray.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute until soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the onions and garlic with the sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, celeriac, applesauce, lemon zest, orange zest, thyme, savory and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Spoon into the prepared casserole dish.

In a small bowl, combine the crushed matzos with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the coriander. Season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle over the vegetable mixture. Bake for 1 hour, or until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 170 calories; 40 calories from fat (25 percent of total calories); 5 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 29 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 4 g fiber; 270 mg sodium.

(Less healthy recipe…)

Lemon Passover Cupcakes with Blackberry Jam and Lemon Glaze
Makes 24 cupcakes, 5 – 6 mini cake loaves, or 1 regular angel food cake

7 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1 /2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest from one lemon
3/4 cup potato starch
dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.  If making cupcakes, grease two muffin trays with cooking spray or line with paper cupcake liners.  If making angel food cake, get out an angel food cake pan but don’t grease it.  If you are making mini cake loaves, prepare 5 glass mini loaf pans by spraying them with cooking spray or greasing and then dusting with flour.  (You don’t have to grease the angel food cake pan because you’ll be able to cut it out of the pan when you take it apart, but if you don’t grease the mini loaf pans, it will stick!).

Separate six of the eggs. Beat the six yolks and the remaining whole egg until frothy. Gradually add sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest, beating constantly and thoroughly at medium/high speed. Then gradually add the potato starch, beating constantly to ensure thorough blending.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff but not dry (it should form stiff peaks). Fold gently but thoroughly into the egg-yolk mixture.

For cupcakes:  Bake in at 350 F for about 15 – 22 minutes or until the cupcakes are lightly browned and spring back when touched gently with fingers.  Let cool completely before trying to remove; you may have to cut them out or use a fork to pry them out if you don’t use paper liners.

For mini cake loaves: Bake in at 350 F for about 30 – 40 minutes or until the cakes are lightly browned and spring back when touched gently with fingers. Let cool completely before trying to remove; you may have to cut them out or use a fork to pry them out.

For angel food cake: Bake in at 350 F for about 50 – 55 minutes or until the cake is lightly browned and springs back when touched gently with fingers. Invert pan and cool thoroughly before removing cake.  Remove by running a knife around all edges to cut the cake out.

For the cupcakes pictured above:
When the cupcakes/cakes are cooled, use a knife to cut “slits” into it.  Fill the slits with a dark berry jam (i.e. blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, etc.).  Just make sure it’s kosher!  Then drizzle some lemon glaze over the top.  Let the glaze harden before serving.

For lemon glaze, mix together:
1/2 – 1 cup powdered sugar (make sure there is no cornstarch in this if you want this to be kosher!)
1 tsp. potato or arrowroot starch (more if needed)
3 tsp. lemon juice
water to desired consistency

Drizzle over the cake and let harden before serving.

OR you can serve plain or as a base for fruit shortcake (with sliced strawberries, blueberries, or any other dark berries).

THREE YEARS!!!!!!! July 2013

Though the Lemonade Fundwww.lemonadefund.org, would never turn away donations, today I am personally asking for something other than money.

Three years ago this week, in July 2010, specifically on the Jewish day of Tisha B’Av,  I received the news that I had breast cancer. The year that followed was difficult, but I had excellent medical care, faith and support, and I am happy to say that I felt fine by the following Tisha B’Av.

As they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. A serious illness is terrifying, and one can focus on little beyond survival. During that initial year I was also struck by how costly it was to be sick and I became concerned about patients who were dealing with breast cancer and poverty at the same time. Thus, exactly one year later, in August 2011, on erev Tisha B’Av, the Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund, aka, the Lemonade Fund, was born. Since then, the Lemonade Fund has given one-time grants to many needy Israeli breast cancer patients, to help alleviate financial pressure while they are undergoing treatment.

While I am heartened that we can help these patients financially, there is another way I would like to ask for your help. Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, begins tomorrow evening. The fractious nature of Jewish society is often blamed for the historic tragedies that befell us on this day, and we hear many calls for Jewish unity at this time of year. Great idea, but how do we implement ‘tikun olam’ (repairing the world) at a grass-roots level? How do we begin?

Personally. One to one.

At the Lemonade Fund, our focus is illness. Most of the women (though men can get breast cancer, all of our grantees to date have been women) who have received Lemonade Fund grants are desperately ill. The poor often don’t get medical help until disease is advanced. Many are young and single parents. Children are impacted.

Please take a moment on Monday night/Tuesday to have these women in mind. If it is your way, please pray for them. (You can read many of their stories on the website.) Volunteer at the Lemonade Fund; we welcome all volunteers. Or reach out to someone you may know who is ill. Call them, text them, visit them, connect with their caregivers and offer support. Pray for them.

That’s all. Thank you.

With collective acts of good, we can become closer and turn this day of destruction into a day of happiness and reconstruction. Petty hatred is incompatible with compassion. Illness knows no boundaries; enemies share hospital rooms and heal together. I have had the good fortune, thank God,  to see this date, Tisha B’Av, transformed into an anniversary of recovery, of hope. May we all merit to continue in this direction, together.

Thanks, Shari

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