Mother-to-be Spend 9 months online in Jewish cyberspace

It's a fact that Web sites are getting more and more specialized, and that's true in Jewish cyberspace as well.

An example is Jewish Pregnancy/Childbirth Online at, a tasteful, attractive site designed to help women make pregnancy a more thoroughly Jewish experience.

A section on "Making Pregnancy Spiritual" offers information about traditional women's prayers, a Chassidic woman's reflection on birthing and a Kabbalistic birth meditation.

In the "Jewish Pregnancy Bookshelf," the site author offers her collection of recommended readings. The emphasis here is on spirituality, not obstetrics.

Another section offers a handful of Jewish childbirth links, including Web sites to help select a name "going beyond David and Sarah."

There's also a gallery of paintings relating to pregnancy that you may find uplifting — or leave you scratching your head.

And an "Ask the Rabbi" feature gives visitors a chance to ask questions about the religious perspective on pregnancy. Unfortunately, only a handful of visitors have actually used it.

The site is offered by Chana Weisberg, the author of "Expecting Miracles: Finding Meaning and Spirituality in Pregnancy through Traditional Judaism." Unfortunately, she doesn't reveal her identity in this Web site.

But no matter: For women — and their spouses — who want to infuse the experience with traditional Judaism, this is a pleasant, useful site.

* * *

Often, it's difficult to understand Jews who have remained in Russia. For years, American Jews fought to give them the right to leave that inhospitable nation, but today, a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, many remain and are building an active Jewish community.

Michael Mennies, an American filmmaker who moved to St. Petersburg, has assembled a collection of interviews with Russian Jews. He offers a few of them on this interesting, attractive Web site at

The format is simple. Mennies offers 18 long interviews with an assortment of Russian Jews: the chief rabbi of the Grand Choral Synagogue in St. Petersburg, a Jewish filmmaker, a human rights activist, a journalist.

Many of the interviews deal with the question of Jewish identity in a country where many of the Jews who remain are from mixed families. And many focus on the revival of spirituality and Jewish identity that the czars, the Nazis and the communists tried to snuff out.

There is also a modest collection of links to other sides dealing with Jews in the former Soviet Union.

Mennies says that the site is intended to let these people explain why they have stayed in a country where Jews have been mistreated for so long.

And it is an effort to begin a dialogue between Russian Jews and their cousins in the West.

The interviews are not particularly polished, but they are evocative. Collectively, they begin to paint a picture of what life is like for Jews in a changing Russia.

* * *

Why is it that nobody makes matzah balls the way my grandmother did?

No doubt, this is a common complaint, and the World Wide Web provides a partial remedy. Your own grandma probably didn't leave her recipes on the Internet, but a wealth of sites offer good recipes for matzah balls and other Jewish fare that may put you on the right track. ( has an excellent collection of recipes, including one for the best matzah balls, made with chicken fat and fried matzah, not packaged matzah meal. It's an arteries-be-damned approach that most grandmothers would approve of.

Marilyn the Mishuganah Cook also has a good assortment at her quirky site — passovermenu1999.html

Included: Grandma Goldie's Matzah Balls. With a name like Goldie, you know they're authentic.

At — — you'll find a handful of recipes, including one for cholesterol- and fat-free matzah balls. Obviously, the creator of this recipe never met my grandmother.

Jewish-Food.Org — — seems to lean toward exotic fare, everything from chicken and zucchini lasagna to matzah brie. The offerings are similarly exotic in the matzah ball department, right down to Cajun and green onion matzah balls.

Perusing this page, one notes a trend: Today's cooks seem to aim for fluffy matzah balls. Most grandmothers of the old school favored heavy, dense matzah balls, often held together with shmaltz, not polyunsaturated cooking oil. Light as a feather? Forget it; dense as a hockey puck is more like it.

Rabbi Malka Drucker, an author and teacher, offers a single recipe on her site ( matzo.html). Her secret matzah balls are closer to the real thing: A cup of matzah meal is enlivened by 5 eggs and 5 tablespoons of rendered chicken fat.

The writer is a Washington-based correspondent who has been writing about Jewish Web sites since the early 1990s. His columns alternate with those of Mark Mietkiewicz. Besser can be reached at [email protected]