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A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
I baked challah last night. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo–I did some cool braiding. I made the first recipe in the wonderful A Blessing of Bread, by Maggie Glezer. Glezer collected recipes, mainly from Jewish grandmothers, for holiday and festival breads. I’ve learned a lot since I started baking from it. I wanted to bake again to try to use up the rest of the flour in our house. I also made cake, and I’m planning to make pasta. The carb-a-thon is due to my need to clean out my cupboards of non-Passover food before cleaning the house for Passover.
I was thinking about how I would like to have more guests just this morning, as I was mulling over the resource guide to Jewish spirituality that I’m writing for IFF. I wanted to make the case that Jewish spirituality was mundane, something in which everyone could participate, Jewish or not. I thought of the mitzvah of hospitality in Judaism. I hadn’t known until I looked it up that it trumps prayer or study–it’s one of the most important mitzvot of all. Great for interfaith families, too, because there are lots of hospitable people who don’t realize that they are doing something spiritual. I have a great impression of the people who read and write for our site–they love to cook and invite people. When we do that, we’re in imitation of God, of whom we say in Psalms 145:16, “You open your hand and satisfy all the living.” That’s how we should be, too.
It wasn’t one of the plagues of Egypt–they expected the Nile to flood, and relied on the alluvial mud for agriculture–but floods are hard on Bostonians. One of the roads I travel to work has been closed and commuters are wailing and gnashing their teeth. It’s a good thing most of my work is online!
I was really happy I came in to the office yesterday because there was a new book for me, The Lone and Level Sands– a graphic novel about the exodus from Egypt. I have to say, it’s a little weird that so much of the book is from the point of view of the Egyptians. It’s like the part of the seder when you spill drops of wine to acknowledge Egyptian suffering in the plagues–a whole book of that. I didn’t see much in the book about the suffering of the Israelites under slavery–and that bothers me now, because I think it shows the extent to which people in our society identify with the people oppressing rather than with the oppressed. Still, the book is gorgeous–the artwork and the design are just fantastic. It could be a good way for a person who is very visual to understand the Passover story, and it’s non-sectarian. Check it out!
Another Passover-themed book I was lucky enough to get at work is Dara Horn’s All Other Nights which just came out in paperback. It deserves all the hype it received in Jewish publications. Following the career of a Jewish spy for the Union in the Civil War, this novel does a much better job of troubling the question, “who were the good guys,” without losing the moral absolute that slavery and racism are wrong. Horn plays deftly with Jewish cultural and religious symbols–it doesn’t feel, excuse the expression, ham-handed, and neither does her presentation of the history.
One of our favorite Passover resources to recommend to interfaith families is The Velveteen Rabbi’s Haggadah for Pesach–now available in a new version! Our CEO Ed Case uses this one every year. It’s free but do comment to let the editor know how much you love her work.
I also want to commend to you two books you can get through the web for Passover. One is my friend Debra Cash’s chapbook, Who Knows One–a book of poems with Passover images. You can see a sample poem in Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner’s supplementary seder readings. (You can find more of his Passover treasures at www.jewishfreeware.org.) The other online, sorry you do have to pay for it, book is A La Muestra! Recipes for a Rhodesli Passover by Janet Amateau. Amateau is a scholar of Sephardi food whose grandparents were from the island of Rhodes.
I am editing the recipes we received for our Passover recipe contest and attempting to digest my lunch. See, I have this great plan–I’m going to try to use up all the non-Passover food, all the non-leavened food–all the hametz–before I make our house kosher-for-Passover. The problem is, that means eating a lot of mystery soupsicles. Every Saturday night after Shabbat, I try to remember to freeze the leftover soup in containers to take to work and eat, and now…I have to take it to work and eat it. Today I ate some…tofu matzah balls with leeks and carrots? I think.
One of my all-time favorite internet friends (one whom I’ve recruited to write for IFF and visited in person) asked me for help developing her Passover seder prep list, and I’ve been meaning to throw the question out to you folks. Now, if she’d asked me before she wrote her own list, my bare-bones list would have looked like this:
wine or grape juice
copies of the Hagaddah for each person
ingredients for haroset
But that’s because I go to either my mother, my mother-in-law, or my husband’s aunt every year for Passover, and they worry about all the stuff you really need and give me cooking assignments. Also, because I happen to own a lot of Passover dishes and cooking utensils. If you buy only one cooking implement per holiday but you keep the holiday in your own home for whatever, 20 years, you’re going to have the mini-food-processor, offset spatula, egg whisk, coffee grinder… plus the dishes my great-aunt Jane got from the bank one year and gave me because at the time I wasn’t married and needed good china. I’ve got born-in-an-observant-Jewish-family privilege here, and it’s not fair–I have to check that privilege if I’m going to give good advice! Help me.
Give my friend your list. What do you make sure to have on hand for Passover to make it yummy, fun for your kids, accessible to non-Jewish relatives and friends, simple enough so you don’t lose your mind?
During Passover–which began Wednesday night–Jews are commanded to make a “mishna,” or commentary, on the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. The rabbis who drew up the Passover rituals demanded that each successive generation find ways to connect the ancient story of enslavement and freedom to their lives.
One of today’s parallels has less to do with restrictions of freedom on Jews than it has to do with restrictions on their partners of different religious backgrounds. Perversely, other Jews are the ones restricting their freedom.
… it was not Moses but his non-Jewish wife Zipporah who took into her own hands, quite literally, the task of circumcising their sons.
Today, we know of many intermarried households where the partner who is not Jewish is an equal contributor in raising Jewish children. In many cases the non-Jewish partner has the greatest influence over the children’s Jewish identities. Yet it is not difficult to imagine that if Moses and Zipporah were alive today, some synagogue administrator would be sitting them down to explain why their household of four is eligible for an individual membership because only Moses can join, and that only Moses’ name will appear on temple mailings to their home.
Tis the season for matzah, wine and sometimes really bad food–unless you make one of our excellent staff recommended recipes, of course. As Passover approaches, so do the parodies of the holiday. Over the years I have seen many versions of the haggadah, the book of songs, stories and prayers read during the Passover seder (meal). This year it was taken to a new level when I was forwarded the Facebook Haggadah. For those of you on Facebook –this is hysterical. For those of you not on Facebook, you may find it slightly humorous but I have some other great links for you.
I found this video on YouTube and it made me smile. I’m particularly excited to share it with my non-Jewish husband who, while having attended many Passover seders over the past six years may find it useful in explaining what’s going on. (It’s after the cut.) Continue reading →
My nuclear family is going to my mother-in-law this year for Passover, and we are responsible for the child-friendly content of the second night seder. Even though both of us have worked in Jewish education in different capacities, we’ve never been in charge of leading a seder. We’ve always been participants at family seders that older family members led. This year we’re getting trained on doing it ourselves. I don’t think we’re going to be doing it alone, though, since my mother-in-law was a kindergarten teacher for many years and is sure to have a lot to say.
I have used JOFA’s materials in the past, when I was a bat mitzvah tutor for a girl who went to Orthodox day school–we used their booklet on Orthodox bat mitzvah options. I was impressed by the level of knowledge that JOFA educators thought a girl could achieve. (One girl in the booklet learned a chapter of Talmud and then had a traditional siyum, or completion party, as her bat mitzvah celebration. Wow.) Still, I wasn’t expecting JOFA to put out Passover resources that would be so useful for people in interfaith families. (I was also kind of surprised to get something from my mom from an organization with “feminist” in its name, since she usually prefaces the word “feminist” with the word “farbrenteh”– Yiddish for “burning”–but my mom is also a very experienced Jewish educator, and you can count on her to know good materials when she sees them.) It fits with my sense that we are all one big Jewish community and that there is continuity between secular Jews and halachic Jews, Orthodox and Reform, inmarried and intermarried, feminist and … not so invested in feminism. You know that if all of our families were leaving Egypt, we would have been redeemed, together.
I was really excited, in a silly way, to find out that Lieber’s Candy of Brooklyn makes kosher for Passover marshmallow bunnies and duckies–just like Peeps, only no gelatin! (I found the photo here–go give the kosher food detective some love!) I had this great idea to commission someone to make us an Easter basket with all kosher-for-Passover candy to photograph and feature on our site. In order to be kosher for Passover, candy can’t be made with corn syrup, and there are other kashrut rules about ingredients that apply to foods year-round that also apply on Passover.
I wasn’t completely kidding about wanting to blend Jewish food rules with Christian celebratory traditions. We have run one fabulous article by Teresita Levy, who hosts her Catholic relatives each year, Ay Vey, A Kosher for Passover Easter…With Recipes. Our families are increasingly diverse, and I believe with the right recipes and a little metaphoric WD-40 on your metaphoric door hinges, you can open your house to everyone.
I put out a call on Twitter to see if anyone wanted to photograph a kosher Easter basket, and one of my friends asked whether I had contacted Family Table, Greater Boston’s kosher food pantry. See, kosher for Passover Peeps are a cute idea, but there are a lot of Jewish families who can’t afford matzah. It’s a mitzvah, a religious obligation, to eat matzah, and it’s expensive.
Passover is a great time to think about feeding people. We say “all who are hungry, let them come and eat.” It’s emblematic of our freedom that we can host other people at our Passover seders. Right now, in the United States, there are people going hungry. If you are looking for a way to contribute, how about Project Mazon, a national Jewish hunger charity? If you clean your house for the holiday and get rid of leavened food, consider donating unopened packages to the local food bank. Let me know if you have other ideas that will celebrate Passover, Easter or the vernal equinox by making sure that all are fed.
A few weeks ago, Rabbi Lev Baesh, the director of our Resource Center for Jewish Clergy, spoke with Rabbi Jim Egolf, rabbi of Beth David Reform Congregation in Gladwyne, Penn. In Rabbi Egolf’s podcast, Rabbi Baesh introduces InterfaithFamily.com and talks about how his approach to Jewish engagement differs a little from the organization. Continue reading →
Maybe, she asked the executive director of this temple, you have a Seder to which I can come with the kids, so that they’ll have a first positive exposure to Judaism?
But the executive director gave her advice she didn’t expect: If this is your children’s first encounter with Judaism, don’t start by bringing them to a Seder. It is long, can be boring at times, and requires a lot of reading. Better start their schooling in Judaism with a lighter practice.
My five-year-old son is very subtle. The morning after our HavurahPurim party, my son told me, “You know, not everyone knows what a Purimspiel is.”
“But you do, honey, because we saw one last night. It was the play people were acting out, about Queen Esther.”
He nodded. “But not everyone knows what that is.”
Sometimes my son will start using words correctly and then ask me later what they mean. I’m always sliding new words by him and finding out that he’s picked them up when he hands his dad a board book of the Noah’s Ark story with the request, “Read me the abridged version.” My big challenge is to introduce the words in such a way that he gobbles them up like a little Pac-Man and doesn’t shut off his attention.
This is also my challenge at my job. The difference is that I am writing here for adults who are, generally speaking, highly educated. Continue reading →
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