Connecting Interfaith Families to Jewish Life in Greater Cleveland by providing programs and opportunities for interfaith families to experience Judaism in a variety of venues, meet other interfaith families, and to connect to other Jewish organizations that may serve their needs.
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 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 →
I like any opportunity to show how Jewish culture can be integrated with other cultures and make a beautiful hybrid. I don’t know what culture should take responsibility for marshmallow Peeps, but I think you’ll join me in enjoying Peeps for Passover. Yes! The 10 Plagues, acted out by PEEPS! (No, no, Peeps are not kosher for Passover–for most kashrut authorities, they aren’t kosher at all, being made with gelatin–but Peeps as an artistic medium is clearly an idea whose time has come.) Ooh, there’s also a photo Moses Parting the Red Sea–of Peeps. We are living in some interesting times!
Let me know if you figure out anything visually clever to do with the Passover fruit slice candy. (They are
my five-year-old’s favorite candy, so probably we’re just going to eat them–though I was thinking about how awesome they could look in a bento-style kosher-for-Passover preschool lunchbox.) Jenn Forman Orth, who posted this photo on Flickr, says she doesn’t like them. (Is it bad that I hope you start debating the aesthetics of Easter and Passover candy in the comments?)
The religious aspects of Christmas and Hanukkah were long ago buried under commercialism and seasonal festivity. Passover and Easter remain deeply theological in ways that underscore both the nearness and distance between Judaism and Christianity.
On the one hand, Jesus came into Jerusalem for Passover, and the Last Supper with the disciples was a seder; the wafer in communion harks back to the Jewish holiday’s matzo. On the other hand, beyond celebrating Jesus’ divinity, Easter has historically been the occasion for anti-Semitic passion plays and pogroms, motivated by the belief that the Jews killed Jesus.
It’s a good theory, but I have a hard time imagining any more than a few interfaith couples find the Passover-Easter conflict more significant than the Christmas-Hanukkah conflict. Easter may be more religiously significant than Christmas, but Christmas is still the second most important day on the Christian calendar. Hanukkah may not be a major Jewish holiday, but religious Jews celebrate it just as much as secular Jews. Moreover, religious Jews are more acutely aware of the real message of Hanukkah, which celebrates a small band of ideologues who rejected the assimilation of their Jewish countrymen. Passover, at least, provides a more welcoming space for the non-Jewish guest. And religious or not, no couple can get around the month-long onslaught of Christmas-related media that comes out in December. There is no comparable “season” surrounding Passover and Easter. Nonetheless, Passover and Easter can prove a time for conflict and negotiation, as our recent survey revealed.
I know you’re supposed to clean house beforePassover, but here are some interesting links that have piled up in the last week or two:
Tamara Podemski is an unknown in the U.S. but she’s starred on a handful of Canadian TV shows and recorded three albums. Her father is Israeli and her mother is Ojibwa (a native Canadian tribe). She proudly refers to herself as a “fully functional half-breed,” and appears to take great pride in her mixed heritage–which, incidentally, produced a gorgeous woman. For more on here, read this profile in the Canadian Jewish News.
An educational publisher agreed to withdraw and destroy the remaining copies of a reference book on Israel after a major Orthodox organization objected to the book’s characterization of Orthodox Jews, according to The (New York) Jewish Week. Agudath Israel of America was upset over a passage in the book that said that “some ultra-Orthodox Jews” want to limit Israel’s Law of Return to exclude Reform and Conservative Jews because “they are not really at all because they are not strict in their observance of all the religious laws.” There’s no question the passage is wrong, but it contains a kernel of truth. It is not uncommon for ultra-Orthodox Jews to ridicule and denigrate more progressive streams of Judaism, especially Reform, because they doesn’t fit their strict definitions of what Judaism is. It also taps into the larger issue over conversions and the fact that Israel’s acceptance of converted Jews is hamstrung by bureaucracy, corruption and political subservience to the Orthodox.
Nowhere in Jewish liturgy are non-Jews barred from attending the seder, and Rabbi Maurice Lamm, an Orthodox rabbi, promotes inviting non-Jews, especially if their family members, because excluding them “will create rancor, even enmity,” according to Rabbi Wayne Allen, a Conservative rabbi in Ontario (In Canada, Conservative is often closer to Modern Orthodox than American Conservative). Plus, says Allen, opening doors to non-Jewish guests is a way of debunking the medieval claims that Jews ate matzah made out of Christian blood.
From our standpoint, Passover may be the best opportunity to involve non-Jews in Jewish life because the seder is by its nature adaptable, and the home is a much less intimidating religious space than the synagogue.
The survey specifically looked at interfaith families raising their children exclusively in Judaism, and we found results both familiar and surprising. Generally, they negotiated the holidays in the same way they negotiated the December holidays: they celebrated more Jewish rituals, kept the holidays separate and saw the Jewish holiday as more religious than the Christian one. But once we started slicing up the population, we found some interesting results. There was no difference in Passover behaviors between families where the woman is Jewish vs. families where the woman isn’t Jewish, but there were significant differences in the Easter behaviors, especially “secular” rituals like decorating Easter eggs and participating in an Easter egg hunt. There were also significant differences between Jewish and Christian respondents on their level of comfort with, and anticipation of, Easter.
The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel has a well-thought-out piece on the potential pitfalls of planning a Passover or Easter dinner for interfaith guests. The kosher dietary laws, and the even stricter kosher-for-Passover laws, are of course one constraint, but so is the Catholic prohibition on eating meat on Fridays during Lent. The article includes some helpful suggestions on how to make a meal that will please–or more importantly, won’t offend–everybody.