seder

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Charoset Ice Cream: A Passover Surprise!

In the words of my dear Aunt Nancy: “That looks so delicious but seems so wrong!” I’m sure she speaks for many a Jew who may have initial misgivings about putting the Pesach food symbolic of thousands of years of manual labor into happy (giddy, really) ice cream form. I am here to tell you, as I told Aunt Nancy, that this Charoset Ice Cream business is insanely delish.

Before we go any further, let me clarify for the gentiles in the crowd: Charoset is one of the symbolic foods eaten at Passover dinner, traditionally made from apples, walnuts, honey, cinnamon, and wine. For seder, it represents the mortar Egypt’s slaves shaped into bricks. In ice cream form, enrobed by honey vanilla ice cream, it becomes something like the dreamiest apple crisp a la mode you’ve ever dared imagine.

Read more and get the (kosher-friendly) recipe here.

During the first part of the Seder, I asked everyone to take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit, and eat it as a gesture of solidarity with Jewish lesbians and gay men, and others who are marginalized within the Jewish community…In addition, each orange segment had a few seeds that had to be spit out – a gesture of spitting out, repudiating the homophobia that poisons too many Jews.
—  Professor Susannah Heschel (via jpost)

Teenagers singing Passover songs at a community seder, Educational Alliance, Lower East Side, New York (1949)

The Educational Alliance was founded by progressive German-Jewish philanthropists in 1889 to aid the Lower East Side’s large population of Eastern European Jewish immigrants through classes and programs that emphasized American citizenship, literacy, professional and vocational skills, the arts, and physical education. 

Passover, the Jewish Holiday for Gentiles

Passover is a festival of questions, many of which can be summed up by the single query: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” Here’s one answer: It’s the Jewish festival that non-Jews love to observe.

The seder, the ceremonial feast held on the first two nights of Passover, is one of the most intricate rituals in the Jewish calendar, kicking off an eight-day stretch of complicated and demanding dietary restrictions. The initial meal, which ranges from eating bitter herbs to reciting Talmudic passages in a foreign language, usually lasts for several hours—and dinner isn’t served until more than halfway through.

The festival commemorates the exodus from Egypt, a key step in the formation of the Jewish people. The seder is not just a retelling of the story, like the weekly Torah readings in synagogue; it’s an invitation for Jews to relive the liberation from slavery as if they had actually been there in Egypt, to teach the narrative to the next generation, and to claim the history of their people as part of their own individual identities. In other words, Passover does not seem like the most obvious festival for outsider participation.

And yet every spring, non-kosher restaurants, churches and student organizations around the U.S.—not to mention Jewish homes—invite non-Jews to relive the Israelites’ exodus from bondage. Even the White House has held a seder since 2008. What is it about Passover that speaks to non-Jews and entices them to participate in what is, at least in its traditional format, a multi-hour Hebrew service over a meal with no bread? Surely an option like the recent festival of Purim—where the law stipulates dressing in costume, swapping food baskets and drinking to oblivion—would be a more appealing choice?

Read more. [Image: Pete Souza/Reuters]

The signs as things I tried to do while making Passover dinner last night

Aries: tries to make flat matzoh bread out of matzoh ball mix

Taurus: tries to boil the egg for roasting in the microwave but the egg ends up popping with the sound of a gunshot and the room starts to smell. Looks like vomit in the microwave

Gemini: should I actually put wine into the charoset? ….nah let’s just use apple juice, the wine will make it taste weird

Cancer: I stole the meat and romaine lettuce from the dining hall I a m u n s t o p p a b l e

Leo: makes mozzarella sticks to eat because most of the food on the Seder plate is not for consumption

Virgo: burns the cookies that were for dessert and apologizes profusely

Libra: hides the matzoh in the 3rd floor microwave

Scorpio: doesn’t have enough plates or forks so eats with hands

Sagittarius: uses red Gatorade instead of wine (hey, I’m underage)

Capricorn: is literally the only person that’s angry when they realize that the food sources on campus all closed for Easter and not Passover

Aquarius: lamb? nah let’s use chicken

Pisces: watches Chopped while eating charoset with an oversized spoon

So, it’s still yom tov now, so I know a bunch of the jews on tumblr won’t be able to see this until tomorrow night, but I’m liable to forget I wanted to post this by then.

I really like learning about other families passover traditions, whether something that comes from wherever you’re family comes from that isn’t in other seder traditions, or a family specific thing you do every year that doesn’t happen in any other seder you’ve ever heard of. 

My family, for instance, reads a family history when we get to “בכל דור ודור” (in every generation). We also have a family custom that holds all year ‘round but that a lot of people only experience at the seder which is to serve soup after the rest of the meal. I don’t know where this one comes from, but the explanation is “if the mashiach comes in the middle of the meal, and all you’ve had is your soup, you’ll be hungry all the way to jerusalem, but if all you miss is the soup, it’s no big deal.” Which is just about the most yiddishe explanation i’ve ever heard.

Anyway, I’d love to hear the fun things at your seder!

Photograph of a Young Jewish Boy with Elders at a Passover Ceremony, 4/16/1951.  

In this 1951 photograph, a seven-year-old Jewish boy asks the traditional Passover questions during a Seder dinner with elders Joseph Blantz, 91, and Hannah Skolnick in New York, New York.

Chag Pesach Sameach/Happy Passover!

via DocsTeach

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Arranging the Seder Plate in Judeo-Arabic Tradition

I have a (modest but growing) collection of vintage haggadot with Judeo-Arabic translation, and they contain a lot of fascinating information not just about different dialects and vocabularies of Judeo-Arabic (which is why I originally started) but also about Passover traditions in general.

One common image or diagram at the front is the arrangement of the seder plate, called in some traditions as-sistu or at-tabaq or as-siniya in others. Many North African communities used a reed basket rather than the metal or porcelain tray common in other traditions. The items on the seder plate, as you see, are arranged in a Qabbalistic formation which corresponds to the ten sephirot:

  • The three matzot for keter, hokhma, and bina.
  • The egg (al-bayda) for gevurah and the shankbone (ad-dra’) for hesed.
  • The maror (translated in one haggada as hinduba, “chicory”) for tiferet.
  • The karpas for hod and the haroset (known as hileq or haliq in Iraqi tradition) for netzah.
  • The hazeret for yesod.
  • The seder plate itself representing the lowest sephira, Malkhut.

The haggadot here are:
1. Algerian (printed in Livorno), 1856.
2. Tunisian (printed in Tunis), 1930s or 40s.
3. Algerian (printed in Vienna), 1890.
4. Moroccan (printed in Casablanca), 1930s or 40s
5. Iraqi (printed in Jerusalem), 1940s.
6. My own summary and diagram, from this booklet, 2012.