— by Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD — See full article here.
As I traveled about Israel over the past two weeks, I captured some of Israel's road safety work in action as well as daily life unfolding. In many communities there are dedicated bike lanes, separate from the vehicle and from pedestrians, but in areas where this isn't possible, bikes either share the road with pedestrians (as in the photo to the right below) or with the cars.
There is a wide array of very creative and positive billboard signs to promote safety. The campaign from my friends at the Israel National Road Safety Authority has the tagline "Think Life" (Hoshvim Chaim).
Photo on the left is taken from an e-card by American Greetings.
Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Passover here in America, in the State of Israel, and around the world.
Last week, I visited the state of Israel for the third time, my first as President. I reaffirmed our countries' unbreakable bonds with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I had the chance to speak directly with young Israelis about the future they wanted for their country, their region, and the world. And I saw once again how the dream of true freedom found its full expression in those words of hope from Hatikvah, lihyot 'am chofshi be'artzeinu, "To be a free people in our land."
Passover is a celebration of the freedom our ancestors dreamed of, fought for, and ultimately won. But even as we give thanks, we are called to look to the future. We are reminded that responsibility does not end when we reach the promised land, it only begins.
I am hopeful that we can draw upon the best in ourselves to find the promise in the days that lie ahead, meet the challenges that will come, and continuing the hard work of repairing the world. Chag sameach.
Tomorrow, on an isolated island tucked away deep in the Atlantic Ocean, some 600 miles from the European continent and 300 miles away from Africa, a most unusual Passover Seder, sponsored by Shavei Israel, will be taking place. Thirteen Jews, many of them Bnei Anousim — descendants of Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism more than 500 years ago — will gather in Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira, to celebrate the Exodus from Egypt. It will be the first public Seder held in centuries in a region that once had a thriving Jewish population until the Inquisition arrived, even in this remote location, so far from the mainland.
The Passover League of Philadelphia a not for profit charitable organization founded in 1933 with a mission to raise funds to help needy individuals and families celebrate the Passover holiday. It is supported by volunteers and many Philadelphia charitable organizations.
Seders funded by The Passover League are conducted at various community locations throughout the Delaware Valley. These Seders reach thousands of individuals who would normally be unable to celebrate the traditional Passover holiday. The Passover League serves Jewish veterans in various local hospitals. In addition, The Passover League helps fund the delivery of Kosher meals to homebound individuals and assists many people who are referred through crisis networks.
In order to make a donation, send a check to The Passover League, 215 N. Presidential Blvd, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 or call 610-660-0530.
The Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) has issued its 4th Haggadah Supplement entitled Welcoming the Stranger to the Land. According to JSPAN Vice-President and Philadelphia Jewish Voice board member Kenneth Meyers:
We were immigrants in Egypt. And we have been immigrants many times since then, until we achieved citizenship on American soil. The Seder is a time to reflect on our experience and the plight of others who have not yet achieved their freedoms here. Millions of undocumented immigrants have no path to citizenship or the full freedoms we take for granted. Consider what their status forever does to their lives, and how we can help them and America fulfill our common aspirations.
Links to JSPAN's previous issue oriented Haggadah supplements follow the jump.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger will host Members of Congress, Administration officials, school children, and other national faith, anti-hunger and anti-poverty leaders for the National Hunger Seder on March 20, 2013 at the US Capitol Visitor's Center.
The National Hunger Seder is an adaptation of the traditional Passover Seder, telling the story of the Exodus with emphasis on the moral imperative to end hunger in America. The National Hunger Seder is the kick off to the 5th Annual MAZON/JCPA Hunger Seder Mobilization taking place in 27 communities around the country, which are designed to encourage participants to advocate to restore the 5.1% cut to the WIC program mandated by the sequester.
After the jump: JSPAN issues a Haggadah Supplement on immigration.
For the first time since the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, a Passover Seder is being hosted in Ribadavia. Ribadavia is a town in northwestern Spain, which during the Middle Ages had a thriving Jewish community. Some of the buildings from the old Jewish quarter are still standing, including its synagogue.
Ribadavia's Centre for Medieval Studies and its tourism department are embarking on a project to reclaim and teach about the town's Sephardic heritage. This year, they are organizing a kosher Passover Seder. Historian Dr. Abraham Haim, whose specialty is the Sephardic world, is conducting it. The Seder will be preceded by a lecture entitled The Jewish Passover and Jesus's Last Supper.
Omer calendars for Israel and Diaspora courtesy of Judaica artist Jonathan Kremer.
— by Carol Towarnicky
As Passover approaches, an increasing number of modern Jews are preparing not only for their annual seders but also for “Counting the Omer,” an ancient practice of blessing each of the 49 days between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot.
An Omer is a measure of barley. In Biblical times, the Counting of the Omer marked the time between the barley and wheat harvests. Every night during that period, farmers would wave an Omer to plead for an abundant crop. Over time, the agricultural ritual was replaced by liturgy, and the counting became a way to mark the Israelites’ journey from bondage in Egypt to revelation at Mount Sinai. For the Kabbalists, the Jewish mystics of the 16th and 17th centuries, the Counting of the Omer became a time of spiritual exploration and cleansing, a way to prepare the soul for revelation. The mystics divided the time into seven weeks, with each week containing a specific spiritual quality. On each of the 49 days, two of the qualities intersect with each other, making each day is unique.
After the jump: Rabbi Yael Levy's book on the subject
In my family, the Passover celebration begins long before the Seder. Preparing for our festive meal is a big part of the fun. One of my favorite traditions is our annual matza baking party. My husband Howard designs and builds a temporary cinder-block tabun (Biblical oven) especially for the occasion. I aspire to bake a matza with a really authentic flavor. In order to get that, I look for flour milled from heirloom seeds that were native to Ancient Egypt.
How does Howard build the tabun? He uses dry, fireproof cinderblocks, aluminum sheets, and ceramic tiles. His design protects the surface beneath the oven.
Oven-building and matza-baking instructions after the jump.
One of the staples of our seder meal is a Megina, sometmes refered to as "mina", or a "meat quajado". My mom's is made with crumbled matzah mixed in giving it a quajado-like texture once cooked, and able to be cut into and served in squares. This mina version is often made with layers of soaked and softened matzahs and constructed more like a meat lasagna. I am sharing the recipe as my mom makes it for our family and as she has taught it in community cooking classes. This is one of those dishes you can customize to your liking, adding different spices for a differnt flair (think cumin or ras el hanout or even cilantro instead of parsley, to name a few). This version is made with ground beef, although ground turkey could be a substitute.
A few months ago, I read a recipe for a flourless chocolate cake on the wonderful Seattle Foodshed blog. I bookmarked it, and decided that Pesach was the perfect time to try it out, as for kitniot eaters, it's completely Kosher For Passover and pareve to boot. And who would have thought that a cake that's Kosher for Pesach and made from hummus would originate in the US? So with a few days left of Pesach, I have to share this with you.
If you are bored with your usual Passover snacks, There is something new for you this year: Matzolah — matzo granola. It is a sweet, crunchy, and nutty Passover treat. Matzola was the winner of Best New Kosher for Passover Product at Kosherfest 2012.
Distributed by Streit's Matzo Company, Matzolah is made with matzos, Vermont maple syrup, California raisins, almonds, walnuts, and pecans. It is sodium and cholesterol free, and is claimed by the distributor to be a good source of fiber. This granola was invented by a family with the appropriate name Foodman of Decatur, Georgia. Matzolah will be available this year at Whole Foods Markets.
The case in point is his April 9 segment pitting Easter against Passover, most of which I found offensive as a Jew. While the premise was not necessarily a terrible idea, the punch lines trivialized nearly every important concept of the Jewish festival of freedom for the sake of a few cheap laughs. That the studio audience ate it up is no indication of its funniness — it's a known fact that The Daily Show audience laughs at anything.
If you host a Passover Seder or two, there is a good chance that you will have a refrigerator full of unconsumed food. The principle of Bal Tashkhit (Kiddushin 32a) is basic to Jewish Law. "Bal Tashkhit" means "do not destroy." We are instructed to avoid senseless waste or damage. When I find creative new ways to serve my Passover surplus, it feels like I am performing a mitzvah! How can you get people to enjoy the uneaten fare from your festive meal? Incorporate it with the huge supply of matza and eggs that are necessary to prepare for Passover. Dress up your matza brei (fried matza) and prepare satisfying repasts for your friends and family.
A last minute wonderfulness.... Spiritual preparation for Passover in three, 2 minute visualizations, by Rabbi Joyce Reinitz, also a psychotherapist, who specializes in Jewish healing using the therapeutic guidance modalities developed by her honored teacher, of blessed memory, Madame Colette Aboulker-Muscat.
Starting tomorrow night, the Jewish community in the United States, Israel, and throughout the world will come together to celebrate the holiday of Passover.
President and Mrs. Obama will join them, continuing their tradition of hosting a small Seder at the White House. By now, the story of how that tradition began has been told and retold, but in the spirit of Passover, I'll tell it again: In April of 2008, the President and his staff were on the trail in Pennsylvania in the midst of a long primary campaign. Weary from a long day of work and away from their families, a small group of staffers came together to hold an impromptu Seder. When then-Senator Obama got wind of the Seder, he gathered some other staff and friends and decided to join. At the end of the Seder, the President followed the traditional "Next year in Jerusalem" declaration with a pledge of his own - "Next year in the White House." Each year since, he has followed through on that promise. This year, he also added a new touch, a video message to Jews everywhere wishing them Chag Sameach as they continue their own traditions or start new ones this Passover.
The play, directed by EgoPo's literary director, Brenna Geffers, and created by the talented ensemble of artists involved with the piece, retells the ancient myth of the golem for a modern audience. From its first mention in the Sanhedrin, a 2nd century companion piece to the Torah, to modern references in contemporary literature, like Cavalier and Clay, the golem story has been re-told and re-imagined in many mediums. EgoPo wanted to perform "a piece exploring the Golem" which is all about needing a protector in a dangerous world.
Leonard Gontarek's Spiritual Poetry at the Public Library
A week before both Passover, when we commemorate both freedom and slavery, remembering always, that as long as anyone is oppressed we are all still slaves in Egypt, I had the pleasure to begin the week at the Philadelphia Public Library Monday Poets Reading Series, now in its 16th year. Run for fifteen years by Michelle Belluomini, the new director of the series, Kay Wisniesskik, explained that "Philadelphia has a lot of creative people. This venture is special as we feature local poets who have published books and have often won prizes. We want to expose people to the excellence of the Philadelphia poetry scene."
With 1 in 6 Americans struggling to put nutritious food on the table every day, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger hosted Members of Congress, Administration officials, and national faith and anti-poverty leaders at the National Hunger Seder at the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center. Seder participants made the case for protecting and strengthening funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) as legislators begin to negotiate the 2012 Farm Bill Reauthorization.
SNAP and MAZON have also developed a version of the 2012 Hunger Seder you can using in your own home to promote "hunger awareness and activism.
Similarly, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network develops issue oriented material each year you can use to enrich your seder. Supplements to the traditional Haggadah relate the biblical story of the Exodus to current events and issues.
The 2012 Freedom Supplement, comprised of 16 pages with illustrations, is now available without charge. The Freedom Seder Supplement celebrates emerging freedom movements around the world with poems, texts and prayers. Editors Stephen C. Sussman Esq. and Kenneth R. Myers Esq. have drawn from far-ranging sources, from Lord Byron to Tibet. Each of the readings includes suggestions keying it into the traditional Seder service.
In 2010 JSPAN released its first Supplement, entitled We were strangers, on the theme of immigration in history and in the United States.
In 2011 the JSPAN Supplement, This is the bread of poverty, brought the focus to hunger here and around the world. The 2012 "Freedom Seder" takes up the human longing for freedom that is spreading around the globe, and concludes with four resolutions that we as American Jews can meaningfully adopt.
More about the National Hunger Seder after the jump.
Museum will be open on Wednesday, April 11 until 8 p.m. during holiday
In celebration of the holiday of Passover, the National Museum of American Jewish History will have evening hours for the first time on Wednesday, April 11, when it will be open until 8 p.m. Visitors to the Museum can pay what they wish. The Museum café and store will also be open that night. The store will be offering a discount of 20 percent on Passover items on the 11th and the café will be kosher for Passover that night and for the duration of the holiday.
In addition, throughout the holiday, visitors will be provided with a Passover family guide that explores themes related to the holiday in the Museum's core exhibition. The family guide will prompt discussions about the holiday and the parallels between the story of Passover and the story of freedom that is told throughout the three floors of the Museum's core exhibition.
Each activity in the guide begins with a quote from the Haggadah (the booklet that guides the order of the Passover Seder while retelling the story of Exodus.) The family guide also contains questions geared to parents, non-family visitors, and older teens and includes definitions of the ritual objects and other items associated with Passover.
In preparation for the upcoming Passover holiday, President Barack Obama invited members of the Jewish community to the White House for a special cooking demonstration and discussion. Sponsored by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the National Endowment for the Humanities, White House chef Bill Yosses worked with Jewish chef Joan Nathan to demonstrate how to make, among other dishes, apple and pear charoset and matzo chremsel.
Haaretz writer Vered Guttman was one of the guests invited to the event. Guttman wrote:
Before the seder each year, guests are asked to send Bill and White House executive chef Cris Comerford their own family's Passover recipes. The chefs then design a menu for the seder and prepare the dishes according to the guests' recipes.
In previous years they served the classics: haroset and brisket. When we met Wednesday. Bill said they were still working on this year's menu. He did know, however, which desserts would be served: A flourless chocolate cake (which he promises will be on the White House website before the holiday) and a delicious sounding apricot roll cake, that he was kind enough to share the recipe with me. Bill gets extra points for a dessert that is not only fabulous, but also inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine. Does the president eat Jewish or Israeli food during the year? I asked.
'The president LOVES Israeli couscous!' Bill didn't have to think much before he answered. Since Israeli couscous is one of the most popular foods imported from Israel, it is often the target of boycott threats by anti-Israeli groups.
Over 400 guests enjoyed this year's Golden Slipper Club Seder.
The Golden Slipper Club of Philadelphia's tradition of holding a Passover Seder for the senior Jewish community continued in 2012. This year's Seder took place at Har Zion Temple in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania on Monday, March 19, a short time before this year's actual Passover holiday on April 6-12, 2012. Passover is a holiday in which Jews celebrate their liberation from slavery to freedom.
This year's Seder committee members, along with events coordinator, Ann Hilferty and executive director, Paul Geller, worked hard coordinating the various entities to make the Seder run smoothly. The 2012 committee includes co-chair Jackie Gilberg and Michael Simon, as well as members Chuck Barsh, David Biloon, Jeffrey Brenner, Robin Cohen, Bob Gilberg, Jessica Gomel, Charlie Hoffmann, Roy Kardon, Howard Levin, Linda Ostach, Barry Sacks, Dan Singer, Shelby Simmons, Lee Tabas, and Scott Wechsler. Stephen H. Frishberg is Club president.
I, with my wonderful congregation Leyv Ha-Ir, celebrated Purim, the wild and crazy Jewish holiday celebrating the downfall of Haman (boo!), who as vizier to the Persian King tried to massacre all the Jews in the realm; but his plan was foiled by Mordechai (yay!) entering his beautiful cousin Esther (woo hoo!) into a beauty pageant to be the queen, and Haman's plot was foiled.
It's the celebration of the downfall of a tyrant; the world has been full of them, people who have become legends in their own minds, such as Mubarak in Egypt, Ghadaffi in Libya, and Assad in Syria. There are also mental Hamans as well, within our psyches, such as low self-esteem and self-doubts, which we daily must overthrow; I know, I deal with them as well.
In my family, the fun of Passover begins long before the Seder. It starts with perusing all of our cookbooks and discussing which recipes will be prepared. It continues with the shopping expeditions for all the specialty Passover supplies. The celebration begins with the cooking. In many homes, children are excluded from this step. I believe that it is important to welcome the little ones into the kitchen, and to encourage them to prepare something that is kosher for Passover. By cooking with us, children absorb treasured family recipes, and the laws of kashrut for Passover in a hands-on way. This is a very special bonding time.
Jonathan Kremer has designed an Omer calendar for us this year. Begin counting at the second seder and continue counting each night preceding the next day. (Yom tov and Shabbat begin the evening before the graphic.) Before you know it, it'll be time to celebrate Shavuot!
The earliest Ancient Israelite Passover dinners consisted of lamb shawarma. As Jews spread around the world, the Seder menu evolved to incorporate new fruits and vegetables that they encountered. One of the best things to happen to the Passover Seder was Columbus' discovery of America. He brought back foods that we now consider indispensable for our festive meal, such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and cacao. The process of enhancing our Passover observance with the addition of exciting new fruits and vegetables continues. This Passover is an opportunity to discover the yuca, a tuber that originated in Brazil. The yuca root is versatile, nutritious, low fat, and gluten-free. Why not add yuca to your traditional repertoire, and spice up your Passover with some Latin flavors?
The yuca tuber is also known as cassava, mogo, and manioc. Yuca is very starchy and high in calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin C. Its flavor is very subtle, and it can be used in place of potatoes in any dish. It should never be eaten raw, because it has cyanogenic glucosides, a form of cyanide. If you eat yuca without preparing it properly, you can get acute cyanide intoxication, which can result in paralysis. To be safe, peel the cassava, and then boil it in salted water for at least 30 minutes. This will detoxify it. Drain well. It is now safe to consume! The easiest way to cook cassava is to buy it pre-peeled and frozen. You may purchase it online.
After the jump are some yuca recipes you can try during Passover.
Visiting Venice is an incredible adventure! Architecturally, it is one of the most sumptuous cities in the world. Its Jewish history goes back to the tenth century, when Jewish traders first came to Venice to engage in commerce. By the 1500s, Venice had the world's first ghetto, in which Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and German Jews coexisted. The community practically disappeared after World War II. Currently, only about 500 Jews live in Venice. It is possible to sample some Jewish Italian specialties in Venice's only kosher restaurant, which is run by the CHABAD in the Ghetto Nuovo. In order to really savor Venetian Jewish specialties, I turned to Alessandra Rovati, one of the few Jews who is originally from Venice. She shares her family's Venetian Jewish recipes on her Dinner in Venice website.
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