The following round-up is adapted from JTA’s Passover blog, blogs.jta.org/passover:
Helping interfaith families navigate Passover
The Jewish Outreach Institute has launched a “Preparing for Passover” blog. The catch: It features women from other religious backgrounds who are raising Jewish children.
One contributor identified as Elizabeth took to the blog to recall her spring situation from last year:
“My parents live 800 miles away, and wanted to come spend Easter with the kids. We don’t celebrate it, but anytime they want to come and under whatever context, that’s fine. The problem – they were scheduled to arrive at four on the afternoon of the seder. While I would be making my four dishes for the dinner, getting dressed up and dressing the kids, stowing the spare chairs and tables in the car, getting our ritual objects out of the attic, rehearsing the four questions with my youngest. But really, it wasn’t the logistics that bothered me. It was whether to invite them. Invite them to an event that would be held half in Hebrew, three hours long, after two days of driving, with people they don’t know and rituals that they had their own Christian interpretations for? I didn’t really want to spend my seder being the explainer, holding everyone and everything together and feeling all of that stress myself. …
“[Eventually] I sucked it up, decided I could handle this and invited them. But they didn’t come – it was Holy Week and they wouldn’t miss going to church that night. Duh. Another interfaith religious dilemma solved itself here in my little corner of the tent.”
If anyone out there is facing a similar situation this year, Levi Gibian Fishman of the Jewish Outreach Institute has put together a list of tips for conducting an “inclusive interfaith seder.” One of his suggestions: Honor the newcomer.
“Go further than merely acknowledging the newcomers sitting around your seder table,” he wrote. “Let them know their presence is truly a blessing. By choosing to partake, the newcomers are aligning themselves with the Jewish community and casting their lot with the Jewish people. Vocalize your appreciation during the seder by expressing how thankful we are for their participation.”
Twittering the plagues
Stephanie Simon and Ann Zimmerman of The Wall Street Journal reported on Rabbi Oren Hayon’s innovative initiative: Passover twittering.
“Building on a growing movement to add a bit of fun to the plagues and pestilence, he has recruited a handful of fellow rabbis to act out the Passover story in 140-character Twitter messages, accessible at twitter.com/tweettheexodus.
“The drama began [March 16] with a link to a trailer for the 1956 film ‘The Ten Commandments’ followed by @The_Israelites complaining: ‘We have much to fear from @PharaohofEgypt. He tires of us… ‘ The improvised dialogue will continue for two weeks.”
Keep it simple
That’s the main piece of advice from Tamar Fox of MyJewishLearning: “When Passover approaches, it seems like everyone in the Jewish community goes a little bit (or more than a little bit) crazy. You start hearing about people going through every page of every book in their house, trying to eliminate minuscule crumbs. Kosher stores are clogged with families inspecting the new Passover-friendly products, and elaborate Passover recipes are getting passed around, each of which seems to call for potato starch, and seven egg yolks.
“If you’re into that, go for it. But if you don’t have an endless supply of time and money to buy and cook for Passover, then let me give you my foolproof Passover food tip: Chill out, and go as simple as possible. You do not need a kitchen full of new supplies, a full slew of kosher-for-Passover spices, or a new cookbook to get you through the week of Passover. In fact, you need the opposite. Strip it all down to the bare minimum.”
Matzoh balls and strikes
Matzoh balls won’t be the only spheres being served up on Passover – the Major League Baseball season opener is on April 4: Mariners vs. Giants and Yankees vs. Orioles. But what to eat if you’re going to the game? A hot dog on matzoh? There’s a great children’s book (ages 5-9) on just this theme, “Matzah Ball: A Passover Story,” by Mindy Avra Portnoy and Katherine Janus Kahn.
Need a seder that’s ready to go and ready to eat? Here’s one all individually packaged. What’s the catch? To order it you need to be in the U.S. Armed Services. Served up by the Defense Services Agency, each ration includes 1 disposable seder plate, 8 packets of horseradish, 2 cans gefilte fish, even 1 white yarmulke, and much more packed in a white recloseable sturdy box. (Sorry no wine, but there’s juice.) Order early.
Hillary plays Exodus card
The U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, ended her speech at the AIPAC conference with a Passover flourish.
“We are entering the season of Passover. The story of Moses resonates for people of all faiths, and it teaches us many lessons, including that we must take risks, even a leap of faith, to reach the promised land. When Moses urged the Jews to follow him out of Egypt, many objected. They said it was too dangerous, too hard, too risky. And later, in the desert, some thought it would be better to return to Egypt. It was too dangerous, too hard, too risky. In fact, I think they formed a back-to-Egypt committee and tried to stir up support for that. And when they came to the very edge of the promised land, there were still some who refused to enter because it was too dangerous, too hard, and too risky.
But Israel’s history is the story of brave men and women who took risks. They did the hard thing because they believed and knew it was right. We know that this dream was championed by Herzl and others that many said was impossible. And then the pioneers – can you imagine the conversation, telling your mother and father ‘I’m going to go to the desert and make it bloom’? And people thinking, how could that ever happen? But it did.”