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Father-son rabbinic dynasties are nothing new, but Rabbis Sion and Braham David stand out as a family of firsts who have an especially strong dedication to Jewish tradition and a love of Passover.
Both Rabbis David are Bene Israel Jews who trace their roots back more than a thousand years in India. The documentary evidence of the roots of this community are lost to time, but as Rabbi Sion David explains, the story that was passed through the generations tells of travelers who were shipwrecked off the Indian coast, long before the Romans captured Jerusalem or the Maccabees rebelled.
The community thrived through the generations; they were shopkeepers and merchants, movie stars and professionals, but not rabbis. Until Sion David.
The majority of Indian Jews have in recent years emigrated to Israel and other Western countries, and neither Rabbi Davids have served pulpits in India. But the customs and memories of Jewish life in India remain part of their Jewish lives in America.
Rabbi Sion David recalls that in India, preparation for Passover included having all the household pots refinished so they would be kosher for the holiday. “We did not have the packaged goods like the matzot, and you did without the stuff we take for granted today,” he says. Matza was made by hand. It was large and round and crisp like a cracker, made at home or purchased at the synagogue. It was not rolled out. Instead, the ball of dough was tossed from hand to hand back and forth until it was thin and round. Then it was put in a stone oven built into the ground and baked within the 18 minutes allotted.
Serving as rabbi of Temple Shalom in Medford Massachusetts, Rabbi Braham David does not make his own matzah, but he does still make the traditional Bene Israel Indian charoset called shira. Shira is similar to chalek, a version of charoset made by North African and Middle Eastern Jews, but unlike chalek, it is made exclusively from dates. “It is more of a syrup than a paste,” explains Braham David. It is work and time intensive but it is well worth it, he says.
The flavor and texture of shira is so central to the David family Seder that when the junior David was studying in Israel, he went out of his way to make it. Finding the dates was easy enough, but the recipe pivots on squeezing the cooked mixture through cheesecloth and “I did not know where to find it, or how to say it in Hebrew.” In desperation, Braham David went into a fabric stall in the market and tried in vain to explain what he was looking for. “I was getting nowhere,” he explains, “until I said, charoset. Then the shop owner pulled out a bolt of cheesecloth and the effort was saved.”
Directions for making David Family Shira
The following is a recipe in the loosest form. As with many historic recipes, it comes down to us as a set of directions. Feel free to adjust.
Water -approximately 6 cups
Best quality dates you can find (Medjool dates are best) approximately 2lb pitted and chopped, approximately 6 cups
Place chopped dates in a heavy saucepan.
Cover with water.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer over very low heat.
Simmer until the dates are well dissolved, this can take more than 20 or 30 minutes. Stir constantly. Dates should fall apart.
Remove pot from heat and let the mixture cool completely.
When the mixture is cool, gather large spoonfuls in cheesecloth.
Squeeze out the liquid from the solids over a heavy bottom pan. This will take time and effort. Do not stop until all the liquid has been separated from the solids.
Put the heavy bottom pan over a medium flame. Stirring continuously bring to a boil.
Reduce to a low simmer. Continue to stir. If you do not stir there is a danger the shira will burn.
When the liquid has reduced to a syrupy consistency and coats a metal spoon, remove from the flame. Be careful not to overcook! Syrup will become thicker as it cools.
Cool the shira fully before serving.
Helaine Mazin David. Rabbi Sion David’s wife and Rabbi Braham David’s mother was born and raised in Louisville, KY. Despite her non-Indian roots, she has been making shira for many years and offered this additional insight to the recipe the rabbis shared:
When Sion and I make shira, it is a team effort. Depending how much shira we make we use one to three pounds of medjool dates. (The ratios stay the same.) We cover with water and cook until the dates pull apart. We then let it cool. At this point Sion uses cheesecloth to squeeze out the liquid and dispose of the remains. For many years we would cook in on the stove and keep stirring it constantly. Now we use a microwave with a glass covered pot. We start off microwaving for 20 minutes. We check often to see if the liquid is thickening. As it starts to get thicker, checking often is the key. One year I went a little too far and the whole thing exploded!
I had a lucky Southern Jewish break: Soon after moving to North Florida from California, I was hired as the 5th grade teacher at the Block Family Religious School at Temple Israel in Tallahassee. I adapted quickly to my new congregation and fully embraced all aspects of Temple life. I figured Jewish life in the South would basically be like Jewish life anywhere. And in some ways, it is; but in other ways, it has a special nature all its own.
I didn’t put my finger on it right away; but one morning during Sunday school, it struck me.
We start each Religious School morning with a t’filah (prayer) service in the sanctuary. As the song-leader led us through the service, I watched a father in the first row, his arm around his kindergarten-age daughter. They were sharing the prayer book; intensely focused on the page. The dad was pointing out each word to his little girl, and they were reciting the prayers and songs together.
The sight of a Jewish father holding his young daughter close to him as they both participated in the children’s service was something I rarely saw in my old San Francisco Bay Area synagogue. At that larger religious school, a few parents did stay for t’filah, but those who did mostly sat in the back of the sanctuary, away from their children.
Don’t get me wrong; the parents at our synagogue in California were of course devoted and caring. But there was an important difference, I believe—the surrounding environment, and how that culture brings us together.
The Jewish population in the San Francisco Bay Area is in the hundreds of thousands. Where we lived in the East Bay alone, there were four established synagogues. People had plenty of Jewish choices, and it was not uncommon for families to leave one synagogue and join another.
The situation could not be more different in Tallahassee, with our Jewish population somewhere in the range of 4,000–5,000, and only one synagogue. In Southern towns and cities with smaller Jewish communities, I believe that the synagogue plays a more central role than it does in areas with a large Jewish population with multiple synagogues.
The synagogue is often the only Jewish organization in a small Southern town. As a result, Southern Jewish life in these communities is more concentrated and focused. The Jewish community is concentrated in terms of where we gather to pray, worship, learn, socialize and send our kids to school. The synagogue is where you see your “family.”
“I’ll see you at synagogue,” we say to each other.
No need to specify which one: Everyone knows where you are talking about.
In Tallahassee, Temple Israel is my oasis of Judaism. Like an oasis, it is a welcoming sight; indeed, life-giving. You linger there, dwell there, meet and relax with others there. You feel safe, and comfortable.
In Tallahassee, we Jews are fortunate to enjoy an excellent relationship with the community at large, and do not feel threatened or excluded; Temple Israel is valued as cherished pillar of the community. This is due in large measure to the efforts of our rabbi, Jack Romberg, who for the last 18 years has made outreach to the non-Jewish community a core value of our synagogue. To our own membership and our neighbors, our synagogue is welcoming and friendly.
This, then, is the special nature of my small town Southern synagogue, and what sets it apart from bigger metropolitan congregations. It is my outpost, my safe harbor where my spirit is set free. I believe that we embrace our synagogue more fervently here than elsewhere because, frankly, there is nowhere else to go for Jewish life; so the one uniting place we have is a space we all cherish, support, and sustain. Our Southern synagogue is our lifeline to all things Jewish – our oasis of Judaism – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Schnitzel is one of my family’s most favorite dishes all year, but especially during Passover. With very small changes (as in, use matzah meal and almond flour instead of bread crumbs), this dish is 100 percent Passover-friendly. And it’s so satisfying as the week of Passover eating lags on and you are craving some serious eats, not matzah slathered in whipped cream cheese for, like, the 20th time.
When dredging anything (like chicken or eggplant), set up a work station before you start cooking. Two (or three, depending on the recipe) large shallow bowls or Pyrex dishes are ideal for the egg and bread crumb steps. Dredge all your pieces, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and then start frying.
Don’t overcrowd the pan or the chicken will not brown properly. Fry 2-3 cutlets at a time, depending on their size and the size of your pan.
After you are done frying, sprinkle with an additional pinch of salt while it’s still hot.
To reheat, place on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet in an oven heated to 250 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
Preparing a Passover seder is a major undertaking: There’s the seder plate to prep, the bitter herbs to rinse, the salt water to make, the matzah to buy, and of course, an entire meal to cook.
But if the idea of a no-fuss, no-muss, and super delicious Passover meal sounds appealing, then this is the list for you. Here are seven of the most interesting restaurants around the country hosting their own Passover seder. Just bring yourself, your Haggadah, and your appetite.
1. Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
Washington, DC and Chicago, IL
Who would believe that this swanky surf-and-turf restaurant would prepare food for Passover? But it does. You can start with vegetarian chopped liver and a traditional matzah ball soup. Choose between herb-roasted chicken, braised brisket, or wild Alaskan halibut as your main, served along side potato pancakes and ginger-glazed and flourless chocolate cake to finish off the meal. (You can also just order the crabs from their regular menu if that’s your thing). $45.95 per guest and $19.95 for children 12 and under.
The flagship restaurant of Wolfgang Puck is hosting its 34th annual seder dinner on Saturday, March 31 at 5:30 p.m. benefiting Mazon — The Jewish Response to Hunger. Rabbi Rachlis of University Synagogue and Cantor Braier will lead the service, and even the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir will serenade you. $195/per person and $80 for children under 12. At the end of the evening, you will receive Spago’s home-made matzah and macaroons!
176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA. Tel: 310-385-0880
3. Café Boulud
New York, NY and Palm Beach, FL
Chef Aaron Bludorn is preparing a Passover dinner on March 30 and 31, complete with the most elegant, minimalist seder plate ever. You can chose between roast chicken or brisket for the main courses, accompanied by a horseradish potato kugel and a tzimmes stew. $105/per person. $55 for children under 12.
New York City: 20 East 76th Street in Manhattan. Tel: 212- 772-2600.
Palm Beach, Florida: 301 Australian Avenue, Palm Beach. Tel: 561-655-6060.
4. Fred’s Restaurant at Barney’s
New York, NY
Located on the top floor of Barney’s flagship department store in New York, Fred’s is going all out for Passover. For $115 per person, you get Chef Mark Strausman’s seder plate, homemade matzah, chopped liver, chicken soup, gefilte fish, and more. The location is posh but the food is “heimish.” Dinner will be served on March 30 and 31.
660 Madison Avenue, 9th Floor, in Manhattan. Tel: 212-833-2022.
5. Per Bacco
San Francisco, CA
World-renowned chef and cookbook author Joyce Goldstein knows good food. Chef Staffan Terje will be collaborating with Chef Goldstein on an Italian-themed Passover meal at San Francisco’s Per Bacco’s 11th annual Passover seder on Monday night, April 2.
230 California Street, San Francisco, CA. Tel: 415-955-0663.
New Orleans, LA
The James Beard award-winning restaurant in New Orleans makes Passover food look so good that who needs hametz? Wood-fired matzah with sea salt? Haroset with apricots and figs? Bitter green salad with roasted peppers and tomatoes? And that’s just a riff on the seder plate. $65/per person, $35/for children under 8. The Passover-friendly menu will be available from Friday, March 30 to Friday, April 6, every night after 5 p.m.
4213 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA. Tel: 504-891-4213.
7. L’Oca D’Oro
Deep in the heart of Texas you can find a family style seder at L’Oca D’Oro on Monday, April 2, filled with Italian specialties made from local produce. Think lamb belly confit with spiced citrus haroset and romaine on house-made matzah. It will be hosted by co-owner Adam Orman and led by Rabbis Neil Blumofe and Rebecca Epstein. $75/per person, $25 for children under 12.
What the Four Children Can Teach us about Gender Fluidity
By Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky
Q: We are taught to ask questions at the Passover seder. We are not instructed to give answers because answers aren’t the essential part of the seder experience. It’s the asking of questions that is most important. The four children ask a variety of questions that represent their identities and relationship with supposed societal norms.
The second Q in LGBTQQIAA stands for questioning, when someone questions their sexual orientation, gender identity, or isn’t sure how to label themselves. The four children represent the wide spectrum of gender identity and understands that we do not live in a binary gender system.
The Haggadah refers to four children: the chacham, the rasha, the tam, and the She’Ano Yode’a Lishol, often referred to as the Wise One, the Wicked One, the Simple One, and the One who Doesn’t Know How to Ask. However, these labels couldn’t be further from the truth. These labels represent that which is expected of them, or the societal stereotypes put on them. If we look at the four children as a way to gain insight and come to understand the fluidity of gender, these labels are placed on these children by a binary gender normative society. These labels don’t reflect truly who these children are. Rather, they reflect how society has forced them to conform for too long.
What does the Chacham ask? “What are the testimonials, statues, and laws God commanded you?” You should tell this child about the laws of Passover, that one may not eat dessert after eating the Passover offering.
The supposed ‘Wise One’ is hardly smart. This child simply accepts societal norms. The Wise One was taught not to question, but rather only to do what was told. The Wise One fits into a set system and falls into the stereotypes of this system. The Wise One is certainly cisgender — someone whose identity conforms with the gender associated with their biological sex – but also is only able to see and understand a gender binary system. This child isn’t wise at all; wisdom is misconstrued here as “conventional wisdom.” This child is not interested in pushing societal norms. Unfortunately, it’s these supposed “wise” children that are responsible for promoting transphobia. They are the ones who should be labeled “wicked.”
What does the Rasha say? “What does this mean to you?” To you and not to the child. Since this child chooses to be excluded from the community, this child has denied a basic principle of Judaism. You should blunt the child’s teeth and say: “It is for the sake of this that God did for me when I left Egypt. For me and not for you. If you were there, you would not have been redeemed.”
Wicked is not a fair definition of this child. We tend to think of those who are inexplicably evil as wicked: murderers, terrorists, dictators, etc. There is nothing that this child does that is evil. Yet our tradition uses this label because the child questions societal norms. The supposed ‘Wicked One’ does so in hopes of finding purpose. This child doesn’t settle for societal parameters or stereotypes. Instead, this child challenges norms, to find meaning to accept one’s true self. This child is far from wicked. Maybe that is how Judaism traditionally referred to this child. But, this child is simply transgender or gender non-binary — someone whose gender expression or gender identity differs from the sex one was assigned at birth, someone whose identity is different from the stereotypes of society. This child though doesn’t deserve to be labeled or discriminated. This child must be loved, just like every other child.
What does the tam say? “What’s this?” You should say to the child, “With a strong hand God took me out of Egypt, from the house of servitude.”
The supposed ‘Simple One’ has been taught something their whole lives and only now has
been exposed to something else. The Simple One never knew about the diversity of the gender spectrum. It is our job to offer a simple explanation to a simple question; to educate the Simple One by teaching our children about the gender spectrum. A study from the Medical University of Vienna reveals that there is a neurological distinction between gender identity and biological sex. This scientific study is the basis of what we should teach our children – that we don’t live in a binary gender system, that gender is fluid.
And the She’Ano Yode’a Lishol, you begin, as the Torah says, “And you should tell your child on that day, saying ‘It is because of what God did for me when I went out of Egypt.’”
The child who is silent is not silent out of ignorance. This child is silent out of fear. This child grew up in a society that taught that one cannot challenge the binary gender system, that one’s gender identity must be related to their biological sex. However, silence is scary. A study by the
Williams Institute [https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/AFSP-Williams-Suicide-Report-Final.pdf] reveals that 41% of transgender youth have attempted suicide, compared to 4.6% of the overall population of this country. But a study out of the University of Washington suggests that transgender youth that are supported and loved by their families, teachers, friends, and clergy are no more anxious or depressed than any other child their age. This study reveals that love and acceptance saves lives. This child is silent because this child remains in the closet. The child is closeted because of fear of exclusion or rejection by community. We must respond to this child’s silence by simply showing this child love and support, and honoring who they are, made in God’s image.
At our seder tables, on a holiday that celebrates freedom, we still declare: This year we are still slaves. Next year, may we be free people.
This year, despite progress that we as a society and as a Jewish community have made, transphobia, homophobia, hate, and bigotry still exist. May we continue to build inclusive communities so that next year, we can celebrate the uniqueness of all of us.
Action item at the Seder: Go around the table and ask each person what their preferred gender pronouns are. To ensure that all around the Seder table feel welcome, make sure that you refer to them in a way that corresponds to their gender identity.
Rabbi Jesse Olitzky is rabbi and spiritual leader at Congregation Beth El in South Orange, New Jersey. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can tweet him at @JMOlitzky
One of the core elements of a traditional Jewish wedding is the Ketubah, the wedding contract, that is signed by both parties and sets out the framework for the life the couple is building together. Traditionally a Ketubah is a contract that lays out the groom’s obligation to the bride, a form that does not resonate with some modern couples. There are many wonderful modern texts available, but some couples prefer to write their own, creating a document that formalizes the vows and commitments they are making. While there are no rules for creating your own, in working with wedding couples, I find that it is helpful to have a framework to jump-start the process.
Even if you are writing your own Ketubah, you may consider bringing in the basic personalized elements of the traditional ketubah: the who, what, where, and when (we will get to the why in the continuation). The traditional form includes the following:
On the _______ day of the week, the _______day of the month of __________in the year ____________, here in ________(location) the spouse/spouse ________________daughter/son/m’beit (from the house) of ___________ and ___________, and the spouse/spouse ______________ son/daughter/m’beit of _____________ and ________________ came together before family and friends to affirm their commitment to each other in marriage/ to affirm their partnership with each other.
In the traditional form, there is space for the Hebrew dates as well as the standard calendar date. Even if you are not including Hebrew text, you may consider including the Hebrew date. You can easily determine the date by checking online. Keep in mind that if your wedding ceremony is taking place after sundown, the Hebrew date will correspond to the following date on the secular calendar.
At the conclusion, it is traditional to include the signatures of the wedding couple, at least two witnesses and the officiants. Other possible signatories may include the entire wedding party, older married couples who serve as models of marriage for the wedding couple, and the parents of the wedding couple.
Given that you are writing your own Ketubah, there is no way that you MUST structure your document. That is both wonderful and challenging. Two possibilities that you can use as a starting point are vows or pronouncement. With vows, each partner can write what she or he pledges on this day. You can make it a formal pledge or statement, or simply say that each person declares or shares. It could take the form of a back and forth on different topics.
Quotes From ‘Eternal’ Sources
Eternal sources add a timeless element to a ketubah. Biblical quotes are one example of an eternal source but it is by no means the only kind, great poetry, love songs, movie dialogue can all fill this purpose. They remind us that there is a bigger context for the love that we celebrate on this day. They also have the potential to help frame the content of our document. My fiance (now husband) and I, for example, used a biblical quote from the Book of Ruth to frame ours. Ruth pledges her love to her mother-in-law Naomi by saying, “Where you go I will go, where you lay down, I will lay down; your people are my people, your God is my God.” Building on this, we wrote commitments about our shared future, building a home together, a vision of community and our spiritual lives. There are many wonderful biblical verses that lend themselves to a ketubah, “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine” from Song of Solomon is one that is popular. But there are also many other sources and text that can add an eternal element to your personal ketubah.
Kinds of language to employ:
The traditional language of Ketubah is formal and legalistic. In choosing to write your own ketubah, you have a wide range of styles and approaches available to you. Keep in mind that this document is meant to be enduring, to capture a vision that is both of the moment but also extends beyond it. Take time to craft not only the ideas but the choice of words as well. Words that do not get used in the every day, such as enduring, eternal, reverence, solemnly, faithfully may be just the thing you need. Humor and personal style can also play a role. The main thing is to find the words that will feel comfortable not just in the moment but for the long term. Proofreading and asking for help is greatly encouraged. I offer my couples help if they want to translate their personalized text into Hebrew, to connect the new content with the ancient language.
What are some of the things you value about the life you are building together?
While much of the content of a ketubah looks forward to your hopes for the future, this is also an opportunity to come together and give voice to the values you share and serve as the foundation for your relationship. Naming those values and the shape they take can be abstract but it can also be rooted in personal stories, family experiences, and community commitments. Spell out your values with examples or commitments, ie. May your dedication to caring for animals always lead our family to acts of kindness and generosity or Just as today we celebrate with family and friends, the home that we build will always be open to others that it may be a gathering place in times of joy and sadness.
What are Your Hopes for the Future?
A wedding, like all ritual, captures a liminal moment. It looks back on the majesty of finding a partner and celebrating the miracle of that love and it looks forward to the potential of the lives that have yet to be lived. Spelling out your hopes for the future is a great way to capture the potential. Be thoughtful about how specific you want to be. Not all your plans will unfold exactly as you envision them, consider as you write how you may feel if life deviates from the original, will the vision of every year at Disney taunt you if circumstances change and it is no longer possible? If so, then consider writing that you look forward to adventures and always having a special place for Disney in your relationship. Broader language will leave more wiggle room. But if the commitment to having a house with dogs feel so fundamental that you could not live without it, leave it in.
How will you navigate difficult times?
The focus of a wedding should be primarily positive and filled with anticipation of good times. But even the most enduring relationships will face challenges, what commitments do you want to make to each other about the less than perfect moments and how you will negotiate your way forward.
What are the communities to which you belong and to whom you hold yourself accountable?
Weddings are never just between two people. Even a small wedding brings in a third party as a witness to the love and commitment being made. Larger weddings involve family and friends because relationships do not exist in a vacuum. So as you write consider the people and communities of which you see yourselves being part. This may include spiritual commitments that go beyond yourselves.
Passover has always been, hands down, my favorite holiday. I love the tradition of the seders, I love the fact that Passover means spring is here — heck, I even love gefilte fish!
What I don’t love? The lack of good snacks.
I’m not talking about that ubiquitous can of macaroons that is on every kitchen counter during the holiday week. And I’m not talking about those jellied fruit slices either (does anyone actually eat those?).
No — I’m talking about crave-worthy snacks that you would want to eat any time of year, but happen to be Passover-friendly, too. Like this Passover puppy chow!
If you’ve never heard of puppy chow — well, it’s one of the easiest and most addictive snacks EVER. Ingredients can vary, but it’s typically made with just four ingredients: cereal, chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar. Yes, practically healthy food.
Yet each of these ingredients pose a problem for the Passover cook. Most cereal (even the gluten-free kind) is made from corn or rice — not allowed in the diets for many who observe. Same for peanut butter and powdered sugar (which contains cornstarch). And if you need a treat that’s dairy-free, butter and chocolate are off-limits, too. (Note: If you eat corn during Passover, feel free to use regular powdered sugar and you can skip the first step.)
But no worries — I’ve swapped out each of these ingredients with a totally Passover-friendly substitute, and I promise you will not notice the difference. This recipe gets bonus points for being egg- and dairy-free, so loved ones who have food allergies or follow a vegan diet can indulge, too!
For two years, I lived in a fraternity house… sort of.
After earning my first degree from Oxford College of Emory University, I moved to Atlanta to attend classes at Emory’s Atlanta Campus. Rather than stay in a dorm, I opted to move into a run-down, five-bedroom house with four of my closest friends.
We called it The Brohaus. And we weren’t affiliated with any fraternal organization, but if you picture a frat house—you’re picturing The Brohaus.
We were actually a very studious bunch of lads, but we still managed to have fun together. For two years, my wonderful roommates and The Brohaus provided me with countless happy memories and stories.
In January of 2017, I celebrated with my roommates and friends as a received a job offer from the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. I made my preparations to move away, and arranged to move into an apartment all my own in Jackson, Mississippi—not so very far from Atlanta, and yet a world away.
One of my roommates and best friends helped me with the move, and before I knew it, everything was different. In preparation for my move and transition into the workplace, I knew roughly what to expect: I would be living on my own. I was the only male-identified new hire in my fellowship cohort that year. I’d have to learn a whole new city. I’d be giving up so many familiar things.
What I couldn’t anticipate was how much that I wouldn’t have to give up.
Yes, I missed my Brohaus guys. I was surprised to find, however, a similar sense of inspiration coming from the new people around me at work. Every day, I see my co-workers writing brilliant lesson plans, taking on impressive projects, and pulling unique programming ideas out of thin air.
As I grew more experienced in my role as an ISJL Education Fellow, I was surprised at how my undergrad life prepared me for the work I was doing; my thirst for the absurd translated well into writing satire articles for our monthly newsletter, my party planning instincts helped me facilitate events in the communities that I serve, and my knowledge of film and editing has helped me produce content for the ISJL curriculum and Education Conference. I may still miss throwing parties and grilling hamburgers at 10pm, but I’m blessed to still be in an environment that challenges me and encourages me to be the best version of myself.
Every time I return to Atlanta, now in my capacity as a Fellow serving Jewish communities there, I make it a point to drive past that run-down house in Decatur. I remember the happy memories and the experiences that helped make me who I am today—it may seem a strange journey from The Brohaus to the Jewish professional world, but I’m just enjoying the ride.
I am pretty proud of the carb-forward diet I keep all year. Except, of course, during Passover. While some families love Passover rolls as a special treat during the holiday, it’s not a tradition we keep. Instead our Passover breakfasts have centered around eggs, yogurt, fruit, and matzah brei.
Then last year I heard about a local bakery and cafe called Squirrel & The Bee, whose delicious treats are wheat-free and refined-sugar-free. And oh, they are Passover friendly. I rushed over (after the gym, obviously) and gorged myself on cheesy spinach quiche, double chocolate chip muffins, and the most delicious wheat-free banana bread.
With my super stellar sleauthing journalist skills (um, I asked) I found out the bakery uses a combination of almond and coconut flours. So I went home to try and recreate the treat. And, it came out fine. Maybe less then fine. Edible, sweet, but far too crumbly. And too much coconut flour. Womp.
But I don’t give up where carbs are concerned, so I tweaked the recipe a bit, and I am now proud to share this super moist, super flavorful, Passover-perfect banana pumpkin bread. Slather it with butter, pour yourself a nice cup of hot tea, and you might even forget it’s Passover.
A few notes: Make sure to buy a high-quality almond flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill. Almond flour and almond meal are different items. I would not advise skipping the step to coat the inside of the pan with cooking spray and granulated sugar — the extra bit of sugar creates a crusty, caramelized coating on the outside of the bread that is completely addictive.
Jews are a people of memory and action. On Passover, we tell and retell a collective narrative of liberation, preserved and developed through stories, teachings, and rituals. The Exodus story, though ancient, resonates through the generations as a story of deliverance from slavery to freedom. Struggles for freedom, personal and systemic, global and local, continue to be waged today.
The American political landscape has never been more volatile, more unpredictable, or more racialized. Racially and ethnically motivated attacks frighten minority populations; communities on the left and on the right decry the loss of their voices in the American conversation, and political groups are becoming polarized. In these unprecedented times, divisive forces only distance us from one another, leaving us no path to unity and hope.
Increasingly, we hear the mandate to move away from disunity and towards inclusion, but don’t know where to begin. How can we make ourselves ready to hear the stories of the marginalized, while making our own voices heard? How can we protect our communities from those who wish to divide us?
Keep in mind that we are all on very different timelines in terms of racial identity development, which can be a potential source of conflict, misunderstanding and alienation. In order to avoid conflict, we must establish rapport and trust with others. This process builds shared power and allows for deeper conversations.
This year, Be’chol Lashon collaborated with Repair the World to create materials to help bring the ancient Passover narrative into sharp focus for our modern times. Our goal is to introduce some tools to challenge this narrative and build a stronger and more inclusive Jewish community that is better equipped to wrestle with its own identity.
We have created two unique Seder resources:
Passover Trivia Place Cards
In some communities, like the Jewish communities of Ethiopia and Uganda, individuals find it easy to imagine themselves as coming out of Egypt, as, for them, Exodus and liberation are not just metaphors but lived experiences in their lifetimes. Even if we have not lived through a literal Exodus, we have an obligation—and an opportunity—to consider the meaning of this story in our own lives.
At Be’chol Lashon we see the struggle for racial justice in the Jewish community as directly tied to the global and diverse nature of the Jewish people. Most are not aware that 20% of American Jews identify as African American, Latinx, Asian, mixed race, Sephardic, and/or Mizrahi. To help raise awareness, welcome your guests to their seats with trivia place cards that celebrate Passover rituals and traditions from diverse Jewish communities around the world, reminding us that Jews are a multicultural people. Personalize and print them here.
Haggadah Insert: Avadim Hayinu / “we were slaves”
Why does the Haggadah say we were slaves in Egypt rather than our ancestors were slaves in Egypt? We created a discussion guide that can be used either as a supplement to the traditional storytelling or in its place. It includes several prompts to engage guests and encourage thoughtful conversation around race, diversity and liberation in our own lives. The guide can be found here.