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Passover

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Jewish Diversity and Innovation: The View from the Kitchen

Discover how recipes can tell stories about Jewish history and its ever-changing rich cultural diversity.

The American Jewess on Liberation and Freedom

Investigate what it means for American Jews to celebrate Passover and the Fourth of July in the context of religious and national freedom, by reading an editorial from the April 1897 issue of The American Jewess.

Miriam in the Desert

Consider Miriam’s experience of exile and investigate the parallels between her story and moments of alienation and isolation in your own life.

Passover Seder Table

Celebrating Women’s Seders vs. Celebrating Women at the Seder

Rabbi Leah Berkowitz

I have always found women’s seders perplexing, ever since my mother first dragged me to one when I was a teenager. To me, Passover is a family holiday, and it felt wrong to exclude half of our family from the celebration. I also didn’t understand why, instead of telling the story of the Exodus, we toasted Bella Abzug and Henrietta Szold.

Topics: Passover

Episode 3: People of the Cookbook

“Every cuisine tells a story,” writes Claudia Roden in the Book of Jewish Food. “Jewish food tells the story of an uprooted, migrating people and their vanished worlds.” Claudia’s childhood world vanished when the Jewish community was forced out of Egypt in the 1950s. Her quest to collect family recipes led to a celebrated career as a cookbook author. But Claudia writes more than recipes—she traces the DNA of cuisine. In this Passover edition, Claudia Roden talks about Passover cooking, her childhood in Egypt, and what makes Jewish food Jewish.

Seder Plate

How and Why We Remember

Yana Kozukhin

The people of a certain culture devote an entire week of each year to commemorating one of the worst parts of their history. They taste bitter things to appreciate the suffering of their ancestors. They consciously abstain from consuming bread to remind themselves what was eatenor rather, what was not eaten. They mourn the deaths of their ancient oppressors. They drink the metaphorical tears of their forefathers and foremothers. And year after year after year, they gather around tables to recount the suffering and the humiliation and the turmoil of their own people.

New Year Postcard

Propelled into the New Year

Deborah Rubin Fields

Early in the 20th century, Jewish New Year card manufacturers began embellishing their cards with airplanes. They did so for three interrelated reasons: to call attention to the thrilling, modern invention of the airplane, to draw an analogy between the New Year and this new means of travel, and to use the airplane to highlight the changing status of women.

Eliana Melmed with her Two Great-Grandmothers

The Rebel Women of Passover

Eliana Melmed

My grandfather starts every Pesach Seder with the same opening lines. He talks about how he can remember being at the Seder table with his grandfather, who was once at a Seder table with his grandfather, and if you follow the generations back only a few more times you are right back at the original Pesach celebration, the escape from Egypt. These few words add so much meaning to my Pesach experience; I feel a direct relation to the Jews who escaped slavery so long ago. But while I love being able to draw this connection to the ancient past, something has always struck me about this tale: how come women are not part of this story of family linkage?

Topics: Feminism, Passover

Shirley Cohen Steinberg

Shirley Cohen Steinberg helped make the Jewish holidays fun and interactive for children with her Holiday Music Box albums, featuring “One Morning” (popularly known as the Passover “Frog Song”).

Birth of Esther Broner, co-creator of "The Women’s Haggadah"

July 8, 1927

Esther Broner "made room for us at the table by creating a whole new one—a Seder table at which women’s voices were heard.”

Ryan's Mart Old Slave Mart Museum

Passover in Charleston

Tova Mirvis

I went to Charleston, South Carolina during the week of Passover to escape the fact that this year my holiday didn’t really feel like a holiday. My three kids were with their father for the week, according to the custody schedule. My parents and siblings were in Israel, and I’d decided not to join them there.

My boyfriend and I had picked Charleston because it was a city I’d never been to and as a Southerner myself, I’d always wanted to visit. But until now, it had never made it to the top of the list – and indeed, my own sense of myself as a Southerner was fading. The longer I lived away – in New York and now in Boston - the less present that personal and family history felt, more a piece of where I come from, but less and less who I am.

Ruth Weisberg

Ruth Weisberg’s art helped bring the Reform Movement’s Open Door Haggadah to life with inclusive, feminist imagery.
Marissa Harrington-Verb with Addy

Freedom Stories

Marissa Harrington-Verb

The first books I ever fell in love with were the American Girl books. The American Girl Company as a whole was a big part of my childhood, and its influence is still with me today: if it weren’t for it and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” I don’t know if I would have passed US History last year. Educational value aside, the books have held up as fantastic examples of children’s literature, with their beautiful illustrations, interesting historical notes in the margins, diverse characters (including their cast of thirteen young female protagonists), and, most importantly to me, simple but solid stories.

Disaster Relief After Tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, May 23, 2013

The Passover Challenge: Discovering What We Take for Granted

Olivia Link

Even though the snow has persisted through and beyond the winter season, I am glad to acknowledge that spring is finally here! But before my junior year of high school comes to a close, I still have to cross some bridges before I can sail into summertime mode. Along with my upcoming AP exam, finals, and SAT test, I will shortly face the ultimate Jewish challenge: Passover.

For those who follow the Passover tradition where all grains are cut from the daily diet for eight days, then you certainly know that blissful feeling during break-fast when you take a big bite into that challah and think “wow, I will never take bread for granted again.”

Topics: Food, Passover
Eden Marcus with her grandmother

The Power of Stories

Eden Marcus

When I was younger, if you had asked me which of the many Jewish holidays is my favorite, I would never have said Passover. The restrictions that Passover requires made it hard for me to enjoy the message behind the Passover story. Plus, the drama that Passover created in my family, with my parents running around the house cleaning, only added to the stress. My grandmother changed this feeling for me.

Topics: Family, Passover, Ritual
Sarajevo Haggadah

The Many Faces of Freedom

Velda Shaby

I recently experienced the multi-media performance The Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book composed by the Bosnian-born Merima Kljuco, which expressed freedom at so many different levels and with such fervent passion. History was recast through a dialogue of accordion and piano, synchronized with artistic renditions of corresponding historical events. The 12 movements started with the creation of the Haggadah just before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, to Venice in 1609 where Jews were confined to the ghetto, to Sarajevo in 1941 where Hitler’s goal was to establish a “museum of an extinct race” and a Muslim imam hid the book until the war was over, through the siege of Sarajevo in 1992, finally ending with the Mother’s Benediction in Ladino when the Haggadah ends up back home.

Topics: Passover, Music, Theater
Israeli Girls Dancing circa 1980

Following in Miriam's Path

Hannah Elbaum

At every Passover Seder, there are the traditional items on the table: the Seder plate, a place for Elijah, and that gnawing hunger before finally feasting. On my table there is another item that makes a quiet appearance every year. A Kiddush cup, the same one my family uses for Shabbat, is given a new name for Pesach. The Kos Miriyam, or Miriam’s Cup, has its own part of our Seder rituals. After a certain number of parody songs about the holiday, and some acting out of the plagues—aided by ketchup (blood) and sunglasses (darkness)—the Kos Miriyam finally gets its turn. Passing the cup around, we listen as my mother tells us about Miriam’s well and the divine healing power held by the water. This water brought the Jewish nation from a place of physical and emotional slavery to a free, spiritual, lively community. She explains that as Jews and as individuals we are still on journeys to a better place.

There are times in our own lives when we try to reach a land of milk and honey, but often there are roadblocks, speed bumps, and detours along the way. We can take on these challenges single-handedly, but if we do, we are more likely to work ourselves into the ground, unable to continue moving forward. Instead, we can choose to reach out to the women surrounding us for assistance. With their help, we can overcome obstacles and continue on our individual journeys. The women in our lives provide support to each of us, as Miriam supported the Israelites on their grueling journey to the Holy Land.

Progressive Seder Plate

A Joyful Struggle

Avigayil Halpern

I have always struggled at my family’s Passover Seders. My difficulties have not been emotional or spiritual, religious or psychological. My troubles have been purely physical; every year, I wrestle with the giant stack of haggadot next to my plate, which seems intent on toppling over. I spread the books around me, trying to follow my family’s traditional Seder in five or more disparate texts, a linguistic comment here, a poem there.

Death of Ruth Fredman Cernea, cultural anthropologist of Jews in Myanmar and Washington, DC

March 31, 2009

Ruth Fredman Cernea said, "Jewish humor is not silly, but it is absurd absurdity. It is the opposite of deep seriousness."

Magda Altman Schaloum

Holocaust survivor Magda Altman Schaloum speaks out on behalf of all Holocaust survivors and their families. Born and raised in Hungary, she endured acts of antisemitism throughout her childhood, and in 1944 and 1945 Magda was sent to several concentration camps. She lost both her parents and her brother. Magda met her husband, Isaac Schaloum, in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany. Isaac was from Salonika, Greece. They emigrated to Seattle in 1950, where Isaac became a tailor and businessman, and they raised three children. Although of Hungarian descent, Magda became an active and beloved member of Seattle’s Sephardic community. She volunteers for many Jewish organizations, including the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center, and continues to bear witness to the horrors of hatred and antisemitism.

Singer Shirley Cohen Steinberg records the beloved Passover song “One Morning”

February 23, 1951

Singer Shirley Cohen Steinberg records the beloved Passover song One Morning.

Barbara Dobkin

[T]he needs of Jewish women and girls in both the U.S. and Israel are still not high priorities for our community.

Kim Chernin

[T]he idea of re–writing the Haggadah seemed startling and even blasphemous. Now, 30 years later, this re–writing has itself become part of an emerging Passover tradition.

E.M. Broner

This is a narrative of a community that is not in isolation but reflects the polis of the time.

Esther Broner Seder with Letty Cottin Pogrebin and Martha Ackelsberg

Esther Broner: A Weave of Women

Jordyn Rozensky

Esther Broner, or E.M. as she was known, was a Jewish feminist, prolific author, professor, and pioneer of the feminist  movement. Known for re-imagining traditional Jewish customs and rituals, she co-wrote The Women’s Haggadah, which encouraged women to devise their own version of traditional rituals.

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